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Monday, August 25, 2008:
"Trial By Fire" by Jo Davis (2008)

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Signet; Book 1, The Firefighters edition (August 5, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0451224779
ISBN-13: 978-0451224774

Meet Lieutenant Howard “Six-Pack” Paxton— one of the handsome, hard-bodied firefighters of Station Five.

Four-alarm fires have nothing on him

Howard may love being a firefighter and riding his Harley, but there’s nothing he values more than his bachelorhood. That is, until a feisty, curvaceous teacher named Kat McKenna falls into his arms at the scene of a fire—and melts the six-foot-six tower of bronze muscle…But just as passion ignites between them—and they explore new heights of sexual ecstasy—a ruthless arsonist with a deadly secret and a thirst for vengeance becomes their worst nightmare…

I'd not really heard about this book until I saw my pal Kati gushing about it over at her blog, going so far as to immediately re-reading it all over again. Then as I also mentioned earlier, Michelle Buonfiglio highlighted this book at her blog, and from those two responses to the book, I just knew I HAD to get it. So I rushed over to the bookstore, grabbed my copy (and a lusciously decadent hot chocolate) and did something I rarely, rarely do: dumped the book I was currently reading (sorry little book that wasn't "Trial By Fire", I promise to come back!)

All I can say is "holy freakin' wow!" This book was so amazing. I loved that it was straight-up contemporary with a romantic suspense element, but what really drove the story was the relationship between Kat and Howard (an unlikely name for a hero, but one I got past fairly quickly). Jo Davis writes a sexy, fun and emotional story between two wonderful characters and a completely evil villain tied to Howard's past.

When Howard and Kat first meet, it is when the house she is looking after burns and Howard's fire station is called to the scene. Kat being Kat, she can't just sit still and let the professionals do their job, she has to try to help, which results in her suffering smoke inhalation and needing medical care when Howard comes along and assists her. They are immediately aware of each other, despite the dangerous circumstances, and Howard tries to find reasons not to leave her side. But then a horrifying discovery is made at the crime scene, and Howard has to put aside his new and intense attraction for the unforgettable Kat for the time being and concentrate on doing his job.

But he can't forget about Kat, and as it turns out, she can't forget about him either. They immediately become involved, their mutual attraction burning hot and bright, and before long, both Howard and Kat are falling in love. But will Howard's tragic past keep them apart, or will a heartless killer destroy the one chance at happiness that Howard has ever known?

My thoughts:

  • Howard. OMG. Yeah, the name is not one that immediately comes to mind when you think of a sexy, brawny, virile lover, but Howard is all that and a whole lot of decadent pleasure thrown in. AND he rides a motorcycle (swoon). So after awhile, his name was just who he was, but it didn't define him. What made him so appealing is that he was incredibly gorgeous, the stuff of women's fantasies, and he has absolutely no clue, so when he's with Kat, he's always wondering if he's doing or saying the right thing, but not in a lame kind of way. Instead, he's all about respecting her, but also letting her know that he finds her beautiful and sexy and he really wants to be with her in the most basic, primal fashion. He knows in his heart that Kat is not a temporary fling. She's the real deal.

  • Kat. She's a voluptous blonde with a sense of humor and no desire to exercise. I loved her right away for that. There was no shame radiating from her about the fact she was bigger than a size two. To Kat, she was who she was and made no apologies that she didn't spend half her time at the gym and the other half avoiding food with calories. I liked how affectionate she was with Howard, always touching him and letting him know she found him attractive, but also teasing him and having actual conversations with him. She called him on it when he tried to avoid the issue, because she knew they could have something really special if he let himself trust her, as she trusted him. Kat wanted the real thing and she wanted it with Howard.

  • Howard and Kat together. Explosive. Howard was a very earthy, sexual man who has his dominant ways in the bedroom, and they all resulted in Kat's pleasure. Their scenes in bed were smokin' hawt, and could be summed up in this one simple sentence that seems so basic and obvious and yeah, it totally worked for me: (Howard to Kat on page 121:) "You need me to fuck you hard, don't you?" This excited Kat (and the reader) to no end. Howard tapped into Kat's hottest fantasies in a way no other man ever had, and because he cared for her, it made it even more explosive.

  • The villain. Pure, unredeemable evil. That's what made the tragic fires and deaths so frightening: the killer had an agenda that he was going to carry out at all costs, and didn't care who was sacrificed in the process. This monster had no regard for human life, and actually took pleasure from the pain and torture and horrors he committed. He was truly sick and twisted, and it upped the ante on the risks Howard took, and the danger Kat was in.

