A Spot of Trouble
A Spot of Trouble is one of those dreaded too-bad-to-recommend-but-just-funny-enough-to-avoid-a-D romances. If it weren’t for its heroine I’d rate it a bit higher, but our lead is a bit of an immature chore to deal with. That the narrative (falsely) thinks that we’ll find her charming is a cross that it cannot successfully bear. On top of that, the book is so light-hearted it’s almost insubstantial, with ridiculously plotted conflict. The only thing that saves the novel is its general inoffensiveness and breezy sense of purpose.
Violet March is the proud owner of a Dalmatian, the only one in the entirety of tiny Turtle Beach, North Carolina. Sprinkles is a mischievous pup – so mischievous that he gets away from Violet in the dog park and finds himself being carried away by a man in a fire department sweatshirt. Violet calls 911 on the guy, but it turns out Sam Nash has a reason for grabbing Sprinkles and carrying him off.
That reason would be because recent Chicago transplant fireman Sam has a Dalmatian of his own – Cinder – who is his well-trained fire safety dog and rescue partner. Cinder is as neat and well-behaved as Sprinkles is wild and messy, but people keep insisting that Sam has Violet’s dog, no matter how much he protests. Sam just wants a quiet life after losing multiple fellow firemen friends in a fire. He is not expecting Hurricane Violet.
Violet – a cop’s daughter – takes one look at handsome Sam and vows not to date another guy bearing a hose (get your mind out of the gutter!); she’s had bad romantic experiences with firemen in the past and worse, has strong suspicions that the town fire department has brought Sam in to win the annual Guns and Hoses competition – and he was a collegiate hall of famer in baseball. That they disagree over how to raise their dogs just adds fuel to the fire – which eventually burns out of control between them.
A Spot of Trouble is a big mess, and most of that mess surrounds and subsumes the heroine, who comes off as screechy and massively childish – a brat instead of an adult. The cops versus fireman war would be funny and less clichéd in stronger writing hands, but the main point of tension between Sam and Violet is the Guns and Hoses battle and the different ways they have trained their dogs. That’s it.
These characters are not governed by earth logic. Violet’s reaction to how Sam handles Cinder, who is a working dog, just highlights her childishness. She literally throws a tantrum when Sam won’t let her feed Cinder a piece of cupcake while they’re working at a public event. And the narrative agrees with this viewpoint – the notion that working dogs cannot have fun or time to be a dog, or that the balance between work and life for a dog can exist in the way it does for a human. And it takes only one of Violet’s tantrums for Sam to decide her verdict that his dog is “deeply unhappy” to decide to untrain her. (The dog, that is – not Violet. Unfortunately.) When Violet shows up at a fire safety demonstration in a #FreeCinder shirt, I wanted to punch her. I have no idea if the author has actual experience with working dogs, but this is not how to handle them.
Sam’s big lesson is that he has closed himself off from humanity and needs to learn how to yield to spontaneity. But the book goes about this so poorly that one is left flummoxed.
Worse, the whole town is on Violet’s bratty side because she is the chief of police’s daughter and everyone loves her died-tragically-giving-birth-to-her-mother (trust me, Violet’s mother is the lucky one for not having to spend a lot of time around Violet). People hate Sam until he uses his cute dog to curry favor. Then suddenly they love him. He uses another woman to make Violet childishly jealous over him. There is even a big dance subplot, which would have worked so much better in YA.
And yes, this is a novel with a quirky prose style that (again, falsely) thinks it’s as adorable as Violet. Things are described as #relatable. With a literal hashtag.
What did I like about A Spot of Trouble? Well, the dogs were cute even when their behavior was unrealistic, and a couple of the passing jokes got a chuckle out of me. That keeps it from being A D-level read. But unless you’re really desperate for funny dog-based antics, I can’t recommend reading it.