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Fire Raiser Mass Market Paperback – February 2, 2010
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Bestseller Melanie Rawn plunges down the back stairs of the old South into a dark world of family secrets and the international flesh trade that lies underneath the surface of small town politics and romance.
Holly McClure and Evan Lachlan have survived the fiery beginning of their romance and left Manhattan for Hollyâs ancestral home to raise their children. Evanâs the county Sheriff; Holly is still a trouble-making Spellbinder trying to manipulate her family as if they were characters in one of her novels.
But somethingâs not right in Pocahontas County. Churches are being burned down in mysterious arsons with a taint of magic on them. Sheriff Lachlan suspects that they have something to do with the new owners of the old Westmoreland plantation, now a very upscale Inn, but even if he could find proof, itâs going to be hard to bring a case of Black Magic before a Judge -- even in Pocahontas County, where witchcraft is the family business of all the oldest clans.
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I forced myself to finish to make the purchase worth while.
'Spellbinder' had its flaws, but there was a real story there, with suspense and romance and sex that integrates magic with the real world skillfully, one that kept me reading all the way through. Ah - so that's what 'Fire Raiser' was missing!
Rawn even points it out in her short Author's Note, where she states that the character of Jamey in the book was unplanned, but he appeared on the scene with "something of an agenda" and refused to go away.
Yeah, tell me about it.
With Jamey comes an attempt at crafting a gay male relationship along the lines of Holly and Evan's rocky road in the first book. Now that Holly and Evan are happy with each other (delighted, actually, as we are repeatedly reminded), Jamey and Cam appear to have this book's conflicted relationship. The problem here is twofold.
First, I simply didn't buy the relationship. Page after page is devoted to explaining Cam and Jamey's history, but for all the explanation it doesn't hold up. I know gay men in healthy relationships and I know gay men who've been in troubled relationships, and none of them look as neurotic and mismatched and Cam and Jamey. They go from smoldering glances at one another's gorgeous bodies to barely speaking and back again with no warning or motivation. Rawn may know what gay relationships look like, but I couldn't tell - if 'Fire Raiser' is any indication, she has no knack for portraying them on the page. For a woman who has built up some of the most believable and interesting male/female romances I've ever read, this came as something of a disappointment.
The problem with Cam and Jamey may have a deeper root than that, though. They may be casualties of The Author Who Has Something To Say (patent pending). Here comes the "agenda" Rawn mentioned - Cam and Jamey's relationship shows up very conveniently, as the book circles again and again back to the issue of gay rights and how poorly homosexuals are treated. It's an issue Rawn deals with hamhandedly, with characters who are so hateful they're almost laughable, and dialogue that sounds more like it came out of a high school debate tournament than an adult conversation.
Unlike 'Spellbinder,' where the story is bound to magic, in 'Fire Raiser' it feels tacked on and convenient at best. The characters from the first book, including Evan and Holly, are relegated to spectators and commentators more than anything, and don't seem to really do much in this story. Without the conflict that made them interesting in the first book, this bunch of witches seem strangely mundane.
Oh - but the story? There is one, but it starts late and is given short shrift. Slowly revealed over the course of a long cocktail party that starts the book (no joke), a series of mysterious church fires has stumped local police and witches alike, and the solution is a mess. The plot tries to weave human trafficking in with a magical undercurrent, largely unsuccessfully. Another "issue," this one dealt with via a clumsy attempt at perspective shift halfway through the book and a slipshod connection to the characters. Again, Rawn had something she wanted to say and tried to work it into the story, losing both in the process.
I don't mind Rawn's politics. Gay rights? I support them, and have for years. Human trafficking? Undeniably evil. I agree with much of what she was trying to say, but I vastly dislike how she tried to say it. There are stories to be told around these themes, and they could be gripping, shocking, meaningful, heart-rending and maybe even mind-changing.
'Fire Raiser' is not one of those stories. Instead, it's a sub-par novel and a disappointment from a writer who has given me reason to expect far better.
Evan Lachlan and his wife Holly McClure, a witch, have moved from Manhattan to her hometown in Virginia to raise their young children. The town is known for having the most witches in one place in the entire country. Most of the oldest families' business is witchcraft. Holly is a spellbinder, and appreciates that Evan has opened his mind to the magic in her family.
Evan is the county sheriff, and is investigating a series of arson in the area. Someone is burning down churches and using magic to activate the trigger. Evan suspects it may have something to do with the new owners of the Westmoreland plantation. It has been recently renovated and opened into an upscale inn.
Looking for proof, Evan and Holly attend a fund raiser at the plantation. Not long after their arrival, they are left gasping at the magic that fills the air. Using magic, Holly's cousin Cam finds a doorway not visible to the human eye and they all rush into the room. But unfortunately, there is no exit out and something sinister and dark is on the other side.
An action-packed thrilling fantasy bursting at the seams with magic, FIRE RAISER is a bewitching tale. Melanie Rawn draws the reader in from page one and doesn't let go until the final climax. Fantasy and paranormal lovers alike will enjoy FIRE RAISER. I certainly did!