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    Review of BLUE SMOKE by Nora Roberts (see her website)

    G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 2005

    The day her parents' pizza restaurant burned--in a revenge arson--Reena Hale knew what she wanted to do with her life. Over the years, she sticks with her goals, to become the best arson investigator in the Baltimore police department. Arson, she learned from that childhood disaster, isn't just about destroying property--it's an attack on people, familiies, and memories. Fire plays a bigger part in Reena's life. Although she doesn't quickly put together the pieces, every guy she starts to get serious about has a run-in with fire. Her college boyfriend died in an apparent smoking accident. A fireman near-boyfriend was torched after an apparent carjacking. And her most recent boyfriend had his truck burned--and accused her of doing the job.

    From the moment he saw her across the room at a College Park party, carpenter Bo Goodnight thought of Reena as 'dreamgirl.' But he never got the chance to talk with her--she was always going somewhere, passing him by. When she moves into the house nextdoor to the Baltimore row home Bo is rennovating, he knows that things are finally coming together. But will Bo fall prey to the curse that destroys Reena's boyfriends?

    When the arsonist who first destroyed Reena's parents' pizza place re-emerges, Reena and Bo have to learn to work together to stay alive and to get ahead of the killer. Which is a bit of a challenge since Bo's macho protectiveness and Reena's need to prove herself both get in the way.

    Author Nora Roberts (see more reviews of novels by Roberts) writes a consistently high-quality story and BLUE SMOKE is no exception. Reena is an intriguing character--from the time she was a young girl and as she grows older. Reena's strong family provides support, and an environment that encourages her to pursue her dreams, even though they aren't the dreams the others share. Arsonist Joey is a creepy but believable badguy. The romance comes relatively late in this story--after Reena has grown up and experienced love before. I wasn't blown away by the relationship between these two--but I suspect that Nora's own carpenter-husband plays a role here.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/22/06

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