Review: Full Blaze by M L Buchman

full blaze by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: 352 pages
Length: Firehawks, #3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: December 2, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

These wilderness firefighters battle more than flames

The elite fire experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can’t penetrate.

She’s just jumped square into the heart of the blaze

When Australian helicopter pilot Jeannie Clark rescues wildfire photographer Cal Jackson from a raging burnover, she doesn’t know she’s bringing aboard a firebrand. Cal is quickly recruited for MHA’s covert operations that reach far beyond the flames. Together Jeannie and Cal are assigned to an overseas operation with a lot more at risk than burning trees. And they’ll need all the skill, love, and trust they can muster if they’re going to survive the heat of this jungle battle.

My Review:

In Full Blaze Buchman seems to have finally gotten his feet under him, so to speak, in the Firehawks series. Pure Heat was good (review here), but Wildfire at Dawn (review here), seemed more like a secondary story, and it was a bit short. Both are very much worth reading if you like more than a bit of action/adventure in your romantic suspense, or if you just plain like romances with firefighters.

pure heat by ml buchmanHowever, Full Blaze hits it out of the park, even if the baseball metaphor is more relevant to the hero in Pure Heat. (go, read, enjoy, I’ll wait).

The series is building up on multiple fronts. The very tight crew of the more secret side of Mount Hood Aviation adds another member, and finally uses its perfect and perfectly legitimate cover of wildlands firefighting to do some investigative work for the CIA in a way that makes sense, by going to a hot region of the world to fight a very real and dangerous fire while they see what comes out of the woodwork, so to speak.

The love story is both a slow and fast burn; the hero and heroine act on their sexual chemistry fairly quickly, but it takes much more time (and a lot of work) for them to admit that they are in emotional sync as well.

One of the hallmarks of this series is that both parts of the couple have some fairly serious baggage that they need to work on before they can make a real team. In this case, Jeannie has a difficult time believing that she is as competent as she is, as beautiful as she is, or as worthwhile a person as she is. An emotionally abusive ex did a nearly permanent number on her self-worth and self-esteem. But that’s what he intended. That Jeannie escaped just proves that he failed, because she is awesome.

Calvin Hobbes Parker is a former ground crew (in other words, a hotshot) turned professional photographer. He follows the fire so that he can capture award winning photos of the life he loves and the danger he investigates.

However, no one names their kid for two brats in a comic strip. Cal Parker invented himself after escaping a series of brutal foster homes, and he has the scars on his back to prove it. His only home has been the road, and he doesn’t own anything except his cameras or let himself get close to anyone.

Until he meets Jeannie, and until Mount Hood Aviation sees him as an asset that can help them fight fires and solve problems. Until he gets sucked in by the fantastic people and the dangerous job they do.

He fights falling in love with Jeannie every bit as hard as he does putting down roots within the MHA family. It’s only when he has to face his greatest fear that he finally figures out that the risk is worth the reward – even if he might not live to see it.

In addition to the marvelous love story and the great adventure, we also watch a man work through a crisis of faith. Fighting fires and occasionally discovering crazy bad guys should be enough work for anyone, but Mark Henderson is finding it a come-down from commanding SOAR. He knows that it was necessary in order to raise their daughter in a reasonably safe environment, but he can’t help mourning what he left behind. Until he finally figures out that he is not just still fighting the good fight, but that it is an important fight worth every ounce of his skill just as much as commanding SOAR.

The elements of Full Blaze combine marvelously into a terrific adventure with a lot of heart.

wildfire at dawn by ml buchmanEscape Rating A-: I had fun with this one. While I think you could start this series here, I wouldn’t skip Pure Heat. Now that I’ve read them all, I’d say that Wildfire at Dawn was fun but felt like a secondary storyline.

But about Full Blaze, I think the “full” is about right. One of the things that I love about both of Buchman’s series is that the women are every bit as much a part of the action as the men. In his Night Stalkers series, both the male and female leads are soldiers. In Firehawks, both the male and female leads are integral parts of the crew. In Full Blaze, Jeannie is actually more integral than Cal. She’s a helicopter pilot, who both flies to suppress the fire and rescues crews that get trapped. While Cal is a top-notch photographer, part of this story is figuring out what his place might be at MHA.

I think he’s being trained as a Fire Behavior Analyst, like Carly in the first book, but it doesn’t seem like anyone has told him that yet.

The part that made this one special was Mark Henderson’s journey. He gave up a career he loved, one where he felt part of a greater good and where he was in the inner circle in a lot of important missions. He knows he did the right thing for his daughter, but getting his heart to agree with his head takes a lot of soul-searching. It was terrific to see what happens after the happily ever after.

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