A ragtag cast of supporting characters, human and otherwise, shines.
In Debbie Burns’s A New Leash on Love, Megan runs an animal shelter outside St. Louis.
The temperamental beauty gives a handsome stranger a piece of her mind when he hands over an unwanted puppy during a terrible storm. When he climbs into his BMW, saying “with any luck, we’ll never cross paths again,” it’s pretty obvious that they will be seeing more of each other—and that their interactions will continue to be heated.
A few more feisty, fun-to-read run-ins occur before Megan learns that Craig’s reasons for giving up the puppy were more complicated than she first assumed. His daughter, Sophie, has her thirteenth birthday party at the shelter, bringing Craig’s icy ex-wife onto Megan’s turf too, and adding stress to the mix.
But the executive and the animal lover have great chemistry. The two trade one-liners that are both charming and emotionally revealing. Both joke to hide the hurts they’ve endured.
Most of the time, Sophie’s voice is true to her age, but she can also sound stiff, and her younger brother Reese sometimes employs jarring insults. These brief but insensitive word choices are surprising within the otherwise sensitive work.
The dogs and cats are great additions within this contemporary romance. A blind dog and a three-legged cat who live at the shelter are lovingly described, as are malnourished beagle pups and Sledge, an obedient German Shepherd rescue dog. Also fun are the idiosyncratic people at the shelter who give a real sense of Megan’s community and her dedication to her work. There’s also real familiarity with the workings of an animal shelter here, and Megan’s is shown to run on love and precarious funding. The whole ragtag cast of supporting characters, human and otherwise, shines.
Which is sweeter: reading to find out if heated disagreements will turn to hot romance, or a shelter full of animals all waiting for their forever homes? It’s a toss-up, but both are pretty darn sweet.
Meredith Grahl Counts
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