After a publicly humiliating divorce, best-selling author Emma Volant runs away to hide in the seaside English village of Amberwick, where she doesn’t know another living soul. She wants nothing more than to surrender to her broken heart in private. However, when the locals discover their newest resident is world famous, they gather at the local pub and hatch a plan to draw Emma out of her self-imposed isolation, hoping her celebrity status will elevate the village’s reputation to something more than a holiday hotspot.
It doesn’t take long for them to try to rope their favorite bartender, Brogan, into the act. Born and raised in Amberwick, Brogan McKay has built a comfortable life by never overreaching. Part-time jobs and short-term flings have always been good enough for her, but when she meets her beautiful and wounded new neighbor, Brogan realizes Emma has the potential to wreck the carefully controlled expectations she uses to protect her heart. Despite their obvious attraction and growing friendship, both Emma and Brogan are in firm agreement that neither of them is in a position to look for love, but how long can they fight their fears and desires as the events and people around them all conspire to create a full English love story?
“A wonderfully entertaining and deftly scripted romance novel, Full English showcases veteran author Rachel Spangler’s impressive gift for originality and exceptional flair for narrative-driven storytelling.” —HELEN DUMONT, Midwest Book Reviews
“The moment just pulled on every heart string I have, and I was so immersed in the moment I hadn’t realised I was also part of the emotion.” —RACHAEL BYRNE, Les Rêveur
“Spangler’s novels are filled with endearing characters, interesting plot turns, and vivid descriptions. Her readers feel immersed in the worlds of her novels from start to finish.” —The Observer
“Slow in unfolding and rich in description of the place, this book draws you in on the sheer power of the characterisations and the chemistry.” —Best Lesbian Reviews
“Ms. Spangler’s characters are deep and multidimensional.” —Curve Magazine
“Rachel’s writing style is so natural it makes the reader feel the sense of eavesdropping – a polished skill for authors. This is a solid, entertaining, lusty and well-scribed important novel.” —GRADY HARP, Amazon Hall of Fame & Top 50 Reviewer
“Spangler elevates the story which could have been dreadfully sad. It is through the beautiful prose and the well-drawn characters that this story comes alive.” —AMOS LASSEN, Amos Lassen Reviews
RACHEL SPANGLER is the Goldie, IPPY, and Alice B award-winning author of twenty women-loving-women romance novels, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Heart of the Game, Perfect Pairing, Close to Home, and In Development. They live with their wife and son in Western New York, and always make time for a good romance, whether reading it, writing it, or living it.
For more information please visit Rachel online at www.rachelspangler.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Patreon.
What a lovely and delightfully quaint, heartwarming story, indeed!
First off, the cover. Ok, someone, just give the incomparably gifted Ann McMan ALL the awards already! Just look at the cover! The colours! The lavenders! So vivid that I could literally smell me favourite scent amongst all flowers (because it doesn’t smell floral at all, thank heavens!) – in the name of the ENGLISH lavender! Yes, I stress on the “English” type because the French ones…well, I’ll let Spangler’s words (through Brogan) from the book elaborate why because when I read it I let out a chuckle because that’s exactly how I feel about the comparison! Anyway, the always eye-catching McMan cover, alone, only increased me already-excited feel about “Full English” (because I was curious about Spangler’s debut story set in England!). And Spangler sure didn’t disappoint! And well done, Ms. McMan!
Before you even dive into the story, I strongly advise you to read Spangler’s notes and acknowledgements in the beginning because they actually gave me a better understanding about her reason for writing a story that’s set in England when she never did before. And then there’s the “Pronunciation Guide” that she included! You don’t know, I let out a loud guffaw when I saw the heading and continued me chuckles as I read every word she included and how they should all be pronounced!! OMG! HILARIOUS!!! I think Brits who read it will have the same reaction as I do! Anyway, do not miss all the pages preceding the first chapter of the story!
From the start, Spangler’s vividly descriptive style kept me hooked already. Her visuals of the landscape, the architecture the atmosphere, the colours and smells, truly popped out of her words, bringing them to life in me mind’s eye. They immediately took me down memory lane to all the countrysides I’d visited, especially the ones up north. Most everything Spangler described and elaborated in the story was authentic, which led to me remembering all the quaint, quirky happenings that I encountered and oh the fresh air! Being a city girl, inhaling fresh air was one of the highlights. Let’s not even talk about the greenery, the skies… ok, I’m going off-tangent here..!
