Saturday, April 18, 2015
Up in Flames by Rosanna Leo
Juliet Baker is not looking forward to coming home after six months. Yes, the fiery brunette wants to make a go of turning her parents' farmhouse into a B&B. She’s just not looking forward to seeing the place where they died. To make things worse, she knows she'll finally have to face her cheating, firefighter ex-boyfriend.
Luckily, her sister has found Jules a boarder. Easy money, right? Not when she realizes the boarder is Captain Shane Gaskill. Not only is Shane a firefighter, he’s the town's hot new fire captain.
Jules is determined to hate all firefighters. After all, the men of that precious brotherhood protected her cheating ex. Shane, however, proves he’s different from the start. He's protective and kind, and she can't stop looking at his smoking, Viking-hot body. She learns, though, that Shane isn't so willing to love again either. He's been hurt, too. They both fight the sexual chemistry, and resulting tenderness, between them. But when a stalker begins to target Jules, they realize they can't fight their desire forever.
As the threats escalate, Shane and Jules are thrown together. The resulting passion overwhelms them. But are they willing to trust each other and surrender to the flames of love?
Where to Buy
Rosanna Leo is much better known for her paranormal romances, but this contemporary from her backlist contains most of her signature style elements that make all of her books so enjoyable. Since this is one of her earliest books, it's perhaps not quite as polished as some of the later ones, but it still shows off her innate skill quite well. The pacing is a touch on the slow side perhaps, but the story develops steadily and in a way that seems quite natural. If you're looking for romantic suspense, this isn't it, because the identity of the stalker is revealed pretty early on (at least to the reader, not to the characters), and there aren't really any true nail-biting moments. Still, it's quite enjoyable.
Juliet is just returning to her home town after an extended vacation in Europe after the breakup of her previous relationship. Supposedly this was so she could get a change of scenery and start to heal, but it's clear pretty much from the outset that she's simply been hiding from things, not really healing from them. She still has a large store of anger that she's never dealt with and only barely even acknowledges, and it constantly bubbles up to the surface at the slightest provocation. Besides learning to trust again, she also has to find a way to really come to terms with her past and leave it behind her for good. It takes her awhile, but she does eventually manage to do so.
Shane has likewise been in denial mode for the last few years since losing his wife in a fire. Not so much because of her death itself but because of the guilt he still carries over what went on between them before it. He switched careers because of it, and has thrown himself into his work, rapidly rising through the ranks to become a captain far earlier than most do. He needs to work through his own issues before he can truly be with Jules, but he seems to do so much easier than she does. Perhaps because it's been longer for him and he has been doing what he can to make amends and be a better person than he was before even if he hasn't dealt directly with the lingering emotional fallout from his marriage.
Jules and Shane are attracted from the start, but resist the attraction because of their individual issues and hangups. It doesn't take long, however, before temptation is getting the best of both of them, helped along by the stress of the threatening notes someone keeps leaving. From there it's a relatively predictable course of coming together, pulling apart, rinse and repeat, though not without a few quirks thrown in along the way. The whole stalking situation is rather sad actually and you just feel sorry for the person leaving the notes more than scared for Jules or Shane. It's a situation that resolves itself more or less, though not without a few tense moments and lots of damaged property.
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary romance that's a bit on the quiet side with liberal humor interspersed with tenser moments. There are plenty of steamy sexy times to heat you up, though if you're looking for edge-of-the-seat excitement and danger you'll have to look elsewhere. 3½ stars, rounded to 4 where needed to a smile-on-the-face enjoyable book.