Following on from romances set in the worlds of tennis, snowboarding and baseball, Rachel Spangler’s latest sports romance follows the rapid rise of a curling team, and in particular their outstanding “Skip” Callie Mulligan.
Callie is obsessed with her ‘real’ job – curling – and has fought off the negative attitude of everyone from family, friends and bosses that it is a hobby, not a real sport. She has dragged 3 school friends along with her, building them up with her own style of leadership and charisma until they are USA team 2 ranked in the top 15 with chance to fight for a place at the Olympics in two seasons… what they lack is support; each woman works full time and barely gets enough sponsorship to cover travel and hotels.
Max has been at the top of the sports reporter tree, writing in depth character pieces about the big names, until she falls for the wrong woman and the wrong story and loses everything; the girlfriend, the position and most importantly her own self respect. Sent to the icy North East to cover Team Mulligan for a season she quickly dismisses curling as housework on ice.
But Callie and Max need each other, one to give the team and the sport exposure, the other to regain her good graces with the bosses and her standing as an honest and engaging sports writer. Their initial meeting couldn’t go any worse, but both have an inner strength and determination that wont let them give up, and ultimately their magnetic attraction is stronger than their icy distance.
Spangler is a master of sports romances, bringing us into worlds we don’t know and possibly don’t care about – snowboarding and curling are certainly sports I knew little about – but like the great writer she is Spangler makes the people the centre of interest and their sport the backdrop. As a reader we learn almost by osmosis as the sport is explained both to an incomer and by example.
The main characters are both intriguing, strong, independent, sure of themselves but with one major fault line, Callie’s her exclusion of anything but curling from her life and Max’s horrendously bad decision to allow her heart and compassion to rule her head. The supporting cast of Team Mulligan provide a strong group background, but I particularly liked the cameos of Callie’s family, her grandpa steals the scene, and Max’s long surpassed rival Tom, both of whom play a tiny part but are critical scenes.
What impresses me most about Spangler’s growth as a writer is the increasing subtlety of the character development, romance and the pivotal angst of the plot. Callie and Max come together almost despite themselves, seemingly honest about their personal goals and life choices, the angst isn’t overdone, they play out their roles, until, of course, the crisis hits and the hurt overcomes their maturity. But even then Spangler doesn’t overplay, they miss each other, it affects their lives and makes them reconsider their choices, but without the chest-beating drama of so many romances. With a bit of prompting from BFF’s and unpleasant egotists they come to recognize how their priorities have changed.
I really enjoyed this one, read it in a day, couldn’t put it down, not because it’s a page turning drama but because I enjoyed seeing the interaction and growth of the two main characters, literally fire and ice coming together to make steam. Excellent reading and highly recommended.
(publisher review copy received)
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