As the son of a shopkeeper, Frank Harris isn’t a part of the upper crust. He’s definitely working class, but he’s become a friend of Charlie Fitzwilliam and that friendship has kept things interesting through their time at Cambridge. But now their final exams are done and rather than returning to his parents’ shop, Frank accepts Charlie’s invitation to his family estate for one last bit of fun before embracing adulthood.
There he meets Tanner, a handsome young servant who seems to be just as enamored of Frank as Frank is of him. The two begin a dangerous and illicit affair where lust and love become tangled amidst the rules of society. If they’re discovered, it could mean the end of whatever futures they hope to have.
To Light a Fire is a quick read, but it lacks a developed plot or particularly well developed characters, so it isn’t one of those books that lingers very long in one’s memory.
Frank and Tanner are stock characters and I never felt that I knew either of them particularly well. Their romance seems to bloom as a matter convenience — they happen to be in the same place at the same time, so it why not hook up? They move from lust to love far too quickly and there is no sense of believability to their romance or what they’re doing. It just feels like an empty relationship and one that lacks relatable moments or a sense of realistic intent.
The story of To Light a Fire is pretty bare bones. The reason for Frank’s visit to the country is plausible enough, but from there, the plot is just about contrivances for Frank and Tanner to have sex or for Frank to forcibly refuse the intentions of a local girl. That’s it. Nothing else evolves and we don’t see any deeper plot development or character growth take place. As a result, there isn’t much here to connect or engage with as a reader. Now with that said, the pacing is decent and I felt the book moved along swiftly enough and never dragged or read as laggy.
Unfortunately, To Light a Fire didn’t do much for me. The characters are weak and uninspired and the plot never develops into anything more than a series of sexual moments that don’t really work. It isn’t a terrible book, but I needed more as a reader. I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.