Anne Marsh’s Slow Burn is the second book in her Smoke Jumpers series. The writing is even paced and the plot is believable. The hero is a great big loveable teddy bear and the storyline was interesting enough to keep me entertained for over three hundred pages. The most disappointing part of the book for me was the heroine.
Faye Duncan has just signed her divorce papers, cleaned out her 401K and bought a vintage Corvette to celebrate her newfound freedom. She has taken a job as a freelance photojournalist and her first assignment has her heading for Strong, California to do a photo shoot on the refurbishing of a historical firehouse. As she nears Strong, she passes through the beginnings of a wildfire. Once she passes through the smoke, she leaves her car to take pictures. Little does she know that she has just taken pictures of an arsonist in the process of committing a crime. Either driving through the fire or just plain bad luck has her Corvette overheating just as she pulls into Strong. With little money and no repair shop in sight, Faye heads for the local bar.
Evan Donovan is one of three adopted brothers who head up Donovan Brothers, a business that specializes in smoke jumping (jumping out of a plane to fight hard to reach fires). He, along with brothers Jack (from Burning Up) and Rio, was ten years old when Nonna took them in as foster children and later adopted them as her own. He has a fierce loyalty to his family and his town. In fact loyalty seems to be his middle name. When his ex-Marine buddy and current Los Angeles firefighter Mike calls him and asks him to look out for his ex-wife Faye, Evan does what he always does – serves and protects. He discovers Faye in Mimi’s Bar, sitting on the jukebox singing at the top of her lungs. As soon as he reaches her, she passes out and Evan can either leave her to sleep on the couch in the bar’s office or take her home. He chooses to take her home.
Evan is not your typical he-man that one would expect in this very masculine line of work. He is more gentleman than man-whore and his character was very refreshing. He does have a problem with communication though that is all male. He suffers from self-esteem issues that stem from not being as attractive as his brothers and the fact that his size seems to intimidate rather than entice. It is apparent from the very beginning that Evan has had a long dry spell in the sex department and that Faye is the one he wants to end it with. I really loved Evan’s character. For all of his size, he is a gentle giant and he is very tender with Faye from the beginning. He doesn’t believe in a happy ever after for himself and when he dares to hope it is with a yearning that tears at the reader’s heart.
I did not dislike Faye Duncan, but I just never really warmed up to her. Faye could have been a real strong “I am woman, hear me roar” character if she had been fully fleshed out. We learn she was previously married to a firefighter for 2-3 years (there seems to be some discrepancy about dates in the novel) whose job was much more important than she was. Other than her new career as a photojournalist, everything about her is defined in the context of her previous marriage. We know nothing of her background before she became the wife of a firefighter or what past experience makes her qualified to be a photojournalist. We really never learn what makes her tick other than she wants to come first with someone. I feel like she should be looking over at a director and asking, “What’s my motivation?” One a positive note for Faye: She is determined to put her failed marriage behind her and does not seem to have any bitter feelings toward her ex-husband. So we are not subjected to page after page of anger over his betrayal, although his commitment to his job does have an impact on Faye’s ability to trust Evan.
The storyline with the arsonist works despite the fact that we find out early on who the culprit is and it does provide a reason for Faye to stay in Strong longer than she originally intended. A secondary romance with Evan’s mother is sweet but it just seems to have been thrown in for extra measure. Perhaps if I had read the first book in the series, I would have cared more about that romance, but there was not enough background information provided in this book to create enough empathy with the secondary characters. Overall the book was a quick and easy read with a hero that makes the unevenness of the heroine and supporting characters worth the time. Despite my disappointment with Faye’s character, I would still recommend this book.