Spangler, Rachel. “Fire & Ice”, Bywater Books, 2019,
In “Fire & Ice”, writer Rachel Spangler introduces us to Max Lauren who is one of the top sports reporters is dealing with a heavy dose of self-doubt due to a mistake that wounded and possibly shattered her sense of pride. Because of this she is now covering curling, a sport she detests. As of that is not bad enough, trouble awaits her when she moves on the ice, a place where she has always been welcomed and respected.
We also meet Callie Mulligan, the head of America’s second-place curling team. Callie seems to radiate her passion for her curling, a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area that is segmented into four concentric circles. Being originally from the South, I had no idea about the nature of curling. Spangler’s narrative spurred me to see what I could find out about it. Callie has both the physical and the mental abilities for the sport and we see that she could become Team USA’s top player. However she is not famous and does not have the financial backing to make this happen. She believes that with someone like Max covering the sport, this could change. However Max is not keen about this so Callie tries to endear her to the sport. We see that this becomes a passionate affair between the two.
Just as this is a novel about passion and competition, ambition, redemption, and the need to come together, we feel Spangler’s passion as she wrote this story. The question of whether Callie’s and Max’s passion can endure so that it does not affect Callie’s performance on the ice hovers over the relationship between the two women. We cannot forget that Callie is a disgraced reporter looking for a comeback. As Max is consumed by being reinstated, Callie is not just concerned but obsessed curling and has managed to rise above the negative attitude of her family, friends and bosses that curling is not a real sport. She has managed to get 3 school friends to come along and she has reinforced them with leadership and charisma and they are able to be ranked second among the top fifteen teams until they are USA Team 2 and gain a chance to fight for a place at the Olympics in two seasons. They struggle financially and each woman works full time but they are just barely able to find enough sponsorship to cover travel and hotels.
Spangler follows the rise of Callie and the fall of Max from bring a top reporter to being moved to cover the “lame” sport of curling. We learn that Max’s demise is due to her for having fallen for the wrong woman and the wrong story and she loses everything aside from her disdain for curling. Callie and Max need each other but for different reasons. Callie sees Max as a way to gain media exposure while Max sees Callie as a way to recement her good graces with the bosses and her position as an honest and well-read sports reporter. Their initial meeting did not go well but women realize the importance of working together and each has inner strength and determination prevents them for giving up. Soon their attraction for each other is stronger than anything else.
Spangler has created two strong main characters who are only deterred by each’s central problem— Callie’s love for curling above all else and Max’s inability to let her feelings overcome her bitterness about her job.
This is not the first book by Rachel Spangler and in fact I have read several over the past ten years. This book shows a level of maturity in her writing that was not always there in her other books. Sometimes this is just what an author has to find his turf and I believe that Spangler has done just that with “Fire & Ice”.