Top ten tennis player Viva Jones had a heated disagreement with lineswoman Gabriela Mendaro about a contentious fault that allegedly cost her US Open title defence. Fifteen months later, they meet by chance on a deserted road and eventually the initial argument turns into attraction. The problem is that under the tennis association code of conduct, players and officials shouldn’t fraternise, let alone date. Will their budding relationship have any future?
I have read a couple of books by this author which, in my opinion, were average. So I didn’t have great expectations about this one but, as I love tennis I decided to read it. I’m so glad I did because I think she surpassed her previous books. Surely it helped that her editor was Sandra Gerth, better known as her pen name Jae. I hope they keep this association in the future.
There are two apparently contradictory paces of the plot. The romance is slow burn while the tennis scenes are fast paced. The main characters’ relationship evolve from antagonists to love interests in an exquisite slow discovery of their attraction and even slower decision to act on it. Their conflict, a strict code of conduct that keeps players and officials in separate worlds, is believable and original. As a matter of fact, the ITF Code of conduct is real and very strict with respect of the behaviour of the officials. The relationship between the main characters is spot on, the ‘will she, won’t she’ is realistic, their chemistry is sizzling and the sex scenes are hot.
In my opinion, what really makes this book so original is how tennis is in the plot’s driving seat. This is a sports’ book as much as a romance. I’d go as far as calling it a ‘tennis thriller’. The descriptions of the matches are accurate, in a way it’s like watching a tennis game in which we support one of the players and we suffer point by point. Tennis is a mental game as much as physical and the author captures this fact perfectly. The mantra ‘this point matters, only this one’ repeated tirelessly by Viva showcases the tension, the competitiveness and the demands of playing tennis at top level. My only doubt about this book is if a person who isn’t a tennis aficionado will enjoy it as much as I did.
The character building is another great aspect of this book. Both leads are very well conceived with their different personalities, their strengths and failures. Fictional and real tennis players mix in the plot providing more realism. It’s interesting to find out more about the umpires’ job, less glamorous than the players but essential to the game. Gabriela is a charming character and I wonder if it’s an homage to former world number three Gabriela Sabatini, my namesake and compatriot, a worldwide beloved and respected tennis player. On the other hand, Alina, the arrogant and distant nemesis of Viva is described perfectly in her cut throat, competitive attitude but with an unexpected final twist.
Overall, a very good read that mixes a slow burn romance with a fast paced tennis environment. A must read for tennis fans. 4.5 stars.
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.