Once again, award-winning author Kathryn Shay spins a very real story about the trials and triumphs of being a firefighter. Shay has written before about the brave men and women who work in this profession, and like her previous novels, After The Fire draws you into their world in an authentic way. These people are human, with problems and challenges of their own, yet they risk their lives daily for complete strangers. Kathryn Shay captures the courageous spirit of these people, while spinning an incredibly heartwarming tale about a family that changes in the aftermath of a fire.
Captain Mitch Malvaso is a member of the Rescue Squad with the Hidden Cove Fire Department where his sister, Jenny, and his brother, Zach, also work as firefighters. When all three of them are involved in fighting a huge fire at the Sinco Automotive warehouse, it affects them deeply. The Fire Department loses some of its members to the blaze, and the Malvaso firefighters all sustain injuries. After they all make it out alive, they make a pact to alter their lives for the better.
Six months later, Mitch and other members of the department are still dealing with the mental and emotional aftereffects of the horrific Sinco fire. For a long time, Mitch has known that his marriage was in trouble but has stayed for the sake of his children. His wife, Cynthia, neglects their two teenage children and has been emotionally abusive to them over the years. Mitch urges her to go for counseling to take one final stab at making their marriage work, but she refuses, and furthermore threatens to fight him for custody of the children if he leaves her.
Megan Hale is the newest detective with the Hidden Cove Police Department. She’s moved there to get away from the city and all its violent crimes after her father, a veteran police officer, is killed in the line of duty. After losing her husband, a fellow officer, in the line of duty four years before, Megan needs a fresh start. Hidden Cove also offers a chance to fulfill a dream of starting a summer camp for the orphaned children of firefighters and police officers. She has inherited some property in Hidden Cove from her father and decides it would be the perfect place to start such a camp.
Mitch and Megan first meet when she investigates possible drug involvement in a fire his company responds to and needs to get statements from Mitch and his men. He gets a little annoyed at the pushy detective, but before long he sees her as an attractive woman. But Mitch and Megan do not act on their growing feelings. Mitch is an honorable man trying to handle the growing problems with his children and the disintegration of his marriage. Megan’s husband cheated on her during their marriage, and she has no desire to be the “other woman.”
It becomes more of a problem when Megan approaches both the police and fire departments about the idea of her camp. As the idea surges past the dream stage and into the actual planning stages, Mitch and Megan draw closer as they work side-by-side on the project. Their love will never have a chance to grow unless they can find the courage to face their pasts and move forward into the unknown future.
While the main focus of the novel is on the growing relationship between Mitch and Megan, there are two other subplots that Shay skillfully weaves into the mix. Zach Malvaso is a changed man after the fire. He is determined to become a better father to his two children, while coming to grips with his unrequited feelings for his ex-wife.
Jenny Malvaso comes out of the Sinco fire knowing that she wants a baby, but she doesn’t want to take the chance on another failed marriage. She approaches her best friend and coworker, Grady O’Connor and asks for his help. The ever-growing and changing relationship between Jenny and Grady is, at times, more interesting then the main story.
Set against the backdrop of the busy and sometimes dangerous life of a firefighter, Shay creates a world filled with multi-dimensional people. Her characters have flaws and problems but deal with them the best way they can. Ultimately, they become better people even if life doesn’t quite turn out the way they have planned. After The Fire is an emotional and real account of what happens in the lives of these firefighters after a devastating fire. This is the first novel in a trilogy and if Shay runs true to form, the next installment in the series, On The Line, should be just as riveting.