Unwritten Rules, Book #3
Reviews of Unwritten Rules Book #1 and Book #2
Heat Factor: If you’re looking for characters with ED due to medication with partners who are with them 100%, I have a book for you
Character Chemistry: Every time they were gutted, I was also completely gutted
Plot: Jake and Alex had a whirlwind rookie season, glued to each other, until it all crashed and burned. Ten years later, they’re forced back together on their old team for a last chance to win a championship ring.
Overall: I felt like Eeyore until the end, when I had all the warm fuzzies.
Well, I know K.D. Casey is going to wreck me, I just have to brace myself before I find out how it’s going to go down. I’m not totally sure how she does it, but Casey writes the absolute saddest bois, and I am drawn to empathize with their sadness like it’s mine, but I like it. This time, for the first several chapters, I was pining for Jake right along with Alex. Then they had their fight, and Jake got injured, and really, is there anything worse than feeling on top of the world with your whole life in front of you and then losing it all? And feeling like you’ll never get it back? And then the guy who used to be your person not only hates your guts but also went on to have the life you thought would be yours?
So anyway. Gutted. My eyes got leaky.
But it’s okay, friends, because this is a romance and Alex and Jake will work it out because they have to. Because it’s a romance but also because their jobs depend on it. One interesting aspect of this transition in their relationship is that they don’t really sit down and resolve it as such. The initial problem is one of those fights that might occur with really young people who aren’t really able to get over themselves or communicate particularly well, and that looks different ten years later when maybe it’s just time to let things go. I think most of the time in romance I read characters taking responsibility for specific actions and statements that provides a really solid resolution to the conflict, even if feelings don’t always work that way, so it was kind of cool to read a conflict resolution that acknowledged the underlying feelings at the root of it instead of apportioning blame and responsibility to specific actions.
Casey’s characters can’t have it easy, and in this case we have Alex, who doesn’t really get to be himself as a pro ball player and who carries the trauma of losing his parents as a young child, and Jake, who might come from the most normal Jewish family in the world but has a debilitating case of OCD in addition to losing his career just enough to be able to keep playing but never enough to live up to expectations. As I expect when picking up a book by Casey, there’s a solid foundation of Jewish and mental health rep giving three-dimensionality and depth to the characters and their struggles in this story.
Another observation that caught my interest: This book is the most standard romance arc that I’ve read by Casey (excluding co-written books, though I think those were HFN, too). Unlike in Unwritten Rules, which was single POV and left us with a slightly vague but optimistic HFN, and even like Fire Season, which ended on a very clear note for the characters but a lot of questions regarding what else they might be dealing with after the last page, our characters in Diamond Ring have gotten their HEA with almost no loose ends. And, fair warning, the characters from the other books in the series also show up and we get more of their own more certain HEAs as well. I have to say I loved all of this. I love me a very clear, very perfect happy ending (because the fantasy that everything will turn out tied up in a perfectly tied bow in the end is one of the reasons I read romance in particular and genre fiction in general), but I had to wonder if Casey’s writing is evolving naturally or if outside elements have encouraged a more commercially favorable narrative arc. This book is also written in third present, and it still definitely has some of the punctuated hallmarks of Casey’s writing style, but it didn’t feel quite as lit fic-y as the prior two books in this series. All of this probably doesn’t matter for this book in terms of review, but I could see readers responding to her writing differently as they progress through the works.
If you like being crushed by feelings of despondency and then lifted out of that with tender, sweet love, and if you like baseball (Casey really knows baseball), then read this series and conclude with this book because it is extremely satisfying.
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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