Cop of the Year

Just One Night

Feel the Heat by Kathryn Shay
(Harl. Super #871, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-70871-8
Feel the Heat is the first in a new trilogy called America's Bravest, in which one of the lead characters is a firefighter. In this case, it's Francesca Cordaro: sister, daughter, and grand-daughter of firefighters. Francey, at thirty, has been with the department enough to be a seasoned firefighter, and when she suffers a broken arm while carrying an unconscious man out of a burning building, it's a huge frustration to her. Time off? Who wants time off? She wants to be back at the station with her extended family.

Alex Templeton looks up "Fran Cordaro" at the hospital in order to thank "him" for saving his life. When Alex meets Francey instead, he's stunned, then intrigued. Here's a woman unlike any he's met before. Honest, independent, and fiercely loyal to her firefighting "family," there seems to be no room in her life for Alex, no matter how hard he tries to get to know her. Francey, for her part, sees Alex's moneyed background as a huge barrier to any romance. Her own mother abandoned the family when Francey was a young child. The Cordaro's divorce and her mother's estrangement and recent reappearance in Francey's life only seem to underscore the danger of becoming involved with an outsider.

Against her will, Francey agrees that she and Alex can be "friends." The attraction between them cannot be denied, and in one of the more interesting twists on a relationship in recent memory, they finally agree to proceed with a romance -- but hold off on the consummation. What this does is allow the author free rein to expand and deepen the sexual tension between Alex and Francey, and indeed, it's exquisite. When they finally do succumb, you know it's right.

In fact, the characterizations of Alex and Francey could be fairly described as exquisite, too. In creating two people with obvious flaws as well as definite allure, the author brings them to life. Francey is that girlfriend of yours whose smarts and fierce independence have caused her to turn her back on the whole dating scene. Alex is perfect as a guy who's weary of the pointless women who see him as a good catch but know nothing of the man underneath the suit. When Francey finally delves under that suit (literally as well as figuratively), he's delighted to finally be able to offer himself -- the real Alex. It's a delight.

There's a touching secondary romance between Francey's parents, who married too young and lost each other, but never got over it. And the setup for the next book, featuring a secondary character, is presented in a completely understandable fashion.

If there is one teeny flaw in the book, it's that some of the firefighting terminology isn't explained, leaving the reader to deduce the meanings for herself. The settings ring true, though. I felt like I was sitting in the station house.

As for rating this book, I know I'm going to go get the other two books in this trilogy. I know I'll put Feel the Heat on my shelf and pull it out in six months or so when I want a good re-read. That's keeper status to me! I don't think you'll be disappointed with this one.

--Cathy Sova

Read Kathryn Shay's description of her research for the America's Bravest trilogy.

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