The Changeup by Rhonda Shaw

TheChangeupWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.  Also, it’s a younger man/older woman (she’s only 34, but still) story and I love them. The Changeup is out on now.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Playing for keeps

After nine years of striking out in the dating department, Maddie Hamlin is throwing in the towel. But just as this mom resolves to remain single, she meets sweet and sexy pitching phenom Chase Patton at a family dinner. He’s perfect for her and aside from the fact he’s only twenty-two.

Chase knows he should be focusing on his rookie year with the Detroit Rockets, but he can’t stop thinking about Maddie. He doesn’t care that the beautiful school counselor is twelve years older, and he’s already lost his heart to her adorable daughter. When an incredible date leads to an incredible night of passion, he knows he never wants to let her go.

But dating in the media spotlight is a whole new ball game. Maddie quickly discovers that not everyone accepts their unconventional relationship and that finding love may mean losing everything else.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  My reaction to this book is complicated.  I wanted to like it more than I did.  There were some things I liked about it very much – enough that I am looking forward to the next book (which I hope features my favourite character, Karen).  The premise attracted me so much that I bumped it to the top of my TBR and read it almost as soon as I downloaded it.  However, I felt a lot of things were under-developed and I wasn’t entirely sure I liked either Maddie or Chase sufficiently well to root for their HEA.

Maddie starts the book as a bit of a man-hater, something I got tired of quickly.  Then she is stressing about the age difference – Chase is 22 and she is 34.  On the one hand, 34 is not at all old, in my opinion. But, if my son were 22 and dating a 34 year old woman, I might be concerned too, so I was a bit on the fence about it.  In the end, I felt that Maddie made too much of it.  Once she decided to give things a try with Chase, I thought she needed to stop with the “you’re too young for me” bit.

Chase read quite young to me sometimes – worse, there were times I felt he was acting at being older and not quite pulling it off.  When he ordered a drink for Maddie without even asking her what she wanted, I think it was supposed to be romantic and suave. I thought it was kind of douchey.  And there was a time when he told Maddie’s nine year old daughter to go to her room.  Even though he did it with the best of intentions and for good reasons, it raised my hackles because it wasn’t his place.  And then there was the smirking.  Chase is always smirking.  This is not a good thing.

smirk
verb: smirk;
1. smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way.

definition courtesy of Google

Dear everyone – please do not mistake a smile for a smirk.  A smile is nice, sexy even.  A smirk is… not.

In this case, it made me think Chase was too young for Maddie.

And when Chase said this, I admit I saw red.

“Hey,” he said and waited until she lifted her head. “There’s nothing to be sorry about just knock it off, ok?”

My main problem with the story was that everything moved way too fast.  Maddie angsts about dating Chase but ends up in bed with him on their first date.  Chase is being a “father” to Bree almost from the first moment.  Before they have any chance to settle into  their relationship, Maddie is meeting his parents and they are making kissing in full view of the entire baseball watching audience.  And Chase’s mother’s doubts were put to rest way too fast. This part just seemed unbelievable to me, considering they’d met only an hour or so earlier.

“Chase is usually very good at judging character and I can see that he didn’t get it wrong here. I have to admit that when I heard you were so much older, I could only worry and think the worst. I wondered what it was exactly that you saw in him and what you could possibly want from him, being at such a different stage in your life. Now I see you’re just like the rest of us, in awe of him and his spirit. You see him for who he truly is and not only the amazing athlete that everyone else knows him as. You’re a very lucky woman, Maddie. You’ve touched my son where no one has before and I can assure you, he’ll treat you like a queen.” She reached out and gave her hands a squeeze. “Now, let’s go eat.”

When Maddie ends things because of threats to her job and her daughter, she offers Chase no explanation (and here I thought it was Maddie acting juvenile).  But exactly how they were going to deal with these issues together was never made clear and I wasn’t confident they could work out their problems in mature ways and so didn’t completely buy into their HEA.  In fact, Chase’s “solution” (which was no solution at all) had me again doubitng his maturity.  It was here that Maddie’s BFF Karen let me down slightly because it was her idea.

Karen was the highlight of the book for me.  She was (apart from that one time) a true friend, telling Maddie to go for it and be happy with Chase, telling her she deserved to be happy and helping out with Bree-care so that Maddie and Chase could go out. Like me, Karen got tired of the “he’s too young” excuses and called Maddie on it.

“But…but, he’s so young.” “Maddie, you can’t keep going back to that. Once you made the jump and went out with him, you lost that excuse. You can’t keep it as a fallback when you start to get scared.”

She also told Maddie she was being stupid in not telling Chase what had happened (which Maddie totally was – go Karen!).

What else? I know very little about baseball but what was in the book felt authentic to me.  I remember reading a post from blogger Kristie J, about another baseball-themed book which disappointed her because the sport was so poorly written.  Using that as a guide, I think Ms. Shaw gets it right.

There was promise in The ChangeUp.  I loved the premise and I had no trouble finishing it – the writing was engaging (well, apart from the smirking) and entertaining.  I *think* the next book will feature Karen and Ace (the veteran pitcher who shares an apartment with Chase) and as I liked Karen very much, I expect I will enjoy the book a lot more.  For what it’s worth (and I know this sounds patronising but I can’t work out how to say it better than this), I think Ms. Shaw’s writing will improve with time and practice.  I felt like she knew her baseball (but I stand to be corrected on that – I’ve only rudimentary knowledge of the game) and she can write an entertaining story, but for me, The ChangeUp fell a little flat.

Grade: C-

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