Hearts Afire: November
by Pepper Espinoza and India Harper, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-623-4


The November edition of the firefighter extravaganza Hearts: Afire features two gay romances.

Pepper Espinoza kicks things off with To Heaven Resembled. Plot-wise, there isn't much to say about this one. Lance Stuart meets Jakob Fox and they may have something good. It helps that Jakob has this larger-than-life romantic fantasy of firemen being heroes to cherish and root for. Handling an actual relationship with a fireman is very different from any beautiful fantasies he may have, however, and poor emo Jakob with his anxiety issues will have to think hard and make some adjustments before he can have a happy ending with Lance. Lance has to make some concessions too, but that's what a relationship is all about.

This one starts out slowly for me, with too much conversation and not enough hints and clues from the author whether the story is going to go anywhere. However, mustering some patience is worth the effort, because eventually there is going to be some beautiful emotional moments here to be savored. A part of me feels that these good moments show up a little too late for me, but still, if you are a fan of this author, I suspect this one is going to be an acceptable read.

India Harper is next with The Arsonist's Apprentice. This is a faster-paced story. There is a string of fires taking place in Philadelphia and our good guys suspect that some arsonist may be on the loose. Josh Brooks is with the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Fire Investigation Unit and you can imagine how happy he is when he is assigned to work with Dylan Anderson, insurance investigator and former arsonist who had spent time in jail for his misdeeds.

Not that any workplace issues will stop them from having sex about ten pages into the story, because I understand those happy little girls reading gay romances are going to be very angry if they don't get their scenes of romantic sodomy served up fast.

This one is a pretty interesting story, especially as the author doesn't beat a dead horse and turn Dylan into a mushy remorseful idiot. I like Dylan. I wish this story has been longer, because that guy still has a spark of admiration and even envy for the arsonist who is running around - it's all about art, you see, and starting fires spectacularly is an art form, heh. If the author had explored the psychology of this character more, I'd definitely be interested to stay around. Poor Josh, the goody two-shoes, comes off a little boring compared to Dylan, but what the heck, these two guys are pretty fun together. I'm not sure whether I believe in the romance since the short story format prevents the author from developing this interesting relationship into something more substantial and memorable, but still, I've had fun.

Both stories are pleasant tales that could have made more of an impact if the authors had more space to work with, but if you are looking for a painless decent read of hot guys falling in love, Hearts Afire: November may just do the trick pretty well.

Rating: 76


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