By Elsa Watson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Genre: Adult Contemporary/Fantasy Romance
Fired from her job as a paralegal, Samantha Novak is in trouble. When Telltale, a Hollywood tabloid, asks her to write an expose on the reality television dating show, The Love Dog, Samantha is thrilled. She’s always dreamed of being a writer, and the fat paycheck won’t hurt. After being recently left at the altar, she’s not too keen on love either.
Hired as the canine star’s handler, Samantha finds that digging up dirt on set is harder then she thought. Apollo, the show’s star, is a sweet golden retriever who takes his job as the “love dog” very seriously. He only wants to help couples fall in love and make everyone on set happy. Mason Hall, the show’s producer and leading man, is down to earth, charming, and… very attractive.
If Samantha doesn’t reveal to the world that the reality show isn’t exactly “real,” her new career will be over before it starts. But when she falls in love with Apollo and Mason, will she still have the heart to expose The Love Dog’s dirty secrets?
Confession time: I’m not a dog person. It’s not even that I’m just a cat person, but I’m pretty much really, really not a dog person. They make me nervous, their barks are like nails on chalkboard to me and no matter how many times you bathe them, they smell. So book dogs are great, with all the fun, none of the pooper scoopers. I hadn’t read any dog-centric books until last year’s Dog Days by Elsa Watson and I loved the whimsy of being inside of one’s head. When Tor sent me Watson’s newest release, I was happy to read it and thought with that title, I had to do it on Valentine’s Day. I can review romance anytime, but how often can I do it from a dog’s perspective?
Samantha Novak has learned the hard way that true love doesn’t exist. From her personal and professional life, she’s witnessed the worst relationships have to offer and has taken to blogging about the pitfalls of buying into that happily ever after garbage. For research, each week she tunes into what she thinks is the semi-schlocky The Love Dog, a relationship fixer-upper guided by a golden retriever named Apollo and Mason Hall, a guy who might be the kind to make her libido stir. You know, if she admitted it. Which she wouldn’t.
When Sam loses the job that pays her bills, help comes in the form of the tabloid The Tattler. For a nice sum, they’ll hire her to get some dirt on The Love Dog, so she goes in undercover as an assistant to Apollo’s trainer. She finds some of what she expected: that the show is a lot like other reality shows and what you see on television isn’t always the real deal. She also gets some surprises: she really likes Mason, some of the crew and Apollo is special. She doesn’t want to trash the show, but she lied down with the wrong kind of dog when she said yes to The Tattler and now she’s got a bad case of fleas.
Okay, I couldn’t resist that one. Sorry! This is a very cute and light-hearted look at romance without really being what I’d call a “romance.” While the story’s narration alternates between Sam and Apollo, there’s little doubt that the star of the book is Apollo and the humans and their stories are secondary and they all fell into familiar roles.
The underlying story for Mason and Sam was predictable: girl doesn’t believe in love, does something bad because of it, falls in love with the guy, gets caught, he gets mad, she sees the error of her ways, big happy reunion. There were a few things that made it stand out for me: there was very little romance or passion in their relationship. They had lots of moments of friendship, but not much sexual tension and any declarations of love seemed to come out of the blue. I loved their conversations and time spent together with Apollo. It was sweet that they’d come to care for his welfare so much and they sought out time to make sure he was okay. Even though there wasn’t a lot of romance, I just liked the way Watson wrote the dialogue for Mason and Sam. Because there was so much Apollo, it was difficult to really know the people, especially Mason, and she did a great job sneaking in a lot of cues through the conversations he had with Sam and the other crew on the show.
I just adored Apollo. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a dog that met someone and after thinking they were nice, wondered immediately if they had a cheese pizza in their pocket? He was unintentionally funny with all of his cravings and enjoyment of basic dog-type stuff (don’t ask me what kind of joy they get from peeing on real grass), but very real in his abilities as The Love Dog. I admit to getting a little misty when he thought about how people were in love but had lost it and he didn’t know how to help them anymore. He had an interaction with another animal that’s truly one of the highlights of the book for me.
There were a lot of little stories about couples and romance in The Love Dog, but I was expecting more of a love story between the main couple. It didn’t really dampen my enjoyment of the book overall, since it was such a cute, light read. After just two books by Watson, I’m developing an addiction to her funny little dogs and I definitely will read the next one. There’s no way I’m getting a dog though. Cats 4 ever!
My Rating: A-