Review: Shelter Me by Catherine Mann

Author: Catherine Mann
Series: Second Chance Ranch #1
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Net Galley
Pages: 336
Reviewer: Elizabeth
Rating: 5 Stars
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From USA Today bestselling author Catherine Mann comes this beautiful, heartwarming novel about a returning military officer, the daughter of his fallen commander, and a very special dog with a mission. For fans of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery.

Nestled in the sunny fields of Tennessee lies the McDaniel family’s Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue. Two new arrivals are on their way, but only one is the four-legged kind.

Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski wants only one thing after he gets home from Iraq: to sleep in a king-sized bed with clean sheets. But first, he has to hand off his fallen commander’s dog, Trooper, to his family without handing off his heart to Sierra…

Sierra McDaniel needs a break. Her family life is crazy, and when she’s not mucking out kennels, she’s slogging through grad school. Sierra certainly doesn’t want another dog, especially one that reminds her of her father. And she definitely doesn’t want to see Mike with that charming smile of his…

But Trooper has a mission of his own. Before too long Mike is moving to the ranch to lend a hand—and hoping for his own second chance with Sierra.

Elizabeth's Thoughts
This book was nothing like I expected. I thought it was going to be a humorous, light contemporary to make me feel all warm and toasty inside. What I discovered was a heart-wrenching story of loss and the impact of that loss on a family.

Sierra McDaniel’s father was killed by a roadside bomb while deployed to the Middle East. Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski was under Sierra’s father’s command and made a promise to her father that if anything would happen to him, he would bring her father’s dog back to the family.

Mike thinks the dog will bring the family comfort, instead it symbolizes the husband/father/son who’s never coming back and it causes even more turmoil in an already fractured family. Mike also is afraid of facing Sierra again because he broke up with her before he was deployed knowing he wasn’t good enough for her. However, it doesn’t take long for their chemistry to ignite the fires of a burning passion that neither one of them can resist. Can Sierra and Mike pick up where they left off, or will Mike’s impending departure and self-doubt destroy their second chance at love?

Lacey, Sierra’s mother and matriarch of the family has been trying to hold everyone together, take care of her ailing father-in-law, try to understand her 15-year-old mad-at-the-world son and live her dream of running a pet rescue while still grieving for the husband she lost four months prior, is slowly falling apart. Watching her try to juggle everything and struggle to keep her family and her dream alive was heart-breaking. I admire her strength and I hope the author has a good man in store for her down the road because Heaven knows she deserves it.

This was a beautifully crafted story from start to finish. The characters were multifaceted and completely relatable. The pain, grief and struggles of this family were so raw and so realistic that you deeply empathized with each character. A lot of heart went into creating this book.

There were several points of view featured: Sierra and Mike’s and secondary characters Lacey and Dr. Ramon Vega, the sexy veterinarian. We are also treated to the point of view of Trooper the dog. Trooper is on a mission to heal the broken family that Sierra’s father left behind. I thought it was a little unusual at first to have a dog’s POV but it’s the vital glue that holds the story together with heart-breaking clarity.

I’ve never read Catherine Mann before and I am truly amazed at this deeply profound journey of a struggling family in desperate need of strength, courage and hope. In the Acknowledgments section at the beginning of the book, the author talks about pulling inspiration from her own life experiences and fears and you could definitely feel that; I am truly blown away by how emotionally raw my reading experience was. The emotions were tangible, almost like I experienced this as well. I am deeply humbled by the read and applaud the author for bringing to life this story and bringing attention to the families of the fallen soldiers who are left behind.

This is also a wonderful forum for pet rescue and adoption. I enjoyed learning about Lacey’s passion to save and foster animals and the heart-breaking decisions that needed to be made regarding unwanted pets. A lot of truths were brought to the light in the book and the pet rescue aspect was beautifully interwoven into the story, complimenting it so well.

This was an emotionally powerful read and I am looking forward to the next installment of the series. I’d like to thank Catherine Mann for writing Shelter Me. And to all the men and women in our armed services, and the supportive families left behind, thank you for your service and your sacrifice; it’s not just the soldiers who pay the price for our freedom, the families pay just as much, if not more. Thank you.

I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.

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