Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

A review copy of this book was provided by St Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been a long time since a book has made me emotional enough to actually cry while I read it. Sure, lots of books have made me feel sad and empathize with characters, but very few make me emotional enough to keep thinking about the book long after finishing it. This book packs an emotional punch – and rings especially true to the realities of what being a woman working in a male dominated field can be like. Things You Save in a Fire is much deeper than the contemporary romance it appears to be at the surface: it’s a dark and emotional look at the lasting impacts of trauma and forgiveness.

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 a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

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 infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself.

The most refreshing part of this book was that the emotional moments in this book never felt like cheap ploys or grabs for attention: these were real, raw moments that were earned by the plot and the character development. It was the emotional depth to this book that took me by surprise – I went in expecting a typical romance book and was blown away by the emotional complexity and maturity. The overall pacing and plot content of this book was great, it never felt rushed or like it was stalling for time between the romantic events. On top of that, the quality of the writing is phenomenal. Katherine Center has an incredible talent for creating characters that are impossible not to root for – even the perceived villains of the book were complex enough to be redeeming.

Cassie is a take-shit-from-no-one kind of character – my absolute favorite kind. Her career comes before everything: before her family, before relationships and before her personal life. But when her career is ruined in a single evening, she has to grapple with restarting in a new city on the opposite side of the country. That’s what made Cassie so entertaining: the author took her out of the situation she thrived in and threw her into the deep end of uncertainty and instability. It was at her new job that she was forced out of her comfort zone and made her prove herself and develop as a character in order to thrive. And while the amount of character growth she had was incredible, it was still believable. The people around her were also massive proponents in her growth – they pushed her to be a better person while also having their own stories and struggles.

With stunning characters, a realistic story about being a female working in a male dominated field, and oodles of heart, this book should definitely be at the top of your August to-be-read pile. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a book starring a bad-ass woman. No matter what, if you choose to read it, make sure you have a supply of tissues on hand.  Katherine Center certainly has a new fan in me, and I’m certain everyone who reads this book will feel the same way. 5/5

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