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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

Currently reading

Heiress for Hire
Madeline Hunter
Doctor Sleep
Stephen King
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Kyraryker’s quotes

"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Driven by Fire by Anne Stuart

Driven by Fire (The Fire Series) - Anne Stuart

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Jenny has tried to move beyond her mobster family ties and has used her law degree to help people but when her father calls her and asks her to help her baby brother out, she can't help but run to his aid. She still believes in her brother's innocence, no matter what hard and cynical Matthew Ryder says. When Ryder, working for The Committee (an organization dedicated to taking out the really bad guys), finds Jenny stumbling around a ship transporting human cargo, he thinks she is one of the bad guys. Her demeanor has him questioning that though, but he can still tell she is lying to him. As Jenny fights to maintain her belief in people, Ryder fights his attraction to her and to keep her alive.
He caught her chin in one hard hand, holding her still as his blue eyes blazed down into hers. "I'd be more than happy to demonstrate just how much you really hate me," he said, his mouth hovering over hers.
Second in the Fire series, we focus this time on Matthew Ryder, one of the American Committee's super agents. He has the usual hard, cynical, and stepping over the line jerk-ness that all Stuart heroes' personalities come equipped with but there are a few instances that I think some readers will have a problem with.

Ryder physically restrains and punishes Jenny for information. He leaves bruises from gripping her arm tight and manipulating pressure points and leaves finger marks on her neck from gripping her throat to scare her.

(show spoiler)

 If you don't like your main hero physically dominating the heroine, this would not be for you.
From the start when our couple meets, they hate one another and I mean hate. Their bickering wasn't so much sexually charged denied lust to me as forced animosity. I kept thinking that maybe they had meet previously and had developed a loathing over a period of time but no, they're just incredibly venomous right off the bat. The whole thing didn't make me anticipate their eventual get together, as give me a headache. I like a bit of friction between my leads at the beginning but this felt over-the-top and heaped on readers' heads.
Stuart heroes are mainly why I read her books and despite feeling uncomfortable at the times Ryder crossed lines (my views on heroes' actions in fictional works could definitely be considered problematic at times) and a lack of any real background relayed about him, I still found him compelling to read about. He's the hero that gets the job done, regardless to how it affects him physically and emotionally. Our heroine, Jenny, is where my biggest problem originated. Jenny was the TSTL (too stupid to live) romantic suspense heroine to the nth degree. She keeps pertinent information that could save lives (even her own) from the hero, she refuses to see the hugely large and clear writing on the wall about two characters, and basically acts like a naïve child. This all from a lawyer who works a lot with victims of the sex trade, I imagine she has seen some awful things that would have opened her eyes. She annoyed, angered, and had me rolling my eyes constantly.
Most of the story is Ryder and Jenny flinging vitriol at one another (some making out interspersed) but the suspense plot of someone trying to kill Jenny and them trying to figure out who is the new head of the sex trade, also pops in and out to keep them in danger and together. The two main puzzle pieces where large and clear but the way they fit together was a bit vague, the danger aspect felt off to the side for me.
I know that I complained a lot but I’m usually am a big fan of Stuart, so there is some sad disappointment happening here. I also read the whole story without skipping and very minimal skimming of certain parts, so I guess you can say there was some entertainment factor here. Stuart is one of the best in the romantic suspense game, you just may want to check her backlist out instead of this new one, though.