Title: Breaking the Ice (States of Love, Wisconsin)
Author: Tali Spencer
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 19, 2017
Page Count: 86
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
For Matt Wasko, February in Wisconsin is the best time of the year, and ice fishing on Lake Winnebago is his idea of heaven. With shanty villages cropping up, barbeques on the ice, monster sturgeon to spear, and plenty of booze to keep everybody warm, things couldn’t be better — until a surprise storm hits and an uninvited guest shows up at his frozen doorstep.
Matt’s not happy to see John Lutz, a coworker who cracks lame gay jokes at Matt’s expense. But John’s flimsy new ice shelter got blown across the lake, and it wouldn’t be right to leave even a jerk outside to freeze. Would it?
In the close quarters of Matt’s fabulous ice shanty, between stripping off wet clothes, misadventures with bait, and a fighting trophy-sized walleye, the two men discover creative ways to keep the cold at bay. And when John confesses his long-running attraction, Matt must decide if he can believe in John’s change of heart — and crack the ice for a chance at finding love.
I grew up in Wisconsin and have family not far from Fond Du Lac, Lake Winnebago, Fox River, and Green Bay area, so there’s a bit of nostalgia in reading this. Which means I also “get” the whole bowling, ice fishing, Friday Fish Fry’s/Boils and blue collar atmosphere. So from a setting standpoint, I thought the author totally nailed the background. Yes, people are that fanatical and quirky about bowling, fishing, fish fry’s, and their little cliques.
I greatly enjoyed the backdrop of ice fishing, trying to navigate on the ice, decorating one’s ice shack and spear fishing. The tie-in to the sturgeon situation was nicely and subtlety done.
As for our two main characters, Matt and John, I don’t think this quite fits the enemies to friend’s situation, because the dislike/hate isn’t two way. Without giving away too much, it’s more a matter of new guy misunderstanding the situation and making a total mashup of things.
I personally think short stories are some of the more difficult stories to write, because the author has to condense into 60 pages a plot, setting, emotions, some kind of conflict and a resolution. I thought Breaking the Ice did a quite fine job of hitting those benchmarks. Matt is a strong main character, comfortable in his own skin and his likes and dislikes. John less so, despite the confident good looks. When Matt and John are finally forced to confront one another, they both show their own kind of courage and I liked that.
I also liked how the first attempts at a budding romance ended up with minnows spilled all over the inside of an ice shack. Loved the awkward – and realistic – humor.
My only (teeny) complaint was with the ending. A bit too…saccharine for my tastes. Cute, totally, but a bit too much so. I won’t spoil the fun though, read for yourself and decide.
Enjoy! I certainly did.