Mackenzie Harris is returning to her hometown in Maine for the first time since getting left at the altar seven years earlier, this time to be maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding, in Jenn McKinlay’s new romantic comedy About a Dog. The disastrous event has influenced the whole of her life ever since, even to the extent that she has dated Trevor, a “safe” man, for five years even though her friends don’t like him just because he is convenient but not passionate enough to hurt her. But now that she is returning to Maine, her best friend, Emma, has asked her to serve as the date of Gavin, Emma’s younger brother, not having a clue that on the night of getting jilted, Mac slept with Gavin. Also, Trevor has decided to take a break from their relationship, depriving her of the excuse of having a boyfriend when facing Gavin. Now that she has arrived, things are awkward for Mac in having to face Gavin, but despite having had relationships in the interim, Gavin still can’t stop thinking about the woman he fell in love with seven years earlier.
The friends in the wedding party do lots of things together, throwing Mac and Gavin together frequently. But Mac tries to avoid spending time one-on-one with Gavin because he is her best friend’s younger brother until one day she rescues a stray puppy and takes the puppy to Gavin, the local vet, to be examined. Taking care of Tulip, as Mac dubs the puppy, brings the couple together.
For a book titled About a Dog, I was disappointed not to see more material dealing with the dog. The dog figures as a secondary character in the book but is a loveable character whom I really wanted to get to know better. I did appreciate the way that the book works to educate people about the value of rescue dogs and that the mixed breeds are just as special as pure bred dogs. I also find it significant that Tulip is part pit bull, yet is a sweet and gentle dog. However, Gavin points out that with her heritage, Tulip would have only a 1 in 600 chance of getting adopted at the local animal shelter and thus most likely would be killed. I appreciated the education about dogs, and rescue dogs in particular, that this book includes.
The story in this book has some good things, but it seemed to go around in circles at times in its repeatedly having Mac and Gavin try but not quite succeed in hooking up. This felt repetitive and thus the book seemed to have less plot than it could have had. I also got really tired of the many scenes in which the couple come close to having sex, with very graphic depictions of their actions. And of course they finally do go all the way, complete with a vivid description of every move they make. Why must romance novels feature graphic sex? Sex and love are not synonymous, so I’d like to read about more love and less sex. I should also warn the reader that there is a lot of talk about genitalia, such as a contest to come up with the most slang names for a penis. This is certainly not a book to give your children.
The last few chapters do present a nice change to the rest of the book, creating plenty of drama and more curiosity about what would happen and how it would come about than the rest of the book. I also loved the dynamics of some of the characters. Mac has two aunts, age 72, who are very charming and eager to live the rest of their lives to the fullest. The wedding party also interacts in a very fun way, giving some real enjoyment.
Allyson Ryan provides the audio narration of this book and does a fantastic job. I like her means of expressing herself and the voices that she creates for each character. My one concern is that occasionally the pronunciation of names becomes irregular (is it Mackenzie or Mackinsey?) She helps to animate the book into something we all can envision as we hear her creative performance.
I love McKinlay’s Library Mystery and Cupcake Bakery Mystery series, so I had high expectations for this book but just did not find About a Dog as satisfying as I was hoping. I wish the book had been more like the style of McKinlay’s other books, or even the ending of this book. And of course I really was disappointed with the amount of sex play that goes on in the book. I give the book three stars.
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