Talk about walking the line down the middle! Ian ‘Beauty’ Walsh is fire fighter for his day job and an MC brother in the shadows. And an absolutely scorching hot day dream of nearly every woman in town. The title says it, folks. This book fans the flames of actual fires, fires of passion, fires of revenge, and fires of friendship.
The first book’s introduction to the series arc, setting, backdrop, and the main body of characters shouldn’t be skipped even though a new couple has the lime light in this one.
Rory Sorenson runs the local gun shop dealing legally out the front and some illegal merchandise out the back. As a gun dealer, naturally the law glances her way occasionally, but at the same time she has to tip toe cautiously around the local criminal element. Rory is no pushover, though. Growing up with two paranoid, off the grid conspiracy theorists who taught her that the world is a dangerous place and how to live through anything, Rory can and has taken care of herself. While other kids went to school, had birthdays, shopped at malls, and ate Mac N Cheese out the box, she was being drilled and armed for the zombie-apocalypse. As an adult, she now flounders in social situations that don’t involve talking guns or off-grid survival.
Ian Walsh knows he walks a fine line with his divided loyalties, but he has always been able to make it work. He’s a dependable, tough, and hard-working firefighter and loves what he does, but there is another side. He grew up in and around the club becoming a brother just like his step-dad who has now lost all interest in life when Ian’s mom died. Since he was a young teen, he has had an interest in Rory. He sees past her quirky, innocent and yet sad big eyes full of knowledge and wants this unspoiled and quiet beauty with a quiet inner strength.
Now, that Rory is in the cross hairs of his MC club and someone is prowling around her property at night, he takes the initiative to move one step from long-time friend to something more by being her big unwanted protector. Caution is required because Rory is skittish. Ian works to bring her out of her shell, not just accepting of him, but of joining in with the community where she can make friends and be a part of something. He knows she has what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter so coaxes her into training and bonus, he can watch over her. Rory can shoot better than any man including him, but Ian knows that Billy and the other members are gunning for her after she takes down one of their own.
Meanwhile, the whole town is on edge with Lou’s stalker having been taken care of, the ongoing murder investigation of Headless Dead Guy with Ian marked as the prime suspect, and also the continued suspicious fires being set. Meth lab. An MC club boiling over. And Ian and Rory right in the middle of it all.
Like the book before it, this one was a fantastic glimpse into the world of a small mountain town from the facet of its search & rescue teams. In this book, the firefighters got the spotlight though the police and ice rescue are there in the background. I loved that the author didn’t chintz on exciting fire rescue scenes that blended with the building relationship plot or daily life friends or home scenes.
It was also interesting to make Rory have such a unique background that left her socially innocent, but yet a very capable vibrant woman. Rory has to make a conscious choice to step out of her bunker-life and into the big wide world. I liked how she didn’t alter in her basic ways. It was more like she figured out how to gather the best of both her worlds to her and this included Ian and the people of Search & Rescue. Ian, too, came from a different background with a similar choice. Only, he had to figure out if he could continue embracing both worlds or if he had to let one go.
Ian and Rory’s romance was extremely slow-burn. Rory has never been kissed, casually touched, been out to eat let alone a date, had a girlfriend to share secrets and boy talk, or anything that would prepare her for a relationship with a man. Ian is this big, capable, intimidating looking man both in size and looks, but he is all in when it comes to gently and patiently, but firmly coaxing out Rory. And his intense focus leaves her feeling like prey who is safe in the wolf’s hands. When she needed to step back and access, he let her. He thought she was adorable and never once was ashamed because she struggled so much to be ‘normal’. But the passion even on simmer until near the end was palpable.
Callum and Lou who were the first book’s pair are strong secondary characters and I loved getting the extra time with them along with a few other familiar faces (Phil, Phil, that man cracks me up). And the band of firefighters Ian works with? Too fun! Those guys are a bust up especially when they flirt with Rory to yank Ian’s chain a bit.
The MC angle was mostly left as the catalyst that drove the action of the plot, but also forced Ian to make a choice as the downward progression happened as the President and certain other members of the MC lash out and things get unstable forcing loyal brothers to question where things are going.
As to the ongoing murder, there wasn’t much advancement though it places a strong role in the story as the law has tapped Ian since his pendant was found in evidence near the body. But, Katie Ruggle! That last teaser at the end. Now I really need the next installment.
All in all, the follow-up books was a bang-up success as I just knew it would be after encountering Ian in book one. Those who love action-filed slow burn contemporary romance or light romantic suspense need to jump on these books.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #195 RS
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