Fighting Ghosts in the BURN ZONE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M smokejumper romance from Annabeth Albert. BURN ZONE is the first book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. This book features a dysfunctional family and one man’s determination to keep a promise to his late best friend–over his own happiness.

About the book:
Introducing Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.

Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.

Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.

My Review:
Lincoln Reid lost his best friend Wyatt Hartmann in a big fire about nine months ago. They had been friends throughout childhood, Wyatt’s friendly family taking care of neglected Linc from a young age. Wyatt was the first person Linc came out to–and pretty much the only person. Wyatt’s youngest brother Jacob is gay, too, and Wyatt wasn’t happy about it back when Jacob came out. He could see that Jacob had designs on Linc and Wyatt, in his backhanded bigoted way, forbade Linc from ever messing around with his little brother. Made some crude comments about Linc somehow turning Jacob into a gay man.

That was years ago, and they managed to keep their friendship together, but Linc holds true that he shouldn’t have any romantic interest in Jacob–even though they are both grown men and Wyatt is dead. Jacob has just joined Linc’s smokejumping crew of hot shots, one of many replacements for the new fire season. Linc is having enough trouble keeping himself together with the ghosts of Wyatt haunting him, and Jacob taunting him. Jacob isn’t the flighty queer boy his family thought couldn’t manage his life. He’s a determined firefighter with years of experience and certifications. And, he’s tired of his family getting all up in his business. Especially not the lingering sentiment of Wyatt who wasn’t a fantastic brother for Jacob coming up in the world.

Jacob and Linc have real chemistry together; they have always had. Their connection is growing as Jacob proves himself day-in and day-out in the spring training. And, let’s face it, both Linc and Jacob are lonely. Linc has no living family, and Jacob’s family are too mired in their grief over Wyatt–and mad that Jacob’s joined the smokejumping crew–to be a good support. Jacob proposes for him and Linc to have sex just to get the attraction out of their systems–and Linc is too attracted to let the opportunity pass him by. He’s been alone too long, and grieving his lost family and friend to push Jacob away.

One night becomes another, and another, with Jacob spending more and more time in Linc’s home. This means more than sex, their companionship and camaraderie fills the empty holes in each one’s lives and hearts. And, as the work becomes more dangerous, Linc needs to make decisions to put Jacob at the center of his life, while still honoring his friendship bonds with Wyatt. It’s a big change, and would mean Linc coming out. Can he? Will he?

It’s a solid grief/comfort story mixed with the intense love of any swoony romance. Jacob’s family is a tense affair, with their disapproval of Jacob’s professional life choices, and the grudging approval of his life partner, well, it makes for some fights. Fights Linc doesn’t want to have. He feels like losing the love of the Hartmann’s–his surrogate family–could kill him, even if Jacob remained by his side. It’s a touch call, and leads to a great deal of internal and external conflict for Linc. He feels like dating Jacob would dishonor the love the Hartmann’s have showed him since he was a young boy–and they are quick to remind him how much he owes them–even if it’s hypocritical. I really felt Linc’s anguish, and grief, and tenderness and struggle. He’s a good man, and he wants to take of his “family” the best way he can. Even if he has to sacrifice himself to do it. And it’s Jacob’s strong love and fierce contrariness that pushes Linc to change his stance. Because, when it comes down to it, living without Jacob in his life makes his life not worth living.

Expect family drama, confused firefighters, hot sexytimes and cool insight into the work and experiences of smokejumper heroes on the fire lines. The end is a definite HEA, with growth beyond grief and new love to light up days and warm up nights. I liked the story a lot, and I look forward to more stories in this compelling setting.

Interested? You can find BURN ZONE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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