Review: Hot Point by M.L. Buchman + Giveaway

hot point by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks #10
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: August 4, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository


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


Master mechanic Denise Conroy—with a reputation for being as steel-clad as the aircraft she keeps aloft—shuns useless flyboys who don’t know one end of a wrench from the other.

Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor—known for unstoppable charm and a complete lack of mechanical skills—proves his talent for out-of-the-box thinking with every flight. He’s a survivor and a natural-born heli-aviation firefighter.

When Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, their newly forged partnership is tested to the max. They have each other, but not even their formidable skills combined can protect Denise and Vern from the conflagration sweeping the jungle… and their hearts.

My Review:

I have read and enjoyed many, many previous entries in both of M.L. Buchman’s connected military/romantic suspense series, The Night Stalkers and Firehawks.

pure heat by ml buchmanIf you prefer your romantic suspense with a higher military quotient, start The Night Stalkers with The Night is Mine, reviewed here. If you prefer your romantic suspense with more domestic danger, for very loose definitions of domestic, start with Pure Heat, reviewed here. Either way, the romance is hot, the suspense is very, very dangerous, the heroes are alpha but not alpha-holes, and the women are every bit as alpha, and every bit as professional, as the men.

The series are loosely interconnected, so it is very possible to read one without the other. However, this is one of those “Why would you?” questions.

Hot Point is a Firehawks story, and as such it does follow the pattern set by previous stories in the series. Not that this is a bad thing, the pattern definitely works.

One of the parties in the romance tends to be a bit of a misfit, but highly competent at their extremely technical job. The other one is equally competent, or they wouldn’t be part of Mount Hood Aviation in the first place. But that second person is usually slightly more socially ept. However, neither of the people who become involved in the romance expect to fall for anyone anytime soon, if at all.

That’s what happens in Hot Point. Vern, the helicopter pilot, is very competent. He has experience both with the Coast Guard and now fighting fires with MHA for 4 years. He may be one of the best helicopter pilots in the world outside of the military, and would possibly still rank highly within it. He is also a first-class charmer of the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” school. He’s not interested in long term until ace mechanic Denise Conroy gets under his skin.

Denise is one of the best helicopter mechanics that MHA has ever seen. Unfortunately, Denise is a bit standoffish and seems to be a stainless steel bitch. Of course, she is anything but. Instead, she’s the daughter of a widower who never recovered after the death of his wife – a woman that her surviving daughter resembles all too much. Denise is afraid to get close to anyone out of fear that she will lose them.

She’s way more competent with helicopter engines than she believes she is with other people. When she and Vern collide after his helicopter develops a fault mid-flight, they find themselves drawn to each other and into an intense relationship that neither expected.

They also bond over their mutual suspicion that there is more to MHA than merely fighting forest fires – not that that occupation isn’t dangerous enough. When former SOAR pilots own a crackerjack firefighting outfit, there are times when the U.S. military requests plausibly deniable backup in places that are hot spots in more ways than one.

Vern and Denise find themselves in the midst of MHA’s “second contract” either leading a coup d’etat in Honduras or trying to prevent it. As the bullets fly, they both start thinking that a regular civilian job might be a whole lot safer – if they live long enough to enjoy it.

Escape Rating B+: This series is always fun. I will confess that I’m finding the author’s new numbering scheme a bit awkward. About half the books it takes to reach #10 in this series are actually novellas. Oh well, that will make it just that much easier for me to catch up on the few that I’ve missed.

One of the things I really, really love about both of Buchman’s romantic suspense series, is the way that he draws the female characters. Every single one of them is an ace at what she does. Also all of them have the scars that any hyper-competent woman ends up with. One either ends up compromising one’s integrity in order to seem less capable, or discovers that one’s dating pool is extremely limited, because there are too many men who find them hard to take, even though that same hyper-competence is a trait they would either admire or envy in another man.

Some of Denise’s scars are of this type. She loves helicopter mechanics, and she is awesome at it. She’s also not very social, because she’s spent a lot of her life lost in either a book or a helicopter engine, and sometimes both at the same time. She isn’t traditionally feminine, and it is really clear that her last boyfriend was emotionally abusive about it.

The number of times and different ways that Jasper demeaned her and made her feel less than (even in memory) were so heartbreaking that I half expected him to come back and try to mess with Denise’s head all over again, but I’m glad that he didn’t appear. That would have been a traditional, and cliched way of created the crisis near the end of the story.

