May 10 2014 11:00am

First Look: Cora Carmack’s All Lined Up (May 13, 2014)

All Lined Up by Cora CarmackCora Carmack
All Lined Up

William Morrow / May 13, 2014 / $13.99 print / $3.99 digital

In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated.

Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter.

And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

With the start of her new series set at Texas's fictional Rusk University, Cora Carmack writes what she knows. And you can't really know all of the obsession, complexity, and rivalry involved in Texas football unless you've lived it. Where weekly games take over small towns all over the state and young players become celebrities and good coaches are like gods. And where it's easy to get swallowed up in the whole thing. This is a world that Carmack builds through first-hand experience, and she captures all of its spirit.

At Dallas's first college party, she runs into her ex, then a wolf in sheep's clothing, before meeting a guy who might be worth another look. It's easy to see why she's tired of living in her father's shadow as the coach's daughter, a pawn players bet against as part of a cruel game or suck up to trying to win favor. But Carson isn't a typical high school football star who's into those kinds of games. He's had to work to get where he is, and finding someone who doesn't have an ulterior motive is a refreshing change. Their own first meeting is pretty memorable in itself and turns every expectation Dallas has come to have about guys her age on its head—and this is before she realizes he's both a football player and on her dad's new team.

What develops between Dallas and Carson is genuine friendship above everything else. Dallas is a girl with a strong head on her shoulders, sometimes too strong. Her own dreams have been obscured by the bright lights of the stadium, and she's slow to trust anyone. Her dad, the coach, has skeletons of his own. For his part, Carson is that rare mix of young male who knows the value of hard work to achieve his goals and who is actually better for it than his privileged peers.

The gritty side of life in a Texas football town isn't shied away from as the story unfolds. To really do this culture justice requires revealing every dirty little secret. At the same time, the culture should also be celebrated inthe way it brings communities together and gives young men the opportunity to learn the life lessons that are found in the microcosm of a football game: teamwork, good-natured competition, respect.

When we score with a reverse pitch to Torres, a wide receiver, the sound is deafening. The band immediately picks up with the RU fight song, and for a for seconds, I remember what it was like to love football. Before Dad and I fought so much and before Levi ruined me more than I already was, there had been something special about the game for me. I loved the way one person could start a chant, and soon a stadium of thousands had picked it up and were screaming in unison. I loved that kids who didn't give a crap about school were suddenly belting the school song from the top of their lungs. I loved those tense moments before the start of a play when everyone is wishing and hoping exactly the same thing, and the whole stadium holds its breath.

Even now... I can admit that there's something a little bit magical about it.
And I get why Dad does it. Not just football, but his whole thing. To take a team and a town that doesn't believe and bring them together, I can see how that would fill him up, to the brim, just like dance does for me.

There's a lot of possibility for future stories here with this up-and-coming football team that's rising from the ashes, its imperfect players and the women who love them. Plus any time we get to see a little more of the Friday night lights, it's a good thing.



Learn more or pre-order a copy of All Lined Up by Cora Carmack, available on May 13, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.

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