Review: Where There’s Smoke by M. J. Fredrick

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Series: Standalone
Hero: Seth Escamilla
Heroine: Lauren Stokes
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 11, 2008
Started On: August 4, 2011
Finished On: August 5, 2011

Where There’s Smoke is MJ Fredrick’s first published title and is of the friends-to-lovers trope that I adore. Combining together the complications that arise when two people who have always been friends find themselves in unchartered territory together with the added complications of two families who have been friends and much more through the years finds betrayal of the worst kind lurking right amongst them, Where There’s Smoke is a contemporary romance that delivers a lot of emotional angst which I absolutely reveled in.

26 year old Lauren Stokes is an only child whose parents have never been overly demonstrative with each other or with their daughter. Lauren had always got her fix of coddling from her best friend Seth Escamilla’s mother with the two families going a long way back with both their fathers being best friends and working at the same fire house.

Seth who is a fireman himself works under Lauren’s father and has always followed his own father’s footsteps all his life. The one secret that he knows about his father puts a severe strain on their relationship and it definitely does a number on his confidence about his ability to remain faithful to one woman for a long period of time.

When Seth starts noticing the little details about his best friend Lauren like how wonderful her hair smells and how much of a bliss it would be to have her long legs wrapped around him in a lover’s embrace, Seth knows that he should keep his distance and forget that he ever thinks of getting hot and heavy with the last person in the world he would want to hurt.

Lauren doesn’t know exactly when her feelings for Seth started to change but she has been living with the fact that a drop-dead gorgeous specimen of a man like Seth would never settle for a woman like her and has resigned herself to being his friend for the rest of her life until Seth’s  changing feelings towards her puts things in a whole new perspective.

Suddenly, it is all Lauren and Seth can do to keep their hands off each other and when they stop trying to resist the pull that is between them, boy do the sparks fly then. Seth brings such a wicked quality to the sensual journey that they both take together and there were times when I wanted to call up the fire department because of the high level of steam these two generate in the bedroom. And that dancing scene at the wedding reception; I swear my insides were still sizzling even two hours afterwards!

But of course, things hardly remain the same when sex enters the equation of a life-long friendship and it is these changes that are hard for Seth to take in as he starts to doubt his ability to be good enough for someone like Lauren. The easy camaraderie that has always existed between them starts to wan as Seth pulls away from their relationship, wanting to spare Lauren the hurt of his betrayal when he ends up doing just the opposite.

Filled with family drama that tends to put more strain on their “relationship”, it is a tough road that both Lauren and Seth takes towards their happily ever after, especially for Seth who does a lot of soul searching to finally accept who he is in reality.

Where There’s Smoke is a novel that brings home the fact that no matter how old you might be, the skirmishes between your parents can always inevitably hurt you, no matter how much they might try to spare you the pain. It also brings to light just how painful a betrayal it would be to find out that the person who has shared your life for so long is not the person you really thought they were and it just hurt a place deep inside of me to read about it.

Where There’s Smoke is not just simply a romance novel that tells of how one day Seth and Lauren finds themselves undeniably in lust with one another and things proceed from lust to love in zero seconds flat. Rather than that, MJ Fredrick puts forth the complexities involved in the change of dynamics from a life-long friendship to something much more and how eventually these two work things out.

The only reason that this one doesn’t get a five-star rating is because I would have definitely loved a bit more grovelling on Seth’s part before Lauren had given in to his declaration of love in the end. And would have dearly loved an epilogue to show how life fares for those left behind in the wake of all the drama that unfolded in the story which would have made this a more satisfying read all around.

Favorite Quotes

Lauren opened the door. No high-heeled boots today. She looked fresh out of bed, rumpled, messy in a sweatshirt and plaid flannel pants, fluffy slippers. His Lauren.
And instead of being relieved, he stepped inside, cupped her face in both his hands, and kissed her.
Oh, man. She was minty and soft, and her lips parted in surprise under his. He had enough wits to give her a couple of seconds before he tilted her head and took the kiss deeper. She made a sound that might have been protest, and he started to pull back, but then she wound her arms around his neck and brushed her tongue over his lower lip. He accepted the invitation.

Her voice had dropped, soft and low, and curled through his blood, which traveled south in response. He took a step closer, trailing his fingers up the collar of the jacket to her throat. Her lips parted in surprise, in unquestioning invitation, his own tingled in anticipation.

He opened his eyes to see her rise over him, drag her teeth over her bottom lip. He’d never seen anything so sexy. He gripped her hips and lifted his own, thrusting into her body once, twice, three times before shattering, completely losing himself, his mind and soul fragmenting, his body melting into the mattress.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble


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