With his bosses (and sire) out of town, Evan Fournier is not supposed to take any paranormal private investigation cases. They always go haywire, no matter now straightforward they may seem. But when Evan is approached by his doctor about her patients dying under suspicious circumstances, he can’t help but get involved. It turns out that some patients that the doctor referred to a paranormal mental health/relaxation retreat have returned home only to lose their magical souls and die.
Evan decides he will go to the retreat posing as a guest to see what he can uncover. While there, he finds a suspicious, seemingly abandoned building, as well as encountering a strange, almost robotic man following him around. Before he knows it, Evan has stumbled into real trouble and barely makes it out alive. But in the process, he ends up bonded to one of the men who tried to kill him, Colin Zhang. As it turns out, Colin is as much of a victim in all this as Evan. Not to mention that he has no memory of the retreat or why he was trying to kill Evan. With few other options, Evan brings Colin home while they try to sort it out.
With Hudson and Wes still out of town, Evan is doing his best to handle the case, along with help from Lexi and some other friends. Figuring out what happened to Colin to make him lose his memories is only part of the problem. The bigger issue is uncovering just what they were up to at the retreat and what was killing so many patients. In the meantime, Colin and Evan are realizing an attraction to one another, but Colin is still getting on his feet and not sure how to handle a new relationship. Now, the men have to figure out how to handle the new bond between them and decide if they want to pursue something more, all while finding the killer before they face even more danger.
All Fired Up is the first book in Jenn Burke’s new Ashes and Dust series. The story is a direct spin off of her wonderful Not Dead Yet trilogy and moves us to a new set of main characters with Evan and Colin. I adored the original series and Evan was such a fascinating character there, so I was thrilled to hear that Burke was giving him a series of his own. While I think this will most appeal to those who have read the first books and are familiar with the original story and this group of engaging characters, I think there is enough backstory on Evan and the rest of the group to make this work as a starting point (just be aware that this story will spoil some key plot points of the original trilogy).
This book jumps us about five years in the future from the end of Graveyard Shift (it is 2024). I think the time jump works well because it gives Evan some time to come into his own as a private investigator, as well as for the group to settle in the aftermath of some of the intense events of the past books. Burke cleverly finds a good reason for Wes and Hudson to be out of town for most of the book in order to give Evan his time to shine. Otherwise, the god and uber-vampire would naturally be the ones taking the lead on the case, so this was a good choice. I liked that the mystery at the retreat takes up only a portion of the story; often in this type of plot, uncovering the mystery there would be the full focus. But here, the book expands beyond that part of the story to take the mystery and investigation out into the larger world, as well as to explore the dynamics between Evan and Colin. I found the mystery to be engaging and exciting. I continue to enjoy the found family vibe here and always like when all the side characters come together to help out. Their little crew has expanded somewhat with more junior vamps helping out and the investigation is interesting with nice intensity.
As far as the relationship, I am trying not to spoil anything, so I am not going to go into too much detail about what caused Colin’s amnesia and what really happened to him. I’ll just say it is a big wow, and there is a lot of fallout as he tries to get his life back on track. The guys have accidentally bonded, so there is a lot that gets rolled into that and affects them going forward. Burke does a nice job making Colin sympathetic, despite the whole “trying to kill Evan” thing. These guys are well developed characters, each with some intense issues they are working through. I liked them together and appreciated the way they support one another.
So I think this is a really nice start to the new series. I loved being back in this world and enjoyed the new adventures for Evan and Colin. I am looking forward to where things go from here.