As The Fires of Paradise started, I felt my heart sinking - yet another book with an unlovely hero and heroine who spend their whole time alternately shouting at each other or having sex. The first quarter of the book I found tedious, putting it down several times to read other books instead. The heroine, Lucy Bragg,
is a spoiled, naÔve girl who appears to care for nobody but herself, including behaving quite inappropriately and potentially causing great worry to her family. The hero, Shoz Cooper,
is shown to be a womanizer who seems heartless, who is rude to Lucy and her friend when
he finds them stranded and deflowers our heroine shockingly quickly. I was pretty gloomy about the whole book, really, feeling that it wasn't something I was enjoying reading and that I couldn't care about these two nasty characters at all.
And then the story picked up, considerably. Shoz
is arrested and taken to the police station in the town of Paradise, where Lucy and her family
are staying, and he breaks out of the prison using Lucy as a hostage. He and Lucy travel from Texas to Mexico, suffering through the exhausting journey, followed by bandits, struggling in the appalling heat of Death Valley.
Yet something more is going on between them than their initial interactions
suggest, and both Lucy and Shoz show different sides to their natures. Lucy is installed in Shoz's house in Death Valley and has to deal with harsh treatment from the woman Lucy assumes is Shoz's wife. Lucy learns to clean and cook and serve, as well as learning to fight and to stand up for herself against the unpleasant Carmen. When Shoz, returns their relationship reaches a new stage, but when Lucy's pursuers catch up with them, it all seems to be going wrong again. Misunderstandings abound,
and it's only while becoming involved in the uprising in Cuba under Josť Marti that Lucy and Shoz really begin to understand what is between them.
Overall this is an enjoyable book once the reader ploughs through the first quarter. Neither main character
is ever particularly appealing - Shoz because of his morals and attitude toward a naÔve young girl, Lucy because of her egocentric nature and lack of care for the feelings of her family. However, like 'real' people, they both have multifaceted characters, and there
are some things to like about them - Shoz's skills as a father and Lucy's tenacity. The hostage section of the book
is exciting, and the description of their journey through Texas and Mexico is excellent.
The Cuba section seems to go past pretty quickly, but the latter half of the book
is good enough to stay up late at night to finish. This book was originally published in 1992, and
that sometimes shows with a different attitude toward strong men than in more recent books (heroes threatening to rape heroines don't go down too well now, really), but the underlying setting of the story
is good, and it's worth reading for those who like this genre.