Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2021
Willow Goes On The Run, Hiding Bruce From An Illegal Black Market Ring. Grady & Willow's Story Is Action-Packed With Silly Humor, Danger, And A Dose Of Steam In A Small Town Setting. Don’t Forget To Download The Free Bonus Epilogue!
This is a Knights of Dallas book, a small town romance set in Dallas, North Dakota. Dallas is home to harsh winters and unpredictable weather. It is home to a beloved old horse named Edison, a crazed rooster named Cornelius, a wise Tibetan Mastiff named Owl, and an aggressive goat named Hellboy. Dallas is a small town, so many of its younger folks eventually move away. In Accidental Knight, book four of the Marriage Mistake series, Drake Larkin and Bella Reed are brought together in Dallas by her grandfather’s will. In a spin-off series named The Knights of Dallas, The Romeo Arrangement follows in which Hollywood heartthrob Ridge Barnet meets Grace Sellers in the midst of a late March snowstorm that strands her in the tiny town. Book two, Best Friend Zone, follows just over a year later. Drake and Ridge are both new fathers. It is Quinn Faulkner and Tory Coffey’s story. There is a little crossover with Still Not Love of the Enguard Protectors series, which is James Nobel’s story. James and Quinn once worked together. This is book three in the series, The Hero I Need. It is Grady McKnight and Willow Macklin’s story. It is summer; Tory has her dance studio and is pregnant. Willow gets stranded in Dallas while on the run with Bruce, a Bengal tiger. Together Grady and Willow try to bring down a black market farm for exotic animals.
Don’t forget to download the free bonus epilogue! It is a flash forward about two years later. The link is found at the end of the book.
Willow Macklin, twenty-four, has plans. With a B.S in Zoology and a master’s under her belt, she plans to take some time off to complete field work prior to beginning her PhD. She lost her mother when she was three, and spent much of her childhood travelling the globe with her zoologist father. While at home she had a string of nannies or housekeepers that looked after her in her father’s San Diego home, but there was never really a sense of home or family. It was always just her and her father, and she aspires to follow in his footstep. Peter Macklin, her father, is a world-famous rhino expert; Willow hopes to pursue her love of exotic cats – big cats. Getting a job in that field is hard to come by but she was determined to do it without her father’s help – not surprising since she had inherited her father’s pride. She stumbled upon an opportunity at Exotic Plains Rescue in Minot, North Dakota several months ago and was offered a job immediately.
For Willow, it was love at first sight when she saw Bruce, the fifteen year old Bengal tiger housed at the rescue center. Bruce seemed to return her affection, too, in as much as a Bengal tiger can. He was raised entirely in captivity, and Willow trusts the cat in so far as one might trust a natural predator that had never learned to hunt. Bruce purrs in her presence and has a protective instinct when it comes to Willow. But things hadn’t been adding up at the rescue, and the questions had been piling on. Every time Willow tried to address her concerns about the animals or odd paperwork, the owners – Niles and Priscilla Foss – shut her down. But one morning she greets Bruce to discover he has an injured paw, and also notices an ominous blue sticker outside of his cage. She knows something very wrong is taking place at the rescue and had hoped to find evidence to prove it, but with Bruce’s safety at risk she takes the law into her own hands.
Grady McKnight, thirty-six, lives for his ten year old twin girls, his business, and his best friends. Sawyer and Avery are his number one priority in life. His wife had died five years ago after suffering from a horrible neurological disorder. Grady is a mountain of a man with a huge heart, always there to offer help to those he loves. He refused all offers of help as Brittany slowly deteriorated. Today he remains plagued with the guilt of not being able to do more for her, and her death still weighs heavily on him. In the years since her passing, Aunt Faye and Joyce have been a steady presence in his life. With the help these older women offer for the girls, Grady holds down the farmhouse and land he inherited from his parents. He also managed to successfully purchase a business with some of his inheritance and Army pay a few years back. He took The Den, a local joint owned by Wylie McGill that sat near the expressway and was frequented by trouble, and turned it into a more family friendly affair. It is still a bar, however, so Grady limits the time his girls spend there. Though he very much appreciates all the help, he still finds time to be a hands-on dad, never forgetting his priorities.
Grady had joined the Army following high school and spent four years on active duty, two in the reserve. He was sent oversees to Baghdad, where he did recon, served in a sniper unit, and won a Purple Heart. He chose not to reup when his parents died, instead returning home to Dallas, North Dakota. His marriage was followed by his twins’ birth and his wife’s illness, so his adult life hasn’t been easy. But his best friends have a special place in his heart, and the last several years have brought them closer together. They are sometimes called hometown heroes, but Grady considers them brothers. He, Drake, Ridge, and Faulk have bonded like brothers while fighting to keep their small town safe. As the only remaining bachelor of the group, Grady finds himself facing pressure to wife up. But Grady has three rules that he stands firm by: no critters, no drama, and no romance. There hasn’t been another woman since Brittany, and he intends to live like a monk for his girls no matter what. He wants to protect them from more devastating loss.
