Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Bound in Flame - Katherine Kayne (Hawaiian Ladies Riding Society, Book #1)

Summary:  Letty Lang is a suffragist of the most fearless kind, with a bullwhip, big plans, and the ancient power she doesn't understand. Will a fast hours and a stubborn man derail her dreams?

Banished to boarding school to tame her wild temper, Leticia Lili'uokalani Lang sails home to Hawaii, bringing her devotion to animals with her.  She'll be among the first female veterinarians in history--most remarkable in 1909 when women still cannot vote.  With one mad leap into the ocean to save a horse, Letty sets another destiny in motion. She is a mākāhā, a Gate to the healing fires of the island, her beloved 'aina.  Letty must fight to harness the ancient power that lives within her, fueled by her connection to the islands.  But the price ofpower is steep.  Her inner flame burns hot -- hot enough that her kisses can actually kill, a precarious inconvenience since the horse's owner, Timothy Rowley, lights another kind of fire. 

Can Letty learn to master her power to have a chance at life and love? Or is the danger of the flame too great?  (This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.  Summary from back of book. Image from goodreads.com.)

My Review:  I want to just get something out of the way before I start this review.  This isn't a clean romance.  You might think it is, barring a few moments of innuendo that will seem out of place in an otherwise sweet romance, but eventually (around, say, pages 328-340 of  this 347-page book) you will realize that you were very. very. mistaken.  So, if you're looking for a clean romance, look elsewhere.  Full stop.  End of review.  If you're not, then keep reading.

Bound in Flame has the kind of strong female lead I always seem to gravitate toward.  Letty Lili'uokalani Lang is confident, well-educated, knows what she wants and isn't afraid to run straight at it (other people's opinions be damned).  I really enjoyed watching her not get pushed around by every man on the island, including the romantic lead.  As for the story, I felt the basic bones of the plot were rather formulaic (e.g. two seemingly star-crossed lovers are inexplicably drawn to each other), but that the magical undercurrents provided a new twist that left things feeling fresh.

Story and characters (and their sex life) aside, the real star of this book is the setting -- the Hawaiian Islands during the early 1900s.  I loved the author's descriptions of the land, traditions, dress, food, and other aspects of the culture. She also introduced issues relevant to the times -- like women's rights, suffrage, racism, and the effects of colonialism on ancient cultures in a way that enhanced the overall story.  Although, I wouldn't categorize the book as historical fiction (because the author states in the afterword that she took creative license with certain aspects of the history), I still enjoyed the world she created.  And, oh man, did it make me miss Hawaii.

Now, for the tough stuff.  I didn't really care for the ending of this book.  For me, the resolution to Letty and Timothy's problem, the reason that they stayed apart for much of the book, came about a bit to easily, with the solution found in a chapter, and pretty much out of sight of the reader.  It just didn't sit well with me.  I will also admit that I am one of those readers who prefers clean romances and so I was let down in the last 25 pages when things got pretty darn physical. I was glad Letty and Timothy together, but not so much that I wanted to be present for that part of their story.  For me, it was great till it wasn't.  And then it was pretty much over.

If I boil it all down to the basics, Bound in Flame is a culturally-rich, historically-interesting, relationship-driven romance, that provided a fun escape from reality and rekindled my love for Hawaii.  It didn't end the way I had hoped (with a more complex solution and a closed bedroom door), but I imagine that won't bother everyone.

My Rating:  3 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Some violence. One scene of sexual intimacy, fairly graphic.  Some infrequent innuendo or reference to body parts.

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