Love is Girly, and It’s Not Her Thing: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE

No-Spoilers Book Review

Things You Save in a Fire

by Katherine Center

St. Martin’s Press (2019)
310 pages

This is the second book by Katherine Center that I’ve read in one day.

One day.

That’s how engaging, compelling, and funny it is. The first was The Bodyguard, which is equally awesome. (More about that in a future review.)

What I’m trying to say is, “Read. This. Book. Now.” Especially if you’ve lived through dark days. If you’ve ever had to choose between two impossible choices. If you’re a survivor.

“Center’s newest novel is a gem. Just read it, and thank me later.” – Jodi Picoult


An award-winning firefighter with a secret moves cross-country to help her ailing, estranged mother, and – against her best efforts – ends up risking it all: the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.


For every woman who has ever had to be brave.

And for the folks in the world who make a choice to be helpers.


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

Cassie Hanwell was born to handle emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at managing other people’s tragedies.

But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

Katherine Center’s novel is a heartfelt and healing tour de force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself. (Source: publisher) 

What’s Different

  • A meet-cute that involves duct tape
  • A no-nonsense hero who can hold her own against the men at the station. Nine one-hand pull ups in a row? Shoot a no-look free throw? No problem.
  • A love interest who treats the woman as an equal, or in this case, his superior. He’s a kind-hearted rookie (“Everything about his tall, broad, earnest demeanor shouted ‘helper’ ”) and she’s one of the best in her field. It’s a bit of the Katniss-Peeta dynamic from The Hunger Games.

What’s Awesome

  • The dynamic of respect and camaraderie between Cassie and Owen (a.k.a. Rookie).
  • The fraught relationship between Cassie and her artist mother, Diana, who left when Cassie was sixteen, and how it evolves.
  • The friendship between Diana and her neighbor, Josie, who formed a crochet club of two and who support each other through life’s tragedies and joys.

This Best-Selling Author’s Secret

Katherine Center drew from her own life for this story. She dated a “cute, funny, mischievous paramedic” after graduating from college, and then married him.

“All these years later, he’s now a history teacher, but he still volunteers as a firefighter/EMT. All to say, when I started writing a book about a firefighter, I knew exactly how much I didn’t know.

“So glad I found Gary Ludwig’s book on life in the fire service: Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Prayers. I was also lucky that so many firefighters were willing to let me visit their stations.” (source: from the Acknowledgements)

The author proves once again she has a gift for creating complex characters we enjoy rooting for, who struggle with vulnerability and allowing others to love them.

Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen

He wasn’t competing with me, either. He didn’t mind when I was better than him, and he seemed to love it when I was better than the other guys.

I just always had this feeling that he was rooting for me.

But I still needed him to hurry up and jam that needle into my vein.

“Just get it over with,” I said.

“Sticks are not my strong suit,” he said.

“Don’t overthink it,” I said.

He looked up then, trying to read me. Then he unwrapped a needle, pressed it to the vein he’d chosen, pushed it in–and spurted blood all over both of us and the room.

“Oh, shit,” he said, taking in the sight of all the blood–then he waved in his chair for a second before he collapsed and hit the floor.

“Rookie?” I said, peering down at him with the needle still in my arm.

Author Bio

Katherine Center is the New York Times bestselling author of laugh-and-cry novels about love and family. The film adaptation of The Lost Husband hit #1 on Netflix, and her books have made many best-of lists.

She has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and The Dallas Morning News calls her stories “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.”

Katherine gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy. She lives in Houston with her volunteer firefighter husband and two sweet kids.

Katherine Valdez loves to read and write about books. She laments the proliferation of reviews that give away too much of the plot.

Read no-spoilers book and movie reviews at and Receive posts directly to your inbox by typing your email address in the Follow box. Watch for the confirmation email to complete the process.

Say howdy to Katherine on Instagram @KatValdezWriter and at

One comment

  1. Sounds like a great read!

    Teresa R. Funke

    Author, Speaker, Arts & Community Catalyst

    Discover my new book, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, at and find me on Facebook , Linked In, Twitter , Instagram , and You Tube.

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