Wednesday, September 21, 2022

TBR Challenge: Piper J. Drake - Extreme Honor

David Cruz is good at two things: war and training dogs. The ex-soldier's toughest case is Atlas, a Belgian Malinois whose handler died in combat. Nobody at Hope's Crossing kennel can break through the animal's grief. That is, until dog whisperer Evelyn Jones walks into the facility . . . and into Atlas's heart. David hates to admit that the curvy blonde's mesmerizing effect isn't limited to canines. But when Lyn's work with Atlas puts her in danger, David will do anything to protect her.
Lyn realizes that David's own battle scars make him uniquely qualified for his job as a trainer. Tough as nails yet gentle when it counts, he's gotten closer to Atlas than anyone else-and he's willing to put his hard-wired suspicion aside to let her do the same. But someone desperate enough to kill doesn't want Lyn working with Atlas. Now only teamwork, trust, and courage can save two troubled hearts and the dog who loves them both...

Comment: Since we are all so focused on our personal lives, it is a cliché indeed to say time flies, but that is precisely my thought every time a new TBR post is about to happen. For September, the theme is "animals", which is a novelty enough to make the hunt for a title fun. I confess I didn't have to think much this time, I simply chose a book I had my eye on already for this month, so perfect timing.

In this story we meet heroine Evelyn "Lyn" Jones as she is about to present her credentials so she can work with a military dog who came back without his handler. Lyn is a sort of "dog whisperer" and she hopes she can help the dog, but kennel partner David Cruz, ex military forces, isn't too keen on the idea, considering his goal is to protect the dogs he and his partners train. An experiment, however, makes him see Atlas, the hurt dog, clearly starts bonding with Lyn and he prefers to have her around than to see the dog suffer, but neither was counting on the fact Lyn is attacked even before she can reach the hotel room where she would be staying. When they realize the purpose was to stop Lyn from working with Atlas, something has to be done before they or the dog is attacked again...

The idea of this book sounded really interesting, I was particularly interested in knowing more about how kennels work, specifically where they train dogs for the military branches. I would read this even without the challenge prompt but this was quite a good timing. Added to this was the fact I have previously read stories where kennels or animals were important elements and, in general, when well done, this can work out pretty well in a novel.

To get this out of the way, the "animal" content, which is why this book was chosen, has enough plot attention to merit the label. Atlas, the dog, is also an important character on his own and the fact he is suffering from animal PTSD of sorts is quite an interesting theme. I think the fascination with this idea is, in part, the fact we do wish we could more obviously emotionally bond with animals. We do want to believe they like us and like to be around us, as we do around them. Although Atlas isn't treated as a pet, we clearly are given the impression his role is much more professional than the usual and that he and the main couple do become a little attached.

This part of the story is, indeed, well done and I did feel glad I was able to pick this one, I think it for the theme of the challenge, and even more so when Atlas also helps to save the day, etc.
Nevertheless, the story isn't only about the dog or how the dogs are treated and trained. Of course this is also a romance and at first I was quite excited because the first time David and Lyn meet sparks flew but they were placed in an antagonist position: David wasn't happy Lyn had showed up and he believed she would be just a unstable element in the whole thing but he changed his mind when Atlas seemed to want to be around her.

Had the story been about their relationship when both were wary of one another, while finding common ground in training military dogs - instead of, for instance, any other type of kennel or a rescue one - I probably would have enjoyed it more. I could envision how they would slowly get to know one another, how they would have to admit the other person was a lot more able than they thought and so on until we could trust their relationship was about more than just bonding over the dogs.

However, the writing style, despite quite objective and without too many unnecessary things, wasn't always very appealing. I don't think the author wrote this in the most compelling way, and some sentences felt boring, or didn't present the information in a way I'd feel was special. Even the character's backgrounds felt too simplified for the kind of issues they supposedly faced. Somehow the writing style made this story seem average when such specific details were said or a given for what was happening.

I agree with some readers, whose reviews I have read in the meantime, when they say the story could have had more depth or that the main characters could have been fleshed out better, that would have made their connection more believable too, especially if one considers the fact there were some external forces contributing to their difficulty in establishing a balanced relationship. I also struggled to really see how they were falling in love, things were written in a very correct but too bland manner.

As for the plot, there is obviously something going on with Atlas and how someone wants to get him, there is something shady as well when it comes to how Lyn keeps having a weird relationship with her step father, he seems to not care for her since she was a child but she still wants his blessing... I think there is plenty here to have turned this into a stronger story but to be fair, from a certain point on, I wasn't as devoted and was only eager to see how this story would end.

The story, overall, isn't bad, but I think the author could have done a better job. Right now, I don't feel that interested to keep reading the series.
Grade: 6/10


  1. Another dog cover! I've actually read this one, too :)
    I completely agree with your review, it read pretty dry and clinical to me. I still plan on reading the next in the series because I love that dogs are the connecting thread in this series but I'm not really in a hurry.

    1. Hi! I read your review :)
      Yes, this reads as lacking some excitement and romantic situations, which is a pity, considering what the plot is about...

  2. I'm glad there was enough of the kennel and training part in the story to make it matter (in my selection, there's very little, and what's there is very much an afterthought).

    One of the problems with series with an overarching plotline is that often some entries simply cannot stand on their own--which may work for fans who are following along, but can discourage a casual reader who tries them as a point of entry into the author's world. It is a hard needle to thread, indeed.

    Is the military aspect intrusive, or perhaps even key, to the romance?

    1. Hello!
      The kennel deals with dogs being ready to be part of the military but the men training them are all ex military, they aren't part of active duty anymore. However, the military content is quite constant: the guys who own the kennel were in it, they work with people in it, Lyn's step father is a military man... the connection is still quite strong but I feel the author didn't mesh all the other elements of her story well enough.