Feel The Heat
(The Rockford Fire Department series, Book 1)
DESCRIPTION: Francesca "Francey" Cordaro's thirtieth birthday wasn't spent with girlfriends at a wine bar, or on a date; as a firefighter, she was battling a blaze in a warehouse when she broke her arm rescuing a civilian. This wasn't just anybody, though: it was Alex Templeton, stunning bachelor CEO of Templeton Industries. Francey's worked hard to prove herself in a man's world, and she has the bitter reminder of her parents' failed marriage to show her what happens when a firefighter gets too close to anyone outside the job. She hasn't even dated in ages, and the last thing she needs is to fall for a man way out of her league, no matter how charming. Unfortunately, her heart has other ideas...
REVIEW: It can be difficult to find romances that stretch boundaries; part of the appeal seems to be the comfort of the familiar. This one, however, had a nice twist, so I gave it a try. Ultimately, I had mixed feelings on it. Francey definitely isn't the stereotypical swooning romance lead; her profession, coupled with scars left from her childhood and the bitter breakup of her parents (one that neither parent got over), give her a little more backbone, and a few more obstacles to overcome when negotiating a relationship. Alex, on the other hand, is largely the typical alpha male... a trait that nearly costs him everything as he finds himself drawn to a woman who won't be stuck in the proverbial kitchen. Sparks naturally fly from the start (literally, if you take into account how they meet), and the pair go through the expected ups and downs... some of them feeling a little manufactured, like more than a few lines of dialog. Competing for space, however, is the ongoing feud between Francey's father, Ben, and her estranged mother, Diana - one that drags the story back to typical romance tropes, particularly the idea that first loves are the only real loves and anyone who walks away from a relationship is merely in denial. (There were a few other squirm-worthy moments here and there, as well.) Other characters, some likely cameos from Shay's other series, clutter up the tale with too many names who have too little to do to distinguish them. And there's a background thread about the cause of the fire at the warehouse that resolves more or less as one might expect from early on. It manages to come together (mostly) by the end, though, and there's a decent level of sizzle in the sexual tension throughout. All in all, it's not a bad romance, and the lady lead offers something a little more gutsy than many romances, but it just felt a little too bloated and occasionally forced for me to grant it a full four stars.
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