Love All by Rachel Spangler has been highly anticipated by myself and Tara Scott since its announcement earlier this year. So, naturally, we had to do a joint review because there is too much good stuff in this story to let just one person have all the fun. Get ready, everyone! Tara and I are about to go complete fangirl and show you that Love All is more than just a tennis score.
Professional tennis player Jay Pierce has had a long career in tennis. But early on she was burned by someone she cared about, causing the world of tennis to turn their backs on her. She has spent years climbing her way back into the good graces of the tennis gods. Now that’s she’s on the cusp of a big comeback, she doesn’t want to chance a repeat catastrophe and decides to go it alone.
Sadie Larsen knew nothing of professional tennis until her daughter, Destiny, broke onto the women’s tour at the age of 17. She was able to master being a single parent on her own, and she knows she can do the same to help Destiny become the best tennis player in the world. All she has to do is stay laser-focused on protecting her family of two.
Jay and Sadie believe they’re prepared to face every single challenge with the stony resolve of a woman who has been counted out her entire life. The only thing neither woman had counted on was each other.
Can they survive the crushing crucible of competition, press pressure, and parenting? Or will love all really mean no one goes home a winner?
Anna: I love characters that defy the odds set against them. Spangler gives us just that and then has them go beyond expectations in this story.
Sadie is an African-American woman who was unwed and in her teens when she became pregnant. Since then, she has raised her daughter all by herself. Jay is a lesbian athlete who has slowly rebuilt her career back from a devastating scandal. Both of these women are categorized by society’s stereotypes before they ever meet. And they could’ve allowed these labels to excuse them from not improving their lives. Instead, they use these traits to become stronger and more resilient. They fight against their oppressors and become successful through sheer will and grit. Now if they can only be successful in love.
Tara: I’m a huge fan of Sadie and Jay. I totally agree, Anna, about how they’ve had labels slapped on them and what that’s meant for how they live their lives. I also think that part of why I loved them so much (and watching them fall in love) is because both women are always trying to do the right thing. Because they have different priorities—not surprising, given that one of them is a tennis mom—that may not always mean the same thing for both women, but it still gives them another point of compatibility.
Also, I was a little surprised that Spangler didn’t give us an ice queen in Love All, like in her last several books, although Jay was a fun variation on the standoffish lead because she’s totally personable as long as no one gets too close. Watching that play out as she can’t deny her attraction to Sadie is compelling as all get-out.
The rest of the characters were done well, especially Destiny’s coach Hank, Jay’s friend and fellow tennis player Peggy, and, of course, Destiny. I wasn’t a huge fan of Destiny for a lot of the book, but I mostly came around to her by the end.
Anna: Destiny, to me, is the typical surly teenager who just happens to be a tennis pro. She has all the attitude that you would expect from a 17-year-old woman on the edge of entering adulthood. It can be a little annoying at times, and I’ll admit there were moments I wanted the grab her and make her understand. Underneath it all, however, is a girl who loves her mom dearly.
The Writing Style
Anna: OH! The dramatic tension! It’s everywhere in this book—on the court, off the court, in public, in private. Spangler has truly found her writing style and she’s able to utilize it again and again to be refreshing. She has perfected the art of giving us characters that must overcome similar problems but do so with different approaches, thus making neither right nor wrong in their arguments when confronted about their issues. To use her analogy, she puts two women in the same boat but on opposite sides. AND I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! It allows me to feel empathy for both protagonists because I can see validity in both their arguments. And when they finally have their happily ever after? It’s just all the sweeter.
Tara: I know! She’s so good at delivering angsty romances that hit you in the gut. Also, the chemistry between Sadie and Jay is off the charts (or scoreboard!), even when one or both of them is trying to deny it. That makes the story all the more delicious when they finally succumb.
Anna: Spangler does a really good job of giving us a story that illustrates there’s not one, right way to show you love someone. Some people love you by being close, and some people love you by being far away. Some offer compassion, and others offer protection. And all of it stems from love.
Tara: This book has it all. The characters have depth and go on a serious emotional journey, the plotting is tight, the pacing is bang on, and the romance is beautiful with a perfect happily ever after.
Anna: Okay, Tara, we’ll probably have the same con, but I’m going to have the proverbial asterisk with mine. It was hard to like Destiny, and a lot of that was because she did give off the appearance of being spoiled and not willing to share her mother’s love and affection with Jay. However, (here comes the asterisk), I can totally understand her attitude is based out of the love she has for Sadie.
Tara: Yeeeeaaaaah, I really didn’t Destiny. Like, I was messaging Anna about it as I was reading because she was frustrating me so much. Like I said above, I get it and I mostly came around to her.
Anna: Spangler has outdone herself again, and I just feel like I need to expect to be in a continuous state of awe. She has such a great grasp of her characters to the point you love them, you hate them, and most importantly you understand them. This one is definitely a favorite and will be a great read to gear up for the Grand Slam Tennis season next year.
Tara: Can I just say “what Anna said”? Rachel Spangler is one hell of a romance writer and she keeps getting better with each new book she releases. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tennis fan or not, because if you love a great lesbian romance, you’ll be sure to enjoy this story.
Excerpt from Love All by Rachel Spangler
“Feel free to move the rackets if you want the chair,” Jay said, hopping back onto the bed and propping herself up against the headboard.
Sadie’s dark eyes took her in once more before she shook her head. “I’ll stand, thanks.”
“All business—got it. But if you’re going to ask me any serious questions, I suggest you pass the caffeine.”
Sadie obliged, her fingers grazing Jay’s as she handed her the cup. She didn’t jerk away from the touch, but neither did she let it linger, and Jay wondered if Sadie was warring with her instincts or merely tap dancing around whatever she’d come to say. Part of Jay would’ve enjoyed drawing out the tension if only to spend time together, but she’d lost her stomach for games years ago. She took a sip of the java and laid her cards on the table.
“I don’t play doubles.”
Sadie sighed. “Well, there it is then. I suppose I should thank you for putting me out of my misery quickly.”
“Yeah,” Jay said, pleased by how easily Sadie had accepted her verdict. “Thanks for the coffee, though.”
“No problem. I was at Starbucks already.” She yawned, and Jay noticed faint circles under her eyes. “It’s been a long few days paired with too-short nights.”
“I know the feeling. You’re headed to Germany now?”
“Yes and no. We leave Charleston today to drive to Atlanta to take a flight tomorrow to Germany, overnight of course.”
“The cheapest airport paired with an overnight flight to save you a hotel stay. I know the drill.”
Sadie sipped her coffee slowly, her full lips leaving a faint press of maroon lipstick against the white lid. “Glad to know I’m not the only one working the system. Sometimes I think everyone else is better at it than I am, though.”
“No,” Jay said, the warmth of the coffee doing little to loosen the tightness in her chest. “We all jump through the hoops to make ends meet at some point in our careers, but they’re rarely the same hoops. Some people do bad Japanese commercials. Others take out loans or offer private lessons. Some of us sleep in hostels or even rental cars.”
“Some of you play doubles,” Sadie said lightly.
“Touché,” Jay said. “I take it that’s the rub of the visit, then? Sad story about finances, you figure I’m in the same boat, we can both row together to try to fight the tide of money slipping out to sea?”
Sadie nodded slowly. “That was the plan of attack, but it doesn’t seem to have much chance of working, so would you mind if I just took a few minutes to drink my cappuccino and collect myself before I go face my daughter?”
“Take all the time you need.”
Get This Book On Amazon
(this link works for Amazon UK, US and Canada)
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612941370
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Rachel Spangler Online
If you enjoyed this book then you should also look at
Note: We received a free review copy of Love All 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