Playing with Fire
Have you ever watched one of those Red Shoe Diaries episodes on late night cable? The show where characters who are complete strangers are suddenly in each other’s most intimate, erotic fantasies that they then carry out? That’s what Playing with Fire felt like: oddly detached despite the high level of sensuality.
After an opening scene where the two leads, Lara Gladstone and Daniel Savage, are engaged in a literal chase in the woods, we go back in time three weeks to the evening where they met. Lara and Daniel are instantly and intensely drawn to each other, until Lara proposes a deal. Daniel thinks for a moment that she’s talking about money, but instead Lara is talking about an adult game of tag. Unfortunately, before their first evening together ends, the author chooses to cut forward to the chase in the woods scene three weeks later and skips over the first few times Lara and Daniel have sex, which are only mentioned as having already happened. Since what Lara proposes is just sex, perhaps this is supposed to illustrate a more detached relationship but this skipping ahead only served to further distance me from the leads.
Laura and Daniel’s backgrounds couldn’t be more different, except when it comes to families who weren’t emotionally up to par. While Lara has grown up in luxury, and in the shadow of her artist father who dismisses her work in stained glass as mere craft, Daniel has created the successful man he is now from being the child of parents who didn’t care enough to better themselves. Lara and Daniel, however, are none the more interesting because of their backgrounds. While Daniel is the one who accepts his feelings more easily, he’s hardly noteworthy, and Lara comes across as cold and bitter for much of the book, despite the author’s failed attempts to give her a bit more emotional depth. Frankly, she just didn’t seem worth the trouble.
I love fantasy and adventure in fiction as much as the next person, and while the sex scenes were fairly hot, they involved characters who were simply too remote. And though all of us may have glimpsed a stranger across the proverbial crowded room and engaged in a naughty fantasy or two, this plot is simply so far removed from reality to enjoy the fantasy of it all. Thinking naughty thoughts is far different from carrying out a sexual game with a perfect stranger in this day and age; that’s the stuff of erotica, not erotic romance.
This was a slow read, even for a series title. We’ve reviewed quite a few of these new Blaze romances and most – but not all – of my colleagues haven’t cared much for them. I’m not willing to throw in the towel just yet, and am a firm believer that intense sexual attraction (almost obsession) can work in a romance novel, but it didn’t here because the characters were just not sufficiently developed.