cover image Consumed


J.R. Ward. Gallery, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9490-0

The prolific Ward is best known for the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal romances, so that might be why this first-responder thriller is marketed as romance, but its true heritage is gritty TV dramas. Characters have sex, but there’s nothing like a romantic story arc. Anne Ashburn is the only female firefighter in her New Brunswick, Mass., station. She’s the daughter and sister of firefighters, but she despises her family and won’t admit her continuing attraction to Daniel “Dannyboy” Maguire, the station’s bad boy and her recent one-night stand. Sexual angst becomes moot when a catastrophic fire ends Anne’s career and sends Danny into a PTSD spiral. Refashioning herself as an arson investigator, Anne discovers that the fire has suspicious links to others. Meanwhile, her former colleagues won’t let her leave Danny in the past. There’s a lot of explicit injury, trash talk (“Amy, don’t be codependent. It makes your ass look big”), bad behavior excused because it’s done by the good guys, and sneering at “the Instagram set” and other caricatures of weak, whiny liberal elites. For readers who consider “Do your department a favor and just put a bullet in your head” to be pithy advice for a suicidal lover, Ward’s facility with topical one-liners will make this a hit, but readers seeking actual romance would do well to avoid it. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)