Desert Isle Keeper
With Heat Exchange, Shannon Stacey kicks off a new series based around Boston firefighters. If they’re all going to be as good as this installment, I’m definitely coming back for more!
I first encountered Stacey with her Kowalski series. I enjoyed her writing because while her stories contain some of the time-honored sweetness of small-town romance, her characters also felt quite modern. I like her voice a lot, and as she moves into a more urban setting with this new series, she writes characters that feel believable and come alive.
Lydia Kincaid left Boston for New Hampshire following a nasty divorce. She wanted to leave behind some bad memories and changing from working at the family bar to working in a fancy restaurant seemed like a good idea. However, family issues now bring her home. Her sister’s marriage is on the rocks and she needs Lydia’s help. So, Lydia leaves her job and comes home temporarily. She’s not thrilled about going back to Kincaid’s or about being surrounded by the world of firefighter families again, but family is family and she’s going to be loyal.
No sooner does Lydia get back behind the bar at Kincaid’s than she runs into an old acquaintance – her brother’s best friend Aidan Hunt. And Aidan has grown up to be gorgeous and a wonderful human being besides. The attraction between the two is almost immediate but they take their time acting on it. After all, Lydia grew up with a firefighter father whose devotion to the job way outstripped his devotion to family and her ex was also a fireman. And for Aidan, there’s another problem. He serves with Lydia’s brother and there’s an unwritten rule among the firefighters – sisters are off limits. The fact that Lydia’s father was Aidan’s mentor doesn’t exactly help either.
So, what makes this book such a great read? Lydia and Aidan just seemed so perfect together, and their world just came alive to me. I don’t know Boston at all, but Lydia’s family, the bar, and their circle of friends reminded me of actual blue collar folks I know. The obstacles these two faced felt believable as well. After bad experiences in firefighting families, I could completely understand Lydia not wanting to be with a man for whom the job was everything. You’d also have to be incredibly oblivious not to notice that Aidan’s profession forms a huge part of his identity. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the complicated relationships and baggage of the various members of the Kincaid family and their inner circle.
It’s not often that I find myself zooming happily through a book without some annoying hiccup pulling me right out of the story. That’s exactly what happened for me in Heat Exchange, though. Aidan and Lydia have smoking hot chemistry, and the dialogue in this book flows well. The secondary characters all have stories of their own and I found myself wanting to know them better. While I’m sure many of those folks will have books of their own, they showed personalities more multi-faceted than simply “sequel bait.”
And while we’re talking about showing, there’s one more aspect of Stacey’s writing that sets this novel apart. She leaves the reader with vivid pictures in the mind’s eye. For example, after an argument with Lydia, Aidan mopes around in front of the television. In many books, readers would simply get a sentence telling them something along the lines of, “Aidan couldn’t sleep, so he just stared at the television for an hour.” However, here we read that, “An hour later, not only was he still awake, but he knew a lot more about marsupials than he’d ever wanted to know.” Now that is the difference between telling and showing. Both get the job done to a certain extent, but the way Stacey wrote this makes Aidan’s state of mind very apparent and also makes it easier for the reader to feel just a bit of what he’s feeling and maybe empathize.
Small-town romance has dominated the contemporary category for the past few years. However, with this novel, readers get a taste of romance in the city. It’s a sweet, romantic tale. I love a good reunion story, and this one is very well done indeed. I can’t wait to read the next Boston Fire book.