This book reminded me a little of the old TV series Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. In the TV series, Dr. Michaela (known as Mike) Quinn moves from the posh world of Boston to a rough and randy frontier town in Colorado to practice medicine. The hero in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Byron Sully (known mostly as Sully on the show), was much softer and much less wounded (figuratively and otherwise) than the hero Rafe McCay in Linda Howard’s The Touch of Fire. There were plenty of romantic sparks in the TV show and there were parts of the book that had me fondly remembering the TV Show.

In the book the hero, Rafe McCay is in a shootout with a bounty hunter, one of many whose been on his tail for several years for a murder he didn’t commit. War and being a wanted man with a bounty on his head has made Rafe a hard man…and he stays a hard man for quite a long ways into the book.

Rafe kidnaps the heroine (Dr. Annie Parker) at gunpoint and takes her into the mountains where she tends his wounds. Just because she saves his life doesn’t mean Rafe goes soft and trusts Annie – he doesn’t. He remains hard and untrusting through a good portion of the book, but then that’s not a criticism. It just demonstrates how difficult his life on the run has been and how it has changed him from the civilized man he once was.

Though Rafe is unyielding and inflexible when it comes to letting his guard down and trusting Annie, he isn’t mean or uncaring. There is even an underlying kindness and a protectiveness toward Annie that comes to the surface after a period of time…especially once he does begin to trust her.

The story takes place over a fairly long (for a romance novel) period of time and covers a lot of geography as the couple head toward Mexico to avoid the lawman who is after them.

Though I really liked the first 2/3 or so of the book, there is a woo-woo moment about 2/3 of the way through the book when the couple enter an Indian camp infected with measles.  The book lost some of its magic for me at that point as I didn’t really buy the woo-woo aspect – especially that the heroine wouldn’t have on some level been aware of her special ability. I thought the book would have been stronger without that element, but to be fair, the seeds of it were planted early and were carried out throughout the story. By the end of the book I no longer really cared about the woo-woo aspect and was happy that the characters attained their muchly deserved happily ever after.

If you like western romances, have missed the old episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, or like hard-edged, alpha heroes you should check out this book.

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors – and is one that turns up on a lot of people’s auto buy  lists. I’ve particularly enjoyed her western historicals. But she writes great western romance, and romantic suspense as well.

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