Book Review: Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

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Title: Playing with Fire (Hot in Chicago #2)
Author: Kate Meader @KittyMeader
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis

From popular romance author Kate Meader comes the second novel in Hot in Chicago, a brand-new, sizzling series that follows a group of firefighting foster siblings and their blazing hot love interests!

As the only female firefighter at Engine Co. 6, Alexandra Dempsey gets it from all sides: the male coworkers who think she can’t do the job, the wives and girlfriends who see her as a threat to their firefighter men, and her overprotective foster brothers who want to shelter their baby sister at all costs. So when she single-handedly saves the life of Eli Cooper, Chicago’s devastatingly handsome mayor, she assumes the respect she’s longed for will finally come her way. But it seems Mr. Mayor has other ideas…

Eli Cooper’s mayoral ratings are plummeting, his chances at reelection dead in the water. When a sexy, curvaceous firefighter gives him the kiss of life, she does more than bring him back to the land of the living—she also breathes vitality into his campaign. Riding the wave of their feel-good story might prop up Eli’s flagging political fortunes, but the sizzling attraction between them can go nowhere; he’s her boss, and there are rules that must be obeyed. But you know what they say about rules: they’re made to be broken.

Ivy

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I really enjoy Ms. Meader’s writing: I’ve read Ms. Meader’s Hot in the Kitchen series, which was great fun, so I looked forward to checking out this book. I was not disappointed. At first, I was just enjoying myself, but as I got deeper into the story, I couldn’t put it down. When 4am rolled around and I found myself saying “just one more chapter,” well, I had to admit that I’d found myself a five star read.

Diversity rules: Both of the series by Ms. Meader that I’ve read so far are set in Chicago, and I do appreciate that these characters do not exist in a lily white world. There’s a variety of characters that come from different social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, even within the Dempsey family since they’re comprised of adopted and foster kids raised by Sean and his wife . I love that she’s taken advantage of the ethnic diversity instead of ignoring it. It lends a richness to the tale being told and I, as a Latina, always appreciate seeing minorities in leading and supporting roles in my romances.

Work and play: Alex is a female firefighter, one of very few in her department, which is sadly very realistic. Her love to hate on Eli Cooper, the hunky mayor with diametrically opposite political views is integral to their struggle to be together. They’ve butted heads in the past, but when Alex saves Eli (and he saves her right back) during a fire, they are thrust into a “fake” relationship to help Eli’s re-election campaign. Personal and professional collide and I couldn’t have been happier. Ms. Meader has created fully realized characters with personal and professional lives. They don’t exist simply to service the romance, but have jobs and careers that influence every aspect <i>of</i> that romance. And their banter? At times crude, but always damn funny.

Alex and Eli have combustible chemistry: Chemistry is like pornography – it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Alex and Eli have that IT. The story is told in third person POV so you get a good perspective on both of their character’s feelings without it becoming all about their inner monologues. As you can see below, there’s dirty talk (yay!) and the way Eli loves to dominate in the bedroom was smoking. It did verge on the guilty pleasure side for me, since he was pretty Me Tarzan, You Jane. He never crosses the line (too far) into alphahole territory though, and when he got bossy, I got buttery.

Jesus, this woman’s mouth. “I will fuck the ever-loving smart-assery out of you, Alexandra.” He got started on that, pumping in and out, in and out. Deeper, harder. “I’m going to fuck you so good the only word on your lips will be my name. The only answer to every question will be my name. Now say it.” …. When he released her mouth, she murmured on a blissful sigh, “Asshole.” “My other name, honey.” She squeezed him like a satin fist, dug her heel into his ass. “Prick.”

The unresolved sexual tension (UST) they had in the very beginning kept humming just underneath the surface of all their conversations and some of the unintended dirty things that Alex said made me laugh out loud. I love romances where the protagonists can’t help but antagonize each other then have mad passionate sex. This has that in spades.

Eli, sexy ass caveman: Eli’s love of Firefly notwithstanding (and let me tell you, that got ALOT of brownie points with me), he IS a big ole chauvinist. I struggled with his caveman tendencies, even if I firmly believe it makes sense for the character. I mean, is he super alpha, and super hot? Yes. However, his need to dominate Alex at times felt more patronizing than sexy, at least at first. I completely understood Alex’s desire to kiss and punch him and I’ll admit it got my feminist hackles up.  Having said that, the deeper I went into the story and the more of his motives and pure love for his Alexandra is revealed, I just MELTED like Olaf on a summer day.

“My mind might be a cesspool when it comes to the things I’d like to do to you, Alexandra, but it’s a private cesspool. I’m not sharing it with my buddies. I’m not broadcasting it to the world, though anyone in this room could look at the two of us and understand exactly what we want from each other. The only person who needs to hear my plans is the woman who’ll be on the receiving end of every filthy, depraved thing I plan to do to her. Maybe you’re looking for a bad boy or a good guy. Well, you won’t find him in me. What you will find is a man who knows how to treat his woman.”

Yes, he’s a politician and has his share of flaws, but that makes him three dimensional instead of bland. That protective, slightly obsessive love and his grand gesture was just swoonworthy. I’ve added Eli to my stable of book boyfriends.

Alex is my kind of girlfriend: I love a heroine I could see myself hanging out with and Alex is that kind of girl. She’s tough but open to love, and even if she’s occasionally protective, she doesn’t just push away Eli for the sake of pushing. She made me laugh with her ability to work an innuendo and she was NOT shy when it came to sex:

“Your morning-after care sucks, Cooper. I wake up and there’s no hard peen nudging my butt demanding attention.”

She can be irrational, especially when angry at Eli, but again, like Eli, it made her human and three dimensional, instead of a Mary Sue. Her love of her family, her strength of character, and not just accepting less for herself had me admiring her.

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If you couldn’t tell, I loved it. When I feel the urge to re-read a book right after I’ve finished it, I know it’s going on my keeper shelf. This is a highly entertaining read that I would recommend to fans of firefighters and contemporary romances. I’ll definitely check out more in this series.

– Ivy

*An ARC was received for an honest review.

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Click on the image below to purchase the previous books in the series:

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