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Title: The Practice Proposal
Author: Tracy March
May Contain Spoilers
Liza Sutherland isn’t looking for love. Not from a charity-auction date she didn’t even bid on and especially not with Nationals first baseman Cole Collins, the guy she obsessed over as an awkward teenager. She won’t get involved with a notorious player, no matter how attractive Cole is.
Cole Collins is up for contract renegotiation, but after too many late-night parties, he’ll need some positive publicity before he can make the roster. His agent, Frank, pitches Liza as the perfect prop…only Cole didn’t account for Liza no longer being just a teenager with a crush. She’s gorgeous and smart and he’s instantly hooked.
When Frank makes Liza a deal she can’t refuse—a bet she will fall in love with Cole or a cool half mil goes to charity—the game is on. But neither bet on the real feelings that surface. Could a fake fling turn into an official forever?
I was attracted to this title for two reasons: it’s a second chance at love trope, and because hero Cole is a baseball player. I have to say, when the story starts out, our Cole is not very heroic. In fact, he’s pretty much a sleaze bag. His contract with the Nationals is in its last season, and he desperately wants to remain on the team. His behavior, however, is putting the contract renewal in jeopardy. His date with a Hollywood starlet ended in disaster, with her being busted for possession and arrested. Cole was drunk, but thankfully, he doesn’t abuse illegal narcotics, so he got off with an embarrassing headline in the newspapers and the dismay of the Nats front office. The team is big on family values and keeping everyone’s noses clean, and Cole’s unruly behavior is frowned upon.
At the advice of his agent, an aggressive, wormy kind of guy, he agrees to go out with Liza Sutherland for the rest of the season. If she’ll have anything to do with him, that is. Liza’s mother runs a charity for disadvantaged boys, and through generous donations, helps send talented youngsters to baseball camps, where they can develop their talents. They also preach about the dangers of professional players doping to enhance their performance. Cole has donated a date to the organization’s charity fundraiser, and Liza is mortified when she discovers that her mother is the high bidder – and that Liza is expected to go on the date. Digging in her heels, she protests that she’s still not over her fiancé, a Secret Service agent who was killed in the line of duty. Her mother lays on the guilt trip, and Liza is forced to acquiesce. She doesn’t want to see Cole again. When she was a teen, she had a monster crush on him, and she stalked him when he attended the baseball camp that her father, a retired pro player, ran.
Sparks don’t exactly fly when Liza and Cole are reunited. Liza thinks Cole is a player, and she’s not about the fall for the gorgeous baseball star. Cole is only seeking brownie points for his contract negotiation. To the surprise of both, they enjoy their evening out, but Liza isn’t ready for any kind of commitment, so she shoots him down when he asks her out again. Then Frank, Cole’s meddling agent, approaches Liza with a deal to keep Cole out of trouble and dating her. If she’ll continue to go out with him until the end of the season, and if she doesn’t fall in love with him, Frank will donate half a mil to the charity. Liza is torn – she works for the charity and loves developing the summer camps. She hates fundraising, and she is woefully behind her goal for the year. She doesn’t want to hit her parents up for the the difference, and she already feels defensive around her coworkers because her mother runs the charity and they think she has it easy working there. Woe is Liza! What will she do! That money will help so many needy boys! Yes, yes, yes, she will sign that deal with the devil, despite her reservations.
After Liza signed the contract with Frank, I didn’t think Cole was such a sleaze. Sure, he’s continuing to see Liza for purely selfish reasons, but Liza isn’t completely without guilt. They are dating each other under false pretenses. Cole wants a new contract with the only family he has, and Liza is too proud to ask for her parents’ help with her fund raising goals. I honestly didn’t want to like either one of them, but to my dismay, I did. As the story progressed, I began to understand how important a successful outcome was to both of them, and I grudgingly began to sympathize with them. I know! I have often been accused of being gullible. Guilty as charged.
Though The Practice Proposal is a quick, easy read and doesn’t break any new ground, the story kept me engaged. The round of baseball games got a little repetitive, but the rivalry between Liza’s favorite team, the Orioles (which her parents are co-owners of) and Cole’s Nats, was fun. As both teams progress through the playoffs, Liza’s loyalties are tested. Does she root for her parents’ team, or for Cole’s? Since baseball was a big part of the story, it was fun to see Liza’s Go O’s slowly change to Go Nats!
As Cole’s motivation for wanting to stay with the Nats began to make sense to me, I started to understand why he was willing to resort to such desperate measures as to string Liza along. When he started falling for her for real, I wondered how he would ever convince her that his feelings were on the up and up after she discovered his deception. She’s finally ready to move on after Wes’ tragic death, and the guy she’s falling for is being harassed into dating her by his obnoxious agent. Ugh! That’s not going to go over well!
While the ending is a little too tidy, getting there was more emotional than I expected. Cole’s special seventh inning stretch had me kind of choked up. That’s when I finally believed that he was for real. Who declares their feelings for someone in front of forty-two thousand of their closest friends? It took a lot of guts to pull that off, and it’s one of the most romantic proposals I can remember reading. Two thumbs up for Cole!
The Practice Proposal is another great read that I recommend tossing in your beach bag. Entangled seems to be pitching out quite a few summer friendly reads, and if they keep this up, they will be my go to publisher when I’m looking for a light, satisfying and emotional read.
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About the author:
Award-winning author Tracy March writes romantic thrillers influenced by her career in the pharmaceutical field, and her interest in science and politics. She also writes lighthearted romances inspired by her real-life happily ever after.
Always up for travel and adventure, Tracy has flown in a stunt plane, snowmobiled on the Continental Divide, ziplined in the Swiss Alps, and been chased by a bull in the mountains of St. Lucia. She loves Nationals baseball, Saturday date nights, and Dairy Queen Blizzards—and rarely goes a day without Diet Coke and Cheez-Its.
Edited April 9th to correct major brain fart – corrected Cole’s name