Veterinarian Emma Burnett won’t let anything or anyone sidetrack her from her job as new owner of the vet clinic in Hope. She let a man distract her once, with disastrous results. But when Luke McCormack brings in his injured police dog, Emma can hardly ignore him. Despite Emma’s best efforts to keep things strictly doctor and owner of the patient, Luke’s one hot distraction.
*blurb taken from Goodreads*
Thoughts on the heroine
Marlene: It’s impossible not to admire the way in which Emma has turned her life around. Recovery from physical and emotional abuse is an ongoing struggle. She took her life back and pressed charges. She’s regained the independence that her abuser tried to erase. But in her need to maintain her boundaries, she fears that letting herself lean on anyone is a slippery slope to another abuser. She still doesn’t trust her own judgement about men, and while it’s hard to blame her, it makes her a tough choice for a romance. She’s not up for a no strings attached affair and she’s not ready for any kind of relationship. The story isn’t just about her learning to trust Luke, it’s about her learning to trust herself so that she can trust her judgement about Luke.
E: I enjoyed Emma as a character. She had the courage to leave a bad situation and start over. Not start over from the rock bottom just trying to exist but she went back and finished school so she could accomplish her dreams without depending on anyone. Her drive to succeed combined with her obvious love for animals made me enjoy seeing her at work in her chosen profession. I loved how she made it plain that she wasn’t looking for a man temporarily or otherwise without coming across as someone who hated men. As Marlene said above, this wasn’t just a story about her attraction to Luke but also the completion of her emotional healing.
MinnChica: Like the others, I adored Emma. I thought she was such a strong woman to crawl out of the abusive relationship she had been in and find the strength and will to do something different, to be someone different. For her to be willing to take like by the horns and live the way she wanted, to follow her dreams, it was wonderful to watch. I loved the fact that she wasn’t ready to jump into any kind of relationship. Instead, she needed to take things slow, to become friends, to see that anyone she would put her trust in wouldn’t crush her. I loved the slow progression that she took to her relationship with Luke, and although this book wasn’t nearly as steamy as Burton’s other books, I liked the changed!
Thoughts on the hero
Marlene: Luke doesn’t exactly start the story as relationship material. He’s an admitted man-whore and he likes his life that way. He’s not a bad person, he’s upfront about not wanting a relationship, and it seems like he leaves his one-night stands satisfied, but he must have exhausted the single population by now, or close to it. He was burned once and isn’t interested in getting burned again. He tries being just friends with Emma and is pretty pitiful about it. He doesn’t know how. And of course Emma isn’t interested in his pity. Once Emma stands up to him, Luke can’t stop himself from pursuing her, even though he knows that she isn’t a candidate for one of his infamous one-night stands. But because he starts the story with a lot more confidence in himself, it is easier for him to let himself slide into a relationship, even if he has a hard time calling it that.
Luke’s problem is that his need to protect people is a big part of who he is. That’s why he went into law enforcement. And his need to protect Emma is in a headlong collision with her desperate desire to remain independent at all costs. There’s almost a no-win scenario here that they need to get past.
E: I have to admit Luke made me laugh. He cared deeply about his canine partner and thought the new woman vet, Emma, not only knew what she was doing but was good looking. Her resistance to his usual charm intrigued him, but when she was honest with him about her reasons he tried to just be friends. His attempts at conversation and social events that were not precursors to hopping in bed, needed some assistance and kept me amused. And yet as hard as it was for Luke to learn how to build a friendly relationship with a woman, he was extremely dedicated to protecting people. I loved seeing his focus when he switched back into police mode even though that same focus triggered an immediate rejection from Emma. Watching them work through his need to protect and Emma’s need for independence gave me hope for their future together. I thought it added an additional dimension to his character along with ensuring Emma remained true to her character.
MinnChica: Like Emma, I adored Luke as well. His devotion to his K9 partner had me melting at every turn. I’m a sucker for a guy who loves animals, and Luke takes that love and devotion to a whole new level. I also liked that Luke’s transformation from total rake to loving boyfriend didn’t happen overnight. He struggled with even his friendship with Emma, because it wasn’t what he was used to, what he wanted to keep his own little world orderly and safe. I loved that we had to watch him go from this total “man-whore” (as Marlene so wonderfully put it) to a guy who cared for a female friend for the first time in a really long time, to a man wanted nothing more than to keep going back to one woman, time and again. He was an amazing character, and I hope Burton writes more heroes like him in the future!
