2008, Romantic Suspense (Tennessee)
Signet, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451224779 Part of a series
There are two reviews of this book
There are plenty of books with fireman heroes out there, but for some reason (because I don't really have a fireman fantasy?) I haven't read many of them. I found Trial by Fire to be a bit of a mixed bag. There were some suspenseful parts that I really enjoyed, and some that just didn't work as well for me.
Howard Paxton is a man's man. He's six and a half feet tall and built like a Mac truck. He rides a Harley and fights fires. He doesn't do commitment. Lately, though, he's been abstaining from sex because his inability to commit has made encounters dissatisfying. When he meets Kat McKenna, that all changes. He pulls up at her parents' neighbor's home to put out the fire, and finds that she has stupidly gone inside with a garden hose. He takes care of her, and then one of his colleagues discovers that the burning home hid a nasty surprise: a dead body chained in a bedroom.
Howard wastes no time in asking Kat out. He just can't help himself. She's blond, with luscious curves - just his type of woman. She's the daughter of a lawyer, but rather than join the family firm she decided to get her education degree, so she teaches first grade. And she's just as attracted to Howard as he is to her.
But there are obstacles to this match made in heaven. Soon after the initial fire, Howard discovers an envelope at his home - with a picture of the deceased. The killer has targeted Howard specifically. As the situation escalates, he is worried for his co-workers and Kat as well. There are also barriers from Howard's past. Because he suffered severe abuse, he struggles with nightmares. He doesn't think he is capable of sharing his life with another person, and when Kat wants their relationship to go beyond mere sex, Howard's resistance creates problems. He will have to overcome the demons from his past and present before he and Kat can form a real relationship.
For the most part, this book is well-paced, and that's what kept me turning pages. I was interested in the arson/murder/revenge plot, and wanted to see how that would turn out. There are parts of the tale that were fairly obvious, but some elements were more surprising, and toward the end I was pretty engrossed.
I really liked Kat, which helped as well. She's down to earth, confident, and believable. When Howard gives her crap, she refuses to take it. My favorite scene in the book actually came when she saw Howard with another woman and went to kick a little ass. It was totally hilarious, and I couldn't helped cheering for her.
Unfortunately, I didn't like Howard as much. Granted, his life was terrible until he was about four. But after that time, he was raised by two loving parents. He has a job he loves and lots of things going for him, so his continual "poor me" routine got old fast. Heroes who can't commit because something awful happened to them are a dime a dozen, and I tend to lose patience with them quickly.
It also must be said that this book has burning sex, and plenty of it. I found most of it okay, if a little purple-y, but the missish should be warned that there is some back door action, if you know what I mean (and I'm sure you do). At times the sex felt a little forced to me, almost as if the author would suddenly remember that this was a HOT! book, so something different needed to happen.
Overall, I thought Trial by Fire wasn't bad, but it was a book I could kind of take or leave. If you are a real fireman fan, you might want to check it out. Otherwise, I wouldn't particularly go out of my way.
-- Blythe Barnhill
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