To add to this couple's complications, Sam brings along his eight-year-old son whom Joe and Emma have never met. Emma is hurt that Sam walked away from their relationship for his baseball career, but having a son with someone else crushes her heart even more. Once she hears the boy's story, though, she can't help but fall in love with him, too. I couldn't help but wonder how many hearts Sam was willing to break this time, because taking his son away from the farm would be the worst thing he could do.
I'm not a huge professional sports fan in general so I don't usually read romances with any type of sports hero. I feel it's really not fair to the author if I don't get their references or enjoy the sports connection. But, baseball has always been a part of my life due to my whole family's interest, including the fact that my dad still plays softball at almost 80 years old. One can't be in a baseball-crazed family like mine and not relate to the passion for the game.
Sam was injured and is no longer playing professional ball. He's still involved in sports as an announcer in Chicago, but a lot of the story revolves around his relationship with Emma in their hometown and how Sam's career put a wedge between them. Emma and Sam have a painful past that also includes Sam's deceased brother, so their emotions are palpable and in need of healing for several reasons.
What interested me more than the baseball aspects of the story were the farming characteristics. I don't know why, but I've always felt that baseball and farming go well together, so I liked that this story had that combined connection. Maybe it's that whole “Field of Dreams” scenario that has stayed with me all these years after watching that movie, making me think of baseball and farming together, but farming is the biggest reason why I requested this new-to-me author's book for review. I especially appreciated Emma's point of view as a single woman running a farm on her own. I related to her conflicts and found the side business she started with Sam's father intriguing.
Sam's eight-year-old son is cute, but I often wondered why Sam didn't create a bond with the boy by playing ball with him. That seemed out of place and uncharacteristic to me. It made me feel bad for Sam that he couldn't relate to his son enough to play with him and that his son wouldn't interact with him. Even though they were new to each other, due to circumstances revealed in the book, they had such a great opportunity to connect as father and son. It just seemed out of sorts and made me doubt Sam's motives when his father related to his son better than Sam did.
Sam's relationship with his father Joe was very believable. I enjoyed that Emma and Joe had continued a working relationship after Sam left the farm to play ball. I think that was hard on Sam to accept that the girl he left behind knew his father better, plus she had Joe's respect more than Sam.
One of the things that I didn't enjoy in this novel was the overuse of similes. At first it was the baseball similes that bumped my reading, then when the farming analogies started, I would have to stop and try to figure out what the author meant. Sometimes I was at a loss with the creative phrases and so I'd backtrack to see if I could figure it out. Some readers will fly through those and not even notice, but I like a more succinct approach to storytelling that often draws me into a deeper point of view. A few similes are cute, but there's an opportunity to reach the reader that's getting missed with too many of them. That said, it's one of the very few things that bumped me repeatedly in this story.
SHE'S OUT OF HIS LEAGUE will especially appeal to readers who enjoy older protagonists who are career minded and the conflicts that result from living in two different states. I think farming or baseball fans will be more partial to this book than anyone else and if you're both, then all the better. Not your standard lovers-reunited plot, SHE'S OUT OF HIS LEAGUE has some twists that enhance the authenticity of this couple's resolution.