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.
Very emotional story of love and healing, both human and canine. The book starts from the viewpoint of a rescued boxer dog. It begins as she is describing what her life has been like up to that point, and what had kept her from total despair. I loved her take on human television shows, and the way she enjoyed them. The rescue, from her viewpoint, was both wonderful and terrifying. The descriptions of her feelings, from cabin to shelter to ranch to her forever home were so vivid that I almost felt like I was there with her.
AJ is a new addition to the Cooksburg police force. He left his job as an undercover narcotics detective in Atlanta after a really tough assignment where he also got involved with a woman and child. When things went bad he knew he had to get away, so he accepted his cousin's offer to join the force there. He feels like he's settling in well and adjusting to his new life.
Mary Hannah works with the Second Chance rescue group as part of her job as a counselor. She trains therapy dogs as well as working with abused animals. Everything she does is a way for her to atone for the mistakes she made in the past; mistakes that ended her marriage and caused her to miscarry her baby. Mary Hannah keeps pretty tight control over her life, except for one night a few months earlier. After a really bad day, a stop at a bar had her hooking up with a really hot guy for a little comfort, someone she never expected to see again. Imagine her shock and dismay to discover that he's a new cop on the force and her next door neighbor.
They are brought together again by the raid on a dog breeder's house that also turns out to be a meth house. AJ is there to make the arrest, and Mary Hannah is with the rescue group who is taking care of the dogs. Both of them are drawn to the female boxer that is one of the rescues. When AJ is told by his boss that he's still too emotionally close to the edge, he assigns AJ to work with Mary Hannah and Holly to train the dog for therapy work. Though reluctant at first, AJ soon sees it as a chance to get closer to Mary Hannah.
The attraction between them is still very strong. Working with the dog gives them time to really get to know each other and their feelings continue to grow. Then the day comes that Mary Hannah finds out what happened to AJ at his last job and she realizes that she can never be the right person for him. She says that she is the arsonist to his fireman and that there is no future for them. I understood AJ's reaction, though I had hoped for better. Fortunately, they have to continue to work together, with Holly, who seems to see what they need more clearly than they do. I loved seeing how their ability to forgive each other helps them forgive themselves and finally open up their hearts to the risks of love.
There are some sad yet heartwarming moments as Holly bonds with AJ and Mary Hannah. Her initial caution about even getting close made me want to cry. I loved seeing her settle into AJ's house with him, and her slow release of her fears. Her actions with the tv remote that began her real bonding with him was adorable, and I loved his reaction. I really enjoyed Holly's opinions about what was going on between her humans, and her determination to bring them together. Thanks to an unexpected twist, Holly plays a big part in shutting down the drug operation that kept her captive.
There is a secondary story between Lacey McDaniel (Shelter Me), owner of the Second Chance Ranch, and AJ's cousin Wyatt. Lacey and Wyatt have been dating for the past year and Wyatt is beginning to push for more. Lacey isn't sure what she wants, as she is still recovering from her husband's death. She also has a lot going on with the rescue, her teenage son, father-in-law with Alzheimer's, and visiting daughter and son-in-law. There is an added complication that has added stress to her decision, but in the end she listens to her heart.
I can't wait to read the next book and hope that it comes out soon.