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REVIEW: Nikki and the Lone Wolf by Marion Lennox

Dear Ms. Lennox,


I’m always happy to find a new novel by you when I’m browsing the Harlequin site, and when the cover (accurately) includes a dog, I’m immediately downloading. This book is the second in your Banksia Bay series, the first of which Jayne reviewed here. While both books are set in the same place and have plots revolving around stray dogs, the stories are independent and stand alone. This is an unusual book in several ways, but I found it a satisfying and enjoyable read.

Nikki and the Lone Wolf by Marion LennoxNikkita Morrissy is a thirty-year-old professional from Sydney. She’s retreated to the seclusion of Banksia Bay after finding out that her boss and lover of four years had a wife and family half a world away (with any other author I would be out of here now, but it’s you, so I keep going). Nikki rents half of a duplex cottage from the live-in owner, Gabe Carver, a local fisherman who is notoriously unsociable. They manage to avoid each other for three weeks, but then they collide in an attempt to rescue an abandoned dog. This dog is huge, shaggy, malnourished, and desperately missing his owner, who has sailed away and apparently isn’t giving him a second thought.

The local animal shelter has reluctantly decided that he isn’t able to be adopted and so will be put down when he’s captured. But Nikki, who has never had a dog, falls in love with him, matted hair and all, and decides to take him in pending Gabe’s approval. Gabe recently lost his canine best friend of sixteen years and doesn’t want the dog around but has no good reason to refuse Nikki, especially after a couple of the townspeople enthusiastically offer to help her learn about dog care and training. Slowly and reluctantly, Gabe grows closer to both Nikki and the dog, and all three learn to live less in the past and look forward to the future.

One of the things I like most about your stories is that the people feel real and worthy of the reader’s respect. Nikki is an engineer who designs commercial air-conditioning systems and is both successful and highly paid. When she breaks off the relationship with her boss she doesn’t throw up her job but finds a way to do it from Banksia Bay. Over the course of the novel Nikki does change to a different occupation, but her reasons for doing it make sense, and they are motivated by changes within herself. Gabe is genuinely surly and antisocial, and he has good reason to be. And although he is the owner of a fishing business that is crucial to the town’s economy, he is still very much an everyday fisherman. For both of these characters, work is a critical part of their lives, and the story reflects that.

This is definitely a book for animal lovers. There is a lot of time devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of Horse, the aptly named dog. Parts of the book are heartbreaking for a dog person like me, for example when Horse runs away to find his worthless master. You don’t sugarcoat what it takes to rescue a dog, and it’s clear you know what you’re talking about. I was pretty sure that Horse would also have an HEA, and I’m glad to say he does, or this review would have to come with a trigger warning.

Nikki and Gabe need rescuing as much as Horse does, but as is often the case in your books, they rescue themselves and then commit to a relationship, rather than using insta-love to make their individual problems go away. Nikki is quicker to acknowledge that she’s fallen for Gabe than he is to admit his feelings, but she refuses to become a doormat in the process:

He wanted her–she could see it, she could feel it, she could almost touch it. But he was … afraid?

“You”re not like your father,” she said as evenly as she could. “But I’m not Lisbette, either.”

“I know that.”

“You don’t,” she said. “Otherwise you’d check my pipes for me, right here, right now. Trust me, Gabe.”

“I do.”

“No, you don’t. And whether you can learn … You can’t open yourself a little and protect the rest. That’s what Jonathan did. That’s what I’m used to and I’ve moved on. I think … I think I love you, Gabe, but I’m not going to love a man who spends his life protecting his boundaries.”

She stepped back. Hoping he’d stop her.

He didn’t and she felt sick.

Feeling bad was dumb. She should give him space.

She had to give him space.

Like she’d given space to Jonathan?

“Goodnight, Gabe,” she said as firmly as she could. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner. Horse and I loved it. See you … see you tomorrow. Come on, Horse, bed.”

Gabe eventually comes around, of course. If readers are looking for a good grovel in this book, they won’t find it (and Gabe does a few things that merit a grovel). Instead you give us a dog-in-jeopardy scene and a rescue that fits the tone of the story and lets the community give back to Gabe a bit of what he’s provided to them over the years. And we know he’s finally wised up, because he lets them.

Grade: B

~ Sunita

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Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Jordan Castillo Price, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley.

15 Comments

  1. Isobel Carr
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 11:36:50

    You had me at giant dog … off to buy.

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  2. Sunita
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 11:43:46

    @Isobel Carr: LOL! He is huge. And not terribly attractive. And you will love him.

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  3. Jayne
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 12:49:31

    Parts of the book are heartbreaking for a dog person like me, for example when Horse runs away to find his worthless master.

    Sigh…some people are just so not worthy of the love of their dogs….

