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K-9 Defense
K-9 Alaska #1
BY Elizabeth Heiter

Harlequin
July 2020/ ISBN 9781335640864
Romantic Suspense

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

AMAZON

K-9 Defense by Elizabeth Heiter puts readers continuously on edge. The three main characters, Colter Hayes, Rebel, and Kensie Morgan, are engaging. The human characters, Colter and Kensie, are damaged and vulnerable, both suffering from survivor's guilt after losing their loved ones. Rebel, the canine-tracker dog, is protective and supportive of the main characters. Those who enjoy stories involving man's best friend get a bonus. There are two books in one with a story, Six Minutes to Midnight, by Elle James.

James' story has a female military handler working with Navy SEALs in Afghanistan to find a traitor in the midst.

K-9 Defense has Kensie Morgan putting her life on hold for the past fourteen years. She was supposed to watch her younger sister, Alanna, but could not stop someone from kidnapping her. Now a note has surfaced in the small town of Desparre Alaska, saying she is alive along with others. Everyone, the FBI included, thinks it's a hoax, but Kensie is unwilling to give up. Once there, she finds that injury retired Marine Military Policeman, Colter, and his combat tracker dog, Rebel, are living in the same town, and pleads for their help. Reluctantly he agrees, and their journey begins.

“I wrote Rebel as a special dog. Both she and her military handler, Colter, are injured retired. They help to heal each other over the course of the story. It is important to me to show the bond between man and his dog. Rebel also helped Kensie. Every time Kensie was upset, she would pet Rebel. It felt natural that this dog recognized how to help Colter with his PTSD and how to help Kensie with her sadness and struggles. She is a mixed breed of Malinois and German Shepherd. She has military in her blood and as part of her mindset."

It is more than a journey to find her sister, but also a journey for Colter and Kensie to regain their life back. Her life has been defined by that one moment when she lost her sister, while his life is defined in that one moment when Rebel's fast reflexes resulted in saving his life while his brothers in arms all died. Both realize that they must put aside the guilt and loss and decide to live again.

The author explained, "Colter is traumatized by what happened to his unit. I think he is a shell of the person he used to be and has refused to move forward. Because he is loyal to a fault, he feels he let his teammates down. There is a scene in the book that shows this loyalty when he knows he will re-injure his leg but does it anyway to save Rebel as they come under attack. Overall, Colter is serious, steady, supportive, but also a recluse. Kensie is also damaged. Like Colter, she has punished herself. She is determined, sassy, capable, and at times emotional."

The Alaska setting also plays a decisive role in the book. The harsh weather, the isolated location, and the impassable roads in winter all tied in to make the story more thrilling. It was a place to hide for Colter, while Kensie saw it as the last chance to find her sister. The elements of the Alaskan wilderness, the cold, snow, the terrain, and the unwelcoming neighbors made the task of finding Alanna seem unsurmountable.

“I used Alaska to have Colter hideout far away from his friends and family. There is a live and let live attitude there. Ever since I visited, I wanted to have the setting here. It is so beautiful and has animals, environment, weather, and how each area is so different. It has a reputation where people can come and disappear. Colter went there because he is running from his issues. I also knew it would be the perfect setting after I decided to write about a woman whose sister went missing as a child. Because each season in Alaska is so different, I could set each book in the series with a different time of year."

This suspenseful story features a strong female character and a caring hero. Adding a dog to the story makes all the characters come alive as readers see their emotional pain, fear, hope, and a desire to heal.

Reviewed 2020
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