The Set Piece by Catherine LaneThe Set Piece by Catherine Lane is a sweet, romantic story the uses the backdrop of soccer to show that even the best game plans can go awry when true love enters the picture.

Amy Kimball is smart and athletic but down on her luck when it comes to living life. Working at a bar in San Fernando Valley, the highlights of her day are when the Atoms soccer team plays on the television and her dear friend Simon.

Seems like nothing will change until one day a man in a suit walks in with the opportunity of the lifetime: become the fake fiancée for the Atoms’ biggest player, Diego Torres, who is hiding the fact that he is gay. Diego’s manager, Paul Knight, is afraid that if his sexuality comes to light, then all of Diego’s endorsements and his chance to play for the national team with disappear.

Amy has reservations, but her dwindling bank account makes the decision for her to sign her life away in a non-disclosure agreement. It seems like the perfect job with great money, luxurious living accommodations, and box seats at all of Diego’s soccer games. But this job already starts to stress Amy out with all the lying she must do to pull off the charade, not only to Diego’s entourage, but to Simon as well. And then another complication is added in the form of Diego’s attractive assistant, Casey.

As Amy gets further into Diego’s life, the lies she tells start eating away at her. Add in her growing attraction to Casey, a blackmail scheme against Diego, and a manager who cares about no one’s interests except his own, Amy must summon the strength to stop sitting on the sidelines and start playing the game.

The Characters

Amy is such a great character to read. She has had a hard life, but she hasn’t allowed her to bring her down. She’s kind and willing to help those her are less fortunate than her, even though she has her own struggles. It’s nice and refreshing to see this kind of character and it makes you want to cheer her on when she decides to take the job of fake fiancée.

Casey in a lot of ways is like Amy, but while Amy’s life went down Casey’s life went up.. While her first meeting with Amy is less than stellar (it’s actually really funny), you learn very quickly her attitude isn’t from a place of malice or hostility. She is very protective of the people she cares about, and that includes Diego. She has a softer side that is very endearing and adorable to watch when she interacts with her niece. What I love about her most is that, yes, it is her job to be the assistant, but it’s enjoyable to see that Diego and the people involved with Diego’s life are more important to her than just her job would dictate.

Diego is such a sweetheart, and it’s so sad to see him put in an impossible position. There isn’t a malicious bone in his body, and he’s compassionate about the situation he has put Amy in by not forcing her to be more than what she is hired to be on the surface. It’s this charisma and kind-heartedness that has me hoping until the very end that everything will work out for him in addition to Amy and Casey.

The rest of Diego’s entourage plays significant roles in his life: his manager, Paul, and his house manager, Tammy. While some of their motives are questionable when it comes to Diego’s well-being, especially Paul, Lane makes it very obvious that these characters genuinely care for Diego and will do whatever they can to help him.

The Writing Style

Lane’s writing flows really easy for the reader to follow and enjoy. Even when she’s describing certain aspects of the soccer match, she takes great care in giving the proper motions, sweeps, and positions that allow the reader to see the game as if it was happening on television.

The characters, as different as they are, all are joined by one purpose, and it is that purpose that makes them all interesting to follow even when they are doing something that doesn’t feel totally honest. Lane does a great job of having these characters be part of a team: Team Diego. They all mesh amazingly well and that is because they have one common goal to help the person they all care about.

The Pros

I love how Lane made not only two characters, Amy and Casey, that you are able to fall in love with and cheer on. She made three other characters – Diego, Paul, and Tammy – that you will love reading about their interactions not only Amy and Cassidy but also with each other.

The Cons

This is a soccer themed book, and some readers who may not know or understand soccer will not understand the few moments when Lane describes the matches. Hopefully it’ll encourage them to learn more about soccer after reading.

The Conclusion

This is a great book because it not only has a sweet romance, it also deals with a current topic that I feel is really important. Lane tackles the issue of athletes that have to live in the closet for fear of losing not only endorsements and advancement opportunities, but also living with the fear every day of having someone find out and telling the world.

It’s not an easy life to live by any means, and Lane handles the subject with the right amount of compassion, which any athlete hiding right now dreams of having from the people closest to them, and interlacing it with a developing romance between Amy and Casey. It makes the whole story enjoyable to read.

I won’t spoil the end, but it is a happy ending…in the unconventional sense. But unconventional is what we need sometimes, and if you’re looking for a feel-good romance that allows you to cheer on everyone, then I highly recommend “The Set Piece.”

Excerpt from The Set Piece by Catherine Lane

“Oh my God. You’re Casey? I thought you were a man.” Amy blurted the words out before she thought about them. She cursed Paul Knight and his paper-thin intel.

“Then you need a lesson in anatomy,” Casey said, as she rubbed the towel through her hair giving herself an attractive tousled look. “Thanks, Tammy.”

“Sorry, but when Diego mentioned his assistant, Casey, somehow your gender never came up.”

Casey cast a questioning look to Tammy as if to ask, who the hell is this idiot?

“I see you’ve met Amy.” Tammy answered the unspoken question.

Casey stiffened. “You’re Amy?” She glared at her as if she couldn’t believe it.

“Yeah. Please, forgive me. This is not the way I wanted to meet – “

“No worries.” Her tone was light, but her eyes had frozen to a glacial blue. “If you’ll excuse me. I need to get out of these wet things.” She slung the precious computer bag over her shoulder, smiled thinly at Tammy, and headed off with squishy steps to the pool house at the far end of the courtyard.

Amy watched the trail of Casey’s wet footprints as if they were magical. “Great. That was a terrible first impression.”

“Don’t worry too much about it. She’s a tough nut to crack.”

Was Tammy trying to make her feel better?

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[tweetthis]A delicate soccer ball tattoo rode her left ankle. Amy’s eyes lingered on the design [/tweetthis]

Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 9783955333768

Publisher: Ylva Publishing

Catherine LaneOnline