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Making Fetch Happen: 16 Dog- and Cat-Friendly Romances

Pets make everything better. So is it any wonder that many romance novels include a furry, four-footed sidekick in the plot? Authors can showcase the softer side of a hero or heroine who might initially comes across as cold or emotionally distant by incorporating a dog/cat into the love story (as seen with gruff Jack Matheson in Roan Parrish’s Better Than People). Writers can also use a potential ownership tug-of-war over a dog/cat to bring couples together (as seen in Jill Shalvis’ Playing for Keeps and Abby Jimenez’s The Happy Ever After Playlist). And as Beth Kendrick and Lizzie Shane cleverly illustrate in In Dog We Trust and The Twelve Dogs of Christmas (respectively), pets are terrific at adding an element of humor to a story line.

In fact, a number of romance authors have developed a considerable following among readers for their canine-cuddly (and feline-friendly) love stories. One perfect example is Kristan Higgins, whose superbly written books have been enhanced over the years by a number of different canines (and the occasional feline or two) making important cameos. Romance readers searching for perhaps the most perfect literary love letter to dogs (and romance, of course) should look no further than Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone but You. While print copies might currently be difficult to come by, this brilliant ode to canine love in the form of Fred—part basset, part beagle, part manic-depressive—holds a permanent spot on many dog-devoted romance readers’ keeper shelves. (And Crusie also proved she was no slouch when it came to felines in her plots, either, as evidenced by her “freakishly intelligent” cat in Bet Me.)

At their core, romance novels are all about love. And as this perfect pack of 16 dog- and cat-friendly contemporary love stories aptly demonstrates, who is better at providing unconditional love than a pet?

Always the Last to Know, by Kristan Higgins

After John Frost suffers a stroke, the Frost women—John’s wife Barb and their daughters Juliet and Sadie—all find their lives changing in unexpected ways. While Higgins’ latest literary treasure is more women’s fiction with a strong romantic element, it does include one of her signature tots adorbs dogs as well as oodles of her deliciously acerbic sense of wit.

Better than People, by Roan Parrish

When a broken leg forces grumpy illustrator Jack Matheson to seek help with his pack of pets, Jack finds himself letting Simon Burke into his house and his life. In this sweet and sexy romance, two people, one of whom struggles with social anxiety, bond over their shared love of dogs and cats.

Cold Nose, Warm Heart, by Mara Wells

The romantic fur flies when Caleb Donovan announces his plans to turn the South Florida senior living apartment building Riley Carson manages— as well as the temporary dog park next door—into luxury condos. In this delightfully fun debut, Wells puts her own stamp on the enemies-to-lovers trope and gifts readers with a pack of adorable canines to boot.

The Good Ones, by Jenn McKinlay

After inheriting her aunt’s Victorian house and cache of romance novels, Maisy Kelly hires architect Ryder Copeland to turn her new home into a bookstore. McKinlay’s irresistible contemporary romance not only celebrates the power of romance novels in our lives, but it also delivers a master class on the ins and outs of raising a new kitten; Ryder and his young daughter, Perry, wind up helping Maisy raise King George, a weeks-old kitten left on Maisy’s porch.

The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez

Once Sloan Monroe rescues rock star Jaxon Waters’ dog, Tucker, she discovers she doesn’t want to give him back . . . at least not until Jaxon proves he really does love Tucker. Jimenez puts her readers through a real emotional workout in her latest brilliantly crafted contemporary romance, but there is no denying the deep emotion—love—that both Sloan and Jaxon have for Tucker.

In Dog We Trust, by Beth Kendrick

After being named the legal guardian of a wealthy man’s pack of prize Labrador retrievers, Jocelyn Hillier finds herself clashing with the man’s estranged son, Liam Allardyce, who believes the estate should have come to him. Kendrick, creator of the charming seaside town of Black Dog Bay, definitely deserves the title of “Best in Show” for her delightfully witty, canine-centered love stories.

In Service of Love, by Laurel Greer

Veterinarian Maggie Reid spends all her time either working or training service dogs until single dad Asher Matsuda and his young daughter enter her life. Greer’s latest contemporary romance, in which the librarian hero and veterinarian heroine meet while Maggie trains her latest service dog at the library, thoughtfully illuminates the important role canines play in so many people’s lives

No Judgments, by Meg Cabot

When a hurricane hits Little Bridge Island, Bree Beckham, who is staying put to care for her recovering cat, Gary, enlists the help of her boss’s annoying—yet sexy—nephew in rescuing as many pets as they can. Cabot’s distinctive brand of wit and love for animals shines brightly in the first in her new Little Bridge Island series.

Paradise Cove, by Jenny Holiday

Dr. Nora Walsh only planned on staying in Moonflower Bay for two years, but local fisherman and woodworker Jake Ramsey soon has her revising her long-term plans. Holiday deftly combines two romance reader favorites, small towns and a lovable dog, in this launch to her Matchmaker Bay series.

Playing for Keeps, by Jill Shalvis

Free-spirited tattoo artist Sadie Lane and buttoned-up businessman Caleb Parker couldn’t be more different, but the two do share one thing in common: a determination to rescue a dog abandoned during a storm. Once again, Shalvis charms romance readers with her signature mix of sharp humor, sexy romance, and a cute canine, who steals hearts all on his own.

Puppy Love, by Lucy Gilmore

Wildfire firefighter Harrison Parks needs a service dog, and Sophie Vasquez, the woman in charge of the puppy service training program, thinks she may have just the match for him. What romance reader could resist the pairing of a big, tough, rough-around-the-edges firefighter with a Pomeranian puppy named Bubbles?

Rescue You, by Elysia Whisler

When the dog rescue Constance runs with her sister is threatened, she is forced to accept some help from grumpy gym owner Rhett Santos. Whisler thoughtfully explores some tough issues, including PTSD, in this emotion-rich romance that also delivers much-deserved happy endings for humans and their dogs.

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets, by Annie England Noblin

Maeve Stephens arrives in Timber Creek to claim the house left to her by her late mother, only to find the abode comes with a marauding cat, a bulldog left on her new front porch, a grumpy next-door neighbor, and a new group of friends in the people of the St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets. Who wouldn’t want to live in a close-knit small town where friends knit sweaters for the dogs and cats in their care?

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, by Lizzie Shane

Grinchy Pine Hollow town councilman Ben West’s plans to cut off city funding for Ally Gilmore’s grandparents’ animal shelter take an unexpected turn when Ben finds himself volunteering to help Ally find good homes for the 12 dogs still in the shelter. Don’t wait until the holidays to read this laugh-out-loud contemporary romance that will have even fierce feline aficionados begging for more.

Who Rescued Who, by Victoria Schade

Elizabeth Barnes has planned a quick trip to England to settle an inheritance from her father . . . but everything changes when she discovers an abandoned puppy. As a dog trainer, cohost on Faithful Friends, and a wrangler for the Puppy Bowl specials, Schade is definitely fluent in speaking dog.

You Lucky Dog, by Julia London

When a mix-up with their dogwalker leaves Carly Kennedy and Max Sheffington with the wrong basset hound (each other’s!), the sparks fly. London deploys her distinctive brand of snarky wit and ability to create potent sexual chemistry with splendid results in this richly humorous rom-com that celebrates the special bond between humans and dogs.

About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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