Hot to the Touch
As a fan of Jaci Burton’s contemporary romances, especially her Play by Play multi-sports series, I’m always happy to see her name on an upcoming new release. So when I saw that she was starting a new series featuring firefighters, I quickly added Hot to the Touch – the first in her Brotherhood by Fire series – to my to-read shelf. I’m happy to say that it’s an enjoyable read, delivering a sexy romance that touches on some serious subjects but still maintains a lighthearted feel.
Jackson Donovan grew up quickly when he was a homeless kid on the streets after his parents died and the foster system did him no favours. But things changed for the better when he and his two brothers by choice, Rafe and Kai, were rescued from a fire in an abandoned home where they’d set up camp. Their rescuer, a firefighter – and their guardian angel – not only saved their lives that night, he and his wife took the three boys in as foster sons. Their lives improved immeasurably, and all three are now fully-fledged firefighters themselves, working under their father, Battalion Chief Josh Donovan. Jackson has recently received the rank of Lieutenant and his eye is firmly on the future, not the past.
When a call brings Jackson and his crew to a smoking strip mall and the door of the tattoo shop Skin Deep, Jackson finds himself rescuing a woman from the shop, one who is desperately trying to save as many supplies as she can as Jackson drags her out to safety. Becca – Becks – Jenning knows the fireman was right to get her out and away from the danger but she still laments the loss of her rented shop and despairs at the thought of having to start over, especially since her living quarters were on the second floor. But fate has actually been kind, because it turns out that she knows these men. At one time, Jackson, Rafe and Kai had been part of a group of intrepid homeless kids that she credits for helping her survive those tough days when she herself was on the streets. When the three boys disappeared one night, no one knew what had happened to them and the resulting scattering of their group brought Becks into a new and decent foster home. From there she’d made something of herself, advanced her artistic skills and made a credible career as a tattoo artist.
When Rafe and Kai, delighted to see Becks alive and well, offer her a room in the house they share with Jackson, Becks can’t refuse; after all she has nowhere else to go. Jackson is less enthusiastic about their houseguest for two main reasons; one, he finds her attractive which he feels is inappropriate considering how they just met again, and two, he has no interest in rehashing ‘the good old days’ when they were all homeless on the streets together. But under the same roof, it’s hard to maintain much distance. Soon, a mutually agreed upon no strings attached affair is heating up their nights and anytime they can get the house to themselves. But with Becks firmly involved in helping homeless while looking for a new place to set up shop and Jackson avoiding anything that reminds him of his past, can there be a future for them?
It’s not that surprising to have a plot that involves a group of foster kids that end up employed together and often in some kind of service to society. What makes this series idea unique, however, is having Jackson, Rafe and Kai start out as homeless kids, as well as the discussion that ensues later resulting from Becks’ work with a new group of homeless kids who live in the area where the four of them once lived. It’s a stark truth that there will always be circumstances that leave children vulnerable, whether it’s the death of parents with no surviving relatives to take the children in, parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, foster homes ripe with abuse that leave children on the run and banding together for safety. For Jackson, the death of his parents at the age of six is what led to him eventually being on the streets and once he was rescued from that life, he put a lot of effort into forgetting those days ever happened. He can’t completely forget because he has Rafe and Kai still in his life, but everything else, including Becks’ existence has been forgotten.
When she re-enters their lives, Jackson is forced to come to terms with things he’d rather forget. This is especially true because he likes and admires Becks as well as being attracted to her physically, and she tries to make things better for the homeless kids whose situation she fully understands. She knows they pride themselves on their independence and ability to survive on the street but aren’t going to reject help offered with sincerity and not out of a place of superiority. Coming to terms with those days and how they’ve made him who he is now, and realizing that he can take pride in being a survivor is a slow process but one helped by honest conversations with Becks and his brothers.
While the background of homeless children is definitely a grim one, the work Becks does and the fact that the main characters survived life on the streets and made something of themselves gives the story a hopeful air and prevents it from being too depressing. And as always, the author delivers a sexy and passionate romance with some steamy scenes and strong, likable characters who have to compromise and hash things out to get their happy ending. Secondary characters Rafe and Kai add those scenes of teamwork and brotherly camaraderie that make for some humorous moments and give some hints for stories to come. If you’re looking for some unique character backgrounds and a sexy and interesting romance, Hot to the Touch is definitely worth checking out.
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