Ash’s Fire by Callie Gold
I received this book from the author, after she did a guest spot at my blog. That was almost a year ago. Yes, sometimes it takes me a long time to get around to reading the books I acquire! In fact, my husband read Ash’s Fire before I did. He recommended it highly. “It’s different,” he said. “Not exactly a romance. Not exactly a mystery. It will keep you guessing.”
His assessment was spot on (as is so often the case with my brilliant man). Anyone who follows my blog posts and reviews will probably have picked up on the fact that I really appreciate originality. Ash’s Fire stands out as one of the most distinctive books I’ve read in a while.
It’s also one of the most honest. The core conflict in this novel is the struggle between marital commitment and the intoxicating pull of erotic attraction. Ms. Gold recognizes that even the happiest and most stable marriages become less exciting over time, and that sometimes monogamy can be an impractical ideal.
Ash’s Fire begins with Sam Cohen telling Jordan, his wife and partner in a highly successful law firm, that he wants to have sex with another woman, specifically his twenty-something trainer at the gym. Theoretically, Sam and Jordan have an open marriage, but neither of them has previously taken advantage of their prerogatives. Now, after more than two decades together, Sam wants to explore the pleasures of a new lover.
Understandably, Jordan feels inadequate compared to Sam’s much younger playmate. Although Sam makes it clear he still loves her deeply, she can’t shake off the sense that she’s being rejected or replaced. These emotions make her vulnerable when she encounters talented pianist Ari Ash at a conference. She doesn’t fight the magnetism that draws them together. She and Ari share a chemistry so strong that it totally sweeps her away. Emotions swamp her clever and calculating lawyer persona.
But Ari is a man of mystery, entangled in a web of complications. Before long he is accused of murder. Jordan commits herself and her firm to defending him. All the evidence points to Ari’s guilt. Should she trust her heart and her instincts? Or is he lying to her, as he lied about his violent past?
Fans of traditional erotic romance will likely hate this book, because it breaks all the “rules”. I really enjoyed it. Ms. Gold does a fabulous job evoking the passion that overwhelms Jordan in Ari’s presence. I could feel, smell, taste every moment of the extraordinary love scenes. I also loved the strong sense of place that pervades the book, which is set in Israel. Ms. Gold describes the environment, the people and the food in fabulous detail, including the bombing of a bus. “A bombing to an Israeli, she learned years ago, was like an earthquake to a Southern Californian. You were shaken and then, you shook it off.”
My most significant complaint about Ash’s Fire is that some of the language in the sex scenes struck me as coy , using awkward indirection to avoid the use of anatomical terms. This only happened occasionally, but it was enough to annoy me. My other concern involves the plausibility of Jordan’s profession. She’s a sympathetic and appealing character, but she’s so intensely emotional that it was hard for me to imagine she could be a lawyer. That’s a profession that demands the ability to distance oneself from feeling and to focus on facts. Although she’s quick-thinking and skilled at influencing others, Jordan rarely shows much control over her reactions.
Overall, though, Ash’s Fire is a great read, one that will keep you engrossed until the very last page. If you don’t mind a story that deals with marital infidelity, I think you’ll enjoy it.