The Devil in Denim and my lowdown on the HFN

A quick warning: my April TBR challenge review is a tad spoilery. I read my April TBR Contemporary Romance a few weeks ago. Melanie Scott’s Devil in Denim was a fun, (damn!) sexy read. Set in New York city, heroine Maggie Jameson’s father has sold the family baseball league team to Alex Winters. Maggie has trouble reconciling herself to her dad’s actions as she had always planned to work and live and breathe the family team life.

I don’t mind the occasional sports romance. It is the ultimate suspension of disbelief in contemporaries for me. Forget Montana cowboys or millionaire Greeks, it is the gentleman sportsman that I cannot actually believe exists. I enjoyed reading Susan Elisabeth Phillips’s Chicago Bears – Match Me if You Can is an all time fave – and Rachel Gibson’s Chinooks Hockey Team – I loved See Jane Score. I didn’t hesitate to buy The Devil in Denim when Adele Walsh recommended it to me and she pointed out it is by an Australian author.

Official blurb:

Life Just Threw Her A Curveball.

As the team-owner’s daughter, Maggie Jameson grew up in the New York Saints’ stadium—glove, cap, hot dogs, and all. Baseball’s in her blood, and she’s always dreamed of the day when she would lead the Saints to victory herself. That was before her dad had to sell the team to Alex Winters. The fast-talking, fiercely attractive businessman has a baseball pedigree that’s distinctly minor league. Maggie wants to hate him but his skills of seduction, however, are off the charts.

Will Love Be A Home Run?

Alex could never have imagined how much this team means to Maggie. He needs her to help show the players that they’re still a family…even if he and Maggie are at the verge of exchanging blows. But her fiery determination and gorgeous looks prove irresistible to Alex. And much as he wants to relegate their relationship to the playing field—and get the Saints back in the game—Alex just can’t help himself: What he wants to win most is Maggie’s heart…

I enjoyed many aspects of the book. The lovely banter between the main characters, the angsty bits, the rich kids jetting about stuff being played out in New York City was fun and flowed. There was a power imbalance between the hero and the heroine in that he is (kind of) her boss when they get together. I know there office romances both in real life and in contemporary romances is frowned upon these days but the reality is that many people do meet in the workplace. How the romance continues is often determined by the intent and the positions held by those in the relationship. In The Devil in Denim this is acknowledged as a problem from both the hero and the heroine from the begininning and this, I felt, drove so much of the romance as the two fought their attraction but they really couldn’t help themselves. This gave the book a spark that I really like in romance and for most purposes the whole story was great, funny and I should have loved it.

However, it was not enough to make me love the book. It took me a while to work out why and I think I have realised why many romances over the past few years have not thrilled and excited me: It is the lack of a thrilling grovel, love declaration and forever committment. That’s right. Though I understand the reason for a Happy For Now ending, I dislike it. It lacks meaning. It lacks conviction. It is such a meh way to finish a story that should end on a high. There is nothing romantic about “Yep, you’re a good sort. Let’s go out for a while and see where this thing takes us”. For this reader, the Happy for Now ending sucks. Occasionally, the HFN makes sense but it seems to have become the more common ending in romances. Heaven forbid someone makes a lifelong declaration, tearing their heart out and handing it to someone for life. The Happy For Now is a handshake agreement rather than a deep, longing, fiery embrace. I want my hero or heroine leaving themselves bare and saying “I love you” or better still, I want them down on their knees crying “I love you”. I want that punch drunk love. Ultimately, the HFN leaves me unsatisfied. It leaves me bored. Bored at the end of a book is not good. I don’t want to put a book down thinking “Was that it”. I want fireworks. I want that emotional “Fuck yeah!”. As much as I enjoyed The Devil in Denim, as great as the story was as it unfolded, sadly, I felt it ended with an enthusiastic and heartfelt handshake.

I bought my copy of The Devil in Denim from a bookshop.

8 thoughts on “The Devil in Denim and my lowdown on the HFN

  1. LOL! I loved this and you’ve voiced my sentiments regarding the HFN exactly. I think it comes from the new-found popularity of NA … which means that, as long as the trend lasts, I’m going to be dipping more and more into oldies. I’m old-ish and happy … hee hee … to be there forever 😉

    • I think people feel ambivalent about young love being forever, or a two week cute meet resulting in a love declaration whereas I think love can come to you at any age (including 18 or 19) and we diminish strong emotions with HFNs. I’m oldish too. I am cranky at new trends in romance. Perhaps that is why I embrace retro reads.

  2. I don’t even remember this being HFN. But anything that registers as HFN to me isn’t a happy ending, so that might be it. I think the third hero in this series is the best, but probably book 2 is the most well-rounded.

    The power imbalance in this book really troubled me, too, particularly as I didn’t feel anyone took Maggie’s devastation at losing the team seriously enough. I felt that coercing her into helping the new owners was really cruel. But I did love the angry, devastating sex towards the end.

    I agree that a lot of new romance lacking seriously good grovel.

    • It ends with her buying him a sports shirt with his name on it. I liked this book sooo much but the last scene left me flat. I wanted it to be so much more. I love grand gestures even if it is only grand for the hero and heroine and no-one else would know.

    • I also agree with you that no-one seemed to take her devastation seriously. I also felt that a lot more could have been made of Alex’s devastating bomb at the baseball experience. I have book 2 on my TBR. I’ll definitely be reading it.

      • I just remembered another thing I love about the series. All three heroes and heroines felt very different from each other, and the dynamics of their relationships were also very different. Now that you mention it, I do feel the explosion backstory was underutilised. It was such a life-changing event, but I think only Mal’s book (#3) really gave me a sense that it had a profound psychological effect.

        What did you think of the secondary characters?

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