The Touch of Fire, by Linda Howard

>> Thursday, February 03, 2005

I'm not a big fan of Westerns, but I'll read one that looks good every once in a while. The review of The Touch of Fire, by Linda Howard sounded wonderful...

Annie Parker came to Silver Mesa, Arizona, because it was the only place she'd found where folks thought a woman doctor was better than no doctor at all. Her lonely life became harder still on the winter night Rafe McCay broke into her office with a bullet in his side and a bounty hunter at his back.

With a gun aimed at her heart, he led her deep into the Arizona mountains, and into a world of danger and passion, for Annie discovered in Rafe not only a wounded man, but a soul betrayed...and Rafe, healed by her skill and the magic in her hands, awakened in Annie a woman's tender longing and hungry desire. Pursued by dangerous secrets of the past, they are swept into a thrilling odyssey of the heart -- a bold, exhilarating journey that rekindles Rafe's lost hope and transforms Annie's healing gift into a deep, enduring love.
I really enjoyed most of the book, but my interest waned a bit near the end. I'd grade it a B.

Up until the plot about why Rafe is running springs to the forefront, I was finding The Touch of Fire immensely enjoyable. Rafe was a yummy character. Linda Howard's heroes often balance on the line which separates wonderfully male from arrogantly, abusively, disgustingly sexist. They are usually on the right side of that line, but some, usually her earlier ones, stumble into the wrong side. Rafe was an example of the former, and a lovely example.

He's hard and tough and possessive, but he's so crazy about Annie, right from the beginning, that he's almost always tender with her, and when he isn't, it's because circumstances force him, but he wishes he could be anyway.

The book also worked because Annie was plenty strong enough to withstand him and the rigurous conditions they face during most of the story. She's a doctor, and devoted to it, a honourable, sensible woman.

TTOF is half cabin romance, half road romance, and this means that Annie and Rafe are almost always together and concentrating on each other. What Howard can do with the sexual tension in these circumstances is amazing, and the book was really, really scorching.

And now for the negatives: there's a point in which the focus shifts abruptly from Annie and Rafe to the suspense subplot, and I pretty much lost my interest about then. The whole romance, the whole mood, seems to fizzle. To be honest, part of the reason I didn't like this was because of the very pro-Southern tone of this part of the book, but I do think that even if I'd shared that viewpoint, I don't think I would have enjoyed this part much.

I think I'll probably stop reading when they get to the Apache camp when I reread this, LOL!


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