Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Firehawks #5
Published by Buchman Bookworks on June 19th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
Smokejumper romance- Krista Thorson, No. 2 smokejumper with Mount Hood Aviation's elite team, parachutes into wildfires for a living. Too tall, too big, too strong, she never fit in...except on the fireline. Her past lost, her future uncertain, Krista fights for the present. Special Forces veteran Evan Greene jumps fire to avoid facing his past. Some memories are too painful. Evan's policy? Bury and move on... Until Krista unearths what he most wants to forget. No half-measures win this firefight. Together they must face their pasts before their love burns away in the Wildfire on the Skagit.
Yesterday I had a fairly bad headache. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t want to read, but does mean I bounced off book after book, including some that I know I really want to read, just not right then. I’ve already caught up with Anna Hackett’s Hell Squad series, so I went hunting for another one of my auto-absorb authors. And that’s how we end up with Wildfire on the Skagit as today’s book, because M.L. Buchman is guaranteed to get me lost in a good story.
I will say that his numbering system for his series is starting to drive me a bit bonkers. I always end up wondering if I’ve missed an intervening book or two. Having read both Wildfire at Dawn (reviewed here) and Wildfire at Larch Creek (here) I don’t think I did.
This Smokejumpers trilogy within the Firehawks series features the people who jump as first stick for Mount Hood Aviation. MHA is the best of the best, which is exactly what you would expect from any company run by Majors Beale and Henderson from The Night is Mine (reviewed here) and the rest of Buchman’s Night Stalkers series.
But this trilogy features the smokejumpers of MHA, the people who jump out of perfectly performing aircraft in order to fight terrifyingly dangerous fires. The hero of Wildfire at Dawn, first stick Johnny “Akbar the Great”, is still with MHA after he found true love with a local wilderness guide. His former jumping partner, Tim Harada, is now fighting fires back home in Alaska, after the events of Wildfire at Larch Creek.
Which left Tim’s former position open at MHA for Krista Thorson, one of the few female smokejumpers. There are plenty of women firefighters and pilots at MHA, but few women become smokejumpers because the job requires a tremendous amount of upper body strength, which few women have. Krista is one of those few. Being taller and stronger than her classmates, male and female, in her small town high school caused her no end of grief and social ostracism back then. Now it’s an asset for her job, even if she still believes that most men want some little delicate flower instead of the Viking warrior that Krista so strongly resembles.
Evan Greene is still trying to burn through his demons by jumping fires. He comes to MHA after five years with the Montana Zulies because MHA never has a down season. During the Pacific Northwest’s wet winters, MHA flies to the southern hemisphere to jump fire in someone else’s hot season. After six years as a Green Beret, and five years as a smokejumper, Evan hasn’t figured out what to do with his downtime, so he’s found a way not to have any.
Both Evan and Krista have demons to face. Some of them are even the same demon – that fear of loving anyone and letting them rely on you because you won’t be there when they need you has bitten them both deep. And while Evan may not exactly have PTSD, he certainly has some dark and dangerous moods that keep anyone from getting too close to him.
Evan is afraid to feel, because he lost the one person who needed him the most. And Krista not only knows just what that feels like, but suffers from the added whammy that she can’t believe that any man will want her for the woman she is, and not some little doll who needs protection. None ever have, until Evan walks into her life and away with heart.
The only question is whether Evan is willing to let go of his pain and offer her his heart in return.
Escape Rating B: This is a hot and sweet romance with surprisingly little conflict between the main characters. And I would much rather see the struggle for a happy ever after to come out of issues that are organic to the characters rather than a misunderstandammit, so I liked the way this one worked.
One of the other things that I really,really love about all of Buchman’s series is that the romance is always between equals. Both parties are strong characters, and are often strong warriors of one kind or another as well. In the cases where there are differing careers, both are experts. There are no weak links, and especially no stories where the man is strong and driven and the woman is weak or inexperienced. These are all stories of grown-ass men and competent, mature women. Often as not, the women are more capable than the men, as was the case in the previous two books in this trilogy. Laura the wildlife guide in Wildfire at Dawn had a better handle on herself and her future than Johnny “Akbar”, who is great at what he does but seems to be putting the rest of his life on hold for as long as he can continue to jump smoke.
Krista is every bit the smokejumper that Evan is, and possibly a bit more. And he doesn’t need her to be weak in order to make himself feel strong. That she is a big, strong, muscular woman has given her a few relationship hangups, but then in our current society, any woman who does not meet the tall and waifish model ideal would end up battered about the edges of her self-confidence. We all have body issues, unfortunately.
The bond between Evan and Krista is that they both share a similar pain – the fear of getting close to someone and not being there when they are needed. It’s happened to both of them and left terrible scars. They help each other find strength in those broken places, and it’s marvelous.
One of the best parts of this story was the sequence with the Smokejumpers Camp that Krista has started. She brings in 20 girls from the local high school for a three-day wilderness experience of camping, hiking, living a bit off the forest, and training jumping and rock climbing. She’s giving back the experience that she didn’t have, that young women can do or be anything they set their minds to, and that their strength and skill is an asset and definitely not a liability. That Evan also sees her true purpose and is completely on board with it made them bond together marvelously.
And it’s a lesson we all need to be reminded of, no matter what our age. We can be anything we set our minds to.