Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposés. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench and back into the lineup, she is thrilled to land an interview with the Buffalo Soldiers’ General Manager Roger “Rakin’” Aiken–Baseball legend, eight-time All Star … and oblivious father to a Major League bratty co-ed named Paige. Aiken offers Cat the team writer position for the following spring, but the opportunity is tempered by a curveball of a caveat: she must first spend the winter as a blogger reporting on the Latin American training facility. She is also supposed to look out for Paige, nominally the team’s newest scouting assistant. Being a glorified babysitter and chaperone still beats being an out-of-work sportswriter. Cat reluctantly leaves behind her gorgeous boyfriend Benji and accompanies the party girl to sunny Santo Domingo to balance baselines and conga lines. Paige falls for Chance Hayward, an agent who plays hardball—the figurative kind. Joining them on the field is Paige’s ex, Junior DeLeon, one of the coaches who’d really like to score with Cat. When an aspiring player turns up dead, it is up to Cat and Junior to devise a game-changing strategy. Will Cat’s snooping work in her favor this time, or will she strike out … losing her job, her boyfriend and her life? Curveball follows Big Leagues as Book 2 of the Cat McDaniel Mysteries, also known as the Foul Ball series.
About The Author:
Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). Curveball is the second in a series featuring sassy sports writer Cat McDaniel. When Jen isn’t writing, she enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat.
As they walked out of the restaurant, Cat caught the eye of a busy Cristian and waved goodbye. She tapped Chance on the shoulder. “That reminds me, we want to talk to you about your client.”
“Oh, that’ll cost you and Paige.”
Cat gave him a wary look. “Cost us what?”
“A walk on the beach.” He extended both arms. “One for each of you.”
Paige eagerly locked her right arm with his, but Cat pressed his left arm down to his side. She kicked off her sandals and let them dangle from her fingers before begrudgingly following the duo onto the damp sand.
A few fisherman could be seen on the jetty a hundred yards away, but otherwise they had the beach to themselves. Her steps broke the moist clumps and the powdery sand spilled out over her toes. The sand massaged her soles as they moved closer to the breaking waves. Living in downstate Illinois most of her life, Cat didn’t take the relaxing sound of the oceanic thunder for granted. The soft wind whipped her skirt around her thighs. As they approached the shoreline, the restaurant odors of garlic and grease were replaced with a salty tinge of sea air. The half moon smiled down upon them. It was a perfect moment, until Chance spoke.
“Not bad, huh?”
He said it as though he was taking credit for the beautiful evening. Cat sneered in his direction but it was too dark for the message to be received.
Paige looked around the vacant beach. “There’s nobody here. Is it always like this at night?”
“Almost. We’re just about at the end of our rainy season so the beaches will be busier. But on weeknights, most of the action is in town.”
Their stroll was nearing the rocks that bordered the end of the beach and led out to the jetty. Cat pointed up at the fisherman. “What are they trying to catch?”
Chance shrugged. “Hell if I know. I only eat it; I don’t hunt it.”
Paige watched them thoughtfully. “My dad loves fishing. Says it’s the only true way to get away from the field.”
“Let’s sit for a minute.” He placed his jacket on the sand.
Cat shook her head. “I’m good with standing. I was hoping we could talk about Cristian.”
Chance sat on the sand with his knees in front of him. “We will.” He patted the jacket. “Paige?”
Paige tucked her dress beneath her thighs as she sat on it, facing the ocean.
He scooted closer to her. “What do you think?”
Paige’s eyes didn’t leave the water. “Of the ocean, dinner, or you?”
He chuckled. “All of the above.”
Cat held in a groan as she waited for his predictable moves, expecting the yawn and reach any minute now.
He didn’t yawn, but sure enough, his tan arm slivered around Paige’s bare shoulders.
“Hmm …” Paige tapped her chin thoughtfully. “The ocean is beautiful. Dinner was delicious. And you, well you kind of pale in comparison. Perhaps you should’ve grouped yourself with the fisherman and that weird pile of seaweed over there.”
With his phony chuckles, Chance was beginning to sound like the laugh track from an eighties sitcom. Cat tapped her foot on the sand, but neither of them seemed to notice.
Paige tossed him a playful smile, but then was distracted by the aforementioned pile of seaweed near the jetty. She cocked her head. “What is that?”
In tandem, Cat and Chance turned around. “What?”
Paige stood up, dusted her dress off and pointed. “Over there, in the rocks.”
Chance squinted. “Probably just some litter.”
Cat shook her head. “That doesn’t look like litter.” She took off toward it.
Chance bounced to his feet and caught up to her. The waves smacked the rocks with loud slaps. Cat took slow, deliberate steps, as though trying to sneak up on the mound of seaweed. Another foamy wave crashed onto the shore, this time taking the pile of seaweed back into the ocean with it. Before she could take another step, Chance reached his arm out to stop her. “Cat, don’t go any closer.”
Cat gasped, choking on the breath wedged in her throat. It was too late.
She’d seen the body.
You know right from the outset that all is not as it seems in the world of Cat McDaniel, the world of baseball. Jen Estes paints a picture where you have to feel that Cat is the kind of person that finds trouble wherever she goes, and if she doesn’t trouble will soon find her.
Curveball takes place mostly in Santo Domingo, and the local character and scenery is not lost from the pages of the story, it adds an additional dimension that bring alive many of the scenes within the book.
Classed as a ‘cozy’, it is certainly that. An easy going read that moves along at a good pace, but do not expect flash-bang action here. The story of Curveball is more subtle than that, with very little to hint at the reveal towards the end and a little bit of misdirection as the plot progresses.
The characters are well grounded and seem alive and believable; from the likes of Paige, who I could quite cheerfully have strangled myself to the main protagonist Cat, who made a very believable hero, if perhaps a little naive at times.
You don’t have to be a huge baseball fan or knowledgeable about the sport to understand Curveball, if there is something you need to know the information is supplied. There were a couple of parts where the baseball terminology took over a bit, but they were in the spirit of the story and so didn’t really detract from the plot.
Overall Curveball is a good read, if you like your action thick and fast, then you might find it a little slow, but it’s worth sticking with as overall the story plays out well.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars; I liked it.
As part of this tour, the publisher is offering an ebook copy of Curveball to be given away. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment below. A winner will be selected at random from all of the comments left, seven days after this post is published, i.e. 9th November 2012.