I’m not really the biggest baseball fan in the world (read: at all), but I like sports romances and was lured in by the cute cover of Stealing Home. As it turns out, I did like the pro baseball player hero – very much. But I certainly could have lived without the thief heroine with the giant chip on her shoulder.
Loralei Littleton is a woman driven by desperation. Her niece Michelle needs life-saving surgery, and she and her brother have no way to pay for it. A stranger approaches her with what seems like a solution: If Loraleigh steals catcher Mark Cutter’s good luck charm, Dina will pay her $100,000, enough to cover the cost of the surgery. Dina is Mark’s ex-wife and says he’s a big womanizing jerk. She gives Loralei the security code to Mark’s condo, and Loralei goes to a bar to shadow him and figure out when he’ll be home. Her plans change when she decides to order him a drink. Even though she has no makeup and is wearing a gardening t-shirt instead of fuck-me shoes, he flirts with her and takes her back to his place. She doesn’t need to security code after all! Ignoring her pangs of guilt, she drugs his drink, steals the good luck charm, and hightails it out of there. She heads back to the hotel Dina has paid for and waits to make the hand off.
Unfortunately, Mark is no dummy. He finds Loralei and forces her to come back to his condo, where he plans to keep her under lock and key. Obviously, he’s mad that she stole his good luck charm, but though he threatens to go to the police, he doesn’t follow through. He is attracted to Loralei and wants her to give him the good luck charm on her own. She is just as attracted to him. He’s a handsome, rich pro baseball player – and he also happens to be a nice guy.
And there’s the problem. Mark is a nice guy, and it is obvious that he’s a nice guy from the get-go. But Loralei lets herself believe Dina’s stories about Mark long after it’s obvious that Dina is a conniving liar with a restraining order against her and Mark is a nice guy. Loralei carries the unshakable conviction that it’s okay to steal from Mark through most of the book, even after they are supposedly in love with each other and have shared mind-blowing sex.
I’m not really a fan of thieves as protagonists, but I can be persuaded if the story is done right. I can buy into the scenario if the thief in question is stealing back something that is rightfully theirs, or if they have a come to Jesus moment and figure out that stealing from people – especially nice, kind people you are in love with – is wrong. Loralei doesn’t fit either of these scenarios, and in fact can barely conceal her resentment that Mark has money – even as she accompanies him on away trips to other cities and to parties in relative luxury.
This touches on a theme that could have been interesting had it been handled differently or even addressed directly. True enough, life is not fair. There are haves and have nots, and being down on your luck with a very sick niece with no health insurance just blows. But Loralei seems to almost think that the situation is Mark’s fault because he has money. She blames him for not saving her niece even before she is willing to tell him why she needs the cash. Unless you’re Bill Gates or J.K. Rowling, someone has more money than you do, and many more people have less. Is it their fault that they have more? Should they feel bad that they have more? Do they have more because they directly stole it from little children in need of heart operations?
Now, I’m not expecting a romance novel to go into a lengthy discussion about why we pay baseball players and CEOs more than janitors and people who write gardening articles. But I do expect that a heroine with serious mental baggage around money issues to get a little more thoughtful about it throughout the book. Rather than, say, blaming random rich people for her problems and then getting mad at them when they’re not so thrilled to have their belongings stolen. I might also mention that it seems fairly clear that Mark was not always wealthy; he wasn’t rich because he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but because he happened to be very good at baseball. Having some level of resentment for a rich layabout who never lifted a finger to work would make a little more sense.
Needless to say, Loralei and her attitude spoiled this book for me. I liked Mark (who has some fairly interesting issues of his own that I didn’t even touch upon), but could not stomach his taste in women. As far as I could see, Loralei’s only good selling point was her 34Ds. That might have been enough for Mark, but it wasn’t enough for me.