By Jamie Green
“I don’t know how familiar most readers are with the mores and mechanics of journalism, but it’s a testament to the copious charm of Rachel Spangler’s FIRE & ICE (Bywater Books, paperback, $16.95) that I was only minimally troubled by the fact that the sports journalist Max Laurens is kind of awful at her job. Max isn’t a bad writer or broadcaster, but when she’s assigned to cover a women’s curling team as a last chance to save herself after a scandal, she does everything wrong. Not only is her first story a misguided and flatly insulting “humor” piece about how silly curling is, she doesn’t do any research about her subject and doesn’t even think it’s a real sport. While romance characters need foibles and failures to recover from, I wish Max’s had been a little more reasonable, and that she would have, at the very least, researched what curling was before writing about it.
Luckily, Max finds an excellent teacher in the team’s skipper (that’s curling for “captain”), Callie Mulligan. Callie is a devoted and gifted curler, and her athletic precision sliding stones is what first clues Max into the fact that this is a deceptively sophisticated sport. That lithe prowess on the ice also sparks an attraction, but it develops more from the deep understanding between the two women. Spangler obviously loves curling almost as much as Callie does, and it’s described with care and fascination. But just when it seems the romance might be playing second fiddle to the sport, Max and Callie emerge as a complicated, messy, believable match. The professional drive, stubbornness, and pride that connect them also create the challenges to their happy ending. Spangler writes fights and misunderstandings with heartbreaking precision, but she puts her characters’ hearts—and the readers’ back together by the end.”
RACHEL SPANGLER is a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, and the Golden Crown Literary Society and IPPY Award-winning author of sixteen lesbian romance novels and novellas. She lives with her wife and son in Western New York. You can read more about her on her website.