REVIEW: Set the Dark on Fire by Jill Sorenson
Dear Ms. Sorenson:
What I liked best about this book was the characters were unique. Often you find characters in romance books very recognizable: the mousy girl, the bluestocking, the raging alpha male. Here we have the youngish heroine who is a little forward, who likes to party from time to time, and is struggling to provide her brother a decent home life. The hero takes the job in Tenaja Falls because he thinks it will be a tame way to spend a few months trying to figure out where to go with his life.
Biggest complaint of the story was the emotional arc of the hero, Luke Meza. He went from “this is completely temporary and I’m not getting involved” to “I love you and I’m staying” in the matter of days and I could have used a bit of internal exposition to take me from point A to point B. (I know that sounds kind of contrary).
If I had one word to describe the story it would be gritty. Another would be modern.
The Shay Phillips is young (mid twenties). She has moved back to her hometown of Tenaja Falls, a kind of backwater town in rural Southern California. She is a member of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and when a lion attack resulting in a homicide is reported, she is called in to verify that it was indeed the lion and then, unfortunately, put the mountain lion down. Shay does what she has to do even though it kills her emotionally. But that’s Shay, trying her best to fulfill her responsibilities even if it means crying her eyes out before and after. She’s not totally self sacrificing because even though she has come back to town to see her brother get out of Tenaja Falls through his college scholarship, she’s not a very good guardian; she has slept with a married man; and she abandoned her brother to the loveless care of her father when she went off to college.
Luke is a former Las Vegas police officer on the task force for organized crime. He angered the bosses in Vegas enough that it resulted in his shooting and ultimate placement in a desk job. He took the interim sheriff’s position as a form of a sabbatical. He would work this job which he envisioned to be light weight tasks while he gathered his thoughts and determined what to do with the rest of his life. He has no intention of staying.
Shay initially makes a couple of passes at the Luke that are rebuffed. This embarrasses her, of course. Luke isn’t rejecting Shay because he isn’t interested but but for a whole host of reasons such as he’s not quite sure what to do about her, doesn’t want to get involved with anyone because he’s not staying (this sounded a little lame frankly. wouldn’t most guys take up offers of willing tail?)
Ironically, he comes around to the idea of them having a relationship sooner than she does.
Luke is more recognizable as an Alpha male sheriff but he isn’t all knowing. When he begins the homicide investigation, he acknowledges that he worked vice most of his life and he’s out of his element. He doesn’t have a false bravado or a need to dominate. Luke’s character arc is finding his place in the world. Not only is he cut off from his career but he’s never quite fit in as being part Indian, part white.
There was quite a bit of flavor to the story. The setting was well done and there was a great sense of realism both in the homicide and the romance.
A secondary storyline follows Shay’s troubled brother, Dylan, as he flirts with dangerous things as his way of rebelling.
I felt at the end, despite the short time over which the story takes place (just a few days), that these imperfect characters truly had found contentment with each other. It’s almost as if we were dropped down at a catalytic moment in each character’s life and the resolution from the penultimate events leads to the satisfying conclusion. It’s a good romance for those that like a little bite to their romances along with a well balanced suspense. B