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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.4 out of 5
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  • One of the best enemies to lovers I read

    Overall is one of the best enemies to lovers character driven book that I read this year, the banter and chemistry between Connor and Allison is off the charts, they act like ADULTS all the time, they’re complex and the screw it up a lot of times but they learn from their mistakes and both of them finish the book being a better version of themselves. Definitely Bench Player is a MUST read!

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  • Impactful, thoughtful and adorable.

    4.5 stars — Well, this book was a lot more emotionally impactful than I was expecting. Not that I don’t expect any emotion, but I also don’t expect to have a bawling episode. But I’m also tired. When I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure what to think about Connor. He’s this reticent, reserved character that just got out of a life-changing stint in prison. It was a little dark, and just got to me. I can’t even imagine what that kind of life is like, especially when you didn’t break the law knowingly. I loved that he didn’t make excuses for himself, but he also didn’t dwell on his mistake too much. He just tried as best he could to deal with the ramifications, and adjust to being free again. And while he continued to be a man of few words, someone who kept to himself, we as the readers got to see more of who he was, and man did I connect with his heart. I appreciated all of the things he learned, and how he grew as the book went on. I appreciated the frank look at his fears and anxiety. And I loved the glimpses we got of his humour, and just heart in general. Similarly, I wasn’t sure what to think of Allison. It’s actually been awhile since I read Team Player, so I’d forgotten my impressions of her. So in some ways it was like coming into this book fresh without any preconceptions. And she’s so…focused and driven and closed off at times. But just like with Connor, we get to see inside, see who she *really* is and see why she is the way she is. I really felt for her. I loved all that we learned about what her childhood was like, and how that shaped her. I LOVED her love of baseball. I LOVED watching her with her grandpa. And I loved that she could be so sassy, but also with a lot of heart. What she went through with her job stressed *me* out. I loved that they each brought out the best in one another. That through their building connection with one another we got to see different sides to them. And their chemistry was fantastic. I loved that their relationship developed in sort of this weird way. I loved that Connor was so certain, and kept pushing Allison to open her eyes to what she knew deep down. They were just fabulous together. And as with book one, I adored the side characters. From the other players on the team to Biff, they all just brought another level of colour to the story. I sincerely hope there is more to come in this series, because I’m greedy like that. I think they just bring so much to the table — from heart and depth to humour.

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  • Another fantastic baseball romance

    After reading Team Player, I didn't see how Julianna Keyes could top it but I shouldn't have doubted her. Bench Player is a fundamentally different type of romance with a very different feel yet I loved it even more. The only thing the two books have in common is that they are both love letters to baseball and to the players who step out on that field every season and give their all. The first book was fun and flirty, this book is reflective and serious. There is some occasional banter, but both Alison and Connor, the main characters, are facing crossroads in their lives. Both have lost their direction and need to figure out what's really important to them and how to obtain it. For Connor, it's all about regaining his career and being able to continue playing the game he loves for the team that he feels is his family, two years after he was convicted of insider trading and sent to prison. He's taken responsibility for his actions, owned up to his stupidity, and has paid his debt. Now all he wants is to get back on the team. As the team's PR manager, Alison has given her her life and energy for the last 12 years to the team, but now that the team ownership has changed, she's been told that her contribution is not valued and she needs to figure out how hard she's going to fight to save her job. In order to get what they want, they need to work together, but since they are both somewhat difficult and prickly, that's easier said than done. As for their relationship, no one is more surprised than they are when they are blindsided by a mutual attraction that they just can't resist. I hope Julianna decides to write more books featuring the team, but if not, I know I love whatever book she decides to write next. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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  • Baseball romance done right

