Friday, June 22, 2007

Playing with Fire, by Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter
ISBN: 0-373-77129-0
Paranormal Romance

Belle Jamison is an ordinary woman, albeit an underachiever and something of a slacker, with a cute figure and a bad attitude. Little does she know that she is one grande mocha latte away from being able to back up her attitude with a whole new set of skills. A stranger in a labcoat races into the coffee shop where Belle works, frantically begging for help, then disappears in the melee that follows, leaving everyone else in the shop to be interrogated by the three men who were chasing him. With the shop in a shambles, Belle is let go to attend a job interview, where a sudden illness prevents her from making a good impression.

The next thing Belle knows, she's waking up to a sexy stranger who tells her that she accidentally drank a formula that has given her supernatural powers, so she has to be neutralized. As Belle looks around the charred, water-damaged remains of her bedroom, she realizes that what she thought were dreams of fire, snow, and rain actually happened. The stranger, whose name is Rome, is regretful but determined to carry out his orders. In terror for her life, Belle manages to escape, and thus begins a merry chase, jam-packed with danger, adventure, and romance.

Gena Showalter has written a true sizzler, drawing readers in with the very first page and juggling an action-packed plot with ease. As Belle schemes to convince Rome to spare her life, the two are drawn closer in an attraction as irresistible as it is combustible. Belle's insecurities about Rome's feeling for her are funny and realistic, particularly after she meets the near-perfect Lexis, Rome's ex-wife and current partner. Belle befriends Tanner, the proverbial poor little rich boy who has some unusual abilities of his own, and before long, this group of diverse individuals begins to turn into a family. Even as the plot hurtles toward its climax, Ms. Showalter keeps readers guessing about Rome's intentions, Belle's dilemma, and everyone's survival.

The true magic of PLAYING WITH FIRE is in its blend of snappy dialogue, humor, and sexual tension. Nearly every character is keeping a secret or two, and the reveals are timed perfectly to keep the momentum building. Belle's interaction with Tanner provides much of the humor, and the "super-hero" names with which Belle, Rome, and Tanner dub each other provide a constant source of amusement. PLAYING WITH FIRE is a snappy, snarky sizzler of a read, perfect for a cold winter night or a scorching summer day.