by Jolie Cain and Rhiannon Leith, assorted (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-512-1
Hearts Afire: February is a collection of two stories that share the same theme: firemen.
Jolie Cain's The Jealousy Plot sees our heroine Callie Ladner pining after hot fireman Trey Williamson but alas, he sees her as nothing but a friend. Her friend Marianne Riley has an idea. Callie will pretend to be interested in Marianne's brother Ben and voila, Trey will get jealous and realize that he loves Callie too. Oh, please. Anyway, as you can probably predict, Ben turns Callie's engines on but she is convinced that she loves Trey so she's not sure what to think. What is a girl to do?
This one is readable. I'm happy to report that Callie isn't some creepy stupid dingbat but rather... well, she's quite silly and she behaves more like a teenage girl than an adult when it comes to her feelings for Trey, but I suppose every girl has the right to play the fool for love at least once in her life. This is a short story so the characters aren't as developed as I'd have liked, but they are adequate to carry the story. The only problem here is the utter predictability of this story. As a comfort read, a quick one, this one however isn't bad at all.
Next is Rhiannon Leith's Captive Flame. This is a paranormal story. We have Peter O'Connor who first encounters our djinn heroine Adara when he is trying to rescue any trapped people in a burning building and she materializes in front of him. The encounter doesn't end too well - they share a kiss but he ends up in the hospital while she finds herself at the receiving end of her Master's bad mood. The encounter manages to help Adara break free from the evil Magus' hold over her, however, and now she shows up in Peter's life calling him Master. Haven't I seen the G-rated take on this fantasy before on TV?
Like the previous story, this one is very readable. The pacing is fine and there is pretty good build-up in this story. Peter is a likable hero. But Adara, unfortunately, comes off like a child so her romance with Peter, who definitely comes off like an adult, has a rather unbalanced dynamic as a result. I can't help feeling that she's too young for him, so to speak.
Hearts Afire: February is a pretty entertaining read all things considered. The two stories aren't remarkable, but at the same time they are more than adequate as quick reads. If you like your nibble-sized reads to have hot firemen, this one isn't bad at all.
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