Chasing The Flames
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Trisha has had feelings for Bryan for nearly thirty years. They were close as children, with Trisha often spending time at Bryan’s family’s vineyard property and then there was one night when they were 17 and 18. But since then Trisha has seen Bryan move away, get married and then divorced and return to the family home. A drunken kiss on New Year’s finally seems to have Bryan seeing her in a new light. Is he ready to realise that she’s been there, waiting for him the whole time?
At first it seems that way. But there are so many things that keep complicating their new fledgling fling. Trisha knows that she’s light years ahead of Bryan in terms of feelings – he’s retreated back into himself since his wife left him for another man but she’s been patient for a long time now and she can give him the time he needs to catch up. But between a particularly pesky reporter and Bryan’s ex-wife, who has returned looking to rekindle their marriage, Trisha isn’t sure she’s ever going to be the number 1 priority of Bryan’s.
Although it’s not obvious at first, Chasing The Flames is actually linked to Cheryl Adnams’ previous book Bet On It which introduces Bryan Muller and his two brothers and details one of those brothers finding his HEA. I haven’t read Bet On It and although I briefly wished I had just to have that background knowledge about the Muller’s and what they do, this book does mostly read pretty well as a stand alone. And people who read and enjoyed Bet On It will probably appreciate the role that Seth and Gabrielle play in this book.
Bryan Muller has recently turned 40 and personally, he doesn’t have much to show for it other than a failed marriage that has left its mark on him. Professionally, he’s very successful and his family’s winery has long been one of the premier properties in South Australia’s McLaren Vale. Doing his younger brother Seth a good turn leads to Bryan imbibing a little too much alcohol on New Year’s and he and his longtime friend Trisha end up sharing several very powerful kisses. It’s been a long time since Bryan really thought about Trisha that way and in fact he hasn’t really thought about any women that way since his marriage ended. He finds himself wanting to explore this new possibility with Trisha, but at the same time he’s still carrying some emotional baggage.
Trisha had a very difficult childhood and if not for Bryan’s mother and a devoted Muller family friend, she might’ve gone down a very different path. They helped her, giving her a haven when she needed it, when her home life became too difficult. I found Trisha’s upbringing really heartbreaking and I admired her for really putting herself on a successful path, even staying in a town where she’d been the subject of gossip and occasionally, judgement. Trisha was a great character, although at times her devotion to Bryan and patience with him became a bit baffling. There were many times during the book when I wondered how Trisha hadn’t been snapped up by someone fabulous at some stage – she was smart, attractive and owned her own business. It seems that her feelings for Bryan had endured through years of them being separated and him marrying someone else.
Bryan on the other hand, was a bit of a dill. It did kind of amaze me that someone could get to his age and be so clueless about women. There are several times in this book when he really makes hurtful blunders that he doesn’t see as potentially upsetting or hurtful and you wonder how he doesn’t see it. When his ex-wife arrives, he doesn’t want to see her or have anything to do with her but he proves to be remarkably patient with her and treats her with much more consideration than she deserves. I’m not sure if that was supposed to make me think that Bryan was such a stand up buy that he’s even incredibly nice and generous to the ex-wife that left him for another man but I ended up just wanting him to actually assert himself a bit. The ex-wife is quite a stereotypical ‘other woman’ villain, attempting the reconciliation with Bryan, pouring it on thick and provoking his sense of (misplaced?) chivalry whilst savaging Trisha to her face when Bryan isn’t around.
Having seen what bushfires can do, both when I was a teen and then in the disastrous Victorian Black Saturday fires, they’re a very real part of the rural Australian landscape and although it formed a rather tragic part of the story, I enjoyed the incorporation, showing the Muller boys working as volunteer fighters and being quite involved with the defense of the local area against an arson bug.
There’s one more Muller brother left so I assume there’s another book coming to give him his story and I definitely enjoyed this one enough to give that one a go. I liked the family dynamic between the brothers and their father and I really enjoyed the setting. I haven’t read many books set in South Australian wine country and I’d love to read more about the ins and outs of the business.
Book #192 of 2014
This review is part of the Chasing The Flames blog tour, created by Random Romance of Random House AU. You can check out more (including the schedule) here.
Previously on the tour: Cheryl Adnams shares 5 books of influence at Culture Street
Tomorrow on the tour: Marcia from Book Muster Down Under shares her review of Chasing The Flames.
Make sure you check both of those (and other posts on the tour) out. I’ll be back on October the 9th with a guest post from Cheryl.
Chasing The Flames counts towards my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. It’s the 70th book completed