Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jill Shalvis' Firemen Series

This series consisted of White Heat, Blue Flame and Seeing Red. All three standalone stories came highly recommended (thank you Anne). All three feature hero firefighters that are mouth-watering gorgeous. Along with beautiful, strong heroines suffering just the right does of vulnerability (that only our hero can see). I won’t set up the plots or conflicts for you here. Trust me, they were all good.

It was an excerpt from Seeing Red that first lodged Jill Shalvis’ name in a corner of my brain. In it (the excerpt, not my brain), the H and H meet again after many years—a reunion under dark circumstances and fraught with unspoken past hurts. The excerpt ended with the heroine walking away feeling completely, utterly alone. That got me.

So I read this one first. And loved it. Ditto for the other two. What surprised me however, given the pre-conceived notions planted by that excerpt—was how “light” these characters felt. At times. In more than one fleeting glimpse, I saw each of these characters as emotionally shallow.

  • The heroes were of the darkly attractive and quietly powerful ilk, BUT both ‘qualities’ paled next to their humor and misfit status. Shalvis is not afraid to put our hero in embarrassing situations—witness Jake as the ill-equipped, I’m-a-bit-of-a-baby ranch hand.

  • The heroines were independent and spirited, BUT also slave to mildly debilitating and inexplicable mood swings. Like when Summer moves from anxiety/panic attack to light-hearted flirt to impetuous brat (when her offer of gratuitous sex is denied) in the space of minutes.

  • Finally—and more to my point—every one of these characters wore their heart on their sleeve. That right there made them seem just a little immature and a tad masochistic.

    Then it came to me. Not immature. Not shallow. Just more real. And very unlike the leading characters I’m accustomed to—the ones who never show their public the ‘irrational’ side of emotion.

    Shalvis managed to bring it all to the table—all the ‘alpha’ traits I like in a hero, the smarts I like in a heroine and an emotional unruliness that put them right in my world. Thankfully for Shalvis’ characters, their inability to control or deny their own emotions opens the door for more than just rejection and utter humiliation. It opened the door for happy endings.

    It is important to note that none of this perceived ‘lightness’ detracted from these books. Nor did it diminish the depth of the emotional issues that required untangling. It simply gave me—one reader—the sense that these characters sometimes wallowed in emotional turmoil that anyone could see was for naught. Just a little annoying (mostly because it fell too close to home) and enough to leave me with one foot firmly rooted in the real world—preventing complete escapism.

    Will I try to escape with another Shalvis title? You bet. I genuinely liked her voice, characterization and humor. Besides, I’ve decided that--while potentially humiliating--wearing your heart on your sleeve does not have to be the end of the world. Especially once you realize that heart can be trusted to the characters surrounding it.

    1. Hey Jenn, you hit the nail on the head re Seeing Red, I did expect it to be a lot darker, and the hero was a lot more self-absorbed than I would like, but Jill's writing voice made up for some of those issues, and I was able to still enjoy the book.

    2. I'm confused... did you like them or didn't you? LOL Seems you had a lot of dislikes in these books and I feel bad if I steered you wrong.

    3. I only read Seeing Red, but I found it was one of those books that wasn't perfect, but you were still able to enjoy nevertheless.

      I read two of Nicole Austin's books today from EC, the first one I really loved, and the second was hugely flawed, and there were several WTF moments, but I was still able to enjoy them.

      I've decided to call this the Shannon Mckenna Syndrome. Books that I love, but I probably shouldn't, lol!!

    4. LOL Karen! Shannon McKenna Syndrome - I love it! I really love her books, even if there are WTF moments.

    5. Anne - I did really really like them. They just weren't total 'escapes into dreamworld' for me. The emotional immaturity the characters showed sometimes (not all the time) mirrored my own this week. So, when in 'nobody gets me' mode, they resembled me. THAT was what I didn't like. Let's just say I didn't need to be reminded. The books overall I liked a lot!

    6. Karen - I love that you coined this the Shannon McKenna syndrome. That is so on the mark--for me anyway. But I can't remember what you called her heroes...moody bastards? Perfect.

    7. Okay... Now I understand.. I can be a bit slow on the uptake at times. : )


    Have you read it? What do you think?

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