Today’s review is of an upcoming release from Amy Matayo, The Thirteenth Chance (releasing Sept 27). I first thought it might be slightly out of my normal “comfort zone”. Because baseball . But from everything I’d heard around the blogosphere about Amy’s storytelling, I jumped at the chance to review it. (And I’m happy I did!) So first, a side note on baseball, then my review!
From first reading the synopsis, I knew baseball was central to the theme, and I’m not really a sports fan — I’m neutral. The good news? Reading this I discovered you don’t have to know anything beyond “3 strikes and you’re out”, and the fact that fastball and curveball pitches are completely different. That’s it. 🙂
Baseball star Will Vandergriff knows any number of women who would happily pretend to be his girlfriend. In a last-ditch effort to restore his good standing with his team’s higher-ups, he enlists the help of his neurotic, goody-goody neighbor. Schoolteacher Olivia Pratt might be a bit quirky and a bit of a loner, but she’s a lot more inviting than she knows. Will hopes that bringing her to his next game might revamp his reckless reputation and help get his career back on track. The only problem? The plan works a little too well. Not only do the higher-ups love Olivia, but Will plays his best game yet. Suddenly his losing streak is a thing of the past, and Olivia is his new good-luck charm. Will feels anything but lucky.
After years of keeping the world at bay, Olivia Pratt is pulling off the ultimate performance—not only reluctantly posing as Will’s girlfriend but also insisting that she’s oblivious to his major-league appeal. But she can only lie to herself for so long. Being by Will’s side feels good. Really good. Maybe it’s finally time to make a pitch for everything she really wants—and to find out just how exhilarating love can be.
Olivia has walls. Walls she thought were for her own good, to protect herself, but are instead keeping her distant from others. Her wariness and slight superstition related to the number “13” shows itself when she learns it’s Will’s number. When we finally learn the truth behind her “13” superstition, it sheds major light on her personal baggage and family story. Will is bold and different, not afraid to call out her quirks and dig deeper into her personality. While he can be brash and outspoken, Olivia can hold her own in a battle of words. This makes for some hilarious exchanges between the two, my personal favorites being when Perry the cat is involved. I think the two of them really compliment each other.
The story is told with alternating 1st person points-of-view. It’s a clever tool Amy uses to accomplish just the right tone of humor and directness. It gives us an inside look at the thoughts and emotions of Olivia and Will. At times, though, the narrative is as much about what is not being said or outright avoided in the character’s head as what is directly told. After a couple of chapters of learning the tones of Olivia and Will, I could start to read between the lines and see what each was choosing not to focus on. (especially in a few key scenes near the end. what fun!)
This is a cute romantic comedy with life lessons each of the lead characters must face. Underneath the humor, spark, and banter of these two lies a deeper story of letting go, of risking self and heart to gain kinship and acceptance. Both of them learn, in different ways, that perceptions and initial judgments can be “off base” (pun intended by myself and Amy). They must decide if they will bravely let the past be the past and strive to be better in the future. If you enjoy romance, wit, or stories of crazy-cat-ladies paired up with impulsive, flirty sports fanatics, (or clean new adult in general), this is a story I’d definitely recommend trying out!
Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author/publisher for a complimentary review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.