The Fire Rose
Grade : B-

Remember the safety-on-board presentations performed by flight attendants before take off? This is the review equivalent. Readers who are sensitive to hints of abuse and skanky sex are asked to disembark through the rear exits. Readers who are expecting a romance tinged with fantasy are asked to quietly use the front exit. Readers who have booked tickets to a fantasy tinged with romance, should please buckle up now. The life jackets can be found under your seats in case of emergency.

In 1905, Rose Hawkins, a scholar who specializes in ancient languages, moves to San Francisco to become a governess for a rail magnate. At her arrival, she discovers that she has been tricked. Her employer, Jason Cameron, is in desperate need of a translator of ancient languages, who is not only willing to read to him, but will do so through a speaking tube. He has suffered a grave accident and is a total recluse. Having little choice, Rose agrees to this scheme. Gradually, their respect for each other grows, although Rose only knows Jason through his voice. However, she is beginning to wonder how this palatial mansion is run without any visible servants, save herself and Jason’s slimy secretary, Paul du Mond. When she confronts Jason with her queries, she learns that he is the Firemaster of San Francisco, and that his elementals, the salamanders, have been his only companions since his accident, which he brought on himself by his arrogance.

Rose ends up as Jason’s research assistant and apprentice in magic. Together, they try to find a way to reverse the transformation, which has left Jason in a semi-werewolf state. Jason is as haughty as befits a Master, but Rose is cool and scientific enough to handle him. But time is running out as Jason’s enemies gather to attack him in his weakened state. And the Dragons of Earth are restless, and threaten to dance. . . .

There are a few things to point out from a romance reader’s point of view. There are several chapters centered on Paul du Mond and his illicit “hobbies” in San Francisco. Not only is much of the information provided non-essential, it separates the reader from Jason and Rose. Whenever I re-read The Fire Rose, my fingers begin to itch the second Paul leaves Pacifica. Frankly, the scenes from the darker sides of San Francisco were a bit too much for me in a book that, to a large extent, focuses to a love relationship. If I had wanted to know all the details of prostitution, I would have looked them up. Elsewhere.

I also felt the lack of intimate encounters between Rose and Jason. His shape is an obstacle for both of them, but much space is given to showing their gradually growing intimacy, and they are certainly eyeing each other appreciatively. Just one measly kiss was all I’m asking – I’m not demanding beastiality!

My grade of The Fire Rose reflects these reservations. Having said that; I confess, as a lover of both the fantasy and romance genres, I have read this book over and over, and dreamed about having a pet salamander around. Not to mention Jason.

Reviewed by Katarina Wikholm

Grade: B-

Book Type: 

Sensuality: N/A

Review Date : February 12, 1999

Publication Date: 1998

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