Author: Shannon Stacey

One Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey

One Christmas Eve by Shannon StaceyOne Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey
Series: Cedar Street, #2
Published by Carina Press on 11th November 2019
Pages: 104
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two-stars

Zoe Randall is busy living her life as she damn well pleases. She’s back in her favorite town, her divorce in her rearview mirror, and living out her childhood dream of running a bookstore with her cousin. She has no interest in the uptight nerd who opened his boring-ass business next to her shop…until he complains about one of her sexy window displays.

Then it’s game on.

Preston Wheeler knows he takes life a little too seriously. But when the saucy bookseller next door starts pushing his buttons, he can feel that changing. Beautiful, vivacious Zoe challenges him in all the best ways, and soon he’s pushing her buttons right back: teasing and flirting all the way through the holiday season.

As Preston loosens up and Zoe is treated to the man behind the suit (particularly his forearms), she realizes she’s more interested than she cares to admit. And Preston comes to see the beauty—the absolute delight—in adding Zoe’s bright splashes of color to his once very black-and-white existence.

For a Christmas story (where has the year gone?!), this probably ticks all the boxes: festive, with the formulaic but well-paced story of a not-quite-enemies-to-lovers trope, and a HEA that follows after both protagonists resolve their own issues.

I’ve always liked Shannon Stacey’s writing, but somehow I didn’t exactly feel moved or get too deeply into both Preston and Zoe. The former is stoic and rather bland to be honest, as nice as he is while the latter seems to be uber-sassy and sensitive to the point of jumping at every perceived form of judgement (in some ways, it feels like over-compensation for her imagined shortcomings). Stacey does make the pairing work with her persuasive writing – I could sort of believe in them as the story went on – though for a novella, it felt somewhat forced and rushed, before it all skipped to a HEA a year later.

Again, it could just be down to me just not feeling the Christmassy vibe that’s laid out in the book, so take this with a pinch of salt, especially for those who are already in the mood.

two-stars

Flare up by Shannon Stacey

Flare up by Shannon StaceyFlare Up by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boston Fire #6
Published by Carina Press on 29th January 2019
Pages: 352
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two-stars

Nursing a broken heart while everybody around him seems to be drowning in happiness has Grant Cutter wondering whether staying with Engine 59—or even Boston Fire—is in his future. It’s tempting as hell to pack up what fits in his Jeep and hit the road. But then a 911 call brings the woman who shattered his heart back into his life, and he knows he won’t ever be able to fully leave her in his rearview mirror.

For a few months, Wren Everett had thought the nightmare of her past was behind her and she might live happily ever after with Grant. Until she got the phone call letting her know the time her ex had spent in jail for assault hadn’t cooled his temper or determination that she belonged with him. Cutting ties with Grant was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, but it was also the only way to keep him safe.

Now that Grant is back, he’s not letting Wren push him away again. And even with the trust issues between them, Wren dares to hope she and Grant might have a future together after all…if they’re willing to fight for it.

Shannon Stacey’s second-change romance trope begins with a character’s rather illogical stupidity—Wren leaving Grant because she’s afraid of hurting him as an ex hunts her down—is how ‘Flare Up’ begins. The backstory quickly unravels (Stacey doesn’t take too long in expounding this history after Wren walks away) and from there on, the story rolls on without too much angsty rehashing. Past Grant’s heartbreak and the bit where he gets justifiably angry, there’s still the hero-complex that insists on keeping Wren safe despite his better judgement.

For someone who moans that characters seldom talk it through like the adults they are, it’s easy to appreciate that Stacey doesn’t leave the unfinished business between Grant/Wren before the slight suspense and action kick in. I liked that they talked it out and laid all the cards on the table, and if the story’s a bit of a slow start with a lesson learned, who am I to argue?

