West Coast Forensics: Real Hazard by Elle Keaton
They’re not looking for love, but it catches them anyway. Can two very different men find common ground and claim a future… together?
Things I love
✓ my kid sister
✓ the no-hope dogs I rehabilitate
✓ my job as an EMT
✓ and maybe my new friend Dutch.
But Dutch isn’t gay and physical attraction isn’t something I feel often. Are these feelings real, or am I just tired of being alone?
This is all Hazel’s fault. Hazel the Hazard.
✓ Hazel made me come to first grade safety day.
✓ Hazel blurted out—loudly—about the beautiful fireman.
✓ Hazel invited the beautiful fireman over for a party.
I swear I’m not gay, but Foster Jennings is the most beautiful man I’ve ever met, outside and in.
Dutch Schumach is the single dad of a precocious daughter. He moved to Piedras wanting a better life for Hazel and himself. Things are shaping up, he’s landed a permanent job at Brooch Resort and Hazel has quit having nightmares that someone is going to steal her away.
Then everything goes sideways, Dutch’s past threatens his future and he doesn’t know where to turn.
Something is wrong, Dutch is pushing him away and won’t tell Foster why.
When Hazel goes missing Dutch can’t hide anymore, he needs his… Foster to help him get Hazel back.
#Demisexual #BiAwakening #SingleDad #FindingFamily
Book four in the West Coast Forensics series, can be read as a standalone but may be more fully enjoyed if you start with Real Trouble.
Real Hazard is Piedras Island at its most charming and my favorite West Coast Forensics installment so far.
I’ve been a fan of WCF and its related series, so at this point, everyone feels like old friends. Foster Jennings was introduced in earlier books. The EMT/firefighter/dog trainer is fondly referred to as an angel, a beautiful man inside and out. He not only saves humans but helps dogs too. Foster’s world revolves around his younger sister whom he raised, the uber-confident Becca, determined to spread her wings, protective brothers and wheelchairs notwithstanding.
Dutch Schumach is the cook assisting his friend, the chef, Danylo Peters, at the island’s landmark hotel. He’s a single dad to a precocious 8-year-old, Hazel, who has her dad wrapped around her little pinkie. Dutch has a dark past he’s running away from to keep his daughter safe.
Hazel the Hazard keeps her lonely dad’s life exciting through clever antics. The latest of which is befriending the beautiful fireman and feeding him pie. Afterall, her teacher said, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
The story celebrates the joys and the challenges of solo parents. Fatherhood is the theme, and this extends to Dutch’s parentage at the latter part. Hazel both amused me and reminded me why I want nothing to do with kids.
The plot differs from the previous books, which were mystery-centric and heavily involved the WCF people. This time, it was more of a contemporary romance with the requisite meet-cute, lots of fluffy moments, minor external conflict to shake things up a little, and then the sweet HEA. There weren’t any big surprises, but I don’t think it was meant to be a roller-coaster. And hardly any private detectives showed up.
This was a more laidback slice-of-life chronicles of two friends who became lovers, a single dad’s refreshingly angst-free bisexual awakening, a parent coming to terms with their child leaving the nest, and hardworking men trying to catch a break. The vibe was cozy, comfortable, and domestic, with lots of heartwarming found family goodness. Add to that the adorable antics from canine friends, and it was cuteness overload!
Piedras Island might be an old haunt, it still has plenty of surprises. I loved where Elle Keaton took us this time. I missed the mystery, but Real Hazard certainly more than made up for it with its lovable characters, cozy domesticity, and lots and lots of feel-good magic!
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Check out the rest of West Coast Forensics and its related series , and fall in love with Piedras Island!
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I was very eager to delve into these two book of the Hotshots series mostly because of the elite firefighter theme. I have not read many of those yet and this was my first introduction to smoke jumpers.
The first installment Burn Zone was an enjoyable series opener. The next two books feature other smoke jumpers working in the same base as Linc and Jacob. The books can be read as standalones.
Hotshots: High Heat – Annabeth Albert
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .
Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.
Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: Burn Zone, High Heat, and Feel the Fire.
High Heat is Garrick and Rain’s story. Garrick is an injured smoke jumper undergoing physical therapy. He met the carefree, twenty-something Rain when he was asking his neighbor’s help in dealing with a wounded lost dog who strayed in his yard.
This is an opposites attract, age-gap story about healing. Garrick was not only injured physically, he also had issues getting it up. Garrick found himself drawn to his younger neighbor. Rain gradually became an indispensable part of Garrick’s life along with the dog, now named Cookie. He helped him with Cookie, as well as with Garrick’s sexual healing.
Thing is, I know their connection was there. Just that, I wasn’t connecting with the characters. I don’t feel invested in what happened to them.
