Monday, November 19, 2018

Consumed, by JR Ward - Review

Title: Consumed
Series: Firefighters (book 1)
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Reviewing: e-ARC via NetGalley
Reason for reading: With JR Ward, hope springs eternal
The Short Answer: 
Consumed brings in the best of the Black Dagger Boys in a contemporary, non-paranormal context. Danny reads a little bit like a less-damaged Butch, and the boys in the firehouse are deftly set up for the next JR Ward Dude Group. The characters are diverse and down-to-earth; more blue-collar and less blue-blood; struggling with the real-life baggage that tends to get in the way of a healthy relationship. The suspense plot keeps it from being too angsty and Ward's hallmark storytelling is on point.
The Blurb
Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed...

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn't believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again--until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm. 
The Longer Answer 
Ward doesn't pull any punches in this book. Bad stuff happens to her characters, and miracles don't save them.  There's a brutal edge to the plotting that feels true to the style she has developed with her various paranormal books. (I confess I did not finish Bourbon trilogy, so there may be echoes there as well, but I can't comment.)

One of the threads that I really enjoyed is that as a firefighter, Anne is the only woman in her precinct, and as much as she wants to be treated as one of the guys, she gets a certain "little sister" treatment. While her work is respected and she isn't coddled, it's more about her place in the social constellation of her team. I thought Ward did a great job of threading that needle.  Anne's status changes after the "risky decision" mentioned in the blurb, and the way she adjusts is one of my favorite things about the book.

Danny... well, Danny. Readers who are allergic to the physically uber-alpha should know by now to give anything by J. R. Ward a pass, and Danny is no exception.  He's physically tough, ridiculously stubborn, carries a bunch of family baggage, and loves with his whole heart or not at all. And by "not at all," I mean "turns it into a stream of self-loathing." Usually I feel like Ward's books are all about the hero with the heroines hovering in "accessory" territory, but it's reversed in Consumed. Danny is a worthy foil and gets a decent hero's arc, but Anne is for sure the star.

I've noticed a definite trend in Ward's book about characters seeking therapy for their issues and I think that's a great thing. Love cannot conquer all, and the rise of the angsty hero also created this trope where the expectation of the Happily Ever After kind of included some magical love-heals-all-wounds subtext.  I'm glad to see explicit inroads on that subtext. Love doesn't mean finding the perfect person, and love can be healing for sure, but finding a partner does not equate to fixing a person, and that's a message that deserves repeating.

I think this author is incapable of writing a book without multiple arcs, and in my opinion, it's very well done in this book, though there is plenty of disagreement across the reviews on that point. There's a mystery, a complicated romance, family baggage galore, an ensemble cast being introduced, and they all get a decently tidy wrap-up in this book. I look forward to getting to know the rest of the cast and their stories.

Around the Web
Book Binge didn't like it all, and makes a fair point about some questionable decisions on Anne's part (this is why I don't read other reviews before I do mine, heh)
The Reading Café - Two for the price of one reviews! Generally positive
Romance Reader liked it too.
Random Book Muses - short and sweet


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