I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Playing with Fire (Hot in Chicago, #2) by Kate Meader
Series: Hot in Chicago #2
Published by Pocket Books on September 29th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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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…
I really felt for Alexandra. As a rookie firefighter, a female rookie firefighter, no less, she took shit from almost everyone in her life. None of her siblings are supportive of her career choice, her dating choices are gossip fodder for the entire firehouse (obviously none of the male firefighters get crap for their own dating histories), and the media has dubbed her “Sexy Lexi”. It was no wonder she had a huge chip on her shoulder. And no wonder it was especially evident when dealing with Chicago Mayor Eli “Women shouldn’t be firefighters because they’re weak” Cooper. No matter what she did, there was someone trying to tell her she was wrong. Based mostly on the fact that she’s a woman. At one point her brother, Luke, (who I did NOT like) told they were just trying to protect her from her own bad choices. For fuck’s sake. She’s a grown woman. Yes, she had some bad dates. Who hasn’t? In fact she’s had thirty-four pretty terrible first dates in the last ten months. The fact that none of them got second dates tells me that she actually makes some pretty good decisions.
As for Eli, well, I did not feel for him. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a misogynist, but he was absolutely a sexist. I guess I’ll at least give him credit for sticking to his guns and not backing down when he was challenged on something he believed in, but I give it grudgingly. I’ll also give him credit because it seemed like he was capable of changing his mind when he was presented to evidence that proved him wrong about an issue. Unfortunately, not everyone will do that. Since he’s the mayor, everything he does is in the public eye. At one point he’s forced to concede that perhaps his earlier remarks about female firefighters was unfounded, after Alexandra saves his life in a fire, and he does that with typical Eli aplomb and still manages to be charmingly cocky.
In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure about Alexandra and Eli as a couple, but by the end I was completely on board. It was more than just a “He/She drives me crazy!” relationship they had. They had several really fundamental differences in how they saw the world and their respective places in it. Alexandra is so used to having fight everyone around her for everything she wants that she fights with Eli or her family even when she doesn’t have to. She projects as tough an image as she can, hiding her unruly hair and preferences for pretty lingerie. She doesn’t try to not look like a woman, but she does try not to call attention to herself. Her brothers do their best to let her know that they don’t approve of her, using mostly caveman tactics. Eli has gotten himself into a situation he doesn’t really like with one of his late father’s friends, a man who donated a lot of money to Eli’s mayoral campaign and now thinks that means Eli owes him everything. He’s done some things he’s not proud of, though nothing illegal, but he’s finding it difficult to extricate himself from that situation. He lies to Alex to get her to date him in the first place, then hates himself for it. He was a different type of romance hero, one who was a little backward in his thinking, but recognized it and was ok with it. He was cocky, in a fun way, definitely an alpha, but not an alphole. I could easily see what these people liked about each other.
The only other Kate Meader book I’ve read is Even the Score, and this one had the same realness to the characters that I found in that one. I wanted to hug Alexandra as much as I wanted to smack her and tell her to tell her overbearing foster brothers to shove it. I wanted to strangle Eli for his backward opinions, even as I was able to see, just barely, what Alexandra saw in him. I read this one as a standalone, and while I didn’t have any trouble following it, it was pretty clear to me that the Alexandra/Eli story started in an earlier book. I’d like to go back and read it, but the previous book was Luke’s story, and like I said earlier, I really didn’t like him.
This book was smart, sexy, and fun, with a lot of banter between the hero and the heroine. They’re both really strong characters who fight so hard not to fall for each other. Once they do, though, they fight just as hard for each other, and I loved watching it.