  • Howard's past. Another element that made this story more emotional and raised the stakes between him and Kat. Howard had an incredibly abusive childhood, one that haunts him to this day, and one that sadly left permanent scars. Howard is afraid to share his pain with the woman he loves, and this stubborn decision could push away the one person he cares about more than anything. Howard has to come to terms with past if ever he's going to have any kind of a happy future.

  • The other firefighters. This is book one in a series, and I believe there are four more after about the special firefighters of Station Five. I fell for these heroes right away, and look forward to learning more about them and discovering their HEA. Each character has their own appeal, and I'm just as curious about them as I was about Howard and Kat. And if their stories are anything like "Trial By Fire", then I am so there.

So there you have, the magic that is "Trial By Fire". It has all the elements of a keeper romance: deep emotion, hot sex, likeable characters a reader can relate to, believable conflict, and everyday heroes/heroines living their lives while protecting others. I highly recommend that you stop what you're doing right now and GET THIS BOOK.

Rating: **** 3/4 out of *****

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  1. Perfect review, Stace! Quite simply, I loved this book and will absolutely list it in my top 10 favorite reads this year, right up there with Blue Eyed Devil (which, alas, I don't think any book will top), and Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.

    I'm SO glad you liked it, and you nailed it right on the head, everything that I loved about Howard is what you loved. I'm glad you liked it as much as Michelle and I did.

    I love how huge Howard is, but how tender he is with Kat, and how he just continuously seems to marvel at his good fortune in having her. I think that the idea of being cherished by your man is one that so many women wish they had. I love that the minute he meets her, he just knows. It's the knowing that makes him so irresistible to me.

    Yay! I'm glad you loved this one as much as I did!

  2. nailed EVERYTHING in this review, great job sweetie..another book that I'm gonna have to add to my list of books to read sometime before I die. I had to stop by and tell you how much fun I had reading your review, good job!

  3. Man I've got some serious reading to do so I can get this book! And now I really, really want it lol :o)

  4. Well, now that I have read that fabulous review - I have to go out and get the book. Ummmm you do realize the last thing I need is another book in this house.......LOL

    But joking aside, Stacy - loved your review and yes I have gone to Chapter's online and added it to my recent order.........I have so little will power when it comes to books that come with such a great review...........A series you say....*thud*

  5. I'm guessing I need to read this one. It sounds excellent!

  6. Alright I'm getting this book this coming weekend. Your review sold me even before I got to that line from pagr 121, lol. I'm there.

  7. All right, Stacy. I'm supposed to be conserving money now that I'm a homeowner, but it seems like I've got a new series to get sucked into LOL! This one sounds soooooo good. It's definitely going on my TBB list :-)

  8. Kati, it's on my list too. I could just run off with someone like Howard. My kinda guy, rough yet tender. He is exceptional.

    Yes Rowena, you need to add this to your list. It's wicked hot and oh so delicious.

    LA, a big, brawny fireman who LOVES his woman, what's not to like?

    Cryna, I glance at my tbr pile everyday and realize it's already defeated me, so why not enjoy the madness? There will always be books to buy. And thank you for your kind words.

    Dev, I love a book that can give me butterflies, and this one does. Such a deceptively simple romance that got under my skin. Can't ask for anything better in your books.

    Kelley, don't resist, it's futile. Just enjoy the ride, and the wonders of Howard. Page 121 was definitely the rich, tempting "oh-so-bad for you but gotta have it" chocolate icing on the cake. Giving in won't hurt a bit.

  9. Stacy,
    Thank you for the awesome review!! You've made my week! It's exciting to see so many readers getting down (no pun intended!) with Howard and the guys. :) Zack's story is next, in May 2009, and he's one of my favorites on the team!

    Happy Reading, ladies!

  10. Great review, Stacy. You totally sold me on this book. I'm definitely picking it up on my next run to the bookstore.... like TODAY! ;)

  11. Hi, I came across your blog not too long ago and your review of TBF really caught my eye so I went out and bought the book yesterday. I started reading the book today and am now finished. IT WAS HOT. I am so glad I took a chance on this author based on your review b/c I don't often stray from my favorite authors without reviews of new authors. Anyhow, I have a question that's been bugging me. The back blurb and even in the beginning of the book, Howard was mentioned to be six foot six. But later in the book he was mentioned, twice, as being 6 food and a half? Am I not getting something here?

  12. Sorry, food=foot.

  13. Hi Tabitha, thanx for stopping by my blog :) I love new visitors.

    Actually, to answer your question, a foot is 12 inches, so being six foot six and six and a half feet is the exact same thing. Make sense?

  14. Omgosh, I'm such an idiot. I keep reading it that as he's six feet and a half inch. Sorry, usually my brain is quick to absorb info better than this. Thanks, Stacey, clearing this for me!!

  15. ...and I can't seem to type correctly either tonight. I'm sorry I misspelled your name! Thanks, STACY! =)

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