Heart of the Season by Julianna Douglas
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
"Heart of the Season" is the second book in the Loving Hearts series by a Goodreads friend of mine, full disclosure. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this novella outside of being friends with the author. I can't say what I loved more, the hero, Zachary, an Afghanistan US Marine war vet or his dog, Akilah. Well honestly, their relationship is at the heart of this story. Julianna is clearly an animal lover, and she understands the power of the human animal bond. How having a pet can add so much to one's life and save one both physically and emotionally. That foundation of this story is a very strong one, and built on top of it is a believable romance. While this has somewhat of a happy for now feel, I do believe in the love between Zach and Jeannie. I think they are soulmates and they have a strong bond that is friendship, mutual respect, and a meeting of minds and hearts, on top of sexual attraction.
I love that Zachary is truly a very gentle man. While he's a soldier and a warrior, he's also a sensitive person. And it's okay for men to be sensitive. It's nice to be able to see that vulnerability in a hero without it seeming to compromise his masculinity. I could appreciate Jeannie even more that she respected the gentle man that Zach was. I loved how the narrative shows why Zach is the man he is due to his being raised by his grandmother, a sweet, caring woman who loved him deeply and raised him with strong values. Seeing male characters who have been raised by strong female figures depicted in a positive way doesn't get old.
I won't even lie. This book made me cry several times. I am so in love with both Akilah and Zach, and their deep friendship. I do have a weakness for beta heroes and Zach with his scars and his disability definitely snuck into my heart from practically the first page of my Kindle as I read it. Akilah is a precious furry baby. I wanted to give her a hug. The thought of what those poor dogs go through on the frontlines is heartbreaking.I can definitely see why the soldiers fall in love with them and want to bring them home. A relationship forged under those conditions will stand the test of time.
I haven't talked much about Jeannie. In a work, she was a great heroine. She's a principled, warm, caring young woman who is putting her principles to action. Going to work in an animal shelter in Afghanistan is not for the faint of heart, especially for a young woman who comes from a privileged environment. I like that she is a deep person and has the ability to look deep. Her love for animals and people is very obvious and made me loved her more.
This book even has some good action scenes on the frontline. They were well-written and it's obvious that Julianna did her research. Kudos to her for bringing a situation to light where people and animals could use some help.
While I personally am not a big fan of happy for now endings, I think this one works pretty well. I hope that we get to see more of Zach and Jeannie's developing relationship, and definitely more of Akilah.
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.
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