Author: Kate McMurray
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Amazon: What There Is
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: short story/67 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A well paced story with two MCs who used a love of baseball as the cornerstone of their romance.
The blurb Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn’t exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.
Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.
They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.
The blurb gives away almost the entire story and I wondered whether there would be enough in it to keep my interest going. Fortunately there was or I wouldn’t have written a review. 😀
Mark wrote a column on baseball statistics in Sports Night, a highly regarded newsmagazine, and everyone in baseball, professional or amateur, was a fan of his column. Now in his thirties, Mark doesn’t meet a lot of single gay men because not only is he shy and awkward but his job doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for social interaction, so when hottie and former minor league baseball pitcher Justin Piersol showed up in answer to his ad for a roommate he couldn’t be more ecstatic. Move-in day was even better, with Justin’s two fantastic-looking friends moving boxes shirtless and all Mark wanted to do was maybe lick the sweat from their abs. 😆
Roll the tape to a few weeks later as he and Justin crack the code and get to know each other a little better, Mark found out that at 29, Justin still hadn’t recovered from his failed career and his dreams of making it in the big leagues; mostly he missed the camaraderie of the other guys on the team and the fans. Coaching high school kids was definitely not what Justin wanted to do for the rest of his life and he was always thinking about what might have been. Mark told Justin that he was looking for love and his ultimate goal was to get married, but as he was too shy to talk to other men that dream probably would never be realized. Justin suggested that they get out of their comfort zone and he would assist Mark in his quest for love; Mark would return the favour by helping Justin to find a new hobby he loved as much as baseball.
So they enrolled in a cooking class since Justin loved to cook and they thought that there may be a few single men in the class, hopefully looking for love. To Mark’s surprise he met a man in his first cooking class and they got along like gangbusters, but a strange thing happened on the way to fulfilling his dream of romance and maybe marriage – he wasn’t that attracted to Dave. Also, on the other front, Justin became jealous whenever he saw Mark and Dave together during cooking class which to him was unbelievable when early on he didn’t know he was attracted to Mark.
There are lots of baseball inferences sprinkled throughout this short story and since I’m a huge fan initially I kept reading because Kate McMurray is knowledgeable about the game of baseball, so I knew I would be entertained. However this is not a book about baseball, or at least only in a very peripheral but enjoyable way. This story is about Mark’s and Justin’s budding romance and how these two men who had nothing in common except baseball found their way to each other.
Obviously since What There Is is very short there wasn’t much information about their backstories other than Justin’s injury that forced him to retire from baseball, and nothing about Mark’s life before he met Justin, something that I felt was a missed opportunity to round out his character a little more. However I love well written short stories – an art form in itself and very difficult to do, even for experienced authors – which is why many readers complain that the endings of short stories are almost always rushed. In shorts there isn’t the luxury of info dumps 😀 such as there is in novels, as well as the inclusion of many secondary characters and sub plots to make the story interesting. Kate McMurray did a lot with this short that I definitely liked, and the characters were three dimensional despite there not being much information about their backstory. The romance was well paced, didn’t happen overnight, and the ending was quite believable. As Mark and Justin proved, you should do what you can with your life as people just have what there is.