The Fireman Who Loved Me
The Fireman Who Loved Me is a vaguely pleasant read that at times seems to pit the hero and heroine against each other in a “Who’s the Bigger Doormat Now?” contest. Not exactly what you’d expect from a book with a fire chief hero and television news producer heroine.
News producer Melissa McGuire’s recently left the lucrative Los Angeles market because of a relationship gone bad. She welcomes the opportunity to live in San Gabriel with her grandmother Nelly, whose health is a little shaky. Her job at the San Gabriel station isn’t exactly hard hitting; their slogan is “the sunny side of the news,” and much of Melissa’s time is consumed by Ella Joy, the attractive but vacuous anchor. Meanwhile, Nelly is desperate to find Melissa a man. A real, hot-blooded man, unlike the simpering artistic types she seems to be attracted to. So Melissa finds herself celebrating Nelly’s birthday at a charity auction for the Firemen’s Widows and Orphans Fund – and is completely humiliated when her grandmother pays $3,000 for a handsome firefighter.
The firefighter in question, Ryan, believes he will be dating an old woman. So he begs his chief – an equally handsome, if older, man – to honor his commitment. Brody agrees, and plans a date any older lady would enjoy. When he arrives at Nelly’s home, she tells him she isn’t feeling well, and provides her granddaughter as a substitute. Brody and Melissa actually had a conversation at the auction and shared an immediate attraction. That continues during their date, even though Brody’s plans – an early dinner at The Orange Tree and dancing to the Les Barrett Band – are more appropriate for a “mature” age group. They have a few disagreements: Melissa initially dismisses Brody as a hunting, truck-driving, beer-drinking, football and Pimp My Ride watching type. For his part, Brody doesn’t necessarily have the best opinion of television news. But when he tries to shake her hand at the door, he ends up kissing her instead. It turns into a passionate interlude that is interrupted when Nelly comes to the door.
Passionate kiss notwithstanding, Melissa doesn’t expect to run into Brody again. But when her boss finds out that she had a date with one of San Gabriel’s famous bachelor firemen, he pressures her into producing a story on them – an idea Brody is not wild about. Melissa sees an in when the firemen invite her – and Nelly – to a special dinner. Melissa brings Ella Joy along, knowing the firefighters will love her, and thinking she’ll help persuade Brody to agree to a story. Melissa and Brody take turns being jealous (she’s sure he’s into Ella Joy, and he thinks she is all over Ryan, her would-be date), but when they end up groping each other in a hallway it’s clear they only have eyes for each other.
They segue into a relationship of sorts, Mostly it’s hot sex, but there are deeper feelings underlying the frequent and enthusiastic boinking. And then the doormat portion of the book kicks in. Brody’s annoying ex-wife Rebecca shows up, pregnant with another man’s child but wanting to get back together with Brody. Instead of telling her to shove it, he lets her live in the house he’s building (he lives in an Airstream trailer on site). Melissa’s father, a recovering alcoholic, has been working on the wiring at Brody’s place, so of course he tells Melissa what’s going on. Not to be outdone, Melissa finds herself kissing her annoying ex (who is in her station because Ella Joy called and invited him, pretending to be Melissa. Don’t ask). Of course, Brody happens to be there to see that. Happily, both of them eventually learn to stand up for themselves, though it takes a house fire, a foster care crisis, and a dead relative to bring them together.
Though the plot is pretty convoluted at times, this isn’t really a bad book. It’s pleasant enough, with sexy love scenes and a good heart underneath it all. I enjoyed it most of the time I was reading it, though I’m sure it will soon be forgotten.
I was of two minds when it came to the relative wimpiness of the hero and heroine. On one hand, it’s nice to see people learn to stick up for themselves throughout the course of the book. Melissa has the better arc here. She’s actually a doormat in nearly every part of her life, attending a bachelor auction she doesn’t want to go to (to please Nelly), kowtowing to Ella Joy and the station manager at work, and letting her former boyfriend drive her away from her job. Eventually, she gets some confidence and stops letting everyone walk all over her, which is nice to see. Brody is never beta at work; he’s a superstar, life-saving fireman! But I never felt like he stood up to his annoying ex-wife. He gets her to leave by inviting her baby daddy back – not by telling her to get her annoying, whiny, presumptuous ass out of there. I’m not entirely sure he’s rid of her forever. One day, when he and Melissa have two kids and a labrador, Rebecca could very well come barging in, insisting they put her up for awhile. I’m not sure he’d say no.
Which leads me to another sticking point. Rebecca is so over-the-top shallow and annoying that I couldn’t imagine why he’d married such an awful person in the first place. Other would-be villains of the book (like Ella Joy) end up redeeming themselves and showing some humanity in the end, but not so with Rebecca. This type of caricature may work in a television show (I’m thinking of Teri in Glee), but here I just kept questioning Brody’s judgment.
So while The Fireman Who Loved Me isn’t bad, I don’t really see myself going out of the way to read about the legions of bachelor firemen that are soon to follow. But if you just can’t get enough firemen…well, there are plenty more where Brody comes from.