Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Tim Paige
Length: 7 hours, 41 minutes
Evan Fournier, vampire and PI, is not supposed to take any paranormal cases while his bosses are out of town. But when his therapist comes seeking help because paranormal beings are inexplicably dying, Evan can’t say no. To get to the bottom of things, Evan goes undercover at a retreat for paranormals. Since the retreat focuses on mental health, it’s not that big of a stretch. Evan has been managing his depression for years.
Once at the retreat, everything appears to be on the up and up, even though Evan knows it’s not. He meets the mysterious Red, who seems to maybe work there and is also robotic in his interactions. Evan also finds an abandoned building that gives off bad vibes. When Evan gets too close to the truth, things go sideways, and in the process, Red gets bonded to him.
Colin Zhang has lost thirty-four years of his life, and has no idea he’s been “Red” or what he’s been doing all that time. It’s hard for him to accept that not only has he lost that time and that paranormals exist, but that he is one. On top of that, he’s bonded to a stranger and thrust into a world he can’t believe. Even worse, Evan and Colin can’t be apart without causing excruciating agony.
But people are still dying, and the mystery goes even deeper. Paranormals are being attacked and since Wes and Hudson are still out of town, it’s up to Evan and the crew to figure out why. Colin is trying to navigate his unexpected attraction to Evan, as well as their bond. Things go from bad to worse, Evan and Colin are out of time, and it’ll take everything they have to get to the bottom of things.
All Fired Up is the first book in a spin off series from Burke’s Not Dead Yet series. While it can stand alone, I think it’s better enjoyed after having read the first series. Not only are series readers present for a lot of what brings us to this point and have understanding of why this book takes place in 2024, but Evan’s growth is that much more relatable meeting him in the beginning of his journey and following along. I was always fond of Evan, and very glad, after everything, to see him getting his own series.
Burke does a good job balancing the mystery and the romance in this tale. Though told solely from Evan’s first person POV, Burke shows us Colin’s struggles in a way that, though filtered through Evan’s perspective, makes them relatable. There are a couple of major plot points going on in this book, and they all get the appropriate amount of focus and time. The first plotline is the mystery surrounding the suspicious and inexpiable deaths of paranormals. Burke weaves a tale that has all the clues dropping in just the right spots. Though it’s only partially resolved and sets up the next book, what we do get is satisfying, and while not wholly surprising, it is well done.
Next we have Evan’s growth, from what he’s been through since he first came out as gay, through being accidentally turned into a vampire, and the losses he’s experienced along the way. He has a good understanding of his mental health, and I appreciated that the author handled Evan’s depression in a realistic way. It’s not magically fixed, Evan has to do the work and take his medication, and there are still ups and downs. I appreciated the blunt way Evan thought about it, and you could see how far he’s come in dealing with it in a healthy way.
And of course, there’s the romance that happens between Colin and Evan. There are a lot of layers here on both sides. Evan hasn’t felt this way about someone in a long time, and for good reason. Colin is waking up in a world he knows nothing about, and past him never entertained the idea of being bisexual, as it wasn’t accepted or even believed the last time he has memories from. He’s dealing with a lot. Not to mention, there’s this bond between them, and it’s unclear just how much of their attraction is influenced by that. Though there’s clear chemistry between them and sexual interaction, this is only the beginning for them. I’m looking forward to where it goes next.
Tim Paige is a new to me narrator, and for the most part, I enjoyed the narration. Paige has a smooth voice that’s easy to listen to, and made the book enjoyable. After having listened to the previous series with a different narrator, it was a bit jarring at first to hear Wes and Hudson in different voices, but that faded as the book went on. Paige did a decent job with character voices, though some were fairly similar and it was only by context that I was certain who was speaking. Some mispronounced words and incongruous performance choices pulled me out of the story on occasion. There were times when it felt like the words didn’t match the emotion. Overall though, it was a smooth narration, an easy listen, and if audiobook is your preferred format, I would say this is worth it.