Cassie Hanwell is one of the best firefighters in Austin, Texas. Despite being a woman. She is about to receive the highest award from the city. The mayor is to present the award, but instead, city council member Heath shows up. As he is posing for a picture with Cassie, he grabs her ass. Her response? She beats the crap out him with her plaque, sending him to the hospital and her to an unknown future with the Austin Fire Department. There is history between Cassie and Heath that she refuses to talk about and for most of the book, all you know is that it happened on her 16th birthday – the day her mother left her and her father.
After she beats Heath up, Cassie also is contacted by her estranged mother, asking her to move to Massachusetts to help her after she loses eyesight in one of her eyes. Cassie does not want to go. But her fire captain tells her it’s the best way to escape the mess she’s made of her career in Austin with her job still in tact. She moves to a fire department that is old. She’s the only woman. She is paired with the “rookie,” who is the son of a legendary Boston Firefighter, Owen. Cassie and Owen are pranked many times, including being duct taped to the flag pole outside the station. As Cassie proves herself to the firefighters and starts getting closer to Owen, the captain informs them that there is a budgetary shortfall and one of them will have to go. Owen doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Cassie doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Oh, and Cassie is being harassed by someone in the squad. As the harassment escalates, Cassie and Owen grow closer.
Enough plot. I liked, no I loved this book so, so much. I read How To Walk Away and I liked it. But this book, I loved. I love Cassie. She’s tough. Yet vulnerable. She’s hard and unforgiving at the beginning of the book. But she has a conversation with her mother about forgiveness that seems to open her up and shift her life. I liked that fact that the characters were relatable. And very real.
I identified with Cassie’s need to prove that she’s tough to the point that she becomes stone. She refuses to let any emotion in that may indicate weakness. It’s like toxic masculinity – woman style. If you have ever worked in a male-dominated environment, you know what I mean. Any display of care or concern, or – God forbid – tears, and you’re done. The pack will pounce. So you have to be tough. You have to suck it up and put it away to deal with at another time. Katherine Center writes that struggle so well in this book. You can feel Cassie’s fear and vulnerability and rage and frustration. It’s hard enough to be a woman. Try doing it in a man’s world.
I actually liked this book so much, I’m having trouble starting the next one. Do yourself a huge favor and buy this book when it comes out in August. It will be money well spent and you will not regret it.
I won this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reader’s copy.