A reader’s perspective on bucket lists and tennis
Despite my best intentions I did not get my blog done while I was on vacation (I know, I was kidding myself) so I missed last week’s “deadline”. Although I’ve usually done my prep (fun) work ahead of time – I don’t start actually writing until the day before or day of the scheduled blog date (Yes, R.G. I fully admit to that). This time though I’m going to blame the lingering effects of altitude sickness and/or travel fatigue, not my tendency to procrastinate. All that to say that Erin has kindly offered her slot this week as my blog topic is kinda time sensitive and we wouldn’t want all that hard research to go to waste.
I’m one of those people with a bucket list. Yep, it’s not set in stone: it’s evergreen and when I manage to tick something off the list – there always seems to be something to add or some items to change in priority. But for me, as a bit of a history buff, there have been three items that have remained constant and that is to visit the sites of the architectural or cultural wonders of some ancient civilizations. Specifically China (Terracotta Warriors, Yangtze River Cliff Coffins), Egypt (Great Temple of Abu Simbel, Nile River) and Peru (Machu Picchu). Over the last decade I’ve had the good fortune to go to both Egypt just before the 2010 protests and China before the recent issues between our two countries. This time round it was Peru. Great, my topic for September was a no brainer – but alas, I didn’t have any novels set in Peru in my archives, and couldn’t find any lesfic about or set in Peru or even just Machu Picchu. If you know of any feel free to leave a comment, as I would love to check them out.
On the other hand, I can now personally attest to the altitude sickness symptoms described in some of those mountain climbing books in my April Blog. Despite that, and thanks in main part to our guide, we did live through a hike to the top of Apu (Mountain) Machu Picchu. This was all the more astounding since we had not trained for or planned to do a hike of this difficulty. We thought we were going to do a leisurely walk along the Sun Gate trail (gradual elevation, easy hike, one hour tops) when we were pointed towards the Machu Picchu Mountain trail. Close to 2,000 feet higher than the 7,700 feet above sea level where the ruins were situated and round trip four to five hours in duration: our guide had us up and down in 3.5 hours. And yes, OMFG it was hell. I never looked beyond straight ahead five feet past my feet (did I mention my fear of heights) and at points I thought my lungs were going to explode and I’d never breathe again. And, that was after the first 20 feet lol. Photo above is the amazing view of the ruins before we started the trek up the mountain. Full disclosure, we only got within 50 feet of the top, as the last two stairways were just not going to happen. Our guide wisely agreed it was a good spot to stop and admire the view.
But something did happen in September that had much of us north-of-the-border totally enthralled and glued to our sports channels for close to two weeks this month: “She of the North”. It was enough to make me interested in watching and following tennis again. We had our first ever (male or female) Canadian tennis grand slam winner. A talented and grounded young woman with a real honest to God swagger playing old time tennis. It was a joy to behold and brought back fond memories of watching epic grand slam rooting for King or Navratilova. No doubt I’ll be regularly tuning in again.
Although I haven’t watched a lot of tennis over the last few years I have been reading the tennis themed fiction coming out and there have been some good ones. I’ve picked a few to highlight but any listed here today are worth reading on their own merits. More often than not the romances are not between two tennis players (exception being Yolanda Wallace’s Break Point which is in part a historical thriller) but probably more interestingly between a player and non-player such as mother of another up and coming teenage player (Rachel Spangler’s Love All), player and physiotherapist (Lynn Ames’ One ~ Love), player and coach (R L Burgess’ Match Point) or even just a “regular” person (Ali Vali’s Love Match).
One of the first tennis themed novels with lesbian characters I remember reading is Rita Mae Brown’s Sudden Death: A Novel (1983). In Sudden Death we get a glimpse of the politics of the tennis world along with, and as much a focus, the cultural issues surrounding women, lesbians and family that in some ways are still alive and well. The descriptions of the tennis action are second to none and rereading this again decades later I am struck with how much it stayed with me after reading it. Just a quick warning, this is not necessarily a HEA but you’ve got Brown’s wicked view of the world and humour to look forward to.
Forty Love (1997, revised 2010) by Diana Simmonds was first published by Naiad Press then subsequently revised and reissued by Bella Books. I had read the original version and was equally taken in by the updated revised version. In Forty Love Julia Ross is the rebel darling of the tennis world and (of course) in the blink of an eye finds herself on the long road of recovery from a knee injury. It is during this rehab that she meets/is saved by the precocious Morgan and her mother Eliot. The unwanted media pressure and unscrupulous husband complicate things but there is a neat twist in it too. This one does have a special place in my library.
In Code of Conduct (2018) by Cheyenne Blue we have a chance meeting between Viva Jones, a top ten player with her better years behind her trying to get back into winning form and the lines official whom she blames in part for the beginning of her downslide. Coming to terms with the truth of one’s perception of the past, the present and what you want your future to be when you have to break the rules to get what you want are central themes and I really like how the novel flows as the two characters grapple with their attraction. The tennis action is engaging and realistic but not too technical for those not into that kind of thing. This is my favourite Cheyenne Blue novel by far.
Briefly mentioned earlier, here are some others you might also want to check out: Lynn Ames One ~ Love (2010, 2016) – Originally The Flip Side of Desire (2006), Ali Vali’s Love Match (2012), Yolanda Wallace’s Break Point (2015),) RL Burgess’ Match Point (2016), and Rachel Spangler’s Love All (2018). Please drop a line or two in the comments to let us know your favourites. I love hearing about all the books I haven’t come across yet.