Pub Date: October 14, 2021
Content Warnings: Closeted male character
On page sex
Recommended for: readers who enjoyed Heated Rivalry, readers who love baseball, readers looking for Jewish lead characters
There is plenty to enjoy in Casey’s debut romance novel, Unwritten Rules. Zack and Eugenio are both baseball players. They meet during spring training and Zack is tasked with helping Eugenio work on his skills as a catcher. Zack has been in the professional league for a few years and Eugenio is attempting to move up from the minors.
The story is told in alternating chapters of past and present and only from Zach’s point of view. We see Zach and Eugenio as their friendship and then relationship evolves. Then we see them breakup. Present day is mostly focused on them reconnecting and rekindling their relationship. When they reconnect, Zack is 32 and slowly aging out of baseball while Eugenio is in his peak season in baseball.
I want to mention that this book is HEAVY on baseball information. If you are not overly familiar with baseball there will be moments in the book where you may not understand things, or at least that was my experience. The facts of baseball weigh down the book in places. Casey is a sports writer and it shows.
The conflict is internal and is centered around Zach not being out as a gay man. Eugenio does not want to be anyone’s secret and he tires of Zach’s insistence that they wait “a little longer.” Zach is worried about how coming out will impact not just his family but also his career in baseball. Zach is feeling pretty lost in the world and in baseball.
The GR blurb refers to this as a “delightful” sports romance and I think that is an unfair descriptor of this book. There are some fun and light moments but I read Zach as a “sad boy”. He feels stuck in his life. He wants something but does not know how to get it. He is afraid to be honest with this family. He has one good friend in the book and he struggles to be honest with her as well. There were moments that were hard for me to read because I felt for Zach and his hurts.
Although this is labeled as a romance, I think it would be better suited to be labeled contemporary fiction with strong romantic elements. Although we, as the reader, see the relationship develop, the book is really centered on Zach’s self-discovery and growth arc. In order to be in a healthy relationship, he has to accept himself and be honest with the people that matter to him. And this is central to the romantic relationship. He does seek help via therapy but that comes late in the book. To me, the ending felt like an HFN and I was not completely convinced that everything had been resolved.
I enjoyed learning about Zach. I was very invested in this love story with Eugenio. Eugenio was more patient with Zach than I think I ever could be. I would have liked to have seen more on page time with Zach and Eugenio in the present that was not sex related but other readers may be fine with this. I would read more in this series and look forward to hopefully seeing Zach and Eugenio again.
Link to find book
E-galley received via Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, Carina Press