Opening Line: "Lieutenant Howard Paxton gritted his teeth against the burn, every muscle straining as he pumped three hundred pounds of iron from his bare, sweaty chest."
Howard "six-pack' Paxton loves being a fireman, in his down time this confirmed bachelor lifts weights (to perfect the six-pack) rides his Harley and hangs out with the other members of Station 5. Everything changes however the night 'A' shift responds to a house fire and Howard finds himself administering first aid to the curvaceous Katherine McKenna. She has literally fallen into his arms suffering from smoke inhalation and once she opens her eyes the sparks fly.
This pair can't deny their attraction to each other and even though Howard has sworn off woman (because he's tired of being used for his body and wants more out a relationship than just sex) he's willing to make an exception for the beautiful, blonde schoolteacher. Just as their relationship starts to smoulder an arsonist makes himself known and tangles Howard up in his demented plans of vengeance. Now those closest to him are in danger of becoming the next potential victims as a ruthless string of fires roars closer and closer to home.
TRIAL BY FIRE was a surprisingly great read full of action and suspense, smoking hot love scenes and a complex yet tortured hero. The multi-layered plot kept me guessing throughout and the antagonist was genuinely evil. However the first few chapters are really silly and after having it pounded into my head every few pages just exactly how good looking, muscular, strong and enormous (6'6 240) Howard is and listening to internal dialogue with the words "Shazaaam and Ka-pow" I then had to wipe away the tears of laughter at having his man-bits described as among other things; a divining rod and renegade (there is also mention of Mt St Helen's) before resigning myself to just sitting back and enjoying a complete cheese-fest.
However it's at this point that author Jo Davis confused me by writing a great story with an actual plot. Somehow she's managed a perfect mixture of corny fun with thrilling action and heartbreaking post traumatic stress. It's also obvious that Davis has done her homework here and spent time within a fire hall and with real firefighters because her technical descriptions as well as those of life in the `house' and the feeling of brotherhood among the men are spot on. I also enjoyed the relationship between Kat and Howard and loved the fact that Kat embraced her curves and had no desire to be a size 2. Her struggle to get Howard to open up about his nightmares and abusive past without shutting down and pushing her away were well done and their relationship as a whole was believable.
My only real problem was with Howard's abrupt change in character whenever he got his freak on. Outside of the bedroom he never swears and is a giant teddy bear of a man however get him between the sheets, against a wall or in the hot tub and he turns into a sexual dominant with a nasty mouth. Thankfully we have also been introduced to the other hard-bodied men of station 5 and I can't wait to read their stories. UNDER FIRE, is next up in this scorching new series. Cheers