FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Harper Collins (via Edelweiss).
Series: Healing Harts #2
Publisher: Avon Impulse on June 2, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (Adult)
Julia Hart knows how much good she does training therapy dogs—it's what helped her overcome her own trials after a relationship turned unexpectedly violent. But moving beyond her mistakes meant trusting only her family with her heart.
Dylan, a former soldier, has run out of hope for recovery. Plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, he doubts anything will help him overcome his PTSD. When his brother convinces him to try one last time, he agrees to get a therapy dog.
Dylan didn't expect to find Julia or a chance for a "normal" future again. But when Julia's attacker is released from prison, Dylan and Julia will have to face the past together.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Suffering from PTSD after returning from a war zone, Dylan can’t seem to get his act together enough to even feign a normal life. His brother Gage has done his best, but he’s at his wits’ end when he finally convinces Dylan to consider a therapy dog.
Julia knows all too well what Dylan is going through. She may not have seen war the way he has, but she battles everyday with the aftermath of a traumatic incident in her past. But training dogs for a living has let her continue a life of relative freedom, and matching others with the dogs they need gives her focus. She just never expected her next client would be a match for her as well.
Julie has in many ways closed herself off from the world, and when we find out why she’s so skittish, it all makes perfect sense. Dylan’s PTSD may be more of what we’re used to, but Julia’s is just as real. And that connection is a big part of what makes this story so interesting.
When Julia and Dylan meet, it’s clear his heart isn’t in it, even if Julia certainly piques his interest. Dylan, it seems, has just given up, unable to believe he can ever lead a normal life. In much the same way, Julia isn’t leading a normal life. She pretends to, sure, but she’s not nearly as put together as she comes across. The fact that Julia lives with the same issues Dylan is trying to overcome adds a new dimension to the story. While it definitely gives him an excuse to step up and be the hero, it’s not just a plot device. It’s a more believable layer to the relationship that develops between them, and instead of simply being someone who understands PTSD from an academic and therapy standpoint, she’s someone who knows the feelings that go with it.
She gets over her hesitation to be with Dylan a lot faster than I expected. Then again, she’s absolutely right about the dog thing. If a dog isn’t threatened by someone, that someone probably isn’t a threat. Their story also takes a rather dramatic turn pretty quickly when someone from Julia’s past begins stalking and intimidating her, but Dylan is also sharp enough to recognize danger when he sees it. To be honest, I expected that Julia would do something stupid to put herself in danger, simply because that’s what romance novels general serve up. But when the critical moment came, I totally understood how she got there and why it was initially impossible to escape. But that’s when we see Dylan’s heart in full. While he’s developed some strong feelings, the situation brings everything to the forefront, making him face his own fears while challenging him to be the soldier he once was. It’s a very intriguing circle he makes, showing growth of his character in a different way than I’m used to.
While the subject matter is serious, and there’s definitely a heavy helping of drama and suspense, don’t let it fool you. Taking Heart is not dark and twisted, and even when things get heavy, there’s a real feeling of hope just around the corner. Julia and Dylan make for the perfect couple, truly understanding the path each other is on instead of just helping each other along, and it makes for a great romance.