Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Richard is looking forward to dinner with his boyfriend, Dean, expecting to celebrate their three-month anniversary. Instead, Richard is dumped. After a week of wallowing in a carb and alcohol self-pity party, Richard comes to realize that Dean was not worth it. On his way home from the bar at 3 am, Richard hears an unusual noise and, upon further investigation, discovers a burlap sac containing three puppies, two of which are dead. Richard takes the surviving puppy home, washes off the blood, feeds him, and makes plans to get the puppy adopted.
The shelter is over capacity and all of the potential adoptive families don’t meet Richard’s definition of a good home for the puppy he has named Hambone and, with the first round of vet bills under his belt, Richard decides to keep his little dog. The dreaded day arrives for little Hambone as he is dropped off at the vet to be neutered. Despondent about leaving Hambone to his fate, Richard stops in at his favorite watering hole, Sidewinders, and runs into Dean. The two end up back at Richard’s apartment and, the following morning, Dean is clear he has no interest in meeting Hambone so Richard picks up his now neutered puppy alone.
A few days later, Dean shows up at Richard’s and soon leaves in a huff as it is apparent that Dean and Hambone are not fond of each other and Richard realizes that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Richard knows that Hambone is a bit of a handful and his helpful neighbour, Evelyn suggests her dog Walker, Abe, as a potential dog trainer.
Richard makes an appointment with Abe and likes his approach to training, and the fact that Abe is really easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt either. Abe’s philosophy is pretty all-encompassing and Richard feels like he can relate to many of the things that Abe says dog ownership will give him, like unconditional love and trust. The more time spent with Abe, the more Richard likes and is attracted to him. He feels liberated being honest about himself with another man and hopes that Abe feels the same. A fear of looking foolish, and of the attraction being unrequited, prevent Richard from making the leap and asking Abe if he too, is interested. Dean on the other hand won’t leave Richard alone and wants him back, preferably without Hambone.
As the owner of two spoiled dachshunds, how could I not select this book for review? I loved the cover, and the concept of the lost soul finding peace and fulfilment in a rescued dog. I also liked the uncertainty Richard felt regarding Hambone and his attraction to Abe, and found that Keehnan built up enough depth in these two individuals that I could relate to them on one level or another. For most of the story, we were in Richard’s POV and were therefore not privy to anyone else’s feelings or thoughts and had to rely on Richard’s interpretation of a look or a gesture to guess what Abe, or any of the secondary characters were thinking.
I also found that there was quite a bit of telling instead of showing interspersed in the dialogue. This was a bit distracting and I found that the style affected the flow of the story, as it made the conversations sound awkward, like they were happening to someone else. These little pockets could have easily been made into “show.” The secondary characters were mostly all two-dimensional, from the overly helpful neighbor, to Dean, to Richard’s friends. All of them had stereotypical behaviors that did not add much depth to the story, and although the helpful neighbour, Evelyn, did have some character growth near the end, she was the exception.
The slow buildup to romance, and the gradual change in Richard’s attitude and relationships with friends, old and new, was sweet and touching. The Dog Trainer was a cute story that I could totally relate to as a dog owner. Once you get a dog, or really any pet, your life changes forever, and I believe, for the better.