Where There’s Smoke
by Kristin Hardy
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1720, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0373-24720-6
The “Holiday Hearts” trilogy starts off with a wonderful love story between two people who have built barriers around their hearts to ease the pain of loss. Together they find ways to tear down those barriers in the midst of some tense firefighting action.

Sloane Hillyard lost her parents to a car accident, her grandparents to natural causes and then her brother in a fire. Mitch loved being a firefighter and Sloane is determined that he will not have died in vain. She develops an apparatus that would allow firefighters to use GPS technology when in a burning building and at the same time, be tracked to enable a rescue. She has convinced the City Councilman running for re-election and the brass in the fire department to let her field test it in a ladder company.

Ladder 67 is manned by Captain Nick Trask and his company of men: O’Hanlon, Knapp and the rookie Sorenson, to name a few. Nick is preparing for his promotional exam, hoping to be Regional Commander in the future. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a gorgeous redhead who thinks she has some new product that the council will purchase. He feels they are just giving it lip service until after the election. Sloane has worked hard on getting this test set up and when she convinces the brass to allow her to ride along on the shifts, she and Nick have no choice but to figure out how to balance a non-relationship relationship and their work.

Sloane and Nick create a combustible atmosphere from the start and it is amazing that the hoses don’t have to be turned on every time they come into contact with each other. Their romance is HOT. But Sloane has vowed it will be a short-term affair only and Nick isn’t sure he wants an entanglement either. Besides, he has relationship issues too, ever since his father died and his brother, Jacob and he have been estranged. His brother Gabe has always been the peacekeeper, but he is tired of being the go-between. Gabe and Jacob are introduced because they will soon have stories of their own.

The tension and excitement of fighting fires leaps from the pages. The danger is portrayed and seems very real to life. The camaraderie in the firehouse is built in well and the characters are well defined and truly add to the atmosphere of the tale. The author helps you to distinguish these men so you care for them as much as you care for Nick.

Sloane has to work through her feelings about her brother and figure out how Nick plays into her life. Nick’s family plays a nice role as does Sloane’s sister-in-law.

Sloane and Nick are good heroes. They have depth and are truly caring people. Both are driven by their careers and their pasts and respect the fact that the other may not see things the same way. There are a few misunderstandings thrown in but they actually enhance the story and the emotional commitment to the story. There is one point where Sloane seems a bit shrewish, but the author brings her out with her integrity intact.

If the other two Trask stories are as good, this will be a trilogy worth keeping. Where There’s Smoke is a good way to start your holiday reading.

--Shirley Lyons

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