Desert Isle Keeper
Things You Save in a Fire
Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.
The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?
Kristen: Dabney, I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book, besides there was some serious buzz about it. I’ve never read anything by Ms. Center before, but I’m always game for a story of “woman in a man’s world” and Kate Meader and Shannon Stacey have certainly helped me fall for firehouse stories! All that said, I was not quite prepared for the gravity of this book.
Dabney: Maybe it’s a trend. I just read a contemporary romance that was so gravely dark I could barely get through it. This book, even with its serious issues, I was able to read without recoiling from the prose.
I’m going to assume that there were several threads in this book you found grave. Is that right?
Kristen: Great assumption. “Grave” might be a little… I think what I found was a lot of real. The story felt like it could leap off the page at any moment because these things all happen. Grave implies to me that there’s a bit of gothic darkness for the sake of it and that’s not the feeling I got here. Instead, it’s a story about the life that happens when you’re making other plans.
What did you think of this one, overall?
Dabney: I very much enjoyed it. I love–love!–how the characters are all grounded in reality. I especially love that the flawed men, Cassie’s co-workers, are sexist, upon occasion loutish, and routinely stellar human beings. I am not a fan of man-bashing or one note characterizations and there is little of that here.
I also was thrilled to see the characters solving their problems with real world solutions. The love stories here–and there are many encompassing the panoply of love–are built by people taking small steps, stopping and listening, really listening, to those around them, and by asking, awkwardly and often poorly, for help.
Kristen: Hear, hear! I co-sign all of that. When we got the initial description of her new chief, I got nervous. I am exhausted by one dimensional misogynists in fiction and was so grateful to see how Ms. Center crafted the dudes of the firehouse. They are sexist, and ageist, and all sorts of other things that people frequently are, but they are also humans. There are pieces of them that are open to change – which we see evidence of – and others that are calcified. Even when a line of dialogue rankled me, I knew it was because that man would say that and not because he was a plot device being used to make a point.
I also adored – wait, let me emphasize that more – ADORED Cassie’s interior journey. The growth that she opens herself up to, the meditations on forgiveness, how she handles conflict throughout the story… man, I want to take her out for dinner and give her a big hug.
Dabney: Honestly, the true love story in this is that between Cassie and her mom. I can not tell you how much this story moved me. Just thinking about it now makes my heart squeeze. Everything about that relationship is so lovely and powerful. And again, Cassie, her mom (and her dad) all made huge mistakes in the past, moves that pushed them apart and deeply hurt them. The way those relationships are portrayed and how those wounds are healed is utterly and beautifully believable.
Kristen: I wondered if your mother heart would just explode over that, because my daughter one did. My mother is also a reader, so as soon as I finished this I pre-ordered it for her because I want to talk to her about it!
So, for me, this is an A. I recommend it unabashedly for anyone who loves fiction, who believes humans have the capacity to change, and who could use some time in someone else’s life. It’ll be a strong contender for my top ten list for sure.
Dabney: We haven’t talked about it much but I assure romance readers that the romance in this is a good one. Cassie and “the rookie” are a fab couple–they are believable as firefighters, friends, lovers, and co-workers. I don’t want to say too much about the path they forge but it’s a good one full of heat and humor. Which reminds me, this book is funny in all the best ways.
This is an A for me too. Readers who love Kristan Higgins-esque fiction will love this as will, I bet, readers everywhere.