As a firefighter, Cassie Hanwell has made a career of keeping calm and thriving in chaos. Away from the extremes of her job, however, she lives a quiet, risk-free life, scarred by past traumas and her mother’s abandonment. So when her mother calls after a decade of separation, begging Cassie to assist her with her newfound medical condition, rejection is sharp on her tongue. Yet, a personal conflict affects Cassie’s career, derailing her chances of promotion and depositing her on the verge of unemployment.
To save the job she loves and appease some of the guilt she carries, Cassie flies out to Massachusetts, where she moves in with her mom and transfers to the Lillian Fire Department. Unlike her progressive job back home, sexism runs rampant among her captain and colleagues, each devoutly believing women have no place as firefighters. Except for the rookie, who makes Cassie’s heart pound and stirs emotions she fights to tamp down, for dating a fellow firefighter is a surefire way to lose respect and her job. Stacked with her colleagues’ misogynistic dispositions, her mother’s ailing health, the past that still haunts her, and the rookie she can’t keep her eyes off of, fires are the least of Cassie’s worries.
Before reading Things You Save in a Fire, it’s important to note that this is not your typical romance in the sense that it’s equal parts lighthearted as it is heavy. Katherine Center delivers a sweet love story between the two protagonists—the instant attraction, yet slow-burn forbidden sort—yet she also calls upon much more serious topics, dredging up the traumas of Cassie’s past. At its core, this book is about love as much as it is forgiveness and making amends, as well as acceptance and healing from your past. Altogether, it culminates into a powerful and moving story that made me reach for a box of tissues.
Despite more serious and emotionally hard-hitting aspects, the book adopts a humorous and fun tone, with Cassie’s witty, wisecracking stream of consciousness at the helm of this story. And her inner monologue, alongside the ridiculous pranks her colleagues pull, makes for a very entertaining read that, at certain parts, you can’t help but crack a smile at.
With relationships being the main facet of this novel, I really liked how Center develops Cassie and the rookie’s relationship and how adeptly she exhibits their feelings for one another. Throughout the book, the two make rash, and arguably foolish, decisions despite the threat of serious consequences. While as a reader it’ll have you shaking your head at them a few times, it’s true to life in a lot of ways and really captures how it is to have feelings for someone, especially someone you’re not supposed to. Additionally, the progression of Cassie’s platonic and familial relationships is executed equally well, particularly with Cassie’s mother. From the initial strain between them, the maelstrom of betrayal and misunderstanding that divides them, to their eventual bonding, their coming together occurs both naturally and gradually.
For those looking for a poignant and entertaining tale, Things You Save in a Fire is a story that smolders.