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

Things You Save in a Fire

Author: Katherine Center

Publication Date: 13 August 2019

Genre: Adult Fiction – Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds. 

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?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

Everything seems to be going well for Cassie Hanwell. She is a firefighter with the Austin Fire Department where she has had to repeatedly prove that she is damn good at her job in a male dominated field. Cassie becomes the first female recipient of incredibly prestigious Valor award, but everything begins to fall apart when she realizes who is the presententer of the award. Following quite the scuffle, the life that Cassie has diligently worked hard to achieve is now on the brink of collapse.

With Cassie’s options quickly running out, she decides that transferring to the Boston area to help her mother for a year is a much better option than facing potential termination. Cassie is still incredible skeptical since this is the same mother who abandoned her on her sixteenth birthday, which was a pivotal point in Cassie’s life. Additionally, the Lillian Fire Department has never had a woman firefighter and her gender is definitely considered to be more of a disability despite the years of experience and high honors that she has received. To prepare her for this, her previous captain (who is a female btw) explicitly told her to NOT to do anything that would show even the smallest sign of her being feminine (i.e. no makeup, keep your hair in a bun, no jewelry, etc.) as well as to never back down or show any signs of weakness.

“So, to succeed in my new job, I basically need to be an asexual, androgynous, human robot that’s dead to all physical and emotional sensation.”

I’m honestly at a loss at conveying how truly magnificent this story by Katherine Center is. I read this book in one sitting because I was so completely engrossed in both the plot and the characters. As far as the plot goes. It’s multi-faceted. One part of the plot focuses on the fragmented relationship that Cassie and her mother have, and the path that they must undergo to finally achieve both acceptance and forgiveness. The other part of the plot focuses on Cassie’s life at the Lillian Fire Department. Being a part of the “old boys club” means that she’s rarely taken seriously since she’s a female. She has to work twice as hard to prove herself, and she always volunteers to prank the Rookie, so the boys know that she can handle whatever they throw at her.

I knew that this story also had a romance component, but the way in which this romance unfolded was perfect because it wasn’t forced but importantly, it was completely relatable. Cassie previously avoided relationships at all costs due to the tragic events of her past and convinced herself that she preferred to be alone since love and relationships only made people weak. Watching Cassie slowly break down those barriers as the Rookie showed her how close minded those views were was incredible to behold.

I loved watching Cassie learn how to love again and forgive, not only those around her but herself. I also loved the new friendships that were formed and realizing that she doesn’t need to continue a life of isolation.

Overall, you just need to read this book because it truly is phenomenal. I can definitely say that this will be one of my favorite reads of 2019. It’s not just some mushy romance. There’s so many different layers and each of the characters adds so much depth to this story. I can’t wait to see what else Katherine Center comes up with!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.


  1. Great review Toya! I loved this one too! How to Walk Away was once of my favorite books last years and I cannot wait to read more by her!


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