If You Read One Romance This Spring, Make It This One

Spring! There’s no better time of year for a baseball romance. We’ll wind up the column with a much-anticipated book by Cat Sebastian, but we lead off with KT Hoffman’s endearing and tender new novel, THE PROSPECTS (Dial, 346 pp., paperback, $18).

The minor-league baseball player Gene Ionescu is almost living his best life. He’s a professional ballplayer, even if it’s for a minor-league team. He’s transitioned and is generally accepted as the guy he is, even if a trans man still doesn’t have quite the same locker room experience as a cis man. In this liminal space, he makes a finicky distinction between hope — which he exercises as dutifully as a muscle — and actual wanting, which would inevitably lead to disappointment because hasn’t it always?

Enter Luis Estrada, Gene’s former college teammate.

Luis, the son of a major-league star, was drafted before graduation. Now he steals Gene’s place at shortstop and upsets his balance — at least, until they’re forced to room together on a road trip and discover that making out turns their physical chemistry from something destructive into something electric. But dating a teammate is a terrible idea — especially when you’re certain the teammate is going to be called up and will leave you behind.

Except that isn’t quite how it goes. We’re right there with Gene as he struggles with going from almost enough to more than plenty, as he stops letting life happen to him and learns to actually reach for something. Because what if true happiness is right there, and it’s even sweeter than you dreamed?

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