Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novella

Union firehouse is under consideration to be shut down by the Borough Council. Their only hope to convince the Council to keep them open is to make necessary repairs and upgrades around the firehouse. Lee Stanton is the new guy, after several months on the job and countless dangerous encounters with fires, but he still feels the pressure to do anything to help keep the Union fire station open. When all of the firemen are asked to come up with ideas to raise money for the improvements around the firehouse, Lee gets an idea while looking at his lover, fellow firefighter Dirk Krause who was waiting in only his fire pants, suspenders, and boots to take a shower after working a fire. The idea was to expand the usual chicken dinner into a “Chicken and Beefcake Dinner.” The firemen would serve a chicken dinner wearing only their fire pants with suspenders and boots.

Dirk’s reaction to Lee’s idea was not what he expected. Dirk convinced Lee that it would be a bad idea since most of the contributors were older and wouldn’t approve or enjoy those kinds of festivities. But when the meeting to discuss fundraiser ideas at the firehouse came about, there were no other ideas. Lee offered up his suggestion and to his surprise, most people were excited about it. Now, Lee has the task of planning a fundraiser that may very well save the firehouse but also ruin his relationship with Dirk. And after some uprising at a Council meeting, a poor turnout at the fundraiser may also end up costing Lee and Dirk their jobs.

Strengthened by Fire picks up several months after Andrew Grey’s Redemption by Fire left off. Lee Stanton and Dirk Krause are still in a growing relationship that has several bumps in the road along the way. I’ve enjoyed reading both of these books and getting to know these characters. The author does a great job keeping the characters consistent. Dirk is still a grouchy jerk at times, but he’s constantly trying to overcome that. I like that he still makes mistakes. Some of their arguments are over small things, but that makes him a little more human in my eyes. And even though he has a hard time saying he was wrong, he doesn’t let his pride consume him for too long before he apologizes. Lee is so patient and always willing to put others, especially Dirk, ahead of himself. This story expands on Lee’s character. He’s building a relationship with Dirk that can be exasperating and frustrating at times, but Lee always keeps a positive outlook because he does love Dirk.

There was really no mention of Dirk coming out of the closet in the few months between books but there is a scene where Dirk’s dad visits and he knows about Dirk’s relationship with Lee. After the first book, I was hoping for a little more action when it came to Dirk’s father. I would have really liked to know how he reacted when he found out about the relationship. Hopefully, if there is another book planned in this series that involves these two as the main characters, Dirk’s relationship with his father will carry more focus.

One of the things I like about Andrew Grey’s stories is how they all sort of interweave. Some of his books have only places in common, but most of them have cameos by characters from other books and series. In Strengthened by Fire, Billy, Darryl, and Peter from the Taste of Love series make a few visits to the By Fire series. Even if you haven’t read his other books and other series, you get an introduction to characters that may make you interested in reading other works by this author.

When I read the first book, I said I would have liked to get Lee’s perspective as well as Dirk’s. Strengthened by Fire is written in the third person point of view of Lee. I liked “getting to know” Lee throughout this book. As a reader, I felt that I already knew Dirk’s personality from the first book so I don’t have any complaints about not getting his perspective in this one. But I’m glad to finally get a look at the mind of Lee.  I did find Lee a little less interesting than Dirk, but I think that’s only because Dirk’s sarcasm and general jerk qualities made me laugh. Lee’s character was well thought out , sweet, and determined. He was always willing to help out and willing to go the extra mile when needed.

Strengthened by Fire is another sweet story for Lee and Dirk and another step up in their relationship. We see the growth of their trust and of their relationship in general in this book. What I enjoyed about the storyline of this book was that it was very believable. The fundraiser is something that I could actually see myself attending. The characters are still flawed and imperfect but truly loveable. It was a great story.

I recommend Strengthened by Fire to anyone who likes a truly believable relationship, complete with petty squabbles and imperfect characters but a growing love. Also to anyone who cares to picture half-naked firefighters serving dinner, this may be the book for you.

Cover: This cover by Reese Dante again shows the characters, perfectly chosen to fit the author’s description, amidst flames that can either represent a literal fire or the fire burning between Lee and Dirk. It’s a great cover.

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