Grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom loved them. I was never a fan, though I didn’t dislike them, really. I just thought they were kind of boring. Butter some white bread (preferably Butternut brand bread), throw some Kraft American cheese in between two slices, throw it in the pan until the bread was crispy and the cheese was melted. Yeah. Boring. But I would try to offer to make them for Mom as much as possible, because they made her happy.
Along comes Perfect Pairing by Rachel Spangler. Set for release in July 2016 by Bywater Books, Perfect Pairing tells the story of Hal Orion and Quinn Banning – their turbulent relationship; their very different, yet equally defining backgrounds; their off-the-charts sexual energy – and grilled cheese sandwiches. Suddenly, these culinary creations weren’t quite so boring.
If you’ve read any of my reviews, you already know what I look for in a novel: compelling story-lines, complex characters, well-written prose. Blend in snappy dialogue, a healthy dash of humor, and nicely crafted sex scenes (which are appropriate and not gratuitous), and Carleen is a happy reader.
Spangler wastes no time diving right into the story. She sets the scene, introduces the characters, and sets events in motion. It’s clear from the start that there will be conflict and plenty of it. While the conflict seemed predictable – and, to a certain extent, it really was – Spangler surprised me by going deeper and adding new dimensions to the conflict – a really nice ebb and flow. Slight adjustments in the situation, the addition of a new perspective or bit of knowledge, all combined to give the story rich, varied flavors. The story was alive and fresh right up to the last chapter.
Contributing to the richness, of course, is the depth and fullness of the characters Spangler has created. Hal and Quinn have led interesting lives. Though their experiences growing up are very different, those experiences, nonetheless, define Hal and Quinn in very specific ways. Ways which have one hell of an impact on how each lives her life. I really appreciate that Spangler doesn’t dump everything on the reader at once. These two characters and their complexities are shared with us gradually, organically. We get to learn about Hal and Quinn as they learn about each other. It’s a nice journey. The cast of secondary characters – Sully, Ian, Dom – are rich and three-dimensional. They each lend a very unique voice to the story. More importantly, they are all necessary to the story and to the development of the main characters.
I really enjoy seeing growth in an author’s writing. Spangler has not disappointed. Her writing is well-crafted. Writing description without going over the top or boring the reader is difficult, but Spangler did a nice job. I could feel the vibe of the city of Buffalo, but was not inundated with the nitty-gritty details of street names and tourist attractions. I’m not familiar enough with Buffalo for street names to have any meaning for me. On the other hand, if I knew Buffalo like the back of my hand, I might spend more time mentally arguing better directions to get somewhere. (I do this with books set in Chicago all the time – “Oh! Don’t take Michigan Avenue! It is murder that time of day!”) Spangler struck a very nice balance.
I admit to getting pretty hungry quite often while reading Perfect Pairing. I could smell some of the sandwiches Hal was creating. They made my mouth water. I like the way Spangler blended narrative and dialogue to bring these creations to life.
Perfect Pairing was peppered with fun, snappy dialogue that was not only fitting to the characters, but it was also realistic. In my opinion, there are few things worse than reading dialogue and thinking, “Oh, come on! Who talks like that?” That doesn’t happen here. Whether the scene is emotionally charged, filled with humor, or an appropriately placed haze of lust, the words spoken by the characters are dead on and real – I could hear the conversations in my head. Well done.
If you’re in the market for a tasty romance with interesting characters and a complex story, be on the lookout for Perfect Pairing come July 2016. It is currently available for pre-order (paperback) on Amazon. Look for it in paperback and eBook on the Bywater Books website.
**I received an Advance Reader Copy of Perfect Pairing from the publisher.