Finally A Family
Kathryn Shay’s firefighter trilogy, America’s Bravest, won her many fans; the honesty of her characters and the realism of her stories, thanks to her research, represent some of the best romance has to offer. I am happy to report that the level of quality Shay is known for is also present in her new book, Finally A Family.
Spence Kagan is a Vietnam veteran who works as a helicopter pilot for Guardian Flight, a search and rescue operation currently looking for some financial support to acquire a new helicopter. When he first meets Alexis Castle, the woman who can give Guardian some much needed monetary help, he takes in her pinched face and stiff posture, and wonders, is she in pain?
Actually, she is. Alexis’s job/stress-induced ulcer is acting up today and, having been trained by her father to be all-business, she refuses to let the pain interfere, so continues meeting the people at Guardian. She is spending the summer at Catasaga Lake not only to evaluate if the organization is worthy of a donation by Castle Industries, but also, hopefully, to spend some quality time with her teenage daughter, Jamie. This seems like an uphill battle; Jamie is quite resentful of the time her mother devotes to her job and makes sure everyone knows it every chance she gets.
Having an estranged child himself, Spence can relate, although he really wants to keep his distance from Alexis, whom he dismisses as a woman who is too into her career to make time for her child. He knows all too well about people who are all-business; his own father, Judd, has kept his distance ever since a teenage Spence signed up for military service instead of following his father’s footsteps in the Keagan family business. Judd retaliated by becoming the father figure to Spence’s son Jeff, and the result is that Spence now is not willing to get very involved with anyone.
The attraction between Spence and Alexis is palpable and real, but having been burned by getting involved with someone at work before, Alexis fears the appearance of impropriety: Will everyone think Spence is romancing her just to get the money from Castle Industries? All a frustrated Spence can see is that Alexis is the only one who thinks so.
It is testament to Shay’s abilities that, although both characters are flawed, they remain likable to the end. Alexis goes a little too far in her quest to be SuperBusinesswoman. Not telling her close friends about her ulcer doesn’t seem reasonable at first, and she ends up suffering through spicy meals and bumpy flights because of it. But it is in character, as is her need for her father’s approval. That in the end she overcomes her fears, makes her a worthy heroine.
Spence could certainly work on his listening skills, and I thought he was a little too harsh on Alexis a couple of times, but again, it is in his character to do that. He’s spent years rushing to conclusions where his son and his father are concerned, and overnight change would have been unrealistic. He is a man who cares about his job and the people he must help, and finding love with Alexis is totally deserved.
Shay’s research is, of course, extensive, but she doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The details of what it is to be part of a helicopter rescue team are there, but more importantly, her characters make it all human. Alexis’s daughter and her father (although he’s a little overbearing) are well drawn, as are Spence’s son and father. If you haven’t read a Kathryn Shay book, I urge you to do it now. Pick up one of her firefighter books or this new release, and get to know some wonderful characters.