Julie (jjmachshev)'s Reviews > Taking the Heat

Taking the Heat by Kathryn Shay
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Jun 14, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: queuemyreview, 2008-reads
Read in June, 2008

Reviewed for queuemyreview.com; book release May 2008

This is a very difficult review to write. “Taking the Heat” by Kathryn Shay was a heart-wrenching read. Shay has written a very gritty and powerful book about the difficulties people face every day when they are involved in relationships with our heroes: public officials, law enforcement, military, and firefighters. I almost hesitate to call it a romance, though it certainly does tell the story of two people coming together. But this is a view of the harsher side of the story, more realistic if you like. If you’re looking for hearts and flowers and a light read, this is definitely not the book for you.

There are so many emotions felt and portrayed in this tale. The fear felt by those who are left behind at home when our heroes are out risking their lives to fight a fire, protect a life, or defend our country. The exhaustion of being a single parent while they are gone, the resentment caused by missed holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, the dread of waiting for news when they are missing, the terror of late night phone calls and the agony of hospital waiting rooms when they are hurt. How can a relationship survive in these situations…especially when they occur over and over again? The sad fact is that the majority don’t. These professions have always had some of the highest divorce rates and that isn’t likely to change. It truly takes a very special kind of individual to be a hero, and one just as special to stay married to one. I’ve read a lot of romance over the years, and rarely have I seen these issues addressed as realistically as in this book.

I haven’t read Shay’s earlier novels about the O’Neil family and it isn’t necessary to do so to follow this story. Liam O’Neil is the quiet one. He married his high school sweetheart, had two sons, and worked in the family business. Three years ago, his wife died of ovarian cancer and he and his sons were devastated. His youngest, Mike, is still having difficulties adjusting and is undergoing therapy for depression.

Sophie is a firefighter. She and her brother were saved by firemen from a house fire that killed her mother and then virtually adopted by the firehouse crew where she now works. Her whole life revolves around her job and she doesn’t think she could ever do anything else. She’s had to fight hard both physically and mentally to be successful in such a male dominated profession that still harbors a few hardcore anti-women oppositionists.

The story follows these two who at first fight their attraction for each other. Liam and his sons need security and Sophie’s job certainly won’t provide that. The ups and downs of this relationship and the relationships of Liam’s brothers are stormy to say the least. One of his brothers is engaged to a Secret Service agent, his sister if married to the vice-president of the United States, and Sophie’s brother is currently serving in Iraq. Each of these situations causes difficulties for Liam and Sophie. Their relationship is on-again, off-again throughout most of the book because of this.

Did I enjoy this book? I don’t know if I can say enjoy is the right word. It sucked me in and I was riveted. I felt for each of the players as they struggled with all the uncertainties associated with falling and staying in love and the additional burdens of the lives of our heroes. As a military veteran who was and still is married to another veteran, this book hit a little too close to home for me. It reminded me of long separations, missed events, and constant worries. If you aren’t familiar with these things…you should bless whatever higher power you serve that you haven’t had to deal with them. If you are familiar with these things, this story may be a little too realistic for you. On the other hand, it may give you hope and courage to continue and hang on when things get tough. Either way, it’s a powerful story. “Taking the Heat” is a good title for Kathryn Shay’s novel. It has the heat of passion, the heat of the fires Sophie fights, and the heat that every relationship faces when the hard times come. Powerful and moving and just a little too true to life for me.
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