Winter Fires
by Geri Guillaume, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-437-4


Geri Guillaume's Winter Fires has a very appealing hero but the heroine is downright irritating because she's so immature. I'm not just talking about chick-lit heroine kind of immature, it's a "Why do you do such things to yourself?" exasperating kind of immature.

Davalyn Bowers was Cutter McCall's childhood pest. He and Dav's brother Donovan "Van" Bowers are buddies and Dav just tagged along when they were kids and spoiled the boys' fun. That was then. The Bowers' eventual divorce resulted in Dana Bowers getting the custody of Dav and Van stays with Vincent Bowers and the siblings rarely saw each other. Today, Vincent has kicked the bucket. For Vincent's funeral, Dana and her daughter Dav are coming back to Kemah, Texas. Everyone meets again at the funeral, and divorcée Cutter gets a surprise when Dav shows up all grown up and curvy in all the places. Yup, this is another one of those "How I Slept With And Married My Brother's Best Friend After I've Grown Breasts" stories. Dav, a fire investigator, and Cutter, a volunteer firefighter, will soon be setting fires of their own.

Unfortunately, while Cutter is a great hero, Dav is a mess. Cutter had a tough life as a kid (his father used him as a punching bag) but he's a good father and a man that tries to do the right thing with his son Bennett. He could have ended up one of those tortured weirdos, but instead, he's funny, smart, and maybe only a little bitter at his more stereotypical ex-wife.

Dav, on the other hand, comes with a baggage: the Other Man, Julian. The author really does herself no favors by revealing only late in the story that Julian and Dav are only faking their relationship for the sake of some stupid plot contrivance thing. So for a long time, I am itching to deliver some Listen Up, Biatch smackdown on Dav when she insists on flirting with and playing stupid games with Cutter, apparently forgetting that Julian, the man she's moving in with soon, even exists. It is Cutter that tries to do the right thing by staying away from what he perceives as another man's turf, good for him. Unfortunately, this only makes Dav suspect that he's fooling around with other women and the resulting childish runarounds give me a headache. The fact that he respects her and Julian never occurs to her. In fact, when she wails that she has loved him since forever, I wonder what then possessed her to get involved with Julian like that. She knows full well that she's coming back to stay, but no, she drags Julian along, flirts and offers her honeypot to Cutter, and then wails that Cutter doesn't want her when in truth he respects her too much even if she has no self-respect in the first place.

Ms Guillaume doesn't even try to redeem the childish Dav in the workplace. Dav is always daydreaming about getting naked with Cutter when she should be paying attention to group brainstormings and team discussions. In the same breath, the author describes Dav as "independent" and "spirited". Independent from brainpower and spirited past intoxication point, perhaps.

A simple talk - "Cutter, there's nothing between me and Julian" - could have cleared matters up. But instead, Dav and Cutter run around in circles chasing each other, cheered on by their friends and families. The writing sparkles with one-liners and the hero is really adorable, but dang it, that Dav creature really ruins everything. Bah humbug indeed.

Rating: 65


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