Book Review – Hidden Fire by Alexis Fleming

Hidden Fire
Hidden Fire by Alexis Fleming

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Gillian “Gili” Adams is an American archaeologist who quit an Iranian archaeological dig when her employer, Jeremy Grissom, stole an artefact from the dig leaving her to take the blame. As a result, her relationship with the expedition leader Morgan Hunt, who was also her lover, ended badly and Gili returned to America to attempt to rebuild her life and career.

Six years later, Gili’s father is in hospital after being pushed in front of traffic, with a text message making it clear Grissom was behind it. When Gili confronts Grissom, he threatens her with worse for both her parents if she doesn’t help him retrieve the Dreamtime Opal from the Australian Aborigines. Gili reluctantly agrees, only for things to get even worse when she finds out the guardian of the opal is Morgan Hunt. Gili knows Hunt won’t be happy to see her again, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save her family.

This was a well written romance, with paranormal aspects, set in the Australian Outback. As an Australian, I enjoyed the way Fleming displayed both the beauty and danger of the Outback through Gili’s experiences as an American trying to make her way to a remote station.

The characters seemed well thought out and portrayed, from Gili and Morgan as the main characters through the supporting characters Charlie & Narri, although I wish we’d gotten a bit more insight into Whitey’s motivations. Likewise, the romance between Gili and Morgan, with paranormal assistance, progressed logically from an initial basis of betrayal and mistrust through to its steamy consummation.

The plot was simple but satisfying – Gili’s previous employer threatens her family unless she retrieves the gem – and consistent throughout the story, including a suitable conclusion.

I had a few issues with the story though, the first being how so much of the story and tension relied on Gili and Hunt not communicating (or Gili not going to the police when Grissom threatened her family). Whilst I can understand Gili’s motivations, as set out by Flemming, they felt a bit artificial to me.

The second issue was the involvement of aboriginal culture, combined with the “White Saviour” or “What These People Need is a Honky” trope. The fact that an American was chosen for the Aboriginal Dreamtime magic was just a bit off putting for me, and smacked a little of cultural appropriation.

It’s those two things which shifted my rating of it from 3 to 2 stars.

Overall, if you like romance stories with a twist of the paranormal, this is a well written and engaging tale set in the Australian Outback. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other books on the shelves!


Disclaimer: Whilst I read this as a judge for the 2013 Aurealis Awards, this review is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging co-ordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

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