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 . . .
Atlas is an exceptionally trained Belgian Malinois who lost his handler in combat. Since the loss of his friend and partner, Atlas has shown little to no interest in participating in life. In fact, despite some very significant efforts, Atlas is wasting away as a result of his grief.
Evelyn Jones is an exceptionally trained dog trainer/handler who has been given the opportunity to work with Atlas. Atlas is not yet past his prime and the military is most interested in seeing him go back to work. Work won’t be possible if Evelyn can’t break through Atlas’s grief and encourage him to work again. From the moment she meets him, Atlas responds to Evelyn in a way no one has seen since he lost his partner. Atlas likes Evelyn and within just a few minutes of their meeting, the big dog is responding to the trainer.
David Cruz has an affinity with dogs and, given his own military background has a particular skill set qualifying him to work with military dogs like Atlas. David has worked with Atlas before but has had no luck in getting the grieving dog to respond to him. Though David isn’t thrilled about an outsider coming in to work with Atlas, even he has to admit, the woman’s got game. David is forced to recognize Atlas’s quick acknowledgement of Evelyn and her presence has a clear impact on the dog. In fact, within just a day or two, Atlas is hesitant to leave Evelyn’s side and is becoming far more active than he has been in months.
For a few brief moments, Evelyn and David both feel like Atlas’s situation is getting better. Unfortunately, it’s not. Oh, he is certainly responding to training but he also carries with him evidence of an ugly plot that not only got his handler killed but will also threaten the lives of man, many active duty men. The men running the plot are desperate to keep their plans well-hidden and that means tying up any and all loose ends that could expose them. Evelyn, David, and Atlas are all loose ends. Over the course of just a few days, Evelyn is attacked, David is damn-near run down, and the men they can find to talk to refuse to do so. Every near-miss makes David and Evelyn more determined to get to the bottom of the plot so they can not only be free and clear from the personal danger but also to understand what happened to Atlas’s former partner, and protect Atlas. Complicating the entire situation is the intense attraction between David and Evelyn; Evelyn wants to be closer to David while David struggles to remain a gentleman and not take advantage of a vulnerable woman. As their situation becomes more intense so does the attraction.
The Bottom Line: For a fist in a series book, Extreme Honor is a decent read. Drake has a lot of ground work to lay for the future of the series as well as telling Evelyn, David, and Atlas’s story. For the most part, everything comes together in a pleasing way. Though I liked David and Evelyn well enough, the star of the show for me is Atlas. Drake has done an excellent job of creating a real character with Atlas, one who feels and responds to loss and love just as intensely as his human counterparts. I became quite invested in Atlas and found myself rooting for him more than for David and Evelyn. I knew the humans would end up with an HEA but the dog, not so much. Overall, I can’t say I am over the moon about Extreme Honor but I also recognize it is the first in a series and that book isn’t always the strongest in a series. I read the excerpt from book two at the end of Extreme Honor and I will definitely be back for more. 🙂
Her heart rate had picked up, fluttering at the pulse point under his touch.
“Yeah?” The urge to slide has hands over more delicate areas grew and he couldn’t help running his thumb along the inside of her arm.
Awareness grew in her gaze and she bit her lip as she nodded.
He leaned toward her, focused on her plump lip caught under her teeth.
“What else do you like?”
She opened her mouth to answer but he didn’t plan to let her get a word out. Maybe later. He bent his head to capture her lips.
And seventy five pounds of fur jumped up on his side.
Lyn gasped. “Atlas!”
“Af.” Mindful of the dog’s injury, Cruz gave Atlas a gentle shove.
The dog dropped back to all fours, his tongue lolling. Looking from him to Lyn and back again, Atlas lay back down on his belly.
Jealous. Damn dog was jealous
Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award. Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.