Still, Grant/Wren’s actual getting back together—along with the time taken to get back their footing—was where it flagged and got staid for me, but maybe that’s because I’m the sort of reader who likes the first-time thrill more than the tentative steps back into vulnerability in a second-chance romance. In fact, I was looking forward to more firefighting action but instead stumbled into pages of Wren’s slow reintroduction to Grant’s circle of friends and their eventual coupledom.

The actual stalker-business sort of does pick up towards the end of the story, but the build is slow nonetheless, which never quite led up to anything more than a whimper of a climax when I’d been expecting a little more bang. In short, it’ll be a slow, pleasant read if you like more romance rather than suspense/firefighting, but sadly, this one turned out to be more of a miss than a hit for me.

two-stars

Under Control by Shannon Stacey

Under Control by Shannon StaceyUnder Control by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boston Fire, #5
Published by Carina Press on 28th August 2018
Pages: 384
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three-stars

When faced with the opportunity to change shifts while staying in the same house, veteran firefighter Derek Gilman jumps at the chance. His new schedule means not working Saturdays, which means more time to spend with his two kids. His divorce may have been amicable, but being a firefighter and a single dad is a lot to juggle. And when fate brings a gorgeous, wealthy woman into his life, he’s pretty sure he can’t handle more than he already is.

Olivia McGovern loves plans. She planned to start her own business and planned its growth. It’s earning her seven figures now, but her personal life simply doesn’t exist. Getting trapped in a broken elevator figures in exactly nowhere, and freaking out in front of a sexy firefighter definitely isn’t on the agenda. Especially not one with two kids and an ex.

What would have been a random incident with an attractive stranger becomes something more when a charity event brings them back together. They’re from different sides of the tracks, literally—with friends, family and careers to consider. But as Derek and Olivia are discovering, chemistry doesn’t allow for plans, and love doesn’t bother with logistics.

Since Shannon Stacey’s books deal with firefighters finding their better halves, it’s always a treat to find out who the unknown other half is in every book, as well as the very different story that Stacey tells for ever one of them.

For Derek Gilman, it’s corporate-highflyer Olivia McGovern who’s quite the opposite of his type, it seems, especially for a divorced man who’s caught up in his job and handling his 2 kids.

Past their first tension-filled encounter in a stalled elevator however, things past their second meeting fell into a bit of a lull for me despite their paths crossing repeatedly via mutual friends (the details of Olivia’s corporate career and the charity they were involved in didn’t interest me that much) as I impatiently waited for things to heat up between Olivia and Derek. And heat up they do, though gently and without any (unpleasant) surprises, even if I’d hoped for a bit more first-responder action.

The pluses here however, do outweigh the lull for me: the progressive, natural attraction between them, no clichéd evil ex running interference, no excessive denial of attraction or feelings; everyone generally behaves like the adults they are, working towards a happy home—all refreshing to read. Olivia’s fear of compromising her career plans with a relationship is her biggest worry; the fear of Olivia fitting into his domestic life is Derek’s, though the general lack of angst makes ‘Under Control’ an easy read without the overt strife that can sometimes accompany blended-family-type stories.

three-stars

Hot Response by Shannon Stacey

Hot Response by Shannon StaceyHot Response by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boston Fire #4
Published by Carina Press on April 24th 2018
Pages: 285
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four-stars

Gavin Boudreau lives for the job, but he also believes in “work hard, play harder.” As the youngest guy in Ladder 37, he figures he’s got plenty of time before settling down becomes a priority. Soft, pretty women who aren’t looking for promises are exactly his type, and he’s comfortable with that. Working with a gorgeous EMT isn’t going to change who he is.

The last thing Cait Tasker needs in her personal life is a firefighter whose challenges on-scene have been a thorn in her side from minute one. Her plate’s too full for a man anyway. Back in her childhood home to help her family cope with an unexpected tragedy, she’s got enough to handle without throwing a hot, testosterone-laden fireman into the mix.

As long days on the job lead to long nights together, Gavin and Cait will discover how far temptation can take them—and what happens when the one you thought was all wrong for you turns out to be the person you can’t live without.

