Night Fires
by Justine Dare, contemporary (2000)
Onyx, $6.50, 0-451-40938-8

It's been awhile since I read Justine Dare's Dangerous Games and I don't have that book with me now, so I can't verify for sure whether hero J T Trager is part of the team of superheroes that form a part of the ongoing series by this author. The name sounds very familiar, so I think it is, then again, I may be wrong.

Either way the surprise identity of Trager doesn't come as a surprise. As it is, he starts off a loner in Keating's Port who is about to be lynched by a mob. He is suspected to have kidnapped the mayor's son. But Jodi Campion steps in to his defense, and using her status as the mayor's girlfriend, convinces the morons to keep their bloodlust for the upcoming Olympic games. Turns out the boy is with Trager, but on his own free will. Trager, in the best tradition of loners, turns out to be Lil' Boys' Best Friends and Jodi, while chaperoning the boy, soon finds that Loners make Every Woman's Best Lovers too.

But there are external problems. Someone's trying to hurt her. She doesn't want to care for anyone ever again after the loss of her parents. And of course, Trager, soiled by his Heinous Deeds in his Past, refuses to let a good, decent woman like Jodi to love him. Complications schomplications - soon they will learn that when there's a boy and hormones involved, you can't do anything but to heed the mating conga beat.

Unfortunately, despite compelling characters, the relationship in Night Fires is too similar to that of Dangerous Games for my liking. Too tortured hero who seeks absolution by self-flagellation meets cheery woman with wounded interior while protecting her from danger. It's exciting, taut, and entertaining, Night Fires, but it's hard to get into a story where the two main leads could be interchanged with that of the last book with me none the wiser.

Rating: 79

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