Anyway, back to Spangler’s story…..
I loved how Spangler started the story. With Emma. Oh, poor American Emma! Like a fish out of water, she stumbled toward her brand new never-before-seen house in one of the most remote countryside villages in England. Did I mention in the dark of night? If you’ve been out and about in the countryside during the night, you’ll know just how “pitch black” it can be. So, Emma, a foreign import, with absolutely no experience about the country she just flew across the Atlantic for, let alone moving into a remote village she knew nothing about (except for some vague memories she kept about her nan telling her about it when she was a child) nor seen the house she bought blindly. So can you imagine being stuck in the dead of night trying to get into your own house? Spangler absolutely captured the Emma’s “Oh, shit! What have I done?!” out-of-her-element state of mind there and then. I felt so sorry for her! Poor thing! And then, the scene! That hilarious scene at the door to her own house!! Priceless!! I won’t elaborate anymore because that scene begs to be experienced first-hand! Needless to say, it was one of me favourite moments of the book and also one of me favourite intros between two people in a story. Well done, Spangler!
Although this “fish out of water” story could have been written solely from Emma’s POV, focusing on how an American settled into a quaint little English countryside village, with all the new experiences, the language, the culture, the people….like a travelogue, so to speak. But I was so pleased that Spangler didn’t. In fact, she made sure that not only would the reader get a full picture of how Emma went about settling into a strange, new environment as she contemplated putting down roots whilst trying to brush off the initial spark that ignited in her otherwise broken heart since meeting Brogan, we would also get to venture into Brogan’s POV, as she went about adapting to the presence of the village’s new arrival, Emma, who had caught her attention since their first meeting, at the same time, trying to avoid that. Two distinctively different women from two very different cultures (not to mention, countries!), from their socio-economic status to their behavioural traits, character and personality, right down to their lifestyle choices, Emma and Brogan, under usual circumstances, wouldn’t even BE in the same room together, let alone having any possibility of being friends, much less each other’s romantic interest! And that’s how Emma and Brogan’s journey began…
I loved how Spangler contrasted Emma’s hermit/anti-social behaviour to Brogan’s seemingly outgoing, open and blasé persona. But, when these two were together, they seemed to switch places – Emma became very open about her private thoughts and a personal space with Brogan, much to her surprise, and Brogan became closed off, shy and very much insecure about herself when it came to Emma’s feelings and affection toward her. This dichotomy between their own characters/behaviours was fascinating to explore. Slowly but surely, you’d begin to understand just why Emma and Brogan were how they were. Conditioning. When you’re told repeatedly, over and over again, throughout your life, that you’re this kind of person, you’ll slowly begin to believe it. That’s how people are conditioned to behave or be a certain way – through brainwashing. Throughout Emma and Brogan’s journey, from having friendly, and at times, flirtatious, banter, to becoming friends, slowly moving into a deeper stage of their relationship, Spangler deftly weaved their romance that was really grounded in reality and authenticity, never straying from either of their true characters, especially when faced with complex scenarios and emotional dilemmas.
The chemistry between Emma and Brogan was there from the start. But the flame of attraction, affinity and desire became more pronounced as they spent more and more time together, doing mundanely regular activities, like shopping for food, driving, taking a boat out to sea. Not only was their chemistry physical, their connection was palpable as they confided in each other more. Speaking of them doing regular activities, those were me favourite moments in the book because they were so relatable and funny! Especially when Brogan tried to teach Emma how to drive in a right-hand-drive car on the left side of the road! Bloody hell! I nearly peed in me pants from guffawing too much because Spangler truly nailed every single fear, expression, gesture, perfectly! The entire scene was written with so much realism and conviction, I thought I was observing it in real-time, for real! I have a feeling Spangler herself had that experience whilst she and her family were spending some time in England! And then the times when Emma was getting all confused about the different meanings of the same words used in Britain vs in America! Hilarious! That, I so relate because I had to explain them to me American mates in the past too! Yeah, those blasted veggie names! LOL!
