I have read all of Linda Howard’s books and up until a few years ago, I read them for her heroes, who with a few exceptions are alpha men of the best kind. However, lately I have been enjoying her heroines more. They are no longer the doormats of some of her earlier books (like Sarah Matthews from Sarah’s Child), nor are they obnoxiously feisty. They are smart and quirky, and I like them. Take Jenner Redwine from Burn.
Jenner is a blue collar worker in a Chicago meat packing plant. She lives in a shabby duplex, drives an old beater of a car and doesn’t even have a bank account since she lives from paycheck to paycheck. When her lazy boyfriend asks her to buy him a six pack on her way home, Jenner does so (although she is boiling inside) and along with the beer, picks up a couple of lottery tickets since the jackpot is a big one. When she hears that there is a winner for the lottery and that the winning ticket was sold where she bought her’s, Jenner can’t believe she could be the winner – but she is.
Jenner’s life turns upside down. Her friends and co-workers are not so friendly when she quits picking up the tab, and her now ex-boyfriend tries to sue claiming she owes him half, but Jenner is determined not to be one of those winners who goes broke after five years. She hires a financial advisor and a lawyer and then leaves the cold of Chicago for the warmth of Palm Beach.
Six years later, Jenner is richer than ever and has settled down to a round of charity parties and hobbies. She has made one good friend, Sydney Hazlett but, although the socialites are friendly enough, Jenner feels something is missing. When Syd asks her to go on a charity cruise to inaugurate The Silver Mist, Jenner agrees. Poor Syd suffers from crippling shyness, and Jenner is always eager to help her out.
Cael Traylor has worked for several government agencies, both on and off the record. Now he and some of his friends run a company that specializes in security and surveillance. They’ve gotten word that Frank Larkin, a multimillionaire businessman and influence peddler might be trying to deal a very dangerous weapon to the North Koreans. Larkin owns The Silver Mist and Cael and his group need to get close to him to plant some listening devices. Jenner and Syd’s stateroom is next to Larkin’s, so Cael arranges to have Syd kidnapped on shore, and tells Jenner she has to cooperate. As time goes by, they find out just how horrific a villain Larkin is, and their lives and those of all the passengers are in danger.
Jenner is a delight. She has tons of moxie and challenges Cael at every turn to the point where he gets frustrated and threatens to call in an exorcist. If she had been a meek and compliant character (like Sarah Matthews) this book would have been a wall banger, but she is more than a match for Cael. As they fight, then get to know each other and finally become a team, Jenner feels alive – like she is doing something she was meant to do.
Cael is not exactly Mr. Squeaky Clean. No, he isn’t an assassin (although he was back in the past), and there are times when he walks a fine line between doing what’s legal and what’s not. But when you work in the field where he works and are not a lawyer, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and Cael turns out to have good ones. While I liked Cael well enough, he wasn’t as intense a character as some of Linda Howard’s more memorable heroes like John Medina, Sam Donovan, or Wolf Mackenzie.
Fans of romantic suspense will probably enjoy this one, even though long time Howard readers will miss the intensity of the hero/heroine relationship that she can convey so well when she’s on her A game. Larkin is as evil a piece of work as can be imagined, and his scheme does cost many innocent lives. I’d love to see Jenner and Cael as a couple, and although Linda Howard doesn’t do many sequels, I’m asking her to consider one for Burn. This book left me wanting more.