Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-2820-0
Romantic Suspense, 2016
One of the things about reading romantic suspense is that everything seems to boil down to one thing. Have an uber-alpha male bodyguarding the heroine while doing things to her body. Okay, two: collect all these uber-alpha males into one entity (security agency, covert ops division, etc) and stretch the series for as long as possible, with the most tortured, alpha one getting his book last. It gets to the point where any novelty will be welcome, if only to stave off the boredom that comes from reading yet another formulaic entry into the genre – and I was initially drawn to Fan the Flames because of the potential novelty factor in the story.
Compared to the previous book in the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue series, the heroine of this one is actually far more tolerable than the “Look at me! I can’t stop talking because I’m so precious and adorable, hee-hee!” wretch in the previous book. In fact, Rory Sorenson sells arms. You want big guns, small guns, whatever – she can get them for you. She also has issues, of course, but for the most part, she can hold her own even against the toughest dude in this not-so-pleasant part of the Rockies.
Meanwhile, our hero Ian Walsh is part of a motorcycle club as well as the search and rescue team member. He is also, alas, possibly going to be prime suspect number one as a headless body found in the previous story also has his name tag on it. Instead of looking up a good lawyer, however, Ian is banking on testosterone manly brodude stuff to come through and save the day. Calling the cops is for pussies – real men flex their muscles and slap injustice in the face with their eighty-foot pee-pee. Despite potential legal issues looming ahead, he still has time to show his bodyguarding mojo when someone starts causing trouble for Rory.
The plot of this one is carried over from that of the previous book, but don’t worry. Things move so slowly here that it is actually quite easy to catch up. And that’s the issue I have with this one: things move so slowly that, for a story full of people loaded with guns and ammo to the gills, nothing of interest seems to happen for the most part of the story. Ultimately, this one is yet another bodyguard-and-me story: those two take their own sweet time to set up the bodyguarding thing, going all hot and bothered along the way, so much so that I’m bored because I’ve read all this before.
The premise of Fan the Flames has many opportunities for the author to deliver something different or unique, but alas, nothing of that sort is served up here. Ian seems like a nice guy, so how does he reconcile the dubious morality of his motorcycle club members with his own moral code? That is not fully developed here, so much so that, if the author’s previous effort is anything to go by, I’d wager that she just tossed in this motorcycle club angle because someone told her that this angle will help to sell her books. It is pretty obvious from this book as well as the previous one that Katie Ruggle develops her stories by ticking off a list of things that move titles into the bestseller lists, hence all the hot guys here with their boxes all ticked and nice, but also with little effort made to develop these guys beyond the superficial. Ian is basically a walking sack of marketing buzzwords, in other words – reliable, motorcycle club, part of an action hero brotherhood, protective, big penis – designed just to make the author lots of money.
It’s the same with Rory. This is a lady who knows her guns. Okay, I like that she can take care of herself if she has to, and I am not expecting her to become like Lady in Devil May Cry, armed with guns and bazookas all locked and ready to fire. But her role in this story is strictly traditional in nature – she’s the one that has to be protected and taken care of. She has issues, but these issues are all hand-waved away with each masterful stroke of TLC from Ian.
And the romance, well, it’s just one of those things that happen because the author tells me so.
At the end of the day, Fan the Flames is content to be another bodyguard-and-me story that ticks off all the right boxes. I don’t know or care about the characters, and I certainly feel that the whole thing has been a missed opportunity to be something more. A story where folks actually own and use guns without apologies – that alone is rare in the ultra-sanitized politically correct atmosphere of the genre today, and we could have gone down that route to have a different, more memorable kind of fun along the way. Oh well, but I suppose the author knows best when it comes to making her bread.