by Priscilla Oliveras
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Event planner Julia Fernández is in Chicago for an internship that she hopes to turn into a full-time job. She’s ready to live on her own, out from under her familia’s expectations that she take over their catering business in Puerto Rico and away from their year-round baseball fever thanks to her three ball-playing brothers. Ex-MLB pitcher Ben Thomas knows what it’s like to have different dreams than your family intends for you, but since his injury-caused early retirement, he’s been struggling to find the sense of family baseball once brought him. When he volunteers as the emcee for Julia’s big holiday fundraiser for a local youth center, he finally begins to find a sense of purpose working with the kids and alongside Julia.
She’s focused on organizing the best holiday event the youth center has ever seen, not on romance. But Ben…he’s got a game plan for them that includes both.
I’m a pretty big fan of Priscilla Oliveras’ books, so it’s no surprise that I’d actually already read this novella when it first came out in an anthology. But I jumped at the chance to revisit it because I had fond memories of it. And it still holds up as a sweet holiday romance.
Julia is an event planner and the cousin of the sisters from the Matched to Perfection series. She grew up in Puerto Rico helping her mom run her catering company and dealing with her baseball-obsessed brothers. While she loves her family, she, too, feels suffocated by their expectations that she take over the family business, so she’s looking at making the move to Chicago. The linchpin of her plan is pulling off the best holiday soiree fundraiser for the Chicago Youth Association that the town has ever seen in the hopes of landing a permanent job there. If only the fundraiser didn’t come with a certain handsome retired baseball player involved…
“Sometimes, a move away from the place where we’re the most comfortable allows for the best kind of growth.”
At first, Ben is seemingly only interested in Julia because she doesn’t seem starstruck around him. Gradually, though, as they work together on the fundraiser, the spark turns into something more. Julia, however, has zero interest in dating an athlete after spending her whole life submerged in baseball, even if Ben is kind, compassionate, a good listener, and did I mention handsome? The big problem, though, is that Ben doesn’t understand why she wants to move away from her family, when he’s so desperately missing the family he found in his baseball team. Watching the two of them work it out was so sweet and at times heart wrenching. I also loved the touches of Puerto Rican holiday traditions, though I did finish the story hungry for pernil and arroz con gandules! It’s definitely more of a HFN than an HEA, but with novellas, that’s perfectly fine for me.
Overall, another great story from Ms. Oliveras, and another sweet novella for Christmas!