Alaska Inferno
by Lolo Paige
Avoca Press Publishing

"'You’re a firefighter. You take risks for a living. Take another one. If you don’t, you’ll wonder about it the rest of your frigging life.'"

After the disastrous end of last year's fire season, firefighters Jon and Liz are surprised to meet again this season. Jon avoids returning to the frontlines by becoming a fire investigator instead of a firefighter. For her bravery in last year's crisis, Liz becomes the leader of a firefighting squad. As fires rage on Alaska's Kenai peninsula, so does the chemistry between these two lovers. But their secrets—Jon's wounded pride at his past mistakes and Liz's exotic dance career—challenge a budding romance. Jon and Liz track clues to the arson behind the fires and toward a new relationship.

The novel's many storylines create a maelstrom of excitement. From the personal dramas of the fire crew to fighting fires to tracking the arson, the plot churns at a fast clip. The chapters burst with focused activity. Descriptions of Alaska's rivers, forests, and rustic infrastructure help captivate readers' attention. Realistic portrayals of area industries and challenges ground the novel's foundation in facts. Alaska's wilderness lovers create economies around the wild landscape, but these people are sometimes wild themselves, like the elusive arsonist. A diverse cast of male and female fire workers, including an Australian, a Scandinavian, and a Samoan, lends color to the dialogue and intrigue. Personalities explode with potency as the book's cast members flirt with each other and work with panache as well as professionalism.

Jon and Liz exemplify the best of all of these characters. Their secrets add depth to the plot, showing the hurdles from which their strengths derive. Jon is a self-proclaimed ladies' man. Married three times, he is lucky in love, but not with commitment. He learns from relationship mistakes, as well as last year's fire season trouble, determined to win one woman's heart forever. Trained as a classical dancer, Liz falls into exotic dancing out of necessity when, after tireless attempts, she can't find work in classical dance. She's both ashamed of how she makes money when not fighting fires and proud of supporting herself and her dad on her hard-earned wages. She also only respects men who respect her. Jon and Liz combine their skills, working together to solve the arson mystery and evoking compassion, sympathy, and admiration in readers.

Jon and Liz's candid arguments help them get to the heart of their love for one another. Using convincing rhetoric, they come out on the other side of these upsets more trusting, committed, and passionate. They reveal the author's firsthand knowledge of and respect for her fellow firefighters. Her characterizations are a tribute to her colleagues and encourage potential newcomers to the profession.

In the midst of a fiery conceit, a fiery climax is predicted. But Jon and Liz's love affair blossoms unexpectedly in a calm vacation setting away from fires. They connect with words as well as their bodies. After they establish a relationship, the rest of the book reflects a headier tone. Liz supports Jon's ornithology and music-making, and he helps with Liz's ballet dream. Their conversations teem with artistic metaphors and ideas. The poems bookending the narrative show its literary foundation. With a hopeful and happy conclusion, Paige successfully crafts a romance replete with adventure, whodunit intrigue, and art to suit many tastes.

Paige's Alaska Spark was a 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award E-Book Fiction Honorable Mention.

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