Shannon Stacey’s firefighters are always fantastic entertainment but I think ‘Hot Response’ has so far, knocked this series out of the park as a firefighter and an EMT get off on the wrong foot due to a small series of unintended misunderstandings.

Gavin Boudreau and Cait Tasker didn’t seem like the kind of characters who would have worked out based on the blurb, but the story that Stacey tells turned out to be quite a different one. I never quite even got the idea that Gavin was only up for a good time, and that he tuned out to be an absolute prize—all about family, thoughtful and considerate—surprised me pleasantly, as much as how into the relationship with Cait when that finally took off. That their relationship was hampered by a large issue in Cait’s life was going to be a conflict that I saw coming from afar, though I was glad to see that resolved relatively quickly (though a little abruptly).

What stood out however, was the progression of their relationship; none of it felt forced nor boring, as I was engrossed in the day-to-day routines of them working as first responders and how their jobs intersected from time to time. The episodes with their own families did made me cringe at times, as were the very relatable struggles that both faced, particularly Cait’s, though I could understand Gavin’s own position on Cait’s reluctance to move on.

In any case, ‘Hot Response’ made a perfect weekend read for me: there was a comfortable mix of angst, action and banter and I loved reading about the interactions between the whole fire crew. My only tiny complaint is the rather abrupt resolution and end to the book, though it’s not something I should be nitpicking about because there’s clearly more of this beloved crew to come.

four-stars

Holiday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey

Holiday with a Twist by Shannon StaceyHoliday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey
Published by Carina Press on November 21st 2016
Pages: 104
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two-stars

After a messy breakup, Leigh Holloway is ready to start her life over. Until her parents put the family home on the market and call her back for one final, memory-making Christmas. The last thing she wants to do is deprive her mom of the perfect holiday, so she'll lie her way through the visit and worry about her future in the New Year. Too bad the only bar in town is owned by a guy she seriously wronged in high school.
Leigh's best friend broke Croy Dawson's heart, and Croy knows it was Leigh's fault. They've never liked each other, but Croy isn't cruel: he'd never turn away a pretty woman in need of some family-Christmas fortification. He doesn't expect her to drink just enough candy-cane martinis to tell him her secrets—and he definitely doesn't expect to get caught up in her holiday madness.
Despite the surprising love and laughter, Croy and Leigh can't escape the truth: he can't walk away from his family obligations and she has a life and career to reboot. But anything is possible if your holiday comes with a twist…

After years away, Leigh Holloway returns home to reconnect with family and somehow meets an old friend whom she’d lost years ago because of a thoughtless act. Croy Dawson, on the other hand, has never thought of Leigh in a romantic way at all until she returns and suddenly isn’t quite able to get enough of her.

At the risk of sounding like a cynical tosser, ‘Holiday with a Twist’ is probably what I’m starting to recognise as ‘happy holiday reading’ and as seasonal fiction, asks for more leeway because of the Christmas spirit for the suspension of disbelief. In essence, characters fall in love more easily and their readers, correspondingly, more inclined to believe it because of Christmas magic and the potential for new beginnings around the corner. There’s a HEA where things always work out and even if it’s more predictable than ever, it’s a novella for those who look actively for holiday fiction – and Shannon Stacey more than delivers.

two-stars

Fully Ignited by Shannon Stacey

Fully Ignited by Shannon StaceyFully Ignited by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boston Fire #3
Published by Carina Press on February 23rd 2016
Pages: 352
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three-stars

