Love Match, Book 2 (2010-2012) by Kyell Gold – book review by Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Love Match, Book 2 (2010-2012) by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Rukis.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, February 2018, trade paperback, $19.95 (316 pages), e-books $9.99.
This is book 2 of Gold’s Love Match trilogy. Book 1, titled just Love Match, was published last year in January 2017, and the final volume will presumably be published in early 2019.
Gold’s Love Match trilogy is a loose follow-up to his five “Dev and Lee” novels, set in his Forester University world; but its theme is tennis instead of football. Young (14 years old) Rochi “Rocky” N’Guwe, a black-backed jackal from the African nation of Lunda, is brought to the States with his mother in 2008 on a scholarship from the Palm Gables Tennis Center, a leading tennis college. During the two years of Book 1, Rocky matures, realizes his homosexuality, and develops a romance with his best friend, Marquize Alhazhari, a cheetah from Madiyah. He is horrified to discover that his younger sister Ori, to whom he is devoted and who has been left behind in Lunda, is being betrothed by their aunt in an arranged marriage. Rocky tries to earn enough money to bring Ori to Palm Gables. At the end of Book 1, Rocky and Marquize leave the Palm Gables Center and are thrust into the world of professional tennis.
And that’s about all that I can say about Book 2 without giving away major spoilers. There is a six-page Prologue set in the present (2015), during a climactic game between Rocky and his ongoing rival Braden Longacre, before getting into the main story. It establishes that both will get into tennis’ top ranks. But for the three years of Book 2, 2010 to 2012 – well, nothing much happens.
The story is narrated by Rocky N’Guwe, and it’s about him growing up from 16 to 18 years old in the environment of professional tennis. His friendship/gay romance with Marquize ebbs and flows. Rocky’s mother, who at first is always present as his chaperone and coach, leaves him to the care of a professional tennis coach while she concentrates on getting Ori into the States. He briefly crosses paths with Braden Longacre. Rocky, under his coach’s care, travels to tennis tournaments in several cities and develops new friendships among the other tennis players. In his free time on his own, he explores gay bars and clubs.
“Flying by myself was strange. Ma had taken care of most of our trips over the past year: she’d handled our tickets, checked us in, checked our bags, gotten us through airport security and to the right gate, out onto the tarmac and up the stairs to the plane.
I’d walked with her for all of that, but those memories didn’t help me navigate the signs and counters. I was proud of myself for only getting lost twice in the airport and for reaching the correct gate half an hour before the plane started boarding (Ma had insisted I arrive at the airport two hours before the flight was to leave).” (pgs. 91-92)
Rocky’s story, in many respects, is like that of any gay older adolescent professional sportsman growing up. As usual with Gold’s fiction, the descriptions of the anthro animal world include many incidental animal touches. In a long conversation that Rocky has with another tennis player, a red fox, the fox’s ears constantly go up, flatten, or sweep back.
“My first endorsement came in that May, from an athletic gear company called Purrformance. They had a lot of cat spokespeople and wanted to get some canids as well, so they were targeting younger players in various sports, and Lochen [Rocky’s manager] brokered a deal for me.” (p. 130)
Rocky’s mother believes that he faces some prejudice because jackals are rare in North America. He doesn’t, because the other animals he meets include such non-North Americans as a cacomistle and a pangolin.
“‘How long has it been with them?’
‘Two weeks since the last phone call.’ I tried not to show my nervousness. ‘We had two other companies interview but they both came back with offers that Lochen didn’t want to take.’
‘It’s because he’s a jackal,’ Ma said to Paulie.
‘It is. If you were a fox, there would be no problem. Or a coyote.’ She nodded to Paulie.” (pgs. 139-140)
There is a lot of technical tennis talk:
“I hadn’t had to worry about how my opponents were analyzing my game very often in the past. Now I had to do that while at the same time trying to find the cracks in his game. The problem was that while I knew he was vulnerable to net play, I wasn’t sure how to get him off-balance enough in his baseline game to give myself openings at the net, at least not on his serve.
In the second set, I found my answer. We had a long rally from the baseline on his first service game during which I managed to disguise a few backhands successfully. He reminded me of some of the baseline pounders I’d played at school, but he had a much faster stroke, a really good snap of the wrist, and better placement than most of the guys at the Academy. He kept me off balance. But as I returned his shot, I saw where he’d go with the next one and had two seconds to plan my return. If I could pull him off to the side…” (pgs. 26-27)
Love Match, Book 2 (2010-2012) (cover and interior illustrations by Rukis) is good reading, but it is clearly the middle volume of a trilogy. There are several hints that Book 3 will be more dramatic.
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