Reviewed by: E
True heroes will do anything to protect the women they love…
As the newest recruit at Search and Protect, Raul has a lot to prove. Luckily, he’s got the best friend and partner a man could ask for: a highly trained, fiercely loyal German Shepherd Dog named Taz. Together, Raul and Taz make an unbeatable team. But their first mission in Hawaii really puts them to the test when an international kidnapping ring sets its sights on the bravest woman Raul’s ever met . . .
Mali knows her latest job has put one hell of a target on her back. And on this small island paradise, there’s nowhere to hide. With a service dog like Taz, Mali feels safe. Sharing close quarters with a smoldering muscle-for-hire like Raul, she feels something else – an unexpected wave of desire. Raul feels it too. But when the kidnappers make their move, he’s got to turn that slow-burning passion into hard-hitting action – and save the life of the woman he loves.
This blurb came from Goodreads
I might have a few weaknesses when it comes to things in books which make me more likely to read a contemporary and especially one which has a linkage to military organizations. They might happen to be working dogs, food, characterization, and an author who goes by Piper J. Drake. I have enjoyed reading all of her True Heroes books so far and I was extremely excited when I found out she signed a contract for more. What I wasn’t prepared for was the change in setting and the more insidious evil hidden under the trappings of a paradise Drake’s characters would tackle.
As a new member of Search and Protect, Raul was at the bottom of the list or top when it came to ensuring all the manual labor of caring for the working dogs health and living conditions as he tried to gain full acceptance to the group. He knew he had the skills and the dog but if he wasn’t able to mesh, despite knowing a current member, he was going to be job hunting again so when he answered the phone and had to make a choice between finishing his chores on Day 1 or meeting a terrified young woman, the sister of a teammate, it appeared like his new career was in jeopardy.
Mia struck me initially as a well meaning but sheltered and secure in her belief that no one would ever harm someone else who was trying to help others. In a way I felt sorry for her as she lost the foundations of her life but she also impressed me as she realized the gravity of the situation and did everything she could to help and not hinder. Watching her grow over the course of Total Bravery was extremely satisfying even as I could feel her frustration and worry about the situation with the kidnappers. Seeing her interact with Taz really emphasized how intelligent and observant working dogs are especially when they decide you are one of “their” people.
Like always I enjoyed Drake’s characterization. From the other members of Search and Protect and their dedication to each other to their “unusual sources”, and even the unspoken messages sent through food I found the supporting cast fully fleshed out and each capable of holding their own. There might be a few I am hoping find their way into lead roles as this series continues. Part of my characterization enjoyment was the spin on the not quite forbidden but possibly extremely messy trope of Falling for the Friend’s Younger Sister. Raul’s fear and worry about what Mia’s older sibling would do/say to him I found quite amusing and also rather accurate. As was Mia’s reaction to findng out what her older sibling actually did and how there was an entirely different side, never shown around family. While amusing, I found myself wondering a few days after I finished reading about the existance of a happy medium between work persona, especially in a high stakes profession, and home persona.
I appreciated how Drake took the time and attention to showcase what isn’t readily evident to most travelors on a dream vacation. The stark contrast between brilliant sandy beaches, decadent food, and frozen drinks with the fear and mistreatment of human trafficking victims all coexisting in close proximity really brought home the gravity of the situation and how easy it is to become unknowingly complicent. While this was evident, I was glad I never got the feeling vacationing in different places was something to avoid.
All in all I enjoyed reading Total Bravery. I thought it was a solid entry in the True Heroes line-up and I am curious to see if Drake continues her small paradise settings or goes back to a mainland. I liked the development of Mia and Raul’s relationship even as Raul and Taz found their place as team members and Mia adjusted to the shift in her view of her sibling’s profession. I do wish I could be a fly on the wall for any conversations they have with their still unwitting rest of the family.
I give Total Bravery a B