I am pleased to participate in the blog tour for Forever Home by Elysia Whisler. This is the second book in the Dogwood County series that features Veterans and service dogs. Scroll down for my review, a Q&A with the author and an excerpt.
Forever Home (Dogwood County #2) by Elysia Whisler, Lisa Larsen (Narrator)
Expected publication: November 30th 2021 by MIRA, Harlequin Audio
About the Book: If home is where the heart is, Dogwood County may have just what Delaney Monroe needs.
Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.
Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.
Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in – both human and canine – helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.
Forever Home is the second book in the Dogwood County series, but it can be read as a standalone. Having said that, I really enjoyed Rescue You, the first in the series and definitely recommend it as well. In Forever Home, we meet several vets living in Dogwood County, see their struggles as well as how they support one another as they heal. The MC in this story is Delaney, a recently discharged marine. Delaney was raised by her father, a motorcycle head, and his buddies as her mother left when she was young. She loves riding and working on bikes and has dreamed of opening her own repair shop. Just before she musters out, her father dies and she inherits his vintage motorcycle that has been passed down by previous generations. She finds the perfect spot for her business, a store with apartment attached, buys it, and begins to set up her business. When she finds an abandoned pitbull pup in the shop, she turns to a pitbull rescue for help. It appears he used to belong to the previous owners of the shop and he keeps escaping the rescue to return to the only home he knows. Slow to trust, Delaney is determined to work with him and becomes his foster. She meets other vets at the local gym, Semper Fit, including a young woman she met while on active duty. Throw in a local police detective, also a vet, who is attracted to Delaney and you know there will be some sexual tension. When Delaney becomes a victim of some illegal acts (theft of her vintage motorcycle, theft of her dog, threats) the story heats up even more.
I really enjoyed this story. Delaney is a great character. She has not had an easy life, but a good one. After the death of her father, his friends (honorary uncles) step up to support her. She is smart, strong, caring yet vulnerable as well. She has no intention of getting involved with someone, but sometimes our emotions overrule our brains. Detective Sean Callahan is immediately attracted to Delaney and when he and his partner are assigned to the case of the motorcycle theft, he spends a lot more time and energy on the case than normal. He has some hidden talents that come to light and make him more attractive to Delaney. The romance moves at a good pace, dealing with both Delaney’s and Sean’s insecurities and doubts. Tabitha is a vet who is suffering from PTSD. She is also struggling with other issues and Delaney becomes a great support to her as well. The secondary characters are all wonderful and I hope they will continue to appear in other books. Of course, the bad guys, two seedy brothers, are also well written and boy did I dislike them, just as the author intended, I’m sure.
This is a well written and plotted story. There is some suspense and romance, but there is so much more to the story than it sounds. Ms. Whisler writes veterans with PTSD and/or physical impairments with empathy making them very realistic and relatable. She doesn’t give snap or easy solutions, but shows that support is needed for transitions to life after the military. I absolutely love the addition of The Canine Warriors, a local charity that trains service dogs for vets. There were several dogs in the book and they all play important roles. There are so many themes in this book, such as female business owners trying to survive in a male-dominated business, struggling with PTSD, support animals and people not understanding their roles, finding comfort with who you are, trusting again, forgiveness, abuse by superiors, bullying and more. I did a real/listen with this story and enjoyed both formats. Lisa Larsen is a new narrator to me, and I will not hesitate to listen to books she narrated in the future. Her tone, expression, pauses and emotions made it an enjoyable book to listen to. She did a good job with most of the voices, especially with Delaney’s making her character fit the story well. I definitely recommend this book, in either format. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book on request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.
About the Author: Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Virginia, in true military fashion. If she’s not writing she’s probably working out, coaching, or massaging at her CrossFit gym. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.
Q&A with Elysia Whisler
Q: This is the second book in a series? Do you have plans to write more books in this series?
A: Yes! “Becoming Family” is Book 3 in the Dogwood County series. It will be out in August of 2022. I have hopes for a couple more books in the series after that, too!
Q: What should the reader know if they have not read the first book in the series?
A: So far, the early readers think Forever Home does really well as a standalone if you have not read Book 1. The only thing I’d add, if you have not read Book 1, be prepared that I always have 3 points of view. Some traditional romance readers like to see the POV go between two love interests but I always have a third POV that typically sets up the next book. This third POV does not get as much space as the other two but just be prepared for it. I know it’s unusual but I’m okay with that.
Q: Where do you get your story ideas from?
A: My stories usually start with a single scene or idea that I build around. With Rescue You I worked around the idea of how everyone (human or animal, male or female) can be either the hero or the saved in life, depending on the situation. With Forever Home, I wanted a super strong female lead to match up for my detective character from Book 1. My teen daughter had just finished getting her motorcycle license and it hit me … my heroine was going to be a badass biker chick. We see so many guys on motorcycles in romance and the women are always on the back. I wanted a heroine who drove her own bike and a man strong enough to love that.
Q: Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing?
A: Mostly a pantster. I usually have a broad concept of the story, have a beginning and an end and usually a midpoint idea. Then I start writing and once I’ve got the opening (first 30-50) I’ll go back and outline a little more. Then write. Then outline. Etc.
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
A: I love to read horror, especially literary horror. I read everything — I don’t care about genre, only good storytelling and solid writing — but 75% of my TBR pile is horror/thriller/mystery.
Q: You grew up in the military and moved around quite a bit. Did you enjoy this? How do you think it has affected the stories you write?
A: Moving around was a mixed bag. I loved getting to travel and go to new places. I actually adored the traveling part — by plane, train, car. I made up stories in my head about being a fugitive running off to new lands. I’d spend a lot of plane/car time writing by hand. The hard part was getting to the new places and having to establish all new friendships and schools. I barely ever got to see extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). I never had that community of people I grew up with. That said, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I got to experience so many different lands, cultures, climates. Living in Alaska at a young age in particular instilled in me a great love for the natural world that I’m grateful for to this day. All of that informed my writing in a big way. There’s definitely something to be said for seeing the world, getting outside your bubble and having that experience. The best compliments I get are on my characters being complex and real and I credit that directly to all the moving around I did. When you’re always new you have to be quiet, pay attention, watch and understand. You learn a lot that way.