Published by Entangled: Select Suspense on May 1st 2017
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Chloe Addison is on the verge of a promising career in real estate development until an explosion destroys her first major project and casts suspicion on her in an arson investigation. Her career is suddenly at risk—and possibly her life.
Firefighter Ryan Monroe wants a spot on the arson team, and getting close to Chloe might be the best way to solve his first investigation. Despite a painful past of his own, Ryan has dedicated himself to saving people, and when he realizes Chloe is in danger, she’s no exception. He just might be the perfect guy to rescue her, but their attraction could bring them both down in flames.
The conflict of interest is apparent from the start and it was what pulled me in at first: Ryan is part of the arson investigation and Chloe a person-of-interest, but that doesn’t stop him from seeking her out. The former is still hurting from his previous relationship and the latter is a timid, broken woman intimidated by her boss (who’s also an abusive ex-lover) but unable to get anywhere in the current situation though she seems in sore need of a fresh, new start.
I wasn’t entirely sure how things would go, but it felt as though you could see the train crash coming from a mile away, especially with a malicious ex-boss still to contend with and several potential suspects that should amp up the mystery and the action. The plot isn’t exactly heart-pounding, and ‘Burn’ reads more like a cross between slow burn drama (punt sort of intended) and some instances of suspense.
There’s some adage somewhere that claims love makes fools of us all. Not that I fully disagree, but this seemed particularly true of both Chloe and Ryan. The mutual attraction and the push-pull aside, there was a fair bit of struggle on my part to feel the connection between Ryan and Chloe, which fell flat as they put a foot in and then took it out—something that pretty much went on for nearly half the book. I couldn’t get emotionally invested in them when for a long while, all I could see was just skin-deep attraction, which wasn’t helped much by their reluctant dancing around each other as they couldn’t even decide whether they were going on a date or not.
Chloe comes from a history of childhood abuse and to some extent, her behaviour around men is understandably skittish and wary. But her passive-aggressive stance and inability to decide whether she wanted in or out—first she’s painfully shy with Ryan then accuses him of ulterior motives later—irked me somehow and made it difficult to sympathise with all that she was handling. The cynical part of me had little patience for Chloe’s low self-esteem that had her questioning her own desirability and her constant trodden down state as though needing the affirmation that Ryan could give her, then doing a turnabout by acting solely to protect her own interests by pushing him away and deciding she was better off alone. The constant denial of how good they’d be together but couldn’t, aided by the self-pity that was evident in Chloe and the indecision that plagued Ryan didn’t help contribute to the UST but simply drew out this stuttering relationship way longer than I’d hoped.
In this aspect, ‘Burn’ disappointed me, sad to say, but it’s also my preference for stronger, less naive heroines that’s showing up here. I liked that Chloe and Ryan were forced to face their own demons, but perhaps more for Ryan, who once again, needed to rush into a burning building with Chloe’s life at stake, while I would have loved to see some more spine in Chloe instead of the fear that always tended to overtake her when the going got tough. The story, even if it’s not quite for me, would definitely work for those who like the alpha protector-sort who will against all odds, overcome his fears to save his damsel in distress.