REVIEW: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Lizzie Shane
A delightful holiday romance about a small-town single dad and an animal rescue owner as they try to find forever homes for a dozen lovable pups before Christmas.
Pine Hollow has everything Ally Gilmore could wish for in a holiday break: gently falling snow in a charming small town and time with her family. Then she learns some Grinch has pulled the funding for her family’s rescue shelter, and now she has only four weeks to find new homes for a dozen dogs! But when she confronts her Scroogey councilman nemesis, Ally finds he’s far more reasonable-and handsome-than she ever expected.
As the guardian of his dog-obsessed ten-year-old niece, Ben West doesn’t have time to build a cuddly reputation. But he does feel guilty about the shelter closing. So he proposes a truce with Ally, agreeing to help her adopt out the pups. As the two spend more time together, the town’s gossip is spreading faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. And soon Ben is hoping he can convince Ally that Pine Hollow is her home for the holidays…and the whole year through.
Dear Ms. Shane,
Yep, it’s that time of the year. When Christmas themed stories are released. I asked to read “The Twelve Dogs of Christmas” because it actually seemed as if it would center around the holiday plus the title was cute. For a time, I thought this would be a strong rec. Then towards the end, I began feeling a tiny bit Scrooge-ish about some lurking issues.
Another reviewer compared the story to a Hallmark Channel story and the comparison is apt. Ally Gilmore is the cute heroine yearning for a place and she is returning to the only location that says “home” to her. Her parents (as parents often do in romance novels) are dead (car crash) and her only other relatives, gram and gramps, live in tiny Pine Hollow and run a dog shelter. Ally feels that signs from the Universe are pointing her there.
Ben West also returned to Pine Hollow when his older sister and her husband (as relatives often do in romance novels) died (car crash) and he became the guardian for his ten year old niece. Now he feels that he’s being pulled in thirty eight different directions trying to do a full time job, care for Astrid, plus finish out all the obligations his sister and brother-in-law left. Ben has a hard time saying “no” as well as a hard time asking for help. As such, he’s stressed.
The meeting between Ally and Ben is not cute and their relationship appears as if it will worsen when it becomes clear to all the Ben’s was the deciding vote on the town council to pull town funding from the Gilmore dog shelter. For Ally it’s not much better when she learns the reason (it’s a good one). Feeling bad, Ben takes on yet another commitment in helping Ally place the twelve dogs currently in the shelter before Christmas and the end of the year shut down.
Then something amazing happens. Ben truly does help and he and Ally begin to spend time together. Their friendship rapidly blossoms as the town throws itself into noticing everything they do then spreading rumors (good ones). There are hiccups along the way but I was enjoying watching Ben’s devotion to his niece, how Astrid and Ally talk and bond a bit over shared feelings of loss (see above car crashes), and lots of people step up to help place these dogs – most of whom have issues but are lovable nonetheless. Ben’s friendship with his poker buddies is a hoot, too.
It does seem as if Ben and Ally feel the spark between them but doggone it (pun intended) I did get tired of Ben continuing to recoil from any hint of romance due to “putting Astrid first.” I can’t fault his determination to be there for his niece and think of her welfare before his own but after a while I began to think that he was hiding himself behind a wall and naming that wall “Astrid.” Finally Ally started to catch on, too. Just when I thought there would be a breakthrough, everything crashes. It’s the final conflict, I thought. It will be worked through. Only then something else happens and information is revealed (or maybe reinforced?) about Ben. I started to doubt whether he was truly ready for a relationship. Could he change that much and that quickly before the book ended?
Well, it’s a romance so there is a HEA but it felt more rushed and obligatory than totally worked out and finalized. Suddenly Ben has “seen the light” and the “error of his (all his life) ways” and is ready to commit? Um, I’m not totally convinced. For over 3/4 of the book, I loved it. But the important part – buying into the romance dream – didn’t win me over. B-