This is the first book in a companion series to the Ice Series. It begins with the creation of the American Committee- sister to the branch set in London-- but far more independent and not under the sway of the Committee's Board of Governors. Granted, under this Board the English Committee worked in a gray area most of the time so the thought is the American Committee would be free to be...better. It probably wouldn't work like that in real life, I mean, my last police chief couldn't keep in ding-a-ling out of the company ink so I doubt a rogue mercenary group would work out...but in fiction- It's gold!
I'm not sure how else to describe the financial backing the group gets. Maybe if the Bilderberg Meeting had a secret Illuminati sub-sect that hired and controlled a group of mercenaries and sent this to fix the world's ills. I'm sure a conspiracy theory wack job would claim that this would totally happen but come on. The paperwork for the finances on that would be insane.
Once, when I was vacationing near where the Bilderberg meeting was taking place my cousin (who has not talked to me in years...like twenty would be generous) wrote me a long, rambling facebook message about how I needed to stay away from them but also infiltrate and protest them. He was in his basement. In Arkansas. He also was not happy when I told him that I would one hundred percent join the meeting if invited. I bet they have great food there.
So don't be my cousin the moron.
I'm always down to join a secret group. Are we going to have good food? Topple the government? Will there be deviled eggs? Let me in!
Title: Consumed By Fire
Author: Anne Stuart
Genre: fiction, romantic suspense, contemporary
Page Number: 336 pages (paperback)
Publisher: Montlake Romance, part of Amazon's publishing group
Evangeline Morrissey remembers the last time she saw her husband: it was during their honeymoon, right before he stole her grandmother’s earrings and abandoned her. Now, five years later, the enigmatic man who’d broken her heart and destroyed her trust is back. But she’s not the same naive young woman who fell for him so easily.
Marrying Evangeline and letting her think he was nothing but a common thief had been James Bishop’s plan all along. As an assassin for the Committee, a covert agency dedicated to stamping out international crime, he had no business even thinking about marriage. But it was the only way to protect Evangeline after she’d unwittingly wandered into his operation against a group of human traffickers, placing herself in grave danger. And now that James’s vigilant watch over Evangeline’s life has revealed to his enemies that she’s his one true weakness, he must set out to have, to hold, and—above all—to protect his bride.
I think Evangeline has some similar hangups but is more sexually open than most of Stuart's heroines from the series. In fact, the way Stuart opens this book is a tad different (with the whirl wind romance beginning then stopping and building back up). So that was fun. When she awakes, she realizes she's slept a lot longer than she meant. As she leaves she runs into a man (James Bishop) and a stunning woman (Claudette). James offers to take her back to the hotel as a storm has rolled up. Evangeline is super smart about a lot of things but managed to miss the day in school where they tell you not to get into cars with strangers so she accepts (mostly because of the storm). James drops her off at her hotel and asks her to dinner. She grudgingly accepts as she's attracted to him but at the same time wary of him. Girl...
We then find out that James and Claudia are members of The Committee and are on assignment. Claudia is far more willing to dispose of Evangeline as she fears that Evangeline might have seen something she wasn't supposed to but James intervenes and suggests that he find out through dinner, etc. The reader knows more about what they're doing in Italy but I'm trying not to spoil too much here. Anyways, the dinner between Evangeline and James leads to a whirl wind romance where they end up with a steamy sex moment and then married in Venice. During their honeymoon, James leaves her with a suitcase that has a burned identity set. So Evangeline returns to the states.
Also of note, Merlin loves James. This gives Evangeline fits as Merlin tends to dislike people who don't like her (i.e. her husband after James). James has commandeered the trip and Evangeline because the actions taken in Italy have been traced to him. Evangeline-by process of being his wife at the time- is also marked for retribution. The rest of this section follows Evangeline and James getting to know one another (well, she gets to know him). We learn that James is headed to New Orleans (like the book cover shows) to set up the American Branch. The headquarters is to be set in New Orleans. Which is such a great city (but not for Air BnBs...that shiz is annoying).
The rest of the book is the resolution and show down between The Committee and some bad guys. I don't want to get too specific but since it's also the plot of the second book I'll say that the issue in Italy is connected to an organized crime unit and they've connected to some baddies in Callivera (from the last Ice book) to be in the illegal drug and human trafficking trades.
There is something of note, a trigger type warning I suppose and a massive spoiler (highlight to see this). Claudette is the other figure from the beginning of the book that works for the Committee. Claudette also goes by Claude. They're ambiguous (Claude dresses up to transform into Claudette). It's never specified what Claudette prefers. I'm going to use Claudette as that's how they first appear. Claudette feels that James should have killed Evangeline and is also chasing them down, having gone a little insane. I only mention this as this is a harmful trope of trans/cross-dressing peeps as the "baddies" in some media. I didn't take it as a negative here...just a spy willing to dress or act for the job, but if this is something that could heavily upset you, be aware.
I thought this was a fun start in the Fire series. It's not my favorite of the three published but I think I have it rated about 4.5*. I own the kindle, print, and audio-book of this. I found the way this book to be structured to be a bit different than her normal book in the series (usually starts right into the current action) but I liked it as it really developed Evangeline and Jame's difficult beginnings. It also showed James not being a giant dickhead...which is nice to remember when he ties her to the bed in the trailer. There's adventure and violence (they are being chased!) and sexy times.
I want to note that Merlin lives and is not in extreme danger. I just started a book where the author kills the (fictional) dog to show a serial killer's depravity and I had to DNF that nonsense--and I'm not a dog person at all.
Tight writing all around, engaging plot (complex but easy to follow). I thought Evangeline was a good departure as she had gone through some stuff but had a semi-healthy sex drive (we all have moments). James is an asshole but redeems himself that Evangeline takes him back. Seriously though, don't date a James. He's only acceptable in books and only sometimes. You don't have to read the Ice series to start the Fire series.