Note: This ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
I'd been dismissive of friends who said that they'd experienced a soul-deep, chest-squeezing urgency for another person. An unnamed yearning. The desire to be so ridiculously, inexplicably desperate for one particular person.
But now...now I began to understand.
The synopsis for author Jane Harvey-Berrick's latest release came with a warning that it would be a heartbreaking read, and still I went in thinking it would probably tug on my heartstrings, as all the Harvey-Berrick reads I've enjoyed in 2016 were wont to do. Note to self: Heed warnings from Jane Harvey-Berrick. I had to grab not just one but several tissues while reading One Careful Owner. But if you're already thinking that you're not up for a sad story, I'm here to assure you that while there are parts of this novel that may make you tear up or, like me, shed several tears, it's a tale of true love--both the love between a dog and his human and the love between two people. Yes, my heart broke, but this is the kind of story that stitched my heart back together and gave me hope as it shed a much-needed light on dog fighting and the thought that there are humans who do stand up for animals.
In the small town of Girard, Pennsylvania, too many people like to occupy their time with idle gossip and speculation. Alex Winters and his dog Stan may have bought a cabin and the outlying property some time ago, but his scraggly appearance and lack of desire to engage most anyone in town have him the new favorite topic of discussion. He has a story to tell and veterinarian and single mother Dawn Andrews knows it. She's curious about the epitome of a mountain man who barely speaks but seems to share all his secrets with his beloved dog. He's kind and gentle and cares not just about Dawn but about her young daughter Katie. But there's a dark side to Alex, one that he isn't all too sure Dawn will easily accept. Katie will always come first in Dawn's life, so how far can she go with a man who has a lot of unknowns about his life even if the one thing she knows is he loves her and Katie?
One Careful Owner was so much more than a romance novel. It touched upon several sensitive topics, such as illegal dog fighting, the abusive treatment of dogs, and speech impediments. We may be seen as the "civilized" race, but it never fails to disgust me when members of this so-called race finds entertainment in dog fighting and yet fail to take the time to wonder what kind of care--or lack thereof--these dogs receive. Alex was misunderstood and quickly judged because of his hesitation to really engage other people in conversation, no thanks to his stuttering, but his kinship both with Stan and with other dogs like Stan who were used as fighting dogs as well as other animals in general made it easy for me to fall for the man. The love he had for his brother and then for Dawn and Katie made him even more endearing. If only more people followed Katie's example of being non-judgmental.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals, but I confess that dogs have a special place in my heart, having had at least one dog in our home from as far back as I can remember. I have several of my own right now, but Oliver, my ten-year-old mixed breed, is my baby boy, having had him with me since he was a month old. To me, he isn't "just" a dog. I don't have children of my own, but I see Ollie as my child, the one who has the biggest part of my heart. So maybe that's why One Careful Owner resonated as much as it did with me. I dare not think what my life would be like if Ollie were taken from me, which is how it's easy for me to understand how Alex is with Stan. It doesn't matter how long a dog's been with you, when that connection is made, it's a lifelong love affair. Whether you have a dog or don't, I highly recommend One Careful Owner, my first five-plus-starred read of 2017. ♥
Date Read: 30 December 2016
Learn more about Jane Harvey-Berrick.