Anyway, Emma and Brogan’s road to romance and falling in love had to be contended with the ever-present residents of the village, what with everybody knowing everything about everyone. One couldn’t fart without another knowing about it, so to speak! Ah, village/small town life, eh? But I really enjoyed the secondary characters who made up the villagers, namely Brogan’s HUGE family clan. Irish and gingers. When Spangler was describing Brogan’s endless number of family members, everyone of them a ginger, that made me think of the Weasleys (from the HP series)! It was amusing to read because every character was different and fascinating – Spangler made them interesting and fresh! Me favourite was most definitely 10-year-old Reggie! Ohhh, you simply must read about her, her character, her absolutely adorable mind and antics – especially her individual interactions with Emma and Brogan. But she and Emma….A-BLOODY-DORBS. ‘Nuff said!
So, it does take a village…innit?
And let’s not forget about Lady Victoria!! Ohhhh…….I sense a sequel coming featuring this ultra COOL, LESBIAN heiress who couldn’t give a bloody arse about her wealth or status or anything stuffy, really! I smiled to meself when Emma kept bringing up “Downton Abbey” during her visit to Vic’s castle! It’s really interesting how Americans only associate British aristocracy with the TV show, eh? Bloody Julian Fellowes! Ahem, I mean, bloody SIR Julian Fellowes! Anyway, back to Vic, could she charm your socks off or what?! She certainly did with Emma! So, I can’t bloody wait to see if Spangler would actually contemplate giving bloody cool Vic a romance of her own, eh? Although Vic was a secondary character, she was a badarse “scene-stealer” in the story even with those limited scenes. This lady had presence, thanks to Spangler’s knack for bringing a fictional character to life with some smart choice of words, expressions and overall flow of the language. Job well done, Spangler! Vic had instant chemistry with both Emma and Brogan, together and separately. You have to read it to find out just how smooth and utterly striking Vic was. I think you’d be captivated by her character, her demeanour, her style, speech, her appearance and finally her overall….”gayness” (yay!)!! Well, you know what I mean! Anyway, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I liked and enjoyed Vic’s character because I was expecting to gloss over her or dislike her character but Spangler turned the “potential competition” on its head and gave us Vic, the ever-generous and beautifully charming single heiress, where deep beneath those alluring eyes of hers lied emotional depth and intrigue. If that doesn’t trigger a character expansion in a new story, I don’t know what does! Christ, me curiosity’s piqued to no end, already! Ok, I digress…. sorry!
Back to Emma and Brogan, obviously their own demons would not easily give in as they eventually reared their ugly heads when they hit a boulder in their relationship – insecurity, fear of abandonment, low self-worth, lack of trust, defeatism. We all know that avoidance, denial of our own internal conflicts doesn’t mean they’d disappear. Sooner or later, a trigger will set them off. It is only through acceptance and completely letting go and turning to the next chapter, will we ever be released from the chains of fear. I loved how Spangler ever-so subtly weaved this emotional upheaval that both characters had been hanging on to and turned it around in a way that was heartfelt and resonating, without being melodramatic. It was imperative to see both Emma and Brogan break out of their cycle of conditioning about themselves in times of hardship and confusion and misunderstanding. I felt their growth and ultimately their love for each other as they eventually realised what they were missing in their lives when they were severely tested.
For me, I felt like this utterly sweet, heartwarming, delightfully quaint and adorable story read like Spangler’s love letter to the English village she and her family stayed in (refer to her notes in the beginning of the book), paying homage to all its tenants they met and befriended with as a way to expressed appreciation and gratitude to them through the characters and surroundings that she created in this book. Hence, I felt very warm, cosy, homely as I explored this wonderfully written story set in a small village that seemed so real to me and the romance that tugged at the heartstrings from start to finish.
This book is indeed a perfect holiday and/or travelling romance read – well, at least it was for me! I don’t know – to smell the fresh air, the sea, the winds carrying the smell of grass, flowers, trees, the earth – whilst reading it is like you’re on holiday – by the seaside, or the countryside. But also, it’s a delightfully engaging read when you’re cuddled in your sofa or bed or somewhere comfy. A story about letting go, falling in love, rebirth, second chances between two polar opposites destined to be together, with the whole village tagging along their journey! An endearingly adorable and fun read which is why I definitely recommend this! Thank you, Ms. Spangler for writing this story with a “Full English” blend and flavour! Well done!