by Jade Morrison, contemporary (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-349-3
Into The Flame begins with a HIV+ fellow who decides to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. He's too scared to jump to his death, you see, so naturally it makes sense to burn himself instead. That takes place on the 16th floor of the Hawthorne Building. Our heroine Kendra Marie Saxton is on the 20th floor by the time the fire alarm rings so she and her colleagues are trapped until Chicago's Ladder 62 show up to the rescue.
Our hero Capt Jack Lawrence is with Ladder 62 and he's popular with the ladies because, as author Jade Morrison puts it, his pupils were surrounded by "playful hazel highlights in a starburst pattern." Why do I have this feeling that the ladies in question read too many Kathleen E Woodiwiss novels? He rescues her and she of course points out that he has beautiful eyes. For some reason the author really wants me to know that Jack has beautiful eyes because this point will be brought up several more times in the story.
Cut to a month later when they meet again at a firefighter award ceremony where they kiss and do things like this:
Jack stood behind her, his arms wrapped around her shoulders, his face against her hair. They were looking at the sky, pointing out constellations to each other and, like a gift from Heaven, a brilliant shooting star crossed the horizon.
Kendra gave a low gasp of pleasure and felt Jackís lips curl in a smile against her
temple. "Someone's soul passing by," he whispered, dropping a light kiss against her
Kendra knew what he meant without knowing how she knew. "You mean a
Jack hugged her tighter, burying his face a little deeper into her hair as if he could
draw comfort from her. "Well," he said in that hesitant way she found to be such an
endearing part of him, "itís what we say at the station, you know?"
The next thing I know, they are having sex and declaring that they are in love. Meanwhile, Kendra decides to become a serious reporter. Jack saves a kid from a burning house at that time and is considered a hero, so Kendra offers an interview with Jack - conducted by her, naturally - as a selling point for the Chicago Daily Newspaper to take her seriously. I'm sure you can imagine what Jack does when she tells him this wonderful news. Hint: it's not him happily granting her the interview and being proud that she's finally getting a good job. Oh, Jack is such a silly boy. He won't talk, he won't listen, and he won't see the obvious because he's so in love with the idea that a woman is dating him for insider news. And then, when the air is cleared, the author introduces a bad guy subplot that is unfortunately more cartoonish than anything else.
I'm not saying that Into The Flame is irredeemably bad. Jack, even at the height of the big misunderstanding scenario, behaves more like a silly boy rather than a cruel man. Kendra, barring some wimpy moments where she blames herself for the misunderstanding, carries herself admirably. She's not a woman who will curl up all day long in her room and cry when her man is not with her, which is nice.
The problems with Into The Flame are quite typical of an inexperienced debut author. The subplots are often melodramatic to the point of being over-the-top. They also feel tacked-on rather than coming off like events that arise naturally since the moment one conflict is solved, a new one springs up out of nowhere to take its place. The story feels contrived as a result. The villains are theatrical in nature rather than menacing, which doesn't help matters much.
While Into The Flame feels like the unpolished work of a very inexperienced author, I find myself nonetheless thinking that I like the heroine Kendra and Jack, when he's not being daft, is a pretty likable hero as well. The romance happens way too fast, the story has problems in the cartoonish subplots, and some scenes are too melodramatic to be taken seriously, but I can't say I have a painful time reading this book. In fact, I find the writing most readable and I am certainly not bored when I am reading it. I can't honestly recommend this book as one to read since it reads exactly like a very unpolished work of a first time author, but I won't write her off completely as well at this point.
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