Unwritten Rules, Book #2
Heat Factor: They are very enthusiastic. And enjoy marking.
Character Chemistry: It’s really sweet
Plot: Charlie’s work life is very stable, but he’s getting a divorce, so he’s trying to figure his life out again. Reid’s constantly unsure of where he’ll be playing, and he’s a recovering alcoholic, so he’s taking everything one day at a time
Overall: Ugh, Charlie, squeeze my heart in your enormous hands, why dontcha?
I snapped up this book immediately when we got the email that it was available from Carina, but I also had to gird my loins a little bit because I was feeling some trepidation that I would be as emotionally wrung out and filled with angst as I had been with Unwritten Rules. It can feel really good, but also you have to be prepared to deal with those feelings, you know?
So, Casey is just really good at getting in that angsty headspace, though thankfully (for me) the dual POV helped to tone down the angst (a little) in this book—it was a lot in Unwritten Rules with just Zach struggling bigtime. Fire Season is written in a close dual 3rd present, which is a lot to take, I will grant you (oof, 3rd present…). But it’s also really effective. I’m not actually in Charlie’s head, but I’m close enough, and he’s confused about what’s going on with his life, and I’m confused about what’s going on with his life, and we’re both just having a lot of feelings, okay?
The premise is that Charlie’s getting divorced and is living alone, so he invites the newly acquired relief pitcher, Reid, to live with him. Reid’s tenure with the team will only be as long as the team finds him useful, whereas Charlie’s the starting pitcher who’s been with the team forever with no end in sight. They’re drawn to each other, but…
There’s also a lot here: Charlie’s the poster child for privilege—he’s a millionaire cis white guy who got signed with a team and has never had to struggle for his spot. He’s got anxiety, yes, but he has no idea the level of struggle that Reid is dealing with constantly given his history of alcoholism (and its impact on his career), his uncertainty about continuing to play (not just with Oakland, but if anyone will want him at all), his solvency, and his constant pull to use alcohol as stress relief. Charlie is also completely clueless about Judaism, including how his seemingly secular cultural expectations are rooted in Christianity, but he does go about talking to Reid about Judaism with care. He talks to Reid about everything with care, which is his charm.
Ingrid mentioned in her June Hearts & Crafts post that tension comes from the negative space, and we get a lot of that here. There’s plenty of room for the reader to interpret what’s happening, or to watch Charlie and Reid interpret what’s happening, but we’re also being led to the correct conclusions. For example, in this scene Reid has just arrived and is making his presence known in the, er, pitching warmup area (look, I have actually seen baseball games, unlike all the other sports, but I still know nothing about sportsball):
Charlie tosses another pitch. It drops reassuringly where it’s supposed to. A nice enough pitch that Giordano actually whistles.
Charlie’s warmed up enough that he has a light sweat at his arms and hairline. If his cheeks go involuntarily pink, it’s from exertion.
(It’s not from exertion.)
I was extremely invested in Charlie and Reid, so concerned for them, and yet nothing terrible really happened. The mere knowledge that Charlie’s divorce might be made public or Reid might be traded or Reid might have a relapse or people might think Reid had a relapse or Charlie and/or Reid might get injured or they might be found out was enough to keep the tension high all the time. Add to that the way that Reid and Charlie just see and take care of each other and AHH! It’s just so lovely!
Okay, so I really enjoyed this book (obviously), but no book is for everybody, and I think the style of this book might not work for some readers (beyond just the 3rd present tense). I had an ARC that had (intentionally) crummy ARC formatting (the joys of advance copies!), so I assume that a lot of that will be corrected in the final release; however, Casey doesn’t always use dialogue tags or even dialogue at all, and she uses incomplete sentence thoughts to evoke feelings, which can make the text harder to follow. For example:
He uses the bathroom. He’s drying his hands on a purple-streaked guest towel when his phone buzzes.
It’s possible Reid changed his mind. With it a swoop of disappointment.
Reid: Tonight after the game stil [sic] good? Like he’s excited or nervous or both.
Charlie smiles at his phone. Yeah stil [sic] good.
He collects Avis from the floor, tells Christine he’ll drop keys off in the next couple of days, or she can let him know when she’s in the city. And he drives back, drumming his hands on the steering wheel, a radio station playing music he doesn’t recognize, windows open so that Avis can appreciate the breeze.
Romance prose is often more straight-forward, even if it’s poetical. I’m personally more accustomed to seeing this style of prose in lit fic. Writing is writing, but some writing makes your brain work harder, so know what works for you! But the negative spaces, the evocative thoughts and feelings…they’re really well done here. And I’m so glad we got both Charlie’s and Reid’s POVs because they’re both such sweethearts.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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