Valentine’s Day reading with some bark to it

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After a long day on my computer, I love curling up with a book, a mug of cocoa and a few cat treats to entice Toby into cuddling. Strangely, a lot of people are surprised that my fiction bookshelves contain not just science fiction and historical mysteries, but also a large number of romance novels.

Adoptable brown Dachshund

Vinnie is looking for his own “Savior of Puppies” to adopt him.

I always have to explain that these aren’t “bodice rippers” full of misogyny and out-dated offensive racial stereotypes. In fact, if I notice a book looks like it has any of those elements, it goes back on the store shelf immediately. One element that does make me buy a book with little thought? If it looks like the heroine or hero is a pet person.

Sometimes I think “pet parents” could be a whole sub-genre of romance novels. I’ve read stories where a trainer falls in love with the busy CEO who takes in a puppy one of his employees abandoned, the heroine falls in love with the new veterinarian in town, and  stories where the pets aren’t related to anyone’s employment, but are a big part of their life. I suspect that it’s because kindness to animals is such a strong way to signal that someone is a good person. A guy runs out and rescues a dog from the street? Obviously a potential hero. A guy tries to convince our heroine to give up her cat? Obviously she has to get him out of her life because he’s not right for her.

One of my favorite romance novels that involves pets in a big way is “Dogs and Goddesses” by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich. The book tells the story of three women and their dogs who become friends after meeting at a training class in a college town. Soon there are magical baked goods, strange powers and scary happenings that threaten more than just the town. Each of the authors writes from the point of view of one of the three heroines. The book really is a celebration of the power of love via friendships, romantic partners and dogs. All three are vital to the heroines’ attempts to save the world.

The book is full of moments that make you laugh, as well as those that make your heart melt. One of the characters earns the epithet “Slayer of Demons, Greatest of Kings, Savior of Puppies” after he rescues a Dachshund from a dumpster. Another character realizes that if her dog trusts someone, she should be willing to at least try herself. Also, the dogs talk (I told you there was magic). The bit that melts my heart the most is that the dogs repeatedly tell their people, “Love you forever,” which is exactly what I think any pet would tell his person if we could hear them talk. The dogs really have fully formed, quite believable personalities. I remember hearing at a release reading that they had tried to keep their own adopted dogs in mind while writing the pups. I suspect being a dog with an author for a mom is awesome — your person is always there for you to tell “love you forever.”

Also, full disclosure, Jenny Crusie mentioned using Petfinder back in 2007 on her blog.I had not realized this until a friend mentioned it to me when I told her how excited I was to write about Dogs and Goddesses on the Petfinder blog. I might (definitely) have fan-girled out over the fact that one of my favorite authors used Petfinder to find her dogs. It is entirely possible that a Petfinder pup might have helped inspire one of my favorite books!

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special person or pet today, I hope you’ll consider picking up a good romance novel. If you’re already a romance fan — tell me your favorites! I’m always looking for new books to read. I can’t wait to see what you suggest!

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