When we meet Rowan, she is involved in training a new group of recruits. The training is vigorous, draining and designed to weed out all but the best of them. It doesn’t take her long to notice one of the recruits. Gulliver Curry is a former hotshot firefighter who now wants to move to smoke jumping, and he has made quite an impression already during the training, breaking records for running and more. In addition, he is confident and easy on the eyes. For Rowan, he is off limits. She never mixes business with pleasure and in all the years she has been jumping she has never hooked up with another jumper during the season. To be honest, Rowan is kind of emotionally closed off to any kind of relationship other than the occasional one night stand in the off season.
Gull - as an aside what kind of name is Gull Curry - was quick to notice Rowan too, and he is determined to charm her into breaking her rules just this once. I am pretty sure that Gull could talk me into just about anything. He is charming, funny, quick thinking and intelligent and he knows just how to push Rowan when she needs to be pushed and when to give her space. I thought he was a great hero, especially seeing as he had so many layers. For example, while he is a firefighter during the summer months, during the winter months he and his extended family run a games arcade. I would gladly read more about him, maybe if he was a secondary character in another book! His friend, Dobie, would be an interesting challenge to write a romance for!
What is already a difficult season for Rowan, given the events of the previous summer, becomes more difficult when Jim’s former girlfriend Dolly returns to the base with a baby in tow – Jim’s baby. Dolly blames Rowan for the fact that her baby is now going to grow up without a father and she is determined to make Rowan’s life a misery. It is a terrible shock to everyone in the close knit community that makes up the base when Dolly turns up dead, especially when the police spend so much time at the base investigating them all. It all gets even more sinister when there is another body found, and then later when it seems that the jumpers are being targeted. Is someone trying to deliberately hurt Rowan and the other jumpers and if so why?
I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, but I do read Nora Roberts’ standalone titles. While I found the story suspenseful in terms of the events that happened to the characters, I didn’t find the whodunit aspect particularly strong. From the moment the bad guy was introduced I thought he would turn out to be the culprit. Towards the end, I maybe considered switching suspects for a few pages but for the most part it didn’t matter where the investigation was trying to lead the reader – I was pretty certain of who it was going to be.
One of the strong aspects of this story was the secondary romance between Lucas Tripp and school principal Ella. It was delightful to get to see this older couple find each other and act on their initial attraction and let it build into something more. I loved how nervous Lucas was despite the fact in other areas of his life he was totally a take charge kind of guy. I did wonder if Rowan’s insecurities around the fact that her dad had met someone were a bit over the top, but I guess when you have been the only woman in your dad’s life for years you might struggle a little to adjust to these new developments. There were times when Rowan’s attitude got a little wearing about a few things but Gull soon pulled her into line!
As far as I know, we don't have smoke jumpers here in Australia, so I found the details surrounding the risks that these brave men and women take absolutely fascinating. Imagine being prepared to jump out of a plane fully loaded down with fire fighting and safety equipment, having to run or hike miles, cut down trees, burn fire breaks and so much more. It is dangerous work in so many ways and my mind was blown that there were groups of people who are prepared to do this every summer for the sake of preserving the wilderness and presumably to save lives and homes should it get too close to civilization.
I listened to this on MP-3 and I have to say that it was a fantastic listening experience. The narrator, Rebecca Lowman, did such an amazing job with the different voices and especially with imbuing the text with the right degree of emotion to match the story. There was the perfect degree of tension as the smoke jumper's rushed to fight the wild fires, of fear as the characters faced various threats against them, of humour amongst a group of good friends and colleagues, of emotion in the relationships, of everything. While I really enjoyed the story itself, I must confess that I don't think I can imagine wanting to actually read the book rather than repeating the listening experience.
Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. Flying past towering pillars of smoke, parachuting down to the edge of an all-consuming blaze, shoveling and sawing for hours upon hours, days at a time, all to hold the line and push back against the raw power of Mother Nature.
But there’s also little else as thrilling — at least to Rowan Tripp. The Missoula smoke jumpers are one of the most exclusive firefighting squads in the nation, and the job is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. She’s been fighting fires since her eighteenth birthday. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home — even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air.
Fortunately, this year’s rookie crop is among the strongest ever — and Gulliver Curry’s one of the best. He’s also a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. He came to Missoula to follow in the footsteps of Lucas “Iron Man” Tripp, yet he’s instantly more fascinated by his hero’s daughter. Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, but Gull is convinced he can change her mind. And damn if he doesn’t make a good case to be an exception to the rule.
Everything is thrown off balance, though, when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull — any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.