Title: Set Ablaze
Author: K.C. Burn
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 24th 2018
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Page Count: 200 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
California firefighter Hayden Hurst is starting to realize there’s more to life than fighting fires and drinking with his buddies. He has room in his home and his life for someone special, but no one has stood out among his hookups. And while he’s out at work, admitting he’s gay is very different from showing up at social functions with a man. He’s afraid that’ll be too much for his less-than-accepting “friends.”
Broadway dancer Jez Bouchet hasn’t been mistaken for straight since he was gay-bashed at seventeen. After getting a lucrative job offer in Hollywood, he uproots his life in New York and drives to Los Angeles. His brother, who is Hayden’s best friend, arranges for him to crash at Hayden’s place.
The attraction between Hayden and Jez is unexpected but fiery, and they succumb before they’re even sure they like each other. But Jez hates Hayden’s homophobic friends, and Hayden knows Jez is too flamboyant for him to fly under the radar. Then there’s the complication of Jez’s brother.
Despite those hurdles, they fling themselves into a relationship. But Jez has secrets: a tiny spoiled dog and a determined stalker. If he doesn’t come clean, he might torch their burgeoning relationship before it has a chance to bloom.
Hayden is a firefighter who’s out, but doesn’t really talk about his sexuality at all with his friends, and, in fact, listens to a lot of derogatory and really shitty things his “friends” constantly say to him and around him in the hopes of not rocking the boat.
Jez is a rising star who’s been dealing with a lot of personal problems, and when he’s offered a chance at a new start on the west coast he takes it. He packs up everything he owns into a U Haul and drives across the country intending to crash with his older brother Miguel who he’s apparently barely spoken with in eight years.
Miguel and Hayden have been best friends for decades. Hayden vaguely remembers Jez as a kid with a puppy crush on him, but not much more. When Miguel asks Hayden to put Jez up for a bit until he gets on his feet Hayden agrees reluctantly, even though it makes him anxious. Once Jez moves in it takes some time for the two to connect and work past some preconceptions and start actually communicating with one another.
But Jez’s past won’t stay there, and Hayden’s “friends” are getting worse by the day. It’s up to them to step up and work it out so they can be together.
This is a difficult book to explain. The parts are there to make this a great, medium angst romance with a truly lovely HEA, but the way it was put together, with a slower pacing and miscommunication in the beginning and a lot of tell and very little show made it hard to really get a sense of the characters for me.
I can’t really get into it all without spoiling the story so I’m going to put my thoughts under spoiler tags so be really, really sure if you want to open it.
I didn’t understand why Jez’s brother Miguel is made out to be possibly homophobic in the beginning. Especially when it turns out he’s the farthest thing from it. I also didn’t get why he didn’t seem to know anything about Jez’s life – or the stalker situation that forces Jez to flee across the country.
I didn’t understand why Hayden just rolled with all the slurs, abuse, and homophobic BS from Jordan and Vic. Or why Miguel – who basically went into heaps of debt to bail his kid brother out after a gay bashing – would. Or why Kevin would. No seriously, why didn’t any of these three guys ever just say, “These two guys are toxic assholes and I don’t want to spend my free time with them anymore.”
I didn’t understand how or why Jez didn’t discuss his acting job with Miguel or Hayden. Why was it treated like a big secret in the beginning but revealed with no angst later?
I didn’t understand why so much was off page. There were heaps of things that seemed to be important, like Jez looking for a car or at apartments or for a therapist, Hayden looking for a therapist, most of the fade to black sex scenes…but would be dropped only to pop up a few chapters later like an aside – Jez got a Prius, Hayden and Jez are going to therapy together, Miguel was a freaking saint who saved Jez (so why didn’t they know anything about what was happening with each other?) and so forth, which all just worked to make me feel disconnected from the characters and story.
I wish I could have seen therapy with Hayden and seeing him deal with his grandmother’s hoarding and why he was accepting the behavior of Jordan and Vic like he deserved to be treated that way.
I wish I could have seen Jez in moments being strong, like getting his car, or going into rehearsals, etc. because I know he’s a strong character – but I didn’t really get to see it.
The thing is, setting those complaints aside, I still mostly enjoyed the story overall. I just wish it had been more show and less tell.