Brett Malone has been working for Tampa Fire Department for over three years and the last thing he needs or wants is a rookie who can’t follow orders on a scene. He doesn’t need to be attracted to the rookie either, especially since his closet door at work is firmly welded shut.
All Evan Carmichael ever wanted to be was a fireman. He graduated top of his class at the Fire Academy, but nothing he learned there prepared him for the harsh reality of the job. Back to back shifts of one trauma call after another send him quickly to his breaking point.
Thankfully, support from his co-workers and the attention from the one fireman he thought hated him, helps him survive his first few brutal shifts. However, it’s attention of another sort that he may not survive at all.
Spark & Blaze is another great addition to the Guns & Hoses Universe. While their animosity for one another is not as long-lived as Tig and Flame’s was, Brett and Evan get off on the wrong foot almost immediately when Evan joins the Tampa Fire Department (TFD), and there is no love lost between the rookie and his partner, Brett. Although I wouldn’t describe this as an enemies-to-lovers romance, it’s certainly not love at first sight or even lust at first sight because not only is Brett firmly in the closet, Evan is straight. When Evan is bombarded with a series of horrific trauma calls, his way of dealing with the stress is quite unexpected – by him, by his partner, and by me. But it sure was hot! And it sets off a chain of events, and a stalker, that made Spark & Blaze an extremely enjoyable read for me.
I really enjoyed the conflict between Brett and Evan, as well as Brett’s conflict within himself. Brett knows he’s gay, he’s just not out at work and prefers to keep it that way. Despite knowing that neither Flame nor Brostowski caught any flak from the other men in their firehouse when they came out, Brett’s more comfortable staying in the closet at work. This is why his physical reaction to the rookie bothers him so much. As for Evan, he’s straight. He’s never been attracted to a man before, which is why his stress-triggered outbursts toward Brett confuse him so much. It was obvious by his reaction afterward that he’d never entertained the idea of being with a man and the bulk of his shame about his behavior was more about feeling horrified for “attacking” another straight firefighter than it was about Brett being a man. And yet it is Evan who seems to have an easier time reconciling his newfound attraction for Brett, than Brett has with trying to decide whether or not he’s ready to admit to his coworkers that he is gay.
The push-pull of the relationship that is trying its darnedest to spring up between Brett and Evan provides plenty for entertainment for the book; however, Cothern does not leave it at that. The author does a wonderful job of showing the work demands the men of TFD face while on shift, as well as their off-duty lives. The romantic suspense angle was an unexpected but appreciated twist because it not only ratcheted up the action and intensity of the novel, it also gave fans of the previous books in the series an opportunity to see their favorite Guns & Hoses characters in action. As for the person behind the threats, I didn’t see THAT coming at all. I will admit to being a bit distraught over the fact that Shadows burned down in this novel as I’m quite fond of that series. In the end, I’m happy that I got the chance to visit the Guns & Hoses Universe again, all while enjoying another of Cothern’s novels. I loved Spark & Blaze and I cannot wait to see what the author has planned for the series.