Nevada Baylor* is a private investigator running her family’s detective agency following the death of her father. Nevada has a handy magical ability: she can sense when people are lying. In a world where other people can use their magic to levitate, throw heavy objects, or light things on fire, however, Nevada knows her limits. She sticks to cases that won’t get her killed — at least, she tries to. But at the beginning of the book Nevada is strong-armed into tracking down Adam Pierce, a powerful magic user with a penchant for burning things to the ground when he doesn’t get his way. In order to accomplish this task, Nevada reluctantly allies herself with Connor “Mad” Rogan, a former soldier and reputed war criminal who wants to find Pierce for his own reasons.
I enjoyed reading Burn for Me; it’s fast-paced and lively, and Nevada is good company — think an urban fantasy Veronica Mars, smart and sardonic, a bit idealistic but not naïve. However, I’m not sure if I will pick up its sequel when it comes out. Here’s my problem: the series is clearly being built around the relationship between Nevada and Rogan and I don’t want them to be a couple. Pardon my French, but Rogan is way too fucked up to be romantically involved with anyone. He kills without remorse, he’s manipulative, he’s arrogant, and when he makes a move on her, he takes Nevada’s unambiguous “no” as a challenge instead of an answer.
I should admit that I may be the wrong audience here; the “arrogant alpha male” isn’t a character that does much for me. If I’m going to care about or empathize with that type of hero there needs to be a compelling reason for him to act that way.** Curran (the hero from the Kate Daniels book) is also arrogant and controlling, but he leads a powerful group of people who face constant danger. If Curran lets down his guard or seems vulnerable, his people die. Rogan doesn’t have that kind of excuse. Maybe there’s more backstory coming but in Burn For Me he just seems like an asshole.
So what’s in the plus column for our hero? He’s rich, he’s hot, and he’s got powerful magic. Seriously. That’s it. And it’s not enough to make me believe that a caring, down-to-earth person like Nevada would fall for him. Throughout the book we see that Nevada is uncomfortable with Rogan’s capacity for violence and his lack of empathy for other people. She tells the reader — and Rogan — that she doesn’t want to get involved with someone so unbalanced and amoral, which frankly seems like the only sane decision.
However, it’s established (repeatedly) that Nevada is physically attracted to Rogan. The book seems to think that intense lust should be enough to overcome the very excellent reasons that Nevada resists becoming involved with this nutjob. Memo to romance writers: physical attraction isn’t our bodies telling our brains what we “really” want. Sometimes the brain is right and the groin is wrong. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I’d usually bet on the brain in that battle.
I’m not sure if I recommend this book or not. Fun read? Yes. Good setting? Yes. Cool heroine? Yes. Infuriating hero who should probably be the series’ villain? Also yes. So I’m giving Burn For Me a rare in-between rating. If your tolerance for alpha males is higher than mine, pick this up. If not, you might want to stick to Kate Daniels.
Rating: YMMV/Library Loan
* Yes, Nevada. Yes, I know, it hurts me too.
** And no, “my wealthy parents were mean to me when I was little” does not qualify. Sympathy-inducing? Yes. Excuse for remorseless murder? No.