by Linda Howard

October 1992
ISBN: 0-671-01972-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Pocket Books
Mass Market Paperback

Rafe McCay is a desperado on the run. When a bounty hunter wounds him on his trail, he has no choice but to find a doctor in the boomtown of Silver Mesa in Arizona Territory. To his surprise, the doctor he goes to for treatment is a woman; Annie Parker. Annie is determined to be a doctor, at a time when men dominate the profession, even if the only place she can practice is in the rough, Wild West. When Annie discovers Rafe in her office, burning up with a fever and a bullet wound in his side, she knows she will do her best to treat him, even though he is obviously an outlaw on the run. Rafe needs time to heal, but can't afford to stay long in one place since he has men pursuing him, so he takes Annie as his hostage and heads for the mountains to a secluded cabin.

After spending days away from civilization alone with Rafe, Annie cannot deny the attraction she feels for this dangerous man. Rafe has been alone and on the run for so long, he is unprepared for the feelings Annie arises in him with the magical touch of her hands. When Rafe makes Annie a woman in all ways, it is more intimate than just sex. But although they can no longer refute their love for each other, is there any way they will be able to have a life together? Can they find a way to stop running and clear Rafe's name from a wrongful murder charge?

The Touch of Fire starts out strong and doesn't disappoint as the story unfolds - there is suspense, intrigue, steamy sex scenes (and plenty of them!), adventure and of course, romance. The story is very fast paced, in fact, almost too much so. At times, I almost felt rushed along and I thought the ending could have been prolonged a little more, which is the only complaint I have about this book. When Rafe and Annie got in a jam, there wasn't much time to worry about how they would fair, since it was always resolved so swiftly. I can't say that I was too disappointed though, since I couldn't wait to see how it would end!

The characters were very likable and realistic but because the story was so rushed, there isn't much opportunity to really "get to know them". Rafe's character seemed to be a bit more complex than Annie. He is shown to be a tough man, capable of killing when necessary but he also has a soft side, which is evident in his treatment of Annie. Annie doesn't seem to have as much "personality". We learn that she is following in her father's footsteps by becoming a doctor and some of the struggle she has gone through to get there, but we don't know much about her as a person. What we do know is that they have plenty of chemistry between them and the sex scenes are hot!

Although many Linda Howard fans prefer her contemporary novels, The Touch of Fire proves that she is also a very talented author of historical romance and this is one not to miss.

Reviewed in July 2001 by Nicole.

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