Before I start this review, let me just share one thing about myself. I’m not particularly fond of many sports but I have been a dedicated fan of tennis for most of my life. I know the game, I know how to keep score, I know a forehand from a backhand and a dropshot from a volley. A few years ago, when sports romances were all the rage, I was a bit sad about the lack of tennis romances. So, dear reader, you can well imagine my utter joy when one of my favorite authors announced a book featuring a tennis instructor hero.
There are a whole boatload of things I loved about 40-Love and sometimes, when I get overwhelmed by my feelings for something, I find it easier to make a list.
- The heroine: Tess Dunn, a high school assistant principal, is celebrating her 40th birthday with her best friend at a resort in Florida. She is, in the grand tradition of Olivia Dade heroines, remarkable. She is fat and there’s no self-loathing in the way she describes or sees herself, it’s not used pejoratively. She is smart and accomplished and unapologetically ambitious and she loves herself exactly as she is, as well she should. She knows herself and is fully aware of her wants and needs and unwilling to compromise on them. She’s got a broken engagement in her past and is unsure of whether to trust her heart to another person ever again.
- The hero: Lucas Karlsson, a tall, Swedish drink of water in his mid-twenties, he’s a former top ranked tennis player turned instructor, struggling to move on from the heartbreak of having to walk away from his professional career while also attempting to find a new purpose for his future. I’m a heroine-centric reader. I tend to fall for the heroine first and allow the hero to work for my affections. Sometimes, he’s successful, sometimes not. This is now the second Olivia Dade book in which I am at a loss as to which main character I love more.
- The dialogue: I cannot emphasize enough how very much I loved the dialogue in this book. Even though Tess initially feels that the age gap between them makes any chance of a relationship impossible, Lucas quickly reveals himself to be a fully self-sufficient man, able to handle his life just fine on his own. The conversations between them are equal parts witty banter (their first meeting is one of the best I’ve ever read in a romance), sexual innuendo, and emotionally nuanced. In one particular scene, when the two fight and each lay out their grievances against the other, it is simultaneously uncomfortable and poignant, delivering the perfect mix of rage and anguish and heartbreak.
- The chemistry: Look, I can read an entire novella about Lucas serving at “full power” for Tess’ sexual gratification (not an euphemism). Did I, after reading that particular scene, take a time-out to look up YouTube videos of Roger Federer just serving? WHO’S TO SAY? Reading about a 40 year old woman getting it on with a 26 year old tennis instructor is delicious in and of itself. But the scenes where Lucas is so obviously into her and finds her to be the sexiest woman on the planet and basically just wants to worship at her feet, well, that’s the cherry on this already decadent sundae.
This is really the ideal book to read at a time like this, it’s sweet and romantic and funny, easy and breezy much like the resort it takes place in. The book serves up plenty of heat and heart and humor paired with two main characters who prove themselves to be just aces at love. And now, it’s probably best to end this review before I come up with any more unfortunate tennis puns.
40-Love releases on June 18, 2020.
Content Warnings: Off page fat shaming of a secondary character by a minor character, heroine’s former fiance cheated on her, references to hero’s past physical injuries and surgeries
FTC Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author.