When Jamie Rutherford takes a temporary assignment as lieutenant of Boston Fire's Engine 59, she doesn't anticipate any problems. She's been in the fire service for a long time and, even though she's fairly new to Boston, she knows how to make any firehouse her home. What she's not prepared for is her reaction to firefighter Scott Kincaid. 
Scott is looking for a wife. It's been a fun ride as a single guy, but he's tired of being the third wheel, and nearly losing his brother-in-law finally made him realize just how much he wants a family of his own. When the new guy at the firehouse turns out to be a capable, confident and very attractive woman, his plan is completely derailed. 
Hooking up with a fellow firefighter has never been part of Jamie's plan, but she's tempted by Scott—even though getting involved with him could tarnish the reputation she's worked so hard for. And Scott can't stop thinking about Jamie, despite the fact that she's his superior and not sticking around. Chemistry can crush the best-laid plans, though, and while Jamie and Scott might not be each other's future…there's no resisting the right now.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the third installment of Shannon Stacey’s entertaining firefighting series, but Scott Kincaid’s story sounded like something I needed to get into from the very enticing blurb.

Sick of relationships that go nowhere, Scott decides that he finally wants what his friends have, except that the woman who barrels into his life isn’t what he’s expecting. Jamie Rutherford’s the unlikeliest choice for a man now looking to settle down, especially since she’s his lieutenant and several years his senior. Her assignment with his company is only temporary and that seems like the natural deadline they’ve got to put on their burgeoning relationship, which was more stress- and angst-free than I thought it would be.

But because of the relatively bump-free ride, the blow-up and the overreaction from both parties after a bad case felt particularly out of character and surprising to boot. The complications of having a fellow firefighter partner do come into play at the end, but it all seemed rather extreme and overly-emotional in contrast to how both the H/hr have been behaving for most of the book. I particularly didn’t appreciate Jamie’s cowardice that popped it head when it mattered most and her own obstinate insistence about putting only herself and her career first didn’t make her an ideal heroine I wanted to get behind. And because I’m a proponent that risk-taking should happen on both sides, having Scott grovel at her feet proved to be the last straw, when it seemed that it was only him who had to make all the concessions.

That being said, the great camaraderie between the guys kept me turning the pages – and may just be the book’s saving grace.

three-stars

Controlled Burn by Shannon Stacey

Controlled Burn by Shannon StaceyControlled Burn by Shannon Stacey
Series: Boston Fire #2
Published by Carina Press on November 24th 2015
Pages: 304
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three-stars

Rick Gullotti lives the good life. He fights fires, dates beautiful women—though none long enough so they cast wistful glances at jewelry stores—and has great friends. And thanks to helping out the elderly couple who own his building, his rent is low. But when concerns about their health lead him to contact their only son, his life starts getting away from him.
Jessica Broussard has no interest in leaving sunny San Diego or her cushy corner office for Boston, but her father—who happens to be her boss—dispatches her to deal with the grandparents she's never met. She's unprepared for the frigid winter, loving relatives who aren't the monsters she's been led to believe, and the hot, scruffy firefighter who lives upstairs.
At first, Jessica is determined to get back to her comfortable life as quickly as possible. All she has to do is talk her grandparents into selling their monstrosity of a house and moving to a retirement community. But she underestimates Rick's dedication—and his considerable charm. Nobody's taking advantage of his friends on his watch, even if that makes the tempting southern California girl with the long legs his adversary. Unfortunately for them both, the only thing more urgent than the matter at hand is their sizzling chemistry, and it's quickly becoming too strong to resist.

Rick Gullotti takes centre stage in this one, when his landlords’ granddaughter suddenly turns up from California to deal with the sudden medical emergency of the grandparents she’s never met. Finding a connection with her long-lost relatives, Jessica Broussard never expected that leaving Boston would be so difficult, especially when Rick starts to play a bigger than expected part during her stay.

It was Aiden’s and Lydia’s story that made me eager to see where Ms. Stacey intends to take the Boston Fire series. Like Aiden and Lydia, Rick and Jessica are believable characters that float through the pages of the book, and Ms. Stacey gives us yet another pair whose connection and shared chemistry are palpable. Light on the angst, avoiding the deep troughs and high peaks of emotional volatility, Controlled Burn is an easy read, but at times a boring one, with a rushed and very abrupt ending that seems to short-change the whole story.

three-stars