Light My Fire
Light My Fire is kind of an odd duck. Part character study, part suspense, and part romance it succeeds far more on the first than it does on the second or third. The result is an uneven and, ultimately, just a tad above average read.
Ethan Millner is a defense attorney shyster – no doubt about it, if you’ve the bucks, you’ve got a lawyer. “Celebrating” a victory in court (a wealthy rapist he knows is guilty walks thanks to his scorched-earth courtroom tactics), Ethan drinks too much, grabs a vacuous blonde, and wraps his Porsche around a tree. Facing a judge who looks none too kindly on him, Ethan is appalled when His Honor hands down a punishment carefully crafted to teach the all too slick attorney a few well-deserved lessons: 40 hours of crime watch community service under the direction of volunteer Sandy DeMarco.
Florist Sandy is the lone non-cop in a family committed to law enforcement. Still, even though she doesn’t make her living in the family business, Sandy is deeply concerned about her community and devotes endless hours to patrolling her neighborhood and organizing the local crime watch. When she’s asked by the judge to supervise Ethan’s community service, Sandy agrees despite the fact that her policeman brothers despise Ethan and everything he stands for. Nevertheless, despite their dire warnings about Ethan’s lack of morals and womanizing ways, Sandy takes on the job.
Both, not surprisingly in romance-land, find that their image of the other prior to their first meeting is very far from reality and each, in turn, is instantly attracted. But, despite their differing world-views and approach to romance, their tentative path to getting to know each other during their nightly watches is abruptly derailed when a troubled young man employed in Sandy’s flower shop is suspected of murdering an attractive young woman.
What worked very well here for me were the characters of both Ethan and Sandy. Ms. Graves does a great job of showing Ethan as a man taking a good, hard look at himself who, not surprisingly, doesn’t like what he sees. Initially, I was afraid that Ethan would be one of those all too familiar short-hand commitment-phobes, but the author does a nice job of fleshing out Ethan into a guy I could believe. His redemption, as well, rings true.
Sandy is also an interesting character. Pushing 40 and facing all the issues that go along with that (for those who haven’t gotten there yet, a “what the heck am I doing with my life” epiphany is pretty standard), she’s a real person and far from one of those ubiquitous romance novel do-gooders. My sole problem with her stemmed from my frustration with her I-can-no-I-can’t attitude toward Ethan. Even though he’s a man facing his own epiphany, he is who he is, honey, and you deal with that or you don’t.
Now, for the real clunker. Virtually right up until the final few pages, this book rated a solid B from me – that is, until we discover the solution to the mystery of young woman’s murder. The resolution struck me as kind of unfair and, well, lame. I guess if I re-read the book carefully, the clues would be there, but this one just seemed like an all too easy answer and more than a bit unbelievable for reasons I won’t detail for fear of spoilers.
Ultimately, if you enjoy Jane Graves or romantic suspense in general, Light My Fire will provide some entertainment, but honestly, not much more. To be sure, there are far worse books out there, but, fortunately for readers, there are far better ones, too.