I wasn't certain there was any point in reviewing Code of Honor, considering it was published eighteen years ago. (!) But hey, I did read it this year, and later learned it's still available on Amazon:
It's also up on Kindle, but I had the paperback edition sitting around. I first read romances around 1990, a few years before I started writing them, but all my life I've been picking up any book I could find about firefighters; this qualified both ways.
The paperback version.
Code of Honor is one of Harlequin's Superromances: Extra long stories with a bit more depth and more subplots to them. Fire Lieutenant Jake Scarlatta was stabbed in the back by his best friend, a fellow firefighter, and now has trust issues. Firefighter Chelsea Whitmore has been assigned to Jake's station, but she's now a pariah on the fire department after an affair with another firefighter led to disaster. Oh, and she now has trust issues.
Trust issues are a big deal in romances, especially when there's no other logical way to keep a couple apart. In this case Jake and Chelsea have something else: He's her supervisor. But even while fighting off their growing attraction Jake is a fair guy, and fights to give Chelsea every chance. The only problem is, she keeps making rookie mistakes ... mistakes she insists she isn't making. Sabotage? It appears someone at the station is less open minded than Jake is.
Female firefighters aren't as big a deal these days, but this was written about twenty years ago. To put it into perspective, the book came out less than twenty years after a lawsuit forced the hiring of the first female New York City firefighters; in the words of the old ad, you've come a long way, baby.
Overall Code of Honor is well done. Getting the casual reader up to speed on the fire service leads to some clunky writing here and there, especially early on, but the plotting and description is strong, as is the characterization. I had two major problems, the first of which was my own fault for not noticing: Code of Honor is part of a series, and not the first book in that series. As such, I had some confusion as characters dropped in who'd already been established in earlier works. The lesson? Always read them in order, kids.
The second problem will go unnoticed to most readers. Shay clearly did her research on the fire service, and she got a lot of stuff right. But sometimes, for the sake of plot, stuff happens that just wouldn't happen. In one example, a crew arriving on the third alarm--in other words, after several other crews are already at the scene--advance a hose from their truck toward a large building fire, then run out of water when the truck's tank runs dry. A dramatic problem, except it wouldn't happen: Assigned to the third alarm, they probably would have taken a hoseline from one of the already-arrived units. If not, they'd have established a water supply from a hydrant or water tanker before making an attack on a fire that big.
Realism in entertainment is a problem with every profession: It's why I don't watch most firefighting shows, and I'd bet most lawyers don't watch lawyer shows, either. But overall if you like romances, you'll like this one. (Romances have also come a long way, baby, but we all have our preferred genres.)