Book Review: Consumed by J.R. Ward


Author: J.R. Ward
Series: Firefighters, Book 1
Publisher: Gallery Books (October 2, 2018)
Hardcover, 416 pages
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Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed…

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn’t believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again–until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm.

Rating: 4 stars

When I picked up Consumed it was with the impression that it was a suspense/thriller novel, as it was in fact listed under the genreMysteries & Thrillers. While there are some mystery/thriller elements to this book, it reads much more like a contemporary romance or romantic suspense than a mystery thriller. Even then for a book billed as a thriller/suspense, the book is 408 pages and there’s really no true suspense until page 339. That’s 83% of the way into the book before the action and danger actually kicks in, for all you math nerds. Now, maybe that’s because this is the first book in the series. While some elements of the suspense/mystery/detective plotline are wrapped up, there are definite larger, over-arching plot elements that are left unresolved. I imagine that those elements will be a larger plot that is uncovered and revealed throughout the course of the series. As it stands though, this doesn’t really read as a mystery/thriller to me. Happily, however, mysteries and thrillers aren’t my usual genre, while romance IS, so I wasn’t too terribly bummed by the bait-and-switch. 

The blurb on the inside of the front cover bills this as “an arson investigator hunting down a deadly serial killer setting fires throughout her hometown” and it’s just… it’s just so not that at all. A couple of vagrants died in some fires, most of which happened before she became an arson investigator. There is no serial killer… There IS a rather grisly murder and fire (possible arson? it’s never really resolved?) that’s touched on briefly and then kind of goes nowhere that was just sort of… confusing? I haven’t read anything else by J.R. Ward so I don’t know enough to know if that will come back in a later book and is carefully and cleverly planted to put down roots and grow fruit later, or if it’s just totally random. WHO KNOWS?! 

Despite this book being outside my usual genre, and then surprise actually in my usual overall genre but a subgenre I don’t typically care for (I don’t like romantic suspense), I still really enjoyed this book. It was really compellingly written, and the characters felt real and flawed and I cared about what was happening with them. The book is written in the third person limited POV and switches from following several different characters so the reader gets a deeper dive into the feelin
gs and motivations of a few different characters in the book, including Anne, the ex-firefighter who lost her hand in a job gone bad and is trying to pick up the pieces in her new career as an arson investigator, and her old flame (pun intended) and fellow firefighter Danny, who has a whole closetful of his own skeletons. Anne and Danny obviously drew me in as the characters around whom the romantic plot revolved, but what keeps me from going “YOU GUYS, this is clearly just a romantic suspense novel” is that we also get that third person limited POV from a couple of other characters. There’s Anne’s brother Tom, the Fire Chief and kind of a dick who has some issues of his own to work out. Judging by his weird hot-and-cold chemistry with the mayor, I’m assuming he’s going to be the “lead” of another book in the series, because in all honesty this book was ABOUT Anne and Danny, and everybody else was side characters even if there were sections that focused on some others. There was also some focus on Rizzo, another firefighter who works at a different station than Anne and Danny, under Tom’s command (from what I gathered?) So maybe Rizzo will be another focus as the series continues. 

I really love how much all of the characters develop over the series, especially Anne and Danny. Anne has to learn to live her life with the loss of her left hand, to learn new ways of doing things and also to learn to love her body for what it can do and for how strong and resilient it is. There’s a lot of fear and shame she needs to overcome and she truly grows as a character – plus, she’s totally bad ass. Danny also has a lot of his own shit to deal with, and throughout the book the characters deal with grief, disability, depression, substance abuse, psychiatric care, burnout… There are a LOT of issues brought up, and I think it’s great that they’re addressed in very real ways, even if those real ways are even just having the character admit how uncomfortable they are talking about them. There are also some sort of problematic moments when it comes to some of the sex scenes, but I guess I’m not going to complain about “He put his sex into hers” today, as this review is long enough at this point!

I really enjoyed reading Consumed, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing where J.R. Ward takes it from here.

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