The Firefighter's Thanksgiving Wish
In 2019, my romance reviews frequently ranked as either ‘hot’ or ‘burning’ on AAR’s sensuality scale. I’ve decided to shake things up in 2020 by reading more novels on the ‘closed-lip kisses’ end of the sexy spectrum. Book seven in Anna J. Stewart’s small-town romance series Butterfly Harbor Stories, The Firefighter’s Thanksgiving Wish, is an absolute delight. Charming characters and an irresistible love story between two ambitious firefighters makes for an enjoyable read. (Note: The title is confusing. No Thanksgiving wishes are made within the pages of this novel. In fact, most of the story takes place after Thanksgiving.)
When Butterfly Harbor CA firefighter Francesca – Frankie – Bettencourt is passed over for the Fire Chief promotion, she is crushed. It was her dream to follow in her late father’s footsteps. Even though Frankie is the most qualified for the job, Orlando firefighter Roman Salazar is hired to head up the Butterfly Harbor Fire Department. Frankie is fit to be tied and keeps her distance from her new boss. Roman empathizes with Frankie and makes every effort to be kind and respectful during the rocky transition, but headstrong Frankie is not easily swayed. As Roman ingratiates himself with the townspeople, Frankie takes notice. She begins to question whether her sworn enemy is a man she could actually trust and maybe even love.
Idyllic coastal hamlet Butterfly Harbor in Central California is home to a tight-knit community of loving couples, charming families, and mischievous seniors. Stewart shares many of their interesting backstories, which are more fully explored in previous Butterfly Harbor books. Learning the town’s collective stories of loss, courage, and triumph deepened my overall engagement. However, frequent ‘character dumps’ caused me to develop fleeting bouts of brain overload. And, at times, I was frustrated by the locals who rarely left the couple alone in a scene together. (I am looking at you, Frankie’s twin brother, Monty.)
There’s a lot to like about protagonists Frankie and Roman. Both are kind-hearted, selfless, and driven. The authentic loving relationship that blossoms between the two, especially in the face of real-world challenges, is sincerely touching. I especially adored the fire and rescue emergencies scenes in which the couple work closely together, instinctually attuned to the other’s movements. Some chapters focus more on Butterfly Harbor’s goings-on and residents than on Frankie and Roman, but I appreciate that Stewart’s love story extends beyond the romantic to also include love for one’s neighbors.
Fans of sweet romance will devour The Firefighter’s Thanksgiving Wish. Stewart is a fine storyteller whose gift for writing sympathetic characters and uplifting love stories has the power to melt cynical hearts. My personal preference typically leans toward more passionate accounts of courtship and love, but I was surprised to discover that I am able to happily enjoy a romance containing tender kisses sans tongue.