Julianna's Reviews > Touched by Fire

Touched by Fire by Kathleen O'Reilly
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's review
Jan 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: desert-island-keepers, historical-romance, read-2009
Recommended for: Fans of Regency Romance, Emotionally Touching Stories and/or Virgin Heroes
Read in November, 2009

Reviewed for THC Reviews
"4.5 stars" I love fairly tales, and Touched by Fire was a novel with a sweet fairy tale quality to it. The hero, Colin, has dreamed of being a DragonSlayer since he was a mere boy, and the heroine, Sarah, has been dreaming of a “gallant knight” with sherry-colored eyes who would come whisk her away from her loneliness and love her for who she is. Colin and Sarah had a magical first meeting and an instant attraction, which is something I usually don't care for much, but it really worked for me here. I think my liking of it was partially due to the enchanted atmosphere, but mainly because although they may have been instantly in lust with one another, they took the time to build a relationship instead of heading straight for the bedroom. I love the way that Colin and Sarah were always looking deeply into each other's eyes. I thought it was very romantic and helped to build that magical attraction even more. It also became a primary mode of communication between them. Sometimes it was difficult for them to communicate verbally, especially Colin, but their eyes always spoke volumes to each other. Both Colin and Sarah tend to hold back quite a bit, especially early on, because neither one really feels worthy of the other. I usually prefer for one character to be a bit more overt and persistent, and Sarah finally started actively pursuing Colin about a third of the way into the book but still doubted herself at times. It was definitely a difficult, uphill battle for her, but one that was well worth the fight.

Colin's biological father was a notorious and violent highwayman who had raped his mother. The old earl had claimed Colin as his son to preserve some dignity for his wife and spare her further disgrace, but he despised Colin and made sure that he knew his real parentage by constantly telling him that he carried the same evil that was in his father. Having had these lies drilled into him from the time he was just a boy and seeing the fear and grief that his mother suffered, left Colin fearful of himself and determined that he should never marry or have children. In fact, he had spent the better part of the last ten years as a soldier and spy in the Peninsular War, in hopes that he might die a hero's death and end his bloodlines. Now he is back in England and being forced to marry to save the beloved orphanage of which he is the patron, and that he felt was the only way to redeem himself. I really liked Colin's hobby of studying dragon lore, and how the dragons became a metaphor not only for the physical dangers in his life, but also for his emotional demons. Initially, I thought that Colin was a beta, because he is such a sensitive and wounded individual who truly believes that he will hurt the woman that he marries. As I read further though, I could definitely see alpha tendencies as well in his extreme protectiveness of Sarah and others. He was willing to sacrifice himself to save the orphanage, and didn't hesitate to rescue a young girl who had been sold into prostitution. He also has the heart of a lion and the courage of a warrior to have put himself on the line as a soldier. It takes Colin a long time to realize the truth and understand that his fears of propagating evil are unfounded, but when he finally does it's a beautiful thing.

Sarah is the daughter of a gambling hell owner who has her own share of demons to battle. She is a wealthy woman, but has lived with the censure of society all her life because of who she is. All she has ever wanted is be a part of the glittering social set, but girls like her don't get invited to balls and parties. After her father died, Sarah became very lonely, but the only men who come to call on her are nothing but fortune hunters. She dreams of a man who will simply love her for herself. When Sarah meets Colin she is convinced that she has found that man, but when Colin seemingly rejects her at every turn or sends her mixed messages, Sarah doesn't know what to think. She spends quite a bit of time going back and forth between thinking she isn't good enough for him but not being able to stop dreaming about him. Sarah sees something in Colin's eyes and actions that tell her there is more to him than he lets others see and that he truly does care for her. The one thing that Sarah's father, the consummate gambler, had taught her was that a Banks never looses, so she finally sets out on a determined quest to win his heart.

I loved that Colin and Sarah were both virginal characters, a rarity in romance. Their first love scene was far from idealistic, but it was realistic considering that both of them were very inexperienced. Colin also allowed his fear of himself to get in the way, causing him to make a highly unusual and unromantic request of Sarah which made the scene all the more uncommon. However, the experience changed Colin's whole outlook on life, and made him absolutely determined to pleasure Sarah the next time, and him taking the time to learn what he needed to know was quite romantic as were their remaining love scenes together. Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed about the story was Colin's butler, Giles, who was more of a father to him than a mere servant. It was hilarious how he was trying to covertly play matchmaker, and then coerced Sarah's funny little maid, Iris, to get into the act as well. Giles was probably the most well-rendered secondary servant character I've read since George Kemball from Liz Carlyle's books.

