Where There’s Smoke by LA Witt gives us the definitive alpha male character in Anthony, political campaign manager extraordinaire. Almost every romance author tries to write alpha males, and the ham-fisted result is usually obnoxious and smug as to be completely unattractive. But not Anthony. Sure, he is hard charging, strong-willed, poised, and self-confident. However, this is balanced by his intensity and vulnerability to Jesse. He is way too driven and emotionally committed to sit around smirking with amused detachment.
Jesse’s innocence and integrity make him a good counterpart to Anthony, and their chemistry is smoking hot. Both men show an appealing sense of humor in their interactions with super-competent assistant Ranya, and the political underpinning to the story is fascinating. The conflict centers on Jesse’s obligation during his campaign to keep up appearances in a fake marriage to a troubled actress. As conflicts go, it felt more manufactured than organic to me, but the author does so masterful a job of building support for it that I couldn’t help accepting it by the book’s conclusion. Even the actress comes across as three-dimensional and understandable, if not exactly likable.
The book opens in Anthony’s first-person viewpoint as he reluctantly agrees to manage the campaign in Jesse’s bid to become governor of California. The next chapter picks up in Jesse’s first-person viewpoint, making it clear that both men are overwhelmingly attracted to each other. But their problems are numerous. First, each man doesn’t know how the other feels. Second, they can’t afford even the shadow of scandal while they are on the campaign trail and under scrutiny at all times.