The Fire Inside
I’d say it’s a pretty bad sign when a reviewer has to struggle to remember what a book was about when she only finished reading it last week. The Fire Inside will obviously not burn in my memory for all time, but it did fry me a little.
Lady Kassandra Wentworth (aka Kitt), is reckless, wild, stubborn (my, how unusual). Well on her way to spinsterhood at one-and-twenty, Kitt is doomed to the shelf and that’s just fine with her. She will never marry, nay, for her one encounter with love, at the age of six-and-ten, has left her scared and scarred. The flames of passion burnt but briefly for our Lady Kitt and she not only will not marry, she feels she cannot (hint, hint).
Clayton Harcourt, bastard son of a duke, is a very wealthy and sought after man. Handsome, rakish, roguish, rough and ready, Clay, while close to his father, resents that the man has never claimed him, never given him respectability. Clay and Kitt are friends, but the more Clay sees of the untamed and beautiful Kitt, the more he wants her. When his father strikes a bargain with Clay to wed the challenging Kitt, Clay gladly agrees.
And there you have it. What follows are Clay’s efforts to trick Kitt into marriage, the wedding, the waiting period before Kitt trusts Clay enough to have sex with him, the sex, the incredibly stupid, predictable, asinine thing Kitt does in response to her love for Clay, Clay’s anger at Kitt for the incredibly stupid, predictable, asinine thing she does, Kitt’s tricks to get Clay to fall back in love with her, a murder plot, a kidnapping, and an illogical, unnecessary, inappropriate, and unlikely-even-if-possible change in social standing.
The writing itself is fine. The characters are okay – basically what you’d expect in this kind of book where everything is contrived and nothing flows naturally from the characters or action. Where the low grade comes in is right where the heroine takes off. Literally. Turns out, Kitt’s feistiness is a clever cover for her low IQ and lack of ability to think or act rationally.
The Fire Inside is fueled by every bromide in The Big Golden Book of Stereotypes and Contrivances. Think I’m kidding? Kitt dresses in boy’s clothes so she can attend boxing matches, horse races, gypsy dancing and the like. Note to authors: This has been done to death. Accept it and move on.
Kitt travels through the streets at night, unattended, sometimes on foot, sometimes hiring a hack. She knows it’s dangerous, but she just can’t help herself (are you rolling your eyes yet?). Often, Clay follows her simply to watch out for her and keep her out of trouble. Until coerced, she refuses to marry the sexiest, wealthiest, most charming, most handsome man on God’s Green Earth because, 1) he really doesn’t want to marry her, and 2) she would have to tell him her secret.
Clay tricks Kitt into accepting his proposal, and she, in all fairness to him, she thinks, tells him her secret – but not all of it. Hearing only one part, Clay says, no biggie. I want you in bed, so we’re getting married, toots. And that’s where we learn that our hero has been using his handsome exterior as a cover for his equally low IQ and poor interviewing techniques. He spends the next many chapters trying to get Kitt to trust him enough to let him make love to her, during which time he figures out what’s really bothering her.
Clay finally makes love to Kitt, and she’s a changed woman. Life is good. Briefly. Can’t have that, so Major Contrivance #2 is tossed in. Our Kitt, in a brilliant display of logic and intellect, leaves Clay. Oh, yes. Packs those trunks heads for Italy. Her reasoning? Because Clay is so handsome, of course. He’ll never be faithful to her, and it would just destroy her to sit by and watch him go through mistress after mistress after mistress. Oh, and she leaves him when he can’t stop her (he’s out of town – this provided by a reader, for some reason Marianne thought he was injured and unconscious at the time). She spends the next many chapters trying to redeem herself with a man who loved her and now hates her (aka Major Contrivance #3).
If this inane behavior is not enough for you, there are the inaccuracies, the most important of which is that Clay’s father does something at the end of the book that would never have happened in reality. But, as with most of the “plot turns” in this book, it was a contrivance, only I have no idea to what end since it came out of the blue and was completely unnecessary to the plot.
I liked Clay and wanted to see him use his brain and ask a few more questions and actually figure a few things out. Kitt was about as cookie-cutter a cookie as you can get and never came alive for me. Even her “secret” was not handled well and any sympathy I had for her came and went far too quickly for me to care about her.
The secondary characters are all pretty standard, and I assume were shipped in from the previous book (Heartless) since there were references here and there about them and their stories. But, ultimately, while the love scenes sizzled, The Fire Inside fizzled. If you are a huge fan of this author’s, or if the things that bothered me won’t bother you, you may enjoy this book much better than I.