A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Fire cost Jared Kenny his home and all his memories of the man he’d loved for over half his life. But it also brought him firefighter Adam Collins and the purest blue eyes Jared had ever seen.
Despite the best efforts of his department, Adam had to watch with Jared while Jared’s house burned to the ground. Something about the man touched Adam and made him want to follow up and protect him. Later, when the two of them gave in to their passion, it burnt and bared them both.
So Jared ran…from Adam, from his past, and from everything their future together could hold. He tried to start a new life, taking only his newfound passion for glass and his obsession for a finding a particular shade of blue, the blue of the heart of a flame. It took a near-tragedy to teach him that the blue he sought, he’d had all along…in his firefighter’s eyes.
Z.A. Maxfield is a favorite author of mine, but I have to admit that this well-written, angsty, character-driven, hurt/comfort story fell a bit short for me and one that I felt didn’t realize its potential. I’ll delve into the reasons in a bit.
When the story opens, we meet Adam, a wildland firefighter, just as he has pulled a man from his burning home with only a portrait and the clothes on his back. Jared is in more than shock as the house is not only his home, but the last structure designed by his late, famous architect husband who had died recently. Skip ahead three months where Jared is in a rehab facility, fighting depression over his loss and developing a serious fixation with the color blue, and Adam is visiting several times a week. Taking an unusual interest in Jared that he himself can’t really explain, Adam decides Jared can’t get well in that environment, so he takes him to his family’s cabin in Colorado. Once there, passions ignite and feelings develop, but the several-week respite is shortened as Adam is called away to fight a large fire. Jared, however, had already decided to leave, needing to be alone with his thoughts and new obsession: glass art. Jumping to three years later, Jared has healed, has a new life and new career, and his obsession over the color blue — and a particular shade of it — hasn’t diminished at all, but his guilt and regret over leaving Adam the way he did leads Jared back to the firefighter in his hour of need in hopes that Adam can see it in his heart to give Jared another chance.
In the end, and though it is told in alternating third-person POVs, this is Jared’s story told in two parts: the tale of his journey from a clinically depressed man to a recovered, healed artist. And since Jared is an artist and designer, there is quite a bit of color — mostly, and unsurprisingly, blue — and imagery in the book that I really liked. It’s very lush that way.
I thought Jared’s characterization was well-drawn. I loves me a broken hero and Jared is definitely broken. We get to see him at his worst — cold, selfish, cruel, unthinking — but then he apparently had a great teacher for those traits. His “husband,” Keith, was a grade-A, controlling, closeted, amazingly-talented jerk who was Dom to Jared’s not-necessarily willing sub. Two decades together and I guess your partner rubs off on you, good and bad, but that combined with so much loss in such a short time causes Jared to have a meltdown of sorts, ending up in rehab clinically depressed. For as good as that makes a great character, it also led me to my biggest problem with the book. Jared is ill; if nothing else, the episode on the plane shows us — and Adam — that. He needs to convalesce and I felt that it was unhealthy for him to get into any kind of relationship under the circumstances. What bothered me wasn’t Jared or his reaction (he definitely enjoyed it), but Adam and his part in it. Adam’s actions that got Jared into bed the first time very early in their trip seemed, to me, to be almost inexcusable. Here is a guy who has problems, who shows obvious signs of distress, who is fragile, yet Adam takes the first opportunity that presents itself to jump the guy. Now in fairness, Adam is a sweet, kind, young, somewhat naïve, generally responsible man who has voluntarily taken on a (over)protective role in Jared’s life, so there was no mal intent, but Jared simply isn’t capable of making those kinds of decisions and Adam should have known better. Additionally, Jared was not thinking about a physical relationship, or at least I never got that impression, and as such, there I didn’t feel any sexual tension between them. Yes, he is obsessed with Adam’s eye color, but that didn’t cross over, for me, anyway, into longing for other body parts. What would have made it easier for me to accept was if that scene happened several days or even a week after they were in the cabin, which would have given Jared a little breathing space and a chance to begin healing, an opportunity for them to get to know one another more, and some time for some tension to build.
For Adam, I never felt like I got to know him well, and definitely not as well as Jared. It is obvious in the first part of the book that he feels responsible for Jared, cares about his welfare, has best intentions around taking Jared to Colorado, however, that’s about all. We learn little of his background. We know he is twenty four, which is thirteen years younger than Jared. We know why he became a firefighter. Even in the second part of the book, when their roles become reversed, we still learn little about him. I felt like he got lost in the story to Jared’s vibrancy and overall needs, but perhaps because this really was Jared’s journey, I don’t know.
I also felt like I was short-changed a bit in what I had anticipated the plot to cover based on the blurb and as I read along. I was hoping to dive into a story about depression and how the protag affected healed, but that didn’t happen. When we leave Jared after he makes the decision to stay in Colorado, he hasn’t made much progress in recovery. When we find him again, it is three years later, his emotional well-being is restored and his life is back on track with a new career. We never get to see that healing process, which was a disappointment. And speaking of healing processes, I would also liked to have seen some of Adam’s recovery after his misfortune.
I also thought, when Adam discovers inadvertently that Jared likes some domination play, and when Jared says about his husband, “He called me his boy,” I thought we would have a D/s sub-plot, but that didn’t happen, either. It’s mentioned here and there, and alluded to, but never developed further.
For secondary cast, there are few; the only one that we spend any real time with is Adam’s sister, Ana, who plays two pivotal roles as the unknowing inspiration of Jared’s “glass fever” and his key point of contact/support while Jared is in the hospital.
Though it is entirely possible — and probable — that ZAM fans will love this book, thrive on the angst it serves up, and think I’m nuts, it was not, in my opinion, the best of this author’s work. Perhaps a longer format would have better suited this story, one where some of what I considered to be the less-developed aspects could have been fleshed out more.