tl;dr: story with life, loss, love, and adorable animals
I have gotten a lot of stinkers since I started reviewing books for NetGalley. I don’t expect to be able to get access to the really amazing and established authors, but when I first signed up, I hoped to be able to read some less famous but equally good writers. Coming from fanfiction, where there are so many amazing amateur authors, it really makes you realize that not all the great writers are published. And that there are more authors than just those that wind up on the bestseller lists. The flip side of that, of course, is that sometimes published works are terrible, and not just because I didn’t enjoy them. I can fully acknowledge that some books I did not like were well-written and good; because I didn’t like them doesn’t mean they were terrible. (See my reviews for Eleanor & Park and The Royal We for books that are deserving of kudos but not my jam.)
That was a lot of rambling for me to say that my faith in my original mission of discovering amazing new writers has been restored. I loved this book. I don’t think I would go so far as to rate it as high up there as Tiffany Reisz (which, you all know, is my gold standard these days), but it was heartfelt, well-written, well-plotted, not entirely predictable, and just lovely. It had heart and lightness, it was both sad and happy at times, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Craig and Megan meet when he has to surrender a puppy to a shelter, as their family is going through a divorce, a move, and some general upheaval that is not a good foundation for them to have a puppy. His 12 year old daughter is beyond upset, since she loves animals and really wants to keep the dog. Megan tries to keep her passionate feelings to herself, but in the end she unloads on Craig, telling him exactly what she thinks of someone who would buy a child a puppy for Christmas, and then turn around and give the dog up immediately. When Sophie, the daughter, begs and pleads for them to get the puppy back, they find out they are too late and the dog has already been adopted by a shelter volunteer. However, Megan offers to let Sophie be a junior volunteer at the shelter, and Craig and Megan wind up spending a lot of time together, trying to resist the attraction between them.
There’s a lot more to the story than that, including both characters who have had loss in their lives, and how Megan and Craig’s relationship affects his kids and his ex-wife. Megan has resentment over her mother’s second marriage, and it’s only through her relationship with Craig that she is able to see things from her mother’s point of view, and they are able to mend that part of their relationship. Craig feels guilt at moving on with life, at feeling happiness and joy with Megan after the death of his son, and it’s only through helping his other son process his own grief that he’s able to deal with his own.
Overall, I thought that this book was very well-written. I didn’t notice a lot of weird syntax choices or odd phrasing, and generally this was well-paced and easy to read. I liked the characterization of the main characters.
One little goof I noticed was the aphorism “this too shall pass” incorrectly attributed to the Bible. Apparently this is a common mistake. I’d never known that many people thought this was from the Bible.
This is an author I am excited to read more of. I don’t know if there are other books that will revolve around this pet shelter, but I’m eagerly anticipating it! One of the unexpected things I enjoyed about this book was how the animals actually had personalities and added to the story. Caring about the fates of some of the shelter pets became as part of the story as the humans, which is not an easy feat.
I really liked how the story delved into the issues that the characters were going through, resolving them in ways that made sense with how the characters were portrayed. If you are looking for a romance that doesn’t get too sad (just sad enough!) and has a cast of interesting characters (plus pets!), then you won’t go wrong picking up this one.
For more romance about how dogs bring people together, why not watch Must Love Dogs with John Cusack and Diane Lane? I think it was originally a book, but the movie is adorable.