Hot Property

Carly Phillips
2008, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373773331
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

There is certainly no shortage of athlete heroes in Romancelandia. Hot Property is the fourth in Carly Phillips' Hot Zone series, which centers around an athletic management company. You guessed it, the hero of this, like the others in the series, is an athlete – a baseball player, to be specific. However, our hero in this book is not your typical testosterone-filled, man’s man, which is a refreshing change from the norm.

Realizing she needed a change from her life as an activities coordinator at a retirement home, Amy Stone gets a job as a publicist at Hot Zone, her uncle’s company. She transfers to New York, only to find that her only client is John Roper, a baseball player with whom she had shared a few casual flirtations in the past.

John is coming off of a bad season; he was in a slump when he injured his shoulder badly during the World Series, and when his team lost, fans blamed him. He needs to get his career back on track, and that’s what Amy is there to do. However, his mother, an aging actress, requires constant attention (and money), and his sister expects him to act as a buffer between her and mom as she plans her wedding. Added to his problems is a brother who blames John for his own failed baseball career and needs money for his next big business plan, all of which invariably fail. Meanwhile, a major sports radio personality attacks him at every corner and someone is sending threatening hate mail. Amy must get John focused on healing his shoulder and preparing for pre-season, so she sneaks him away to a resort in upstate New York so he can refocus his life – and they can act on the sexual tension that Amy has been fighting.

As I mentioned, John is a bit unusual. He is openly metrosexual, gets massages and manicures, has a great sense of style and design, and knows his way around a kitchen - all things that many heroes shun. I liked it. He never crossed the line as too feminine, he simply, and refreshingly, lacked the blatant masculinity of other heroes (particularly athlete heroes). Amy was a good character too, though less memorable than John.

Their jaunt to the lodge, though, was too glaring a plot device. John, I didn’t question; but when Amy stayed there with him, I couldn’t help but think that I wished I got paid to hang out at an upscale resort. Obviously if she had stayed in Manhattan, there wouldn’t have been much of a romance, but I still sort of wondered how financially responsible it was to employ her for the sole purpose of keeping John on track.

There are two big rules in writing, according to my creative writing professor. First, show, don’t tell. Second, dialogue should always be more than conversation between two characters. While Carly Phillips sticks to the second rule with a vengeance, she breaks the first. Dialogue between Amy and John is often stilted, filled with as much background information as can fit inside the quotation marks. It provides the reader with a lot, but takes a toll on the chemistry between them – and there is a considerable amount – since it just fizzled when their conversations took this route. Phillips “told” more than “showed” in other places too; dialogue was just the most obvious and awkward place for it.

Side characters added some comic relief and touch of absurdity, and I liked both John and Amy (just not some of their forced conversation). Hot Property is a funny, sweet story somewhat marred by plotting and writing problems.

-- Jane Granville

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