Pamela Clare – “Ride the Fire”

19 Dec

GENRE: Romance /
PUBLISHED: Leisure Books, 2008 (2005)

SERIES: “Blakewell/Kenleigh Family” trilogy, book 3

WHY THIS NOVEL: I knew Kriste (J) liked this one a lot. When I read that it was re-issued, it was only a question of time until I read it. Barbara posted a few times about this trilogy and there I went.

The back blurb:
“There was only one rule on the frontier–survival. So when a wounded, buckskin-clad stranger appeared at the door of her isolated cabin. Elspeth Stewart felt no qualms about disarming him and then tying him to her bed. Newly widowed and expecting her first child, she had to protect herself at all costs. And Nicholas Kenleigh threatened not only her safety, but her peace of mind. The terrible scars on his body spoke of a tortured past, but his gentle hands and burning gaze awoke longings she had never expected to feel. Bethie had good reason to distrust men, but little by little she found herself believing in Nicholas, in his honor, his strength. As he brought her baby into the world, then took both mother and daughter into his care, she realized this was the man who would teach her to…

I expected Ride the Fire to be an intense read. I even said so back here in a comment. I was right.

Ride the Fire begins with some stomach turning chapters. There’s torture, and it’s horrible. I assume the torture scene is based on “real-life” records, and this willingness to look at realities sets the tone for the following story. Ride the Fire doesn’t deliver a romanticized version of frontier life. It’s a harsh story. Life on the frontier is a daily struggle with life and death and the only rule is survival. This gives the novel a much appreciated sense of authenticity.

And yet, Ride the Fire is also a tender story and one of the most convincing stories I read for quite some time about how two very hurt people help each other heal and find love with each other.

Both Nicholas and Bethie endured terrible things in their past. Nicholas at the hands of Indians and Bethie at the hands of her step-brother. At their first encounter, when Nicholas comes wounded to Bethie’s home and forces her at gun point to help him, it doesn’t look like they could have a common meeting ground. But they settle for – are forced to – a wary truce while Nicholas heals and Elspeth draws near to the birth of her child. And slowly, the more is revealed about their past, the more it is clear that despite outer appearances and expectations, there is an attraction between them. At one point Nicholas thinks:

Could he, who trusted no one, wine her trust? Could he, with his scarred body, heal the wounds hidden within hers? Could he, as a man, heal the pain caused by another man? (90)

These questions go to the heart of the matter of Bethie’s past. But it works the other way round too. Nicholas has scars on the outside, but he sure has also scars on the inside. He hates himself and he thinks about himself as “dead” because of what he had to live through. So, Bethie makes Nicholas remember the man he once was and makes him feel alive again, and Nicholas gives Bethie a sense of self-worth.

It’s a slow process, and that’s one thing that makes their romance so believable. Bethie doesn’t trust men. It takes quite some time for Nicholas to gain her trust. And Nicholas goes from planning to stay until he can ride again, to staying until the child is born, to wanting to take Bethie back to her parents home. There’s no magical transformation – aka clap eyes on the other – here for either of them. They approach each other slowly and nowhere is this more clear than with their intimate relationship. The first time they really make love, for example, is a long time into the story. Nicholas willingness to wait for Bethie was sweet, and he’s surprised when she tells him she wants him: “Those were words he’d never expected to hear.”

Besides the romance, both have to deal with their pasts before the story ends, and quite some time is spent on the conflict between the Indians and the settles at the frontier. But the romance is always the focus, providing a welcome contrast to the harsh realities of life. Ride the Fire is a very good novel with a very authentic feel to it.

Final thought:
The title actually makes sense for the story.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4 + / 5


10 Responses to “Pamela Clare – “Ride the Fire””

  1. Christine Monday, December 22, 2008 at 5:33 am #

    I love the premise of this story and I like that both the hero and heroine have obstacles from their pasts to overcome and that their romance isn’t quick and easy. Their coming together sounds very realistic. Thanks for the review. I’m adding this to my TBB list! 🙂

  2. Taja Monday, December 22, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    I’m in a writing rut and that’s not the best place to be when you want to write about things you like/love. I actually thought about not writing a comment about the novel because of it, but it’s one of the few novels where I thought the development of the romance wholly convincing in light of what went before, and I liked that so much that I decided to post my thoughts anyway. So thanks for saying you’ll add it to your list.

    You should read Kristie’s and Barbara’s thoughts on this novel. They will make you run out and buy it right away! 🙂

  3. KristieJ Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    AcK! I almost missed this. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It isn’t an easy read – ‘specially at the beginning but it is a wonderful story of healing and love isn’t it? It was one of those books that as soon as I finished it, I immediately had to turn back and read it again, slower the second time in order to savour it. I think I’ve read it at least twice since then and it’s on my all time favourite shelf. Mine is the original cover but I also want to get the rerelease – just ’cause 🙂
    And her new series is the same setting and equally wonderful so you have them to look forward to – too!

  4. Taja Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm #

    Kristie – I loved that it wasn’t an easy read. It seemed much more real than most of the other romances I read in a similar setting or with a similar premise. It truly is a wonderful story of healing and love, as you said. I’m sure I’ll read it again and I’ll definitely get some of her other novels, too, especially the first two books in this trilogy. I think it’s great that Pamela Clare has written several novels in the same setting. There aren’t that many published today.

    “Mine is the original cover but I also want to get the rerelease – just ’cause :)” – That’s the sign of a true keeper! 🙂

  5. Jace Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 8:05 am #

    Yay! I have this one in the TBR! 😀 I’m sure I’ll get to it soon. 😀

  6. Taja Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    Jace – you’re TBR sounds like a treasure trove! How many books are there? 😉

  7. Jace Monday, August 31, 2009 at 3:20 am #

    Taja, currently, I have about 90 books in the TBR. 😀 I used to have about 140. As you know, I’ve got my reading mojo back and have been reading almost non-stop the last couple of months. 😀 Yes, I managed to trim the TBR BUT I’ve been buying books as well, so my TBR hovers at 90 at the moment. 😀 And these are ONLY my own books, mind you. I haven’t added my son’s YA/fantasy books that I want to read too! 😀

  8. Taja Monday, August 31, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Jace – I think I have around the same number (at least when I’m counting my “literary” novels *cough* ). And I know I’ve said it at nearly every opportunity, but it bears repeating: I’m happy you got your reading mojo back because I know how it sucks when the it’s gone. So yeah for you. 😀

    The YA/fantasy stack of your son sounds appealing!

  9. Jace Monday, August 31, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    My son has some pretty great fantasy books. 🙂 Some Terry Pratchetts, many Jim Butchers, lots of Anthony Horowitz and many others I can’t remember right now. 🙂 His books are fighting with mine for storage space! I need me an ebook reader soon!

  10. Taja Monday, August 31, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    Jace – sounds good! LOL, I covet an ebook reader, too. I hear it calling louder and louder.

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