Posted by Heidi Blakey on 5th September 2017
Hey, its Jaqueline Snowe, author of Challenge Accepted. The story takes place in a college town not dissimilar to the one I attended in the Midwest. One of the main characters, Callie, is obsessed with pumpkin spiced lattes when fall begins. I have to agree - anything pumpkin flavored is magical when the leaves change colors and the wind picks up.
Food plays a large role in the story. Callie is headstrong and rebels when her father insists she learns how to cook before going off to school. He teaches her countless family recipes and like most teenager daughters, she pretended to hate it. (I must admit, I’m guilty of that.) Cooking became therapeutic for her as it was something she could control. In the life of a teenager going off to college, she felt most of her life was spiraling and cooking helped deal with stress. One of the recipes in the story is beer-battered chicken. She teaches Zade how to cook it as their friendship, and attraction, grows. That recipe is something my own father taught me and despite years of making it, I can never get it just right.
Our hero in the story, Zade, was raised by a single mom and a supportive sister. Being around strong women is familiar. His fearless mother taught him to go after anything he wanted and if he worked hard enough, he could achieve anything. He never thought anything was out of reach - proving why as a second year starting pitcher for a Division One university, he knows the majors aren’t far away. His relationship with his sister is a catalyst for how Callie and Zade meet - he volunteers to get groceries for his sister who is ill. The list contains tampons… her way to get him back for some asinine thing he did. While sweating in the lady product aisle, Callie see him struggling and helps him out.
Callie grew up around baseball: her dad coaches a community college team. Wearing a triple A baseball hat, a team that only the truest of baseball fans would ever recognize, Zade’s attraction is instant. A girl who looked like that and knew about the Toledo Mudhens? Zade’s newest goal became finding out all about the athletic woman who spout more baseball knowledge than his teammates.
The story focuses quite a bit on how our family shapes who we become in college. It is an exhilarating and simultaneously frightening moment. Callie had parents who adored her, but pushed her to learn independence. Their intentions were in the right place and throughout her first year, she comes to accept her parents were right: the experience she got during a year off before college helped her receive an internship of sorts. I know I had the “ah-ha” moment my freshmen year where maybe my parents had been right about some things. Maybe. I still won’t admit it though. Maybe I’ll wait another ten years.
Zade accepts Callie’s raw determination to prove herself. He has no qualms about letting her go after her own goals, especially after his mom had success later in life. She moved to Europe for a dream career opportunity further demonstrating everyone’s unique ambitions are important. Her only requirement during her time abroad was that Zade and his sister have weekly skype sessions. His upbringing taught him respect was earned, not given, and that strong females ruled the world. We learn bits and pieces about what actually happened to Zade’s father throughout the story, but the common theme is that Zade doesn’t really care. His mom and sister had always, and would always, be enough family for him.
Two specific things sparked the inspiration for the story. The first is the Toledo Mud Hens hat my husband owns. If you know a lot about baseball, we both are huge fans of Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander. They all played for the Detroit Tigers in 2012 and we followed them religiously. The Mud Hens are the triple A team for the Tigers and every time my husband wears it, someone will comment on it.
Now, the second inspiration for the story might contradict the first. My husband and I are from Illinois and went to Cubs games all the time while we dated. When they won the World Series last year, we both cried massive tears of joy. Challenge Accepted, in some ways, was a love story to baseball.
It’s a romantic sport, and the story aimed to do reflect that. I do hope you enjoy the story. These characters put smiles on my face. Happy reading!