Hearts Afire: October
by Darragha Foster and Tracy Sharp, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-610-4


It's time to bring out the firemen as the month of October rolls in and it's time for another addition to Liquid Silver Books' two-author firefighter series. I categorize this collection as contemporary romance, but there are obvious paranormal elements in both stories.

Hearts Afire: October kicks off with Darragha Foster's Consumed. Well, this is Darragha Foster we are talking about here, so of course one can expect something eccentric and even outlandish from the resident First Lady of Kook. In this one, Ms Foster has personified fire as a feminine entity, coming between our hero Ben Storms and heroine Hadyn O'Hara. Yes, that's "Hadyn" - I didn't make a spelling mistake, in case you are wondering.

This one is an interesting read. Yes, I know, calling a story "interesting" is sometimes akin to calling a particularly ugly baby "unique". In this case, I do find the story interesting in the sense that I'm fascinated by the way the author is dancing to her own song in this story. This one can't seem to make up which woman Ben is in love with - I suspect that Ben ends up with Hadyn because it's the only way he won't end up with a barbecued pee-pee. His rhapsodies about the fire he battles constantly are erotic, sensual, and definitely seem far more intense than his feelings about Hadyn.

Consumed is an example of this author's work both as her strength and her weakness. I suspect that if Ms Foster had stripped away the more over the top elements of Fire as a jealous woman coming between our two main characters, this one could have been a down to earth but memorable of two devoted firefighters. The epilogue suggests that this could indeed be the case. But still, those over the top elements make this one a story that is certainly memorable in its own way. Ms Foster's best stories are those where she manage to maintain the delicate balance between being outrageous and telling a story, and I feel that this one is tilted a little too much toward being outrageous for its own good.

Tracy Sharp is next with Burning Souls. Our news reporter Mia Nolan is somewhat a psychic. When the story opens, she almost has a nervous breakdown because her mind instinctively links to that of a terrified young girl trapped in a burning house and she experiences what the young girl is experiencing then. She manages to alert firefighter Josh Waters to this young girl, so phew, that is one life saved.

Josh saved Mia from a fire started by her own mother 11 years ago - no, they are only 8 years apart when it comes to age so this isn't a May-December romance, in case that is what you are starting to think - but he was not being able to save her two sisters. For a long time, Mia harbored negative feelings about him, but she is fortunately enough able to recognize those feelings as irrational now that she is wiser and calmer. But as Mia and Josh begin exploring their attraction to each other, a pyromaniac seems to be on the loose in town.

Burning Souls has excellent emotional intensity - the characters' emotions pretty much burn through the pages. Be it loneliness, anguish, fear, or desire, every emotion experienced by the characters seem to pulse as if it is real. When the characters claim to be in love, I can definitely buy that, because the author has made their emotional bond intense and even painful at times to follow.

However, the plot is a mess, with more question marks than answers raised by the last page. The problem here is that there are too many subplots going at different tangents here, from Mia being possibly psychic to the pyromanic subplot to Mia's past to a perverted gym teacher running around the place. It is a good thing that I enjoy reading the characters' interaction with each other or this would have been a most unsatisfying read.

Hearts Afire: October has two stories that share one obvious similarity: they both have obvious flaws, but they also have obvious strengths as well - strengths that make these stories an engaging read despite those flaws. This is a collection that you may or may not enjoy depending on how much you can overlook these stories' flaws in return for a quick trip down a path less traveled. If you are feeling adventurous, hey, go ahead. Otherwise, proceed with caution.

Rating: 78


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