Desert Isle Keeper
Sunny, warm, touching and sweet – you can pick any of these three words to describe Puppy Christmas, the second book in Lucy Gilmore’s series about a sisterhood of service dog trainers. A good story that combines a light heart with reasonable emotional heft, it’s a darned good romance novel.
Lila Vasquez would do anything for her younger sisters – even wear a bubblegum-pink ballgown to a fundraiser for Spokane’s hearing services community. Since she’s representing an important cause herself – Puppy Promises, their service dog training group – most humiliations can be weathered. But, naturally, as she sheds glitter across the ballroom floor, she manages to meet with disaster in the form of her ex-boyfriend, handsome and still sporting a Pepsodent smile. While totally-not-hiding beside a potted plant, she meets a lost little girl named Emily and returns her to her very handsome father – and suddenly the ex is nothing more than a memory.
Ford Ford (yes, really – even Lila does a double-take, and he makes fun of his own name) is a handsome single dad who’s instantly smitten by Lila’s lovely face, but is just as happy with how effortlessly Lila draws his hearing-impaired daughter out of her shell. They share a dance together, and there’s definitely magic in the air – but Lila thinks it’s a brief moment of joy in an otherwise awkward evening. When Emily wins a service dog and six months of training from Puppy Promises, Lila finds herself playing fairy princess for Emily as she teaches the girl how to handle her cockapoo. That means sparkly pink and professionalism, patience – and pretending she doesn’t feel the heat building between herself and Ford.
Ford doesn’t mind that Lila has swept into his life with edicts about raising dogs clutched in hand – after all, the service dog draws his daughter out of her shell in ways she never has been before. And hey, Lila’s sweet and hot. She even laughs at his (constant) jokes – and teaches him to take the world a little more seriously as he urges her to let her hair down. But with Emily playing matchmaker – and Lila’s ex trying to win her back – is their burgeoning romance real?
I liked Puppy Christmas. I liked slightly cranky, very human Lila and I loved jocular, slightly harried Ford. I loved fluffy, feisty Jeeves von Hinklebottom The Third, named by Emily against Ford and Lila’s advice. I even liked Emily, who was written realistically as a young child, messy, unpredictable and imperfect, though sometimes a bit saccharine.
The romance between Lila and Ford has spice and a sense of humor, and it wends realistically from trust, flirtation and friendship to deeper bonding. I also enjoyed Lila’s bond with her two sisters and her mother, and how they help, support and irritate one another in a totally realistic manner.
The book’s portrayal of disability is, to the best of my knowledge, well researched, informative and respectful. Emily has Pendred Syndrome – a degenerative hearing loss combined with thyroid issues that have to be carefully monitored. She combines a cochlear implant with lip reading and sign language to navigate the world around her, and her service dog will help with her occasional bouts of dizziness as well as helping her with sounds that are beyond both her visual ability to sound them out and her hearing range.
The book’s dog antics are well-written, and Jeeves von Hinklebottom feels like a real dog, and not like a plot device.
Puppy Christmas is a beautiful, sweet romance that’s a winning way to open your holiday season, and is a near-perfect gift for the cozy romance lover in your life.
Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo
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