Under Fire

Hidden Fire by Jo Davis
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0-451-22865-9
Hidden Fire by Jo Davis was a surprisingly sweet, super hot love story between completely mismatched people.

Grace McKenna is a defense attorney, a perfectionist who’s known as an ice queen while she struggles with attaining her own high standards and maintaining prickly personal relationships.  The only person Grace is really close to is her sister Kat, who was the heroine in Davis’ first “Firefighters of Station Five” novel, Trial By Fire.  Kat and her husband Howard, a firefighter, have introduced Grace to Julian Salvatore, another firefighter at the station. Howard warned Julian against hurting Grace, but he shouldn’t have worried.  Aside from one kiss months ago, Grace hasn’t returned his calls and he’s pretty much given up the fight for her attention.

Then one day, on a routine fire call, Julian runs into Grace who’s having lunch with a new client she’s defending, Derek Vines. Julian’s mysterious past comes roaring back, and Vines features prominently in the shadowy, terrible memories that he doesn’t share.

Julian is a super sexy Latin man completely in touch with his wants and needs. No one knows that he covers the pain of disappointing his family and some awful teenage experiences behind his sarcastic wit and loner behavior. 

Then, Julian gets injured on the job, and when Grace hears about it from Kat, she knows it’s time to shake off her procrastination and see Julian again. Even bruised, beat-up and exhausted, Julian is sweet, attractive, and amazingly open with his feelings and thoughts.  After a couple of afternoons together, Grace is so tempted to take their relationship to a more serious level, and it scares her badly. Julian’s told her he’s willing to be friends and wait until she’s ready, but Grace doesn’t know how or when that will happen.

Grace learns some ugly truths about her client Derek Vines, while Julian follows the trail of his work injury and finds that the accident might have been intentional. He begins to trace the mysterious trail of events and comes to the conclusion that his painful past is rising up.  He shares some of his suspicions with Grace, but doesn’t want her to know his terrible secrets.  Unfortunately, Derek Vines is involved with Julian’s past all the way up to his neck and he doesn’t want any of it to come to light either.  He and his partners just might be willing to find a way to silence Julian forever, and Grace too, if she gets in the way.

Hidden Fire is the third novel in the Firefighters of Station Five series, and I’m a big fan.  The first two novels are wonderful, and have a permanent home on my keeper shelf and this book will go and live beside them. I loved reading Julian’s story – because although he’s mentioned in the first two books, he’s really an enigma.

I loved Julian – he’s one of the best heroes I have read in a long time. Julian is sexy, slick, charming, and fun. That’s not too surprising. What did shock me is his emotional depth.  Julian is honest, heart-wrenchingly emotional and real. He speaks beautifully, but his pretty compliments are heartfelt and raw. Julian’s tough past and shame about his decisions ring true and add additional depth to his story.

Grace is an alpha female, which I appreciated. She pushes herself very hard, is a professional and a hard worker in a male-dominated field. She’s honest about her limitations, which is refreshing and there surely isn’t any dumb, naïve, innocent overtone to her personality. In my opinion, the naïve heroine is way overdone in romances, and I’m so glad that Grace doesn’t fit that mold.  On the downside, Grace is completely emotionally unavailable, even when she seems to be opening up to Julian on paper, it doesn’t seem genuine.  She takes the ice queen persona to an all-new level, and she came off to me as a very cold person overall. There were a handful of moments when I like Grace, but in general I wondered what a great guy like Julian wanted with a cold fish like her.

The guys of Station 5 were fun and entertaining as usual. I especially loved the intervention that played out for alcoholic fire captain Sean, which was emotional and honestly written.

Also, a great big bravo to Davis for writing a truly scary villain and an excellent mystery that wove between the present of the love story and Julian’s past.  It was so interesting that it didn’t seem at all like a background plot to move the story along; it flowed seamlessly and added huge interest for me.

Hidden Fire is a great read, much recommended.  If you want a hot firefighter in your room for the night, grab a copy and tuck right in with no regrets.  

--Amy Wroblewsky

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