Clark owns a popular restaurant and has a partial interest in one of New Amsterdam’s hottest clubs. He’s financially fulfilled and, at least outwardly, he seems to be thriving. But Clark keeps the world at arm’s length and while his bed is rarely empty, he doesn’t let his dates linger for long. War left its mark on him and, at least for Clark, there are some wounds that have never healed.
Daniel Germain is a professor at the local university and a professional Dominant. He has regular clients and their private sessions provide Daniel with extra income and a level of personal satisfaction. But clients aren’t the same as a lover and Daniel knows something is missing from his life. He meets Clark by chance and at first glance there seems to be no way they could possibly be compatible. Yet when both men choose honesty and compassion, they find something worth fighting for.
Hearts Under Fire is the first in the New Amsterdam series and it’s something of a mixed bag. Clark and Daniel are definitely compelling characters. Both have experienced their fair share of tragedy and that pain has shaped their lives in very specific ways. Clark reads as a more complete character than Daniel and his motivations are clearer. But their romance doesn’t seem very believable. It moves too quickly and Clark and Daniel seem ready to declare their love after one weekend together. Clark confesses his traumatic history to Daniel, even though he barely knows the man. It makes their relationship feel very jarring and pasted together.
And then Hearts Under Fire suddenly moves from a character exploration to a survival story and with no build-up whatsoever. I turned the page and suddenly the entire story flipped. I won’t go into the details, but note trigger warnings for school violence. It’s an event that felt like it has no real purpose and doesn’t do anything to further the relationship between Clark and Daniel. Some readers might disagree with me on that, but by the time this event happens, Clark and Daniel are already discussing a future together. So this situation just reads as clunky and unnecessary and it yanked me from the story almost completely.
Hearts Under Fire started off as an interesting, if uneven, romance between two wounded men. While the relationship moved too quickly and developed awkwardly, Clark and Daniel are compelling characters. But an unneeded tragedy derails the story and fails to provide a satisfying resolution. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me.