I thought I'd try Burn even though I put down the last few Linda Howard novels I started midway through because they were so unengaging. I actually finished this novel, but by the end I was angry at it. The story itself was okay, but the hero had no personality whatsoever and the heroine had no redeeming features.
First of all, she starts out the novel working at a meat packing plant, where she apparently has utterly no ambitions other than to go out drinking at night. I felt like Howard was trying to create an average-yet-poor person, but she made Jenner so stupid I was kind of insulted. Jenner has no plans, no interests in anything, few friends, no bank account, and no general knowledge. There are people with crappy jobs and no plans to change them, but everyone has interests, or wishes.
Second, Jenner wins a huge lottery jackpot. . . and whines about taxes. Repeatedly. Throughout the book. She likes Marines, she roots for the good guys, but shows no insight about what pays for Marines. She ends up with over a hundred million dollars that she won randomly by chance, and we can't just read a romance novel without this whining about taxes? Worse, when Jenner whines, it seems embarrassingly like Howard's whining bleeding through. I'm not reading this book to get an idea of Linda Howard's sociopolitical views. . . in part because they seem so bitter.
Third, Jenner--despite showing no particular skill at anything--manages to take that hundred million dollars and multiply it with her financial skills. This has the effect of creating a weird feeling of moral capitalism in the book--Jenner is good because she can make money. She can make money because she is good. Her goodness can be seen by looking at her money skills. Taxes are evil because they take her money that she won in a lottery. She must have won the lottery because she was a good person waiting to happen, and once she got all that money she was transformed into a totally different person.
Fourth, her name was Jenner. All through the book, I kept hoping that it had just been a misprint thus far and that it was really Jennifer, or Jennet, or Jenne, or anything that wasn't Jenner. No luck.
Fifth, there are just no positive points about Jenner. Negative ones abound: falling in love with the guy who's kidnapping you and holding your friend hostage? Just plain creepy. I didn't feel very comfortable with the situation, and I really wasn't sure what I was supposed to like about Jenner.
Thinking back on this, I think that this has been my problem with a lot of Howard's more recent books: her heroines just aren't that great any more. The last of Howard's novels that I really liked was Mr. Perfect, and even in that one the heroine bordered on being unsympathetic. They've just gotten really self-righteous, and they lack emotional depth. I miss Marlie from Dream Man, Roanna from Shades of Twilight, and Grace from Son of the Morning--these characters had a vulnerability that is just lacking from Jenner. This is the last Howard novel I pick up where the characters are embittered secret agent/assassin/criminal types. I don't like these people. I don't get the romance high from watching unlikeable people fall in love, and if there's none of that. . . what's the point?