Terra August is primarily a fire investigator, or fire cop, and secondarily a firefighter in an Oklahoma City suburb. Both occupations are risky and require specialized training. One night, Terra responds to a house fire to discover that her close friend and mentor Harris Vaughan has become the victim in a serial arsonist’s latest fire.
The victim is discovered in his bed; toxicology reports later reveal a heavy sedative Halcion in his system, which explains why someone had been able to tie him up and leave him to die.
Because of the death involved, administrative practices dictate that a homicide detective pair with Terra in the investigation. Jack Spencer is the chosen one, thus beginning an explosive relationship.
Terra and Jack soon recognize that Terra is becoming the focus of the arsonist. In retracing events after past fires, they realize that red roses had been delivered to her after each fire. Also, Terra had dinner with the victim hours before he was killed. They are able to reduce the possible motives to two - revenge or a ploy for her attention.
In this extremely well constructed suspense plot, Debra Cowan subtly offers two suspects for each motivation, and the plot weaves its way through these suspects’ lives. Meanwhile Terra and Jack are dealing with their own responses to each other.
Jack had been widowed four years earlier when an enraged defendant in a domestic violence case gunned down his wife, a social worker, in their driveway. Barely functioning for a long time, Jack knows he cannot handle relationships with females in professions at risk.
Terra is the former wife of an aspiring attorney who needed a trophy wife to squire around parties and the required out of town business trips. Terra was unwilling to quit her job, and since he forced her to choose, she is now single. Her job is who she is.
The author does a very believable job of making these characters’ emotional baggage real and essential to their being. The inner dialogue used to accomplish this is not burdensome and is accomplished with a light hand. The verbalized thoughts are crisp, in voice, and enjoyable.
In addition, Cowan keeps the sexual tension scorching and the suspense sizzling. Her pace varies sufficiently to keep readers rapidly turning the pages. This is a book where the author seems to do everything right, reflecting her usual expertise. It should also be noted that a great amount of research was clearly done, all of which enhance the credibility of the characters.
Perhaps Sharon Sala’s cover quote sums this novel up best: “Burning Love was a fabulous read from start to finish! It was hot, hot, hot! I loved it!” I humbly agree.