Open Books—Top Tennis Fiction
Ah, tennis… a game fraught with drama, tension, emotion--and that’s just at a USTA 3.5 match. Imagine the level of intensity at the top of the game. It’s no wonder that writers often turn to tennis for juicy source material, and we’re all for it. For those who want to get in on the action, here's a list of great tennis books including romances, memoirs, thrillers and mysteries, all of which feature compelling stories with high tennis IQs.
|Who didn’t read The Devil Wears Prada, the best-selling fashion mag takedown by Lauren Weisberger? Well, now it seems that the Devil makes you wear KSwiss. In Weisberger’s The Singles Game, the main character is a top tennis pro about to play at Wimbledon. Tennis phenom Charlie Silver can’t wait to get out on court, but the All-England club has a problem with her Nike shoes. The bright pink soles do not meet the strict ‘white attire only’ standard. Forced to change into a pair of KSwiss sneakers, Silver ends up taking a bad fall during her match that breaks her wrist. The novel focuses on her comeback, during which she hires a notorious new coach, and changes her image from tennis ‘good girl’ to ‘badass Warrior Princess.’ She flirts with all manner of rule-breaking, but does she cross the line? (There’s just one glaring plot hole--KSwiss tennis shoes are great!)
In Taylor Reid Jenkins’ Carrie Soto is Back a 20-time Grand Slam champion decides to come out of retirement at age 37 to seek another major trophy. If this reminds you of a certain someone, you’re right. The author says she was inspired by Serena Williams’ long and illustrious career. Serena, 41, has hinted at making a comeback, but to do so would represent an enormous challenge. Sounds like the perfect plot for a tennis novel! Carrie Soto is an ambitious and inspiring heroine, ready to do whatever it takes to become a champion again. Reid Jenkins clearly knows enough about the game and the professional tour to craft an exciting and important story. The book looks at sexism, racism and other negative forces at play in women’s professional tennis. As gripping as a tightly fought match, Carrie Soto is Back examines important questions as well. Most notably, is the price one pays for being a ruthless competitor too high?
|In The Tennis Partner, physician Abraham Verghese tells the story of his complex friendship with a troubled young medical student, David Smith. The two bond after becoming hitting partners, and much of their relationship plays out on the tennis court. Dr. Verghese and Smith are equally serious players who demand perfection from themselves in all endeavors. When challenges arise in their personal and professional lives, one seems able to cope while the other spins out of control. Dr. Verghese must come to terms with the limitations of his power to heal, and finally make peace with prioritizing his own health and happiness.
|Things are not as proper as they seem at a weekend tennis party hosted by a wealthy British couple in this fun and fast-paced novel by Madeleine Wickham. A getaway to an English manor house does sound lovely–tennis, cucumber sandwiches and witty conversation would be more than enough, but rather less like a novel. Luckily for readers, The Tennis Party is full of plot twists involving financial schemes, ex-lovers and shocking revelations that play out against a backdrop of expensive tennis whites and Pimm’s Cups. Wickham fills the book with a devastating mix of British humor, intrigue and surprising characters–a truly winning combination. (Fans of the Shopaholic books will be happy to know that Madeleine Wickham is a pseudonym for best-selling author Sophie Kinsella who wrote the series.)
Can a washed-up tennis player and a frustrated writer help each other out of their respective slumps and find love in the process? That’s the question posed in the novel Painting the Lines by Ashley R. King. Writer Amalie Warner has lost her inspiration since publishing her first novel some years ago. Julian Smoke is a sexy but failed tennis player who is determined to become a winner once more. After a chance meeting, Amelie is initially repelled by his arrogance. But something about Julian intrigues her, reigniting her creative spark. Amalie decides that telling his story could put her career back on track, but slowly discovers that her interest in Julian is more than just professional. King has penned a bouncy tennis rom com that is sure to delight readers who are fans of one, or both, of those things!
Love. Set. Match. by Taylor Lunsford is another tennis romance that’s sure to win hearts, and minds too! It centers on highly ranked player Emerson Grace who has vowed to win a Grand Slam. Tired of second place, she is about to start her winning campaign when risqué photos of her are made public. At the same time, her longtime ex, Rob Aston, contacts her out of nowhere. Her training is derailed by these distractions, and she must examine her commitment to the sport amid personal chaos. When Rob defends her publicly, calling out the media and organized tennis for their outdated attempts to shame her for the revealing pics, she begins to reconsider their split. More than just a second chance romance, the book tackles important issues regarding privacy and societal judgment. But it’s also spicy and fun, with lots of steamy… tennis.
|Anyone who has ever had a crush on a cute young tennis pro, and we know you're out here, will enjoy 40-Love, a novel by Olive Dade. When assistant principal Tess Dunn has a bikini top mishap involving a rogue wave while on vacation, the damsel in distress is assisted by the resort’s young tennis pro, Lucas Karlsson. He’s Swedish, gorgeous and 26. 40-year-old Tess is hesitant at first, but the two can’t deny their mutual attraction. Their relationship starts out as purely physical, but when feelings deepen, the two are forced to make some tough decisions. Are they a true match? Or was it all just a vacation fling? Light and frothy, 40-Love is what’s known in publishing as a ‘beach-read,’ but sometimes that’s exactly what we want to get our hands on.
|'Write what you know,’ is a well-known adage in the book business and it seems that novelist J.R. Thornton has done just that. A nationally ranked junior tennis player who went on to play tennis at Harvard University, Thornton lived in Beijing as a teenager where he practiced with the Chinese National Team. His novel, Beautiful Country, looks at the world of junior athletes in China and the intense training they must endure. Chase Robertson, a 14-year-old reeling from the death of his brother, is sent to play tennis in China by his father, hoping the change and rigorous schedule will give his life direction. Chase encounters culture shock at every turn and is deeply affected by the cutthroat competition that compels young tennis players there to do almost anything to succeed. He earns the friendship of one of his teammates, but his loyalties are tested when dark secrets are revealed.
If the idea of a tennis murder mystery sounds intriguing, checkout Drop Shot by Harlan Coben. The novel centers around the shooting of former tennis prodigy, Valerie Simpson, outside of the U.S. Open stadium in New York City. Although her career had recently faltered, Simpson was attempting a comeback at the time of her murder. Part of her campaign involved seeking representation by well-known sports agent Myron Bolitar who was in the stadium when the shots rang out. He vows to find her murderer to honor the young star’s legacy. His quest leads him down a path of old rivalries, besotted stalkers, accusations of physical abuse, more killings and even mafia ties. Drop Shot is set largely in the highbrow world of tennis clubs, but the book shows how low people can sink when they decide that winning is the only thing that matters.