Jack Donovan, former U.S. Marine and now smoke jumper, has returned to his hometown of Strong after receiving a call from Nonna, his adopted mother. Nonna fostered and adopted Jack and his two foster brothers, Evin and Rio who are known to the residents of Strong as the Donovan Brothers. Fire season is always a stressful in the small town and it’s still early in the season, but they have already experienced a series of questionable small fires. Jack lives for the adrenalin rush of parachuting from planes and digging fire lines for major operations so the thought of returning home to the stifling small fire hall of Strong is the last thing he wants to face. But even more, he doesn’t want to confront the unfinished business he has with Lily Cortez.
Lily Cortez also left Strong years ago pursuing college and making a life for herself as a marketing director in San Francisco. When a horrible fire incident erupts inside her home, Lily moves back to Strong to escape a stalker that is fixated on her. Lily purchases a farm which she names “Lavender Creek” and sets her heart and mind to growing lavender on her many acres with the hope of making a living at something she loves and living in peace. What she doesn’t expect is for Jack to arrive on her doorstep or the feelings and fantasies to return from their one kiss at the swimming hole so many years ago. Jack ran from her that night, choosing the honorable way instead of acting on his desires. Now that they both are all grown up and their attraction is even more potent, Jack is determined not to go anywhere; at least for the summer.
Burning Up is the second book I’ve read by Anne Marsh. While the book descriptions are appealing, I have discovered that I have a difficult time fully engaging in her stories and characters. When I initially read the blurb of the hero being a smoke jumper I really expected to receive an intense romantic suspense plot as well as an engaging couple. What I received is a lackluster plot that felt very outlined and staged with no surprise or spark. It took me six days to finish and mostly I was just bored with the story. I never felt a passionate chemistry between Jack and Lily and being a character driven reader, it was disappointing. I had a hard time initially with the hero’s endearment of “baby” towards the heroine. The couple had a past history of attraction but had not seen each other for years and Jack immediately referred to Lily as “baby”. I don’t have a problem with the overall endearment; however, it felt very out of place and forced from the first moment Jack used it. Although they had flirted as teens in the past, Jack and Lily were not and had not been in an intimate relationship therefore “baby” felt very awkward in the dialogue. I was also bored with the villain/stalker. He basically set small fires to draw attention to himself and was sexually turned-on by the flames, which always resulted in masturbation. This led to his fixation on Lily and ultimately to his demise, but he was very one-dimensional and again, I was bored.
Another issue I had was toward the end of the story. *I will note that I read an ARC/paperback copy provided for review by Kensington and therefore this particular scene may have been edited in the final copy.
In the final sex scene, it states that Jack “drags off his jeans and rolls a condom on”. The scene continues on where they are devouring each other which leads to a blowjob and I quote:
“She slid her mouth up the hard shaft, sucking hard at the engorged tip. Christ. He was going to come in her mouth. Forcing himself to pull away, he tugged her up and over him.”
The scene ends with this final quote:
“He spilled himself deep inside her, gathering her up in his arms.”
The condom is never addressed or better yet, the lack of again. My immediate thought was: Did I read that right? He started with a condom and then it disappeared. Call me weird, but it ruined the entire scene for me.
Overall, I didn’t dislike the book, but there were not enough memorable moments for me to say I liked it either. For me, it lacked a depth and intensity I have come to expect from romantic suspense. It may be enough for some readers, but I had hoped for so much more.