by Dee Henderson (website)
Christian Contemporary Fiction (Tyndale, 2010)
Synopsis: Firefighter Jack O'Malley is fearless when it comes to facing an inferno. But being a target doesn't sit well with him, especially when a serial arsonist is endangering his men. Cassie Ellis is a firefighter who has already been touched by the flames. The fires are escalating; now the arsonist is targeting Cassie. And Jack has become the protector of a woman he will risk everything to save. (from the back of the book... edited)
On a scale of Vanilla to Dark Chocolate, this is very vanilla. The tension in the relationship is all drama-related (although there is a definite attraction), but the attraction is not sexualized.
Eye-Roll Factor: 8/10
As with a lot of Christian fiction, the eye-rolling is mostly for the way that the characters interact with God... but this was much better than a lot of the inspys I've read. Cassie (who is the main Christian character) does not over-dramatize her faith. And I appreciated that. I appreciated the way Dee Henderson approached the whole realm of faith in this book.
The Cosmo Factor: 24/25
Cassie was very deep, and very wounded. She's unlike most heroines that I've read in the sense that she has some distinctly masculine qualities that you don't often see portrayed in romance novels. I really liked that. I liked how easily she fit in with the guys, and yet when she responded to Jack, she was definitely the yang to his yin. She was brave and fearless, she was intelligent and active, she didn't sit around and wait for life to come to her. She dealt well with the blows she'd been given, and deepened her faith because of them. She was fiercely protective, herself, and loyal to a fault. Really enjoyed reading this woman. She and I could sit down for a Cosmo (or a mug of tea) anytime.
The Dining Room to Bedroom Factor: 24/25
I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting to like Jack O'Malley. I had a bad experience dating a firefighter and have basically steered clear of books and movies involving firefighters for years. But when someone recommended this book to me, I thought... it's been ten years, let's give it a try. And Jack O'Malley is all the things that my firefighter was not. He's kind, chivalrous, compassionate, and loving, while also being protective, loyal, courageous, and bold. Again, like most inspys, because there was no "bedroom", I can only extrapolate the "to bedroom" part of this factor, but based on what I saw of him in the rest of the book, I think he would be an all-around fantastic person to spend your life with. High marks from me.
The Braveheart Factor: 10/10
Worldbuilding is just as important in contemporary novels as it is in historicals. I think a lot of readers don't realize how much research goes into writing something with a distinct and private culture, like firefighting. From my experience, she was exactly right on all her detailing. I was especially impressed with the way she handled downloading information (about fires, the fighting of fires, the investigating of fires) without making it feel like an info dump. Dee Henderson obviously did her research... or else she has firsthand experience. Either way, kudos.
The Nostalgia Re-Read Factor: 6/10
While I did enjoy the book, and the characters, I'm not sure whether I will read this book again or not. I suppose some of that has to do with whether I find myself in the mood for a firefighter novel again. But I will say that, while I may not re-read this particular novel, I hear from friends that this is one in a series, all focused around emergency professionals. So I will probably be picking up other O'Malley books in the future.
The Skim Factor: 8/10
I definitely admit to a little skimming in this book. Not a lot. Because generally, Dee Henderson built the tension well, and made her characters have something at stake for most of the book. But there were sections that didn't deal with Jack and Cassie that I really could have cared less about, and skimmed. Mostly because I wanted to see what would happen with them, so I can't fault her too much. :-)
The Little People Factor: 7/10
This was definitely a book in a series, because there were several characters who came in and out who were not paramount to the story. But I know how those books work... people who've read the other books want to see names they're familiar with. And there's a certain amount of that that can't be helped. Unfortunately, I hadn't read any of the other books. But I was very impressed with how two of the secondary characters were handled. I feel a sequel coming on. :-)
Overall Evaluation: 87/100
Overall, I would recommend this to any Christian reader. It's got enough romance in it that romance fans will love it, but enough action that people who don't like "regular romance novels" will really enjoy it. Plus, Jack O'Malley is just an amazing character that I think more people should read. He is an excellent Gamma Hero. And Cassie is a very engaging heroine. I think this book is definitely worth reading.