Blog Tour (Book Review & Excerpt): One Careful Owner by Jane Harvey-Berrick



{BOOK REVIEW}
Title: One Careful Owner
Author: Jane Harvey-Berrick @jharveyberrick
Reviewer: Grace
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.25 stars

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Take me, all of me, broken and in pieces, or say to hell with me.”

WARNING!
This book will break your heart!
From the best-selling romance author of THE EDUCATION OF SEBASTIAN comes a sexy, heart-breaking and heart-warming story about one man and his dog. (Standalone)

Alex is lost and alone, with only his dog, Stan for company. He doesn’t expect kindness from anyone anymore, but sometimes hope can be found in the most unlikely places. He has a second chance at happiness, but there’s a dark side to Alex, and a reason that more than one person has called him crazy.
Single mother Dawn is doing just fine. Except that her ex- is a pain in the ass, her sister isn’t speaking to her, and her love life is on the endangered list.
At least her job as a veterinarian is going well. Until a crazy-looking guy arrives at her office accompanied by an aging dog with toothache. Or maybe Alex Winters isn’t so crazy after all, just … different.
Dawn realizes that she’s treated him the same way that all the gossips in town have treated her—people can be very cruel.

Contains scenes of an adult nature.

This is a standalone novel with no cliff-hanger.

A sweet but emotional journey for a single mother, and a man looking for a second chance at life.
This story tackles a number of weighty subjects:
Violence towards animals
Alcoholism
Cheating
Single parenting

With the cover of this book and the way it kicked off, I expected more sweet than emotional. Alex, and his dog Stan, meet Dawn for the first time, officially, when he brings in Stan to her veterinarian office, Petz Pets.  Things don’t hit off from the get-go, but Dawn’s patient and profession demeanor leaves the door open for possibilities.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of Alex.  As a reader, we know some of what he has been through prior to relocating to the small town in PA.  But he is more closed off and unwelcoming to anyone and everyone.  Ok, maybe not Stan, whom he loves to the core, but everyone else.  On top of his behavior, his stuttering around others makes him not open to talk.  So he’s a hard nut to crack.  However, Dawn finds a way to get him to slowly open up as he continually brings new animals to her place that have been injured.

Side note: one of my favorite parts of the story is getting Stan’s POV.  It was sweet, funny and honest. Plus, it showed how much he loved his owner, aka “his boss”.

I paused to stare up at the boss, my chocolate eyes sympathetic.  Maybe if he could lick his own balls, he’d be happier.

The relationship between Alex and Dawn was gradual, but never really takes off to a steady one due to a multitude of issues. (See my first paragraph).  At times, I wasn’t sure if they ever would get on the same page, and even considered Stella, Dawn’s sister, a better fit at times.  <= I’m shocking myself just typing that because initially reading this book, this will not be your first thought.

The bulk of this story seemed to be Alex trying to prove himself.
Prove to himself that he can survive alone.
Prove to Dawn he’s a good person.
Prove to her that he will be there for her and more importantly, her daughter, Katie.
Prove that he can do the right thing to save others (trying to be vague here without spoilers).

The ongoing animal injuries added an interesting layer to the story.  Not only do they have a history in how Stan became his dog, but they have a history with Alex and his recent major breakdown.  Added to that history is the mystery of who is harming the animals around his place and why, and the direction Alex wants his life to lead when tragedy strikes again.  I think I figured out the mystery injuried mid-way, but wasn’t sure where the story was heading with regards to the Cleveland issue (again, trying to be vague).  However, I can tell you that although it was hard to read some of the parts, I loved the direction the story led and the overall outcome.

Alex more than proves himself along the way.  Then it all rest on Dawn to decide her/there future.  And I’ll leave it at that.

“Take a chance on life and love.  We could be great.”

Once again, this author delivers an emotionally complex and compelling story.  She never lets me down.

– Grace

*An ARC was received for an honest review.

