Freewheeling smoke jumper Brandt Wilder thrives on adrenaline. He’s never met a parachute he can’t repair or a dangerous situation he couldn’t wrangle his way out of. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well…right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.
Shane Travis is used to putting his country music career—and his own happiness—on hold after his sister rolls through his life. Like last spring when she convinced him to try skydiving for his birthday—and she walked away with the hot parachute instructor.
Now he gets to deliver the piece of news that will upend Brandt’s carefree life: he very well might be a dad.
Shane’s niece is safe in Brandt’s strong, capable hands, but too many questions remain unanswered. Co-parenting while they sort it out leads to late-night talks, and soul-bearing confessions lead to a most inconvenient attraction. Still, Shane can’t leave this makeshift family behind—even if it means playing house with the one man he can’t resist.
Up in Smoke is the fourth book in Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series about wildlife firefighters and smoke jumpers based in rural Oregon, but it’s got a slightly different tone (and a very different sort of cover) to the other books in the series. Smoke jumping does feature in the story, but it’s more of a backdrop to the main storyline – about how the two leads learn to adapt to the unexpected circumstances in which they find themselves – and the slow-burn romance.
Smoke jumper Brandt Wilder occasionally helps out a friend who runs a sky-diving school. The clients on this particular afternoon are a brother and sister – Shane and Shelby Travis; it’s Shane’s birthday and the jump is his sister’s present to him. Shane is quiet and clearly a bit nervous – and also obviously used to fading into the background around more ebullient sister – but something about him captures Brandt’s attention. Shane supposes he should have known that Shelby’s sudden interest in jumping out of a plane was somehow related to her interest in a hot guy; Brandt really is gorgeous, but Shane deliberately tamps down the frisson of awareness he feels every time Brandt touches him as he readies them for the tandem jump. Afterwards, with his feet back safely on the ground, Shane has to admit that the jump really had been exhilarating – and that the short time he’d flown with Brandt Wilder is something he’ll never forget.
Almost a year later, the last thing Brandt could ever have imagined is opening his front door to find Shane Travis on his doorstep – with a baby in tow. He’s completely stunned when Shane tells him the baby is his, the result of the one-night stand he had with Shelby the night before Shane’s birthday. He explains that Shelby turned up in Portland (where he was auditioning for a TV talent show) with the baby a few days earlier and was gone the next morning, most likely off to Canada with one of her friends. Brandt can’t believe it – but Shelby named him as baby Jewel’s dad in the note she left for Shane and had Brandt’s name put on the birth certificate.
Shane has spent most of his life clearing up Shelby’s messes, but nothing could have prepared him for being left literally holding the baby. Unable to bear the idea of Jewel being put into care, Shane decides his only option is to take her to her dad, but it’s only once he’s arrived that he remembers that Brandt – who jumps out of planes to fight fires for a living – is as far from ideal fatherhood material as he is himself; an itinerant musician trying to build a career isn’t going to be considered able to properly care for an infant either. But he didn’t know what else to do; he’s worried and sleep deprived, he’s driven for hours to get to Painter’s Ridge and is too tired to be able to make any coherent decisions. But one thing is clear. No matter what sort of ‘dad material’ he may be, Brandt is the only person Shane can turn to for help.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.