Monday, 15 October 2012

Pine Tar & Sweet Tea, Kerry Freeman

A love story about two men, one in the closet and one out, who struggle against bigotry and distance to find their happily ever after.
-Review by Cindi

Matt Hawley has recently returned to his small Alabama hometown after playing in the Minor Leagues for eleven years.  He is a first year baseball coach at the local high school and the team has made it all the way to the state championship series, a big deal for a first year coach. Matt's father is the local pastor and his sister is a recently divorced mother of two small girls.  Matt has known he was gay since puberty but has stayed deep in the closet because of his father's beliefs and homophobic attitude.  This attitude also applies strongly to the small town where he lives.  Most are closed-minded and see homosexuality as an abomination.  

Rene Dias left the Major Leagues after one season.  He lives in Mobile, Alabama and coaches one of the local high school baseball teams.  He has always been open about his sexuality, both with his family and others.  Living in a more accepting part of the state, his sexuality is not as much of an issue as it is for Matt, nor would it matter if it was.  Rene does not try to hide who he is from anyone.  Accept him or don't.  He coaches his baseball team to their third state championship series in as many years.

Matt and Rene meet as opposing coaches during the championship series that takes place right outside of Mobile, a few hours from Matt's home.  During their initial meeting, each knows that they will be spending time in the other's bed before the weekend is over.  The attraction is instant and it is intense.  Once the series is over and the last ball has been pitched, they meet up for a one-night-stand.  They live a few hours from each other so they know going in that it will not go any further.  Matt can't allow it to go any further and Rene accepts this.  The only problem is that after the series is over and the men go their separate ways, they can't stop thinking about each other.  As much as Matt wishes to spend time with Rene, he knows it is not possible because he refuses to come out of the closet no matter how attracted he may be.  He accepts that he will never have the relationship he wants with Rene and tries to move on.  This becomes more and more difficult as the weeks go by.  Matt's best friend, Emily, began a relationship with Rene's best friend, David, during the tournament and this forces Matt and Rene together often.  They end up meeting secretly in Mobile and other places until it gets to the point where one has to walk away or lose everything... his family, his job, his friends... everything he has worked for his entire life.  There is a long road for Matt and Rene to travel before everything finally comes to a head and they are forced to work out the issues that are keeping them apart.  There are a few heartbreaking moments but the author (thankfully) did not allow those to play out for too long.

I will admit to being hesitant to read this book.  It is partially set in my city (though I did not know this going in... I only knew the state).  I tend to shy away from books that are set not only in my state but in the southern part of the United States in general.  I have problems with southern speak in books and I was not sure what to expect before I started this.  I needn't have worried as the author is actually from here and she did not turn it into a stereotypical southern book.  Sure, the other stereotypes are there but those are unfortunately common everywhere.  The homophobic pastor who uses his religion to rail against those who do not believe what he believes.  The bigoted small town.  Those things are there in full force but they did not take away from my enjoyment of the story.  Also, it was nice reading about specific places that have been a major part of my life (University of South Alabama, Gulf Shores, Alabama).

This is a very nice story about two men who want to be together desperately but outside forces unknowingly conspire against them.  When they finally decide that enough is enough, they get their much fought for happily ever after.  It was a nice thing to watch.  A couple of things had me shaking my head but not enough to detract from the story as a whole.  The secondary characters are perfect.  Matt's sister and nieces, Emily, David and Rene's father.  I can't say I enjoyed reading about Matt's father but he was integral to the story.  I am very happy with how everything comes together at the end.  

(The title is perfect.  For those who understand baseball and the south, you'll understand why).

Pine Tar & Sweet Tea


  1. So glad you liked it, Cindi. Great review. Wow, Mobile, who knew, lol

    1. I know! The blurb only says a small town in Alabama. I was thinking it would be a fictitious town. I had no clue going in that it would be MY town... :) I did enjoy it very much. Thanks for pushing it in my direction.

  2. The small town mentioned in the blurb is not referring to Mobile. We aren't THAT small. :)