Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, NetGalley, Romance

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

things you save in a fire

Cassie Hanwell is one of only a few female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, but she has worked hard to earn the respect of her peers and the reputation as being one of the toughest they have. She loves her job, she loves her firehouse, and she can’t imagine her life any other way. Then her estranged and, as it happens, sick mother asks Cassie to move to Massachusetts.

The firehouse Cassie moves to is basically the polar opposite of her old one. They suffer from lack of funding, decrepit facilities, and good old fashioned sexism. The only man who seems to take her seriously is the rookie who starts the same day she does.

At home and at work, Cassie must work through her anger, resentment, and emotional barriers as she struggles to get along with her mother and the other firefighters. It doesn’t help that she finds herself wildly attracted to the rookie, which is inconvenient because the number one rule of being a female firefighter is: don’t date other firefighters.

After a slew of life-altering events, Cassie must learn to forgive her mother and decide whether love is worth the trouble.


I picked it up because I loved Katherine Center’s last book How to Walk Away (which you also must read). In both cases, while the story could be categorized as a romance, more accurately it is just the story of a woman’s transformation and growing into herself. Part of that often includes romance, and that might be what gets readers in the door. But ultimately, Things You Save in a Fire is much deeper and more powerful.

Cassie is a badass and always has to work to prove herself, but not in an annoying way. Rather than coming across as having a chip on her shoulder, the reader sees that Cassie is fighting her inner demons and critics more than she is fighting any sort of institutional sexism. That makes her story more relatable and more rewarding, in my opinion.

While the will-they-or-won’t-they tension between Owen (the rookie) and Cassie is underlying the entire story, Cassie relationship with her mother takes center stage. It is by working through their past hurts and Cassie’s anger and bitterness into a mother-daughter relationship built on trust and forgiveness that a romance with Owen even seems possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good love story! But this book gives us so much more. I swooned. I cried. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

5/5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC.

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