Within the Flames is another solid entry in Marjorie M. Liu’s Dirk & Steele paranormal romance series. In this installment, one of the most lovable recurring characters in the series finds his mate. Eddie is assigned to find and protect Lyssa, a young woman living a vagabond life in New York City. The two fall in love but must face demons both internal and external before they can be together.
In many ways, Lyssa is a perfect match for Eddie. Like him, she has powers that involve fire and is immune to being damaged by fire. Also like him, she has a troubled past filled with violence and loss. In Lyssa’s case, her future may be even darker than her past. She has a secret she keeps from everyone, a terrible destiny that she’ll do anything not to fulfill. Eddie is determined to protect her from the bad guys who are after her, but the greater threat may come from within. Liu beautifully depicts a relationship that doesn’t magically fix everything in Lyssa and Eddie’s lives, but helps them heal and makes the hurts more bearable.
It’s possible to read the Dirk & Steele novels as standalones, including this one. The aspect that loses the most, if you have read none or only a few of the earlier books, is the internal politics of Dirk & Steele. A power struggle within the organization is a part of Within the Flames’ plot, but I’ve only read two of the earlier books so I don’t think I felt the full weight of these events. Nonetheless, the romantic and suspense threads of the plot are strong and don’t require any prior knowledge.
I liked In the Dark of Dreams a hair better than Within the Flames, mostly because I loved both the childhood connection between Perrin and Jenny and the unusual nature of the antagonist. But Within the Flames is a good book featuring endearing characters, a moving love story, creepy villains, and some scenes that are truly “hot” both literally and figuratively. You’ll especially want to catch this one if you’ve enjoyed Eddie in the previous books.