Title: A Gentle Kind of Strength
Author: Kendall McKenna
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages/Word Count: 186 Pages
At a Glance: A Gentle Kind of Strength is an okay story that one would not expect from such a gifted author.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: A police K9 handler believes he’s lucky when a romance starts with the local veterinarian, but then his canine partner is injured in the line of duty.
Sergeant Ray Lerner is a veteran sheriff’s department K9 handler. Damien Federov is the veterinarian caring for Harley â€“ Ray’s canine partner. When taking a man as a lover, Ray’s always been confident. Around Damien, Ray becomes uncharacteristically shy and tongue-tied. When Damien begins their romance, Ray knows he’s lucky.
His obsession with a past tragedy blinds Ray to everything he has with Damien. When Harley is injured on duty, his life is in Damien’s hands. As Ray sits vigil, he has one final chance to allow Damien in all the way, or risk losing everything important, in a single night.
Review: Ray Lerner is a take-charge kind of guy. A former soldier who experienced both injury and loss on the battlefield, he now works with a K9 named Harley, who is more than just a dog—he is Ray’s partner, and his affection for the dog is great. However, Ray is also a bit of a loner of late and has lost interest in the dating scene. It seems that began shortly after meeting the veterinarian who would be handling Harley’s care some eighteen months earlier. Since then he has been mooning over Damien Federov from afar, and is still unable to determine if the good doctor is actually gay and receptive to dating. In fact, Ray tends to hide when he is around Damien, and is extremely frustrated that he cannot read the signs, if there are truly any, that Damien might be interested in him at all. It will take a near tragic event for Ray to really open up his heart and accept the fact that Damien wants him just as much as he wants the good doctor.
One of the things author Kendall McKenna excels at is creating solid relationships with her characters. She can create intimate scenarios that will steal your breath away with their heat factor and their sweet intimacy. While there are two lengthy such scenes in this novel, A Gentle Kind of Strength, something is decidedly lacking before and after those moments. Unfortunately, the same attention to detail did not extend beyond the bedroom in this story. Instead, we caught glimpses of Ray’s confusion and emotional wariness toward accepting the idea that Damien could actually be interested in him—despite the stellar sex. Also, the idea that time at war had left deep scars and not only physical ones seemed to be hinted at but never really fully explained beyond his losing someone dear to him during his last maneuver in active duty.
Sadly, this novel was unfinished. There was no apparent build in Damien and Ray’s relationship—but there was a great deal of missed cues and confusion as to whether they were actually involved as boyfriends or just friends with benefits. When an author spends a good bulk of the novel detailing intimate scenes with admittedly lush and nuanced prose, they must sacrifice something else along the way—in this case, it was relationship building and plot. This was a shallow story held together by two very erotic and well written bedroom scenes. Unfortunately, there needed to be more. Without the foundation for their loving one another, the idea that Damien and Ray could have a happy ever after was highly unrealistic and weak. With just a bit more attention to the everyday life that surrounds a burgeoning relationship, we could have had an incredible love story. Instead, we were left with little more than sex and a weak storyline that barely hung together.
Ultimately, A Gentle Kind of Strength is an okay story that one would not expect from such a gifted author. Kendall McKenna has an incredible array of past novels that are exceptional, and I encourage you to check them out.
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