In the Black by Luci DreamerIn the Black by Luci Dreamer, a wonderful second chance romance, is one of my favorite books of the year.

Lilly Tan has built a life in Atlanta that includes a successful business and a loving girlfriend. We meet Lilly when a late-night phone call summons her back to Bend City, California. Her Aunt May is in the hospital, and she has asked Lilly to take over her hometown bar.

Michelle ‘Mitch’ Mitchell fights wildfires in Bend City and is Lilly’s old high school sweetheart. Mitch and Lilly seemed to be perfectly matched, but Mitch was left behind with a broken heart when Lilly decided to leave for college to see what she could accomplish on her own.

Fate seems to bring Mitch and Lilly together, but will Mitch be once burned, twice shy? Will Lilly be eager to run from small town life once again?

The Characters

I felt for Lilly as she returned to face the sudden deterioration of her beloved aunt and the attendant responsibilities of running the bar. Lilly is a driven but compassionate character, and she battles several emotional obstacles in the book.

As much as I enjoyed Lilly’s character, Mitch was the star of the book for me. She is described as tall and handsome, and she is a smart and brave firefighter. However, as courageous as Mitch can be when fighting fires, she is equally scared of her feelings for Lilly. Mitch never really recovered from their breakup, but she manages to provide the support Lilly needs as soon as she finds out about Aunt May.

Mitch’s best friend, ‘Fish’, is also an important part of the book. He is a fellow firefighter and a wonderfully supportive and wise friend, and I very much enjoyed their dialogue.

The Writing Style

Luci Dreamer manages to switch back and forth effortlessly between exciting firefighting scenes, tender moments with May’s aunt, and heartfelt dialogue between characters. I felt transported away from my everyday life and immersed in Bend City with Lilly and Mitch.

Scenes with Lilly’s current girlfriend were realistically uncomfortable, but they did not take up a large portion of the book.

The Pros

Mitch is a total dreamboat and was my favorite part of In the Black. I also really enjoyed learning about fighting wildfires and imagining what that job might be like. This is a topic that has unfortunately been in the news recently, and it was interesting to read about it in a romance.

The Conclusion

Who doesn’t love a good second chance romance with a hunky firefighter? Prepare to root hard for Lily and Mitch, and to feel your heart racing as you read a particularly thrilling firefighting scene. My hat goes off to Luci Dreamer for writing a touching, topical romance.

Excerpt from In the Black by Luci Dreamer

Mitch felt sweat dripping down the small of her back as she raked small shrubs and dry grass away from their deployment site.

“No firefighter ever wants to hear the words deploy your shelters, but it is a fact of wildfire fighting. It is rare, but it happens, and this is why we prepare.” Walsh shouted as he moved along the perimeter of the clearing. “Remember, the more area you can clear, the safer you’ll be. The shelters are fireproof, but only up to a point. Take fuel away, give the shelters the best chance to save your life.”

Mitch called to her crew to toss their tools and gather inside the deployment site. “Remember, feet in the direction of the fire,” she said and pointed to where their imaginary fire was coming from.

“Last one to deploy gets to sharpen all the pulaskis and oil the chainsaws before going off shift,” Walsh yelled as he pulled his arm up and looked at his watch. “Deploy!” He barked and the crew began unclipping the chest straps of their packs, slinging them off their shoulders to the ground and ripping out their fire shelters from their designated pouches.

Mitch and Fish exchanged a glance, competitive grins showing, and simultaneously dropped to the soft dirt and laid out flat, elbows and tips of their steel-toed boots holding down the bottom and sides of their shelters.

Mitch hated doing these drills with a passion. She was claustrophobic and any amount of time spent closed in her fire shelter made her heart pound and her skin grow clammy. But she knew how important it was to run them, God forbid they should ever have an actual burn over.

So, she practiced her measured breathing techniques and let herself be distracted by Walsh’s voice as he yelled at the rookies who had yet to perfect the proper deployment.

“Remember crew, these are a last resort if you get cut off from your safe zone. They will protect you if used properly!”

“Johnson, you’re going to be a crispy critter if you can’t get those size thirteens into the bottom of that shelter and pull it up over your shoulders!” Walsh shouted and Mitch could hear him kicking the rookie’s shoe lightly.

“Your entire body must be inside the shelter or you’ll be in a world of pain!” She listened as her supervisor continued to move, bending down to shake each shelter, simulating the strong winds that came with a fast burn over.

“In a real burn over, you won’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the fire. You’ll feel like you are in an oven. You’ll be clawing the ground trying to find cool air to breathe. You must not panic!” Walsh shouted as he continued to each bag.

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Bits and Bobs

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Note: I received a free review copy of In the Black by Luci Dreamer. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

About the author

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My name is Miranda Lynn, and I am an environmental engineer by day and avid reader and podcast listener by night. I discovered lesbian fiction after my first child was born. It helped me get through the exhausting period of new parenthood when you can sometimes feel like the only adult in the world. As my kids grow, I continue to appreciate how these stories can transport me away from the stress of my day and remind me that I am part of an amazing community. I love writing that propels me along a journey, and have a particular weakness for “ice queen” romances.