Spangler, Rachel. “Love All”, Bywater Books, 2018.
I always look forward to a new book by Rachel Spangler mainly because of her skill of character development. I was a bit concerned, however, with “Love All” because I saw that it is about tennis, a sport I know nothing about but that was allayed once I began reading.
Jay Pierce has had a long professional tennis career but she has been constantly burned by the press and other players. She did not have an easy time coming up and reaching where she was and she has learned to trust no one including herself. Throughout her long career, professional tennis player Jay Pierce has been burned by both players and the press. When she decides to have one last career comeback, she knows the only hope she has to redeem her legacy is to do so by herself.
Sadie Larsen’s daughter, 17-year-old Destiny gets a place on the women’s tennis tour and Sadie admits that she knows almost nothing about professional tennis. She is a single mom who learned to be a parent by trial and error so she figures she can also learn about tennis. Both Jay and Sadie were facing a difficult time and each woman thinks she is ready to face whatever comes but that was before they met. Here competition meets attraction.
Rachel writes great drama and emotions as she takes us behind-the-scenes and introduces us to three women, each of which is dealing with her own life. We read of the off- and on-court relationships amongst players and their peers and their families on the tennis circuit. Sadie and Jay come from different backgrounds and circumstances yet they are alike regarding independence and self-sufficiency. Sadie is also a mother who was immediately taken to by Jay just by hearing her voice. When the two met face to face, chemistry took over. It was not going to be an easy journey toward romance, however. After all, Destiny was Jay’s competitor and peer on the courts. Because they were on tour, it was not just difficult for them to show affection for each other, it would have been scandalous.
The more they tried to ignore how they felt, the stronger the desire they felt became. The relationship between Jay and Destiny was professional as well as personal, and I can imagine how Spangler felt as she tried to put this down on paper. On-the-court we see Jay and Des portrayed with intensity and realistically as they battled to win. I find it impossible to relay the feelings of the characters in a review because of the way the writer had them reach the places where they are. They come to a point where decisions must be made. We actually have three sets of relationships— Jay and Sadie; Jay and Des; Sadie and Des as well as the relationship of the three together.
Everything in the book is realistic and Spangler writes powerful prose. I have been reviewing her work for several years now and I have seen a new maturity with each book. What I find particularly interesting is that I am a gay man reviewing a lesbian love story and I have fallen in love with Jay, Sadie and Des and I am quite sure that if the genders were switched the story would have the same power. If you need proof that the road to romance can be rocky, this is the book to read.
After having to deal with injury, Jay knows that this is the last chance she will have to make a name since the sport now has new young players vying for top spots. Destiny Larsen is one such player and she wants no part of the politics of the sport—she just wants to play. Destiny is aware of the old circuit rumors about Jay who is also a great player. When Destiny’s coach suggests that the young team up with Jay in the doubles tournaments as a way to bolster struggling funds for both athletes, they come to an uneasy agreement. They work out an understanding that Sadie is off limits to Jay’s rumored “player” ways and they become one of the teams to beat on the doubles circuit. Unfortunately pressures heat up on them about the same time feelings deepen between Jay and Sadie.
I read the book in one sitting and then mulled over it for a couple of hours before I sat down to write this which is actually just a first impression. It is a good impression, a very, very good impression.