WITHIN THE FLAMES
(Dirke & Steele #11)
Marjorie M. Liu
Adult Paranormal Romance
Received from publisher for review
Lyssa, a dragon shapeshifter, has been on the run for the past decade after watching her mother brutally murdered before her eyes. Since then she's learned to keep to herself and to form no attachments so no one can be used against her, all the while struggling to control her dragon-inherited abilities with fire.
Eddie, a member of the Dirk & Steele agency, is tasked with locating Lyssa and returning with her to keep her safe from those who destroyed her family all those years ago. Familiar with fire himself being pyrokinetic, Eddie is the ideal candidate to earn her trust and truly understand all the things she's hiding from, not the least of which is herself.
Lyssa's gritty and violent past is rapidly catching up with her, and while she ran back then and has been running ever since, with Eddie by her side she decides fleeing is no longer an option. But what now hunts them both is may be something darker and more powerful than can be fought with fire alone.
Within the Flames is a story that gives new meaning to the word “combustible”–our hero and heroine literally bursting into flames on more than one occasion–but though their separate fire-related abilities might suggest their passion is one of the instant and scorching variety, we find the exact opposite to be true. Their first encounter is a but a spark between them, each subsequent page serving as a heated breath that encourages the tiny flame to grow to greater heights, and the warmth that started in our bellies when one tortured soul recognized it’s likeness in another across a crowded New York City street spreads to our extremities and eventually our hearts as we find ourselves as consumed by their relationship as they are. There’s often nothing more satisfying than a love that burns slowly, one like Lyssa and Eddie's that gives us time to feel every lick of flame created by the tension, need, and fear radiating off them as their story is seared into our memory.
Lyssa, despite being one half of a romantic pair, seems to be more of the central focus of the story, a young woman with a closet full of skeletons we get to unlock with deliciously agonizing slowness as we slide it open to examine each intriguing and sometimes horrifying element of her past one bone at a time. She seems to struggle with the fact that she’s capable of inflicting serious damage to those around her more than Eddie does, continually pushing him away when he seeks only to bring her closer. Though her reaction is more than understandable in the beginning, by the end her tendency to reject his strength, companionship, and mere presence out of ingrained habit to keep him safe becomes a touch tiresome, and we can’t help but wish she would accept and trust him as he so clearly does her. That singular flaw doesn’t hinder our enjoyment of the story overall however, as the more we know of her past the more her behavior makes sense, and our sense of kinship with her increases even as we wish she’d let Eddie past her formidable defenses.
It seems as though we don’t quite get to know Eddie as well as we do Lyssa, perhaps due in part to his overwhelming need to protect this woman who knows and understands what he’s been through in trying to control his fire; a desire that takes precedence over dwelling on his past. We get plenty of snippets of the painful history that has caused the scars on the man we see before us on the pages, but unlike Lyssa he’s had his friends and colleagues at Dirk & Steele to help him cope over the years, creating pillars of support where Lyssa’s had only abject loneliness. Though he is a bit further from our reach than Lyssa, our connection to him is still strong and thriving, and we find ourselves eternally grateful that two masters and servants of fire are able to walk from the charred remains of their pasts and into the blazing possibility of their futures.
Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, the world of the agents of Dirk & Steele is one that’s easy to slip into and find a home, the characters darkly engaging and the little flashes of the history of the agency itself more than enough to have us running to the bookstores or our e-readers to start all over at the very beginning.