Baptism By Fire
by Keira Ramsay, paranormal (2005)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.75, ISBN 1-59578-162-5

Baptism By Fire is the first book in a series called The RuneQuest, which revolves around the recovery of four missing runes of the Fae. Apparently if we don't recover the runes, humanity will come to an end, everything will go poof, and existence will be bleak. Or is that what happens when Harry Potter announces at the end of book seven that he and Voldemort have fallen in love and are going to move to Greece where they will write raunchy erotic romance novels together for a living?

Aidan Hughes is a arson investigator with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department but his colleagues have no idea that he is not human. He's Fae. In fact, he's been around for about a hundred years. Recently, Aidan is troubled by the spate of fires that have hit the city because he can detect traces of his own kind in the sites of these fires. It does suggest that a Fae has turned into some kind of arsonist, oh dear. The latest fire burns down a warehouse used by the Department of Mythological Studies of the university. Unfortunately for Leanan Murphy, our heroine, the warehouse contains all the priceless relics that will be displayed in an exhibit in the upcoming month. The exhibition will be a culmination of her career after five years of sweat and tears but oops, everything is up in smoke now. Okay, that's a bad one, sorry, but I just can't resist.

Leanan's namesake, in this story at least, is a powerful water elemental known as the Daughter of the Sea God. Aidan is a Fae with an affinity to fire. There seems to be a Fae arsonist called the Salamander running wild in town. I'm sure you can deduce what Leanan's big important role will be from the allegories in this story. As Leanan and Aidan end up working often side by side as they try to figure out who among the university staff or students could be the Salamander, Leanan naturally finds herself being targeted by the bad guys. Oh dear, what is going on here?

The first Keira Ramsay novel I've read is Redemption, the first book in the Terran Realm series by Liquid Silver Books, and I can see why Ms Ramsay is asked to write Redemption - there are many thematic similarities between the two series. However, while I find Redemption lacking in details to make the story come off as more memorable, I have no such problems with Baptism By Fire. The setting is very well-actualized and I have no problems getting a grasp on what the author is trying to tell me about the Fae and all from the start. Ms Ramsay manages to smoothly inject her various concepts related to the Fae seamlessly into the story without resorting to unnecessary capitalization or an overkill of the letter Y when it comes to exotic jargons. In fact, jargons unique to the canon are only introduced when necessary. Baptism By Fire is at its heart a romantic suspense tale with paranormal elements, the paranormal elements woven gracefully into the romantic elements that everything fits together well.

The characters are fine as well. Leanan's background story with her father has me thinking that she's too old to act like her father's doormat but on the whole she is a reasonable heroine with realistically depicted strengths and insecurities. Aidan is more of a one-dimensional noble paranormal hero but he nonetheless complements Leanan very well. Most significantly, despite the short time these two meet and fall in love, I actually find myself buying the romance. Ms Ramsay does one thing right here - she takes her time letting her characters talk and laugh together first, until I can see how these characters like each other as much as they lust after the other person, before getting them in bed.

The resolution to the mystery should be obvious since there aren't many suspects to choose from in this story, but I must admit that Ms Ramsay manages to nonetheless misdirect me from the very obvious until I want to smack my forehead and go, "Duh! Of course - how obvious!" once everything is revealed.

Ms Ramsay's biggest success in Baptism By Fire, where I am concerned, is getting me so engrossed in the story that when it ends and I look at the word count of this book, I find myself thinking, "Wow, this story sure feels much longer than that!" I find the characters, their romance, and the mystery most reasonably developed indeed. I think I may have found something good here. I suppose this means I shall really have to read the rest of the series now just be sure, hmmph.

Rating: 87

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