Friday, September 2, 2022

Review: Fire and Ice by Rachel Spangler

Curling. That's Canadian, right? I'm kidding. Sort of. Curling is very definitely not a high profile sport in the US in any but an Olympic year. As a result, it remains a bit of an unknown sport. Most people on the street wouldn't be able to tell you much more than that it is an ice sport with stones and brooms. To be fair, I am one of those people. But I thought a romance centered around curling like Rachel Spangler's Fire and Ice sounded like a fun thing to read. And it mostly was.

Max Lauren is a disgraced reporter whose only chance to repair and potentially recover her reputation is to take the less than appealing assignment her boss offers her: follow one of the top ranked US curling teams for several months. Max is bitter about her fate. She's arrogant and dismissive and can't even be bothered to research this sport she knows no more about than the average Joe on the street. Callie Mulligan is the "Skip" of the team that Max has been assigned to follow. She is a cheerful, driven perfectionist who makes huge sacrifices for her sport and her team. The team is wary of a reporter who knows nothing about curling following them and they put the clearly condescending Max through a hazing ritual of sorts where she ends up splayed on the ice more times than the reader can count. Determined rather than humbled, her first piece on the team does not win her any friends. Despite this, Callie, recognizing something in Max, urges the team to allow Max a second chance.

Told from Max and Callie's alternating points of view, this f/f romance has a hefty dose of sports in it. With Max knowing nothing of curling, it allows the reader to learn the basics with her, ensuring that the audience for the novel is not just curling fans. Spangler also does a good job showing the commitment these women make to curling and to their team and how hard it can be to work their dream around the life and work they can't afford to eschew. The thing that destroyed Max's career isn't revealed until quite late in the book; she was such an unpleasant brat for so long that revealing this earlier might have made readers want a happily ever after for her rather than rooting for her comeuppance. As it was, it was hard to understand why Callie fell for her on anything other than a physical level. The sexual tension between the two women was pretty high though and the continued missteps kept the relationship in flux and the plot moving along. This was very much a story about learning to trust on so many levels. The curling piece of the novel was interesting but sometimes hard to follow, perhaps because it's hard to describe something that is so intricate and visual. Readers who are interested in a romance set in the world of a less mainstream sport and those who don't mind an initially quite unlikable main character will appreciate this contemporary romance.

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