Grade : C

Housebroke is Jaci Burton’s latest contemporary rom-com, and it’s a standalone you can read in almost one sitting. It’s quick and quirky, pretty predictable, and full of dogs. We recently added a second dog to our family (I’m an only child, we had an only child, and we’ve always had an only dog), so reading about Hazel Bristow’s five foster dogs gave me anxiety. LOL.

Hazel is struggling to find her footing in the wake of a thieving ex-husband who ran her through the wringer, leaving her with no money, no home, and no faith in the Y-chromosome. She’s blessed with a good friend who gives her temporary refuge, allowing her space to keep the dogs out of the pokey and in her good company. Her luck seems to be on the upswing, until Linc Kennedy pulls the rug out from under her.

He’s bought the house to renovate and flip it, so imagine his surprise to discover Hazel and her pack. Yet rather than kicking her out, he lets her stay and employs her as a personal chef. They fall into a sort of forced proximity, though not in the traditional snowed-in-at-a-mountain-cabin-with-no-power sense. It’s like proximity-light.

There are a lot of details in the book, but not a lot of motivation. The stakes aren’t high enough to carry either Hazel or Linc through the whole story, and I found myself skimming some of the chapters. His keeping his wealth a secret isn’t really damning, you know?

And I want to circle back to the dogs. The sheer volume of names and interaction the humans have with the canines is distracting. It’s like a character in a movie holding a cup of coffee and tipping it to her lips every now and then so there’s action in the scene. Or public speakers who hold notecards they never consult so their hands have something to do. The dogs are only charming for a while, then they’re merely space hogs on the page.

When I go back and look at Burton’s back list, I realize I’ve been reading her books for decades. And while my favorites are her romantic suspenses, I’ve enjoyed so many stories in her other subgenres. I miss the sexy bite of The Heart of a Killer, Riding Wild, and Hot to the Touch. Those are double-chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with pop rocks and bourbon compared to the vanilla shortbread of Housebroke ... but even though the story, characters and motivations feel familiar, as though I’ve read or watched them somewhere before, this was still a fun, lighthearted read. There’s a spot on the cookie plate for both varieties. This trend of house flipping and fixer uppers is like HGTV porn, and perfect for the season when you’re winding down from a busy year, recharging, and planning exciting things for the next.

Reviewed by Dolly Sickles
Grade : C

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : December 29, 2023

Publication Date: 12/2023

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