August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.
As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work. The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.
They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.
Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?
*** Intended for a mature 18+ audience only. This book may contain triggers for some readers.
3.5 stars — OK, first things first, YAY to the author for putting the potential trigger warning! I don’t actually experience triggers, but I kind of thought that this one might have potential (it does deal with the difficult subject of war, ptsd, and suicide).
OK, so wanna hear the weird thing about this one? I LOVED so much of this book, but the one thing I was meh on? The romance. *rolls eyes* Like seriously, isn’t that odd? It’s kind of a romance book. It’s not the whole point, but it’s kind of a main point. *sigh* I was going to leave that til the end like I’ve been doing lately, but how about we just get it out of the way and end on a high note?
I 100% felt the lust and attraction between Olivia and August. I did. It made it a little frustrating that this ended up being a slow burn book, and that the author tended to rely heavily on the interruption to stop things from going in a physical direction (I can’t even tell you how many times they were about to kiss and someone/something interrupted them). I don’t mind that in general, but if it’s multiple times, I tend to start rolling my eyes. My problem was not in their physical chemistry, it was that I didn’t completely follow the development of their feelings and emotions. I got some of it, but these two were just so ridiculously damaged that they were just not healthy with each other. I mean, like I said to my husband, it was quite a bit of hate boinking (except I used a more colourful word that definitely won’t make it past the ‘zon’s approval process). I know some people really enjoy those kinds of angsty relationships, and I honestly actually got how it made sense in some ways, given what they’d been through in each of their pasts, but it just kind of leaves me feeling icky and unsatisfied. And it probably didn’t help that I didn’t understand the point where Olivia got fed up…it didn’t feel like it fit, I didn’t understand how she got to the end of her rope. Oh well, sometimes I am dense. And I *really* didn’t like how she handled the PTSD stuff with both August and Dalton. Honestly, I was a bit surprised how often she made really silly mistakes, and then the author would excuse it away as she should know better…but for realz people, SHE DOES THIS FOR A LIVING. She *should* know better. I didn’t buy being distracted by her feelings for August. It was just too much to watch her constantly putting herself in dangerous situations.
OK! Now onto the fun stuff!! Well, and heartbreak. But the good heartbreak. The elements that put this book up there for me are actually kind of diverse. I actually thought Olivia was hilarious and sassy and in general she had an amazingly tender heart. It’s kind of a strange mixture actually. But I just fell in love with the way she took in strays, from animals to humans. I loved the way she interacted with many of the strong secondary characters. She was wonderful with Bettina (though can I just say I’m never a fan of writing out 4 year old dialogue with the lisps included? Personal preference). I was pleasantly surprised with the way her relationship with Josiah progressed, and my heart ached in that storyline (though I will admit I read another review that mentioned some race issues, and in the end I agree with that reviewer, even though my little white reader self didn’t completely ferret that out on my own). I thought Josiah and Beau added to this full, hilarious household. And, being an animal lover, I ADORED Betty, Zora, and the bit we saw of Xena.
And while I never really felt like I got to know August quite as much, and particularly not until the second half, I loved a lot of what I got to see in his story. I felt for him with the Jude/Sav storyline. But where he really shone was in watching him with his dogs (either Havoc or Zora). I felt like I learned a LOT about Marine Working Dogs, and how that all works, and while heartbreaking at times, it was also fascinating and gave me EVEN MORE respect for both the animals and handlers.
So yeah. It’s weird when you like characters on their own, but when they don’t bring out the best in each other. Or at least not in my opinion. So, needless to say, this book left me feeling very mixed. The parts I loved I REALLY LOVED. But if I can’t connect on a romance in a romance book, well…I don’t know. It’s a bummer, at minimum.