I Heart Boston Terriers by Rick R. ReedRating: 3 stars
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Length: Short Story

Aaron has recently moved back to Seattle after breaking up with his much older boyfriend. Now living with his sister in a studio apartment and without a job, Aaron is feeling low. It is during a visit to PetSmart with Becca one Saturday morning that they spot Mavis, a terrified Boston Terrier who has been abused and is looking for a new home as part of the Adoption Fair.

Although scared and cowering from human contact, Mavis appears to take a liking to Aaron and Aaron is convinced to adopt her by his sister and Christian, one of the pet shelter’s volunteers. Yet, once home and failing to entice Mavis from under the bed — apart from to chew a pair of his sister’s shoes — Aaron realizes that actually he may need Christan’s help, rather than have to give Mavis back to the shelter.

I Heart Boston Terriers is a short story, taking me less than half an hour to read. The events barely cover two days in the lives of these characters yet Rick R. Reed manages, in part, to capture his reader’s hearts.

I think it is generally believed that people prefer dogs or cats, though to be honest, I can’t say I would pick one over the other. However, there is something about an animal being abused that I find abhorrent and Reed conveys so much sadness when he describes Mavis.

The underweight Boston Terrier inside the crate appeared to be cowering. The dog’s big eyes bulged out at them even more than was customary for the breed. When she realized they were looking at her, she pressed her thin little body hard against the metal of her cage, as if she wanted to disappear into it.

She was trembling.

Given the length of I Heart Boston Terriers, Reed does not waste time giving long histories of his characters. In Aaron’s case though, Reed does ensure that we know enough to recognize that Aaron is recovering from heartbreak and feels alone and that is why we do not question the almost palpable connection he feels with Mavis.

Their eyes met, and something passed between the dog and the man. Understanding, maybe? Recognition? It was as though, for just an instant, Mavis spoke to him. The surprising thing about what she said, in Aaron’s mind, was that it was not a plea for help, but one of empathy for him. She seemed to be saying, “I know you, and I know what you’re going through. I get what it feels like to be discarded.”

I think many pet owners would agree that they share an empathy with their animals and the fact that Reed acknowledges this so early on for Aaron and Mavis only increases our concern and affection for them both, in my opinion.

I Heart Boston Terriers is not only about Aaron’s relationship with his dog, but also the one he has with his sister and the budding romance between him and Christian. As I have mentioned, the story only covers two days, which means that Aaron and Christian’s relationship moves quickly and I was unconvinced by all that happened between them. Aaron is aware of Christian’s attractiveness when they first meet, but the spark I would expect does not exist. Even Aaron himself points out that “new relationships were being forged way too quickly.” But Aaron does need Christian’s advice on training Mavis and I felt this was convenient, but does not mean that within an hour or two I thought that they should be jumping into bed.

In previous reviews, I have complained about the portrayal of female characters in several gay romance novels I have read, so skip this part if you don’t want to hear it again! At the beginning of I Heart Boston Terriers, Aaron’s sister, Becca, is concerned about Aaron’s loneliness, encouraging him to adopt Mavis, despite this encroaching on their already cramped living space. This is until Mavis chews a pair of Becca’s shoes. OK, they are designer shoes and yes, I think this is probably Reed’s attempt at humor, but I found this just a frustrating generalization about women. None of my female friends would discard an abused animal for material goods, no matter how expensive, and I really would like to find more positive representations of woman in gay romance stories.

I Heart Boston Terriers is a cute story and I am sure that it will appeal to fans of the genre. For me, it was mild entertainment, but also disappointing.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

kirsty sig