ARC Review: Blaze (Phoenix Rising #2) by Joan Swan
What do you do when your job forces you back together with your ex, the love of your life you’ve been avoiding like the plague and for whom you’ve been pining these last 3 years? For Kiera O’Shay and Luke Ransom, the answer is simple: soldier on, work together to get to the bottom of the mystery of the warehouse explosion that changed their lives and “gifted” them with special powers, and try not to fall back in love with the only person in the world who has ever been able to truly hurt you. Along the way, they’ll need their old team, each with his own special abilities and strengths, a healthy dose of luck, and highly-connected friends.
If you only read 5 books this year, Blaze should be at the top of that list. Congratulations to Joan Swan on earning a perfect score of 5/5 Hearts and our Golden Heart award!
- Title: Blaze
- Series: Phoenix Rising book #2
- Author: Joan Swan
- Prominent Characters: Luke Ransom, Kiera O’Shay
- Recommended Reader Age: 16+
- Genre(s): paranormal adventure, contemporary romance
- Sexual Content Level: moderate, sensual but steamy
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Blaze hits the ground running with fiery tension between ex-lovers & firefighter teammates Kiera O’Shay and Luke Ransom, and a riveting action sequence that introduces more questions than it answers. Watching Kiera and Luke interact is like being around a passionate married couple who can’t decide whether they’d rather kill each other or, well, you know; they have major chemistry right from the start. I absolutely loved their banter! Their snarky verbal battles were just as entertaining as the action and adventure, and are just about as consistent throughout the story too… which I really enjoyed. I actually started looking forward to watching them fight!
Kiera O’Shay is a badass, and not the overconfident, leather-wearing, sword-toting kind with an attitude bigger than the Goodyear Blimp. No, our Kiera is a firecracker of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it, before going after it like a guided missile. She’s a smart, take-no-shit, expert markswoman with a shattered heart and traumatic childhood enfortressed behind a wall of emotional steel, packed muscles, and intense S.W.A.T. training, and the only one who can get past that shell is ATF agent and fire cop Luke Ransom.
The most confident man Kiera O’Shay has ever met, Luke is all charisma and wit, a capable agent with a big bad side of get-with-the-program-or-get-the-hell-out-of-my-way. Underneath all that swagger, though, is a man who has never gotten over the love of his life and is willing to give up just about anything to see her safe and happy… even if it means living the rest of his life in misery.
You haven’t seen longing and unrequited love until you’ve seen Luke and Kiera together, sarcastically bantering as if their lives depend on it and fighting their own primal urges to jump each other every other second. Why not just give in and go for it, you might ask? Bad breakups and volatile personalities have a way of leaving you skittish, and these two have hurt each other more than anyone else ever could have. Theirs is a story begging to be told, one expertly crafted from action, intrigue, supernatural science, and some of the most enthralling sexual tension I’ve ever read. This book is absolutely aptly named; the passion between Luke and Kiera blazes high and sparks fly hard. That man has a soft heart for his woman, but when he gets in the mood, the dominant comes out to play and we get to see Kiera let go and give over control. Sexy, sexy, sexy!
Mitch Foster was introduced in Fever as heroine Alyssa Foster’s brother and lawyer extraordinaire. A sharp-witted playboy shark of a criminal defender with unquestionably questionable morals and an admirable streak of loyalty to his friends and family, it was made crystal clear in Blaze‘s prequel that you never want to earn the ire of this man. In this story, we get a deeper sense of just how connected he is… so much so, that it really makes you wonder just what depth of trouble the delectably sexy Mitch Foster has his fingers in, and when it’s going to come back to bite him in the ass. I’m sure his day is coming, and that will be a story to read!
And Cash… I freaking love Cash! He’s a brand new character introduced in Blaze, with family connections to Kiera, and I cannot wait to read more about him! Genius, cocky, confident, and daring, he’s a hell of a character.
