Driven by Fire
I read the first book in this series, Consumed by Fire and gave it a solid B/B+ grade, so I was excited about reading the next one by Anne Stuart. All I can say is…ugh! I pretty much hated everything about this story.
Jenny Parker is the only daughter of a man who is the head of a crime family in New Orleans. Jenny has repudiated her family with the exception of her younger brother Billy, whom she helped raise after the death of their mother. When the book opens, Jenny has just been informed by her father that she needs to get down to the docks and rescue her brother who has mistakenly gotten involved with human traffickers. Using her credentials as a pro bono attorney who helps those in need, Jenny gets on the boat. Just as she finds her brother, Matthew Ryder finds her.
Matthew Ryder is a member of The Committee, a covert organization that fights crime. When he runs into Jenny Parker right in the middle of his interrupting a shipment of people meant to be sold as slaves, she has an explanation for her presence, but Ryder is not buying it. When Jenny and one of her salvation projects turns up at his door asking for help, Ryder at first tells her to go away, but then gives in under the idea of keeping one’s enemies close, especially since someone tries to kill Jenny as she is standing on his doorstep.
Someone keeps trying to kill Jenny pretty much throughout the book, and in addition Ryder piles on her numerous injuries as he gets very physical trying to get information out of her about her involvement in the white slavery trade via her crime family. Choking your presumptive romantic interest kind of puts a damper on things.
So, Jenny falls completely into the Too Stupid to Live category. We are told how smart she is and what a great advocate she is for the downtrodden, but I saw no evidence she had any synapses firing except those that could repeat ad nauseum, “I hate you!” Stuart has a type when it comes to heroines and they generally seem to be virtuous, but Jenny goes a little against type here as she is definitely covering for her brother and keeps doing it when evidence is piling up like cord wood. This character got on my last nerve.
Matthew Ryder is just a jerk. He is unethical, mean and treats the heroine like dirt. I am trying to think of one redeeming characteristic that might make some readers even remotely sympathetic to this character, but I am drawing a blank. His poor, deprived background notwithstanding, there is not enough redemption (if any) of this character to merit a HEA that is in any way believable. That is pretty much the crux of the matter for me as far as this book is concerned. I did not buy into the story at all. Everything felt contrived and overwrought. There are some good reviews of this book on Goodreads and I have to wonder where those came from. I was relieved when this book was finally over.