Desert Isle Keeper
You Lucky Dog
Julia London’s You Lucky Dog is funny, sweet and charming, but gets a couple of points dinked off for the author’s preference for outside conflict versus internal conflict in the romance.
It’s a tough day in Austin, Texas. The arrest of a dog walker in an undercover drug sting has resulted in two seemingly identical basset hounds being swapped during their return ride home.
The pup’s owners are immediately suspicious of the circumstances in which they find themselves. Advertising PR person Carly Kennedy knows her foster dog, Baxter, like the back of her hand. The depressed hound is a moper and this high-energy girl is unmistakably Not Him. Carly is under pressure at work and is preparing to move to New York as soon as she has the opportunity, and she’s stressed enough as it is. She does Not Need This.
Across town, neuroscience professor Doctor Max Sheffington is equally confused to discover his high-energy basset, Hazel, has been replaced by Baxter. Fortunately, Carly has Hazel’s chip scanned at the vet’s and brings his dog back to him, their stoner dog walker being of no help to either of them.
They have very differing ideas of discipline. Max is laid back with Hazel, a contrast to his highly controlled behavior as tenure track professor and how responsible he is with his brother, Jamie, who is on the autism spectrum and is currently dependent upon their feckless father’s care. High-strung Carly, meanwhile, sticks to rigid routines picked up from books as she tries to wedge Baxter into her busy life. Clearly, they have a lot to learn from one another – and will have the opportunity to continue to do so, because Hazel and Baxter have fallen in love, and will do anything to be together.
You Lucky Dog is a delightful story, funny and lighthearted in a way that’s perfectly refreshing. Max is a respite from Carly’s messy family situation – recently divorced parents and a harried, over-stressed sister with a messy family of her own for whom she is (technically) fostering Baxter. Her father is an aggressive blogger with a following who is dating Carly’s (former) dental hygienist, and her mother and Max’s father…well, we’ll get to that.
Max has a touching relationship with his autistic twenty-seven-year-old brother, Jamie, who is working his way toward an independent living situation and for whom Max is considering adopting a therapy dog to help accomplish that end goal. Jamie is a sweetheart and a pretty decent representation for someone mid-range on the spectrum.
It’s family drama instead of interpersonal conflict or even puppy-related shenanigans that defines the third act drama for these two, and that’s where You Lucky Dog turns disappointing. To make the plot work, Max and Carly’s mom and dad are turned into caricatures of gauche villains, the latter of whom snaps at his autistic son, refuses to help maintain the training of said son’s service dog, and jumps unthinkingly between relationships, leaving Max to pick up the slack. Carly’s mom, meanwhile, is the reckless person who gives her other, overtaxed daughter a high-energy dog. The story’s resolution matches the selfishness of the characters, but their presence is an exhausting time-waster in what is otherwise a great read.
But that’s just one little cloud in an otherwise blue sky. You Lucky Dog is adorable and well worth reading, in spite of the way the final conflict is played out.