Fanning the Flame
Adam Hawthorne, the Earl of Blackwood, first sees Jillian Whitney during one of his early morning rides in the park. She’s busily feeding the ducks and seemingly doesn’t notice him, but in reality she knows someone is there. Both of them prefer the park in the early morning before it gets crowded; Adam suffers from nightmares associated with his army days and Jillian suffers from the evil rumor mill. Jillian resides with the Earl of Fenwick. He was a friend of her father’s and has been very generous with her. The ton of course thinks that she is his mistress, so they treat her as a pariah. In truth, nothing of the kind is going on. Adam seems somewhat interested in Jillian upon meeting her, but he can’t ignore the rumors and thinks they’re probably true. Adam has had two very bad experiences with women and they made him completely bitter. Yup, you guessed it. We have another one of those “Some woman done me wrong so I hate them all!” heroes. These guys ought to get together and form a support group.
When the Earl of Fenwick is found dead, everyone assumes Jillian killed him. She runs into the night and smack into Adam. Adam takes many a late night walk and since meeting Miss Whitney is strangely taken with her. In a handy coincidence, he happens to be across the street from her home when she comes running out of it. Jillian maintains she’s innocent, but if she didn’t do it, who did? Adam, is no stranger to false accusations, so he decides to help her. An earlier affair with a married woman who cried rape when the affair was discovered is one of the reasons Adam mistrusts women but it also seems to be why he’s willing to help Jillian. Having thus decided, he still waffles a great deal as he decides whether he really believes her or not. I gets tiresome after awhile, and it reaches a low point when Adam finds out that the late Earl was planning on changing his will to leave all his money to Jillian. He thinks she lied to him, and becomes incensed about it. He doesn’t wait to hear her story before laying into her.
Adam does throw himself into helping her though, enlisting the aid and backing of the Duke and Duchess of Rathmore (from The Fire Inside), lawyer Garth Dutton, and Adam’s sister Maggie. He also manages to make Jillian his lover as she comes to him with the old “I just want to know one night of love!” routine. How could he possibly refuse? While there is nothing unlikable about either Adam or Jillian, there is nothing remarkable about them either. They seem to be cut in the mold of heroes and heroines we’ve seen before. Jillian is a beauty, innocent, smart, brave and a bit of a spitfire when the situation calls for it. He’s strong, brave, tortured and wounded. I actually was more interested in the secondary romance between Garth and Maggie. I didn’t feel any kind of connection to Jillian or Adam and I really don’t feel like we got to know Jillian that well. There is a plot twist with Adam and his reaction to it may annoy some readers, and his eventual “coming around” happened too late in the story for my taste.
The mystery of the murder is not really a surprise, and there are no real plot twists here. Everyone seems to be following a set story and filling a pre-defined role. There were no truly shocking events; even the twist alluded to above was no big surprise. Some of the secondary characters were nice enough, Garth and Maggie especially. One character seems to come in just to advance the plot along and has no real purpose other than that. I think that particular bend in the road could have been handled without the addition of this person and I wonder if the introduction was just to lead into this gentleman’s own story.
This was my first Kat Martin book and while I wouldn’t be averse to trying another one of her books, this is one that won’t be on my keeper shelf.