Series: Wildwood #3
Published by Avon Impulse on August 16th 2016
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Most women swoon over Tate’s devilish grin and firefighter uniform. But Wren couldn’t be less impressed by his good looks and flirtatious banter—in fact, she seems to downright despise him. She thinks he’s a player, but his attraction to her is no game. Wren is unlike anyone he’s ever known and he isn’t about to let the feisty, gorgeous woman slip through his fingers. Wooing Wren would be so much easier if she didn’t hate him…
Or does she?
Wren Gallagher’s and Tate Warren’s story has been teased about in Karen Erickson’s previous books and I was eager for this frenemies-in-lust trope to come to fruition here. To some extent, I wasn’t disappointed, because ‘Torch’ did exceed my expectation when it came to resolving Wren’s and Tate’s initial impressions of each other and how it progressed onto something more…precipitated by friends’ gatherings, an ex and a case of arson that left Wren with close to nothing.
Even as these events provided interesting twists and turns to the story, they don’t exactly amount to much by the time we reach the end of the book. There is an ongoing case of arson that’s been the constant thread in the Wildwood books, yet nothing comes out of it here, which I found disappointing. Wren’s house goes up in flames but the ongoing investigations fade into the background as the rocky, slow-burn relationship between Wren and Tate is prioritised. The ex-boyfriends returns, and barely forms a credible threat before slinking away, the overprotective brother-behaviour is taken a notch too high and Wren’s own half-formed plans to move away are not addressed fully enough, not even by the end. Those bits were let-downs to me, particularly because the last three-quarters of the book felt contrived, as though Wren’s overreaction was writ-large simply to provide a source of conflict (and climax) – as the large obstacle a couple needs to go through before they’re baptised by fire – before ending abruptly with nothing in the arson case resolved at all. Perhaps ‘Torch’ could have gone from a decent to stellar read had Erickson tightened the loose threads that were hung up so tantalisingly in the beginning, so that I didn’t feel as though I was reading only half a book with the pages ripped out of the other half.
But for shorties like this, the lead characters do drive the plot and I did think Wren was relatable, and her desire to make something more of her life resonated with me except for the last bit that seemed completely out of character for her. I felt much less for Tate though because I couldn’t quite decide if he was a player or someone who was trying to shrug off that label. All Erickson makes clear is that he wants Wren, but never quite provides an impetus other than the idea that she is a challenge for someone who never had to fight for a woman before.
There’s of course, a HEA – an albeit rushed one – but it’s all but left me wondering if ‘Torch’ closes this series or if there’s more in the works, because so much of it still feels incomplete.