Emily Dugan arrives in Los Angeles to visit her grandmother with her life in shambles. She’s been laid off from her job as part of a massive downsizing at her company. Just before she boarded the plane, her live-in boyfriend broke up with her and told her he’d have her belongings put into storage while she’s gone. Then she arrives to find her grandmother is in the hospital after being burned in a fire. No sooner does she learn the news from arson investigator Drew Perry than she passes out at his feet. As if that’s not enough, the diagnosis she receives at the hospital is just one more shock. She’s not still recovering from the flu as she thought. She’s pregnant.
Drew isn’t just investigating one fire, but several of them at the culinary school owned by Emily’s grandmother. She’s also a suspect, something Emily can’t believe. To catch the arsonist, Drew goes undercover as a teacher at the cooking school, which also brings him closer to Emily. The carefree ladies’ man never intends to settle down, but the longer he’s with her, the more she tests his resolve.
Jamie Denton has a lot of story to tell in this little book, but despite an admirable effort, ultimately she’s undone by the story’s limited length. There’s the romance and the arson investigation. She gives both characters complicated family histories and tries to show them undergoing real character growth over the course of the book. There’s a real conflict keeping them apart, not to mention Emily’s relationship with the baby’s father. The stories of Drew’s brothers from the other books in this trilogy are shared and all of Drew’s friends and fellow firefighters make an appearance. And the book is only 224 pages long.
It is well written and seamlessly told, a big accomplishment considering everything packed into the story, but also a little undercooked. Calling the arson subplot an afterthought would be generous. Drew never seems to do any actual investigating. There’s just the occasional line about him teaching a class, and the resolution comes out of nowhere. At least one of the plotlines could have been cut without losing anything. For instance, did Emily really need to be pregnant? That whole thread could have been shed without losing anything. The rest of the story would have held up and been allowed greater development.
Denton really does try to have the characters grow during the story, especially Drew. She delves into his history and uses it to build a real conflict to explain why Drew wouldn’t want to be in a relationship. But their romance is so compressed to fit everything in that it felt too fast to be believed. When Emily said that her feelings didn’t make sense since they’d only known each other for a very short time, I had to agree with her. I’m no stranger to the short timeframes of series romances, but this still felt very forced. I was being told they were falling for each other, but I didn’t feel it. The author makes a clear effort to say that rebound relationships can work, but I still couldn’t buy that Emily would fall in love, and trust those feelings, when just days earlier she was in a committed relationship with someone else. The quickness of Drew’s feelings was also hard to believe, despite coming across as sincere.
Heatwave gets high marks for efforts, even if the final result is spread too thin to work. It has all the right elements for a great read, and if Denton had more room to work with, it could have been. As it is, it’s enjoyable enough, if very slight.