“Spangler’s complex and likeable characters had me laughing out loud!”—Diane Gaidry, film and theatre actress
Hal Orion is an accomplished chef and food truck owner. She loves her life, her longtime sous chef and best friend, and the food she shares with the residents of her beloved city of Buffalo. Her life is exactly how she wants it: no strings, no commitments, and no roots—just great grilled cheese and a whole lot of freedom on the side.
Quinn Banning is an investment banker, and the dividend she seeks is a resurgence of the once-great city of Buffalo. Putting together her next business venture, she recognizes Hal’s talent and charm as necessary assets for success—her good looks don’t hurt, either. But Hal’s transient ways are in direct opposition to the stability Quinn craves. Relying on their shared love of Buffalo, Quinn makes Hal an offer she can’t refuse—a restaurant under her own name, complete creative control, and secure financial backing. It’s every chef’s dream. But Hal utters the one word Quinn can’t stand to hear, “No.”
Will their physical attraction grow cold as they argue over their ideals, or will they find that the most distinctive ingredients often make for the perfect pairing?
Perfect Pairing has been named a finalist for the Golden Crown Literary Society Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award and the 29th Annual Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Romance.
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 can I say about Rachel Spangler‘s “Perfect Pairing” except that it literally tugged me heartstrings to a level that I’m still reeling about it after finishing it! I just love that feeling when a lesbian romance novel manages to conjure up so many emotions within me with words that carried so much meaning and reverberation. There have only been a few that were able to penetrate the deepest recesses of me inner psyche when it came to matters related to love and romance. And Spangler’s story in this novel did that. I’m so happy I read this! Credit to Tara Scott whose review piqued me interest enough to pick up this book (cheers, mate!)! I’ve only just recently started paying attention to Spangler’s work. My first book of hers was her latest work, “In Development,” which I enjoyed very much and admired her writing style. So, recently, I picked up “Close To Home,” which Scott raved about and after reading it, I utterly agreed to her assessment! It was something I hadn’t expected because of the subject matter (deeply closeted lesbian) but Spangler’s compelling words in the dialogue and exchanges between the two protagonists had me hooked and I devoured it. Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
But Spangler’s writing, her words, and storytelling in “Perfect Pairing” took me to another level in the journey of love and romance! The subject matter, the characteristics of the protagonists, Hal and Quinn, all their miscommunication, exchanges, defence mechanisms, verbal, non-verbal interaction, the psychological effects of their childhood – all of them were intricately dissected, processed and executed with so much raw and real emotions poured into these characters, I felt like I was given a personal glimpse into someone’s true story or state of mind. This book has all of Spangler’s themes as evidenced in her other books that I read but somehow the words expressed in “Perfect Pairing” carried a deeper connotation, hence, giving the crux of the story a whole new dimension of realism, emotional resonance and self-actualisation. I wonder if it made a difference in the tone because Spangler changed publishers (Bywater) for this book. In any case, I’m deeply grateful for this utterly engaging and memorable story, marvellously written by Spangler.
Anyway, back to the story…
Firstly, FOOD!!! Not just food, but STREET food in FOOD TRUCKS!!! That’s entirely different than restaurant culinary or baking. Street food is made with economy, speed, ease, mobility, durability in mind. Add that with quality, now that’s absolutely fascinating. Spangler’s masterful description and depiction of the food prepped, made and served by Hal and her mate, Sully, in her food truck, all the different sandwiches with fabulously funky names absolutely captivated me taste buds to an embarrassingly desperate mouth-watering level! Me stomach was literally screaming for me to feed it with Hal’s delicious, to-die-for sandwiches!!
Yup, at that point, me anatomy and physiology related to me digestive system couldn’t differentiate fact from fiction, the way Spangler practically brought all the food to LIFE! Salivating over non-existent food was an interesting experience, to say the least! Spangler’s heavy use of food talk throughout the story was purposeful because it was analogical, metaphorical to the essence of Hal and Quinn’s internal struggle, personality, behaviour and their journey to romance, love, relationship and what they meant to their outlook in life. The food in this book played its role like another character. All the ingredients and recipes laid out in detail at specific points of Hal and Quinn’s journey represented their state of mind or the situation they were in. At least that’s how I interpreted it and felt. It was truly remarkable.
Hal, a chef, and Quinn, a banker, were such polar opposites of each other. How could two people with such different life goals and outlook in life morph into a perfect pairing in the end? That’s where Spangler’s genius writing of reverberating dialogue and internal monologue came in, filled with deep emotions and angst and spot-on personification of Hal and Quinn’s characters. So carefully crafted was their journey throughout the story that, in me mind, Hal and Quin were two real people who could have easily been me mates or colleagues or acquaintances, and what they were going through was nothing but affectingly real. The phrase “opposites attract” couldn’t be more accurate to depict Hal and Quinn’s immeasurable attraction and invisible pull to each other despite being so different.
“An unstoppable force vs an immovable object”
– that’s the definition of Hal and Quinn’s character, for me.
