After the Fire
Firefighters Trilogy/Book 1
Berkley/November 3, 2004
From the back cover ~
Detective Megan Hale has come to Hidden Cove to begin a new life. What she's leaving behind are painful memories - of her father and husband, both policemen killed in the line of duty. What lies ahead for Megan is a dream - to start a summer camp for the orphaned children of firefighters and police officers.
Firefighter Mitch Malvaso vowed to change his life after escaping an inferno - by promising to be a better husband in a marriage-gone-bad. Instead, he finds his newfound peace in Megan's selfless plan, and a deep respect that turns to unspoken love. As they work together on the camp and cross paths in their respective roles as police officer and firefighter, the attraction between them grows; so does the fear that theirs is a love never meant to be - unless they can find the courage to face the past and embrace a passionate future of endless possibilities.
I was in the mood for a contemporary romance and since I like firefighters and small town settings, After the Fire fit the bill. While this is a romance, it's not your typical romance. The hero is married, the heroine a widow still working through the death of her husband and the problems they had before he was killed. It's not an easy road before them. The secondary romance is a friends to lovers romance which I enjoy but when the two people are beyond stubborn, it gets to be tiresome.
Megan Hale is tired of the big city and ready for a change. She takes a job as a detective in the small town of Hidden Cove, about 100 miles from New York City. It's a different environment for Megan but a good change of pace. Megan wants to open a camp for children of fallen police and firefighters and Mitch Malvaso is behind her idea and more than willing to lend a hand. Megan is attracted to Mitch but there is no way she would get involved with a married man even if that man's marriage is falling apart. I liked Megan and respected her stance on not getting involved with Mitch. They do develop a friendship that heightens the tension with everyone involved.
Mitch Malvaso loves being a firefighter and he knows the risks. After nearly losing his life in the Sinco fire he and his two siblings who are also firefighters, decide to improve their lives. Mitch wants to work on his dying marriage but he knows the reality is that it's been over for a long time. He's staying for the kids since his wife is a crazy bitch and he doesn't trust her with the kids. The stress Mitch has at home wears on him and when he meets Megan, she gives him something to focus on, the kids camp. Mitch is a decent guy who married the wrong woman but he's determine to stick with her for the kids sake. Yes, Mitch should have left the bitch but there was a good chance she would get custody of the kids and he couldn't let that happen. Her daddy was rich and powerful so Mitch had good reason to worry.
Being a small town setting, the secondary characters play an important role in the overall story line. There is Jenny, Mitch's sister and fellow firefighter. Her best friend is Grady, an EMT who shares a duplex with Jenny. They are friends who have a boatload of past failed romances between them and neither thinks they are ready for a serious relationship. They both are attracted to the other but have buried those feelings so deeply when they do act on the attraction it takes them by surprise. Unfortunately, they are both stubborn about moving from friends to lovers even though it's obvious they were meant to be together and are miserable apart. I found their story line aggravating at times and wished they'd simply get on with it.
The other secondary character with a troublesome past is Zach Malvaso, Mitch's brother and fellow firefighter. Zach was a ladies man in the past. The only problem is, he was married at the time. He's divorced now but still not ready to let go of his ex. She's moved on but Zach is having a really hard time. He wants to make up for his past sins and be a better father to his kids but he also wants a second chance with his ex. Yeah, that's not happening. I did like Zach but had I known him during his screwing around period, nope. His was an interesting storyline that left me wondering what happens to him. (His story is next in the trilogy)
There are other sub-plots that feed into the Malvaso firefighters stories. Their family and other siblings are a large part of their lives and impact how they continue to change and improve their lives. I did like the family feeling the story had not only with the Malvasos but also the firefighters themselves and to a lesser extent the police force.
I have the next book on the TBR pile and find myself curious about Zach's story and his heroine, who we meet in After the Fire. I'm wondering what her back story is and why she is such a loner. They should make for a compelling couple. The other couple featured in the next book I have no feelings one way or the other. So we'll see. After the Fire is a solid start to the Firefighter trilogy with an uncommon romance and an array of secondary characters to add to the drama.
Books in the trilogy ~
After the Fire
On the Line
Nothing More to Lose