Rating: 4.75 stars
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Ryan Betancourt has finally made it. All of his hard work has finally paid off and he is on the tennis World Tour with many of the star players he grew up watching and idolizing. One of those players is Josh Andrews, the star of the tour and current golden boy of tennis. Ryan has had a huge crush on Josh since the first time Ryan saw Josh play a match. So Ryan is eager to meet his idol, and is crushed when his first encounter is with a cold, aloof Josh surrounded by his retinue. Ryan has always approached tennis the same way he has people, with an open heart and no suspicions about ulterior motives or possible head games.
Josh can never remember a time when he has not played tennis. He has a obsessive former tennis champ as a father who has directed his childhood and every moment as an adult to one goal, winning tennis games. Sidelined by a knee injury, Josh is now back on track to win, no matter the costs. A life spent on the courts means Josh is well aware of the negative aspects of the game, from court politics to the ways the unwary can be hurt by those around them. Josh is not eager to open himself up to anyone outside his circle, let alone an up and coming unknown.
Ryan’s manner of playing and his attitude has turned him into a crowd favorite and that same attitude has him returning back to the one player who holds him at arms length, the closeted Josh. As Ryan slowly breaks down Josh’s defenses, a true friendship and then more develops. But the sharks are circling on and around the courts, including one who intends to take them both down. As the stresses build, can Ryan and Josh continue to win at tennis and finally at love?
I loved every page of The Unforgiving Minute and it was another book I didn’t stop reading until it was over. Sarah Granger uses the world of professional tennis to give us a heartwarming and stirring story of love on the courts. Everything you want in a terrific romance is here. We have two tennis players, one who has finally arrived at the top level and one who has been there for years. Granger also provides both men with backgrounds completely opposite to each other, which helps not only to explain their outlook on the game of tennis, but their outlook on life as well. The author’s well rounded characterizations that extend into completely different playing styles and discipline further enrich this romance by pulling the reader throughly into their worlds, involving us in the regimen necessary to continue to play at the top of the professional game.
In the author’s note, it tells us that Granger lives in the Cotswolds and loves to ramble about with her lab. Well, honestly, after reading this novel, I was sure she had spent all her time playing tennis because of the familiarity and love of the game that pours forth from every page. The reader learns about the strategy, the different court surfaces, and the rules and regulations by which the tennis players abide. By the end of the book and during a stirring, gut wrenching match, we are not merely spectators but feel as though we are sweating on the court along with the ballgirl. I mean there are some wonderful blood pumping, exhaustion inducing descriptions here of the players and their matches. If you have never watched a tennis game before, you will want to after reading this book.
But it’s the characters here that will draw you into the story and keep you there. I am not just talking about Ryan with his “baby giraffe” runs across the court after a ball, or Josh, so disciplined and yet terribly vulnerable. True I adored them both, but there is also Elaine, doubles player, Ryan’s best friend and scary person. I adored her. There are the great characters that exist in Josh’s retinue, from the masseuse to the cook. All fully realized people who bring a authentic feel and depth to all the interpersonal relationships that matter to the main characters and the game of tennis.
Here is a little excerpt and window into the life of Ryan after a match:
AFTER beating Michael Kreissig, Ryan was on a high. He was through to the fourth round of the Australian freaking Open. He was grinning as he sat down with a bit of a thump on one of the couches in the treatment room.
Tim, the in-house sports masseur, strolled over, flexing his hands. His wonderful, miracle-working hands. The first time Tim had treated Ryan, Ryan had proposed marriage. It had only been when the words were already out of his mouth that he’d realized he should be more careful; what he thought of as harmless banter might not be taken too well, even though everyone except Elena and Tommy probably assumed he was straight. Thankfully, Tim had been unfazed. He was apparently used to proposals from the players, whether of marriage or full-time employment. He’d also turned Ryan down with unflattering swiftness.
“What can I do for you today, Mr. Betancourt?”
Ryan laid himself down on the couch on his front, resting his head on his folded arms. “You can make it all go away, Tim, then run off to Bali with me.”
“You only want me for my hands.” Ryan couldn’t see Tim’s face from where he was lying, but he sounded suitably lugubrious at the thought.
“Well, yeah. And your knowledge of physiology.”
“Irresistible as you make it sound, I don’t think my wife would agree.”
“She could come too. Hey, does she give massages?”
And for that, he was subjected to a very firm deep tissue massage. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was reward or punishment, but he couldn’t stop the groans that it drew from him as Tim worked his magic.
With even a small excerpt, you get Ryan’s sense of humor and outgoing spirit, his closeted status and easy approach to the people around him. Adorable, immensely likable, and so easy for the reader to connect with. How could you not love him? But Josh will capture your heart with the same ease he wins matches. There are so many levels to this person and Granger reveals them slowly to us and Ryan over time, until we care for him as deeply as we do Ryan.
As I said, I loved The Unforgiving Minute, and it’s a terrific introduction to Sarah Granger if this is your first book authored by her. It was for me and now I am off to see what else she has written. This book will make you want to do the same. A must read recommendation from me to you!
Cover art by LC Chase works perfectly for the story within, although I have to say I wish one model was grinning away, just as Ryan would.