Rating: 3.5 stars
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Fifteen years ago, Jack Reyna walked out on Tribulation Brewster. Jack felt like his feelings for Trib were too intense, like he didn’t know how to cope. It was supposed to be an act of self preservation, but all it led to was years of misery, a dependency on alcohol, and guilt. So Jack threw himself into his work as a firefighter. Now, Jack battles the biggest blazes as part of a team of hotshots, but a recent work injury has him overseeing convict crews out on work release. Despite the demands of his job, Jack never has never managed to completely forget what he gave up when he walked out on Trib. Jack also never expected to see Tribulation again. Which is why he is stunned when the man himself steps off the back of the truck carrying a fresh complement of convict firefighters. Less unexpected is the punch to the face.
Tribulation Brewster never thought he’d see Jack again. Not that he doesn’t think about the man, he does. But the fact that Jack is never far from his thoughts does not prepare Trib to come face to face with the love of his life in the midst of a howling wildfire. All the hurt and fury of being left evaporates the moment his knuckles land on Jack’s handsome face. And in place of fury, the same white-hot passion erupts within him. Trib and Jack may have been apart for years, but time has matured them. Now, they both know what they want and are ready to conquer a literal wildfire to get a second shot at happiness.
Love Like a Fire Whirl is a contemporary romance by author Darragha Foster. It features a unique couple that apparently had a desperate love affair in the past and get reunited under much different and far more dangerous circumstances. I thought this was a fun way to get the two romantic leads together. Basically, it seems like their first go-round was too intense, but they loved each other so much that they fell prey to addictive behavior like drinking too much or taking drugs. Now, they’ve basically got their lives cleaned up and are ready to go again. Given their past, I suppose it made sense for them to basically hook up a few times as they struggled to survive the seemingly uncontained wildfire, but still retain a sense of emotional distance. Eventually, though, they had enough close calls to realize they didn’t want to put off getting back together. The intimate scenes started kind of abruptly, but that sort of felt like it matched both the MCs’ intense longing for one another and their increasingly desperate situation.
One quirk of the story is how firefighter language permeates the dialogue. I am no expert on what language is typical of firefighters, but I appreciated Foster’s consistency in its application. And it gets used a lot. I was less wild about how fires (like many inanimate objects) seem to take she/her pronouns and that extends to insults and intensifiers, but that’s just my personal preference.
Foster’s writing style made it a little difficult to pick out when I was reading Jack’s or Tribulation’s inner monologue. I wish this had been offset in italics or some kind of quote system. Instead, it’s just inline along with all the rest of the third-person narration. It made some passages wonky to read. Overall, though, I thought the narrative voice reflected the personalities of Jack and Tribulation pretty well. They both seem given to love/hate fire, they alternate between berating it and looking at it with awe. These qualities gave the overall voice of the book an enjoyable cavalier tone, almost campy at times.
My one real criticism is that the book opens with the ending. Given the lack of visual devices to separate Trib’s thoughts from Jack’s, it was confusing to read. All I really got was that the two MCs were safe and sound and desperate for sex. I thought it was a blurb or summary for the book at first; I had to go back and check that it said it was a prologue. This part mentions the two MCs save a remote compound from disaster, but when we get to that point in real time, there is zero indication the compound is in any real danger. I felt like I was missing a chunk of what was supposed to connect the end-as-the-start to the last chapter in the book.
Overall, Love Like a Fire Whirl is a fun read. If you like seeing MCs engage in daring do and fall back in love because they literally are in danger of dying before confessing that they never stopped loving one another…if you like firefighter stories, or if you like lovers reunited, then I think you’ll enjoy this. There is a lot of heat between the MCs and despite the dramatic setting and high stakes job they’re trying to complete, they actually get to hash out their past to clear the way for a future.