    I could not wait for the follow up to Team Player, and it definitely felt like it came out of nowhere. I jumped on this ARC, which I do for about 2 authors. Since I read Team Player, Gwen and Ty loomed very large in my head, and I was so desperately excited to learn this would indeed be Connor's and Allison's book. It opens with Connor's release from prison, essentially, his loss of time and opportunity, and his determination (and fear) that he will not be able to recapture his place on the team. He doesn't only want to play baseball, he wants to continue playing for the Thrashers. Ty has moved on, and ultimately, Bench Player is not unlike the beginning of Team Player, an athlete who is not just lost personally, but lost to the game (this was not the case for Ty, mostly). And Allison's challenge is to get him back in the game to maintain her job. I won't go to into that, in case you've not read Team Player (and you really really should) but rest assured that Allison remains the character from Team Player but this book expands on her depth. “You run?” I ask, as we lace our sneakers. “How else would I burn off my endless rage?” “By eating the souls of baseball players?” She snort-laughs. “That’s only half the year.” I don't usually summarize in reviews, but for this one I feel it's important. The reason is whether Team Player and its Gwen and its Ty loomed so damn large that they can a shadow over this, or whether the opening of this book was just painstakingly crafted in its quiet, I didn't find it nearly as engaging at first. I was worried for nearly the entire first half that this wasn't living up to the promise of the couple. I missed the humor, I missed the snap. It was there, but it wasn't shining. I probably could've put it down forever until I read the first sex scene. (Dear heaven) I probably could've forgotten about it until after the conflict (my eyes were sweaty). And Yes, the secondary characters remained a treat. His eyes soften. “That’s girl’s the best thing I ever did. If you don’t count my inside the park home run that won us the pennant in ’57.” “You have to count it.” “That’s right, I do. But Al’s not bad, either.” But Connor did not feel well-defined...until he was. And looking back, I think this really elevated the book, but it might risk losing a reader that doesn't trust Keyes. The first 40-50% certainly isn't throwaway, but it's hard work to build a base for what comes next. (Though to be clear it isn't hard to read, it's good, it's just different-and why didn't I expect that?) So there's my extended thoughts on this book. Once the conflict occurs, once Connor's working on the field, once the characters become a "cast" the chemistry zips like crazy in this book, and by 70% I was chuckling and hoping it would never end. There were beautiful moments between the couple, between the main characters and the secondary ones, between the main characters and their livelihoods. And yes, it also made me teary and delighted and swoony and was plenty hot. And so happy.She's got this way to write and avoid sentimentality all the while making you feel. I adore how her characters (all of them) make mistakes, show love, and make choices. It looks like baseball is suspended for a bit. If you have a craving for America's pastime (even though you'll never convince me that it's not actually basketball) pick this up-unless you haven't read Team Player. Then start there.

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  • Great romance with the baseball done right!

    I requested an ARC of this book when I saw it was about a player who had served time and was trying to get back to the game. A few years ago, I watched Matt Bush do exactly this for the Texas Rangers after serving time for a DUI. I was curious how the author handled both the return to baseball element and weaved romance into it at the same time. I didn't know this was the second book in a series but while the couple from that book does have a role to play here, I didn't need to know anything from that book to follow this one. I'm really glad I asked. As a hardcore Jays fan, I needed to see the baseball done right. (And don't think I didn't note the slag on my team there - but hey, at least we were mentioned.) The challenges on both the front office and the player side felt very true to what I have heard and seen. This may be a fictional team, but they felt like a real one. (Although how can you talk about being in the AL East and mention Tampa but not the two obnoxious goliaths is beyond me, but I can't say I missed them.) And who doesn't love the story of a former star working his way back? As for the romance part, I liked the slow build up, how forced proximity is used to have them start to see each other differently and then having their situations cause the very real obstacles to their relationship. Usually I hate when the conflict comes out of one part of the couple not telling something to the other but the groundwork is laid beautifully so that it doesn't come across as "oops, never found the right time" but instead coming out of a deep knowledge of how close someone is to the breaking point. You can tell some great research has gone into this story but it's never in your face, just weaved carefully in the telling. I really loved this story. The H/h are older and wiser, my favourite combo. The sexy times, when they come, are very sexy. And the wordcraft is beautiful without being showy. This is definitely one of my favourite reads so far this year, and now I'll have to go pick up book one.

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