Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61922-665-4
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Sentimental stories are tricky, because what can make a reader tear up inside can make another reader snort and roll up her eyes. Different readers have different threshold for just how many issues an author can load on her characters before things go from tearjerker to snort-inducer, and I’m afraid Nikki Duncan’s Controlled Burn crosses that threshold for me.
Basically, this is a love story between new firefighter Delancey Winston and Logan Mathis, a badly burned man she rescues from a fire at the beginning of the story. Logan is either the most heartbreaking hero ever or the most ridiculous exaggeration ever. You see, his sister Ashley died in the fire, and even before that, he has many, many reasons to be blue about.
He cried over losing Ashley and missing her funeral.
He cried over losing his parents and the guilt he’d felt over their deaths.
He cried over the idea of starting part of his life over yet again.
He cried over the debt he was now in.
He cried over his burns and being suspected of killing Ashley.
He cried over the tenderness of the woman holding him.
He cried because Delancey held him close and stroked his hair, telling him things would eventually suck less.
He cried because he wanted it to be true.
He cried until his nose hurt and he couldn’t breathe.
He cried because Ashley could no longer cry for him.
I’m sorry, but the above has me giggling despite myself. It’s just too much – Logan is just too much. When he was a kid, a prank landed him in jail, and his parents died after they came to bail him out, thanks to an addict with a gun. He became an accountant, and the fire killed his practice. And now he’s in debts. And Ashley is dead. Oh, and Ashley was most likely murdered, and Logan is now a suspect. And on and on – seriously, this is one guy who can’t seem to breathe without his life blowing up in one way or another, to the point that he starts becoming a cartoon rather than a sympathetic fellow. I start to wonder whether it is safe for anyone to marry him – the poor woman would probably get killed soon because Logan is that kind of fellow to cause everyone and everything around him to die.
Oh, and before you ask, yes, the author does write like that in this book. Again, some readers may find that style to give them heartrending chills, but I only see plates after plates of ham being served up by the author.
She’d sworn off love. Refused to open herself ever again to the agony it inevitably brought.
She’d failed at love. In her family that meant she’d failed to turn out as her parents wanted.
She’d lost in love. Fire had robbed her of the man she’d planned to marry. Her life hadn’t been the same since and she’d accepted that fact.
Compared to Logan, though, Delancey is a veritable ray of sunshine.
This is a story of Logan going all “Ooh, I’m so sad, I don’t know if anyone can love me… boo-hoo-hoo!” while Delancey is like “Oh, I’m so sad too, can anyone love me too? Boo-hoo-hoo!” Lots of scenes follow, scenes of Delancey trying to act all sweet and concerned when dispensing the prep talk to Logan, such as: “It could give you the closure you need or it could increase the pain you’re already fighting.” Again, reactions to such lines may differ from reader to reader. Mine: snicker.
It was a love that banished the darkness and lit Delancey up.
It was a love he had the faintest memory of from his own parents.
It was a love that motivated greatness of spirit.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – ahem. Sorry about that.
Anyway, all that spirit and tears and woe don’t stop those two from having sex pretty frequently. I guess even the most sodden wet blankets in the land can go at it like bunnies on heat. I’m happy that tears aren’t the only body fluid flying all over the place, but I wish the romance had been a little more slowly paced. Delancey thinks that she and he have a connection, hence her initial rather creepy visits to Logan’s ward, and she’s babbling about destiny bringing them together later on. But these two have sex pretty quickly once Logan can get it up fine, and these scenes end up eating up the space that could have been used to develop the romance better. As it is, these two alternate between being weepy-eyed does talking like overwrought guests on a daytime talk show and two randy does in an energetic boink fest.
I’m giving Controlled Burn an extra oogie for the unintentional comedy stemming from all the corn and ham in the narrative, but as I’ve said, other readers may find this one a sincere, genuine tearjerker. The premise is pretty interesting and different, I’d give the author that, so it’s a shame about the execution. Anyway, approach with caution. You may shed tears, but only you will know whether it is tears of laughter or tears of sadness.