I loved Shannon Stacey’s Kawalski Family series but couldn’t get into her last Contemporary series, Boys of Fall, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I requested Heat Exchange for review (how could I resist that cover?). I am happy to report that I loved this book! Great characters, a realistic plot and an interesting setting made Heat Exchange a book that I couldn’t put down.
Lydia Kincaid was born and raised in a Boston firefighter family – her father and brother are/were firefighters, she married (and divorced) a Boston firefighter, and her family bar caters to locals and firefighters. Her marriage was a disaster – he was a philandering jerk, and her family wasn’t very supportive of her divorce or her subsequent move to Concord – not too far but far enough to get away. The brotherhood of the Boston FD can be overwhelming, and Lydia was feeling smothered and brushed aside.
Aidan Hunt met Lydia’s father, Tommy, when he was eleven and his family had been in a car accident. Tommy made such an impression on young Aiden that eventually Aiden decided that he wanted to be a firefighter too, much to the chagrin of his family. Lydia’s father and brother embraced Aidan like he was their own family, and he respects Tommy more than his own father. He loves being able to help people, and the brotherhood of the Boston FD is the life he’s always wanted.
When Lydia’s sister Ashley calls with the news that she’s leaving her husband (another firefighter), Lydia comes back to Boston to help tend the family bar so that Ashley can have some time away from the firefighters and the gossip. Neither Lydia nor Aiden expects the sparks that fly when he walks in to the bar and sees her behind it. They know they shouldn’t act on it – He’s her brother’s best friend! She doesn’t date firefighters! – but the attraction is too strong to fight.
As I mentioned above in the PJV Quickie, I absolutely love Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series (of Doom!) and devoured each book as soon as it came out. But then I couldn’t get into her next contemporary series, Boys of Fall, so I was a little nervous about starting Heat Exchange. As it turns out, I really loved Heat Exchange – I was pulled into the story quickly and from there I was IN the story: Ms. Stacey’s writing gave a great sense of place and presence, if that makes sense. You get a great sense of how strong the firefighter’s bonds are, and Lydia’s feelings of chafing at those bonds comes across loud and clear. Her experiences with her ex-husband and her father’s misogynistic attitude towards women and his views on their role as support for the men left me feeling as frustrated and conflicted as Lydia was about her relationship with Aidan. She had legitimate reasons for not wanting to get involved, but Aidan was a really great guy and I wanted an HEA for them. Aidan’s feelings about hiding their relationship from his his best friend and his coworkers (“brothers”) are also authentic, and his guilt and frustration war with his attraction to Lydia.
I also liked the secondary story of Lydia’s sister, Ashley, and Ashley’s marriage to Danny. As they try to work through their crumbling marriage, I found my attention did not wander when the focus shifted to Ashley and Danny. Their storyline was not just a plot device but an interesting example of the importance of communication.
Lest you think this story is all gloom and frustration, Shannon Stacey has a great sense of humor and it flows naturally throughout the story. Heat Exchange is exactly what I want when I’m in the mood for a Contemporary Romance – attraction, humor, conflict, real issues and believable characters. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, Controlled Burn.
Lydia Kincaid's shipping back to Boston, but she's not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother's a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother's handsome friend Aidan.
Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He's had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it's her. Aside from being his mentor's daughter, she's his best friend's sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can't uncross.
As Aidan and Lydia's flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter's wife was the hardest thing she's ever done, and she doesn't know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can't imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he'll have to decide who's first in his heart.