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Expected Release Date: Available Now!
Publisher: Penguin
Imprint: Signet
Author’s Website: http://www.catherineanderson.com
My Source for This Book: Amazon.com
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 10 Kendrick/Coulter/Harrigan Series
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone.
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb: Mandy Pajeck had a tough childhood. Now 28, she feels responsible for the accident that took her younger brother’s sight. But his complete reliance on her care is making them both miserable. When she meets handsome Zach Harrigan and his mini guide horse, she thinks she’s found the ticket to her brother’s happiness—and maybe her own.

 

It all started for me when I was poking around the other day on Catherine Anderson’s website and stumbled across the excerpt for this story (which can be found here for those interested). I had never heard of such a thing as “miniature guide horses”, and so after reading the excerpt, and performing a bit of Googlefu on the subject, I knew I had to read this one. What worked for me:

  • I adored Rosebud. As I mentioned, I’d never heard of miniature guide horses as service animals, and not only are they completely adorable (omg they’re tiny horses y’all!), but are also viable solutions for the many disabled individuals who for whatever reasons are not a good match to a dog.
  • I enjoyed not only the abused history of Mandy and her brother, Luke, but also enormous amount of both dysfunction and love in their relationship.
  • I also really enjoyed the subplot of Tornado, and the parallel between him and Mandy in regards to their relationships with Luke. Both had to slowly learn to trust and get past their preconceptions in order to get their happily ever after.
  • While this book worked quite well as a standalone, it was nice to see small updates on some of our favorite Coulters, Harrigans, and Kendricks.

What didn’t work for me:

  • As always, I’m not a fan of virgins in contemporary novels. They always feel unrealistic to me, and honestly Mandy was no exception. While this status certainly fit with Ms. Anderson’s characterization of Mandy, and the explanation given certainly sounded reasonable, I still find it hard to believe that an attractive, sweet, generous woman would remain a virgin until age 28.
  • I felt like Zach fell in love a wee bit too quickly. While I certainly felt the attraction and chemistry between them, he went straight from liking her as a person and being attracted to her physically to “I’m in love with you” much too quickly.  Granted, I tend to enjoy a “hero in pursuit” story, as I call them, but even so, this was a slight negative to me.
  • While it’s not necessarily “fair” for me to mention, since it refers to the entire series rather than this individual novel, but I admit that the severely abused heroines in Ms. Anderson’s books are starting to get a little old for me. Now, granted, I haven’t read the entire series, so I know that some of the characters have not been abused at all. However, it does seem to be a strong trend for her, and I really can’t decide if I love her work because of it, or in spite of it.
  • I also didn’t love the pacing once Zach and Mandy started a sexual relationship. Once they actually made love, there were many occasions where the “weeks went by” technique was used to move the action along, and that didn’t really appeal to me.

As with all of the Kendrick/Harrigan/Coulter novels, animals play a large part in the plot, so animal lovers will likely enjoy this one.  One thing I enjoy about Ms. Anderson’s novels, despite her penchant for horribly abusing her heroines, is the fact that animals are part of the family. She’s not shy about detailing all of the aspects of animal ownership, from the enjoyment of their company, all the way down to the often unfortunate smells.

In the end, I enjoyed this novel, but wasn’t completely blown away.  I thoroughly enjoyed the animals, as well as Mandy’s dysfunctional relationship with her brother, but was a bit put off by a few of Ms. Anderson’s “trends”.  However, to be fair, there were several twists that I hadn’t been expecting, and at least one occasion where I was actually surprised because I was expecting a certain cliche to result and quite the opposite happened.

Overall, a very solid read, recommended especially to animal lovers, readers who enjoy heroines with an abused past, and fans of heroes who want a more committed relationship than the heroine. 4/5 Stars