by Mariah Dietz
Shakespeare believed there was always humor in tragedy and tragedy in humor.
My life proved his theory as fact.
At eighteen I was a single parent moving to this small town to be with the man I loved. The one who was supposed to love and cherish me in return.
Finding out he had a wife was tragic.
Remaining in love with him in spite of her was more tragic.
My mom and best friend setting me up on a long string of blind dates was an ongoing tragedy.
Nine years later, I’ve learned to see the humor in most situations.
My mom and best friend setting me up on disastrous blind dates.
My son’s jokes.
The fire alarm going off each time I cook.
My constant bright spot always adding to the humor was my son, Hayden. But when Hayden had a life-threatening allergic reaction, the man who came to help my little boy became my own savior. His laugh, his smile, and the way his eyes lit up when he spoke to my son made him a beacon of light in both our lives.
But I wasn’t the only one who noticed him.
When I began having feelings for the man my best and only friend had fallen for, I knew following my heart would once again lead to a fresh round of heartbreak.
Love led me to this town.
Lies kept me there.
Would history repeat itself?
Or had life just thrown me another Curveball?
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As a new to me author, I didn’t know what to expect from Mariah Dietz but she pleasantly surprised me with her entertaining story and relatable characters. Curveball is sweet, swoony, and sexy with a bit of angst and a whole lot of heart. It kept me engaged and left me giddy with a huge smile on my face.
Ella Chapman was not expecting to be pregnant at seventeen, nor was she expecting to go through everything alone. That’s exactly what happens though when she finds out the father of her baby is married. She moves to his hometown so her son could be near his father, hoping that he would choose her. Instead she is the talk of the town, pegged as a home wrecker, and called nasty names. Alone and broken-hearted, she tries to pick up the pieces the best way she knows how and make a good life for her son.
When you give your heart away there’s no way to fully get it back. Pieces will be left behind, lies will drill holes, deceit will cause cracks, and the feeling of being unwanted will create a doubt your heart was ever whole.
Years later, Ella has a great job and a sweet nine-year-old son named Hayden who is growing up way too fast. Add to that the fact that her mom and best friend are trying to set her up on numerous dates to find “the one,” her life is a little crazy and remains busy day in and day out.
Coen DeLuca is a firefighter and her best-friends new neighbor. He enters Ella’s life in the worst possible way, having to save her son from a life-threatening allergic reaction, but slowly becomes a staple in her life. They are attracted to each other but neither want to act on it and risk their new friendship. Slowly though feelings grow stronger and they find themselves wanting to be together while the whole town tries to keep them apart.
I really enjoyed this story, finishing it nearly in one sitting. I found it refreshing and actually believable with likeable characters who worked well together. Ella is fantastic. Being a teen mom is far from easy, especially when you are doing it on your own, but she loved her baby with everything inside her and worked hard to give him everything he needed. Her determination and persistence were remarkable and I loved her confidence, strength and optimism as she worked through her struggles. When she loves, she loves deeply and completely, and could never hate someone even if she wanted to which only adds to her lovable characteristics. She real and sweet and I liked her from the beginning.
Coen was amazing. I felt his heart beam when Ella was around. He has a way about him that instantly put a smile on my face and gave me the warm and fuzzies. He drew me in with his friendly demeanor and was instantly likable. His relationship with both Ella and Hayden made me swoon and I believed his feelings towards them without question. I loved that he was a hero in his own right but never got cocky about it, and he cared about his job and the people around him, making him a genuinely nice guy.
I felt the spark between Coen and Ella the moment first laid eyes on each other. The attraction was well-written and believable and I loved that though they fought their feelings, there wasn’t a lot of pushing away. I loved that they could be themselves around each other, forming a friendship that was solid and important. I enjoyed that it was a slow-burn romance and they didn’t just want to jump into a relationship together. It may have been instant attraction but they spent time getting to really know one another. When they finally give into their desires it’s full of passion and commitment and I loved their connection. I thought that the romance was well-paced and felt completely natural as they progressed to more than friends.
“I want to break all the rules.” He takes another step closer to me. “All of these ridiculous rules that this town and society have, I want us to break each of them.”
Though things seem like they are headed in the right direction, they need to figure out how to make things work when there are obstacles all around them. Ella’s best friend, Rachel, has feelings for Coen and the fact that she is Ella’s only friend definitely complicates things. Ella loves Rachel and I understood the emotions she was going through. I felt the turmoil, frustration, and fear, but I also felt the desire, love, longing, and happiness she had for Coen.
I loved how they were mature about their decision making and didn’t really hold things back. They were straightforward, open, and honest, and neither played games which was refreshing. I adored the devotion they had for each other and the love that shone in their hearts.
