Fire Season by KD Casey
Unwritten Rules #2
July 19, 2022 by Carina Press
Review by Kate H.
Baseball might be my least favorite sport to read about, but I loved this book. Now I have to go back and read Unwritten Rules, the first in this universe. Fire Season can standalone, I will attest to that. I just want to read more KD Casey.
Two divorced men, both professional baseball players, meet during the fire season in the Bay Area of California. Through the course of a baseball season, they fall in love. On the face of it this might not seem like the most scintillating premise but the strength of KD Casey’s Fire Season lies not in its deployment of tropes, but in the believability of its characters. Charlie Braxton is the star pitcher for the Oakland Elephants. A man of few words, his ex-wife is serving papers for their largely amicable divorce at the beginning of the novel. He seems barely connected with the everyday realities of his life when he meets Reid Giordano, feeling alone and apart and often anxious. Meeting Reid is an eye-opener for him in more ways than one. His immediate interest in Reid brings to the surface a part of his sexuality his never explored. But through Reid, he also begins to see that the business of baseball is not always fair. Protected by his successful career and reliable curveball, Charlie watches Reid as he tries to scratch his way to a permanent place on the team, or any team.
Reid has more to overcome than most bullpen players. Years before the novel starts, he ruined his league standing, his marriage, and his connection to most of his family, due to an alcohol use disorder and the lies he used to cover it up. Since that point, he’s been trying to hold it together, moving from minor league team to minor league team, patching short contracts together until the moment that Oakland calls him up. Reid is a work in progress, focusing on the day-to-day and his near goals. He has a set of strategies for staying sober and dealing with the moments and hours when life gets hard. He had never been an observant Jew growing up, but he finds structure and meaning from keeping kosher and observing the holy days. Sometimes he calls his grandmother, other times his therapist, who can reframe his catastrophizing and negative thoughts in a way that seems real and not textbooky. I appreciated how the author did not make “love save the day” here, but instead reflected a more realistic view of managing this disorder.
One of my favorite things in this novel, and what makes the characters and their connection so believable, is the narration. KD Casey chose a dual POV narration, using a very close 3rd person voice – and by very close, I mean there’s not a lot of lengthy explanation, but we get to see and hear and feel what Charlie and Reid do. Thoughts and revelations are woven in, as well as flashbacks. The language is not excessively descriptive, but the details work so well to underline the emotion of each scene. Early in the novel, Reid is driving Charlie home from a bar, heading to Charlie’s old Victorian home in San Francisco for the first time:
Charlie presses his face onto the glass of the passenger’s side window, studying the lights of the city as they approach it, the ridges of the mountains in the distance. There isn’t much traffic, though Charlie finds himself wishing for a Bay Area snarl, for an excuse to sit and watch the line of cars in front of them move and listen to Giordano talk, interrupting himself to ask Charlie for directions.
Such an interior view of both characters , including the doubts and moments of panic, really made me connect with these characters, despite being meh about baseball. I believed how much they want each other and how much they cared. Most of the pressure on them as a couple is professional and not internal to the relationship. Will Reid be traded? How will the other players react to their relationship?
There is of course a HEA. I would have died if there wasn’t. But I can also say as someone who has an antipathy for epilogues, the one in Fire Season is in my Top 3. Reid does not get a ridiculous promotion within the Oakland Elephants, nor does the attention shift to a wedding, the clothes worn, the crudités served. Instead, the epilogue stays within the reality of Reid and Charlie, happy together.
CW: Anxiety/panic attacks, alcohol abuse, and recovery, homophobia and biphobia