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Sizzle in the Stacks: Pets
Animals are delightful additions to our lives, and it makes sense that people who love their pets would give the feelings of those pets some input about potential sweethearts. Here are a few stories with important animal characters.
Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick
Lara is a crazy dog lady. She runs a small dog rescue operation, and matching people and dogs is her greatest talent. Her boyfriend Evan isn’t a dog person, but he’s willing to compromise and let her keep a rotating cast of dogs in their house. However his patience is wearing thin. He’s about to propose, but has doubts about being second fiddle to a bunch of mangy curs. The absolute last straw is when someone abandons a litter of eight puppies in Evan’s backyard, knowing Lara will find them homes. After a big comical dust up, Lara storms off with all the dogs to her mother’s house. She throws herself into all things dog-related to tamp down her heartbreak and avoid her appearance-obsessed mother. She also manages to meet a couple of interesting men, but sparks don’t fly and she just feels weird. She happens upon a lost bloodhound and is astonished to discover whose it is, in a mildly surprising twist. In this sweet story, human romance sometimes comes in a close second to the special connections that are forged between people and dogs, but a happy dog with a happy couple makes for a cute tale.
Pet Friendly by Sue Pethick
Todd and Emma were childhood sweethearts who spent a lot of time together when Todd’s family vacationed at Emma’s grandmother’s ramshackle Victorian hotel. After Todd’s father died, the vacations stopped and Todd and Emma lost touch. Fast forward to adulthood, and Todd is no longer a shy geeky boy. He’s now a very wealthy app developer, and is considering proposing to his spoiled rich girlfriend Gwen, though sometimes his gut feelings make him wonder if he really should. A big issue between them is Archie, Todd’s recently deceased Uncle Bertie’s dog. Archie is a very special, smart little dog, who performed with Uncle Bertie in his circus act. Gwen is livid when Todd brings Archie to live with them. As usual, he caves to her pressure and reluctantly decides to take Archie to his sister’s. He hits the road just ahead of a snowstorm, but at a rest stop clever Archie jumps out of the car and runs off into the woods. Todd follows but can’t find him. What he does find is a big surprise, the old hotel! He didn’t quite remember where it was, since he hadn’t been in the area in years. The weather is getting bad so he has no choice but to get a room, and soon encounters another surprise—Emma owns the hotel now, and in an attempt to keep it afloat is marketing it as a haunted site. Todd has to stay there to look for Archie, and because of the snow. While he’s there, he starts helping out around the place. Feelings come back for Todd and Emma, along with some misunderstandings, and some crazy chaos as a group of ghost hunters meet for a séance. Archie brings everybody together in a suspenseful turn of events, and gives Emma and Todd a great idea on how to keep the hotel in business.
Love After All by Jaci Burton
Chelsea is a very logical high school math teacher in the fictional town of Hope, Oklahoma. She feels her life is pretty good, except for being single. Having dated several unsatisfactory men, she decides some change is in order. She develops a list of desired characteristics for the perfect man, notably looking good in a suit, not being obsessed with sports, enjoying fine dining, and liking dogs—but not little yippy ones. One of her friends, a handsome bar owner called Sebastian, or Bash for short, hears of the list and teases her mercilessly about it. They are attracted to one another, but he doesn’t have any of those magical qualities on her list, and he’s reluctant to enter into any relationships, having been burned too many times. One night his most recent crazy ex, Gerri, storms into the bar and dumps Lulu, the Chihuahua she only got to make Bash think she was a kind person. This gets Chelsea’s notice, because she likes animals, and because Bash isn’t the stereotypical Chihuahua owner. But he gamely accepts, and Lou, as he renames her, takes to him immediately. Bash offers to help Chelsea find her perfect man, and even fixes her up with a few dates. None of those pan out, and their attraction continues to grow. As they dance around this idea of the list, they realize that it doesn’t matter at all. For Chelsea, seeing big tough guy Bash bonding so closely with Lou the teeny little dog really means a lot to her. And Lou has unexpected benefits for Bash’s bar as well—drawing more customers in as the bar’s mascot. Little Lou adds some humor to this rather predictable story that’s punctuated with several very steamy scenes.
Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles
This book is more literary, not a traditional romance novel. Samuel DeJuan is a professor of German literature at a Spanish university. As the story begins, it is New Year’s Eve, and he’s alone in his apartment with a miniature bottle of champagne, doing a solitary toast. It’s a bleak and lonesome scene, and emblematic of how empty and loveless his life is. Everything is closed for about a week for the holidays, and Samuel is at loose ends. He hears a strange noise in the hallway, opens the door, and a cat is out there and won’t leave. Not being a particular fan of cats, Samuel doesn’t want it to come into his place, but he doesn’t want it to starve either. So he gets a saucer of milk, but when he brings it to the door, the cat is gone. He leaves the milk out there just in case. The cat soon comes back, and insists on staying in Samuel’s apartment. He grudgingly lets the cat stay, and names him Mishima. He wants to be responsible about cat ownership, so he calls a vet to inquire about shots, and finds one who makes housecalls! She’s a brusque, attractive woman named Meritxell. Samuel is intrigued by her, and happy that Mishima has hidden somewhere in the apartment so no shots today, giving him another chance to talk to the grouchy but pretty vet. After she leaves, Mishima appears and runs directly to the apartment upstairs. He goes right in, so Samuel follows, assuming this his home. Titus, the eccentric old man who lives there, says the cat isn’t his but he doesn’t mind it visiting. Samuel and Titus strike up a conversation, and though Samuel is feeling sick, he agrees to go to a hobby shop and get a replacement piece of track for Titus’s toy train. As he passes a woman in a crosswalk and looks into her eyes, he is instantly transported back to his childhood, and a girl named Gabrielle who hid under some stairs with him during a game of hide and seek. He fell in love with her back then, and is stunned to see her again, but can’t say anything as now they are just strangers passing on the street. He looks back after she’s passed, and is elated to see that she’s still looking at him and smiling. The rest of the book is a jumble of feelings and coincidences among Samuel, Titus, Meritxell, Gabrielle, and a possibly delusional disgraced astronomer named Valdemar. It’s a meditation on love and how to be open to whatever life has to offer, and the cat started the whole delightful chain of events!
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
I couldn’t write a Sizzle in the Stacks without including a charming historical romance! Love in the Afternoon takes place in the 1850’s around the time of the Crimean War. Beatrix Hathaway is our heroine, the youngest daughter of an eccentric family. She loves animals and the outdoors. She is a great horse trainer, keeps a lot of pets, and rescues injured or abandoned wild animals—like her hedgehog Medusa, and her three-legged cat Lucky. Her brothers inherited lands and money after their parents died, but they are not of an aristocratic background. Her older sister is married to a Roma man, which makes the family reputation even more scandalous. But they are well liked by most people in their town and get invited to all the local social events. Bea is friends with Prudence, a beautiful but empty headed and kind of mean belle of the ball. Pru wants a husband, and she shares some of the letters she’s received from Christopher Phelan, a local gentleman who is fighting in the Crimea. She’s unsatisfied because he only writes about the bad experiences he’s having in battle, and doesn’t include any lovey-dovey sentiment. Pru doesn’t want to just stop writing to him, because he is after all very handsome and of high social status, and might make a good husband when he comes back from the war. But she can’t be bothered to write the letters herself, so she asks Bea to do it for her. (See where this is going?) Bea reluctantly writes the letters and signs them with Pru’s name. Christopher falls in love with the writer of the letters—thinking it’s Pru, of course. Bea feels terrible about the deception, and conflicted about her growing feelings for Christopher, who had previously said she was “More suited to the stables than the drawing room.” When he returns from battle and figures out what happened, he struggles with anger, desire, and a pretty bad case of PTSD. Any book with the line, “You may insult me, but leave my hedgehog alone!” is a must read!