Opens with: Amazon Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Texas Firefighters, Book 1
Hero: Derek Severson
Heroine: Macey Locke
Date of Publication: July 13, 2010
Started On: January 29, 2011
Finished On: January 30, 2011
This is a book that has been sitting in my to-be-read pile for what feels like ages now. I have always been intrigued by storylines where the hero is so blinded with grief for the woman he previously loved, whether it be the woman was his wife, fiance’ or girlfriend; that he is immune or cannot see the woman who is meant to share his life who is standing right in front of him. These make for heartwarming and at times gut wrenching reads as it is the heroine who has to take the brunt of the sorrow and grief that is whirling inside of the hero with no way out. Playing with Fire is a recommendation I received I think from Amazon forums and my first Amy Knupp proved to be a surprisingly feel good read and I certainly won’t say no to reading another title from hers.
28 year old Derek Severson is grieving the death of his girl friend Julie who died in a fire that Derek was working on. Giving up fire fighting, the profession that he loves, Derek moves to San Amaro Island where his uncle Gus has grown too old to manage his bar The Shell Shack. Pouring drinks day in and day out from mid day till the wee hours of morning is how Derek manages to keep the mind numbing grief at bay and 5 months on Derek still isn’t ready to let go, move on and has no inclination of returning to fire fighting.
Macey Locke, Derek’s childhood friend since Macey had been 5 years old and their mothers had got together to manage a restaurant, has always had feelings for Derek which she has pretty much given up hope of ever being returned. It had been during college that Macey had first realized of her feelings and had in turn turned down all opportunities to date that had come her way. It had been seeing Derek fall crazy in love with Julie that had propelled Macey to do something as drastic as join the Peace Corps and spend two years in Thailand; a time during which Macey had turned from the shy girl she had been into a take-charge woman who is no longer afraid of confrontations.
Macey returns from Thailand and makes her way to San Amaro Island with the sole intention of helping Derek find himself once again so that he may be at peace with what has happened and be able to move on with his life. The Derek she finds at The Shell Shack is a shell of the man he used to be, anti-social, grumpy and tortured looking as hell with desolation surrounding him like an invisible cloak. Mercy has her work cut out for her as she slowly turns Derek’s world upside down in more ways than one, and in the process both Derek and Macey find love of the everlasting kind with each other which is by no means easily achieved with Derek fighting Macey and the feelings he suddenly finds himself with every step of the way.
I liked this Harlequin Super Romance from its beautiful cover to the hunky hero Derek who is desperately in need of some TLC and then some. The Macey who emerges from her time spent at the Peace Corps is an admirable one, one who doesn’t back down even when the going gets tough. I loved Macey and rooted for her and her mission from the very beginning. I liked how the process within which Derek lets go of his grief for Julie unfolds right in front of the readers eyes. It wasn’t an overnight process and I applauded Macey’s guts in facing this challenge head on and coming out the winner in the end. I found myself intrigued with cook that Derek hires for The Shell Shack, a Harley driving, anti-social woman named Andie who seems to me would make for a great story of her own.
The only thing that irked me was the fact that even though Derek had been preparing to leave to go back to Macey, it was in fact Macey who had come back to confront Derek and to let him know that she won’t be scared off that easily from him. Though I liked the ending, I just wish it had been Derek who had had to do the grovelling a little bit more to win over the love of his life.
Recommended for fans of Harlequin Super Romances and those who love a hero wallowing in grief finding love once again.
Derek leaned in closer still and she could feel his breath on her lips. She didn’t dare move. She shouldn’t let this happen, but she had wanted it for so many years …
The touch of his lips was like cool seawater on a hot day. Something she needed, something she’d longed for for so long she didn’t remember when she hadn’t. The softness of his mouth was such a contrast to the hard body pressed up against her, his gentleness so unexpected from a man who’d always lived life hard. Her insides pooled and her legs threatened to give out.