Learning Curve by Rachel Spangler is an angsty romance and it’s also her first book! We’ve reviewed most of Spangler’s books here at TLR, so it was fun to listen to this one.
Ashton Clarke is a total player and everyone knows it. She’s legendary at the local lesbian bar, known for her ready smile and willingness to take anyone home for the night. Her closest attachment is to her high school best friend, Mary, and Ash’s life is pretty much perfect since she sets her own hours working on odd jobs.
When Mary talks Ash into finally helping out at the local gay and lesbian youth center, Ash’s head is turned by Carrie Fletcher, a woman studies professor at the local college. Carrie has zero interest in Ash, since she’s not into players. And even if she were, Carrie doesn’t have tenure yet, so she can’t risk handing the college any reason not to give it to her. At the same meeting at the center, Ash also meets Tess, a sixteen-year-old with a gargantuan chip on the shoulder who loves to push Ash’s buttons (and would love to push her into bed even more).
Ash isn’t comfortable with her attraction to Carrie, since it’s different than anything she’s experienced before, but she can’t seem to stop it. At the same time she’s also battling Tess and her attitude, seeing how the girl could be headed down the same difficult road that Ash herself has travelled. Maybe it’s time for Ash to finally grow up and become the woman that her close friends, like Mary, always knew she could be.
This is Ash’s book, so it makes sense that she has the most character growth. She’s the kind of player that we frequently see in lesfic, holding herself back from everyone while she puts on an easy smile and makes sure the woman she’s with has a good time. I felt kind of defensive of Ash at times, because I thought some of the things said about her were unfair, but I was impressed by how she consistently rose to the occasion when a situation needed her to be or do more than she was comfortable with, and I was really happy for her at the end.
The rest of the characters were drawn well and were believable, including Carrie, Tess and Mary—even if they weren’t always likeable (I’m team Ash all the way). There were quite a few side characters that rounded out the story and they all added something to it.
The Writing Style
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Rachel Spangler fan and it’s cool to see how good she was even from the beginning. Is Learning Curve as sophisticated as what she’s writing now? Well, no, but it came out more than a decade ago and it’s still a solid book. The characters are interesting and engaging, the romance is lovely, and the story is developed well.
Hope Newhouse was an excellent choice to narrate this book. She differentiated the characters well and kept me hooked so that I was listening to it as often as I could.
Everything worked for me, especially in audio.
People who have come to Rachel Spangler through her most recent books may not love this one quite as much, but I still think you should give it a shot!
If you’re a fan of lesbian romance, and especially stories about players finding their one true love, you’ll want to read or listen to Learning Curve (and then everything else that Rachel Spangler has written, because she’s awesome!).
Excerpt from Learning Curve by Rachel Spangler
Warm fingers firmly encircled Ash’s, giving a brief, steady squeeze. Who is this woman, and how have I never met her before? She felt exposed, sure that everyone in the room could tell she was taken aback. It was unusual that a woman was able to catch her off guard, and Ash wasn’t sure if she liked the sensation.
“Meet Carrie Fletcher,” Mary cut in. “I was just about to ask Ash to stay for the meeting tonight, Carrie.”
For a moment Ash had forgotten everything around them. As she came back to reality, she remembered Michael and Amy and the whole awkward situation she’d been fleeing.
“Oh, you weren’t leaving, were you?” Carrie sounded genuinely regretful.
Ash glanced at Amy, who was standing with her arms folded across her chest. She knew she should get out while she could, but when she met Carrie’s gaze once more she realized she wasn’t going anywhere. “I was planning on it. But if you all would like some help here tonight, I guess I could stick around.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781602820012
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books Inc
- Narrator: Hope Newhouse
Rachel Spangler Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Learning Curve by Rachel Spangler. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site