Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237229-1
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Tyler Best is part of the Alpha Dog Training Program, run by a bunch of hot dudes who all look like models and movie stars, only to spend time mentoring troubled teens and delinquents by making them work with dogs, which are being trained to be part of the program’s efforts to strengthen the ties of military personnel and their community. Tyler’s speciality is last chance dogs – dogs that are marked to be put to sleep. He’d try to get through to them, and in doing so give them one more chance to go back into society, although each failure only reopens the wounds caused the loss of his dear military dog Rex. Rex was killed on duty just eight months earlier, you see.
Anyway, his latest venture to inspect a batch of marked-for-termination sees him bumping into Danielle Hill, a feisty take-no-prisoners volunteer at the pet shelter who refuses to let an adorable dog be written off by the temp vet in charge. He likes her a lot, as she is hot and sassy, but she is a single mom, and Tyler only messes with ladies who are out for a good time. Danielle used to hang out with bad boys, until one of them knocked her up and then washed his hands off her and the kid, and now she is determined to… I don’t know, remain single until the kid grows up and moves out, and then she’d drive that kid crazy by calling him up every few hours as she has no idea what to do with herself anymore, I guess.
That’s the thing about these two. They think in extremes, both of them determined to never – never! – hook up for one reason or another, maybe because it’s easier for the author to make them like this. But then again, this isn’t a romance as much as it is trauma porn, with the characters facing so many issues from within and without, that it’s possibly to be expected that there is not much room left in here for actual character or relationship development.
This is the saddest flaw of Hero of Mine, because Codi Gary’s strength is in creating believable chemistry and combustive sexual tension. And yet, her books can sometimes be overladen with too many boring angst-wangst stuff served up in an overdone-to-death-already manner, and this one is easily the most overloaded story from her so far. First, Dani’s kid needs to see a doctor, and then there is her overbearing mom, and then he has an old coot who is dying to tend to, there is a crazy kid causing trouble at the training program, here’s an accident, there’s an argument, and so forth. Even when these characters have some calm downtime, they aren’t doing romance – they are doing things to make a statement, such as lecturing kids to be less of a bully, respect women instead of slut shaming, and so forth. Fairly or not, reading this book gives me the impression that the author’s heart really wasn’t into the writing of it. Hence everything in this story seems designed to allow the author write about anything but the romance.
Quite the shame, really, as there are still some fun scenes here that have me believing that the author’s touch with chemistry, banter, and sexual tension is still there. It’s just that Hero of Mine has a pretty interesting premise, but the author then proceeded to bury anything fun about the story underneath a mountain of non-stop angst and soapbox moments.