However, the jerk was mentioned so often he became kind of a Chekhov’s gun, he just never went off. So to speak.

Instead, what we have is a lovely romance between two people who constantly throw themselves in harm’s way, and who never expected to find someone else to be their equal. Denise becomes more comfortable in herself by being loved, and Vern finds himself more grounded. They fit each other perfectly.

The military mess at the end was an absolute hoot. They aren’t sure whether they are being kidnapped or enlisted, and don’t figure out until the end whether they are preserving the Honduran government or have been coerced into helping bring it down. The addition of Michael Gibson (hero of Bring on the Dusk, reviewed here), in disguise and in trouble, injects just the right amount of danger as well as linking back to The Night Stalkers.

A new entry in either of Buchman’s series is always a treat. I can’t wait for the next adventure.



Sourcebooks Casablanca is giving away 5 Copies of Pure Heat, Book 1 in the Firehawks Series by M.L. Buchman
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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Wildfire at Larch Creek by M.L. Buchman

wildfire at larch creek by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Firehawks #4
Length: 161 pages
Publisher: Buchman Bookworks
Date Released: February 18, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Tim Harada, a lead smokejumper at MHA in Oregon, visits home — the quirky little town of Larch Creek, Alaska. The streets are named for Jack London books, the pickup trucks are all blue, and the residents are all too familiar. One in particular.

Macy Tyler, helicopter pilot. Tim still sees her as his best friend’s kid sister. Before he leaves again, she must convince the guy she’s loved all her life that during his absence she transformed herself into a beautiful, competent woman.

Together they must fight the past and the Alaskan wildfires to create their future after the Wildfire at Larch Creek.

My Review:

The story in Wildfire at Larch Creek focuses on Two-Tall Tim Harada, the other half of the first stick at Mount Hood Aviation. Being first stick means that Tim and his smokejumping partner Akbar the Great are the best team in the outfit. They jump first into the fire, and organize all the other jumps.

wildfire at dawn by ml buchmanAkbar and Tim are best friends as well as partners, but where they used to spend their on duty time fighting fires together and their off duty time hitting the bars together, things have changed. Akbar found the love of his life in Wildfire at Dawn (reviewed here). Tim is happy for his friend, but feels left out, which of course he is.

When the team gets a week off because of heavy rains in the Pacific Northwest (surprise, surprise) Tim is at loose ends. Hitting the bars alone doesn’t have the same appeal. There just isn’t anyone he wants to spend a week with.

On a slightly crazed impulse, Tim decides to go home. It takes him almost a day of being squeezed in small planes to make it from the MHA basecamp to Fairbanks, then a couple more hours in an SUV with a frozen seat adjustment. Two-Tall Tim has his knees nearly in his ears the whole way.

(The length of his trip is completely realistic. Getting to Alaska takes a lot of time. Getting around takes even more. It makes you appreciate just how big the state is and how far apart everything is.)

Tim hasn’t been home to Larch Creek, Alaska in a long time.Not just because he has so little time off and Larch Creek is a serious pain to get to, but because he left a lot of tragedy behind. Being home reminds him of his best friend Stephen. Stephen died in Afghanistan, but every place in Larch Creek carries too many memories of the fun they had growing up.

While Tim’s parents miss him, the person who hurts the most over his absence is Stephen’s younger sister Macy. The three of them were always together, but now that Stephen is dead and Tim is gone it feels as if Macy lost her brother twice.

Not that she sees Tim as anything like a brother. She’s loved him as long as she can remember, probably her entire life. She knows that Tim has always seen her as a little sister, and he hasn’t been around long enough for that to change.

It’s been ten years since they’ve seen each other, and Macy has definitely grown up. When Tim comes home, he finally realizes that Macy has grown up into a woman that he wants to spend more time with.

But a week is all he has. It seems like they might have just enough time to figure things out, until Tim gets called out to fight wildfires near Larch Creek. As they fall in and out of danger, they are able to see each other as the people they now are, and not just through their memories of the past.

They might even have a future, if they can just figure out how to get around one little problem – Tim fights fires in Oregon, and Macy flies helicopters in the Alaskan bush. The bush is part of her, and she won’t be the same person if she leaves. Can he still be what he is, or more, if he stays?

Do they have enough time to be certain of the most important decision of their lives?

Escape Rating B+: I read this one for fun, and I’m glad I did. It was definitely a whole lot of fun.

250px-Northern_Exposure-IntertitleLarch Creek is a very quirky town. And it’s quirky in a very similar way to Cicely, Alaska in the TV series Northern Exposure. Everyone in town is just a bit “interesting”. One of the fascinating things about the town is that it has become an accidental writer’s colony. There are a surprising number of authors in this relatively small population, and they write everything. There’s a paranormal romance author who is old enough to be everyone’s grandmother, and Tim’s own mother writes murder mysteries. But they aren’t the only ones. Tim counts at least 8 writers in a population of 100. Some of them came because they participated in one of Tim’s mother’s writers’ workshops and just stayed, but still, it’s a lot. And an interesting lot – they are a fun bunch.

Tim is a great guy. He’s been sowing his extremely wild oats for a few years, but he is still in his 20s. He’s become the best at what he does through a lot of hard work, and he plays hard in his off time. Watching his best friend happily settle down with a woman who is perfect for him makes the wild oat sowing pall more than a bit. He and Akbar had a lot of fun – without Akbar it isn’t nearly as much fun. Also his friend has paved the way to show that there is a life outside smokejumping. Not that Akbar has quit, just that he is so happy to have someone to go home to and make a life with.

At least some of Tim’s restlessness is that he is starting to want that for himself, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Macy is a terrific heroine. She is herself pretty darn quirky (When I lived there I said that Alaska self-selects for odd). She has made a life for herself serving her hometown and her state in a way that fulfills her. She’s a bush pilot, a particularly Alaskan thing. She flies helicopters to pick up and deliver the mail to remote villages, and when needed for every other thing that a helicopter might be needed for – including firefighting. She’s self-sufficient because she has to be – if she goes down there may be no way out except to do her own repairs and fly out.

In her small town, she has discovered that there is no one for her. She grew up with all the guys, and knows all their secrets. Even worse, she punched out a prospective groom at the altar during the ceremony. Her reasons were excellent, but it has pretty much dried up the dating pool.

She’s never gotten over her crush on Tim, as much as she is unwilling to admit it. She’s managed to mourn her brother and move on, but Tim is still alive, just completely absent. There’s no closure.

When he comes home it is inevitable that sparks fly. She doesn’t just love him, she’s also angry as hell that he stayed away and they didn’t get to mourn together. When he starts out his visit by attempting to treat her as still a kid and just his best friend’s little sister, she’s angry all over again.

That much anger makes for a lot of sparks. She practically has to club Tim over the head with a clue-by-four to get him to wake up and see her as she is now. And once he does, they spend too much of his visit fighting fires to light the one between them. When they finally do, it’s fantastic.

I have a soft spot in my heart for books set in Alaska. I only lived in Anchorage for 3 years, but it left an indelible impression on me. The local joke is that Anchorage is 40 minutes from the REAL Alaska. This book is definitely set in what people would call the real Alaska – outside the cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. There are a lot of small towns in Alaska that are the size of Larch Creek, or smaller.

The story and setting of this book reminded me of a couple of other Alaska stories. For anyone who remembers the TV show Northern Exposure, Macy has a passing resemblance to the helicopter pilot Maggie O’Connell. The setting of Larch Creek seems like a town that would belong near Dana Stabenow’s fictional Park (which is really Denali) in her Kate Shugak mystery series.

Reviewer’s Note: Having lived in the 49th state, I have one slight quibble. No one local refers to any of the Alaska Interstates by their numbers. The numbers are not displayed. A-4 is the Parks Highway. A-3, which goes through Anchorage, is the Seward Highway, and the stretch of the Seward Highway through Anchorage is one of very few stretches that is actually built to Interstate Highway Standards.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post by M.L. Buchman + Giveaway

Today I would like to welcome back M.L. Buchman, who recently published Full Blaze (reviewed here). If you enjoy a hefty dose of adrenaline mixed with your romance/romantic suspense, you can’t go wrong with either of Buchman’s marvelous series. Take the Night Stalkers (start with The Night is Mine (reviewed here) for a military twist, and Pure Heat (reviewed here) for the start of firefighting season.

Point Tallies to Get a Date
by M.L. Buchman

From Full Blaze:

Well, okay, Cal got another half a point for not saying the expected. Add that to the one he’d earned jumping into space to reach her helicopter, and he was still nowhere. In her personal system, it took at least ten points to get a date, though this guy might need twenty.
full blaze by ml buchman
Damn, but he had a nice voice for storytelling, all deep and warm. No way that was worth another point. Couldn’t be.

Cal had settled in comfortably, looking out the window like any normal rubbernecking tourist, not like some freaked-out survivor of a close brush with death. Good recovery time. His smoke-smeared face actually highlighted his light brown eyes and bright smile. The man was several points worth of handsome and clearly knew it.

He turned to meet her gaze.
“Biding your time? It’s not going to work on me,” she informed him.

“Damn, and I had such hopes what with not knowing your name and all.”

Okay, she’d give him another half point for funny. She had a weak spot for funny, not that she’d ever admit that to this man.

There was no way she liked this Calvin guy. Even if, she did a little mental math, he had somehow slipped past ten points.

Fighting the Black Saturday bushfires, he may have even snuck up close to twenty without her noticing.

Damn him!

Jeannie Clark has a problem. It isn’t flying her Firehawk helicopter through the massive turbulence of a forest fire—she was born to fly. It isn’t that she’s a woman flying in a man’s world—not when her boss is the notorious retired Army Black Hawk pilot Emily Beale.

Her problem? Keeping the man at bay when all her instincts are insisting she let him in.

So, she does what any smart woman would do. She takes a dumbass idea from a guy and starts a list. Men are always making lists about the wrong things, who cares if she can cook like his Mom—her own mom could barely barbeque!

So what are a few of the right things:

  • Good-looking? Nice bonus but not required.
  • Funny? A major plus, but most men aren’t the kind of funny they think they are.
  • Smart? More or less important than funny? Tough call.
  • Has one of those toe-curling deep voices? Oh yeah! Major points when it really shouldn’t earn any. Damn his genes anyway!
  • Aware of someone besides themselves? Snort! Extra points if they even ask about your job, never mind anything about you.
  • They actually listen to your answer? Whoa! Now we’re starting to cook with fire.
  • Vulnerable? Yeah, that cuts the list right down. Even remotely accessible gets them a half point here.
  • Strong? Not just in “I can lift that heavy suitcase” kind of way (that’s why the silly things come with wheels, Du-uh!). But strong in a stable way, a dependable way that stands close when needed.
  • Safe? Right! When was the last time a man made you feel safer when he was around and interested in, well, what men are always interested in?
  • Can kiss like…

Well, that’s where the whole list starts unraveling on poor Jeannie.

What would you add to the list?

MLBuchmanAbout M.L. Buchman

M. L. Buchman has over 25 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics.

To learn more about M.L. Buchman, visit his website or follow him on
Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.


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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.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Wildfire at Dawn by M L Buchman

wildfire at dawn by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks #2
Length: 170 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: May 19, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s WebsiteGoodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Johnny Akbar Jepps, lead smokejumper for Mount Hood Aviation, is always first out of the plane, first into the fire, and first with the ladies. But the last thing he ever puts on the line? His heart. Until he meets a woman who simply rides away with it. Laura Jenson, wilderness guide and expert horsewoman, leads tourists from the Mount Hood Timberline Lodge into the wilds of Oregon. She knows the game and has no interest in some lady-killing, full-of-himself smokejumper. Not until Johnny lights her heart on fire. They both must take care not to get burned by the Wildfire at Dawn.

My Review:

full blaze by ml buchmanI rearranged my reading schedule in order to have a Firehawks marathon. I definitely enjoyed yesterday’s taste of this author’s combination of romance, adrenaline and suspense, so I wanted to continue with the rest of the series. (Book three, Full Blaze, will be up on Monday.)

The universe of wildlands fire fighting is utterly fascinating, which is a good thing, because one does emerge from each book having acquired a surprising amount of information about this dangerous, deadly and exhilarating profession. If you don’t walk away from these stories genuinely impressed with these utterly necessary people who fight fires in the middle of nowhere because they need to, and because we need them to, check for your heart because it must be missing.

The excitement of the story should have jolted it to life, in case you needed a jolt.

pure heat by ml buchmanWildfire at Dawn is the second book in Buchman’s Firehawks series. And I will say that it is necessary to have read the first book, Pure Heat, in order to really get the most out of this one. Wildfire at Dawn takes one of the secondary characters from Pure Heat and makes him the hero of his own romance, as well as the solver of a particularly nasty mystery.

Johnny “Akbar the Great” Jepps is the lead smokejumper for Mount Hood Aviation. He got that promotion at the beginning of Pure Heat, so events do follow.

Johnny is not looking for Ms. Right. He’s spent his 10 years as a smokie looking for Ms. Right Now on every break, and he’s had pretty good luck finding her – over and over. His pickup line of “I jump out of planes to fight forest fires” is a surefire winner.

When he meets Laura Jenson in The Doghouse, the MHA home bar, he’s captivated until he finds out that she’s a local. It’s hard to love ’em and leave ’em when they stick around. On that other hand, Laura is a wilderness guide, which makes her one of the few people who really get what he does (and why) who isn’t involved in the job. He keeps her wilderness safe, and she’s very aware of that.

She’s also perfectly aware that Johnny is a player, and she’s not interested in being played. He’s totally upfront about what he wants, but she’s just not into casual sex. She’s not looking for a relationship either, but neither is he. She respects that he is upfront, she just doesn’t want to play.

But instead of doing all the obvious things, Johnny seems to be interested in her. Not just interested in the obvious way, but interested in general. After a bunch of mixed signals and hurt feelings, as well as a nasty interfering fire, they move toward friendship. Especially after he helps her deal with a particularly obnoxious client who thinks that buying her guide services means buying her.

They drift into a relationship that neither one planned for. It throws Johnny completely out of his element. He never expected to feel so much, and doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions. So he hides from what he feels, pushing Laura away in lots of subtle ways, and driving his friends crazy as they see him throwing away the best thing that ever happened to him.

Until Laura finds herself caught in two forest fires, one right after another. And Johnny finally gets his head out of his ass and figures out just how much he has to lose.

Escape Rating B-: I would rate this one higher, but it is just plain too short. Johnny and Laura are both a bit shy of relationships because of messes in their respective pasts, but we didn’t get a clear enough picture of what happened, especially in Laura’s case.

In her case, it isn’t parental trauma, because we meet her parents and they are an absolute hoot. George and Jane Jenson named their daughter Laura Judy. For anyone who remembers the Jetsons animated series fondly, the jokes around their names is delightful. George Jenson really does work in the space age, his company builds the drones that Merks introduced in Pure Heat.

Laura is a terrific heroine, she’s smart, funny and professional. She’s part of the wilderness world without also being a firefighter like Johnny, so we get to see what its like to have a relationship (or try to) with someone who gets called at a moment’s notice to throw himself in harm’s way.

Johnny’s a bit more of an enigma. He started as a hotshot back when he was still in high school, and he’s never wanted to do anything else. He’s Indian (Asia not North America) and his background has some effect on his choices, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. More important for some bits of the story, he’s shorter than Laura and doesn’t care, although it does bother her a bit at the beginning. Still, it made him different, we don’t often see romantic heroes who are not basically “whitebread” and it’s rare for the heroine to be taller than her hero.

The most important relationship Johnny has (besides whatever is happening with Laura) is his smokejumping partner Two-Tall Tim. The way that they rely on each other, while at the same time not taking any shit from each other, is an excellent portrayal of friendship.

The mystery was a bit obvious, because the leading factors were kind of a “Chekhov’s Gun”. Something was introduced at the beginning that had to come back and bite someone on the ass. The climax still had me on the edge of my seat.

Good fun, high adventure, and a sweet romance. Just right (especially at 4 am when I finished!)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Pure Heat by M L Buchman

pure heat by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Firehawks
Length: 350 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: May 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

These heli-aviation firefighters battle more than flames.

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

She lives to fight fires

Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancé to the flames, she’s learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down.

But he’s lit an inferno she can’t quench

Former smokejumper Steve “Merks” Mercer can no longer fight fires up close and personal, but he can still use his intimate knowledge of wildland burns as a spotter and drone specialist. Assigned to copilot a Firehawk with Carly, they take to the skies to battle the worst wildfire in decades and discover a terrorist threat hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness–but it’s the heat between them that really sizzles.

My Review:

Pure Heat is a story about the people who live to fight wildfires; and especially about two people who have been damaged by that love.

