One Match Fire
As a reviewer, I have all kinds of thoughts when I pick up a book for the first time. Sometimes I’m eager to see what an author I admire is doing next, or I’m curious about an author whose works I’ve never read. And then there are the plot descriptions that call me like catnip. One Match Fire definitely fell into that last category. I love second chance at love stories as well as friends to lovers stories, so the idea of a summer camp reunion called out to me big time. I still love the idea, but this book didn’t quite do it for me.
The leads in this tale are now in their late twentis, but are apparently still pretty scarred by what went on between them at summer camp twelve years earlier. This seems especially true of the heroine and it becomes obvious the moment she and the hero meet up again. Amy is on the hunt for a new start, and eagerly jumps on board when the director’s position opens up at her old summer camp. However, when she shows up to settle in before the campers arrive, she discovers the old director still in residence. And who is this prior director? None other than Paul Harding, the boy Amy hung out with for several blissful summers. They shared an unforgettable kiss – and then everything came tumbling down.
At first Paul and Amy aren’t exactly thrilled to see each other, but they settle into an odd rapport. On the one hand, there is some unnamed Big Event hanging between them that seems to taint everything. Since they seem to know what happened and we readers initially have no clue, this makes for a reading experience that can make the reader feel like quite the outsider. On the other hand, the old compatibility and sparks of attraction are still there. And now that Paul and Amy are adults, they’re both more open to discussing the idea of having some no-feelings-involved, no-strings-attached sexy times.
In terms of descriptions, this story is pretty steamy; even before these two start a physical relationship, there are plenty of discussions of mental lusting and fantasies. The book is told in alternating viewpoints between Paul and Amy, so we get to spend plenty of time in both of their heads. On the positive side, this helps the reader understand each character’s larger struggles. Paul has reached a point where he has come to realize that he’s basically hiding out at the summer camp and he needs to move on with his life. However, he’s not entirely sure what that next step would be. For Amy’s part, she has lived the workaholic life and now lack of fulfillment is setting in, so she is trying to find herself.
I appreciated the view into the characters’ struggles and inner lives. However, I also found them somewhat frustrating because what is supposed to be introspection easily crosses that line into eyeroll-inducing navel-gazing. Both Paul and Amy have difficulty being entirely honest and open with each other, and I came to realize as I was reading that this stems at least in part from their inability to be honest with themselves. I had some empathy for them, but as a reader, I still found their self-absorption frustrating. The writing features a mix of emotion and cliched whining, so I have to admit that I found it hard to really feel invested in the story as a result.
And then there’s The Big Secret. This event, which parted Amy and Paul for many long years, gets alluded to frequently and it’s obviously a source of deep angst. When we do find out what the major event was, it all feels like a big misunderstanding that probably shouldn’t have festered for so long. After all the buildup, I have to admit that the big reveal was a little disappointing. Perhaps if the history between these two had been explored in more depth, the story would have been more compelling. As it is however, One Match Fire seems to be lots of steaminess with an uneven story woven in around the edges. There are some great moments here, but also more than a few lackluster ones.
This novel is a début and as I mentioned, there are some great moments in this story. With a bit more attention to development of the backstory, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but I was frustrated more than entertained. The idea of a summer camp reunion romance is a great one even if this one doesn’t quite work.