Trial By Fire

Jo Davis
2008, Romantic Suspense
Signet, $6.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451224779
Part of a series

Grade: D+
Sensuality: Hot

There are two reviews of this book

I have a weakness for books featuring firefighter heroes, so when I saw Trial By Fire on the shelf at Wal-Mart, I thought I’d give it a try. This is the beginning of a series about the firefighters of station five in a small town in Tennessee. It’s a fast moving tale but I can’t say it’s a well told one.

In Sugarland, structure fires are thankfully rare, but occasionally they do occur. When a call comes in that a house is on fire, the members of A-Unit, led by Lieutent Howard “Six Pack” Paxton, rush to the scene where they find the woman who lives next door trying to douse the blaze with a garden hose.

Katherine McKenna has been watching over the house for her vacationing neighbors, taking in the mail and such and didn’t hear anything until the fire was out of control. As they gain control of the blaze, the men discover a gruesome sight in the house – a charred body chained to a bed. Kat has no idea who it is since her neighbors are on vacation. The police will need to investigate. As things are wrapping up at the scene, Howard and Kat talk and flirt a bit. Eventually they begin to go out with each other and soon are in a hot and passionate affair.

However, it seems as though there’s someone who has a grudge against Howard. This person is evidently the arsonist and murderer who killed the person in the home fire. He leaves pictures and notes taunting Howard, he kidnaps another woman and kills her in a fire and sends a picture of that crime as well. Finally, he kills one of Howard’s former lovers and it’s evident that Kat is next.

Kat teaches school in Sugarland. She’s bosomy and curvy (as we are reminded again and again and again) and likes to wear low slung jeans and tight tops. Given her body type, I kept picturing a muffin top. She’s quite flippant and has a hot temper; at one point she beats Howard over the head with a fishing rod. I don’t like physical violence in men and I don’t like it women, so any warm feelings I had for her died right then and there. She’s a perfect example of a shallow, feisty romance novel chick.

Howard is a tortured hero who tortures himself over nothing. He was a badly abused child who was later adopted by a kind family who love him and he loves them. But he suffers from insomnia and feelings of guilt – almost gladly. He doesn’t even try to get help for himself, and all the while he nags his best friend (who suffers from depression) to get take his medicine and get help. Physician, heal thyself.

The sex scenes in this book are hot. Howard at one point muses that he has a vanilla life, so he makes up for it by his sex life. Hmm – firemen have a vanilla life? For a number of years, his sex life consisted of banging every female he could get his hands on, but for several months (before he meets Kat) Howard had second thoughts about promiscuity and became celibate. So, after his spell of celibacy, he and Kat proceed to go at each other in many and varied ways – in a public park, on the table, on a bed (how vanilla), in a shower and pretty much wherever the mood strikes them. There’s one scene of anal sex in a hot tub that made me wince because Howard is big – six feet six inches tall – and he sports a manaconda. Their bout of anal sex is a first for her, yet she loves it. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

The identity of the arsonist/murderer was way over the top and worthy of a good Victorian sensation novel, and there were a few editing errors (does Kat shave her lady bits or not?) However, Trial By Fire moved along at a very brisk pace and the subplots involving the other members of A-Unit were very well integrated into the main story.

This book is what I’d call a good bad book. It has lots and lots of flaws, but it also has verve and liveliness. The next book in the series is going to feature Zach, the paramedic who is a virgin. Since I am also a pushover for virgin heroes, I will probably check it out.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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