I know we’re a while past Christmas, but when I found this book in my local bookshop, I just couldn’t walk past. Just look at that cover:
Or in English: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Lizzie Shane, the first in her Pine Hollow series. It’s a romance novel, with a slight Christmas theme, a lot of humour and of course, a lot of love. Perfect read for a wintry day with a cup of tea and a pet sleeping beside you.
In the first few chapters, we arrive in Pine Hollow, a lovely small town that is loved by its inhabitants. Ben loves his hometown so much he’s on the council, though maybe somewhat reluctantly. He’s always loved the town, but when his sister and her husband died, he stepped up majorly: taking on the care of his niece, living in (and trying to renovate) his sister’s home, taking her sister’s husband’s place on the council and trying to step into their picture-perfect life. And he’s drowning.
Then we meet Ally, a freelance photographer who has lost her way, come home to Pine Hollow to help out her grandparents run their dog shelter. But Ben messes up her plans when he pulls the town’s grants for the shelter and she only has until Christmas to get all the dogs adopted.
So, I liked this book! There is a lot of humour, I could imagine most of it happening in real life, and almost no romance clichés. Yes, there are some typical misunderstandings that complicate things, but they are not the cliché misunderstandings because the characters aren’t talking to each other. They are clichés born out of the characters not knowing or trusting themselves. Both Ally and Ben are stuck in their life, not completely happy, and trying to figure out what and how to change. They both need to grow as people in order to realise what it is they want/need, and in order for them to find each other in the end. It’s all very believable and feels like it’s close to true life.
Ben’s all grumpy “I don’t want people coming to me with their problems”, but really, he likes it a lot. He is always ready to listen to everyone, to hear their problems, and to find ways to fix it. He is going through a lot, losing his sister and being responsible for his niece, and he is struggling to find his bearings in his new role – which is very understandable.
Ally’s bored of her freelance photography life. She desperately longs for the roots she never felt like she had and – in the meantime – is trying to figure out what she wants to do instead. She could communicate a bit better with her grandparents, explaining to them why she’s here and what she wants. I think she gets a little “oh no, nobody wants me, I’ll just leave” when she finds out they are moving, but she does (wo)man up in the end.
A good read for a wintry Sunday afternoon with a cup of your favourite tea.