All Fired Up
I have a confession to make. A large percentage of why I chose to read this book is because the heroine has my name. There aren’t a lot of Charlottes anywhere in literature, and the prospect of seeing a Charlotte in a romance novel, hopefully having a rollicking good time, was a real draw. Sadly, I was not all fired up by All Fired Up.
Mitch Crews is in Red Oak, Ohio to find his remaining relatives. He’s recently out of prison, and his drug-addicted mother is dead. His father hasn’t so much been in the picture as occasionally stuck his head in the frame. Now, Mitch is trying to track down his two half-siblings and their mother, his father’s ex-wife (Mitch is the product of an affair). He meets Charlotte Parrish outside a sketchy bar, when she’s dispatching two unpleasant men. Her car broke down, but she called her two bosses and pseudo-brothers, who show up on the scene and just happen to be Mitch’s actual brothers. And then their mother, Rosalyn arrives.
Taking the entire business with aplomb that would either make a therapist proud of their maturity or question their capacity for emotional denial, Mitch’s brothers and Rosalyn embrace Mitch wholeheartedly, and soon he’s settling into town, homesteading and setting up his own business. His brothers have drawn one line: don’t go after Charlotte – which is unfortunate as both Mitch and Charlotte are very mutually into each other. Mitch’s biggest problem, however, is his mother’s drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, Newman. Mitch inherited his mother’s house upon her death, and he sold it for demolishment. Unfortunately, the ex-boyfriend used it as storage for his “small fortune in crystal meth and ecstasy” and he is now out to get Mitch.
Waiting for this book to kick into gear is like waiting for your engine to warm up on a winter morning. Much of the early part of the story has to do with Mitch just catching up his brothers, Rosalyn, and Charlotte on who he is, and while it makes sense that he needs to do it, it just takes so darn long, and it’s not done particularly creatively. (An ‘information dump’ is, I believe, the term for it.) And there is way more steady development of the familial-relations and the Mitch-past storylines than the romantic one. It takes 253 pages to get to Mitch and Charlotte’s first kiss – and that’s not because Mitch has some sort of rule against kissing like Tor in The Chief which means they do all the sexy things except kiss. They literally just don’t kiss for the first 252 pages of the book.
The couple whose chemistry really keeps the lights on in this story is Rosalyn and Mitch’s dad, Elliott, who comes back to town. At one point, Rosalyn thinks how
On Elliott, everything was big—and in her youth, that had often been her downfall. Together, they could burn down the roof. Oh, how she’d loved his big body and the way he used it when pleasuring her.
Well shiver my timbers, Lori Foster. But this isn’t their book, though what a New Adult novel their origin story would have made. . .
Mitch is the supreme fantasy of an ex-con. He’s a real gentleman, and his singular crime was to do a drug run for Newman to keep his mom safe. He has a pit bull, Brute, who has his own recovering-from-doggy-PTSD storyline. Charlotte didn’t knock my socks off either.
She figured she’d eventually find a guy who was equally unassuming, just as business-minded and…boring.
Now, the point of this story is absolutely supposed to be that Mitch is the antidote and the two of them together are going to be very un-boring, but. . . I was bored. Honestly, Mitch is business-minded and unassuming.
As for the secondary characters, Mitch’s brothers own a transport company, which originally I envisioned as some sort of trucking business, but is, as Mitch puts it, a business to “buy weird shit” (I pictured some sort of Uber/Favor for Creepy Stuff service) that involves them purchasing and picking up things such as cat coffins. Cat. Coffins. I kid you not. Newman, the ex-boyfriend, and his henchmen are genuinely unsavory and there is a scene when Newman goes after Charlotte that still freaks me out when I think about it (imagine a version of the Psycho bathtub scene but with a guaranteed HEA).
If you’re looking for zero-to-sixty in three-point-eight seconds, romance and heat, this is not your book. While Foster had all the parts to build a Mustang like the ones all the Crews boys drive, the romance she’s come up with is much more of a four-door sedan.