Joint Review: All Fired Up by Jenn Burke
Once bitten. Twice burned. Forever bonded.
Don’t miss this riveting and romantic spin-off series from Jenn Burke, author of Not Dead Yet.
Paranormals are dying. All over the city, with no explanation and only one thing in common: their magic is missing.
Vampire and private investigator Evan Fournier isn’t supposed to be taking on paranormal cases, but when the murderer hits close to home, he agrees to look into it. The last thing he expects is to become a target himself—and then to become irrevocably bonded to the man who just tried to kill him.
With his memory gone and his soul bonded to a stranger, former firefighter Colin Zhang wants to be anywhere else. He doesn’t have a damn clue why he just tried to kill Evan, and he didn’t even know about magic until just now. The sooner he can get back to his real life, the better.
But every time either of them tries to leave, pure agony stops them short. Forced to work with Evan or suffer the consequences, Colin must excavate the secrets buried in his missing memories while battling two rising threats: the conspiracy behind the murder, and his mutual attraction to the bond mate he never wanted.
Because we reviewed the first trilogy together, Kaetrin and I decided to continue the partnership with this series too. Warning: Some spoilers for the earlier series follow. – Sirius
Sirius: I learned of the existence of this book because somebody at my favorite m/m group mentioned. I enjoyed the first trilogy in this series (Not Dead Yet), so I eagerly clicked on this book. This is sequel/spinoff from the original books and as blurb tells you Evan is now front and center of the narrative. You don’t really need to read the first trilogy in order to understand the events in this story, but I highly highly recommend you read it in order to understand the characters, because their little band (family, really) had been through hell and back and the events in Not Dead Yet influenced the main characters.
Five years have passed since the events of the last book. The year is now 2024. I have to admit I wondered why the author chose that specific time (only three years in the future but still in the future) and I suspect (pure speculation, I did not ask the author about it) that it is because she did not want to write about the world with Covid in it and chose a plausible time frame where Covid could be gone. Or maybe I am completely off base and she decided that 2024 is a good year to place this story in just because she liked the number or whatever reason.
Kaetrin: Could be Sirius! I thought it was more about wanting some distance between the events of Graveyard Shift and this series, to allow Evan to settle into his life better but also because the last book was set in 2019. Perhaps it is both. :)
Sirius: Entirely possible. I actually considered that but was not sure because Evan was still mourning Iskander (what started and what could have been), so I did not feel like a lot of distance actually passed where his emotions were concerned but now I am thinking that right after the death took place he would have felt much more raw than he is feeling now, so you could very well be right.
Sirius: At the beginning of the book Evan is working an assignment for Caballero Investigations and when he comes home he learns that Wes and Hudson need to go to London because of Hudson’s brother serious health emergency. I thought it was an excellent way to get Wes and Hudson “out of commission” so to speak because what they are dealing with is something super serious and health of the loved one is really the only time these two would not rush in to help out with whatever case their friends/chosen family members are working. And even within this scenario at some point Wes and Hudson do come back once to help out when they are badly needed. As I said, I liked how the author chose to “temporarily disperse” of them and let Evan take center stage and other members of the gang help out of course.
Evan’s therapist Anika comes to them with a serious problem and despite Hudson’s order not to take on paranormal cases while they are gone, Evan cannot say no to her for many reasons . As a result he goes undercover to a retreat for paranormals . Evan goes undercover as himself, as a very real patient managing his depression.
I got an impression that in some ways being there even helped Evan a bit.
“At breakfast, I socialized with Janie and the rest of the Trivial Pursuit crew (though tonight’s game was Life). It was clear they understood I wasn’t quite myself—they included me in their conversation and trash-talking, but gently. I appreciated their care. As messed up as I felt, it was nice to be among people who got it. Lexi, Wes, Hudson… they all did their best to understand, but none of them knew what I was going through with my mental illness.
After I was done with my breakfast, I walked over to the main building and begged off my session with Dr. Ueda with the excuse that I was feeling delicate from the day before. Not a lie, which was the best sort of lie. She approved of my request for a quiet day and told me she’d have my lunch delivered to my yurt.”
Kaetrin: Oh yes, it definitely revealed some issues Evan had not been dealing with.
Sirius: Do you think it revealed the issues he was not dealing with or that he had up and downs in managing his depression? I suppose working with therapist does not necessarily mean that he was sharing everything with her, but I was at least happy to learn that he was working with the therapist on the pretty regular basis. I ask because I want to make sure I understand your interpretation of the books in detail, not because I am trying to doubt you.
