PLAYING FOR KEEPS

Karen Templeton, Author . Silhouette $6.50 (400p) ISBN 978-0-373-21834-9

Joanna Swann has three kids, a roof that leaks, a business carving wood Santas and no sex life—until she meets retired baseball pitcher Dale McConnaughy. The two meet inauspiciously after Joanna's Santas are rejected by the local art gallery and she breaks down crying in the toy store Dale now owns. But when he arrives at her house to set up a swing set for her twin boys a few days later, their relationship begins to bud, coaxed along by Joanna's best friend and her ex, Bobby. Although Dale is a player in every sense of the word, Joanna's warm honesty seduces him despite his defenses. Joanna, meanwhile, worries she's falling for another overgrown boy like her ex. Add Bobby's young pregnant fiancée and a secret Dale has kept since he was 10, and you have a complicated but compelling romantic yarn. Initially, it's difficult to see why Dale would be attracted to Joanna, a frumpy single mom with an attitude and issues, but their relationship blossoms believably after their first few encounters. Templeton (Loose Screws) has drawn flesh-and-blood characters and a rare sympathetic portrait of Joanna's ex. With its pitch-perfect prose, spot-on dialogue and steady pacing, Templeton's newest should score a home run with readers. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/15/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
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