I honestly didn't realize until about halfway through the book that Touched by Fire was essentially Kathleen O'Reilly's debut novel (she had previously authored only one short story in a Harlequin Duet that was released one month earlier), and in my opinion, it was a very worthy early effort. There were a few minor things here and there such as wording and transitions that showed a bit of greenness but nothing that really detracted from my overall enjoyment. Ms O'Reilly has a very subtly emotional writing style that seems to speak volumes. It moves a little slowly in places, and I can see how it might not be for everyone, but her writing really pulled me into the story and wouldn't let go. It was rather like watching a richly drawn dramatic indie movie, punctuated with moments of humor and levity. Touched by Fire was my first read by Kathleen O'Reilly, but I enjoyed it so much, it earned a spot on my keeper shelf. I'm a little disappointed to say that it is her only historical romance to date, but in spite of that, I'm eagerly looking forward to diving into her contemporary backlist soon.
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Reading Progress

11/02/2009 page 29
9.86% "Really sweet. Liking it so far."
11/03/2009 page 68
23.13% "I just adore beta heroes and Colin definitely seems to be one.:-)"
11/03/2009 page 124
42.18% "Changed my mind. I think Colin is half and half. He's got the alpha protectiveness thing going on, which is very romantic."
11/04/2009 page 177
60.2% "Colin is such a sweetie, if only he would believe in himself. I like Sarah too, but what's a girl to do when she keeps getting rejected?"
11/05/2009 page 267
90.82% " So romantic."
11/06/2009 page 294
100.0% "Very sweet romance that I enjoyed a lot. Review coming soon." 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Rane Great review Juile! Isn't this the only historical Kathleen O'Reilly has done?

message 2: by Ally72 (new)

Ally72 Thanks Julie for the recommendation! This was a great review and I have added it to my HUGE TBR pile!

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Fantastic review, Julie. I couldn't have said it better myself. I love love love love this book and Colin is one of my all time favorite heroes. I loved Sarah too. They are one couple I spent the whole book rooting for. I am so sad that she hasn't written any more historicals since I'm not a big Harlequin Blaze fan. Thanks for posting this awesome review of an awesome book.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) I hope you like this one, Alexis. I think you might since we have seredipitously similar tastes. LOL.

Rane I think you'll like this one because you like the seemingly gentler heroes.

message 5: by Ally72 (new)

Ally72 Thanks Danielle...I seriously do think we are related because we like so many of the same things! LOL!!!

Dina Great review, Julie! This book sounds really, really good. It's already on my Wish List, now I "only" have to buy it. ;)

message 7: by Auntee (new)

Auntee Great review Julie--sounds like a good story!:)

message 8: by Julianna (last edited Nov 16, 2009 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Julianna Thanks ladies!

Rane, this is her only historical so far. Like Danielle said, since you tend to like the more beta-leaning heroes, I think you'd like Colin.

You're welcome, Alexis. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Danielle, I saw a comment on her website about possibly writing more historicals at some point. I hope she does.

Dina, I hope you like it when you get around to buying it.:-)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) That would be awesome if she wrote another historical! Thanks for the 411, Julie.

message 10: by Karen (new)

Karen Sounds awesome, Julie! :-)

message 11: by MelissaB (new) - added it

MelissaB Great review Julie! This sounds like a good one.

message 12: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne What a wonderful review Julie. I love magical mystical stories so I 'm off to see if I can find a copy:)

message 13: by Rane (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rane Julie (Mom2lnb) wrote: "Thanks ladies!

Rane, this is her only historical so far. Like Danielle said, since you tend to like the more beta-leaning heroes, I think you'd like Colin."

Danielle "
Rane I think you'll like this one because you like the seemingly gentler heroes."

*laughs* you know me to well, yes, I adore those beta and gamma heroes to bits those Alpha males I stomp on! >:D

Julianna You're welcome, Danielle.

Thanks Karen, Melissab, and Adrienne.

Adrienne, I hope I didn't oversell the magical part as there is not any actual magic in it. There were just certain aspects that gave it the enchanting feel of a fairy tale to me.

message 15: by Angelc (new) - added it

Angelc Great review, Julie! Thanks for the recommendation!

Julianna Thanks, Angelc. You're welcome.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

This looks like a winner! Fantastic review, Julie and thanks for bringing to my attention. :)

Julianna Thanks audball, and you're welcome.

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