Love Means Nothing in Tennis

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 41Sz3FTe+JL.jpgRita 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 51VbjnG0RuL.jpgPress 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 51BNsc+Kq2L.jpgwinning 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.

14 comments

    • Hi Sherry, we loved it as well. The people were great, food was delightful and sites were amazing. Pleased we went now and not later though.

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  1. Sounds like a great trip! Anne Azel’s Peruvian Encounter has a trip to Machu Picchu. Anne is Canadian and the whole Encounters series is on the Academy of Bards. Thanks

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  2. Machu Picchu is truly amazing! I lived in Peru for a few years, and was fortunate to be able to travel to Cusco when my family visited. It’s truly breathtaking. How wonderful you got to see it and check that place off your list! Plus you survived the trek! I applaud you. (I wimped out and took the train up most of the way, then only strolled through the ruins.)

    I imagine not a lot of f/f books are set in that country for the heavy religious practices and legal constrictions placed on LGBT+ people there. Lima is making some positive changes, but they have a ways to go. I, too, would adore a lesfic story from a Peruvian perspective. Perhaps one day. In the meantime, shameless plug, I wrote a short story that’s in Bold Strokes Books’ anthology, Escape to Pleasure, which does take place in Peru. The two women in the romantic short are an American and an Argentinian, and it’s set in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

    If you enjoy non-fiction, Life and Death In The Andes by Kim MacQuarrie features a plethora of tales that take place up and down the mountain range. The true stories of cowboys, drug lords, political tragedies, and ancient civilizations who have passed through the Andes are at times unbelievable, but make an enjoyable read on South American history.

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    • Hi Sam, that was my feeling too – but was hoping there would be at least some vacationing lesbians to read about lol. Kim MacQuarrie’s book sounds very interesting and while the visit is fresh in mind will probably check it out. Thanks.

      Shameless plug away. I’ll check out your short story.

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  3. Hi Danielle, what a great blog on two of my favourite topics: travel and tennis. 🙂 I too am a fan of Bianca Andreescu’s game and look forward to seeing her play–hopefully at my local tournament, the Brisbane International in January. You’ve got a couple of my favourite tennis stories mentioned in this post too (Love All by Rachel Spangler) and I’m also chuffed that my Code of Conduct got a mention. 🙂

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  4. Hey Danielle I’m still so jealous! I was going to mention Encounters and The Copper Egg but those have already been mentioned. I also think Leslie Murray’s Sharp Shooter has them escaping through Peru. That is a action packed read.

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    • Funny which ones end up getting more comments than others. Actually Erin is the one who conned me into doing the blog.

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  5. Well, I wouldn’t be too jealous – altitude sickness while there and a few days of Montezuma’s revenge after I got home lol. You’re right its been a while since I read Sharp Shooter and I just checked they do escape through Peru. I’ll have to reread it again to see if I recognize anything. I haven’t read either Encounters or The Copper Egg either. Maybe I should be touching base with you more often 🙂

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