Marlene: I loved it every time the animals got involved. The dogs provided just the right amount of unconditional love for their emotionally damaged owners, but also some very much needed comic relief when scenes got either the suspense or the emotions got too tense. And Boomer is such a hero!
E: My favorite scene is one of Emma’s mental conversations. While I enjoyed the entire scene there was one line that summed up who she was and kept me admiring her as a heroine. “Hell, no. She was independent. Not stupid.” I loved seeing that line because it meant she stayed as an intelligent competent woman regardless of the situation.
MinnChica: While I loved all the scenes that Marlene and E picked out, I’ve been craving books with strong female friendships and bonds, and Burton delivered. Every time Emma was out and about with her girlfriends, I loved that we got to see such strong bonds between them. They were supportive with each other, and trusting in one another and they genuinely cared about seeing one another succeed. I love that in my romance books!
Dislike about the book
Marlene: The drug thief case that took up so much time and energy didn’t just turn out to be a complete red herring, but totally anticlimactic. The way the suspense kept building up about how clever the thief was, I was expecting him to be Vaughn, Emma’s creepy-stalker ex. Also, the climactic scene with Vaughn wasn’t quite as climactic as I expected. I think I wanted the catharsis of someone seriously damaging him. (Bad Marlene, no cookie)
E: Like Marlene, I had mentally combined the drug thief with Emma’s ex and I was disappointed when they turned out to be totally separate. I could see the role of the drug thief in building a trust and connection between Luke and Emma so the final confrontation occurred without tempting me to chuck the book. However, I did want to see Vaughn get repaid for the extensive torment he put Emma through.
MinnChica: I think we all agree on the disappointing aspect of the book. I’ve read some of Burton’s other suspense books, and I know that she can deliver a powerful punch in that regard. Like Marlene and E said, the combined suspense plot between the drug thief and Emma’s stalker was weak and fell a little flat. Especially compared to the strong relationship aspects.
Any other misc. thoughts along with the grade
Marlene: It was obvious that creepy-stalker ex Vaughn was coming back from the beginning of the story. Emma needed resolution of the big bad in her past in order to move forward. And that’s okay.
This felt like it was Emma’s story. There’s a lot about her setting up her veterinary practice and how hard she is working to make a go of her new business. It is so important to her that she get her life started after the disastrous detour she took with crazy stalker ex-Vaughn. Her road to recovery is not easy but it is awesome. I like that Luke is the icing on the cake and not the cake.
While the story does contain oodles of the author’s trademark smoking hot chemistry between Emma and Luke, the romance took center stage for this reader.
I give Hope Flames a B+
E: This was quite a change from the sports centered romances I have read by Burton in the past. I enjoyed the shift to a small town type of romance with its slower pace and gradual build into love. While Emma’s journey was perhaps more of an outward struggle, I loved watching Luke attempt to become friends. I think that provided me with needed comic relief based on the seriousness of Emma’s previous situation. As enjoyable as this was to read, I did need to go back and flip through the book as a few weeks had passed between my initial reading and writing down my thoughts, which I found unusual for a Burton story. I found Hope Flames a sweet romance with two characters who relearned to trust their judgement and finally put their personal ghosts to rest.
I give Hope Flames a B
MinnChica: All in all I enjoyed this change of pace from Burton. Unlike her other stories, the heat level in this book is nowhere near her others. Also, the high action we got from the Biker series isn’t there as well. That being said, I loved the slowed down pace of the relationship. The way Emma and Luke had to learn to trust one another and confide in one another. The relationship progression was so fun to read and so much fun that I think this small town series will become a new must-buy for romance fans.
I give Hope Flames a B
*Thanks to the fabulous folks at Penguin, we have one copy of Hope Flames to giveaway today. This contest is open to US Only and will end of January 22nd. To enter, let us know your favorite small town series. Good Luck!!*