Heart of Fire
Take a pretty, sexually-repressed archaeologist, and a tall, blue-eyed, sexually-charged river guide, add a rare red diamond, a lost civilization, a treasure map, and hot sex in the cool rain, and well, things are looking really good!
Jillian Sherwood is an archaeologist. Her father was an archaeologist. Before he died, Jillian’s father was considered a sham by the archaeological community, since he spouted some pretty wild theories without being able to back them up with results. Because of his notoriety, Jillian’s career has suffered – nobody wants the quack’s daughter on their dig (a.k.a. the quack-by-association syndrome). Jillian discovers a map her father had made that proves he did indeed discover a lost civilization of fierce warrior women in the middle of the Brazilian rainforest. She realizes she can vindicate both her father and herself, by locating the lost city and presenting the find to the world. While this would be good enough for her, there is also the added bonus of a huge red diamond that was central to the lost tribe’s spiritual ceremonies. It is the “Heart of Fire” that all the greedy-fingered villains, including Jillian’s half-brother, Rick, are after.
Brawny and tough Ben Lewis is the guy Rick hires to guide the party deep into the rainforest, and, hopefully, back out again. While Ben has a certain respect for women, his “babes is for what babes is for” attitude annoys Jillian, who takes an immediate dislike to the arrogant hunk. Initially, Ben doesn’t think Jillian belongs on such a rough trip, but she’s the only one who knows where they’re going (and she refuses to tell anyone, including him). Since Jillian is the only woman among many men, and a smart and pretty one at that, Ben finds himself uncharacteristically protective of her to the point where he makes the other men believe she’s his woman in every possible way. Jillian is infuriated by this, but she’s afraid of a couple of the rougher men in the party, so allows the misperception to continue. That, and she’s having a very hard time ignoring the heat she feels whenever she looks at Ben Lewis.
This is basically a road story, but the road itself takes many forms: a couple of rivers, an overland trek through dense jungle, a plane ride, and then everything in reverse. While all this trekking is going on, Ben is all over Jillian, trying to convince her she should sleep with him, simply because he’s hot and she’s there and hey, Sweetcakes, let’s make this trip something to remember! When Jillian is nearly killed during an act of bravery and extreme self-sacrifice, Ben finds himself unnerved and thoroughly shaken. “Sweekcakes” suddenly turns into “Sweetheart” and we know the big man’s bachelor days are numbered!
This book is a lot of fun, and with good reason – a typical Linda Howard hotter-than-hot hero, a smart and totally feisty, yet always feminine, heroine, the vilest of baddies, lots of action and dry, wry humor. And, of course, the steamiest sex in Brazil.
The missing element in Heart of Fire is the lack of background on Ben Lewis. Very little is mentioned of his personal history and why his life simply will not be complete without Jillian in it. Ben’s a knockabout river guide who likes life just as it is, which is fine, but I didn’t get to know Ben Lewis to a level that made me care about him the way I should have. I wanted Jillian to “get” Ben because she loved him, and only him – no other man would ever, ever do! While Ben was completely blind-sided by his attraction to Jillian, I got the feeling that if Ben didn’t get the girl, it would have been too bad, he’d have kicked himself around the block for losing her, but he’d have managed to get over it. I think that’s just how Linda Howard envisioned him, but it’s also the element that kept this from being an all-time favorite.
Other than that, this is a top-notch romantic adventure. So, if you’re looking for a read that’s fast- paced and fun, look no further than Heart of Fire.