Author: DiAnn Mills
Title: Attracted to Fire
Publisher: Tyndale House
Attracted to Fire, the latest from Christy Award-winning novelist DiAnn Mills is a tough novel to pin down. It’s part thriller (the Secret Service chasing a shadowy stalker who threatens the life of the President’s daughter), part romance, and part spiritual tale. What’s presumably meant to be a compelling amalgam of parts, however, becomes a bit murkier. Too many ingredients don’t completely spoil this soup, but do make it difficult for Mills’ latest to succeed in any one area completely. This makes for an enjoyable, but not completely engrossing, read.
Mills draws a good bead on her main characters—Secret Service agents Meghan Connors and her superior Ash Zinders—and sets them against a backdrop of intrigue as they protect Lindsay Hall, the troubled, twenty-something daughter of the President, as she moves into a ranch/rehab facility in Texas. She’s been placed there because of several attempts on her life, and to get clean from drug problems as the President makes a run for re-election. The novel’s intrigue stems from Connors and Zinders’ discovery that the ranch isn’t as secure as they hoped, and that the source of Lindsay’s threats is much more powerful and well-connected than they thought. This provides the main thrust of the novel’s plot, as the pair moves closer to unmasking the culprit.
The relationship between Connors and Zinders—first as co-workers, then as romantic love interests—is the novel’s other primary plot element. And an interesting thing happens with this secondary element. We find ourselves caring more about the two individually, than we do about their burgeoning romantic relationship. It seems inevitable that the two will get together, despite conflicting feelings and the standard personality clashes that begin books of this type. For most of the novel’s middle section, they do the standard back-and-forth dance of attraction and doubt, but it seems a bit too much of a given that their feelings will win out.
Despite the tepid romance, Connors is a nice character, well developed as she struggles to make sense of her conflicted feelings: she’s ambitious in her professional life, but thoughtful in her personal life, concerned for the President’s daughter, yet troubled by Lindsay’s manic behavior, alternating between normalcy and cravings. The motivation for Connors’ concern—her own personal connection with drug addiction—is believable and compelling. We want good to prevail, and in a story like this, where it’s a strong possibility it will, that’s saying something. Mills does this character a disservice by pairing her up with Zinders, who is a much more flat character. He is—we are told regularly—a by-the-book, dedicated agent, but doesn’t have much else going for him.
The tension surrounding the search for the source of Lindsay’s threats, however, isn’t quite as dramatically compelling. As the search intensifies, and the violence escalates, the dramatic impact of several key casualties feels too inevitable, and not meaningful enough. In these untimely ends, the suspense and punch surrounding these deaths is lacking. It’s too casually rendered, and instead of being a jarring plot development which leaves the reader shocked, it’s obvious for the wrong reasons.
The themes of protection and duty which run through Attracted to Fire are compellingly crafted, and the novel’s main character is one to root for, making the novel overall quite commendable. Despite some flaws in execution and suspense, for fans of Mills’ warm, personable stories, this belongs alongside her other bestsellers in the genre.