Fury on Fire
Fury on Fire is the third story in Sophie Jordan’s Devil’s Rock series in which each of the heroes has spent time as inmates in a maximum security prison for assorted crimes (all with explanations that make them still acceptable as hero material). The first two stories, All Chained Up and Hell Breaks Loose are action packed, intense and sexy reads. In contrast, this story is much calmer without the action scenes that characterize the previous novels. The title refers (in my opinion) to the antagonistic relationship between two neighbours, with a build up of sexual tension that eventually explodes into some very heated encounters. It’s a more introspective look at the aftermath of a prison sentence and the reality of an ex-inmate trying to live a normal life in a small town where everyone knows his history. While I admit I was expecting a more action packed tale, the conflict and tension between the two main characters kept me fully engaged in the story.
North Callaghan has served his time – twelve years to be exact – after he and his brother Knox were sentenced following the beating death of a man who had physically assaulted their cousin. The last four years in prison were particularly hard after his brother was paroled, and he’d had no one to watch his back. Without the added protection of Knox or his friend Reid who’d escaped following a prison riot, North couldn’t afford to get involved in internal politics, having to turn a blind eye to the injustices around him in order to survive. For two years now he’s been out of jail, rebuilding his life. He’s got a job working at a garage, he makes metal sculptures in his spare time, and he engages in sex as often as he can to relieve stress. After twelve years of celibacy, the smorgasbord of women looking for easy nights with a tattooed ex-con makes for a buffet of carnal delights. That changes though, when Faith Walters moves into the other side of his duplex. She’s the ultimate girl next door – the kind of woman who bakes you scones to introduce herself as the new neighbour, who leaves polite notes on your windshield when you park in her space, and who blushes when she mentions that your night time activities (the wall banging in particular) are rather loud; in short, she’s the kind of woman who is way too good for a man like North.
Faith Walters finally has her own place. After her mother died a few years earlier she’d stayed with her dad, the retired sheriff of Sweet Hill (a job now taken over by her brother Hale) but she’s been itching to live on her own. Her job as a social worker is challenging but she feels she’s making a difference in the lives of the children she helps, even if their parents sometimes vocally disagree. But her neighbour is trying her patience. His casual sexual encounters, his scoffing at her friendly overtures, and his general rudeness make her happy to strike him off her Christmas list. But the night she sees more than she bargained for breaks the ice that’s built up between them, a text message initiated then answered. Faith finds out who her neighbour is, but isn’t scared off by his record (though she’s careful not to reveal his identity to her family, knowing they’d insist she move). When a heated argument brings strong emotions to the surface, it also sparks the sexual desire that’s been simmering under the surface since they first laid eyes on each other. But when they give into those feelings, will it quench the flames between them or just make them burn hotter?
This is a slow burn romance, with the first half of the story establishing the characters and detailing their initial interactions as neighbours. I like how this is done, with North clearly still adjusting to life on the outside. He went into jail as a teenager, and spent so many years there that he still feels like a stranger to his life outside. He’s an intelligent man who would have gone to college if things hadn’t turned out differently. He sees his brother Knox, married now and expecting a baby, and it makes spending time together uncomfortable because North doesn’t see himself ending up in that type of relationship. He has one night stands or easy hookups with the girls from the local burlesque club who have no expectations of him. He certainly wants nothing to do with the good girl next door. Faith is in total agreement. She’s happy to be out from under the thumbs of her male family members. Living as the Sheriff’s daughter, and now as the Sheriff’s sister has definitely cramped any dating style she might have had, so her experiences with men are few and far between. She’s not a virgin, but North’s obvious hookups make her uncomfortable (though she’s not averse to wondering what it would be like to sleep with a man who obviously takes a woman’s pleasure seriously). They have this dance around each other, taking each other’s measure in which they are quick to judge based on what they see. But the sexual chemistry between them makes them delve deeper and see what’s really under the surface.
The second half of the story picks up, with neither of them being able to keep their hands off each other. The sex scenes are intense and super sexy. Things start to happen around them too. Faith’s family and her job have some major impacts on the story and her burgeoning relationship with North. Because of the slower movement of the first half, the speeding towards the finale and the declaration of their feelings for each other at the end feels somewhat rushed. They get their happy ending, and we get a sweet epilogue that brings things for North and his brother Knox full circle. After knowing how these young men ended up in jail and what they went through, it’s nice to see them with their lives back on track. Fury on Fire‘s slow burn sexual tension and opposites attract romance make it a page turning read.