“You just haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been looking at you like you’re mine since I first saw you.”
Lies and secrets can change everything and I loved the way they shape the story even though I hated that they hurt the characters. This story is full of twists I didn’t see coming and it kept me entertained and speedily flipping pages. When everything was revealed I felt what Ella felt because I implanted myself into the story and I was just as shocked as her. Overall, Curveball was a delightful surprise and I can’t wait to read more from Mariah Dietz.
*ARC generously provided by the author and Give Me Books Promotions in exchange for an honest review*
I stand on her doorstep and knock. The window into her house shows there’s a light on in the family room, so I know she’s awake. Ella’s head pops around the wall, her short hair pulled back at her neck. Even with her glasses on, I can tell she’s squinting, working to recognize me. I wave as if that will help her place me, but she doesn’t until she’s halfway to the door. Her shoulders fall, and a smile replaces her frown that had been created by concern.
“Hey,” she says, opening the door.
She’s wearing a pair of pajama shorts and an oversized sweatshirt and socks, and with her glasses on and her hair pulled back, she looks like she could pass for being in college, maybe even high school.
“Sorry, are your parents home?” I ask.
“Shut up,” she mumbles, tucking a loose strand of dark hair behind her ear and taking a step back to invite me inside.
“Seriously though, how old are you?”
She eyes me, tilting her chin and narrowing her eyes like she does when she’s debating how to respond. “How old do you think I am?”
“I may not look very bright, but I do know better than to answer that question.”
“Are you sure?” she asks. “’Cause you did just ask me how old I am and I’m pretty certain there’s a golden rule about asking a woman that question.”
“Unspoken rule. Common sense…”
“I’m thirty,” I volunteer.
“Twenty-seven,” she says.
“I bet you still get carded.”
“I bet you don’t.” Ella smiles as I cry out with feigned offense at her insult.
“What are you doing tonight?” I ask.
“Making a mess of my living room.” Ella’s shoulders sag with her response. She leads me into the family room where the built-in shelves that line each side of her fireplace are sitting bare, the contents scattered around her living room.
“You prefer that just-robbed look?”
“I was rearranging some things,” she says.
“Why? It looked good before.” I look around, realizing it wasn’t just those shelves she cleared. The couches have been moved, and the bookshelf on the far wall has been cleared. “If you were bored, you should have come over. I have lots of stuff that needs organized.”
She laughs. “That’s because you just moved. I was just tired of looking at the same stuff.”
I raise an eyebrow. “I’m tired of looking at boxes and random crap in my house since moving, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve gotten tired of looking at things when they’ve been put away.”
Ella laughs, but it’s too high, and her eyes flit across the space, revealing it isn’t genuine but out of nerves. “Sometimes I just need change,” she admits.
“What else do you get tired of?” I ask.
The same nervous laugh clears her lips before she licks them. “Everything … I guess…” She scoffs, shocked she just admitted this to me. “I mean, don’t you ever just get tired of people and things?”
I chuckle. “You get tired of people too?”
One brow goes up as she nods while releasing a deep breath. “I’m so difficult. You’ll learn this quickly, so I may as well tell you.” She flashes a smile that is so honest and genuine it knocks me off balance and rids every sarcastic remark I’d been thinking. “I once stopped eating waffles for three years because I was so tired of eating them,” she admits. “Sometimes I feel like if I had the opportunity to do that with some of my co-workers, I may not see them again for a decade…” This time both of her brows go up, and her head tilts with thought before she purses her lips. “Or maybe ever.” She looks at me as she admits this, and for some reason the level of honesty she’s sharing makes me like her even more. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Rachel. She’s the sister I never had, but sometimes I even need breaks from her.” She shrugs again. “It’s no one’s fault. It’s just how I’m wired, I guess. I’ve always been fairly independent, and then after Hayden was born, I was forced to be. Now I’m probably too independent. It used to drive my ex absolutely crazy.” Her gaze sweeps to the floor, making me question if she meant to bring up the topic or if it’s painful for her to.
“Being independent is a good thing,” I tell her. “And like you said, you’ve had to be. I can’t imagine what it takes to be a single parent. You probably fear nothing.”
Her blue eyes are narrowed with hesitancy as they meet mine, but she smiles, and I know it’s simply to appease me. “The opposite actually. I fear way more now that I’m a mom because I know what I could lose.”
About the Author
Mariah Dietz lives with her husband, two sons, and two four-legged children who are the axis of her crazy and wonderful world.
Mariah grew up in a tiny town outside of Portland, Oregon where she spent most of her time immersed in the pages of books that she both read and created.
She has a love for all things that include her family, good coffee, books, traveling, and dark chocolate. She’s also obsessed with Christmas ornaments and all things Disney.