 

“I had a really nice time today, Alex. We both did.”
He nodded slowly, seeming to ponder my words.
“Nice. Nice?”
“You don’t like that word?”
His reply wasn’t acerbic, if anything, he sounded thoughtful.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of nice.”
I wondered if I should take his words as an opportunity to dig deeper, but he seemed more closed off now and a little sad, and I didn’t want to spoil such a lovely day.
“Nice is good,” I agreed evenly, and was happy when he forced a small smile. “Thank you—for everything.”
I leaned across to kiss him on the cheek, surprised by my own boldness. His eyes widened and he sucked in a quick breath.
Was the world still spinning or had time frozen as we sat there, creatures in the dark our only witnesses?
Is love a disease? An affliction? Or is it something catching? Can you catch love, can you hold it in your hands, can it be communicated like a plague? Or is it like an infectious laugh that makes your eyes water and your stomach hurt, even though the joke isn’t funny?
I’d begun to believe I was immune to love—the kind that exists between a man and a woman. Instead, I’d been gifted an ocean of love for my daughter. I thought perhaps that had filled me full, leaving no room for other love. Other loves.
My lips tingled from the roughness of his day-old stubble.
And is it love when you want someone’s smile as much as you want their body? When their laughter softens your words to a prayer?
My heart began to race.
Or is it sheer animal lust, a torrent of hormones assaulting your blood, heating you from the inside out?
He reached out to touch me, questions in his shadowed eyes as he cupped my cheek. I sighed and leaned into him, eyelids fluttering.
My mother always says it’s the softness of men that she loves most, because it’s at the center of them. Their outsides are hard with muscle; their bodies large, larger than hers—or mine—heavier, stronger. So when a man’s touch is soft, when his fingers drift across your skin like sunbeams, then you’re seeing into his soul.
I never understood. I never believed her.
Until now.
So gently, so very gently, he pressed his dry lips against mine, and I wrapped my arms around his neck, kissing him back.
He tasted of coffee, and he smelled like sunshine and pine forest.
Gentleness turned to want, and want turned to need, and I thought my mother was wrong. I wanted to feel the strength of his body surrounding me, on top of me. I wanted to feel his hardness against me, inside me. I was wearied by supporting the weight of my family alone. I wanted someone to carry me. For just a little while. A single moment.
The wooden arm of the chair pressed into my ribs as I leaned across, and I tried to ignore it. But Alex lifted me onto his lap, shocking a gasp out of me that ended with a soft laugh, because maybe he’d read my mind, because maybe he wanted the same things I did. And then we were kissing again. Again and again for the longest time, hesitance turning to urgency, and long languid kisses to heated mouths and hot sighs.
My fingers fumbled to find the hem of his shirt as I floundered my way down his chest, sliding my palms across warm skin that left shivers in their wake. I started pushing the material upward, and Alex leaned forward and dragged the shirt off, tossing it to the ground impatiently.
All day, I’d longed to touch, yearned to taste, feared to want. I was tired of caution, weary of wading through life alone. If this was just one night, I’d celebrate it forever, and if it was more … well, that was a bridge still to be crossed, a land waiting for discovery.
My hands swept down his back, reading his skin with my fingers as if sight didn’t exist, while we continued to kiss, tongues tasting, learning and teaching. I gripped his biceps, my fingers digging into the ridge of muscle, shuddering with pleasure as he cupped my breast with one hand, the other anchored behind my back to stop me from falling.
Too late.
I’d already fallen for Alex Winters, man of mystery, animal lover, gentle soul, wounded warrior in the battle of life. Or maybe that’s just life. We’re all survivors, one way or another.




 

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Jane is a writer of contemporary romance fiction, known for thoughtful stories, often touching on difficult subjects: disability (DANGEROUS TO KNOW & LOVE, SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM); mental illness (THE EDUCATION OF CAROLINE, SEMPER FI); life after prison (LIFERS); dyslexia (THE TRAVELING MAN, THE TRAVELING WOMAN).
She is also a campaigner for former military personnel to receive the support they need on leaving the services. She wrote the well-received play LATER, AFTER with former veteran Mike Speirs. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk1CyB8c0xA )
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