First to Burn
With First to Burn, military romance plus a foray into the paranormal proves to be a winner for the most part. Anna Richland takes her immortal warriors and blends the Beowulf legend with modern-day military conflict for a story that certainly caught my attention. Even with the dreaded sagging middle, it’s still strong enough for me to recommend giving it a try.
As the story opens, we are confronted with the mystery of Sgt. Wulf Wardsen. Seriously injured in Afghanistan, he somehow heals miraculously en route to the hospital. The discrepancy between the report from the field and Wardsen’s condition upon arrival catches the attention of Army doctor Capt. Theresa Chiesa, and she is determined to investigate. Theresa is no idiot, so her investigation and ability to piece together parts of Wardsen’s history that just don’t add up threatens to expose him. He takes action by seeking out Theresa directly and Wulf’s attempts to cover himself lead to flirtation, and it’s obvious that there is an attraction there.
And that’s just the point where this book gets difficult to evaluate. Wulf is enlisted and Theresa is an officer, and thankfully they don’t just breeze by the fraternization rules as I have seen in other military romances. The issue is a real one for them, and it’s something they need to grapple with. Unfortunately, it also greatly slows down the development of the romance so one must wade through a lot of mutual lusting before there’s ever the hope of them getting together. On the plus side, there is a lot more going on in this book and some of it gets very interesting. The characters must deal with an unstable situation in Afghanistan and it also becomes apparent that the immortal Wulf has an enemy from his past to uncover and confront. So, even if the romance develops slowly, the action certainly doesn’t.
The book definitely has its positives. I liked the set-up, and the manner in which the author used parts of the Beowulf legend to explain how Wulf became immortal in the first place as well as to set the stage for his later confrontations was unique. The mixture of immortal hero and present-day Afghan conflict also worked, though the shift in tone midway through the story could have flowed a little more naturally. The book starts off feeling somewhat light and flirtatious, with hints of darkness (this is a war romance, after all) woven through it. However, things start to become much darker and more violent midway through the book. While both sections of the story basically work, the jump from one to the other does feel somewhat abrupt. Things meander a bit in the middle, too, which didn’t really help.
The paranormal thread running through the story and the plot action itself make for a fun read, and the characters in this book are basically likable. Theresa’s background seemed a bit like overkill – can we get a character from New Jersey who doesn’t have mob connections? However, while I rolled my eyes at Theresa’s family story a bit, I did find myself warming to most of the other secondary characters.
If you like paranormal romance and want to start a new series, First to Burn looks like a promising one to follow. While not completely perfect, there is definitely plenty to like here.