Third in a trilogy, following After the Fire and On the Line

After the Fire

Code of Honor

A Christmas Legacy

Cop of the Year

Count on Me

Feel the Heat

Finally a Family

The Fire Within

The Man Who
Loved Christmas

On the Line

Practice Makes Perfect

Promises to Keep

Trust in Me

 
Nothing More to Lose
by Kathryn Shay
(Berkley, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-425-20111-2
***
Check your cynicism and irony at the door if you want to enter Kathryn Shayís world of Troubled but Noble Men and the Women Who Dare to Love Them.† Her novels are earnest, melodramatic but highly readable.† Nothing More to Lose, the final book in the trilogy set in the fictional town of Hidden Cove, New York, introduces us to two typical specimens of Shayís special guys.† †

Tortured hero number one is Ian Woodward, who lost many of his fellow NYFD ďsmoke eatersĒ as well as the use of his legs in the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11.† Confined to a wheelchair, he has endured three years of painful rehabilitation and now has reluctantly agreed to teach at the Hidden Cove fire academy.† Bitter, angry and full of self-doubt, Ian fears he has little to offer able-bodied firefighters.† But his greatest challenge is a personal one.† Last year Broadway actress Lisel Loring and Ian developed a strong friendship when they became temporary condo neighbors in Hidden Cove, but when Lisel tried to deepen their relationship he cruelly turned her down and sent her running to back to New York City Ė for her own good of course.† Now Lisel has also returned to Hidden Cove, and she isnít going to give up easily this time. †

Tortured hero number two is Rick Ruscio, a former cop who had to quit the force when he confessed to sabotage that he was blackmailed into committing.† Even before that crime came to light, however, Rick was also haunted by memories of an illicit affair and inexcusable dereliction of duty that led to the death of innocent children.† Now a private security expert, his first job is to protect Lisel against an overly zealous fan who appears to be stalking her.† He is also required to perform community service at a local preschool, where he meets teacher Faith McPherson, whose sunny innocence makes Rick feel even more like a loser. †Faith quickly sets her sights on the handsome Latino, but Rick does everything he can to spurn her advances Ė for her own good, of course.† †

The stage is set for two stories of healing, redemption and love.† The romance between Ian and Lisel is the more successful of the two.† Although their relationship began in Shayís previous novel, On the Line, enough background is provided that the reader new to the trilogy wonít feel left out.† Ianís successful experience teaching at the Academy enables him to gradually realize that he is still a fireman, even if he can no longer participate in regular activities.† The return of his self-respect as well as the realization that he is more fortunate than some of his brethren who didnít make it out of The Twin Towers alive help him finally accept the love that Lisel has been yearning to give him.† Shay includes information about anti-terrorism strategies that is required knowledge for todayís firefighters, imbuing the story with generous helpings of patriotism and authenticity.† Liselís demanding, emotionally distant parents are a little over the top, but they serve as stark contrast to Ianís loving and supportive family. †

The novelís more problematic relationship is between Rick and Faith.† With an incarcerated father, alcoholic mother and troubled sister, Rick is already carrying quite a burden before Shay piles on the twin wrongdoings that destroyed his career.† He needs a big payoff in order for the redemption to work, but Shay inexplicably makes him the most inept bodyguard ever hired.† He is so busy agonizing over his relationship with the sweet but strong-willed Faith that he barely has any energy to devote to the woman he is supposedly protecting.† And Shay truly strained my credulity by establishing Faithís father, a minister, as Rickís biggest supporter.† I donít care how much you preach forgiveness and faith, no father in the world is going to hand off his daughter to a man with as much baggage as Rick.† Not only doesnít David McPherson mind, he practically urges Rick to go ahead and let Faith seduce him.† †

Shay knows how to tell a good story and engage the reader, although her habit of letting the plot unfold through awkwardly placed flashbacks can be frustrating.† Her characters look back and remember so frequently itís a wonder they donít bump into things as they move forward.† It is also problematic that the male characters think and speak in overly emotional and completely incongruous tones.† Theyíre firefighters and policemen, for goodness sake!† I just wanted them to go have a beer and watch a football game sometimes instead of endlessly commiserating with each other about their doomed love lives.† †

Oops, I guess my inner cynic has reared its ugly head.† I applaud Shay for writing books that are devoid of ditzy heroines and ridiculous plots.† She is creating a genre built around everyday heroes who regularly risk their lives, and thatís certainly admirable.† If you donít mind the melodrama and can resist the urge to roll your eyes as her male characters once again sacrifice nobly for the women they love, then you might be the target audience for her particular talents. †

--Susan Scribner


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