Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 27, 2020
Received From: NetGalley
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…
Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.
Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.
Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: friends to lovers, coworkers to lovers, best friend’s younger sibling, age gap
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, queer authors
WARNINGS: fire, anti-queer family, anti-queer language, ableism, misogyny, sexual harassment, mental illness (ADHD, survivor’s guilt), parental death, alcoholism, child abuse, slurs, gendered slurs, slutshaming, physical injury, hospitalization
BURN ZONE is a great start to a new series from Annabeth Albert!
Both the main characters in this book were great in so many ways, even when they were frustrating. Linc is a veteran smoke jumper, starting a new season after losing his best friend in one of their missions months before, and determined to do what he can to protect his late best friend’s younger brother. Jacob is determined to succeed, whether or not his family or Linc likes it, and he’s determined to get something else he’s been craving for years–Linc. What they have between them is both explosive and tender, sparking emotions that neither know quite how to handle while assuming the other wants something different. I loved all the sweet, quiet moments between the two of them as they attempted to trick themselves into believing they were merely friends with benefits, while in reality, they were building a relationship moment by moment, creating precious memories.
There were, however, a few things that were…a struggle to deal with while reading. First, it rubbed me the wrong way when Linc would make comments about Jacob’s supposedly active love life. There was almost always an undercurrent of disdain, like he was judging Jacob for being sexually active when he had no business doing so.
Second, I didn’t really get the way Jacob’s connection to Wyatt was depicted. He’s very clearly upset about his brother’s homophobia, even in the first chapter, which takes place 6 years before the contents of the rest of the novel, and makes frequent comments about how upset and hurtful Wyatt’s words and actions were. While he didn’t hate his brother, I didn’t really see him as looking up to him at all either. And yet, the story tries to convince the reader, at the same time, that Jacob wants to make Wyatt proud and live up to his memory as a smoke jumper. It didn’t click, for me. If I was supposed to believe that, there wasn’t enough for me to do so, but there was more than enough evidence to make me think he wouldn’t care about making Wyatt proud.
But, even with the issues I had, I did really enjoy this story and I’m super hype to see more from this series. If you’re looking for a new series with the same kind of found family, band of brothers feel you got from Albert’s OUT OF UNIFORM, this is the place to start!
Frequent tweeter, professional grammar nerd, and obsessive reader, Annabeth Albert is also a Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.