Female. Married; children: two. Education: Earned B.A. (English), and M.S. (education).
Writer. Teacher in New York, retired 2004.
Five RT Book Club Reviewers Choice Awards, three Holt Medallions, two Desert Quill Awards, and a Gold Leaf Award.
"BAYVIEW HEIGHTS" SERIES
Cop of the Year, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1998.
Because It's Christmas, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1998.
Count on Me, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2001.
"AMERICA'S BRAVEST" SERIES
Feel the Heat, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1999.
The Man Who Loved Christmas, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1999.
Code of Honor, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2000.
The Fire Within, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2001.
"SERENITY HOUSE" TRILOGY SERIES
Practice Makes Perfect, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2002.
A Place to Belong, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2002.
Against the Odds, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2003.
The Father Factor, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1995.
A Suitable Bodyguard, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1996.
Michael's Family, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1997.
Just One Night, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1997.
Finally a Family, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2000.
A Christmas Legacy ("Riverbend" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 2000.
Caught Off Guard (novella; and online), Harlequin (New York, NY), 2002.
Promises to Keep, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Trust in Me, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Opposites Attract (novella; and online at www.eHarlequin.com), Harlequin (New York, NY), 2003.
After the Fire, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Unknown Twin, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2004.
On the Line, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to The Lipstick Chronicles: Book One (anthology), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003, and More Lipstick Chronicles: Book Two (anthology), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Kathryn Shay began her second career, as a writer, just ten years before retiring as a teacher in the New York state school system. Many of Shay's books are written as part of romance novel series, including one of her first, Cop of the Year, from her "Bayview Heights" series. In the novel Cassie Smith is a high school teacher of at-risk students in a small Long Island town, one of whom is picked up on suspicion of theft. The arresting officer, Mitch Lansing, becomes a volunteer in Cassie's classroom, but Cassie is uncomfortable with his presence because she experienced a difficult period during her own teen years. Mitch, a Vietnam veteran, has his own issues and does his job of showing the police as being kid-friendly, while not allowing himself to get close to any of them. A romance evolves, and Romance Reader reviewer Cathy Sova commented that although it is "satisfying, it's the secondary characters of the kids I remember most.… The teenage pregnancies, the gang involvement, the drug usage; all are a part of today's high school scene, but Shay makes this a story of hope, not despair."
The third story in the "Bayview Heights" series, Count on Me, is also about a caring woman, Zoe Caufield, who works with troubled teens. Kurt Lansing, a doctor who has returned to the town to set up a medical clinic for young people, is a kind man who is torn between his love for Zoe and his loyalty to his wife. Kurt's past behavior toward Zoe prevents her from trusting him completely with the students who have volunteered at the clinic. Romance Reader's Irene Williams found the teen characters to be "fascinating" and Zoe's friends equally so. "Their change of feelings through the book—from thinking Kurt is a worm to urging Zoe to forgive him—makes Kurt's redemption more believable."
Feel the Heat is the first book in Shay's "America's Bravest" series, set in fictional Rockford, New York, and loosely based on the Rochester, New York, fire department. Francey Cordaro is a thirty-year-old firefighter from a family of firefighters who suffers a broken arm while carrying a man from a burning building. Wealthy Alex Templeton goes to the hospital to thank his rescuer, expecting to find a male firefighter. Finding Francey, instead, Alex becomes entranced by her, but she at first wants nothing to do with him because she has dedicated her life to her work and because his status marks him as an outsider. Sova, in Romance Reader, wrote that "the characterizations of Alex and Francey could be fairly described as exquisite.… Francey is that girlfriend of yours whose smarts and fierce independence have caused her to turn her back on the whole dating scene. Alex is perfect as the guy who's weary of the pointless women who see him as a good catch but know nothing of the man underneath the suit."
In the sequel to Feel the Heat, The Man Who Loved Christmas, Francey's wedding brings together her firefighter friend Dylan O'Rourke and emergency medical techniques instructor Beth Winters, who are included in the wedding party. Beth had instructed Dylan when he was a recruit, and she has never approved of what she considers his foolhardy approach to firefighting. He considers her aloof and abrasive, but he does not know about her past and how this impacts her feelings. Sue Klock, in Romance Reader, pointed out that "Shay's years of teaching illuminate The Man Who Loved Christmas. Her research into the world of professional firefighters shows clearly. The outstanding feature of this book is the insight gained into the heads and hearts of recruits in a grueling training program for firefighters."
The firefighting theme continues in the third and fourth books of the series—Code of Honor and The Fire Within—both of which were reviewed by Romance Reader's Jean Mason. Mason called Shay "an immensely talented author who has succeeded in recreating the world of urban firefighters with impressive fidelity."
