Susan Andersen used to be one of my auto-buy authors, but in the last few years her books have been hit-or-miss for me. Her latest wasn’t a total miss, but it definitely doesn’t rank as good as many of her previous books.
Macy O’James couldn’t wait to get out of small-minded Sugarville ten years ago, and she’s never looked back. Hitting it big in Los Angeles, she became a well-known music video star for a popular rock band. She’s now worked up to being the creative director for the band’s videos. Everything is going swimmingly until she gets news that her beloved cousin needs help recuperating from a devastating car accident. So Macy swallows her misgivings and heads back to the small town that labeled her a tramp and made her a social pariah.
Fire chief Gabe Donovan hasn’t lived in Sugarville long, but it’s been long enough for him to hear all about celebrity tramp Macy O’James and her wild, wild ways. Macy is smoking hot, but she’s also exactly the kind of woman Gabe doesn’t want. Unfortunately, with him staying at her family’s boarding house until he finishes building his new home, he can’t stop running into her. And he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to fight their intense sexual attraction.
Burning Up can really be summed up in one sentence: Enjoyable, but utterly predictable – from the plot right down to the characters. Macy is your typical Misunderstood Heroine, and while I normally enjoy this type of character, my enjoyment was diminished in Macy’s case for two primary reasons. First, she is so extremely and constantly vilified by the community that it went over-the-top and became unbelievable. Second, for most of the book I was fighting my annoyance and frustration with Macy. She desperately doesn’t want the town residents to view her as a tramp, so what does she do? She deliberately dresses like an exaggerated sexpot, of course, even though that’s not how she normally dresses. Eventually (as in, at the very end of the book) the reader discovers her motivations for behaving this way, but for most of the book it doesn’t make sense and is vaguely frustrating.
Then there’s the hero. Gabe who, not knowing Macy at all and barely knowing the town residents, automatically believes all the terrible things that have been said about her. He’s so focused on finding and marrying the perfect good little wife, and so quick to believe everything bad about Macy, that there were times I wanted to shake him. Throw in your typical villain, in the form of Macy’s ex-rival and current mayor’s wife, and you’ve got one hell of a cliched story.
But despite all the cliches and predictability, I have to say that I still enjoyed reading Burning Up. I’ve already revealed my fondness for Misunderstood Heroines, and now I’ll admit that I find a level of comfort in predictability. The heroine is good, but everyone thinks she’s bad, and when the truth is finally revealed – in highly dramatic fashion, of course – she’s vindicated. It’s a plot device that I doubt I’ll ever tire of, even if I find some authors write it better than others. Andersen also includes a secondary romance that I really liked, better than the main romance, truth be told. And despite my frustrations with Macy and Gabe, they are still ultimately likeable characters.
The bottom line is that while I enjoyed Burning Up on the one hand, on the other hand it was still too cliched and predictable for me to recommend. If you really, really like this particular plot device, you might give it a shot. If not, though, I’d recommend passing on this one.