Like any kind of drug, adrenaline is addictive. Fighting a forest wildfire is a special kind of addiction – it rewards its junkies with adulation – providing they survive. Even if they don’t always survive intact.

Steve Mercer, “Merks” to his friends and colleagues, used to be a smokejumper, until his leg was permanently damaged in a smoke jumping accident. While it isn’t the kind of accident that anyone could possibly have expected, the damage makes it impossible for him to run either towards or away from a fire, skills that smokejumpers need to survive. The accident took out a significant part of the muscle mass above and below one knee. What’s gone won’t grow back. Steve is lucky he can walk.

But he couldn’t get the need to fight forest wildfires out of his system, so he trained to fly drones over fires, using the data and his experience to spot trouble. He starts his new job, and first outing as a drone specialist, with Mount Hood Aviation as the book begins.

light up the night by m l buchmanHe’s not the only newbie on the crew. Retired SOAR Majors Henderson and Beale have also joined MHA, fresh from the events in Light Up the Night (reviewed here) the last book in the Night Stalkers series. Henderson is in command again, and Beale is still flying Firehawk helicopters. The difference in their lives is that one of them has to stay out of the fire, with their infant daughter.

Henderson and Beale’s presence guarantees that there is more going on than just fighting fires. But it isn’t their story.

The other person invited to this particular party is Carly Thomas. She’s also been mauled by the flames she fights, only the blows that she has taken have burned through to her heart. Her dad raised her in the middle of Mount Hood Aviation after he mother died when she was a child. He went out the way he lived, trapped by a fire he was fighting when she was 16. Her fiance was taken from her a year previously, also consumed by the fire he was fighting. The difference is that her fiance only became a smokejumper because firefighting in the Oregon woods is Carly’s entire life. He loved her, but didn’t love or understand the fire.

Carly is the best Fire Analyst around, but she’s still inside the black zone left after a fire has cleared the forest. Steve waltzes (actually limps) in, and is captivated by the very beautiful and extremely intelligent (also incredibly driven) woman he meets. He doesn’t know her history, or where her broken places are – all he knows is that he wants to get to know her better.

That he continues to put his foot into the wrong place every time they talk makes things easier, at least for her. She’s too busy being annoyed to notice that he’s breached her defenses. She’s afraid to love another man who lives to fight fires.

But as they work together fighting the biggest fire the Pacific Northwest has seen in half a century, they find out just what the other is made of – and that they belong together no matter what it takes.

Escape Rating B+: I loved the Night Stalkers series, so I was very happy to see that the author had found another way to mix romance and adrenaline. The heroes who jump smoke may do different jobs than the pilots and crew of SOAR, but their lives are every bit as dangerous – and thrilling.

And thanks to the presence of Henderson and Beale, occasionally not all that far off from those clandestine missions that SOAR flew. However, their presence as newbies to MHA allows the author to provide readers with a lot of background and information on the history and methods for fighting these devastating fires.  While it occasionally verges on infodumping, the info being dumped is fascinating.

It is unusual to see what happens to the hero and heroine after the happily ever after, so it was great to see how the two Majors move into civilian life. They are absolutely awesome, and it was fun to see Kee Stevenson again and hear how Archie and Dilya are doing. It’s always good to hear that old friends are doing well.

But the primary couple in this story is Steve and Carly. Although the injury that Steve suffered before the book starts was physical, most of the lingering damage is emotional. He’s not sure that he’s still a whole man, or really himself at all, if he can’t still jump smoke. His story is that of finding himself again. Carly helps alot, but he needs to see that what he can contribute in the present is every bit as valuable, albeit very different, than what he did before. He has to feel that within himself, and it’s a long road.

Carly, on the other hand, while extremely competent at the job she loves, is in an emotional blackout. Everyone in MHA knows and loves her, and they do what they can not to touch her where it hurts. Steve wants to know her, and in order for that to happen, she has to reveal what went wrong in her past.

One thought that came to me, about Carly’s fiance. If he’d lived, I wonder if their relationship could have worked in the long run. They may have loved each other, but she can’t live away from firefighting, and he wasn’t suited for it. Eventually, they would have resented each other too much to keep going. But it doesn’t happen that way.

Steve and Carly bring each other back to life. It makes a great romance because they are equal – either they rescue each other or they reach towards each other out of their emotional deserts.

The touch of suspense discovered by Steve’s poor drone was added icing on a very fun (and flavorful) cake.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.