Kaetrin: I think there were things about Iskander’s death he hadn’t talked to anyone about yet. He was really reluctant to go there in group therapy. Obviously, Dr. Anika knew Iskander had died so I’m sure they talked about it some in therapy but there were raw parts which hadn’t been aired yet. Or at least, that was my impression. Evan’s depression is an ongoing illness he has to manage as well. I liked the representation here – one one view, it was because of his depression he could so easily go undercover at the retreat. So in some ways in this book, it’s a feature not a bug. More broadly though, Evan’s depression is mostly well-managed and he makes accommodations for it but he still lives his life and is successful. His grief over the loss of Iskander is on top of his ongoing condition and I had the feeling there were many things unresolved. (I think he still feels a lot of guilt and there’s an interaction with Lexi late in the book which shows this too.)
Sirius: In other ways Evan’s stay at the retreat also turned quite deadly which he both did and did not expect. At the retreat Evan meets Colin. I cannot tell you how he meets Colin or what exactly Colin was doing at the retreat, but since the blurb tells you that Colin tried to kill Evan, I will not deny it and let you read details yourself :-).
I really liked Colin’s character and since it is pretty clear that he is going to be Evan’s love interest from the blurb, I think it is not a spoiler that he is a good guy, but man he has issues. Issues which were forced upon him of course, but that does not make it any easier to deal with it. The blurb does talk about the bond Colin and Evan end up in after their um… stay at the retreat, I will not talk about the details of the bond, but let me be clear that right now at least the bond is as far as from my most disliked version of it.
The “you are my soulmate, we are bonded forever and let’s live happily ever after” is so not my favorite trope. No, bond or not, Colin and Evan are just starting their relationship and while Colin is not opposed to starting *something* he is initially very reluctant to even think about it and I thought that his reasons were convincing. It made sense to me within this book and if we still have more books coming, it also makes sense that the relationship will be developing further in the next books.
However if you ask me whether I saw the developing chemistry between these two, my answer will be absolutely I did. Your mileage may differ of course.
“He backed away, his expression filled with horror. “I’m done. I’m so done. Can you knock me out again? Please? Put me back where you found me? Something?” It had to be the bond that pushed me around the front of the car, to put my hands on Colin’s shoulders and pull him into an embrace. Had to be, because it made no sense that I would be hugging him otherwise. I wasn’t even sure I liked him. He was brash, annoying, and more than a little crude at times. Unrefined and unapologetic about it. The complete opposite of Iskander in so many ways.”
Kaetrin: I agree with you regarding their chemistry.
The entire book took place in the space of just over a week so it made sense to me that the story ended in HFN territory. I expect this series will follow a similar romantic trajectory as the first trilogy – which is fine with me.
I can’t say more here without giving away spoilers but I appreciated the examination of certain aspects of Colin’s past life and his difficulty in adjusting to his current one.
Sirius: The blurb tells you that Colin is missing huge chunk of his memories. Well, yes, but memories are not the only thing he is missing.
Kaetrin: Without giving too much away, Colin comes from a different time and it was really interesting to me just how much has actually changed since then. It doesn’t seem like that long ago to me but the world is very different now. Poor Colin has a lot to deal with.
Sirius: Also, kudos to author for introducing a very fun twist on well known paranormal being in this book. I really liked it.
Same as in the original book I thought the writer managed to balance the romance and paranormal action really well. There was also some humor in the dialogue even if the book overall is not very funny, so I appreciated that.
Sirius: Grade: B but only because nothing really was resolved in this book and I reserve my judgment to see how the mystery/suspense/action story will end and what is in store for the romance.
Kaetrin: I felt that the story ended at a place which wrapped up part of the suspense plot but left things to be resolved over the course of the next two books. It worked for me. In fact, this book worked better for me than the three previous books. (I liked them but I liked this one better.) I really connected with the story and the characters. I also liked the rather unique method the author used to get this pair into the same bed. Grade: B+
Sirius: Just to be clear I really connected to story and characters too . Our only difference seems to be that I did not feel that suspense was not resolved either and I did not mind where it stopped for the first book. I just don’t want to give an A for the first book not knowing how the story will be resolved. Does it make sense? For example as you may remember I did not mind what happened to Iskander in the last book, I thought it worked for the story, but it does not mean that I loved it and that I would grade that book an A, so not knowing what the future brings B it is for me, but I enjoyed this book very much.