Monday, January 21, 2019

Sarah's Review: Huddle With Me Tonight

Huddle With Me Tonight by Farrah Rochon
Publisher: Wandering Road Press; 2 edition (December 11, 2018)
Series: New York Sabers, 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Originally Published by Harlequin Kimani Romance – September 2010

Entertainment columnist Paige Turner is known for getting under the skin of the people whose books she reviews on her popular blog. When her criticism of NFL standout Torrian Smallwood’s cookbook/memoir goes viral, it sparks an online war between the city’s most beloved blogger and one of football’s hottest stars.

Torrian couldn’t care less what some book blogger thinks about his upcoming memoir. His main focus is on making a success of the new restaurant he’s opening for his sister. That is, until he meets the gorgeous Paige Turner face-to-face. When a local TV station invites them to bring their online battle into the kitchen in a reality TV cook-off, Torrian comes up with a new goal: making Paige his.

Will either of them be able to stand the heat, or will they succumb to the white-hot attraction that neither can deny? 

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Sarah's Review:

I love romance series about teams- baseball, football, even bands- because when I find one I know that there will be a series of books with intertwining characters who show up in each other's lives. I love this trope. So when I found Farrah Rochon’s (2010; re-released in 2018) Huddle With Me Tonight I was ready to settle into a new universe.

Briefly, Paige Turner is a book blogger who is known to write honest, but harsh, reviews. Torrian Smallwood has written a memoir/cookbook to help jumpstart his sister’s new restaurant. She practically raised him and helped him achieve an NFL career and he wants to pay her back with the restaurant she’s always wanted. And this book/restaurant deal comes at a time when he has to make some decisions about his health and football playing career. Paige’s harsh review leads to a chance to appear in a televised cook-off with Torrian...and possible syndication of her column.

All of this is well and good. Rochon writes depth and details into her characters and I was flowing along with a pretty good story...until after Torrian commented on her blog, regretted it, and wanted to contact her. First, he emails her a couple of times with no answer. (Later, we find out that a blogger has an email connected to her work that she only checks once a week. I was suspicious, how can she work a digital job and not stay on top of emails). Then she gets back-to-back calls from an unknown number that she ignores until goaded by a friend to just answer. It was Torrian who admitted to calling in a favor to get her number. It is couched as part of a reconciliation, but in the light of very real issues of NFL players behaving badly I was really uncomfortable for this character, the fact that her friend encouraged her to answer rather than let it go to voicemail, and that Torrian slyly let her know that he had connections to get her information. He asked her to dinner, but she declined and hung up the phone.

I actually took a break before reading on. I’m glad I did. The next contact was even more uncomfortable. Torrian called in another favor, this time getting Paige’s address. He shows up unexpectedly at her building, buzzing her intercom. He requests to come up, but she says that he can say what he needs to from out there. There is no response on the intercom and a knock on her door.  At this point, I am internally screaming, “NO, no, nope, nope.”

Before I went any further I was replaying the images I’d seen about Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) assaulting his then-fiancee (and now wife) in Atlantic City in 2014. More recently, Reuben Foster (San Francisco 49ers) was arrested for domestic violence in Tampa and Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs) was videotaped kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel. I was just reading a story, but it was one that was re-released this year and part of a society where NFL players are regularly violent without much repercussion from the NFL leadership (or society at large).

Now, I’m reading a story where a player has shown up at the building and now the door of our main character. He was let into the building by someone wanting his signature on their kid’s football card.  Paige refuses to let him in (smart) because she’s “a single woman living in New York City who understands the finer points of self-preservation.” That lasts about two seconds as he promises he’d never lay a hand on a woman. With that small promise, she relents and he comes into her home.

I stop reading again and consider if I should finish this book.  I hate quitting but am growing into the idea that I shouldn’t read things that I disagree with. It takes me the rest of the day, but I do finish the book. The ending is weirdly paced. Their relationship builds up to a sexy weekend and the opening of his sister’s restaurant. But abruptly, Torrian’s medical condition is released during the grand opening and he blames Paige. Whiplash much. In just a few scenes, we go from sex in the Hamptons to a totally one-sided, paranoid break-up on the restaurant's opening night.

I just can’t. I want my fantasy, but it is not disconnected from the world I live in. When I read about a fictional NFL player pushing his way into a woman’s apartment, I reflect on images of real NFL players abusing women and the feelings I’d have in the position of a man bypassing my intercom and showing up on my doorstep. These are legitimately scary feelings, not the beginnings of love. Then when he abruptly dumps her, the author shows Paige reflecting on her responsibility for their early contentious relationship, but Torrian only comes around when he’s shown who really leaked his medical condition to the media. He does minimal self-reflection, he just wants her forgiveness. She gives it and we get a HEA, but I’m done with this particular series. In hindsight, I should have just stopped reading at the apartment scene.

NFL references

This probably would have been a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I can’t give it more than 1 star.

1 STAR! 

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Source: Bought (freebie)

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Thanks for the review, Sarah! 


Until Next Time,

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