Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two for the Show by Chris Paynter

Publisher:         Blue Feather Books

Two for the Show is Book Two of Chris Paynter's Playing for First Series.  It picks up the story of Amy Perry, the first woman to play in the professional baseball league, her partner Stacy McCrady and their friends.  "The Show" is the term used by baseball people for playing in the major leagues and Amy has finally been called up permanently to join the team.  She and Stacy will have to divide their time between two cities, but the transition will be easier for Amy because her best friend Lisa Collins has also been moved up to network reporting, with the particular assignment to cover Amy's team.  Things seem to be going wonderfully until personal tragedy strikes Amy's family.  Her emotional trauma leads to her inability to hit the baseball or contain her anger on the field.  She reacts in a totally destructive manner that might not only threaten her career, but her relationship with Stacy.  Amy is totally out of control and if she can't get it back, she'll lose everything.

On the surface this is a sports story, but it's also a story about working your way through the hard spots to reach the good. Amy is crashing down barriers for women and often running a gauntlet of homophobic demonstrators.  Her ability shows that women can play in the professional leagues with men, but her determination to live her life as an out lesbian draws as much, if not more, attention as her talent.  The strength that helps her to deal with that situation is the very thing that may destroy her life.  Amy is the strong, silent type who holds her emotions in.  The consequence of that is that she can't deal with what is happening to her and she lashes out at the people who try to help, especially Stacy.  It takes a great deal of trust and strength on Stacy's part to deal with the situation.

This is a story of a woman who has to cope with difficulties in her professional and private life.  It's also about how important family and friends can be to that process.  Perhaps most importantly it's about how reaching for help is not a weakness and can create a stronger person in the long run, but it can be a difficult process for a person to go through, especially if someone is very stoic.  Amy will learn that some of the lessons she's learned on the ball field will apply equally well to her life.

Paynter's books will appeal to readers who like series characters.  Each new volume gives the reader a chance to catch up on what has been happening to familiar figures, very much like reading Facebook entries.  That can also be a weakness.  After a while, the characters simply seem to be moving forward through life.  The sense of drama can be lost in place of a comfortable story.  It will be interesting to see how long Paynter can keep these characters fresh and interesting so that readers will care enough to want to find out what is the latest development in their lives.

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