Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Club: After The Fire by Kathryn Shay

By: Aly Hackett --- with some help from Kara and Ronlyn

I started reading Kathyrn Shay’s Super Romance firefighter series back in 2000.  I immediately fell in love with her characters and knew that when she came out with After The Fire, that I would feel the same way.  She did not disappoint!

The Malvaso family siblings – Mitch, Jenn and Zach – have had their share of issues in life.  When a major fire happens, it makes all of them take a look at where they are in life and decide to make some changes.  Mitch wants to work harder at making his family work, Jenny wants a baby and wants her best friend Grady to “father” it and Zach wants to make up for all his past errors.

Mitch realizes that making his family work is going to be difficult for 2 reasons – 1.  His wife is a mean, spiteful bitch and 2.  His attraction to Megan Hale.  I really appreciated watching the relationship between Mitch and Megan grow.  Despite that everyone knows how horrible Mitch’s wife is and would understand if he had an affair with Megan, I give him – and Shay – credit for not going in that direction.  Although, yes, Mitch and Megan were emotionally connecting, they did their best to stay away from each other and keep things professional.

Jenn and Grady were pretty fabulous as well.  They embark on a journey that has so many possible pitfalls.  And of course poor tortured Zach!  He has done so much wrong but you know he wants to make it all right!

Shay writes characters in a way that draws you into them.  The family dynamic and the relationship between the siblings is wonderful.  I also think that the “family” nature of the members of the fire department just adds strength to the book.

I asked Kara and Ronlyn to share some quick thoughts on After the Fire and this is what they had to say…

Kara :  I loved that this was not your typical romance. There wasn't really a main couple who followed a romance formula to happiness. I loved the fact that 'family' seemed to be the main character, both the Malvaso's and the family of smoke eaters.  None of the members were perfect to be sure!
There was raw emotion, which brought tears to my eyes more than once, as well as lighter moments that made me smile.   I couldn't nail down a favorite character, although I'm VERY confident it wasn't Cynthia.

Ronlyn:  I LOVED when Megan went to the record store and chatted with Mitch's son re: his music and her reaction and support of his dream.  Such a small thing for her, but so huge for both Mitch and his son

His psycho ex wife...well, I'm none too fond of psycho exes at the moment. ;-)  But when his brother came clean about what happened and the whole misunderstanding re: that.  Very emotional.

And Megan's memories of her times at the camp with her father.

I laugh that Kara and I had the same reaction to the family element.  And in a way, so did Ronlyn by her reaction to Megan’s interaction with Mitch’s son, Bobby.  Kathryn Shay does such a marvelous job with these characters that you are invested and drawn in and you MUST know what happens next.

If you haven’t read After the Fire yet, you really must.  And then you need to grab On the Line and Nothing More to Lose.

Kathryn is at a conference but is going to try her best to pop in and say hi!

In honor of the Italian Malvaso's, here is a recipe :)

1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon dry milk powder
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup pizza sauce
4 ounces pepperoni sausage, chopped
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Place water, salt, bread flour, dry milk, sugar, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select Dough cycle.
After cycle ends, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface; shape into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet. In a small bowl, mix together chopped pepperoni and mozzarella. Spoon pizza sauce in a stripe down the center of dough lengthwise; add sausage and cheese filling. Make diagonal cuts 1 1/2 inches apart down each side, cutting within a 1/2 inch of the filling. Criss cross strips over filling, sealing with water. Brush top with melted butter.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 45 minutes.