If someone handed me a romance novel telling me it was a great read with hilarious situations, interesting characters and a compelling plot I would politely smiled and say, “Thank you, but I don’t read romance fiction.” No more. I read romance fiction. To be more precise I read “humorous women’s fiction.” Libby Malin’s Fire Me.
I was curious about the romance genre going into the book. My favorites, like most guys I suppose, are mysteries, thrillers, horror, science fiction and fantasy. Many people make a good living knocking out romance stories, so a lot of people must be reading them. As a fiction lover and admitted biblioholic, wanted to know what the attraction is.
Fire Me is not your run of the mill Harlequin bodice ripper. In fact, it’s not a Harlequin novel at all. Fire Me has no steamy love scenes, no description of some hunk’s ripped pectorals, no lady longing for her studly cowpoke. If you pick up a copy of Fire Me, don’t waste your time searching for the “good parts.” There aren’t any. The book is better than that.
Fire Me spans a day in the life of Anne Wyatt, an employee at Burnham Group, which produces corporate motivational books, tapes and seminars created by its CEO, Mitch Burnham. But this is no normal day. It is the one day Anne spends trying to be fired from her job so she can snag a generous severance.
Anne began the day intent on resigning and taking a job in California, but as the saying goes, “People plan, God laughs.” Business was bad and her boss decided to cutback the staff in Anne’s department. So when Mitch Burnham announces that individual behavior determines who gets the ax, Anne’s scheming kicks into high gear. She becomes a destructive dynamo.
Anne is not the only person who wants that golden parachute. Sheila, one of Anne’s coworkers wants it just as much as Anne does. The two of them turn a day in the office into a Buster Keaton farce. Further complicating matters is Ken, another coworker who, out of his chivalric manner and attraction for Anne, naively undermines her plan.
If you ever wanted to throw a wrench in the corporate machinery, watch how Anne and her rival upset their cubicle farm. Malin describes perfectly what it feels like to spend day after day hemmed in by those wretched, sound-deadening, soul-sucking office partitions.
The romantic elements within Fire Me mesh well with the humor. Ken and Anne become an item, and the development of their relationship is subtle, touching, and balances the hilarious office slapstick. It is refreshing to read a romantic comedy in which the relationship is not the butt of the joke.
Malin’s skill with dialog and characters makes the slapstick ring true. It works because the schemes Anne hatches to raise Burnham’s ire play into the office politics that exist everywhere. Having been “downsized” myself not too long ago, I needed a laugh especially from someone who cuts through the nonsense surrounding so much of it. Malin delivers.
Fire Me is also a meditation on how following our dreams is not just the stuff of feel-good new agers. It got me thinking about how one can play it safe and never grow, rather than take a risk and make a serious effort to pursue a passion.
If you don’t read humorous women’s fiction, then I suggest you pick up Fire Me. You’ll have a good laugh and just might discover something about yourself along the way.