Friday, July 31, 2009

Hearts Afire: July by Keira Ramsey & Violet Summers

TITLE: Hearts Afire: July
AUTHOR: Keira Ramsey & Violet Summers
PUBLISHER: Liquid Silver Books
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 59k)
GENRE: Contemporary suspense erotic romance
COST: $5.50

The July edition of Liquid Silver’s 2009 firemen series, two tales of het erotic romance with just a bite of suspense.

I have another of these anthologies on my TBR pile, but this was the one that seemed most interesting to read next, so out it came. Both of these authors are new to me – my biggest reason for buying anthologies in the first place – but I’m still on the fence about whether or not I’ll pursue their other work.

The first story in the anthology is “Into the Fire” by Keira Ramsay. Arson Investigator Charly Davis is working on what looks to be a serial arsonist when the man who left her eight years earlier reappears in her life. Nate Andrews has spent that time in the Air Force, much of it stationed overseas, but the one thing he’s learned in those years is that Charly is the woman for him. He’d walked away because he was young and a little scared at how strong their connection was. Now, he wants to rebuild it. The set-up is familiar and comfortable, like a well-worn shoe, and the author’s prose is simple and unassuming. I liked both Charly and Nate, though I didn’t think either personality was particularly captivating. I definitely appreciated that Charly was the kind of woman who saw a mistake and owned it. One of the things that had been nagging at her for the past eight years was the fact that it seemed Nate had blabbed about their sex games – mild BDSM – and left her alone to be the fodder of the firehouse. When he explains how he didn’t do it and why, she thinks it over for a moment, realizes she made a mistake, and apologizes. I like that. It makes a wonderful change from a lot of heroines who let stupid misunderstandings try and carry through the story.

The conflict that is in the story centers primarily on the arsons that Charly is investigating. The technical aspects of their careers are really the most vivid parts of the entire story. I didn’t doubt for a second that these people lived and breathed these jobs, but the attempts to create a suspenseful atmosphere didn’t entirely work for me. The arsonist escalates as the story progresses, until it’s clear there’s more going on than meets the eye. But the resolution of the mystery left me dissatisfied, too out of the blue to have any kind of real impact on me caring. I did enjoy the romance aspect of the story, but with neither personality really grabbing me by the throat, it’s not something that will linger long for me.

The second story in the anthology is “Let It Burn” by Violet Summers. Fireman Kevin Kryszenski has to inform people of a fire at their city community center, one of whom is town oddball, Joanna Balentine. Joanna is considered weird by most of the town, a bohemian in a place that doesn’t appreciate her difference, but she’s more than fine with the separation as she is an empath, and often has difficulty dissociating her abilities with the feelings she absorbs from others. Kevin and Joanna hit it off right away, and the thrust of the story is Kevin overcoming his unease with Joanna’s uniqueness. There’s a mild attempt to create some suspense with another fire and someone who seems to be a serial arsonist, but that’s a very minor – and ultimately, awkward – aspect of the novella.

Right away, I noticed a difference with this story. Where the first had unassuming prose, the voice in the second carried a little more bite, a little more individuality. The prologue where we witness the events that drive Kevin throughout his life is vivid, intense, and mesmerizing. It’s an excellent way to suck me into the story, even if it slips into a more sedate, contemporary rhythm in chapter one. It didn’t hold, though. Unfortunately, this is one of those stories where the hero and heroine are physical within minutes of first coming into contact. I suppose it might be explained away that Kevin and Joanna went to school together, but by his own admission, she “hadn’t even blipped his radar.” Yet, he arrives at her place, tells her what happened, they sit down, and…bam! Sucking face that would have led into far, far more if Joanna hadn’t had a flash of something in Kevin and blurted it aloud. I just find it so very, very difficult to believe in a romance where there’s no build-up, no reason at all for them to hit it off so instantaneously. It lapses in between the various sex scenes into a relationship I can more credibly buy, but those feelings of disconnect linger throughout the story, no matter how hot the sex scenes can get.

One thing I found a little odd about the anthology was the setting. Both stories are set in Ludington, Michigan. Since I haven’t read any of the other anthologies, I don’t know if a shared setting is common to all of them, but I do know that reading these two back to back, with both stories making a very big deal about the town in question, I’m not sure it worked for me. They felt like very different towns. Both professed to be small towns, but only the second story actually felt and acted like a small town. They also had differing views on fires in town. In the first, it felt like fires were very common, as were arsons, which lends it to feeling like a bigger town anyway. The second stresses that fires are rare, rare enough for those few they have to stand out in everybody’s memory. I don’t really care which is actually true. For the duration of the story, I believed it both ways. But putting the stories back to back emphasized the setting, and thus, highlighted the disparities. It took away some of my enjoyment of the anthology as a whole, because ultimately, it didn’t feel right.

I’m definitely open to trying these authors again, though at this point, I’m not going to actively seek out their work. Still, it was a pleasant afternoon read. Just not all that memorable.


8/10 – Simple, clean prose, though the voice of the second story is far more engaging


6/10 – I believed the first romance more, though the second was far hotter


7/10 – The personalities of the second are more vibrant than the first, though all the secondary characters blend and lack color.

Entertainment value

6/10 – Mildly entertaining for the time I was reading, but as individual stories, not likely ones I’ll remember long

World building

9/10 – Both stories bring the firefighting world to life



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