Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5:
Disabled firefighter Scott McGregor is just beginning to settle in at his new home and profession as the owner/operator of Mountain Shadows Campground. Complete with lodge and multiple rental cabins scattered throughout the grounds, Scott is finding balancing the renters, new and those that have lived there for years, a real challenge. But that is nothing to having his ex lover and friend, Robby Hammond, back in his life again.
Years ago Scott McGregor outed Robby to his family in a moment of anger and the aftermath had lasting repercussions for all. Now his accident and an old emergency contact card has brought Robby back into Scott’s life but nothing is as Scott had imagined or hoped for. Robby seems to be hiding a part of himself and his life from Scott. And Scott can’t seem to get past his old image of Robby to see the man that Robby has become. With such a clash of outlooks and wrongful assumptions, it’s no wonder that Robby and Scott are having problems communicating.
As Scott tries to figure out how to make things right with Robby,two men temporarily check into one of Mountain Shadows seasonal cabins to work on a Native American artifact collection at the Flagstaff musuem. Handsome and erudite, they just might be the thing to take Scott’s and Robby’s mind off their issues, especially with Robby’s connection to the collection by way of his job and his heritage. But nothing is ever simple with Scott and Robby. A phone call further complicates the assumptions and misunderstandings between the men. And that, along with the new renters, escalates things out of control.
Controlled Burn sees the long standing issues of perception and personal problems between Scott and Robby intensify. In Firestorm we started to get an outline of Scott and Robby’s past relationship but with Controlled Burn, that outline starts to fill in from the very first paragraph. It’s a flashback to Scott and Robby’s college days when they were lovers. Laura Harner drops the reader into the middle of a heated argument between Scott and Robby’s conservative professional Army father. It’s clear almost immediately that things are out of control between them and the ending is nothing short of traumatic for everyone there. It would be years before Scott and Robby saw each other again. Harner has the dialog just right for a idealistic college young man and a professional soldier sliding into dementia. It’s full of passion and rage, fear and hatred, between two people who steadfastly believe each is right. And its such a terrific way to bring the reader back into the complicated lives of Scott McGregor and Robby Hammond.
Both of the main characters here totally surprise me. There is so much hidden depths to one, and a total deceptive clarity to the other. Scott’s background and viewpoint are laid out before us. Scott thinks he knows what he wants and what Robby wants too. And he goes for it with all the subtlety of a rodeo bull. It’s Robby that’s the enigma. The true Robby is elusive to the reader and to Scott. We have clues scattered here and there, a picture of a woman, and some astounding statements from Robby about his sexuality. But something straightforward or anything less than opaque is missing. I love this element of the story. A real mystery at the heart of the series. Because it is clear that Scott has never really understood Robby at all. This element of the story seems so real, where its all about perceptions and assumptions and how blind you can be to a reality you don’t want to see.
Of course that’s not all that’s going on here. There are multiple small and large mysteries at play at Mountain Shadows just waiting to come to the fore. I love those too. This series just keeps getting better as the complications pile up. My only frustration is not having the next story in line to read. Short in length, deceptively deep in content, the Pulp Friction 2014 stories, Controlled Burn(Fighting Fire #2) in particular, are like delectable amuse-bouche, you can’t eat just one. They are addicting. Consider all of them and Controlled Burn highly recommended.
Cover art by Laura Harner is perfect for the story and series branding.
Kindle Edition, 50 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Hot Corner Press
seriesFighting Fire #2
Pulp Friction 2014 Series
Round One of Pulp Friction 2014:
Firestorm (Fighting Fire# 1) by Laura Harner
Cold Snap (In From the Cold# 1) by Lee Brazil
Blown Away (Where the Wind Blows# 1) by Havan Fellows
Higher Ground (Earthquake# 1) by Tom Webb
Round Two of Pulp Friction 2014:
Controlled Burn (Fighting Fire #2) by Laura Harner
Cold Comfort (In From the Cold #2) by Lee Brazil
Blown Kisses (Where the Wind Blows #2) by Havan Fellows
Moving Earth (Earthquake #2) by Tom Webb