When I’m looking for an emotional read from Harlequin I tend to gravitate towards the SuperRomance or Silhouette Special Edition lines. Frankly, the last place I expect to find “emotional” is within the covers of a Harlequin Blaze. Blaze is where I go for “sassy and sexy,” not “gut-wrenching and heart-felt.” Well, you know what they say about assumptions don’t you? Yep, after reading Jillian Burns’ debut for the line I feel very much like an ass. What a fun, and emotional, surprise this book turned out to be! Sometimes impulse buying does pay off.
Major Cole Jackson has fallen in love. OK, maybe not love – but definitely lust. Having sustained wounds after his plane was shot down in Iraq, he’s fresh out of the hospital when his buddies stationed at Nellis Air Force base convince him a trip to Las Vegas is in order. It’s while he’s on the casino floor that he spots, Jordan Brenner, a Keno girl who his buddies have nicknamed “Ms. Crash and Burn.” She’s smokin’ hot, but shoots down fly boys better than any anti-aircraft missile ever made. You know what this means right? Yep, the ol’ wager plot. His buddies bet Cole that Ms. Crash and Burn will shoot him down within the week.
Even if Jordan had time for romance, she learned the hard way that relationships aren’t for her. She followed one bad-boy ex out to Vegas where he promptly left her with no job, no money and behind on the rent. Then she picked a stable, good guy Banker-type who proceeded to leave her for a showgirl. Now she’s going to school, working nights as a Keno girl, fending off advances from drunken customers and taking care of her mother who is slowly losing her grip on reality thanks to Alzheimer’s. So when Cole puts the moves on her, denying his advances is second nature to her. Sure she’s lonely, but she has no time or desire to get lost in a pretty face, and incredible body, ever again.
What’s really charming about this story is that the author takes it places the reader wouldn’t necessarily expect. The wager plot device a common romance novel trope, but Burns uses only to kick start the interaction between Cole and Jordan. She dispenses of it rather quickly, and it by no means is still lingering by the time the second half the novel rolls around. That leaves the characters coping with more common “real life” conflict. Jordan is worried about passing her final exams, landing a good job, and her mother’s health. Cole is worried about the state of his Air Force career, will he be given a medical discharge or worse, a desk job? Then when these two do start to develop feelings for each other, there’s the small matter of distance, time and if they can make this relationship work. Can an adrenaline-junkie like Cole settle down to a more routine day-to-day existence? Would he even want to?
Cole and Jordan have an explosive chemistry and the first few love scenes are real barn-burners. Their desire, chemistry, and wanting practically leaps off the page. This gives the story a very emotional quality, that carries over into the quieter moments. The scenes between Jordan and her Mom are particularly heart-breaking and well done. It has always been Jordan and her Mom against the world, having been abandoned by Jordan’s father before she was even born.
The only misstep in the story comes during one of the love scenes which features an “OMG, We’re So Hot For Each Other We Didn’t Use Protection That Time” moment. Sigh 🙄. Blessedly the author drops it after that moment, and the inevitable does not happen – which begs the question of why even include that scene to begin with? Oh well. The rest of the story is truly top-notch, and the author has even laid some ground-work for a sequel featuring Cole’s lothario buddy, Captain Mitch McCabe – a character just begging to be taken down a few notches (or totally dismantled).
All in all, I really enjoyed this debut Blaze from Jillian Burns. It had what I’ve come to expect from Blaze novels, a fun story featuring smokin’-hot chemistry and love scenes that could peel wallpaper. However the author really goes for glory here by including several emotionally charged moments and giving readers some insightful, truly heart-breaking conflict. When’s the next book?
Working as a Keno girl in a Vegas casino, Jordan Brenner took her bets off the sex table ages ago. And all the hot flyboys in the world won’t make a difference—until Major Cole Jackson sends Jordan’s thoughts and hormones into wicked places indeed….
What Jordan doesn’t know is that Cole made a deal with his buddies: get some hot-‘n’-heavy action from the Keno girl, or pay up! But Cole doesn’t need an incentive. Every time he looks at Jordan’s lips (or any part of her body, for that matter), he’s immediately aware that something is up—and it isn’t his ante!
It looks as if Cole won’t lose just his shirt. He’ll lose all control, too!
Read an excerpt.