A Durable Fire by Robyn Donald is an intense Harlequin Presents romance where Arminel, a beautiful woman with no money, gets entangled in a web of emotions with a cruel hero and his family.
Illustrator: Ray Olivere
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #696
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
The hero is unbelievably cruel because he has the hots for the heroine. Like the emotionally stunted boy he is, he only knows to be mean to the girl he likes.
And the heroine, Arminel, is a pushover, naturally. She can’t help but fall for that kind of immaturity.
Why? Because he’s HAWT!
Arminel is a stunning 19-year-old woman from Australia who is not rich by any means. She meets and falls for Rhys Beringer, a handsome young man from New Zealand. The girl must have attachment issues because, in just under a month, she quits her job to vacation with his wealthy family at their luxurious ranch.
There’s just one catch. Would she mind terribly pretending to be his fiancée? Of course, like the girl with no self-esteem that she is, Arminel agrees to Rhys’s bizarre plan.
Poor Arminel’s holiday takes a dark turn when she meets his nasty mother, who snootily looks down on her humble heritage.
However, the nastiness from Mean Mama is nothing compared to the cruelty Rhys’s older brother, Kyle, imposes on Arminel. Kyle, who is a bronze-haired, golden demi-god, takes an instant dislike to her. Arminel is pretty HAWT herself, and he lusts after her body.
Kyle can’t stand the fact that his kid brother planted his flag on her first. (He didn’t. )
Arminel’s self-consciousness creates an air of coldness, making her appear calculated to the Beringer family. Our hero, Kyle, pounces on this to accuse her of being a no-good, money-grabbing whore not worthy of his little brother’s affections. He combines this “courtship method” with brutish attempts to seduce her.
Rhys isn’t any better than the rest of his coo-coo family. He’s not interested in Arminel at all; he’s using her to drive another woman away. His parents want him to marry a nice girl, and Rhys has no plans for that! (He’ll change his mind later on.)
Arminel endures weeks of rude treatment by her hosts and never defends herself. Why? She should have just left.
It turns out that Arminel, besides suffering from low self-esteem, is as emotionally unstable as the members of the Beringer clan.
Kyle’s harassment really worked its magic, so she fell hard for his hardness. He was hateful and vile towards her, and she’s the kind of girl who can’t say no to a man who treats her that badly!
Just when you think Arminel might develop some willpower, Kyle goes into Arminel’s bedroom one night, believing that she and Rhys have had sloppy sex. Since he’s exactly the type who’s up for sloppy seconds, Kyle moves in and takes her (i.e., forcibly seduces her).
Kyle realizes she has a hymen and that he was not eating Little Bro’s crumbs but was the first to sup at Arminel’s table. So he sets it up for Rhys to find them together. Now everyone will know what a tramp Arminel is!
Humiliated, Arminel plans to flee, but Kyle whisks her away from his family’s home. She and Kyle have a brief affair because the man is famished and craves some seconds and thirds. Remember, this is the guy who has called Arminel a golddigger from the moment they met, thinking she wasn’t good enough for his kid brother!
Kyle degrades her in every way he can, and Arminel can’t say no.
However, Kyle refuses Arminels’ pleas for anything more, and the girl is so desperate that she begs to be his mistress. But he ain’t having that, so he puts her on a plane in first-class seating to get the hell out of there!
On the flight back to Australia, Arminel meets a nice man who is also loaded to the gills. She cries her heart out about her sad love life while he listens sympathetically. She even tells him all the intimate details of her sex romps with Kyle.
Apparently, nobody in this book is a well-adjusted person because Dear Stranger is so aroused and intrigued by her tale that he proposes marriage.
It turns out he’s not crazy; he’s just dying. The dude’s a multimillionaire with a fatal congenital disease. As he has little time left to live, Dear Stranger wants to have fun and, more importantly, to have a child.
Arminel accepts his unusual proposal out of despair. But she finds that her marriage is a happy one. She gets pregnant and gives birth to a daughter before her husband dies, thus leaving her a wealthy widow.
