Rescue Me (Second Chance Ranch #2)
Detective AJ Parker left undercover work in Atlanta to join a small-town Tennessee police force, hoping for an easier workload and the solitude of his cabin. But the scars left by AJ’s previous work are more difficult to escape than he thought…
Mary Hannah Gallo works with the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue to train therapy dogs for traumatized patients. It isn’t easy, but her life is under control—until she meets the broodingly sensual AJ, who rattles her composure all the way to her toes.
After an assignment confiscating dogs from a backyard breeder reveals a dangerous drug operation, AJ must work with sexy perfectionist Mary Hannah to train an abused rescue dog—a dog now named Holly. While Holly proves to these two very different people that opposites can, in fact, attract, she also knows more than a few explosive secrets that could heal—or divide—the entire town.
Rating: 4.25 stars
For any great animal lover the ultimate romance is the story of love that includes the love of an animal or the love that can develop between two people through the connection of an animal and Catherine Mann captures that theme beautifully with her Second Chance Ranch series. I was a bit skeptical when first I read this series, mainly because I didn’t think it would really be focused on the relationship of the people and their relationships with the animals without anyone being under-represented, but I was glad to be proved wrong. The solid love story, the twists and turns in the plot and the emotional turbulence that Mann manages to work through is enough to make any romance and animal lover believe every word and emotion of the characters. From the lighthearted snippets from the POV of the animals to the heavy emotional baggage of two people that have lost all faith in humanity, Mann takes us on a true journey of healing and teaches that love can overcome anything and there truly are all kinds of love in this world. If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a rescue animal and seen the hope and love that they can share you will love this series guaranteed. I cannot wait to see whose story is next though I am certainly counting the pages until Lacey gets her HEA.
Rescue Me begins with a Christmas Eve rescue of a group of abused animals and the conflicts between one time (pun intended) lovers who are doing the rescuing. AJ and Mary Hannah have been dancing around their previous single “date” where Mary Hannah hid her identity for one night of wild passion that AJ was more than happy to give her. When she finds out that he is her new neighbor and now partner in recuse operations, she is appalled and has no idea how to handle her feelings except to push him away whenever they are near each other. But their family and friends keep throwing them together and they ultimately decide that being friends is easier than resisting being near each other; too bad “just friends” doesn’t seem to be something they can accomplish. When their time together becomes more and more intimate and heated, there might be no resisting the passion that draws them. But the truth of one of their most trusted friends is revealed and could drive a wedge between them once and for all, if they let it.
Mary Hannah and AJ were perfectly matched through the majority of this tale and even during their previous interactions. AJ is obviously a bit broken and dealing with the career that has brought darkness into his soul, but his attraction to Mary Hannah is a bright spot in his daily life and he is determined to find a way to keep it. Seeing him work through his emotional drama, while making friends with the traumatized dog he has taken into his home—and his heart—showed just how sweet he is under the macho exterior he presents to the world. His gentleness and stubbornness in dealing with both Mary Hannah and Holly showed that while he is a man who likes to have his way, he can be soft when needed and to me that makes the best hero. I was thrilled when he found a way to convince Mary Hannah to give them a chance and I knew that he would find a way to heal all three of them, but when his world began to crumble with a betrayal of his most trusted ally, I knew that as long as he trusted and turned to Mary Hannah to get through it everything would turn out well.
Mary Hannah on the other hand was frustrating at times, her determination to go it alone in all things and punish herself for a past mistake was sad. Her backstory was definitely sad and worth every minute of her drama, but she kept denying that she still needed healing, which for a counselor was surprising. She accepted her responsibility for past mistakes, but I don’t feel like she ever really forgave herself until she hooked up with AJ and he forced her to expose that raw nerve and really allow herself to heal. I loved seeing her interactions with her patients and it was obvious that she was invested in every one and she would help them heal come hell or high water, even though at times it hurt her to do so. When she finally allows herself to deal with the trauma of her past her truly passionate nature and the loving side she has hidden from men, including AJ, for so long is able to push forward and it is not surprising she falls in love with AJ quickly and easily.
Rescue Me was truly the perfect name for this novel, with all three of the main characters, Mary Hannah, AJ, and Holly, healing one another and finding love and trust again together. The entire premise of this series tugs at my heart, mainly because my family and I have always been the rescue house in our area, getting the broken and hurt animals to heal and rehabilitate, so I appreciate the trouble and heart it takes to do this. AJ is determined not to get attached to Holly, to just put in his required time to train her and move on, but truly, who could resist the sweetness in those dark and sweet eyes? And Holly is just as determined to help her new master find love with his perfect mate, Mary Hannah, even if she has to keep pushing them together. Once AJ wizens up and finds a way to convince Mary Hannah to give him a shot, the love blooms quickly and brighter than they ever thought. Mary Hannah has been broken for so long she never imagined all it would take to put her back together and heal her is the love of one sexy cop and the sweet dog he has taken on. The passion that brought them together so many months ago for that one night stand, simmers through the whole story and when they finally give in explodes to a fast boil. Seeing the side stories with Mary Hannah’s friends Lacey and Sierra was heart wrenching more often than not, but they all came out well on the other side and I am dying to see what next come for this little family. The unique inclusion of passages from the POV of Holly (and Trooper in the first book) make this author’s point in ways that just human POV never could and often heightens the suspense as dogs can so often see things coming long before we humans. I loved every second of this story and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story full of laughs, healing, and love with just a touch of danger and passion to keep things exciting. Catherine Mann remains a favorite author and Rescue Me will be one of my favorites for a while to come.
As my own personal blog is a good place to jump on the soapbox, I want to encourage everyone who reads this review and the story above to make a small donation, be it time or money, to your local animal shelter or rescue organization. If you need help finding a local shelter try any of the below links to donate.
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review. No compensation was provided.