Avon Impulse, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-06-244123-2
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Torch is the final book in the Karen Erickson’s The Wildwood Series. It’s probably a good idea to read Ignite and Smolder first, as this one wraps up the arsonist subplot that run through the previous two stories. Then again, I’ve read those two and I can’t be arsed about the arsonist, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Spoilers don’t apply because for the most part, the arsonist subplot is a filler designed to make sure all the right penises land inside the right vaginas. Who cares if properties were lost or people could have died? The heroes and the heroines got laid – that’s all the matters, hallelujah and praise the lord.
So, this one. Wren Gallagher’s best friends are now settled down with her brothers, and if you have read those other books, one of her BFFs went out with one brother before marrying the other one. Therefore, I suppose that it is only fair that she settles down with her brother’s BFF Tate Warren. What can I say, it’s a small town – have to keep the good genes within the community, you know. Tate has always enjoyed pushing Wren’s buttons, because a man constantly making a woman exasperated and angry is right up there with having slept with every other woman in the country as desirable traits in a boyfriend. When a man does that to a woman, of course it’s because he’s secretly nursing a huge bon… er, I mean crush on her, and that’s so sweet.
So, when the story opens, Tate is surprised when he can tell that Wren suddenly wants him bad. Then again, she’s on her third drink, and the way she is going, she’d probably be hard pressed to decide which Teletubby is the hottest thing alive. Also, the fact that he considers the expression of a drunk woman as that of her gagging for his big bottle has me wondering about his previous success rate with women, and the implication is… unfortunate, to say the least.
Thus, we have another story where a couple supposedly have all kinds of reason over the years to never want to sleep with one another, only for them to go into instant lust within the first chapter. Right, that’s always believable. To be fair, the author at least has the foresight to use alcohol as an excuse for the instant lust to come up, but the trouble here is that the romance is barely developed at all. It’s just a cocktail of alcohol-fueled lust and sex before the happily ever after suddenly drops down. So, the romance is “Who cares?” quality where I am concerned. As for the characters themselves, well, Wren is feisty and her bottles led her to find true love, so good for her, while Tate is a stereotype of the usual “I want her, but because we need some excuse to keep the story going a bit longer, I’d play the silly buffoon with commitment issues” sort. So yes, who cares.
As for the arsonist subplot, it’s just an excuse for the heroine to rail at the hero and her brothers for daring to keep her in the dark with regards to her house getting torched down by the arsonist. Oh yes, her house gets torched. Our heroine is more upset over the fact that the men in this story refuse to let her in on details – this clearly proves that they don’t respect her as a strong, independent woman! How dare they do their job instead of letting some civilian interfere in official investigation? Also, her ex shows up, and another guy shows up, and everything that pops up here feels like obvious contrivances to force Tate to admit that he really wants her for the long haul. Hence, the plot is also “Who cares?” quality, especially when it’s dumbed down solely to facilitate the couple being shoved head-first into a happy ending.
Torch isn’t going to be starting any bonfires anytime soon with me. If anything, it’s a textbook example of the cringe that can result when one tosses popular horny heroine in a small town tropes haphazardly into a story and slap on a quarter-baked “plot” over the whole thing.