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Lightning Reviews: Firefighters & a Historical Mystery


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We have more Lightning Reviews! Yay! I feel like in terms of genre, these books could not be more different. One is a second chance romance with firefighters, while the other is a continuation of a much-loved historical mystery series.

Let’s get into it!

 

    B

    All Consuming

    author: Jaci Burton

    All Consuming was the sweet, hot, low-tension romance that I really needed this week. Kal and Hannah were a couple in high school, but broke up when Kal left for college. They reconnect at their ten year school reunion, and find that not only is the spark still there, but that time and experience have made them better able to love each other in the ways they both need.

    There isn’t a lot of conflict in this book. Hannah is recently divorced, and has moved back home with her seven-year-old son, Oliver. Her marriage was the kind where you only give birth to one child but still wind up as the mother of two…with the more troublesome and less mature one being the one you married. She is wary of entering a new relationship, and particularly mindful of any such relationship’s impact on Oliver. Her reluctance to commit to a relationship with Kal constitutes the main source of conflict in the story. However, this really is a very low tension story – while the relationship developed slowly, both Hannah and Kal are mature, sensible people, and I never had any doubt that they would work out.

    And so most of the book was just this pleasant, gentle journey through their world. We see Kal dealing with tension in his new job with the Tactical Rescue Unit, and we see some of the rescues. Food is prepared and shared and eaten. We hang out with Kal’s family and with Hannah’s mother, and everyone is lovely and kind and supportive. We go to fairs and halloween parties and pool parties and weddings and we get a recipe for watermelon and mango salsa which I will certainly be making, and we watch as Kal bonds with Oliver.

    And we watch Hannah and Kal fall in love, of course (and there’s plenty of hot sex along the way), but that was more or less a foregone conclusion from the start.

    I feel like I am making this book sound a little dull, but honestly, it was an absolute balm to my soul. It’s been a rough few weeks in Australian politics if you are female and I feel like every time I go online I read some new, enraging, soul-destroying, appalling thing. And on top of that, I’ve been sick and feeling generally lousy for most of that time. So being able to retreat to a book where literally every character was kind and friendly and intent on being good to every other character was a profound relief.

    All Consuming does not, perhaps, have the intensity that its name suggests. But it’s the kind of book you buy and keep around for a day when everything is terrible and you just can’t cope. It offers an escape into a kinder, gentler world, and sometimes, that’s the best kind of book in the world.

    Catherine Heloise

    Contemporary Romance, Romance

    B+

    An Unexpected Peril

    author: Deanna Raybourn

    An Unexpected Peril was, as expected, perfect vacation reading. Veronica and Stoker are assisting with the preparations for an exhibit at the Curiosity Club commemorating a mountain climber, Alice Baker-Greene. Greene died in a climbing accident in the country of Alpenwald, and the princess of Alpenwald has arrived in England for the opening of the exhibit, which is as much about the country as it is about Greene’s climbing achievements.

    Then, in short order, they discover signs of very foul play among Greene’s belongings. Veronica wants to investigate, but they’re stopped from doing so by the delegation from Alpenwald, until the princess disappears and Veronica is asked to pose as said princess for a few events, among them a peace treaty signing, which is a very big, very secret deal. As you do.

    There are a number of features I love about the writing and the characterization in this series, and they are generously spread over the entirety of the novel. For example, I like learning new words, and in each book and particularly in this one, I encounter new phrases and discover new words to the point where I highlighted so many that my highlights page is a long, long scroll.

    I particularly like Veronica’s dry humor, such as this moment when she’s being interrogated as to why, exactly, she’s posing as a princess in about nineteen miles of fabric and jewelry:

    I regret I do not have my flask upon my person at present. This ensemble does not permit such appurtenances.

    The narration from Veronica’s point of view and the at times formal and always elegant language of her perspective adds to the world building, especially because Veronica is a very astute and clever judge of character. She doesn’t easily fit into the world she inhabits, and so she identifies quickly those suspects who don’t quite fit into their own lies and are hiding something.

    The tension of Veronica and Stoker’s relationship doesn’t diminish with its progress because the terms of their partnership in investigating murders and thefts are much clearer to them than the terms of their emotional involvement. They’re still ferociously attracted to each other, and each other’s best champion, but Veronica is also fully cognizant of the limitations placed on women in every sphere, and refuses any and all restrictions. Veronica is wary of formality with regards to Stoker, and as a result twists herself up in a fair amount of anxiety. The emotional stakes of their relationship continue to grow, but their friendship and intimacy have evolved and matured.

    My minor problems with this particular installment were one of pacing: the beginning portion, where Veronica is trying to convince Stoker to investigate something they’re very sure was murder, became repetitive until the plot gained momentum from additional crimes and characters.

    Further, at the end (no spoilers) the mystery and the complications of it were resolved very quickly. I finished the book before bed one night, and the next morning I had to re-read the last third because I couldn’t figure out how the key people knew to be in a crucial location at the right moment. Despite re-reading the ending twice, I’m still not sure how the people who needed to be in that spot knew to get there, nor how they were able to arrive so quickly. (Yes, vague, sorry).

    That said, reading each new book in this series is like a visit with adventurous, clever friends who are nosy and extremely competent – my favorite kind of people to hang out with, really. The world of the story expands in this book to include other countries, but also focuses more tightly on the internal tension between Veronica and Stoker. The balance is lovely, and I’m still engaged by each new installment. I may even go back and start over with book one, just to visit with them a little more.

    SB Sarah

    Historical: European, Mystery/Thriller

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