Wild Heat
by Bella Andre, contemporary (2009)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-440-24500-1


Wild Heat introduces Bella Andre's Tahoe Pines Hotshot Crew. No, they are not a bunch of male strippers that you can hire for your Aunt Mimsy's 86th birthday, they are hot firemen. You know, big hoses, sturdy ladders, thrusting cylinders - that kind of thing.

In this one, Logan Cain, former bad boy turned firefighting sex symbol, realizes that the hot Maya Jackson is an arson investigator who has him right at the top in her suspect list. Someone is starting wild fires, you see, and some people had reported that Logan had been acting suspicious at the site of the fires shortly before the fires started. Logan is worried that his mentor, Joseph, who may be losing it in his old age, is the one causing the fires, so he's determined to protect him while he personally tries to figure out what is going on. Maya and Logan have their relationship complicated by the fact that they had a one night stand together earlier in the story.

Wild Heat takes a considerable moment to get swinging. The first chapter has me laughing for all the wrong reasons, for example, because the author piles on the woes for poor Maya. Her brother had died, and she couldn't stand it because they had the best sibling relationship ever and, before that, her beloved father died too, so boo-hoo-hoo. She can't remember when she last ate; she had to drag herself out of her shell earlier that day to brush her teeth. And yet, when she hits the bar later to drink herself into a stupor, she's still stunning and gorgeous! That's a romance heroine for you, darling: where mere mortals in her shoes would probably reek and look like hot mess, Maya is still the sexiest thing ever.

Logan, who hadn't had sex with a woman in six months (no jokes about sleeping with the squirrels in the woods, please), is more than happy to sleep with Maya. But once the going gets heavy, Maya bursts into tears. Logan actually wonders whether she's crazy. But of course, when they meet six months later, they both can't stop thinking about how great their first encounter was. Okay, she was depressed and he was so hard up that he'd probably sexually assault a moose or something, but I'd take their word that the whole thing was absolutely divine.

Things do get much better, fortunately, once Maya and Logan set aside their initial antagonistic dance and Maya lets Logan take charge of the investigation. This means that Maya isn't a professional in her job, given that she easily trusts her suspect by making visceral judgments and she also shares information about her investigations with him, but trust me, the suspense isn't the reason you should be reading this story. The suspense is actually pretty ordinary, right down to the clichéd identity of the villain ([spoiler starts] another psychopath slutty woman, as if we don't have enough of them in romantic suspense to remind us that only crazy evil women enjoy having sex for fun [spoiler ends]).

Read this one instead for how the fireman hero very nicely plays into the fantasy of a larger-than-life hunk. Sure, this means that Logan is also a stereotype, but he's the kind of stereotype that sells the fireman fantasy, so I'm not complaining. He falls in love very nicely, he does the protective thing very sweetly and gallantly, and, really, apart from his tendency to protect an old coot even if it means that more people will die in wild fires (hey, nobody is perfect), he's a dream. Maya is too neurotic and depressed for my liking and I'm still of the opinion that she still needs to seek out either a support group or a shrink for her to heal. But still, she brings out the hero in Logan, so I guess she has her uses.

Read this for the fireman, first and foremost. If you enjoy the rest of the story more than me, then, hey, good for you - that's just fabulous icing on the cake, then.

Rating: 79


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