Vic Russo is just one of the guys. Except she’s not a guy. A paramedic, affectionately known as Vic within her firehouse, Victoria is a permanent fixture in the friend zone. But when her childhood crush, firefighter Graham McAndrew, becomes single once again, she decides enough is enough. It’s time for Graham to see her as the woman she’s become. There’s only one problem. A photo of her in the arms of another man has captured the nation’s attention.
Jason Meadows is not thrilled to have his police work interrupted by a small media craze. In fact, he’d be content never to see Victoria or that photo-gone-viral again. But a series of fires in town, paired with a growing attraction to the quirky paramedic, make staying away impossible.
Determined to ferret out a potential killer, Jason enlists Victoria’s help as his eyes and ears inside the firehouse. And while threats rise from within, Victoria is forced to choose between the love of her past and the man who’s ignited her fire within.
New to me author: I’ve never read anything by Ms. Reid, but I’m seeking out more by her after this. This is one of the times where the blurb lead me to believe one thing – the life long crush – would factor in more than it did, but it’s a happy surprise. I think the story is well balanced, a solid romance with enough suspense, drama and humor and that translates into a good read.
Nice to play in the adult section again: Perhaps I’ve read too many new adult romances lately, but I really appreciated reading about two people who were established in their careers and even with their fears of intimacy, they were mature and responsible people, completely in keeping with their professions, since Victoria is a paramedic and Jason is a cop turned arson investigator. They both have this need to help others and it’s never disregarded for dramatic tension or ignored in favor of a plot point. There are obstacles grounded in their respective life experiences that aren’t drama for drama’s sake. I also appreciated that they both didn’t go down the stereotypical route as far as their genders.
Gender roles aren’t cut and dry: Victoria’s not just a tomboy heroine – yes, she’s the military veteran,she’s got short hair, brews beer and works in a male-dominated field, but she’s not uncomfortable with her femininity, or just dying for a makeover. She’s content with her life and she’s self-aware, not taking for granted. It. Jason is the one who has suffered a traumatic childhood but it’s well developed as a motivation for his issues with intimacy. Also, he’s a good beta hero – certainly has the protective instincts and his attraction to and love for Victoria was sweet, but he believed in supporting her and respecting her intelligence, instead of just wanting to wrap her up in cotton batting and hide her from the world (he sort of wants to, but he respects her too much for it).
Non-traditional looks: Sometimes, the focus tends to be on the super pretty when it comes to heroes and heroines. Here, they are attractive, but he’s not a muscle-bound behemoth and she’s not the gorgeous girl who just needs to take her glasses off and shake out her hair. He’s described as having a slightly receding hairline and she’s slim with small breasts and an average face. Basically, they’re two active, healthy, fairly attractive but not inhumanly gorgeous and that’s refreshing.
Chemistry is good: They may not be inhumanly pretty, but that’s not affecting the heat they can bring, because their love scenes were pretty good. Their attraction builds at a good pace and when they decide to embark on an affair – with adorably delusional rules to keep them as strictly friends with bennies – everyone and their mama knows it’s not going to lead anywhere but HEA.
The suspense works: While I think the romance is stronger than the suspense (not a bad thing in my book), I think the suspense still has its interesting moments and the ending wasn’t completely obvious, so points for that.
Standalone: Part of series, and I’m assuming who the earlier heroes and heroines are, because it’s not too obvious and more importantly, it doesn’t impact the story here. I am interested in checking out the earlier books though precisely this was done so well.
I really enjoyed this. I’ve never read Ms. Reid’s work before, but I was entertained by this well done contemporary romantic suspense and I’m definitely interested in reading more in this series.
*An ARC was received for an honest review.
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Jason thoroughly enjoyed watching the color bloom on Victoria’s cheeks as she picked at the homemade label on her beer. He followed the progression of that pink flush all the way down her neck and then to the hint of a valley between her breasts, where a butterfly tattoo peeked out from the neckline of her tank top. “Let me guess. You don’t have a date.”
“Not yet. There’s still time.” She paused, one eyebrow raised at him. He knew where this was going, but he wasn’t going to make it any easier for her. It was too much fun watching her squirm.
“So, anyway,” she said on a sigh when Jason didn’t jump to volunteer. “Graham drew his own conclusions when he saw the picture.”
“Meaning…he thinks I’m your date to your brother’s wedding.”
“And you didn’t set him straight?”
“And what’s your plan for the wedding?”
“Well…” She glanced at the drink in her hand. “My plan was to bribe you with a six pack of lovingly made India Pale Ale, but you don’t drink.”
“That’s true, I don’t.”
Smiling, she raised her mischief-filled brown-eyed gaze to his. “So, what’s your stance on brownies?”
“I’m not big on chocolate.”
“How about cheesecake? I make a mean cherry cheesecake.”
“I don’t really do sweets.”
“Jesus, Jason. Work with me here. Don’t you have any vices? Anything I can tempt you with?”
There wasn’t a man alive who could hear those words from a woman like Victoria and not have his brain immediately jump to one thing. And Jason’s brain had already been halfway there since the moment he’d snapped eyes on her from the front seat of his Jeep.
Dressed casually in jean shorts—modest in length by today’s standards—her long, toned legs were not to be ignored, and yeah, he’d taken a second to ogle those legs before removing his sunglasses. Lean muscle and smooth tanned skin—his hands had itched to run up their long lengths. And that little dimple of muscle at her bicep? Hot as hell.
He’d suspected she had something going on under her navy uniform the first two times he’d met her, but seeing her like this? Out of uniform, in skin-exposing summer clothes, tattoo revealed—it brought his thoughts clear out of the professional zone, that was for damn sure.
Realizing he’d waited a bit too long before answering, Jason cleared his throat. “There is something.”
She bit her lower lip nervously. Had her mind gone there too? Was she contemplating all the ways in which she might tempt him?
There were about a million inappropriate but completely true things he could say in answer to her question, but he made himself focus on the only one that didn’t involve them getting naked and horizontal. Or vertical. She looked strong and flexible, they could probably—Enough. He needed to get his head out of the gutter and concentrate on the opportunity Victoria had just unknowingly presented.
“I’ll help you out. I’ll go to this wedding with you and spare you from your crazy mother and help you keep your pride with Graham. But you have to do one thing for me in return.”
Head tilted to one side, she regarded him warily. “And what’s that?”
“Be my eyes and ears inside your firehouse.”
Stephanie Reid writes contemporary romances with heart, humor, and a happily ever after. She holds a master’s degree in Human Development Counseling and enjoys using counseling theories on her fictional characters (and from time to time her husband).
She draws inspiration for her stories from life experience, and when writing, she frequently asks her police officer husband for his input on all things law enforcement. They’ve agreed not to discuss the bits of advice she doesn’t take when it doesn’t serve her plots well, and this makes for a very harmonious marriage.
Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Stephanie now resides with her husband and three children in central Illinois.