Desert Isle Keeper
Shannon Stacey’s Boston Fire series takes an in-depth look at the lives and loves of those who work for the fictional fire department, Ladder 37. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the previous books in this series and like how the author has balanced the seriousness of the vocation with the less intense and fun side of falling in love. In Hot Response we get a genuinely nice guy hero who crosses paths with an (at first) prickly heroine. That initial friction serves to heat things up in this emotional and ultimately quite lovely romance.
Cait Tasker is competent and no-nonsense when it comes to her job as an emergency medical technician. Trained to respond quickly to emergency situations, she’s adept at providing immediate life-saving care on the scene. What she can’t fix is her family. With her mother’s second husband having recently passed away, Cait has moved in to help her mom and her teenaged half-brother cope with the loss.
When the 911 calls come in, it’s common for Cait and her partner Tony to cross paths with the team at Ladder 37. Gavin Boudreau is one of the youngest members of his fire department, but he’s just as skilled as the rest of the team and very confident. He’s not sure what he said to rub Cait the wrong way on their first meeting, but she clearly isn’t impressed with him. That changes when they are both at the scene of a house fire where they get trapped together briefly while rescuing a child. It shows Cait that her impression of Gavin as a cocky playboy is wrong. Feeling the need to apologize, she asks him out for breakfast, which he is happy to accept, hoping to put the tension between them to rest. Indeed Cait feels kind of foolish at realizing that what had initially upset her – Gavin calling her ‘ma’am which she believed was a reference to her being a few years older than him – is in fact just an example of the manners with which he was brought up.
With their truce established, a hesitant friendship starts, and then more. With both of them working shifts, they spend time together when they can. But Cait feels that her responsibility to her mom and her brother is too great to commit to a full time relationship. Will her reluctance to move forward out of concern for them ruin her own chance at happiness?
There’s a really funny set of scenes that evolve from a chance meeting of Cait, her brother Carter, and Gavin in a grocery store. It’s what sets off the knowledge that there might be something more to their friction than dislike and truth be told, made me laugh out loud. It also leads to some sweetheart moves from Gavin that cement him as a bona fide hero. Cait is pretty stressed out about her home situation, with her mother’s constant depression and the effect it has on her younger brother and their mother-son relationship. When she confides this to Gavin, even though he doesn’t know her very well at this point, he offers her the use of his house to have a private evening on her own. She can treat his house like a hotel and he’ll vacate to stay on a friend’s couch. It’s such a wonderful offer that Cait is taken aback by his generosity, especially after she had not been treating him nicely. But she accepts, and in the morning when he returns, they come to a mutual agreement that they want to explore the mutual attraction they feel. Gavin had been adamant about not doing anything to make Cait feel obligated to return his favor, and insists that they first go out for lunch so that anything that happens between them is separate from her staying overnight. But hoo boy, when the gloves are off, they heat things up in some pretty sexy scenes!
Gavin shows that sweetheart side in other ways, too. He asks Cait to extend an offer for her brother to join a group of his friends in some pickup basketball games. He brings her to meet his co-workers at their favorite pub and makes sure she meets everybody properly. He insists on walking her out to her car and always seeing her off safely. He is patient and understanding with her need to sometimes break their plans so she can be with her mom when she gets overwhelmed in her grief. From the outside he can see that Cait’s role in her household is holding back her mother from moving on with her life, and when he tries to broach the subject, Cait is not ready to hear it.
Cait has spent the last six months worried that her mother won’t be able to pull herself out of the depths of her grief, yet she is unable to see that her presence makes it easier for her mother to stay dependent on her. Her relationship with her brother is normal for the most part (as normal as one can get with a teenager) but he also feels the effects of that loss. Trying to balance her needs with those of her family is stressful. When she feels pressured by Gavin to start prioritizing her own needs and their relationship, the resulting friction leads to them both assessing whether they should cut their losses or find a way to make amends and get the happy ending that’s waiting for them. Fortunately they choose the latter.
Since both Gavin and Cait are involved in first responder situations, there are some pretty intense and emotional on-the-job scenes in the book. Fires, car accidents, slips and falls all come into play as does the reality of the loss of life that can occur. Gavin and Cait have good relationships with their co-workers and there are some fun and teasing scenes that show this, as well as how they cope with the more difficult situations. But having similar occupations makes them uniquely able to share their experiences with each other and have that extra emotional backup when needed. With its combination of laughs, tears and sexy moments, Hot Response is an excellent addition to the Boston Fire series.
Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo