Book Review

Review: Hope Flames by Jaci Burton


Title: Hope Flames
Author: Jaci Burton
Publication Info: Berkley January 2014
ISBN: 978-0425259764
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Hope Flames I don’t normally read small-town romances like Hope Flames by Jaci Burton. I prefer steamy, urban contemporaries. I picked this up because I like Burton as an author and because PUPPIES! The hero of this book is a police officer with a police dog named Boomer. The heroine is a vet with a pit-bull puppy named Annie and a lab named Daisy. 

I love dogs. If you ask me to hold your baby, I will, but I’m going to be afraid it will vomit on me. If you ask me to hold your dog, I will and then I will talk baby talk to it and rock back and forth and give it it’s dinosaur nickname like “Dixie-saurus Rex” because I am a spaz. I also found out recently that I love cats too, when we brought our kitten home from the shelter (he’s Dewey-dactyl, in case you’re wondering).

In Hope Flames Emma Burnett is coming back to the small town of Hope, OK, to open a veterinary clinic. She’s getting a late start on her dreams after her disastrous last relationship put the brakes on her life. Now she’s determined not to let anything stand in the way of starting a successful practice, especially not a man.

One night Luke McCormack shows up after closing time with his K9 partner, Boomer. Boomer twisted his ankle pursuing a suspect and Emma tends to him. The attraction between Emma and Luke is immediate and palpable, but neither of them is looking for a relationship.

Luke is divorced and his ex-wife was basically a really terrible person. She wasn’t happy living in Hope or being the wife of a police officer. That doesn’t make her terrible. She didn’t divulge that she didn’t want kids until after they were married. That’s pretty douchey but I still would say not terrible. No, she’s terrible because she doesn’t like Boomer the police dog. WHO THE HELL DOESN’T LIKE A POLICE DOG?!

I mean, I get that people don’t like dogs. Okay, I don’t “get” it but I understand intellectually, just like I understand that some people like affixing alligator clips to their balls or religiously watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It’s a thing that happens. But a police dog? Those are the best trained dogs ever. They have to be well-behaved and obedient. And they are heroes! Just Google Rocco + Pittsburgh + K9 and then cry. Cry a lot. I’m not kidding. If you don’t want to cry, don’t Google.

So, obviously, Emma likes Boomer and she likes Luke’s sexy butt, too. One night she’s working late and her clinic is broken into, the burglar stealing some of her drugs. Luke arrives on the scene and assures her that they’ll catch the culprit. Emma doesn’t want to feel safe with Luke, but she does.

Despite not wanting anything serious, Luke and Emma keep running into each other which leads to spending time together which leads to casual sex. Except it’s not casual because they keep having feels. But they say it’s casual.

Anyway, Emma is seriously freaked out at the prospect of a relationship. In college she got into a long-term relationship with a manipulative asshole. Through systematic verbal abuse he basically turned Emma into a shut-in who sacrificed everything to be his haus frau. And when she tried to leave, he threatened her family.

There’s a scene in this book where Emma falls while jogging and gets banged up. Luke takes her home and cleans her up and takes care of her. The last man in her life hadn’t been gentle with her, hadn’t cared for her when she’d been hurt. She’d been left to take care of her own wounds. After all, it had been her own fault when she’d gotten injured. He’d made her apologize.


I’ve mentioned that I love a hero who can be sexy and tough and also tender. Luke is that hero. He’s gentle with Emma and oh-so sexy. I loved him only slightly less than Boomer and Annie and Daisy.

The reason this book didn’t get an A from me is that I felt it dragged a little in the middle. There are parts of the novel where Luke and Emma are more or less dating, and they are so happy together that it seemed like they should just be able to set aside their respective pasts and move on together. Maybe that’s unfair of me because I don’t read this genre, but I didn’t feel the angst really carried through the book enough given how traumatic Emma’s past had been.

I did really like that Burton took the time to make Hope feel real. I’ve read a lot of books where the heroine or hero is a small business owner and they have loads of money and free time. Emma is incredibly busy trying to build her practice, basically living at the clinic, and she’s got tons of debt from buying the clinic in the first place. It felt like an honest portrayal of someone trying to start off a business, not window-dressing for Emma as a character.

Hope Flames was light and fun and a nice break from the angsty stuff I’ve been reading. And also PUPPIES!

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Chris Alexander says:

    I couldn’t give this 5 stars at Goodreads, even though Jaci Burton is a favored author. It was just missing something for me. I could have also not been in the right spot for a light romance. I want to say that some of the danger seemed forced.

  2. 2
    LauraL says:

    I read Home Flames soon after it came out. The middle dragged a little for me, too. But I love puppies and an HEA. And, puppies with an HEA.

