Tennis book review: ‘Mixed Doubles’ – No one plays by the rules in this fun read
Just in time for Wimbledon fortnight comes Mixed Doubles, a bouncy rom-com from keen club player and former lifestyle journalist Belinda Archer. Read our review of this entertaining new tennis book.
Set in Lower Wallop, a quintessentially English country tennis club, it trails the romantic entanglements of three couples, all of whom are partners in a new mixed doubles ladder. These include Brian, dubbed ‘the boring baseline slogger’, and Diana, fragile wife of the philandering, rogueish Oliver Pemberton-Jones, as well as pretty Emma, who is secretly in love with Lower Wallop’s charming but unavailable club chairman, Gorgeous George.
The action rattles along, featuring nicely observed events from the typical club calendar such as dreary committee meetings, drunken Safari Suppers, fund-raising quizzes (the one in the book focuses on obscure tennis knowledge — anyone know Andy Murray’s middle name? Or the difference in the height of the net between the centre and the edges?), plus the inevitably badly-behaved end of season dinner at which everything is wrapped up. Throughout there are also entertaining, pacey descriptions of hotly contested tennis matches within the mixed doubles tournament itself.
Archer clearly writes from experience – this world is familiar to her and her characters are well-drawn, including many of the usual club suspects such as bossy committee members, dodgy line-callers and chippy B team players desperately striving for promotion to the A team. She also gives a nod to diversity too, introducing a black coach to the club who stirs things up a little among the more elderly ladies and their weekly Rusty Rackets sessions.
The structure also cleverly mirrors a tennis match, with chapters named after scores – beginning with Play and ending with Match Point then Game, Set & Match.
It’s a great fun read, a sort of Jilly Cooper on grass, in which no one seems to play by the rules – either on or off court. ‘Grab your racket and lace up your tennis shoes,’ says the blurb on the back. ‘Mixed Doubles is as gripping as a Wimbledon final and has more bounce than a tube of Babolat balls.’ The latter might not quite be true, but it is certainly a lively and hugely enjoyable summer read for anyone who loves the idea of a tennis-themed romantic comedy.
Out now on Amazon for £2.99 e-book or £6.99 print
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