    I’ve got this one on my Sony already. Sunita, have you read the next one in the series? It’s also very good.

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  4. Wanda Sue
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 14:54:22

    Downloaded into my Kindle (which goes everywhere with me) on lunchbreak. I love a well-done dog character. Add well-done HUMAN characters, and I’m a happy camper. :)

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  5. Estara
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 15:21:36

    Sold – and bought ^^. Yay for promocodes.

    ReplyReply

  6. Sunita
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 15:57:42

    @Jayne: I haven’t but I bought it and am looking forward to reading it. I have the first one in my TBR as well.

    And yes, the humans are (almost) as appealing as the dog!

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  7. shelly
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 18:47:29

    Thanks for the review. I will be buying this, and sounds like I might pick up her backlist too, based on your collective reviews and commentators’ input.

    Just fyi – the links aren’t working quite right for me. The first 5 somehow have “Bella Andre” added to them, so some of the sites aren’t finding the book. And the last one (AllRomance eBooks) goes to another book entirely.

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  8. Sunita
    Jan 10, 2012 @ 19:00:44

    @shelly: Thanks for the heads up, they should work properly now.

    We’ve reviewed a number of Lennox’s backlist titles here at DA, and two different books by her made Jayne’s and my Best of 2010 list. Lennox has a very good website, as well.

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  9. Julie
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 01:28:51

    I love Marion Lennox and I’m thoroughly enjoying the Banskia Bay series. I read this and adored it. We’re so lucky that Marion Lennox is so prolific – and seldom writes a bad book!

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  10. Isobel Carr
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 10:27:47

    Ok, read it last night. Didn’t love it as much as I had hoped I would.

    I never got a real feeling for Gabe, or any understanding of why he loves Nikki beyond she’s there, living next-door. Not much of why Nikki love him either, except that he’s big, and um, right there living next-door.

    I was really bothered by the treatment of the dog. I know there are different theories on training, but force of the kind shown in this book is considered abusive by every trainer and breeder I know and is likely to have extremely poor (and dangerous) results with giant or power breeds, especially ones that have already been scarred by abuse and are in need of rehabilitation as this one was. As someone who owns a giant breed, it really made me cringe and it made me not like Gabe much.

    On top of all that, it’s a “small town = good; big city = bad book”, which always bugs the crap out of me.

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  11. Sunita
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 10:35:38

    @Isobel Carr: I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you.

    I can’t speak to the training of giant breeds (the largest we’ve had is a Golden), but from Lennox’s website and description of the books I received the impression that she works with rescue and animal-care organizations. I’m pretty sure she lives on a farm and has working dogs, although I don’t remember what types.

    I didn’t get the small-big city vibe you did (I say this as someone who has lived in major cities for most of her adult life). I read the treatment of Sydney as being a place where Nikki was unhappy for fairly specific reasons, not a place where everyone would be unhappy.

    ETA: I’m glad you brought up the city thing, though, because I’m not that sensitive to it and it may bother other readers as well.

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  12. Isobel Carr
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 11:37:54

    Power rolling was a big thing among macho dog owners ten or more years ago. It was controversial at the time and at least here in the States is VERY much frowned upon in the larger training community (many people do not understand the difference between what Caesar Milan does and this technique, which leads to other a lot of misunderstandings). When Gabe does it to Horse while having Nikki essentially yell at the dog, it really, really bothered me.

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  13. Isobel Carr
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 11:46:05

    As for big city/small town thing, it wasn’t just that she fled the big city (I love small beach towns!), she also disconnected from ALL friends and connections there (they were cold now, which I read as meaning the friendships were shallow and not as “real” as her new ones) and she gave up her high-power job because working with her hands was more satisfying (not she found new job because keeping old one was too hard with her ex as her boss). All of these things may be true, but when combined and motivated as they were, they really did serve to create a small/simple is better vibe for me.

    All of my dissatisfaction aside, I did suck it down in one sitting and it was quite readable.

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  14. Sunita
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 12:29:38

    @Isobel Carr: See, I read the city thing quite differently. I thought the shallow and cold relationships were something she didn’t recognize as unsatisfactory because that was what she was used to from her upbringing, not because that’s all you get in city life. Similarly, she chose a career that would make her parents happy. They could have been suburbanites and she would have had the same experience. Also, I loved that her career was an unusual one for a woman but it was treated as unremarkable.

    I thought it was less the small town that transformed her than the relationships that opened up because of the dog. That rang completely true to me because I know my neighbors as much through dog (and child) interactions as anything else. Pets and kids break down barriers in small and large places.

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  15. Isobel Carr
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 16:38:13

    I agree about thing that changed her life most was the decision to keep the dog. And that she was shaping a new life around said dog, which I quite liked.

    ReplyReply

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