Fast forward five years, and she’s living in Fiji. Arminel is now a mature mother (at 24), with self-assurance and elegance, capable of maneuvering with grace among the high society peeps.
And wouldn’t you know it? Kyle shows up in her life once more. He looks better than ever, and he still makes her as moist as a Duncan Hines cake.
It’s a big shock when he crudely tries to pick up where they left off to see Arminel snub him.
Hey, look at our girl with her shiny spine!
However, Arminel’s self-confident dismissal is just the kind of psychodrama Kyle enjoys. He begins to stalk her and pursues her with vengeance.
Rather than, you know, telling Kyle she’s not interested, pushing him away, or leaving the Island, Arminel is tickled pink. Just as pink as her favorite Duncan Hines cake!
(Where did that spine go?)
This pursuit takes up the bulk of the latter part of the book.
At the book’s climax (LOL, I said climax), Kyle almost dies in a drowning accident, but Arminel is there to save him. Then she decides, “Screw it! I’ll take whatever I can get from Kyle. It’s time for some nookie! It’s been years; I deserve it!”
Fortunately, Kyle does a big Uno-reverse at the end and makes a big grovel, as is typical in these Harleys. He declares his true love for her and that he has always loved her. He was ashamed of his inability to control himself around her because she was so HAWT, so he had to be a big meanie. Could she understand that?
And in the end, Arminel does. You see, his ancestors were Roundhead Puritans, not dashing Cavaliers. It wasn’t in his makeup to associate pure, Godly love with the beast with two backs. Sex was for sluts, and love was for adoring the Holy Madonna.
The dude needed to find Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed, plus a good therapist to heal him. That witch of a mom really did a number on his psyche!
Since Arminel is also mentally unbalanced with a twisted idea of relationships, she loves Kyle too. The emotionally stunted protagonists ride off into the Pacific sunset (sunrise?) to live happily ever after.
A Durable Fire showcases complex characters and a dark romance theme, characteristic of Robyn Donald’s romance novels. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and personal growth.
Kyle is a despicable piece of work, and that’s fine with me! He embodies the flawed hero archetype so typical of Donald’s male protagonists. When Donald does it right, her anti-heroes are exciting to read about! I appreciated Kyle’s crazed, semi-barbaric nature.
And I also enjoyed that, for once, the heroine got to live a somewhat happy life with another man during her long separation.
I was sure the baby she had with him was going to turn out to be Kyle’s. I was pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t the case.
Her time away from the hero enabled her to grow as a person. (I’m not saying she achieved optimum levels of clarity, but for an old-school Harlequin Presents, this was a huge character development for a heroine.)
It’s not quite sensual, but it’s getting hot in here! It’s in the low 80°s, and that’s very warm!
Final Analysis of A Durable Fire
A Durable Fire has a slightly similar plot to one of Donald’s earlier works (the title escapes me, but I’ll remember it eventually), where the heroine dated brother #1. Brother #2 didn’t approve, so he did his best (or worst) to break them up. Then brother #2 swooped in to get her goodies.
But that book was sweet. This one…
Well, it’s a Robyn Donald Harlequin/Mills & Boon in her prime, a decidedly dark romance.
Your mileage may vary, but I LOVE these awful car wreck romances.
Of course, you might not use the Standard (Imperial) system but the Metric system, so it’s all kilometers to you. In that case, A Durable Fire might come off as a gross, misogynistic, slut-shaming book, which is a perfectly understandable opinion.
But if you’re a sick and perverse reader like I am, you might view A Durable Fire as a thrilling, high-octane ride into HPlandia.
|Rating Report Card|
Passion or hatred—which was stronger?
From the moment she first met heartless, handsome Kyle Beringer, Arminel was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions.
Kyle was convinced Arminel’s engagement to his brother Rhys was not a union of two lovers. In fact, he assumed she was a gold-digging little tramp, interested only in the Beringer fortune.
He did everything he could to make it clear her presence on the family’s New Zealand sheep station was an unwelcome intrusion.
But his eyes gave him away. They flamed with violent desire that Arminel was powerless to resist.A Durable Fire by Robyn Donald