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I won't read a book that doesn't contain a romance plot of one kind or another...

The Firebrand - Susan Wiggs This was a very uneven book; there were parts that were great and parts that were simply bad.

The story starts with the hero and the heroine meeting and though there is an attraction between them, they're not meant to be because he's already married. Later that night, the big fire that ruined Chicago in 1871 starts and in the flaming city, the heroine rescues a baby girl while the hero gets severely hurt and scarred for life.

Five years later they meet again: she is applying for a loan in the bank he's directing. While in his office the heroine sees a photo of a baby girl; the girl she saved 5 years ago in the fire. It turns out she's his daughter which he believes dead. Divorced and alone, the charming, handsome man she once met has turned into a scarred, brooding, intimidating man. A man who still attracts her, but it is now the child's interest that she must think first of all.

This is obviously a very emotional story and the role's child is elemental in its progress. It became also its greatest weakness in my opinion. The child unfortunately is the usual romance kid that talks and acts like a teen or even an adult rather than a six years old (that's my son's age so I know exactly what's normal and not in that age). A whole 100 pages in the middle of the book are dedicated to the child: who's going to take custody, how are they going to approach the issue with her, how does she feel, etc etc. So, for 100 pages, the focus is away from the romance.

Luckily, after that point the romance picks up, only to stumble again near the end. The heroine is a suffragette; she protests, writes banners, going on marches and owns a ladies' bookstore. Those acts of hers not only cause trouble to her husband's job in the bank, but put her in a dilemma too: should she choose her family or her cause? IMO, there was no way out of that dilemma, not in any way that could guarantee a true HEA. The heroine often thinks show she likes the comforts her husband's paycheck is providing her and that she dislikes being the object of ridicule for so many years. She also feels guilty when her own daughter tells her she prefers her not working in her bookshop, because now they have more time together. But in the end she can't abandon so many women who don't have her resources and wants to fight for them.

I will agree with other reviewers that in the end, I wasn't convinced about the love between the hero and heroine; they still kept a big part of themselves from each other and were way too different to be happy together. That the heroine actually accused him of doing something atrocious against her 30 pages before the end, confirmed how little they knew each other and how improbable a HEA between them would ever be. Still, there were some scenes that moved me inordinately and made this better than average. I just wish the author hadn't dug such a hole for her heroes that they couldn't get out no matter what:(