    Also good comment, Elyse, about Emma building and holding her practice together. I’ve been binging on small-town contemporaries lately and it often seems the characters have tons of free time and money despite being responsible for small businesses and/or the safety of their towns. When you learn a little about the characters’ employment, but not too much, it really adds to the depth of the story.

  3. 3

    Yep, that’s it; I have been eyeing this book for a while now, but I’m buying it now. My debit card thanks you—NOT! :)


  4. 4
    Kelly S. says:

    If you ask me to hold your baby, I will, but I’m going to be afraid it will vomit on me.


    My sister-in-law last Christmas noticed I hadn’t held my newly born nephew so she handed him to me.  I swear he had a spew face on the whole time.  Once I held him sufficiently long, I gave him to my husband so he could also hold his nephew.

    My female in-laws are mostly teachers, so when a baby is in the room, it is practically a cage match to see who holds it next.  I’m in a different room hoping it isn’t contagious.

    Another Christmas, a niece was given a kitten.  I glommed onto that kitten with all the maternal instincts of a mama bear.  I LOVE kittens!  Puppies are wonderful too.

  5. 5
    maria says:

    Omgosh, me too! I have no idea what to do with a baby, but a puppy? Totally my favorite. Those soft ears and that playful attitude.

    Loved this “hoping it isn’t contagious”

  6. 6
    DonnaMarie says:


    Exactly! I mean, smart, obedient and protective. Bad people don’t like police dogs.

    I read this shortly after big bro took in a pit puppy, so you can imagine. Oh, the puppy jones. I think my Goodread reviews was all read for the romance stayed of the dogs. It’s all about the dogs.

  7. 7
    Sarita says:

    My father used to do computer support for a vet hospital, and he told me this story about a police dog that was brought in to be fitted with gold teeth (just a couple, not a full set). The visual of that always stayed with me.

    Don’t hate me, but I often prefer fictional dogs to real ones. Not that I have anything against well behaved dogs (or middling behaved adorable ones, like my friend’s pug puppy) but I got jumped by a dog when I was very little, and they still make me a little nervous.

  8. 8
    Cheryl says:

    WHO THE HELL DOESN’T LIKE A POLICE DOG?!… Those are the best trained dogs ever. They have to be well-behaved and obedient.

    Sorry, had to respond to this only because I think it needs to be understood that police dogs are extremely dangerous as they are trained to corner and attack people. They are also trained to respond to commands only from their handler. A friend of mine was formerly married to a K-9 unit officer. Her husband was not a police officer when they married and his new occupation and K-9 partner played a huge roll in their divorce. There were times when he would leave the house and he would not kennel the dog. The dog would corner her or have her hiding behind closed doors in her bedroom until her husband returned home. As you can probably imagine, she felt extremely threatened in what should have been the security of her own home.

    There’s a reason why K-9 dogs are often retired to the homes of their handlers. They aren’t meant to be a family pet.

  9. 9
    Hyacinths says:

    This one was nearly a DNF for me—I found myself skipping and skimming because this couple were so one-dimensional and bland that they bored me silly. Their conversations were all so dull, and the conflict was barely there. I just couldn’t feel much of anything for them.

  10. 10
    jane says:

    This book wasn’t bad but . . . I clicked on this and had totally forgotten that I just read it. So . . . it might not be the most memorable. Once I read the beginning blurb, though, it came back to me.

    The author was right—Emma’s backstory was not really given enough time. For having a restraining order against someone for being in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship, it didn’t seem like the WHYS of that were really covered. How did that really happen, did she go to counseling, etc. It was kind of glossed over, and then I really hated


    that the author brought the abuser back. It was fairly quick in that he was immediately taken away, but really? No contact for five years but he just shows up because she’s his? I don’t know, I didn’t like that. I think he would have already had a new victim by that time.

    Fairly cute read but nothing that stays with you.

  11. 11
    Marg says:

    I was really looking forward to this book but it ended up being just kind of okay for me. Part of the reason is because of the thing that Jane mentioned! It just felt forced and didn’t make sense to me.

  12. 12
    Anne says:

    I bought this when it first came out – and I’ve still got it on my “currently reading” list. I just can’t get into it. I normally enjoy Jaci Burton’s contemporaries, but there is something flat about this one. I’m going to keep reading, and hope I get into it – but I won’t buy the rest of the series.

    The main character is not that interesting and rather bland. The police guy is not that interesting. The mother is *supposed* to be wacky and amusing, I think, but the follow-up is lacking.

    For someone who doesn’t really care that much about pets in books (or real life) the pets are actually somewhat the better part of this book, so far.

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