Code of Conduct: A Review
Here’s what I know about tennis: Serena and Venus Williams play it. I like watching videos on Youtube where Serena Williams argues with the referee and yells at the tennis official over what she deems bad calls. Her fury and passion make me feel more alive. Imagine a tennis player as passionate as Serena falling in love with a woman whose bad call loses her a crucial match. Code of Conduct takes us into the world of a famous tennis player and the woman she falls for, an official.
There are rules against fraternization between tennis players and officials, so before Viva and Gabriela's relationship gets off the ground, the code of conduct pushes them away from one another. Here the drama begins.
“I love the stillness you project when you’re in the umpire’s chair. The concentration, the calmness.”
It was really interesting to learn about the official, Gabriela’s, life. Originally from Spain, she travels the world on a not-too-high-paycheck, valuing her career as an official after her attempt to become a pro player didn’t pan out. It really seemed like Cheyenne Blue knew her stuff, and even though I don’t know the rules of the game myself, I found the details about the profession fascinating.
“Viva, I worry sometimes that you traded your childhood for tennis.”
On the other side of the coin, of course, is Viva, the professional athlete. Tennis is her entire life, and she's not only torn between the woman she loves and pursuing her career: If she keeps playing, she risks a lifetime of disability due to an injured wrist.
If the first third of the book read like the rest of it, Code of Conduct would be a firm four stars. I really loved the tennis matches, the romance, the love scenes, characterization, conflict, pacing…check, check, check. It was all wonderful. But it starts very slowly, with not nearly enough attention paid to the tennis world. During the scenes when Viva was at home instead of competing, I was consistently bored, and I honestly think the women's meet cute interactions could have been more exciting. Gabriela's car breaks down near Viva's house. I feel like I’ve read roadside meet cutes 5,000 times, and they never reveal as much character development as I think a writer might hope.
But! Onto the next bit of the book, past the thirty percent mark or so: There were moments when I felt that same thrill as when I watch Serena Williams. When Viva shuts down misogynist sports commentators? Yes! When it turns out like every woman tennis player in the book is a lesbian? Yes!! When Viva plays? Ahhh, the match scenes were always so good.
And the love scenes were honestly really hot, and they felt real, something I often struggle with in f/f fiction. My only complaint is that Blue was a little too liberal with the euphemisms: “bottom” instead of “butt,” and phrases like “her secret places,” made me feel uncomfortably like I was reading about little girls instead of women. She described nipples as “nubbins,” too. I’m really particular about the kind of smut language I like, and Blue and I were on pretty different channels in that regard. But there were other moments when Blue described sensations so acutely and accurately that she just nailed it, no weird pun intended.
Finally, I loved the setting. I felt immersed in Australia, in the slang, in the food and geography. As I will keep singing until the end of time, it’s honestly always a treat to read a contemporary romance that isn’t set in New York.
Overall, this is a solid f/f sports romance, and I recommend adding it to your list of summer reads.