The second book in the Hope series is actually better than I expected. The first in the series was unimpressive for me so I didn’t have high hopes for Hope Ignites. However, I enjoyed the story and liked the new characters that were introduced. This story, while it is a small town romance by definition, had a Western feel to it. The first romances I ever read were Westerns and I still have found feelings toward the genre, so I liked the combination of the ranching lifestyle and the contemporary story, and was looking forward to the book.
Rancher Logan McCormack rents a portion of his ranch to a film crew working on a new film. Logan isn’t impressed by the movie stars on his land or the excitement of the movie set. So, when he meets the actress Desiree Jenkins, he is prepared to ignore her. He doesn’t care that the starlet is beautiful or famous; he has no interest in any woman who wants commitment and can’t jive with his humble lifestyle in the country. Desiree, however, is instantly attracted to Logan and wants to get to know more about his life. She has spent the last several years traveling to filming locations with only a small, unexciting condo to call home. She sees Logan’s life on the ranch as the real-life version of her fantasy of settling down somewhere away from the city.
The best thing that Hope Ignites has going for it is the chemistry between Logan and Desiree. The connection between them is instant and the tension is excellent. Logan is kind of stoic and ignores Desiree for the first portion of the book. I understand the strong-and-silent type choice but I would’ve liked him to be slightly more pleasant. It made me wonder what interest Desiree actually had in him besides looks and the novelty of not dating another actor. Thankfully, his dialogue picks up toward the second half of the book and he shed most of that rudeness.
Logan has not gotten over his mother leaving him and his brothers when they were young, or her unhappiness at living as a rancher’s wife before that. As a result, he’s avoided relationships. He is especially wary of Desiree because of her Hollywood career and lifestyle. Burton is careful to make it clear, though, that Desiree is down to earth and fairly normal. She expresses interest in how the ranch operates and even spends a day working the cattle with Logan. I appreciated that Burton avoided making Desiree a ditzy starlet who ends up slumming it in Oklahoma. Rather, we are able to feel her longing for a break from acting and for a home that feels more stable than her life in California. She dreams of putting down roots somewhere and it becomes obvious that she wants to do this with Logan. It was nice to see Desiree be the pursuer in their interactions. She is always baffling Logan by being forward and open about her interest in him.
Where the story starts to fall short is in the conflict area. The obvious issue between Desiree and Logan is the disparity of their livelihoods and where they live. You can predict, without even opening the book, exactly how this will go. Logan doesn’t like city girls because he was hurt by his mother, who hated country living. Desiree is an A-list star who makes her living with glitz and glamour. It’s easy to piece together how things will go when the movie wraps and it is time for Desiree to go home. Also, you can see the Big Misunderstanding coming from a mile away. Desiree’s sexy male costar is gay, but still in the closet. The two are close friends and are very affectionate. Surprise, surprise! Logan gets jealous of the pair and has to storm away. To credit Burton, at least the misunderstanding doesn’t last too long, and Logan manages to get over himself pretty quickly.
However, the ending still felt very abrupt, especially considering the sort of lull in the middle of the book. I think the pacing of the story could have been distributed more evenly so that the final resolution got a little more attention and there were fewer pages devoted to the couple jumping in and out of bed. Since the plot was so blatantly obvious, it was hard to care about the middle of the book. I did like when Logan and Desiree attended a party as a couple, but mostly I felt like I was just waiting for them to realize their feelings and get the relationship moving.
Overall, Hope Ignites is better than its predecessor, but overly obvious plotlines and odd pacing keep it from being a better book. I was pleased to see that it had improved on the total lack of chemistry from the first book. Maybe the next book in the series can pick up the pacing and originality a little more and be even better than Hope Ignites.