by Elaine Overton, contemporary (2007)
Kimani, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-373-86022-7
Daring Devotion is all about the firemen. Related loosely to the author's Love's Inferno, this one sees our heroine Andrea Chenault having serious doubts about her engagement to the newly-minted Firehouse Chief of the Detroit Fire Department, Calvin "Big Cal" Brown. She has been engaged to him for about a year now. She loves him, of course, but the poor dear is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because she has a hard time dealing with the panic attack that seizes her every time Cal rushes off to answer the firehouse alarm.
Not that Cal is completely blameless. He realizes that he has been putting his relationship with Andrea in the backburner when he has a close brush with death during an assignment. Regretting that he had let almost a year lapse, he decides that he won't wait any longer to ask Andrea to marry him. Unfortunately, his brush with death only increases Andrea's fears about Cal's safety. Cal doesn't want to talk about that incident so Andrea can only wonder what Cal has going inside his head.
If trying to reassure a fiancée who is having a hard time coping with his job isn't enough on poor Cal's plate, he also has to deal with a scheming colleague who resents him for getting the promotion and the girl. This fellow will not hesitate to sabotage Cal by slipping the man drugs that make poor Cal hallucinate terrible things. Also, Andrea has to deal with her own issues with regards to her parents. Her father treats her mother like his personal punching bag. Andrea has tried many times to get her mother to leave her father, but for some reason her mother seems happy to stay with that man despite having to make some emergency trips to the hospital now and then. Go figure. She has resigned herself to her parents' "happy marriage" and now she constantly makes excuses to avoid being in the same room with them. With the wedding to Cal looming over the horizon, however, she is running out of excuses to avoid her parents.
Daring Devotion is not a typical romance novel in that the main characters are already in love and this story follows the months leading up to their wedding where the two characters have to confront and deal with all the trust issues standing between them and a happily ever after. Ms Overton doesn't hesitate to pretty much turn the whole relationship inside out and force those two to even scream at each other just to let all those unhappy feelings out. This is the biggest reason why this story works for me - Ms Overton depicts her characters' feelings with sensitive strokes that have me relating especially to Andrea.
Andrea is an excellent heroine. She is far from stupid despite her many insecurities and I feel for her. She is scared of becoming like her mother, giving in completely to the husband's whims and even abuse because she is too weak to walk away, but at the same time she is also aware that Cal is not her father. In fact, one reason she loves Cal is because he is like a rock to her. He's stable, loving, and kind. The only problem is, he refuses to open up to her. As his episodes, thanks to the scheming colleague, deepen, he becomes increasingly withdrawn from her and she notices that even when he tries to pretend that nothing has changed. Even more exasperatingly, every time she tries to get them to talk, he wants to play instead. She will have to go the extra mile to get him to open up, although she fears that she may lose him altogether in the process.
I can happily knock Cal's head at times because my goodness, that man can be too stubborn for his own good. Still, he is smart enough to know what really matters to him. He has just too much pride - or insecurities - to open up to the wife-to-be and just like a man, I tell you, he doesn't understand why she wants to talk so much when they are already having good sex and getting married soon. He comes around in good time, however, and when these two get married, I'm pretty sure they will last a long time because Ms Overton treats their relationship in an intelligent and mature manner.
On the other hand, I can't help thinking that the author could have toned down the villain a little because that one is jarringly one-dimensional and comes complete with psychotic mental ranting episodes. That subplot doesn't gel well with the other well-written aspects of this story. Perhaps Ms Overton could have used a more down-to-earth plot device to show me Cal's inner demons, like maybe some PTSD on Cal's part instead of the over-the-top drugs and cackling villain angle.
Still, I find Daring Devotion a most satisfying emotionally-charged story that hits all the right spots with me. This one is good, easily the best one the author has written so far.
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