Joan Swan writes action like you’re right there in the thick of it; pinging bullets, whooshes of fire, the near-tranquil state of severe injury are all masterfully translated through undeniably talented and creative writing. She doesn’t fall prey to technical bad habits like repeated patterns of verbage, and her sentence structure is never boring or predictable. Reading a Joan Swan novel is like living a non-stop, danger-filled, trek through heartfelt friendships and off-the-rails sensual chemistry.
She has a point…
“Goddammit.” Luke sat back and pounded the steering wheel. “Could one freaking thing go right today?”
Good thing Mitch didn’t hear this conversation…
Kiera turned those sharp blue eyes on him. “Why do you hate him?”
“I don’t hate him. I just don’t particularly like him.”
He scoffed. “Of what?”
“His money, his power, his influence, his intelligence, his success. His looks.”
“No.” Luke slanted her a glance. “You hot for him?”
She grinned. “I could be.”
He narrowed his eyes in a glare before refocusing on the road. “What irks me about the guy is his arrogance.”
“That’s interesting coming from the most confident man I’ve ever known.”
A fun little author shoutout… which my Android autocorrected to ” Elisabeth naughtiness”. Aaahhh the irony…
She felt as if she’d just fallen into an Elisabeth Naughton novel, in possession of a treasure everyone wanted, on a quest she didn’t understand, running a race for which she had no timetable, no map.
That sounds like a soulmate to me, sister…
She needed him. She wanted him. He had been the part of her life that made it rich and spontaneous and joyous and… meaningful. Through the fights, the fun, the loss, the love. It was Luke. Luke made her feel like… herself. Luke made her feel real. Unique. Authentic. Luke made her feel alive.
Without Luke, she worked. She ate. She trained.
Without Luke, she existed.
Is it hot in here… or is it Luke?
“I will give you as much as you want. As fast or as slow as you want. As hard or as soft as you want. In any goddamned position you want. Condoms or no condoms, you will want for nothing. I promise.”
“Show me,” she whispered. “I’m starting to think you’re all talk, Ransom.”
If you liked Blaze…
If you think you might enjoy Blaze but haven’t yet read Fever, the first chapter in the Phoenix Rising series, you may want to start there. Fever is a treat and absolutely worth the read, one of our “must read” stories and Book of the Month plus a Reviewer Top Pick for March 2012. No one writes quite like Joan Swan, rolling action, adventure, romance, and sizzling heat all into one classy package.
If you like Ms. Swan’s style and are looking for other authors at the top of their game, check out Nalini Singh and Joey Hill. Nalini Singh writes contemporary and paranormal romance, and currently has two major continuing series out and either is a guaranteed great read: Guild Hunter (a vampire/angel series starting with Angel’s Blood) and Psy-Changeling (a shifter series starting with Slave to Sensation). Joey Hill has several series out but two of my favorites are the Vampire Queen (starting with The Vampire Queen’s Servant) and Knights of the Boardroom (starting with Board Resolution) story arcs. Ms. Hill’s writing is just as emotionally engaging as Ms. Swan’s and Ms. Singh’s, but rachets up the sexuality-quotient by a hundred-fold; she is not afraid to get down, dirty, and take her characters places you never expected. BDSM plays a predominant part in the Knights of the Boardroom series (which has no paranormal elements) and a lesser, but still prevalent, role in the Vampire Queen books. If you’re going to try VQ, try to dedicate yourself to reading the first two books back-to-back without stopping or quitting; they take a little while to ramp up, but it is SO worth the wait!
Aaahh, this book was SO GOOD! I did not want it to end! Every character is unique and compelling and every plot twist keeps the story, and series, fresh and addicting. How often do you read a book that wraps up the storyline but still has you jonzing for the next installment without forcing a cliffhanger down your throat, that makes your chest squeeze with every tortured glance and longing touch, whose action scenes make you feel like you just stepped into a Hollywood blockbuster movie? This is why Joan Swan is a master of her craft and why Blaze is a GraveTells Fave and the recipient of our extremely rare, perfect-rating Golden Heart award!