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: Kristin
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 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.
Premise of the book is, Jaz has up and moved from NYC under stressful circumstances. He is estranged from everyone in his family except Miquel. Miquel asks his best friend Hayden if Hayden could put Jaz up until his brother gets settled. Hayden reluctantly agrees, remembering Jaz from when he and Miquel used to hang out. But that was a much younger Jaz, not the mature young man who shows up on his door step. And that’s when everything changes.
I liked this story quite a bit more than I expected when all was said and done. In retrospect, I think it was because the main characters came across as real people, with legit anxieties and worries, and behaved accordingly. They both had an inability to communicate (Hayden and his ‘friends’), they both had preconceived notions based upon life’s experiences (Jaz believing Hayden hated dogs) and they had issues they recognized they needed to deal with but tried to keep shoved back into the closet (NYC for Jaz, Hayden’s Gran).
The other thing that kept surprising me was my expectations of how a situation was going to unfold, for example, I fully expected a big blow-up scene over Fang, then tears and conflict resolution. Yeah…didn’t happen. There were a handful of little things like that in the book that just didn’t go the way I expected. In a good way.
When the big argument scene did happen? Yeah, that felt real to me, because with two people dealing with past trauma and an inability to communicate the scene made sense in the context given. Yes, it was a misunderstanding, couples have those all the time, but it wasn’t a Big Misunderstanding situation and for that I was very grateful.
I also thought the dramatic tension regarding Jaz’s NY boyfriend was handled quite adroitly. The buildup was subtle, an observant reader knows what’s coming, but the author totally avoided all the typical clichés and brought in the police to handle it! Bravo! ((Golf clap! Golf clap!))
A handful of things niggled at me: I would have liked to have seen conflict between Hayden and his “friends” come to a head between them, before being resolved off-page. The situation felt smoothed over rather than a growing experience. I would have liked to have seen some tension here.
The dinner scene between Hayden, Jaz and Miquel was a bit weird. The topic so stressful that it couldn’t be discussed over food, everyone’s tummies are upset, then when all is well with the world, let’s have pie! Umm… really?
And I had one small issue with Jaz’s NYC boyfriend/stalker that didn’t jive for me, but because it would be a major spoiler, I’ll just leave it at that.
Ultimately, this book was a slow burn romance that I felt had good character development, just the right amount of dramatic tension, and had some “oh…that’s so sweet” moments to balance everything out. And in fully recognizing that none of us read the same book the same way, this book worked for me.