Today we're excited to spotlight The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford! Read on for more about Taryn and her book, plus an excerpt & giveaway!
Meet Taryn Bashford!
Taryn Bashford is from a family of elite athletes, musicians, and academics, and is fascinated by driven teens. Born in South Africa, raised in England, and with career stints in New York, Colorado, and London, Taryn has been a media manager and executive director of an internet company—at the age of 29, she was heading up Carlton Television’s Internet Agency and was one of the youngest CEOs in London—but she now very happily writes full time. She lives in Queensland, Australia, with her husband and teen children.
A sizzling coming of age story set in the world of professional tennis about a girl who learns to win from a boy who has lost everything. Sixteen-year-old Harper was once a rising star on the tennis court?until her coach dropped her for being “mentally weak.” Without tennis, who is she? Her confidence at an all- time low, she secretly turns to her childhood friend, next-door neighbor Jacob?who also happens to be her sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend. If her sister finds out, it will mean a family war. But when Harper is taken on by a new coach who wants her to train with Colt, a cold, defensive, brooding young tennis phenom, she hits the court all the harder, if only to prove to Colt she has it in her to be a champion. As the two learn to become a team, Harper gets glimpses of the vulnerable boy beneath the surface, the boy who was deeply scarred by his family’s dark and scandalous past. The boy she could easily find herself falling for.As she walks a fine line between Colt’s secrets, her forbidden love, and a game that demands nothing but the best, Harper must choose between her past and her future and between two boys who send her head spinning. Turns out, the biggest battle she needs to win, is the one against herself.
The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play. That’s what Jacob said when I was five and he was six, our necks curling around the half-open door, our eyes blurting fright. On a dare, we’d tiptoe into the room, dash around the table then jump through the French windows into the garden, screaming with delighted terror. Nearly twelve years later, it’s still my least favorite room in the house. Maybe that’s because it’s where the recent pep talks have taken place and the grandfather clock seems to count down the seconds to the end of life as I know it.
So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to join them at the dining table, the cream- cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of Jacob’s make-believe ghosts, I wrap my arms around my chest and respond with a brisk, “I’ll stay standing, thanks.”
“There’s not an easy way to say this, Harper,” says “Killer” Kominsky in his clipped Czech accent. He smooths a hand over his perfectly round shaved head, no freckle or bump daring to blemish it. “So I just speak the words. It is time for me to move on. I do not believe you are good enough to make it to the top.”
The ground falls upward. My chest squeezes.
So this is why we flew home between tournaments.
I contemplate leaping out the window, but after all the sacrifices I’ve made—summers at the beach, friendships that held me together, lost moments with my family—tennis is who I am. I have to change Kominsky’s mind.
I grip a high-backed chair; add some flint to my gaze. “How can you say that?” My voice wobbles. “Maybe some kids turn pro and hit top ten in one season, but I’m only sixteen—”
“Sixteen-and-a-half, Harper,” replies Kominsky, tapping his fingertips together. I glance at the Sydney Morning Herald sports section laid flat in front of him. He’s trained me to become a world-class tennis player for five years, but I’ve never featured on that page. Perhaps he’s right, and I’m not good enough.
“Dad?” I say.
My father startles, flicks the hair out of his eyes, and squints at me as if he’s staring into the sun. His smile looks worn out. He glances toward Kominsky instead. Kominsky has been the sun these past few years, our lives revolving around his every word and action, so that’s no good either. Dad gazes out the windows into the afternoon sky, his eyes glassy behind frameless specs.
I unravel the pair of loose braids I put my hair into this morning. My hands tremble. Kominsky stands and rolls up his newspaper, ready to walk away from me forever. There’s a whooshing feeling, a this-is-it, life-changing-moment, and I seem to hover near the ceiling with Jacob’s pretend ghosts. The movie of my life so far flashes before my eyes; how, even as a three-year-old I’d trail a too-big racquet around the backyard tennis court and try to copy Dad and his buddies as they played. All of them had, in their youth, hoped to be where I am now. To me they had seemed like gods throwing fireballs at each other. I longed to have their power, their grace, and speed. They were magical. They were heroes.
And for a while my talent was a little magical. For a while, touring the junior circuit, I believed I’d be someone’s hero, too. But turning professional nine months ago had changed everything; the fireballs I’d learned to hurl off my own racquet had transformed into a stupid yellow ball that had it in for me.
Dad said the only thing it changed was that I could win money, “But don’t let that get to you—money’s not important right now.”
It isn’t the money, though. Before, I was living my childhood dream, touring the world, and now I’m fighting to keep my scarily grown-up job. I’ve staked my claim, and everyone is watching.
Kominsky cracks the knuckles on both hands, his elastic lips set in a long straight line. “Physically, you have all the potential you need to be the best. But as a singles player, you are putty, Harper. Hard and tough until the heat turns up. Then soft. Easy to control. Easy to beat.” He points a long finger at his temple, prods hard enough that it must hurt. “Not tough enough up here. I cannot waste my time any longer.”
“Waste?” I collapse into a chair, my arms as floppy as empty sleeves. “I almost got to the second round at Washington this week. I almost broke the first-round jinx—” I look to Dad for backup, but his gaze is trained on the view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. “Who’s taking me to Cincinnati next week—the US Open? I’m young enough to—”
Kominsky holds up a hand. He’s not into discussion, only commands.
Other players say their coaches are like second fathers to them, but Kominsky’s never been that. Still, how can he abandon me? He’s going on to better things—without me. If mental toughness means being so unfeeling, I will never be strong enough.
“Almost is not enough. I go home now,” Kominsky says, glaring at Dad’s profile. “The body I can train. The mind is for you to train, Harper.” In the sunny room, his whitewashed blue eyes drill down on me from his freakish height. He leans closer and pulls the final thread on my career. “Being at the top is about winning the mind game.” He extends a stiff hand in Dad’s direction.
Each word is a tennis ball being smashed into my chest. If Kominsky doesn’t rate me—where does that leave me? He’s never been wrong. My throat swells with forbidden tears. Kominsky doesn’t tolerate crying.
Dad stands. He runs three fingers through his floppy silver-white hair, and I realize it’s not just me who’s getting dumped.
Kominsky pumps Dad’s hand. “I recommend doubles tournaments if she want to continue.”
If I want to continue?
Where would my life lead without tennis? Would I go back to high school instead of being tutored? Would I take up basketball or swimming or piano and make friends—and keep them? Would I allow myself to eat ice-cream and hot dogs? Would I have time to hang out with Aria?
Without tennis, what’s the point of me?
The familiar sound of Jacob playing guitar drifts into the room from his house next door, like the closing credits of a movie. Except I’m not ready for anything to end. I take the fastest exit and vault out the French windows.
The Harper Effect
By: Taryn Bashford
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Two winner will receive a copy of The Harper Effect (US only).