Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Redemption By Fire by Andrew Grey


Reviewer: Jon Michaelsen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 72
Career firefighter, tough guy and resident asshole, Dirk Krause, has a big chip on his shoulder, one of his own making, an attitude that has driven everyone around the firehouse crazy. When Dirk is injured on the job while saving a baby from a burning building, his disposition while recuperating in the hospital continues to further alienate his comrades and potential new friends, his only visitor being his father until the new recruit at the station draws the short straw and arrives at the hospital with sympathy bouquet in hand and encouraging well-wishes from the guys.

I must admit, I noticed Redemption by Fire first due to the incredible cover, well designed and eye-catching, representative of the story within. The blurb intrigued me so I purchased the ebook version and never looked back.

Dirk Krause is described as an asshole of the first degree. His life is hell of his making, and causing those around him - indeed those charged with protecting his back when fighting roaring fires - miserable. When I began Redemption by Fire, I was immediately pulled into the story. The writing is very good, the storyline intriguing, with a grip that didn’t let go until the end.
I wanted to know what drove Dirk to treat those around him, including his comrades and friends, as he did. I gave Krause the benefit of the doubt, confident author Andrew Grey knew well how to set up a love-story between two of the unlikeliest of characters.
Enter Lee Stockton, a big, muscular hulk of a man with a baby face to boot and personality that screams gorgeous, decidedly opposite Dirk in every way, right down to his respect of his job and of other people. First impression is Lee is nothing but a dumb muscle-head just following orders, but readers will quickly learn he is anything but. Lee sees right through Dirk’s angry façade and takes the man to task right there in his hospital bed, delivering a scorching kiss that sets Dirk on fire and awakens a libido needing attention.

Redemption by Fire draws the reader in as Grey drills deeper than the typical gay romance with conflict to explore the makeup of the main characters, what’s their makeup and why they respond as they do. The sex is spot on, sizzling hot and leaving no prisoners, remarkably representative of the typical hot horny guys having insane, mind-bending sex. It’s not until much later however – indeed after a few mishaps and misunderstandings threatening their relationship - the two begin a slow romance.

What drives the story however is far deeper and much more difficult to portray well in such a brief story -a mere 72-96 pages (depending on your reading device)- to avoid coming across as preachy or cliché; a story of denial and acceptance, of repressed longing and insecurities, and of a judgmental father still holding control over his grown son. But it is control that Dirk responds to in more ways than he first realizes. Lee is the perfect match for Dirk, a polar opposite in personality, confident in who he is and what he wants out of life, a match of wit and brawn up next to Dirk any day of the week.

Experiencing near death in a terrible fire proves life-altering for Dirk and he’s forced to reexamine who he is and what kind of man he has become. The realization and truth is surprisingly numbing for him, but Grey captures such grim discovery with genuine empathy, authenticity and zeal. Dirk is so far in the closet that it takes heavy coaxing to get him to step forward into the real world, to experience all that is possible and can be. With the understanding and strength of Lee by his side, the chance to experience true love for the first time in his life becomes real. It is that budding love for Lee and the thought of losing him – literally - that becomes the catalyst to drive Dirk out for good.

Redemption by Fire is short, but succinct, a realistic and authentic portrayal of a man living in denial, laying bare enough embers in the novella to continue with future installments, which I certainly hope author Andrew Grey does. I feel confident his readers will be clamoring for more of Dirk and Lee.  

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