2, Healing Harts
T. J. Kline
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T. J. Kline's Healing Harts series continues as a soldier suffering from PTSD and a therapy dog trainer find that some scars can only be healed by love
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.
A great romance
Suffering from PTSD after returning from a war zone, Gage can't seem to get his act together enough to even feign a normal life. His brother Dylan has done his best, but he's at his wits' end when he finally convinces Gage to consider a therapy dog.
Julia knows all too well what Gage 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.
The Verdict: 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. Gage'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 Gage meet, it's clear his heart isn't in it, even if Julia certainly piques his interest. Gage, 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 Gage 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 Gage 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 Gage 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 Gage'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 Gage 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.
***FicCentral received this book from Harper Collins (via Edelweiss) for free in exchange for an honest review.
I couldn’t put this book down, and can’t wait for more.
I adore the concept of this series: animals used in therapeutic settings to help others regain pieces of the lives they once had, and T.J. Kline builds this world with stories that call to readers with heart and hope.
This is my first encounter with this series, and I was captured from the first moment. Julia Hart has realized first-hand just what a difference a therapy dog can make. A bad and dangerous end to a relationship nearly stole her life, and the constant reassurance of a dog by her side has restored her freedom and confidence in facing the outside world. When a new and unknown client arrives, everyone is on alert: the threat to Julia has them all a bit more protective than normal, but Dylan’s arrival instantly signaled a man who needed her help.
Dylan is at the end of his hope: nightmares and flashbacks from PTSD, with no real relief in the multiple therapies he has sought bring him, reluctantly and near pessimistically to Julia, his brother’s influence pushing him on. He’s difficult to not empathize with, his issues are clearly evident, and the depression they have caused have us meeting a man close to broken.
But not only does Julia see her ability to help him, but an attraction that won’t be denied. In fact, Julia is the first thing to brighten Dylan’s days in a long time. Palpable sparks bounce between them, strengthened by the work they do together with the dog, and the sharing of stories that happens. Julia freely shares her own personal experiences of the effects of her dog by her side, and when her ex is released from jail, the tension and danger bring Dylan and the man he used to be to the front as he is determined to protect her.
Complex and well-developed characters, a solid trajectory on their relationship, wonderful family interactions and plenty of secondary characters to enjoy, not to mention animals and this story just breezes by, leaving the reader feeling as if they know a bit more about PTSD, animal-centric therapies and the power of love. I couldn’t put this book down, and can’t wait for more.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.