Drive Me Crazy

Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
(Zebra, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52667-0
Squeeze Play bats at baseball fans everywhere, but only scores fouls where this romance reader is concerned.

Ever since high school, pro player Risk Kincaid has been Jacy Grayson's rebound lover. Whenever she breaks up, he goes back to his hometown to cheer her up. She's been keeping him so busy the last twelve years that he hasn't had time for any other lover. Now, he's back in town again to organize a fundraiser, but this time, he's aiming at something more permanent. Jacy would like nothing better; she's only ever had one lover. But since neither Risk nor Jacy come clean to each other, they get their own story and a very drawn out one at that.

Risk keeps wanting to propose to her, but never pulls it off. Every time he's ready to say the words, something happens. Nor is it always external factors that distract him. Even when they're debating the ideal spouse over a Cosmo quiz, speech fails him almost as badly the story did me. The way I figure it, Risk must be lacking something in the intelligence department. He's spent not one, not two but twelve years as Jacy's friend and rebound lover, but has never wondered where all her other men are and why no one's ever mentioned any.

While Risk is striking out swing after swing, his teammates are working hard to get their love lives to home base. Zen Driscoll is lining up for Jacy's friend, Stevie Cole. She, however, is rooting for Aaron Grayson. When Aaron publicly announces he is engaged to Natalie Llewellyn, Zen steps up to the plate. Meanwhile, Aaron is in for a few surprises. He's never realized how much Natalie enjoys public sex and isn't sure he can keep, um, up with her. To make matters worse, he suspects Natalie still has the hots for Zen (she does). Which leads to predictable entanglements and big misunderstandings that are as drawn out as main story's.

Lori Foster's front-cover endorsement pronounces the characters "fun," but overdone and ridiculous come closer. At best, Zen is likeable and Stevie touching. She makes up for her misplaced crush on Aaron by having a real head for baseball trivia. Jacy's wacky sweetness, on the other hand, is downright irritating. I might buy her adventures with color (she regularly dies her hair in outlandish shades and doesn't mind mixing stripes and plaids), but her work ethics are unsavory. She runs a coffee shop where she invites Risk for a quickie in the food cooler and offers her other clients a personal touch: she adds sugar to their coffee, stirs it with her finger and blows. Food and health regulations, anyone?

Fortunately, we aren't subjected to many quirky small towners, just a couple of old men, ex-girlfriends and cute little girls who play rules-free baseball under Jacy's and Risk's glowing eyes. And I will reluctantly admit that the Bat Pack, Risk's three younger teammates, have some testosterone-coated charm.

Readers who really care for baseball might enjoy the trivia questions that pepper the book. I'm baseball illiterate and therefore no judge, but I strongly suspect even they don't make this silly book worth a minute of precious reading time.

--Mary Benn

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