Hal’s immovable desire to stop wanting what she conditioned herself to believe she couldn’t have vs Quinn’s unstoppable desire to always get what she wanted were the singular obstacle that prevented them from even becoming friends, let alone anything resembling romance! It’s perhaps because of such a drastic contrast between Hal and Quinn’s character that made their entire journey towards truth and reconciliation with their undeniable desire and growing love for each other so all-consuming, utterly intoxicating, addictive and deeply resonating. The intersection between want and desire was perfectly portrayed by Spangler’s heartrending writing of Hal and Quinn’s personal growth and eventual self-discovery and acceptance.
As a result of their terrible, screwed-up childhood past that shaped both Hal and Quinn’s skewed sense of self and outlook in life, both became rigid in making any changes: Hal’s debilitating fear of rejection, abandonment and a belief that everything good was temporary hence her rejection of wanting anything as a defence mechanism, and Quinn’s obsession with achieving long-term stability in everything, her need for absolute control of everything and everyone including her own emotions and desires – all made Hal and Quinn’s obstinate refusal to move or stop, not even an inch. In other words, these two being together was an exercise in a battle of wills. Opposing magnets. I was totally mesmerised by the development of the story as I read on. I could feel Spangler’s heart and soul poured into these two unlikely partners’ psyche, their innermost self, literally bringing them to life.
One of the most intense physically intimate scenes I’ve read in a romance was deeply affecting. It spoke volumes about Hal and Quinn’s emotional state of unspoken desperation, internal anguish screaming to be heard but could only be conveyed through raw, animalistic, highly-charged emotionally physical connection. Interestingly, in the sense of handling their anguish, they were similar! The “You don’t understand” / “Show me” exchange right before that nearly killed me. So highly-charged with deep-seated passion, desire, desperation, eroticism and sensuality – with just these 2 phrases…
Hal looked away and closed her eyes, but Quinn refused to release her. Instead she shook her, pulling her back in. “Look at me.”
Hal slowly lifted her chin and allowed her dark eyes to flutter open.
“Look in my eyes Hal. I am not afraid.”
“I am.” Her voice shook. Her whole body shook.
“You don’t understand.”
“Quinn.” The word rushed out, a whisper, a plea.
“I mean it, Hal.” Her voice was low, an audible mirror to Hal’s supplication. “Show me.”
My absolute favourite moment has to be the dance lesson Hal was teaching Ian with Quinn’s reluctant help, which turned into one of the most alluring, seductive, erotic slow dances ever written! Every move Hal and Quinn made was laced with unspoken emotions and feelings doused in naked desire, hidden flame of passion that was highly erotic but at the same time, deeply sensual. Phwoar! You have to read it to feel it. It was simply amazing! Well done, Spangler!
As mentioned, Spangler used food as analogies and/or metaphors in this book, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. One of the analogies that resonated was the matter with the ugly fish that Hal caught whilst in PTown which Quinn absolutely detested because of how it looked but turned out to be perfect after it was cleaned and prepared. It was purposefully about first impressions. The saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” was truly spot-on as Quinn and Hal’s relationship entered another level, deeper and more personal.
“Look at these now, all cleaned up. If you hadn’t seen it until this moment, what would your first impression be?”
Quinn sighed and bit her lip before smiling. “I’d probably think it was perfect.” “Perfect,” Hal repeated as she stacked all the asparagus to one side.
“Yes,” Quinn said more wistfully, “perfect.”
Hal laid the fish out on the grill and basked in the glow of being right. “But what about you?”
“Me?” Hal asked, still focused on adjusting a few coals.
“Can you look at me now like you’re seeing me for the first time? Without all the stuff that came between us before?”
The entire journey was crafted with absolute aplomb. To unify two individuals who were in love but had completely different and opposing paths in their life journey wasn’t about one sacrificing her desire for the other’s. It was not about whose desire and goal were more warranted or important. It was about reconciling what they truly wanted out of their lives and each other by achieving a balance so they could both have the best of both worlds. Yup, by combining Hal’s love to be her own chef and Quinn’s desire for running a restaurant with her perfect chef, each owning the whole pie together as equals. Partners, in every sense of the word.
Perfect Pairing. Achieved.
It was beautifully depicted with true realism.
All in all, “Perfect Pairing,” truly stole me heart and soul and guaranteed a spot on me Top 10 all-time favourite lesbian romances! I was absolutely entranced by Quinn and Hal’s love story, their struggle to come to terms with what truly mattered. Hal giving herself a chance to want something she loved and desired (Quinn), and Quinn letting go of her need to control and open herself up to feeling vulnerable, love and desire. It was a profoundly soulful journey which made their love oh-so raw, brutally honest, powerful and resonating. Nevermind their undeniable chemistry which sizzled right from the start (even though they met with undesirable results at first! Ahh, memorable!), oozing unfettered desires and passion along the way. I absolutely LOVED this couple and their growing attraction and eventually deep love which Spangler weaved with perfect pacing!
I can’t recommend this book highly enough especially to those who love and enjoy lesbian romance with serious, grown-up, complex intricacies of falling in love and committing in a equal, long-term relationship with an honest reconciliation of personalities and priorities and lifegoals. I’ve read this twice now and will be one of me go-to re-reads from now on, no doubt!
Thank you for this wonderfully written and told love story, Ms. Spangler! I will be reading the rest of her books, that’s for sure!