At this point in my romance reading journey, I have read a lot of military romance, particularly with K-9 companions. There is a certain formula, which I love, that goes along with these stories that makes them comfortably predictable. I open a military romance with a trusty dog companion, and I almost always know what I'm getting into. This book was different, and I think that's what made it so exciting for me...and earned it a 5-star rating early on while reading. I had no idea where this story was going to go! The characters were both wounded physically and mentally, and rather than having a clear "knight in shining armor" and "damsel in distress," you see the strength in both individuals. Not to mention the dog was an adorable jekyll and hyde - cute and fluffy one minute and an absolute terror the next. I thought it depicted the two distinct personas of working dogs really well, and it was very obvious to me that this author had done their homework.
There is one rule when you're in hiding after someone has tried to kill you - don't be seen. Of course, that's easier said than done when you're a stubborn secret service agent who is used to doing for himself. While trying to change a lightbulb, Markus York falls from a ladder, reopening the wounds he received from the attempt on his life. Discovered by his neighbor, Cassidy Morgan, he is convinced into going to the hospital and putting his undercover status at risk. That's when the troubles start. Cassidy has had a rough time of it as well, having been in a car accident one year ago that left her barely able to walk without the use of a cane. She knows what stubborn looks like, because she sees it in the mirror every day. Thankfully, that makes her perfectly qualified to give the snark right back to Marcus. What's a guy to do when his dog loves the woman, he gets warm and fuzzy in her presence, and, oh yes, now she has become a target for the bad guys too? Guess they'll be spending more time together. Let the games begin.
I adored both Cassidy and Markus from the first moment I met them. Cassidy is clearly a strong, independent woman who has been hurt both emotionally and physically by the events of the last year. Not only has she been convinced that her movement will forever be hindered by her injuries, but she's also been convinced that she isn't worth a man's time. Her confidence is on the floor, and she can't even bend down to pick it up without pain. Enter Markus, an extremely fit man who has been laid low by someone still out there, waiting to finish the job. Having been in the Marines, then working as a secret service agent, he is completely unused to not having anything to do. His dog, Ghost, is similarly bereft without a job. Cassidy is exactly who they need to lift their spirits, especially when Markus realizes that he can help her get well physically as she helps him do the same. This is a bit of a Grump/Sunshine couple, as Cassidy has a little more pep in her life than Markus, but given his childhood and subsequent years remaining separate from his family, I am not at all surprised that he has become a bit emotionally constipated (as my book friends like to say). There is also some mention of childhood abuse, so if that is a trigger for you, please be aware going in.
I definitely need to go back and read the other books in this series now! While I didn't feel I needed to read them to enjoy this book, we do meet characters from the previous books that make me want to read their stories. Looking forward to it!
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**