Monday, May 30, 2016

Smoke and Ashes - Danica Winters (HI #1640 - May 2016)

Montana's bravest…and hottest

With a mysterious arsonist on the loose in Missoula, fire inspector Kevin Jensen saves more than Heather Sampson's house. The sexy single father rescues her from an abusive marriage -- and discovers his own past failures don't have to rule his life. Especially when sparks between him and Heather ignite irresistible desire.

But who's the arsonist? Why target Heather? What's his shocking motive? When Heather faces off with him in a brutal attack, she needs her "white knight" as much as he needs her. Both have looked into their souls and risked their broken hearts for each other. Now Kevin will have to risk his life and his heart.

I was a bit conflicted about this book. The setup was a little strange and for the first part of the book I wasn't sure if I even liked the main characters. The book opens with the arsonist about to set fire to Heather's house while she's sleeping in it. In his mind, he's looking at her as a martyr who will bring attention to bad marriages. Then the book cuts to several days before this takes place, to explain what is happening.

Heather finds a note from her husband telling her he's leaving. She's mad, but she's also convinced that it's all her fault, because it's always all her fault. She can't do anything right in his eyes anymore. All she can think about is that he has to come back. She is the classic victim of an abusive marriage. Then there's a knock at the door, where the single dad next door is asking for Heather's help watching his daughter because he's been called into work. Suddenly she's getting all hot and bothered looking at him. Hello - you're MARRIED! The marriage may not be the best, but you claim you love your husband, so why are you fantasizing about Kevin? This bugged me.

Kevin is a widower, raising his daughter and teenage son on his own. He is also a fire inspector for the city fire department, a job with often irregular hours. Work took over his life after his wife's death and his family life is paying the price, especially his relationship with his son. While his job is an important one, he has yet to find the balance he needs to make it work. I really didn't like the way that he was more willing to work than to make time for his family. To top it all off, there is a serial arsonist setting fires, and his boss is doing everything he can to make it difficult for Kevin to do his job. Kevin finds himself calling on Heather more often to bail him out of trouble. He's also very attracted to her, but tries to suppress the attraction because she's married.

Things got a bit interesting when Heather and her husband were at a neighborhood barbecue together. He was being a real jerk and Heather drank too much as a result. When she got sick in the car on the way home, he kicked her out of the car on the side of the road and drove off. Not wanting to go home, she went to Kevin's instead, and proceeded to make drunk advances to him. Even though he was tempted, Kevin was actually a gentleman and resisted. When Heather went home the next morning David made accusations and tried to force her to sign the divorce papers he had ready for her. This is where things got a little better because she actually began to stand up to him.

The development of the relationship between Kevin and Heather began to grow as his protectiveness came to the front. He had seen that all wasn't well in the marriage, and began to suspect that it was worse than he thought. I liked the way that he gave her a safe place to stay and tried to boost her confidence. I liked how Heather was there to help Kevin out with his kids, especially since he was having so much trouble. He is struggling with a lot of guilt because he feels that he is letting his kids down the same way he thinks he let his wife down. She tries to show him that things aren't as bad as he thinks. The sparks between them continue to burn hot, and they do give in to them, something else that bothered me because she was actually still married. I thought that things were going pretty well, until David made another attempt to reel her back in. I liked seeing Heather and Kevin get their happy ending, but they did have to work for it.

The suspense of the story was pretty good. There were sections that were done from the arsonist's point of view, giving us a glimpse of just how off he really was. Kevin had his work cut out for him, especially since his boss wasn't very helpful. I liked Kevin's determination to stop him before there was loss of life as well as property. There were several possible suspects, one of whom I thought had a good chance to be the culprit. It wasn't until the end that I thought I had a real handle on who it was. The final confrontation was intense, but I felt it wrapped up just a little too neatly. 

I liked the epilogue and Kevin's big moment. I thought the cheesecake was a pretty sweet touch.

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