Love Match, by Kyell Gold – book review by Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Love Match, by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Rukis.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $19.95 (378 pages), e-books $9.99.
Kyell Gold is arguably the best author in furry fandom. He has won many literary awards inside and outside the fandom. Even those who do not like adult explicit writing have been won over by the high quality of his fiction.
Many of his books are set in what is loosely called his Forester University world. The best-known are the five “Dev and Lee” novels, chronicling the meeting of Devlin Miski, tiger football star, and Lee Farrel, fox gay activist, during their senior year at Forester U.; their becoming homosexual lovers, at first secretly and then openly; and their graduation from college and their first year out. Dev becomes a professional football player and Lee becomes a professional football talent scout to stay with him. Readers of the five novels became immersed in the details of professional football as Dev and Lee firmed up their personal relationship.
Now Kyell Gold has started a new series, projected at three novels. It is superficially similar, except that the sport featured is tennis, not football; and the main characters are, at the beginning, too young to have a sexual orientation. There are references to the Dev and Lee books.
Love Match is narrated by Rochi N’Guwe, a black-backed jackal from the African nation of Lunda who is brought to America the Union of the States with his mother on a scholarship from the Palm Gables Tennis Center. Rochi is immediately nicknamed Rocky by the other students, including Marquize, a cheetah from Madiyah who becomes his best friend. The Palm Gables Center, a leading tennis institution, has scoured the world for promising young players, and has brought Rocky and his mother to the States when he is only 14. (Probably. Lunda is casual about recording births.)
The novel begins with a brief prologue set in the present (2015), then drops into a book-length flashback to 2008 through 2010 for Rocky’s experiences in Palm Gables. This begins with his being introduced to the States and Palm Gables by Marquize, who is also 14 but has been in the States longer. Rocky does have some observations:
“Coyotes unsettled me because they looked so like jackals and yet the colorations were different. They had many of our mannerisms and the muzzles and ears matched exactly, more closely than the other canids at the school, none of which I’d encountered back in Lunda. Foxes were skinnier and more flamboyant, wolves stockier. I’d never met a maned wolf, but there was one named Veronica in our class and she looked like a fox who’d been stretched out. She and Kim [a coyote] hung around together a lot, but she was quieter; every now and then she would drop in a single smart comment. (p. 51)
Rocky also develops a dubious relationship with the older Braden Longacre, a dark-furred cross fox who is one of the Center’s top alumni but, as Rocky puts it, “He’s also kind of a jerk.” He and Braden get off on the wrong paw from the start:
“The sharp tone of Coach’s voice always brought us to attention. Marquize and I looked up to see him staring at us. ‘You three,’ he said, waving a paw. ‘Go start your practice games. You’re not getting time.’
Marquize and I hadn’t thought we were going to anyway, so it wasn’t that big a deal. But Braden was looking right at me, and so I paused and looked back as Marquize turned to go, and before I knew it, Braden had put a paw on Coach’s shoulder. ‘Now hold on,’ he said. ‘Why don’t I play a little one-on-two to warm up?’ He reached out a long, dark finger. ‘The coyote and cheetah there?’
‘I’m a jackal,’ I said loudly.
Coach’s big white ears swiveled. ‘Rocky and Marquize? They’re frosh –‘
‘It’s okay.’ Braden pulled his lips back in a smile. ‘It won’t take long.’” (p. 37)
But Love Match isn’t all tennis and Rocky’s school experiences. He has many short reminiscences of growing up in Lunda, which were often mixed with a long war there. His father was killed when he was too young to remember him. Rocky is devoted to his younger sister Ori, who could not come to the States with him and his mother; and he is shocked when she tells him when he phones home that she is being betrothed by their Aunt Kamina in an arranged marriage, at age 13.
“[I] hung up, then went inside to where Ma was sitting on the couch reading. ‘Ori’s getting married,’ I said, standing there with my arms folded.
Ma flicked her ears and turned the page in her book. ‘Already?’
‘You knew about this. You told Kamina to do it.’
‘No.’ She shook her head slowly. ‘I told Kamina to take care of Ori as best she could. She thinks Ori should be married, and I’m thousands of kilometers away. I’m in no position to argue, and it wouldn’t be good for Ori for me to argue.’” (p. 48)
Rocky (who is just 14) feels that he must earn enough money to bring Ori to the States where he can somehow take care of her.
Love Match is about Rocky’s mid-adolescence in Palm Gables, growing up with his tennis-playing classmates, and his stern-but-loving Ma. Other important characters are Frio (ferret), the Center’s assistant tennis coach; and Coach Murphy (white rabbit). His classmates are his pals, but they are also his rivals. Frio trains them all to play their best, and that means to study each other sharply for their weaknesses. These are mostly funny-animal scenarios, but Gold emphasizes the animal nature of the characters when he can:
“Pom had great footwork and speed and he used his tail for balance better than any other fox I’ve seen since then, except for one (a lot of players keep their tails curled around them; some let them flop around).” (p. 144)
Rocky’s classmates are Bret, a cougar; Yu, a panda; Pom (red fox) and Dom (arctic fox); and Malik, a Geoffroy’s cat; among others. And of course Marquize. Rocky and all the boys discover Internet pornography together. Rocky goes from learning theoretically what gay romance means to developing a solid gay relationship with Marquise. Braden, who has already graduated and gone on to tennis stardom, appears just often enough to not be forgotten; his role as Rocky’s mentor/enemy will grow in the sequels.
Love Match (wraparound cover and over a dozen interior illustrations by Rukis) comes to a satisfactory conclusion but leads right into the next stage of Rocky’s life. It is a bravura addition to Gold’s Forester U. world.