Series: Hope #1
Published by Berkley on January 7th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Barnes & Noble
Thirty-two and finally setting up her veterinary practice in the town she once called home, Emma Burnett is on her own and loving it. Independent and driven, she's not letting any man get in the way of her dreams. Not again.That's fine with Luke McCormack. Divorced and hardly lacking in female company when he needs it, he's devoted to the only faithful companion in his life--his police dog. Still, there's something about Emma he can't shake.When a series of local break-ins leaves Emma vulnerable, she seeks help from the first man to spark her desire in years. And now they're giving each other something they thought they'd lost forever...hope
I was initially drawn to this book because of the cover. Gorgeous men and dogs? Sign me up immediately. My first impression of both Emma and Luke was wonderful, too. Emma is feeling a little insecure because she finished vet school a little later than most people and at 32 is just now setting up a practice. But she’s determined to make a go of it, and she’s thrilled to have bought the exact practice she wanted when the previous vet retired. She’s moving back to her hometown, and her family, who she really wants to reconnect with. We realize pretty quickly that Emma had an awful relationship at some point, but we don’t get a lot of details. But it obviously resulted in her losing touch with her family, and she’s thrilled to get back home and fix that.
I liked Luke, too. He was divorced, and it seemed like it was a fairly typical, albeit nasty, divorce. They got married, then discovered they wanted different things out of life. His ex, Becca, was portrayed as the totally at fault bitch in this situation, which I guess is to be expected since we only get Luke’s opinion. Becca moved out of the small town of Hope as soon as they split up, so she’s not here to give us her side.
Emma and Luke are both reluctant to get into any sort of relationship, so they both decide they’ll just have sex occasionally without it turning into anything more. Obviously, that’s not exactly how it goes. I became a little frustrated with both of them in the middle of the book. Emma’s past relationship was being alluded to often, but the blanks weren’t being filled in, and Luke was constantly looking longingly at families and thinking how much he wanted a wife and kids, then 2 paragraphs later thinking about how he never wanted to be in another relationship. Luke cannot have both of those things. He cannot continue his streak of nothing but one-night stands and also get a wife and family. Well, I guess technically he could, but that wouldn’t make him much of a romance novel hero, now, would it? There really wasn’t much movement from either of them in the middle, and as a result it dragged. They had sex (good sex), thought about how wonderful it was that neither wanted more from the other and how determined they each were to never have a relationship again, then went to work the next day and told anyone who asked that they were just friends. Lather, rinse, repeat. It got a little repetitive.
The end picked up for me, though. Luke, at least, started to realize that he and Emma both had issues they needed to work out and that they should work them out together.
They needed to start communicating with each other. He needed to tell her his fears about commitment, and she needed to rely on him a little more… “
Emma is so concerned with letting another man treat her the way her ex did that she would rather cut Luke loose than risk it. When her ex, Vaughn, shows up (because in these stories, the terrible ex is always Chekhov’s Gun no matter how long it’s been since our character has seen him or her) Luke tries to help her out, and she resents him for it. She wanted to prove to herself, and him to a lesser degree, that she was able to stand up to Vaughn and take care of herself. She thinks he didn’t give her a chance to do that, and she gets upset. Her friends point out how ridiculous that is, and they’re not wrong, but I could see where Emma was coming from. Vaughn had really messed with her head, and before she could fully move on, she needed to realize that she could handle him herself.
The dogs redeemed the story further for me, though. The dogs were great. Boomer, Luke’s police dog, was a German Shepherd, Daisy, Emma’s first dog was a yellow Lab, and Annie is an abandoned pit bull puppy someone brings to the clinic and Emma adopts. That action alone made me love Emma. She’s a sucker for these animals, and I absolutely get that. If my husband would let me, I’d have 100 dogs. I’d clean out the shelters. And Luke is so good with Boomer. The three dogs are really great additions to the story without turning into plot moppets. Every time Luke and Boomer were out on patrol, I read with my hand half-covering my eyes, dreading Boomer getting hurt.
There was quite a bit of sequel setup going on here, and I liked the story at least enough to read those. I don’t think this is a huge series, maybe only 2 or 3 more books so far, and I’d like to at least find out what’s going on with Emma’s sister, Molly, who is discussed quite a bit. Bottom Line: This is definitely a little sweeter than Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series, so if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, I’d recommend this one.