Fired Up in her Trouble in Texas series picks up right where Mary Connealy left off in Swept Away. Dare Riker, self-proclaimed doctor based on his experience patching people up in Andersonville prison during the Civil War, still has a thing for the lovely Glynna Greer, who, recently widowed from her abusive polecat of a husband, rather likes him back. The problem is, she's had two bad husbands in a row, and her two children, her maturing son Paul especially, are not keen on a third. In fact, Paul has threatened Dare's life on occasion, which might not normally be taken seriously, except that there is that man-made avalanche that almost killed him, followed by a fire, and topped by a stabbing. All this on top of Glynna's cooking at her diner, which, while it hasn't actually killed anyone yet, has significantly increased Dare's doctoring business. Can Dare live long enough to make peace with the kids so Glynna will marry him?
One of the best but hardest parts of this story is the relationship between Dare and Paul. Dare is trying to teach Paul that there are good men in the world who respect women, men, and children alike; in an effort to be a good role model, he tries to spend more time with Paul by inviting him hunting, encouraging his help with his doctor practice, and generally including him with the men. However, every step forward seems to end right back where he started, with an angry, sullen young man. Paul is very protective of his mother; when he sees that Dare likes his mother, he feels like Dare's overtures of friendship are just a ploy to get at his mom, so he again hardens his heart against him. Dare is a good example of what a man should do in the situation: he is friendly and makes an effort to include Paul without forcing him one way or the other, but he doesn't hesitate to lay down the law when he needs to. That strength to say no, to temper discipline with compassion, while unappealing to Paul, is, I think, what will eventually lead to a good relationship between the two.
I like - but am a bit frustrated - that Connealy has set up the next book in the series by giving a little more background on Vince and introducing Jonas' reforming sister Tina. It's fun to get a taste of the next book, but if only it were not so long until it comes out! There's a bit less talk of God in Fired Up than in many of Connealy's previous novels - it is basically limited to some discussion on forgiveness at the end - which was a little disappointing. However, like usual, she writes a great comedy. This one has a bit more mystery than usual, since it is anyone's guess who is trying to bump Dare off. A highly amusing book! 4 out of 5 stars
Thank you to Bethany House for providing a free copy of this novel for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
Trouble in Texas
Prequel: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (novella)
1. Swept Away
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together
"Runaway Bride" (follows Trouble in Texas and Kincaid Brides series; from the novella collection With This Ring?)