Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
As I’ve explained in other K. Bromberg universe stories, I have not read her three stories in the Everday Heroes universe. I do know that, someday in the near future, I will, if stories such as Defensible Space are any indication. Without having read Grady and Dylan’s story, I was able to pick up easily with Lane Martin’s newest book. Her hero, Carson, and her heroine, Penny, provide you with what I imagine are some of the same feelings and thoughts as K. Bromberg’s Combust, the second book of her Everyday Heroes series. Carson is a firefighter who has run from a tragedy in his hometown to Sunnyvale. Martin’s heroine, Penny, crosses his path when she escapes from the pressures of perfection engrained in her from her childhood. A prodigy, Penny is heralded as a top violinist in the world, but all she has ever wanted is love and acceptance from her family. Like Carson, she runs from the stricture of that life to find a life lived on her own terms. At the core of Defensible Space is the idea that we can be fearful, but we must still face our fears in order to keep moving forward. One of them makes this choice to face their fears, while the other hides from them. It is in that struggle where Martin creates the delicious tension found in the best of romances.
What did I like?
- The chemistry between Carson and Penny. It is equal parts sweet, sassy, and steamy. These two meet when Carson’s dog, Rascal, entangles them. From there, Rascal plays more matchmaker, while Carson and Penny fall deeply for each other. They play off of each other well, and they don’t waste any time acknowledging their interest in the other. That’s probably one of the best parts of the book. Their issues lie in later accepting the depth of their feelings and stating them.
- The growth of Martin’s characters. Both Carson and Penny struggle with overcoming fear. What I love most is Martin’s willingness to illustrate the gravity of that issue through her heroine. Honestly, it takes Carson most of the story to move beyond the trauma of his past whereas Penny keeps engaging her fears and working through them. It feels powerful to read about a heroine who holds the strength of character in a story.
- Obviously, the extended cast of characters brings you back to Bromberg’s Sunnyvale. As you encounter Dylan and Grady, along with the other firefighters and businesses in this small-town, it breeds nostalgia for Bromberg’s stories. Without having read them myself, it piqued my curiosity for them, willing me to pick up Combust to read it.
- That fact that this is set in Northern California. As a resident of Southern California, I am an expert on fire season in California. While I haven’t encountered personally this tragedy, I am very familiar with it. I love that Lane Martin is able to connect us to the plight of Northern Californians who have been devastated by fires. It creates empathy in her readers.
What I might have changed?
- Martin is fairly “on the nose” with her allusions to the world of music and firefighting. Whether it’s a simile or a metaphor, they seem fairly overwrought in this story. I’m not a personal fan of that.
- The moment of tension between Carson and Penny (I won’t divulge their eventual issue) feels contrived. The choices made by the characters doesn’t align, in my opinion, with their overall characterization in the story.
A defensible space is a space or perimeter around something (a house, some land, a heart) meant to protect whatever sits in the middle. Lane Martin’s newest book does a satisfying job of showing us that this space is meant to be temporary, not permanent. If we don’t remove our protection of that space, we might miss out on saving something bigger than that “thing” in the middle. If you love small-town romance with a dreamy firefighter and his intelligent, independent heroine, then you’ll want to read this book.
In love and romance,