Golden Fires, by Colleen Shannon

>> Monday, July 12, 2004

I know I read Golden Fires, by Colleen Shannon some 10 years ago, but I didn't remember a thing about it. However, after reading the wonderful Heart of Fire, I was up for another jungle adventure romance.

AN ADVENTUROUS WOMAN: Lina Collier knew the archaeological expedition would be a grand adventure -- and a great success. She was sure there was gold to be found -- but she didn't realize she would discover another treasure, as well...

A RUGGED MAN: Expedition guide Jeremy Mayhew was sure the journey to Mexico would be a disaster -- but he was swayed by the arguments of the seductive, headstrong girl ... and by her charms.
Golden Fires had some elements I enjoyed, but on the whole, it wasn't a very good book. A C.

It wasn't a bad book either, not at all. For every thing that bothered me about the characters, or the plot, or the storytelling, there were others I enjoyed. The way I felt about the characters illustrates this perfectly.

Lina, for instance, had quite a few things to her that I liked. She was very much a feminist, and I liked and admired the way she was so determined to be an archeologist, and I really understood her frustration at the men around her seeing her just as a pretty ornament and not recognizing that she, too, could feel the need to explore the world. So far, so good.

The problem was that she combined this basic character that I enjoyed with episodes of extreme stupidity. From disregarding Jeremy's advice in the jungle, even though she knows he has lots of experience there (her father and the other guy in the expedition, Baxter, did the same, to be fair) to pulling such TSTL stunts as getting so distracted by an insect that she chases it right over the edge of the boat (forcing Jeremy to dive in after her and wrestle a crocodile to save her), or diving into the jungle alone at night to rescue a jaguar cub (just what's the message there? That a real woman's should have such overdeveloped maternal instincts that she should be ready to rush into danger to rescue anything that's small and/or cuddly?).

And then, after all these idiocies, she proves to be an extremely competent archeologist and capable of saving herself and others during fights, and she even refuses to cave in to Jeremy's demands that she give up everything for him! Who was this woman, feisty, TSTL spoilt little girl or cool, competent feminist archeologist? Her characterization often didn't make much sense.

And then there's Jeremy. He's got the potential to be an interesting character, but I got the feeling that most of his character development had been done in the book this one's the sequel to The Tender Devil. Shannon has him recount his past to Lina, but it never really came alive to me, so I didn't come to understand him. Lina keeps thinking about how he's such a lonely man, so hurt by his past, with so many issues... and I just don't see it.

Another negative was that at certain points, the story becomes pretty repetitious, so much that I sometimes felt as if it was caught in a loop. I lost count of how many times Lina and Jeremy were about to make love, and were interrupted by Lina's father, who upbraided her like a naughty girl. And the scene in which Lina feels close to Jeremy, only to feel soooo hurt when at the least danger, he wants her out of the way? I saw that one even more times.

On the positive side, I really enjoyed the settings, from the quick glimpse of Monaco in the 1880s we got in the beginning, to life on Jeremy's ship, to Mexico and its cities and jungle. This was very well done, as was the actual plot about what happened during the excavation.

So, in the end, a story which was very promising and had a lot going for it ended up being hard to read. Very unfortunate.


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