I was more interested in the job aspect. Here specifically, because Garrick was being offered a position as dispatcher while he was recovering. I liked that we will see firefighting from a different point of view but it’s taking too long to get to those parts. There’s just not enough of the smoke jumping to keep me glued.
2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book
Hotshots: Feel The Fire – Annabeth Albert
The third installment of Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .
When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…
Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.
Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.
Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: High Heat, Burn Zone and Feel the Fire. (less)
Thought I would feel better with High Heat. This one’s a childhood friends-to-lovers, second chance romance, something I always enjoyed.
Tucker and Luis were best friends from their grade school days up until high school when they started discovering they both like boys. Specifically, each other. Luis wanted to come out but Tucker had more conservative parents who he knew would not take it well. Luis’s family moved to California when they were seventeen. The two boys exchanged promises that Tucker would follow later on. That was the last they saw each other.
Their reunion decades later was all sorts of awkward. There were the whys that needed to be hashed out, sparks of attraction that threatened to ignite once again. Not to mention, how to explain to Tucker’s family.
There’s great chemistry between Luis and Tucker. Their shared history lent their current attraction extra weight both in the bad and good sense. There’s the baggage to deal with but there’s also a deep connection they can only find with each other. This is especially important because Tucker is demisexual.
There are a lot of promising things here. Also, a gray/ace character is right up my alley. They weren’t enough to keep me hanging though. As the story progressed, I found myself less and less engaged with the story. The going felt slow. For a book about fires, the delivery wasn’t generating enough sparks with me until it got to the point where it left me cold.
Comforting myself with the thought that Tucker and Luis get their HEA, eventually. Too bad I have no patience to stick around and see it happened.
2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like
I’m sorry that not feeling things is the theme of today’s reviews. Doubly sad because I had such high hopes for these two blazing books. I’m not writing off Annabeth Albert yet. I heard good things about her other books so I’m definitely giving those a shot.
On to better things now.
3.5 -star review of Burn Zone here.
Hotshots: Burn Zone – Annabeth Albert
Introducing Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…
Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.
Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.
Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.
The Hotshots series is one of my most anticipated reads this year. Partly due to the fact that I already found the song for book 1, Burn Zone, way before the books were released. This always revs up the excitement for me.
Burn Zone didn’t exactly blow me away the way I wanted it to. Still, it was good, falling somewhere between like and love. It was different. At the same time, not.
The series introduced me to smoke jumpers. They are elite firefighters who jump out of planes to put out wildfires. They are hardcore survivalist trained to work under the most extreme conditions.
This is my first time reading this kind of set up. It’s easy to see the author did her research well and use it to excellent results. I also liked how she incorporated this to the story, immersing me in a new experience. She was able to establish the setting, the action and the atmosphere without boring me with unnecessary details.
Take away all these exciting trappings, the core of the story is your usual bestfriend’s brother trope with some I’m-not-good-enough-for-you angstyings. It’s a story you could read in dozen other books in dozen different permutations.
While this is the case, Annabeth Albert’s considerable skills lent the story a certain charm that kept me turning page after page. Majority of this charm came from Jacob, younger brother of Wyatt who was Linc’s bestfriend.
Jacob dreams of becoming a smoke jumper. He knows he has much to prove especially because his late brother was one of the best smoke jumpers out there. He also has to deal with Linc and his teammates, mother-henning him because of what happened to his brother. Despite discouragements and expectations to fail from friends and family, he pushed through and became a valuable member of the team.
Jacob was 19 when he started crushing on Linc. Linc, who was 10 years older, was warned by the homophobic Wyatt to stay away from his little brother. Linc was a man of his word and a promise is a promise. Plus, he’s blaming himself for Wyatt’s death despite it being not his fault.
That does not stop Jacob from doggedly pursuing the man for 6 years. Linc refused again and again. I love how Jacob doesn’t take no for an answer. And he does it without being annoying. He can show his needy side without sounding weak. And he can sass Linc and make him laugh.
Linc? I don’t know with this guy. It was pretty obvious he was insanely attracted to Jacob. The man sure has a stubborn streak and what is this with his I’m 10 years older than you bullshit? I’m not a fan of age gaps but I’ve seen bigger age gaps than that and they made it work. But no. He had to make Jacob fight for everything. All because of Wyatt.
Unconvincing reasons aside, the tension smoldered between the two then went nuclear once they were together. The title was very apt. I’m the type of reader who lives on USTs but finds the resolution itself boring so I liked that the book had USTs galore without going over board with the smexy scenes.
It took a while to convince Linc to let himself be happy. To stop letting a ghost come between him and Jacob. I enjoyed the way their friendship and relationship evolved. It wasn’t the smoothest of paths but the journey was a satisfying one.
Burn Zone is a story of not being afraid to go after what you want, of cutting dead weights loose and taking risks when they’re risks worth taking. If you like men going from fighting wildfires to stoking a different kind of heat, this series opener is an invitation to burn.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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