The Bachelor's Bed

Duets 42

Duets 57

The Harder They Fall

Her Perfect Stranger

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

White Heat

Who's the Boss

Blue Flame by Jill Shalvis
(Onyx, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-41168-4
San Diego firefighter Jake Rawlins is seriously injured rescuing a young teenage boy from a burning building.  After reconstructive shoulder surgery, Jake is taken off duty until he is fit enough to meet the strenuous physical requirements of his job.  To make matters worse, the kid’s mother is threatening to sue Jake and the fire department for her son’s broken arm.  To escape the media, Jake runs to his ranch in Arizona.  “Blue Flame” is the dude ranch that Jake’s estranged father left him upon his death.

Since inheriting the ranch, Jake has left management of the Blue Flame to Callie Hayes.  The Blue Flame has barely scraped by financially, and Jake is now ready to sell.  The ranch has become Callie’s heart and home.  Callie decides she has to somehow find the money to buy the ranch, but doesn’t tell Jake about her plans.

Callie and Jake try to resist their attraction.  After several “accidents” around the ranch, they realize that someone is out to sabotage the Blue Flame.  When they are thrown together due to the incidents, the attraction between Callie and Jake grows.  Each decides that a temporary relationship until Jake leaves is worth it; they stop resisting and just enjoy each other.

The mystery of who is sabotaging the ranch is a minor part of the book.  The real focus is the romance between Callie and Jake.  Jake is the stereotypical firefighter hero.  He wants to “save the day and win the woman.”  Callie is a tough woman who can take care of herself.  Some of her chores were pretty impressive, especially in the desert summer heat.  Living in Arizona myself, I hate to walk in the 110 degree heat much less feed farm animals.

Tucker, Jake’s 12 year younger half brother, is one of the ranch hands. Tucker is bitter that at age five Jake left him behind with their mother.  Their mother then hid Jake’s phone calls from Tucker, so Tucker grew up feeling abandoned.  When Tucker found himself in trouble with the law a couple years ago, Jake stepped in and gave him the ranch job.  However, Jake just leaves him again, which reinforces Tucker’s feelings of abandonment.

An enjoyable subplot is a minor romance story between Tucker and Amy, the newly hired chef.  Amy is afraid of men due to abuse in her past.  Tucker’s romance of Amy is really sweet.  Tucker shows depth and sensitivity in his approach to Amy.  He takes it nice and slow while Amy gets used to the idea of him.

What keeps Blue Flame from being a 4 heart book is the abundance of misunderstandings and lack of communication between the characters.  Tucker’s bitterness and Jake’s insecurity keep them both from being family.  Neither of them tries to discuss their problem (or even argue with each other) despite the many times Callie points out how childish that is. 

In addition, there is the same problem with Callie’s desire and plans to own the Blue Flame.  She helps Jake with his plans to improve the ranch knowing he wants to sell.  But she doesn’t think to say “Hey, I want to buy the ranch.”  Instead, the reader learns over and over and over how much it will hurt to lose her home.  Blue Flame contains strong, appealing characters, but the lack of communication on everyone’s part was frustrating. 

--Terry Lawrence

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