Returning to his hometown in the Catskills is the last thing firefighter Ethan DeLuca’s ready for. He’d rather leave memories where they belong–buried under ashes. But if he doesn’t step up to take care of Nonna, who will? Working at the camp down the road seems like the perfect solution. Until his feisty redheaded boss ends up being one fire he has no idea how to put out.
Cassidy McAdams is on a mission. Get the camp Grandpa left her ready to sell, turn enough profit to bail Mom’s business out of foreclosure, and hightail it back to her life in New York City. With unexpected complications mounting, she can’t afford any distractions. Especially a ridiculously charming one who’s eager to rescue her at every turn.
It’d be easier on them both to hide behind professional boundaries. But when unexplained attacks on the camp ignite a connection between them they can’t ignore, running away is no longer an option.
Someone grabbed her arms. “Whoa. It’s okay.”
She flailed against him, trying to break free.
His hold tightened. “Cassidy, calm down. It’s just me. Sandy and I ran off the raccoons. No one’s gonna hurt you.”
Ethan’s reassuring voice rushed over her, but panic kept surging. “What are you doing out here? You left.” She winced at how much hurt came through those two words.
“I’m sorry.” He let go. “When I got back, I heard a noise on the roof and climbed the fire escape to check it out. Looks like someone dumped garbage up there. The raccoons were having a field day.”
He nodded. “They’ll be back if we don’t clear it, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. I’ll get up there in the morning.”
Garbage on the roof to draw raccoons. That seemed a little far-fetched. Did the kids around here think this was some kind of joke? They had no idea what was at stake, what this was costing her. “Who’s doing this, Ethan?”
“I don’t know.” He rested a hand to her cheek. “But we’re going to stop them.”
The fear still tearing across her muscles dwindled at his touch. She rested a palm to the front of his shirt, wanting to draw near, wanting him to be right. “What if we can’t?”
He curved an arm around her back and pulled her close. “I won’t let that happen.”
Enclosed in a promise she wished more than anything she could trust, she closed her eyes and pressed tighter. His whiskers rubbed against her hair as she nestled her face beneath his neck. The scent of the mountain clung to him. Strength, hard work, passion. It all wrapped around her in layers of yearning she thought she’d forgotten how to feel – desires she knew better than to give a hold.
What was she doing?
She pushed away. “It’s, um . . . It’s going to be an early morning.” She backed up toward the door, tucking her hair behind her ears. “We should both get to bed.”
He blinked but didn’t move. His confused expression launched her inside and down the hall. In the safety of her bedroom, she hunched against the door and craned her neck to the ceiling. Get a grip, Cass. She tapped her head behind her. Business. Just. Business. If someone really was attacking the camp, how could she be thinking of anything else?
The short take
A great contemporary romance with emotional depth, vibrant characters, and a hero you can’t help but fall in love with.
Okay, this was one seriously melt-me-into-the-floor romance with a strong emotional connection between the main characters, but even so, there were a couple of things that tempered my enjoyment. Firstly, I had my suspicions about who was behind the vandalism and the attacks on the camp (which turned out to be more or less correct), and it stretched credulity a little for me, as did the final complication that arose between Ethan and Cassidy.
The other little thing that niggled at me was the occasional use of exclamations like, “Thank G*d”, and even an, “Oh my G*d” and a “For G*d’s sake”. This is not specifically a Christian novel, but there are a few references that suggest Ethan and his Nonna are Christians, and so these exclamations disappointed me, especially when they could easily be substituted.
But on to the positives, which definitely outweighed the negatives. I loved the authenticity of these characters and the vibrancy of the writing. This was one of those books you feel, rather than just read or visualise. Strong verbs, crisp prose, and characters who came alive through their actions and interactions rather than narrative and exposition. Cassidy’s friend Ti (pronounced Tee) and Ethan’s Nonna were great secondary characters and there was a perfect blend of light-heartedness, contention, wisdom, and tenderness throughout.
For me, I think it was Ethan who made this novel. He is haunted by the loss of his little sister – some ten years ago now – and has devoted his life to rescuing others, trying to make up for that one time he failed. Cassidy has perfected the tough-girl act and learned to expect the worst in people in order to avoid disappointment. She is fiercely independent, but Ethan is determined to not only earn her trust, but prove that he is trustworthy. And it’s not easy when accusations fly, when fears resurface, or when he is forced to confront what really happened when his sister died. But despite his ‘only human’ moments, he seriously melted my heart. More than once. That Cassidy’s a lucky gal!
Notwithstanding those few issues I mentioned at the start, this novel was everything I love about contemporary romance: clean, tender, and vibrant, with genuine emotional depth.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 24 February 2016
Publisher: Impact Editions
Author’s website: http://crystal-walton.com/