Another series is named for the group home for girls that provides the setting for the stories. In the first of the "Serenity House" trilogy series, Practice Makes Perfect, Paige Kendrick is a pediatrician who was one of the first residents of Serenity House and who gave up her baby for adoption. Ian Chandler is a doctor who has also experienced loss, and these two lonely people meet when he asks her to work at the inner city obstetrics and gynecology clinic he is establishing. Wendy Crutcher reviewed the novel for Romance Reader, writing that Shay "has literally created a whole town, full of interesting townspeople itching to have their own stories further explored.… The author has a real talent for writing about younger women from troubled circumstances, without succumbing to cliché."
Among Shay's stand-alone stories is Finally a Family, about a search-and-rescue helicopter unit. In A Christmas Legacy—a romance Shay wrote as part of the "Riverbend" series—a former resident of Riverbend returns to claim his inheritance and falls for Kate, the single mother of twin girls. In reviewing A Christmas Legacy, Romance Reader contributor Sova stated that "it takes a talented author to turn an arrogant jerk of a hero into someone not only likeable, but a man you'd root for."
In Romance Reader, Sova called Shay's first mainstream romantic suspense, Promises to Keep, "a gripping story that will haunt readers with its authenticity." The book offers two romances and a plot that pairs up high school principal Suzanna Quinn with Joe Stonehouse, who comes to the school as a counselor after a student's suicide, but who is, in reality, a Secret Service agent working undercover to investigate possible school shooters. His partner, twenty-six-year-old Luke, is a hothead who falls for his unsuspecting social studies teacher, and she for him, a romance that is complicated by the fact that he is passing for a nineteen-year-old senior. Booklist contributor Shelley Mosley wrote that "Shay does an admirable job with a difficult subject."
Trust in Me is about a group of troubled teens in 1983 Glen Oaks, New York, who call themselves "The Outlaws." Fast-forward twenty years to find that the leader, Linc Grayson, is a minister, still in love with his atheist high school sweetheart, Margo. Beth, another member, had married Danny, who later died in a NASCAR accident, and Tucker Quaid, who may have been responsible for the tragedy and who has gone on to become a star on the circuit, is asked to help revitalize the town. Other characters and inter-weaving storylines flesh out this novel. Mosley, in Booklist, concluded that "this powerful tale of redemption, friendship, trust, and forgiving shows once again that Shay knows how to pack an emotional wallop."
Shay told CA: "I was always a writer. In high school and college, I had planned to make it my career, but then I did my student teaching and fell in love with education. Still, I wrote during all those years. At forty, I decided to try my hand at writing a book. I love to read romance, so I chose that genre. Though it's been tough balancing two careers, this path has worked for me.
"Early on, my work was influenced greatly by Judith Guest, Judith McNaught, and LaVryl Spencer. They remain among my favorite authors.
"My writing process? Well, since I've had a full-time teaching job for my entire career as a writer, that's difficult to say. I would catch an hour, or even twenty minutes, where ever I could (including at swim meets, riding in the car, and during lunch hours) and do a scene. I used to outline everything, but now, even if I do, the characters seem to take over, and I veer greatly from the notes. Usually, I come up with an idea, then write a summary for the contract, then flesh it out scene by scene. Again, the book rarely stays true to the summary."
Reflecting on the most surprising thing that she has learned as a writer, Shay said, "That I don't often know what's going to happen next in a book. I'll be plugging along and all of a sudden, a character will do something unexpected, and I'll rant and rave about it. But I've learned to allow it to happen, because then the story is fresh, unpredictable, and more fun to read. It's scary, though, not knowing where you're going."
Shay concluded to CA, "Primarily, I hope my books entertain readers. Second, I hope they learn about the nature of men and women and kids, learn about how most people deserve second chances, and learn that life is not black and white."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2002, Shelley Mosley, review of Promises to Keep, p. 1935; February 1, 2003, Shelley Mosley, review of Trust in Me, p. 978; October 15, 2003, Shelley Mosley, review of After the Fire, p. 397.
Kathryn Shay Home Page,http://www.kathrynshay.com (June 12, 2004).
Romance Reader,http://www.theromancereader.com/ (January 24, 1998), Cathy Sova, review of Cop of the Year; (November 4, 1999), Cathy Sova, review of Feel the Heat; (December 6, 1999), Sue Klock, review of The Man Who Loved Christmas; (December 31, 1999), Jean Mason, review of Code of Honor; (April 21, 2000), Linda Mowery, review of Finally a Family; (December 10, 2000), Cathy Sova, review of A Christmas Legacy; (February 26, 2001), Irene Williams, review of Count on Me; (November 11, 2001), Jean Mason, review of The Fire Within; (June 28, 2002), Wendy Crutcher, review of Practice Makes Perfect; (July 27, 2002), Cathy Sova, review of Promises to Keep; (February 5, 2003), Jean Mason, review of Trust in Me.