When Willow’s stolen truck and trailer break down in the parking lot of the Purple Bobcat, she is confronted by a huge tattooed hunk that takes her breath away. He isn’t at all happy with her for bringing trouble to his door. He isn’t a fan of tigers, and points out that cattle country does not mix well with big cats. He also doesn’t want trouble with the law. The single dad of two doesn’t want trouble, but he also seems to have a big heart. Combined with his silly humor, she soon finds herself smitten. Willow has a special place in her heart for single dads. Like her father, Grady’s life revolves around his little girls. She respects that and finds it endearing. But her stay is only temporary. Once Bruce has been taken care of and she is safely out of danger from the Fosses, Willow knows that her long-term plans don’t include a little town named Dallas.
When Grady and Willow meet by sheer luck, their paths in life are carved in entirely separate directions. Grady’s life belongs in Dallas with his girls and business. Willow plans to continue studying and travelling the world. There are no big cats locally, save the rare cougar. The idea of a half ton tiger getting loose in town is more than a little unsettling. Grady thinks Willow is a crackpot as she talks about Bruce like he is a kitten. Her insanity is cemented when she suggests the Bengal tier doesn’t pose a threat. Still, Grady finds her feisty and fun, and when his girls immediately take to her he finds his heart overflowing with the feelings he never wanted to experience again.
Grady and Willow’s story brings all the favorite locals back together again to battle illegal animal trade. The locals love their animals! Horses, roosters, goats – and now tigers. Quinn Faulkner answers the call for help as Grady takes his turn amidst a town crisis. Quinn uses his FBI contacts, as the black market runs deep and the danger is real. Corruption makes it hard to weed out, and the here the Bureau of Land Management has some cleaning house to do. Drake’s job in law enforcement helps out locally, and Ridge pitches in to help, too. Even Tobin, Ridge’s butler, steps up to the plate. Strong-willed Bella insists on taking part, while Grace and Tory make appearances. Granny Coffey cannot be forgotten, and she makes her presence known here. Edison the horse and his mare Edna continue to save the day. There are references to Heart’s Edge, of course, as well as HeronComm in Chicago. Grady and Willow eventually find a way to make it work and earn their HEA.
Grady might be the last of the Knights of Dallas, but new characters enter the fold here, leaving the possibility of further additions to the hunky protectors. Indeed, Weston McKnight, Grady’s nephew, plays a big role in this story. The military vet and self-employed mechanic in his mid-twenties has a story of his own to tell, which is hinted at towards the end of this book. Uncle Grady and a pig will be coming to his rescue, perhaps in the next book. Andrew the weatherman on Channel Six has the local women all tuning into the news of late. Although he doesn’t play a role here, he, similar to Weston, is in his early twenties and could easily find himself swept up into a dangerous news story in a future book. Perhaps he will investigate a story that Granny Coffey lays in his lap, digging up old buried town secrets? Hank is also introduced here. He is Avery and Sawyer’s uncle, their mother’s older brother. He also happens to be like a brother to Grady. He has girlfriend, Roberta, but they are not married so who knows – particularly since Hank has a lot of animals, and the heroes always have a spirited animal somewhere nearby.
Finally, the various nicknames used throughout the book really stand out and keep the tone fun and playful. They deserve a shout out: Tiger Princess, Sassy Chick in Peril, Big Daddy Hotness, Kitten, Willow Wisp, Miss Bossypants, Hurricane Grady, Mr. One-Track Mind, Mr. Broody-Brood, Little Miss Tiger Thief, Mr. Snarlypants, and finally Willow girl.
Single Dad Grady and exotic cat lover Willow find love while rescuing Bruce the Bengal tiger from an illegal black market ring. Their story is action-packed with silly humor, danger, and a dose of steam in a small town setting. Grady and Willow’s story is another win for the small town of Dallas, North Dakota. Animal lovers will enjoy the storyline about brining down black market traffickers of exotic animals. Bruce the Bengal tiger has a starring role. I suspect fans of the show Tiger King may particularly enjoy this book (I have not seen the show myself). For me, dealing with a tiger in a small town went a little beyond my comfort zone, particularly with Sawyer and Avery nearby. I was anxious for the story to end. I loved the stories in the series with farm animals, though. Still, it was wonderfully written. The story is plot-driven and very complex. The characters are nicely developed. The story is written in first person. The POV alternates between Grady and Willow. I rate this book four stars.
I received an advance copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.