Rating: 4.25 stars
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Traffic patrol is not exactly why Justin Briggs became a cop. He wants to help people, to do good for his community, to make a difference, but he knows he has to start at the bottom before making it to the top of the ranks. When he witnesses a school bus accident, Justin immediately works to calm the children down until more help arrives.
That’s when EMT Rockland Sparks shows up. Justin has admired Rock from afar for months but has been unable to literally talk to him unless the subject was work related. For some reason, anytime Justin got up the nerve to talk to Rock outside of professional capacity, Justin’s mouth would dry up and his throat would close. He would walk away feeling like an idiot. But after they save all of the children, Rock doesn’t let Justin off so easily. Taking his silence as bigotry, Rock confronts Justin and is not surprised when Justin says nothing, but is pleasantly surprised when the officer kisses him.
Explanations and nervousness finally out of the way, Justin and Rock take a turn at getting to know each other and starting a relationship. When Justin’s family issues make their way to his doorstep, Justin has to decide whether to trust Rock and his strength or push him away to handle his and his family problems all by himself.
Heat Under Fire is a spinoff of Andrew Grey’s By Fire series which features Lee and Dirk, who do make a cameo in this book. I really liked this one. It’s the story of a man who is finding his place in the world outside of his family, a man who is discovering new things about himself every day. It is sweet and frustrating and lovely. And at times, it was funny, refreshing and completely truthful.
“But you still did something wrong,” she said, boring her gaze into him.
“No, I didn’t, and how would you know?”
Jane rolled her huge eyes. “You’re a man. Of course you did something wrong.”
Justin smiled slightly. “He’s a man too. He could have done something wrong.”
“True,” Jane said as she continued working. “But the chances are since you’re both men, it’s likely you both acted like asses.” Jane backed away from the dispatcher window and answered a call before returning. “Think about it and you’ll know I’m right.”
Justin is a charming character. Honestly, at first, I felt that the “nervousness” – the dry mouth, the inability to talk to Rock – was a little cheesy, maybe even a little unbelievable. I was afraid that Justin was a coward, unable to go after what he wanted. But my mind was changed when all the truths were revealed. And when he finally overcame all, he was bold, endearing, and even stronger. He learned how to stand up for himself, and how to lean on those he trusted for help. His progression was really nice.
And of course, I like Rock. How could I not? He’s supportive, confident, caring, understanding, and nurturing. He has strong beliefs and his hold on those beliefs is unwavering. He protects Justin, even when Justin doesn’t realize he needs to be protected. He stands up for those who are weaker. All around, he is a wonderfully strong character.
I’m not sure if the entire plot is believable. I’ve never heard of anything like it happen, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. I had a hard time believing parts of it, but it made for good reading and a pretty interesting conflict. The family aspect of the story had me frustrated and ready to pull some hair, and that would only be the beginning. But that’s what made the story so good. Justin’s family was very well written, their personalities anyway – some extremely likable and others completely despicable. Some of their actions were a little far-fetched, but again I say, it made for a pretty good read.
All in all, I really enjoyed Heat Under Fire. It’s a rather addicting page-turner. I went back and forth with the rating, because I did like it so much, but the believability was my biggest issue. I’m hoping that this spinoff will follow the example of the By Fire series, in that it will have a sequel. I really enjoyed the beginning of Justin and Rock’s relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing where their relationship goes from here.