Set the Dark on Fire
I’m always on the lookout for new romantic suspense authors. While I love the subgenre, I don’t like gruesome, graphic violence, nor do I like endless series about SEALs and other special ops, which kind limits the number of potential titles for me. I chose to review Jill Sorenson’s Set the Dark on Fire because of its biologist heroine, and what I got was a very pleasant read.
Shay Phillips is a biologist who works at a state park in southern California. Her main field of research is mountain lions, and when a woman is discovered who was obviously mauled to death by a lion, the sheriff calls on Shay to assist him. Problem is, it’s Shay’s 26th birthday and after a night out with her girlfriends she’s hugely hung over. Also, she has just caught her younger brother, whom she is raising, in bed with the neighbor girl. Matters are not helped by the fact that the new sheriff, Luke Meza, is about the hottest man she has ever encountered, and she feels pale and smelly and completely unattractive. The dead woman is a local prostitute, and evidence suggests she was indeed killed by a lion. Now Shay must deal with the situation that one of her charges has turned killer, and must be destroyed in turn.
Luke Meza, half Native, half white, was born on a nearby reservation but lived and worked all is adult life in Las Vegas as a cop. Recently matters have got very disagreeable, even life-threatening for him, and he needs a new start. He regards the job as sheriff as temporary only, something to keep him afloat as he considers what he wants to do next. He is displeased that is his first case in this presumably peaceful neighborhood is as bloody as any in Vegas. When he collects Shay, he is both struck by her beauty and inclined to think her easy (don’t worry – he does make amends for that).
Although there are no true obstacles to Luke’s and Shay’s relationship, they feel they must fight their immense attraction, a) because they are working on a case; b) because of the ten-year age gap between them; and c) because neither is used to the immense sexual and emotional pull they are experiencing, and as a result they are are clumsy with each other as any teenager. What can I say? It worked. The characters jump to conclusions, and act dumb at times, and don’t trust their instincts, but in all of this I could relate to them.
I also became deeply engrossed in the secondary couple, two teenagers. Again, you have flawed people here but they were of flesh and blood, trying to find out what was right for them, and all the more believable when they misstepped.
The stark landscape and the not-so-happy small-town community are brought to life vividly, and I also loved the way the biologists are depicted: dedicated, but also pragmatic and hard-headed. While the characters think about sex a lot, there are not very many sex scenes in the book, and those rather short if intense. This would make the novel warm bordering on hot, I guess.
So what kept Set the Dark on Fire from being a DIK for me? Not much. The pacing was a bit off at times, and I found the villain too easy to spot. Still, this was a book I enjoyed a lot, and I have already ordered my next Jill Sorenson novel.