After his spine was crushed by falling beam while on the job, Taber Delane knows he will never be a fire fighter again. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to push himself, sometimes past the advice of his physical therapist, in order to recover as much as possible. When he gets rid of yet another caregiver, his friend Deacon Hall steps in, moving in to help Taber out. Although Deacon is better than most of his friends who only seem to want to talk about the accident and his recovery, Taber still isn’t sure he wants the guy living with him. But Deacon knows Taber needs help and is determined to be there for him.
As the two men spend time together, Taber begins to realize that he likes having Deacon around, and Deacon seems to understand what Taber needs without being pushy. Deacon feels an attraction to Taber as well, but he isn’t sure what his friend really wants. Somewhere along the way the guys make the transition from friends to something more. Now both men need to be open and honest and let the other man in.
Driven by Fire is the fourth book in the Firehouse Six series and gives us Taber’s story. The accident itself happens in an earlier book, and here we see Taber dealing with his recovery. He still hasn’t been able to go back to the fire house or hang out with the guys. He knows he will never be a fire fighter again, but he is still adapting to his new reality and figuring out what he wants to do with his life. So many of his friends just seem to want to talk about the accident, but Deacon has always been more of a distraction rather than making Taber focus on his problems.
I enjoyed the set up here, especially having a main character who is in a wheelchair. We don’t always get a ton of diversity in our m/m romance heroes, so it was nice to see Taber as a sexy man and the more dominant partner while in the wheelchair. We join him partway through his recovery, so we can feel his frustration at wanting to get better right away and his need to keep pushing himself even past the bounds of what is good for him. I liked the way that this book rounded out a story line that we had been following in other books (although I think you could read this as a stand alone as well). We do get some visits from Simon and Michael, and also some quick time with Mica and Grey (as well as what looks to be a new couple for a future book).
Unfortunately I had a few issues here as well. First off, the premise is kind of far fetched. Apparently Taber has scared off his previous caregivers and now he needs someone to help out. So somehow his physical therapist takes it upon himself to call one of Taber’s coworkers and get him to move in with Taber without Taber having any say. I mean, really? Taber is a grown man and he really is given no choice about this meddling? Not to mention that the physical therapist seems to be way overstepping his role. And of course the fact that, while he is an EMT, Deacon has no background in home health care. Nor do we really see him do much of anything for Taber once he is there. I know this is one of those things you have to accept for this book to work at all, so I went with it. But I did find it a challenging premise.
The bigger issue is that I just felt no real chemistry or connection between these guys. They start off as friends, but don’t appear to be super close. Tater begins the book annoyed that Deacon is there, feeling like he is being stifled, but in what seems like a day Deacon seems to do everything right and knows just what Taber needs all the time. The guys end up being hot for one another pretty fast, though honestly I didn’t feel any of the lust or sexual chemistry that was supposed to be between them. They seemed like friends for most of the story, and even at the end I didn’t feel much connection. Maybe the jumps just happened too fast, first friends, then perfect caregiver, then lust, then love, with no real development in any of those areas. But regardless, the chemistry between them just felt flat to me.
And finally, while I liked Deacon, his character just seemed not quite fully developed. Taber describes Deacon as the station prankster, always playing jokes. But we see absolutely nothing of that at all in the book. It is mentioned multiple times, so it felt weirdly absent and his playful nature didn’t come across at all. Also, Deacon keeps this big secret from everyone that he takes art classes. We know from the start, but he hides it from Taber and others and I am still confused as to why. He is a grown man and he is worried about being teased for it? We get some vague references of back story, but I was still left feeling like this was a lot of fuss for a pretty minor conflict. I just feel like though we are told things about both these guys, we don’t really see how they shape them on the page, and we are given backstory that isn’t really reflected in the characters.
So I guess in the end I was hoping for more here. It is a pleasant, easy read and I think if you have been following the series it is worth continuing. For new folks, I’d probably recommend starting with Grey’s Hidden Fire, which beings the series and I think was a better story (and definitely more steamy). Then you can see if you are interested in continuing on with the others. So overall I have mixed feelings and found this one to be a pleasant book, but not all I wanted out of Taber’s story.