Sergeant Ray Lerner has a special relationship with Harley, the K9 who has his back, so when Harley’s physical comes up, Ray is on top of getting his dog checked out. Even if he’s also looking forward to seeing Dr. Federov. Eighteen months ago, Ray laid eyes on Damien and even though Damien has never shown interest in him, Ray has looked forward to these days at the vet, if only to talk to Damien for a little while.
When Damien shows up at the K9 Challenge, where Ray and Harley are reigning champions looking for their next big honor, Ray is surprised that the vet sticks to him like glue. Even more surprised when Damien asks him back to his place.
After weeks together, Ray and Damien face a crisis that threatens the relationship they’ve made. When things go south, Ray is forced to take a step back and examine who he is before he loses everything he loves.
A Gentle Kind of Strength is a step out of McKenna’s usual paranormal, badass, military realm—not to say that she’s not done contemporary before, but I’ll be honest in saying I prefer the paranormal. That’s no different here. While I liked this story, I felt like there were aspects that were missing, namely the relationship building between Ray and Damien.
Ray is the focus of this book, both his relationship with Harley and his budding relationship with Damien. Overall, the relationship with Harley won out for me. I like it for the fact that it was full and unconditional on both parts. Ray’s a focused guy who knows what he wants even if he doesn’t always know how to get it. His orientation is not in question, even if he doesn’t advertise. Damien doesn’t have the same constraints as Ray. He is who he is and he doesn’t hide it. His heart is huge and his patience is plentiful.
Individually, I love these guys. My problem lies with the lack of relationship building, as I said before. Once Ray and Damien finally get together, that’s all it seems to be. Every scene with them is in bed, minus the points leading up to them finding a bed. Ray reminisces about the weeks in between the scenes but we never really see any of that. So when they start talking about feelings, I found myself frustrated because I couldn’t see how they could get to that point with only sex to guide them.
The critical point in this story is fantastic though. Like I said, Harley is probably my favorite character here. He invokes a myriad of emotions, so to put him in danger was a smart move on the author’s part. The tension and internal conflict this point caused shapes who Ray and Damien are—in high-pressure moments and in the quiet private ones.
I really liked his book, even if I felt it could have used more on the relationship side.