Stealing Third (NeRdyWYRM’s Review)

review master
Title: Stealing Third
Author: Marie Lark
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 207 pages
Reviewed by: NeRdyWYRM
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5


His old high school teammates call him “Peaches” because Nick Pacioretti is anything but sweet–too calculating, too abrupt, and way too invested in his best friend Miles’s baseball career for his own good. But between the two of them, somebody needs to make it to the majors, and Nick is going to get him there, come family illness or a surprise revelation that his best friend is bisexual.

At twenty-three, Nick has never understood his guy friends’ obsession with girls and sex. He’s never felt real attraction in his life, but he’d do anything to protect Miles’s future–including experiment with sex. He might even like it.

With his second season in the minors at an end and his career up in the air from money trouble, third-baseman Miles Rodriguez is ready to buckle under the pressure. All he has is his best friend Nick and the possibility of finally exploring sex with a guy. Having loved Nick for years, his suggestion of a mutually beneficial arrangement is more than Miles can refuse–even if secretly deepening their relationship puts Miles’s future in the majors on the line.

Ambition and the pull of old love collide in Stealing Third!

Angst With A Twist

I’ve managed to shock myself. This book was the vehicle. I apparently have a new thing, or to be fair, a new ‘reading kink’. With my psychology background I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I find that I am. You’d think I’d get tired of any and all versions of abnormal, but nooooo. I’ve discovered I can forgive a book almost anything as long as at least one of the characters tickles my braingasm bone, and a sure-fired way for a character to achieve that is to be a little … off in the head. Not that there was anything egregious to forgive here requiring mitigation, but I think you get what I’m trying to say. These boys. Wow. The angst was strong with this one.

darth vader level angst

Neither one of these guys had it particularly easy for very different but equally valid reasons. Oddly enough, I just realized that the overall tone of this title was almost morose. I don’t usually go in for that, at least not when that’s nearly all there is, but I think the love story provided such a great contrast to the angst, and the journey of self-discovery both of the MCs underwent was so riveting that it didn’t ultimately end up feeling like a Death Star level gloom-fest. I know I maintained hope throughout that these guys would get their HFN or better.

I absolutely adored the relationship dynamic here. I’m a real soft-touch when it comes to the friends-to-lovers theme; combine it with a GFY or a GFT and I’m borderline squawk-like-a-chicken hypnotized. Enthralled. Enslaved. Mindlessly engaged. Mm-hmm. The twist in this one has to do with Nick’s character. Other than an anxiety problem and some well-earned depression issues, the book doesn’t come right out and say there’s anything otherwise organically wrong with Nick, but his character raises all my psychology flags. Big time.

Sure, he’s got the freaky geeky thing going on (sort of), but it’s more that his brain is more robotic than emotive. His struggles with change and with intimacy, emotions, etc. were such that it was obvious to me that there was something wrong beyond what benzos and a good night’s sleep could fix. Of course, maybe a need for benzos and a good night’s sleep is what made my brain combine C-3PO and the freaking Tin Man. Yeeaaah. I dunno.

C3PO and tin man

It was because of those imperfections that Miles’ character was really able to shine. The dynamic between the two of them, with Miles pulling a lot of the emotional weight (at least at first) was heart-stopping in a good way. They knew each other so well I couldn’t help but fall in love with them both and I was rooting for them to find their way to a mutual romantic relationship the entire time. The newness of everything they were experiencing as they moved beyond best-friendship into something a little murkier got in the way of that ‘knowing’ and threw both of them a little off-kilter for a while.

Ultimately they pulled it out and ended up with a highly appropriate HFN. Anything more than that would have been unbelievable and dare I hope? It leaves room for a sequel. I really enjoyed this book, angst and all. I loved Nick’s broken brain and stunted emotional range because Miles more than made up for it until they were on equal footing. There was a thread of fear running through this whole title, through both of the MCs for a lot of different reasons. It translated very well to the page and I felt it conveyed well to the reader without being overwhelming.

There was also an underlying tension the whole time that wasn’t entirely attributable to the themes I already mentioned, but I think, whatever the source, it helped make Miles’ and Nick’s relationship coming together a little more believable. There was inexperience and fumbling, and inexperienced fumbling (both sexually and emotionally) that was a little sympathetically painful to read sometimes, but very true to real-life. There was also sweetness and love, fear and despair, hope and faith. The absolute, undeniable permanence of their feelings for each other was something to behold even as it morphed and went through some growing pains from a deep and abiding friendship to something soulmate-legendary. They had to crack their relationship down to the foundations to make it something new.

yoda unlearns

I was a little bummed that with a plot that relied heavily on baseball, as far as I remember, Miles hardly picked up a bat or a ball except off-page in training. I don’t necessarily want a sports-saturated read but having some actual gameplay—or even just one sport-related action sequence in there so we could see that side of Miles’ character—wouldn’t have gone amiss. Ultimately, I was so utterly engrossed in the character- and relationship-development that I didn’t really feel the lack, but it bears mentioning. There was a lot to like about this title and I hope we get to see more of these two MCs. I’d like to know where they end up with so many obstacles yet in front of them.

This review cross-posted at Goodreads.
Other reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be read here.

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I am a life-long reader and an avid learner. I remember reading books without pictures when I was about four, and raided every title on my parents' full and intimidating book shelves—well, the ones they would let me read, anyway—from then on. Characters written by authors like Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Raymond E. Feist, Mercedes Lackey, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, and Anne McCaffrey were my childhood playmates. Back then, I went nowhere unless I had a book in my hand. While the rest of my generation was shifting from cassettes to CDs and from Atari to Nintendo, Sega, and Playstation, I spent my allowance on Myth & Magic pewter figurines and on books at the Stars and Stripes bookstore. These days I don't have a book in my hand anymore, at least not the printed variety. Instead, it's any device with a Kindle app. I stubbornly held on to the printed page until a military move weighed my book collection in at over a ton. Oops. Sorry-not-sorry, but I did have to exercise some pragmatism in that area, unfortunately. Now I only buy hardbacks from my favorite authors, the classics, or long-running series. Otherwise, I've surrendered to the times and our weight allowance and have gone all digital. I stay strictly on the fiction side of the fence because non-fiction is generally too dry to hold my interest. I was always a scholar, and so have read enough textbook-like titles and required reading for school and college to last me a lifetime, thank you very much. So, non-fiction? No, thanks. However, barring non-fiction and biographies (ewww people), there's not much out there I won't read. I have loved romance novels since I was prepubescent. Something about historicals and anything with horses, i.e., Native American inspired romances just did it for me. My grandmother was appalled that my parents let me read that 'smut' as she called it. I'd already justified my position on being allowed to read those controversial titles with a logical argument that there were a lot of historical facts in those books that couldn't be learned in the classroom alone. And to this day, I maintain that stance. I have learned more from books, specifically romance and fantasy novels, than I ever did in a classroom. ~~wink-wink~~ My dad always said I was too smart for my own good. Looking back, he was probably right! I could logically talk my way into and out of just about anything. It's served me well, but caused me no end of problems, too. That said, despite my love for the romance genre in general and the m/m romance genre in particular, there is little chance that a decent book of any kind will fail to catch my interest, and there's nothing at all I'm unwilling to learn. So bring it on. I hope you enjoy my reviews.