ARC Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire

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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?

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When I read How To Walk Away and found it just okay, I should have realized that the author’s writing style doesn’t exactly work for me. But when I was offered this ARC, I thought I should give it another try and and here I am. I’m not exactly disappointed because I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it was just an overall underwhelming read.

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Cassie is a determined, hard working and talented firefighter/paramedic but she holds herself to an almost impossible standard to make it in her very male centered profession. Her mother’s abandonment and a traumatic event at the age of sixteen have made her an emotionally closed off person, which means she hardly has any friends or social life and channels all her energy into being a great firefighter. When she has to move to a much more regressive fire department in a small town to live with her mother, she has to prove herself all over again. While I admire her for being so composed and handling every situation with a sort of clinical precision, I guess I wanted her to show a bit more emotion. But thankfully, her character arc is about growing more comfortable with showing emotion and vulnerability and I thought that was good. It just wasn’t entirely satisfactory.

The rookie love interest Owen was a dreamy guy, sweet and kind and just overall nice. While I liked how he was able to bring down Cassie’s walls a bit, I just thought the romance happened very fast and I didn’t see the buildup at all. The other side characters at the fire station all felt very two dimensional and I couldn’t even remember their names by the time I finished reading. Cassie’s mom is like a walking talking self help book and though I was sympathetic to her situation and wanting to spend more time with her daughter, their interactions didn’t feel very authentic to me.

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The one thing that’s good about this author’s books are that they are very fast paced and easy to read – I finished it in just two sittings despite not enjoying myself much. My biggest problem was that the book wasn’t sure which category it wanted to be in – it wants to be a romance novel but the love story itself is rushed, there is hardly any relationship progression and I couldn’t understand why they were in love; on the other hand, the book wants to talk about issues like sexism in the workplace and dealing with trauma and how they impact our lives for a long time, but none of it is explored deeply because the author doesn’t seem to want to lose the light /breezy feel of the book. This just makes it all feel very superficial. There is also a “not like other girls” trope, especially at the beginning when the main character says things like “being in love is very girly and it makes girls sad and pathetic” and I hated it. The main character experiences deep trauma as a teenager which has affected her capacity to have relationships for a long time, but we never get to see how she is actually dealing with it… and ultimately, falling in love fixes all her issues, which is another trope I don’t particularly enjoy anymore. While I like the concept of forgiveness and how it’s important to forgive to be able to move forward and lead a more productive life, all the advice given in the book about it was pretty perfunctory and shallow and didn’t evoke any feelings in me. Despite having a bit of mystery element in the story, there is hardly any conflict and the author ensures that everything is neatly tied up in a bow.

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If you have enjoyed the author’s books before, you’ll probably like this a lot more than I did. If you are looking for a light and easy fairytale-esque book without a lot of angst, then you should give this a try. However, if you are looking for an amazing well developed romance or a book that deeply touches on issues that the main character faces in her personal and professional life, then Things You Save in a Fire is definitely not it.

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PS: Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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