Review – Ultimate Courage (True Heroes #2) by Piper J. Drake

Reviewed by: E


Retired Navy SEAL Alex Rojas is putting his life back together, one piece at a time. Being a single dad to his young daughter and working at Hope’s Crossing Kennels to help rehab a former guard dog, he struggles every day to control his PTSD. But when Elisa Hall shows up, on the run and way too cautious, she unleashes his every protective instinct.

Elisa’s past never stays in her rearview mirror for long, and she refuses to put anyone else in danger. But with Alex guarding her so fiercely yet looking at her so tenderly, she’s never felt safer . . . or more terrified that the secrets she keeps could put countless people in grave peril. The only way for both to fully escape their demons will take the ultimate act of courage: letting go and learning to trust each other.
This blurb came from Goodreads

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably noticed I tend to talk about my two kitties often but what you don’t know is that I have a huge love for most dogs. Eventually when I am all grown up and settled down I would enjoy having both species in mostly peaceful co-existence. There are a few breeds I like more then others and so far my hands down favorite has been German Shepherd Dogs (GSD). So when I found out Drake was writing a series featuring working dogs I was immediately intrigued. After reading January’s Extreme Honor, the first book in this series I knew I was in for a great set of stories. Ultimate Courage did not let me down and I think I enjoyed even more.

Alex was slowly putting his life back together after numerous missions as a Navy SEAL and now a single father. His attempts to handle his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and his love for his daughter kept him functioning to a certain extent but those coping mechanisms were no longer as effective. Then he encountered Elisa and under the guise of helping her, continued his healing. Elisa was running from a horrible situation. Her abusive ex-fiancé turned increasingly dangerous stalker kept tracking her down in a shorter time period each time she moved to a different location and Elisa was pushed to her limit. When Elisa returned some gear Alex’s daughter left in the ER she gained a job, a temporary place to live, and some friends who were on her side.

I really really enjoyed watching the slow burn and healing between Alex and Elisa. They were both so wounded and yet willing to care about others to the extent of sacrificing their own comfort to keep others safe. I liked watching Elisa come out of her shell and start to trust Alex, his co-owners, and their friends. I also liked how helping Elisa meant Alex had to interact with the world again and pay attention to the fine details of Elisa’s reactions and his own instincts. There is just something I love about watching a tough guy do his best to come across as gentle, coaxing, and non-threatening. Seeing Alex do that for Elisa and his daughter really made my heart melt.

Drake always creates an intriguing supporting cast and Utimate Courage was no exception. Several of the individuals introduced in Extreme Honor returned and some new characters joined the crew. I found the Dojo owners delightful in their mix of disciplined ability/aggression and calm soothing competence. I could very well see why they were a safe haven for people who needed a temporary sanctuary. I thought Alex’s daughter was delightful – slightly mature but given her family situation it made sense. She was a good foil for the adults and I think helped ensure Alex and Elisa didn’t hole up on the compound but were forced to continue to interact with the outside world. In addition to the human cast members, I really fell for Souze, the featured GSD.

Souze wasn’t extremely demonstrative but he was very aware of both Elisa and Alex and their smallest of indicators for emotional changes. It seemed like he decided he was willing to bond with them on a deeper level and not just obey. I enjoyed how he was multi-faceted and demonstrated the ability to scent alert, track, and monitor how Elisa and Alex were doing emotionally. He was a very dignified dog which I thought matched well with both Alex and Elisa because neither of them handled sudden quick movements or loud noises well.

One of the things, which I think really brought this story up a level for me was how Elisa and Alex weren’t instantly healed and back to what might be considered normal. They both made a lot of progress but seeing them get caught in an old pattern or take a step back helped them continue to remain fully-fleshed out characters. I didn’t necessarily enjoy seeing what happened then but if that particular scene had played out a different way I would have felt letdown from all of the previous character and world-building.

I didn’t want to stop reading Ultimate Courage. I thought the characters, storyline, and tension were just about perfect. I am looking forward to seeing how Alex and Elisa are doing as Drake continues this series. I also can’t wait to see what else is unraveled regarding a certain conspiracy and the role Hope’s Crossing Kennels plays.

I give Ultimate Courage an A.

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