Flame is very much like a cream puff – sweet and decadent, but a bit hollow in the middle. As number seventeen in a long running series, you might expect a certain fatigue to set in on the writer’s part, and it shows. The tale employs the familiar trope of enemies-to-lovers, but the results are mixed. And while the twist in the middle is satisfying, the chemistry and story arc of our hero and heroine is not, which left me wanting more. Even the steamy sex scene early in the book is not enough because it cuts their relationship off at its feet, not giving it room to grow.
Noreen is a dark fae who is about to betray her people, the powerful Others. She knows the danger she is unleashing but she cannot talk herself out it. Impending war threatens not only her people, but the humans too, and suddenly the cost of belonging to The Others is too great. Secretly she sends an email to the Dragon Kings, her sworn enemy and the beings who killed her parents, filling it with key words that she hopes will catch their attention. Then she is out – gone – before this fight takes anything more from her. But she hasn’t counted on the Dragon King they send after her. Or how he makes her burn with desire.
Cain, Dragon King of the Navies, has stood too long on the sidelines watching terrible things happen at the hands of The Others and their leader Moreann. So when he receives a cryptic email that may provide just the information they need to take Moreann down, Cain jumps at the chance. But he couldn’t have predicted the effect Noreen will have on him. She is the enemy, and her obvious hatred of him and his kind is tempered only by a simmering attraction that they are both fighting to keep under wraps. Because what they feel could cost both of them their lives.
I think my biggest problem with the book was its pacing, with the heavy emphasis on exposition becoming tedious and dragging the story down. As a newcomer to the series, you would think I would appreciate all the back story, but I kept wondering ‘How do the fans of this series like having all these details repeated from past books?’ Perhaps they were actually long-awaited big reveals, but it didn’t feel like it, and it came at the cost of moving the action along. And clocking in at a slim 416 pages, you can feel the weight of all those words. (The irony was, even with all these extra details, I still felt lost when the author brought in secondary characters and stories not central to the plot). To be fair, I have not read the rest of the series, and the writing and story are intriguing enough to encourage me to seek out the other books. But when you are more excited about those books than the one in your hand, you know there is a problem.
Also, I have to agree with an earlier AAR reviewer who pointed out the annoying written-out Scottish accent, so you practically trip over all the “verra”and “canno’” on the page. It’s almost insulting to be constantly reminded of this fact – as though we as readers can’t just conjure up a sexy Scottish brogue in our heads. Yes, they’re from Scotland. I dinna care. Get on with the love scene!
The insta-love also bothered me. Call me old fashioned, but I feel like the characters should “earn” their eventual togetherness. Even though there’s a definite attraction there, there’s not enough story, nor enough interaction between the hero and heroine to merit a relationship yet, and having that early sex scene feel like a one-night stand cheapened the relationship for the supposed high stakes they were going to face later. It was hard to believe such a descriptive coming together from a pair who should be not just cautious of each other, but harbor an outright hatred for each other’s kind. It would have served the author well to have placed the sex scenes further on in the story, and given readers more of an emotional build-up to justify it and the major plot points the story hinges on.
Ultimately, this instalment in the series didn’t satisfy. Flame’s problems with pacing, insta-love and a surprisingly hollow romance made it feel lacking. Clearly, Grant has a fandom out there who devour her books, but I was left feeling ‘filler’ rather than ‘fuller’.