switch-hitter coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Pietro Bassani is an out professional baseball player with the Colorado Vikings. He spent years dating Herve, a professional model. Things were never great between them, but their problems became insurmountable when one night in a club, Herve had his bodyguard punch Pietro, knocking out his front teeth. It turns out Herve thought Pietro was cheating and so this was his attempt at retaliation. The night was the last straw for Pietro and he broke up with Herve, hoping to never see him again.

Thierry Bourget grew up with Herve and worked as his bodyguard. Thierry knew that Pietro wasn’t really cheating on Herve, but that didn’t stop him from planting the poisonous seeds in Herve’s mind, nor from hitting Pietro on Herve’s command. It was a low point in Thierry’s life, and one he regrets. Thierry learned quickly that Herve didn’t deserve his loyalty when he got shot while trying to protect Herve and Herve dropped him without a word — firing him and leaving him alone in the hospital. Thierry has made great improvements since then, but he will never fully recover from his injuries. He is partially paralyzed and, while he can walk some of the time, frequently his body won’t allow it. Thierry has worked hard at rehabilitation and is working toward his long-time dream of being a chef. His body is definitely is not ready for restaurant work, but he is applying for jobs as a personal chef.

Pietro cannot cook and survives mostly on processed junk, much to the chagrin of his team trainers and nutritionists. He has finally decided to hire a personal chef, but he is having trouble finding someone interested in the job. When Thierry shows up for the interview, both men are stunned. Pietro had no idea Thierry was even in town, let alone that the agency would send him over to interview for the job. And Thierry didn’t realize that Pietro was his potential employer. There is still very bad blood between the men, as Pietro still has resentment for the fact that Thierry not only hit him, but that he stirred up Herve and caused problems between them.

At first, neither men thinks it can work given their history. But Pietro needs a chef and Thierry needs a job and, after talking things through, the men decide to try to move on from their past. As the men spend more time together, they even begin to form a friendship, albeit a slightly tense one. But when one late night together leads to the men acting on their attraction, it changes things for both of them. Pietro and Thierry realize that they can be good for each other, that despite their past, they may actually be a perfect fit. But neither man has a good history with dating and neither one is really sure quite how to turn their attraction into something real. Things are complicated by the fact that Herve is showing up, stirring up trouble as well. But Pietro and Thierry have fallen for one another and found a happiness together they never expected. Now they just have to take a chance on that happiness together.

Switch-Hitter is the first book in E.M. Lindsey’s new Hit and Run series. The series features professional baseball players in a fictitious Major League Baseball world with different teams, as well as an easy acceptance of out players. This story has an interesting set up, in that both Pietro and Thierry had their lives turned upside down by the same man. In Pietro’s case, he dated Herve only to have the man turn on him in jealousy, instructing his bodyguard to punch Pietro, knocking out his teeth. Pietro quickly shut Herve out of his life, despite Herve’s attempts to win him back. For Thierry, things are more complicated. He grew up with Herve, always his protector, but there was resentment there and Thierry was in a dark place. So he let that fester and turned his ire to Pietro, convincing Herve that Pietro was cheating and punching him on Pietro’s command. So clearly Thierry is in the wrong here, while Pietro is purely a victim, but as we learn more about all of these men, we get to better understand their characters and the situation that led to all of this. Lindsey manages to make Thierry both remorseful and sympathetic in a way that let Pietro (and me) ultimately move past his actions. It makes for an interesting start to the story as these men are tangled in this complicated past as enemies, but also with Herve sort of spinning a web that caught up both of them. And of course, as Herve tries to find his way back into both their lives, it adds further complication.

One thing I really liked here is the way the story addresses things with Herve, who at first wants to make amends. It is pretty obvious that his desire to apologize and get forgiveness is all about him and letting him feel better, rather than because he actually cares about those he hurt. He is aggressive with Thierry, wanting forgiveness, wanting to explain, wanting a chance to demonstrate how remorseful he is. And I really liked that the story makes it clear that Thierry doesn’t owe Herve that space. That Theirry will listen, and say his piece in return, but he doesn’t owe forgiveness or the chance for Herve to try make it up to him. At one point, Thierry says, “I’m not preventing you from being a better person. […] But I don’t owe you space in my life. You want to be better — be better for everyone else in the future. What you broke with me can’t be fixed.” I appreciated that the story acknowledges that the burden isn’t on Thierry to give Herve the space to feel better about himself, particularly at the expense of his own mental health. As I said, I think the Herve storyline makes for an interesting set up in the way it ties the men together and I think there are some nice moments as Pietro and Thierry get some personal resolution. But things with Herve come back around later in a way that doesn’t really get resolved, nor do I feel like the later encounters really add much compared to the earlier interaction.

While Pietro is a professional baseball player and we do see the role that plays in his life and his schedule, this book isn’t really sports heavy. We see glimpses of a few games and some practice, as well as Thierry fondly watching Pietro play. But if you are looking for detailed scenes of baseball games and the life of a professional athlete, this may not fully satisfy you. For me, I felt like there was enough here to create the atmosphere and setting and it was more than enough on the sports end for my needs.

Most of the story is focused on the characters and this is where E.M. Lindsey always shines. We get such depth and layers from these characters, both early on as we learn about their past, but then throughout the book as we get to know them better separately and together. Each of these men are a rich character with their own struggles and complicated pasts. I love the way they come together, finding those spaces where they fit and where they can support one another. They both have some emotional vulnerability that makes them wary, but when they open up to one another, it is so rewarding and I enjoyed them together so much.

As a note, while this is the first book in the Hit and Run series, Lindsey released a connected book, Nothing Ordinary, featuring Pietro’s brother, Ezra. The story was originally released as a serial in Lindsey’s newsletter and is now for sale as a full book. I didn’t read Nothing Ordinary and had no problem following along with this book, but in hindsight, I do wish I started there. We meet both Ezra and his partner Gabriel several times in this story and it seems Pietro appeared in their book as well. It is pretty clear that Pietro has some feelings surrounding Ezra and their relationship (Ezra was also a pro baseball player until he was injured) and I feel like getting that background in the first book would have given me more insight into Pietro. So like I said, the series officially starts here and I had no problems jumping in, but I do think I’ll probably go back and read Ezra’s story before the second installment comes out in this series.

Overall, I thought this was a great start to the series and a really great deep dive into two interesting men in Pietro and Thierry. We meet some other players that I am hoping will feature in future books and I am looking forward to seeing where Lindsey takes things from here.

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