SmolderTitle:  Smolder
Series:  Firefighters of Montana #1
Author:  Tracy Solheim
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Published:  June 7, 2016 by Tule Publishing
My Rating:  4.5 stars
Source:  Owned, Kindle Edition
Cover Description:

Former Army Ranger, Sam Gaskill, is starting over in Glacier Creek, Montana – far away from the plains of Texas and the memories of his late wife. Taking charge as the new captain of a squad of smoke jumpers should provide him with enough adrenaline to chase away the ghosts from his past. Until a sexy, green-eyed temptress with a sassy mouth enters the picture…

Laurel Keenan, champion horsewoman, couldn’t wait to escape her hometown. But instead, an ailing mother and an unplanned pregnancy landed the impetuous dreamer right back on her father’s ranch. Laurel has managed to lead a quiet life with her young son—until she sets eyes on the tough guy with the sexy ass.

Sam already failed one woman; he won’t trust his heart with another. And Laurel is determined not to risk her heart—or her son’s—on another thrill-seeker. Can their slow burn lead to a love that lasts?

Read on for my thoughts on Smolder.

A lot of changes have been happening in Sam’s life.  He’s no longer in the military, his Army Ranger days are behind him after several deployments.  He’s taken on the Captain position for a group of smoke jumper firefighters.  It’s a dangerous job, as the death of the former Captain is proof of, but Sam is confident that he can handle the job and everything that comes with it.  He’s not boastful but he is damned good at his job – he knows the risks and when they are worth it or not.

Then there is the personal moments that haunt him.  His wife was recently killed in a riding accident, one where she rode away from him in anger.  So there is a huge pile of guilt on Sam’s shoulders.  Now he’s unloading Becky’s horse, Tabitha, from the hauler.  One last wish of his late wife’s to try to fulfill… then it’s time to move on and put the past behind him, because he can’t change it, and look to a future that doesn’t hold much but his work.

Laurel is impulsive and often speaks without a filter from her brain to her mouth.  Her intention is never to be mean, she simply speaks impulsively whatever she’s thinking.  That same impulsiveness landed her a short lived romance with an Olympian snow boarder, Bryce, and that gave her the most precious thing in her life, their son Tyson.  Oh, she and Bryce were long done but he is a supportive, if mostly absent father.  For Bryce it’s all about the thrill, the rush, the adrenaline of the sport he loves.  And that is where Laurel’s impulsiveness has abandoned her, no risks for her since she has a little one to care for.  No risks means safety and stability – and if it’s a bit boring and she misses the artistic side of her life that she let slip away she rarely mentions it to anyone including herself.

Laurel and Sam meet as Tabitha is brought to her family ranch for training.  And once again, Laurel speaks her mind in a most cringe worthy comment about Sam’s wife… she assumes they are divorced and he’s selling off an asset.  Ah, no.  Cue the humiliation music, please.  Sam was aware of the beautiful woman as soon as she walked into the stable, his interest spiked – then floundered as she so easily reminded him of why he was standing in this stable.

Despite getting of to a very rocky start, Sam and Laurel’s attraction to each other will grow sparks that ignite one night and lead them to a friends with benefits type of relationship.  Laurel will not allow herself to care for someone with such a dangerous, risky job as a smoke jumper.  Sam wants more, and Laurel cannot trust enough to give him the relationship she knows he truly wants for them.  They are at an impasse, until life happens and Laurel has to take a risk of her own in order to find the best man for herself and her son in a forever arrangement.

Smolder is very true to it’s title.  The attraction and the arguments between Sam and Laurel are hot enough to start a fire in a snowstorm.  Two people who have been hurt and changed a bit by past relationships.  They’re somewhat wary of a future together, but Sam comes to the realization sooner that this could be a forever thing – if Laurel would simply trust him to keep himself, and her and Tyson safe.  Oh, my goodness is Laurel ever stubborn.  Which made the tensions, sexual and personal, between them bring so much emotional roller coaster riding to this story.  On one hand you’ll get why Laurel hesitates – on the other you want to shake her not so gently and tell her to grow up and look at that man in front of her.  But, characters never listen to me… they just go about their silly business as they wish.  *grin*  And young Tyson simply stole my heart.

If you love an intense chemistry between main characters and a really interesting story, then you should have Smolder on your reading radar.  It is an excellent beginning to the Firefighters of Montana series, and gives us a glimpse into their world and the people who take risks so that others can survive.

Available for the Kindle