What Austin Lloyd lacks in academics, he makes up for in his love of the animals who frequent his pet salon. He’s not lucky in romance, though, and his family would like him to settle down with a good man. Austin—and his golden retriever, Maggie—couldn’t agree more.
Evan Partridge isn’t good at letting people in. His messy family life and the past that’s shaped him aren’t worth bringing up. But his pug, Dexter, sure likes the pet salon owner.
Austin and Evan get off to a rough start, but being friends soon turns into something more. Unfortunately, Evan’s secretive behavior nearly does the relationship in, and the budding love affair almost crashes and burns when Evan’s troubled sister shows up on his doorstep.
Not speaking to each other is killing them both, but Evan doesn't know how to keep Austin and help his sister at the same time. He just knows he has to try. Winning back Austin’s trust back, however, is going to take a whole lot of work.
M.J. O'Shea has an engaging writing style. I immediately adored Austin, owner of a pet salon, and somewhat socially awkward when it comes to hunky men who may or may not be intentionally late picking up their pug.
I had reservations about Evan almost as immediately. Where Austin is open and honest (even when red-faced), I got the feeling that Evan wasn't as honest with Austin in return.
Sure, we find out why over the course of the book, but for almost the entire book, I felt as if Evan had one foot out the door. Still, for most of the book, the budding romance develops in a rather charming way, even if I wasn't sure what was keeping Evan from jumping in wholeheartedly. I enjoyed the book until about 80% when the expected conflict shows up on the form of Evan's adult sister.
If I was supposed to believe that she suffered from depression - well, that didn't work, and was almost an insult to people who truly suffer from this illness. She came across as a spoiled, needy, and greedy brat, who only thought of herself, and who basically used guilt and a "poor-me" attitude to make Evan do her will. She added nothing positive to the story at all, and her only purpose, as far as I could tell, was to create the conflict.
Evan in turn confirmed my suspicions about him being a spineless, miserable rat bastard, when he basically gives up the one good thing he has going for him - Austin - to appease his sister's bitchiness. The woman was so over the top obnoxious that she came across as a cardboard villain, and the story took a severe nose dive for me. Evan allowing her to demand that Austin leave was the absolute low point of this story for me, and something for which I couldn't forgive Evan.
While there were hints throughout the book that Evan had some bad family history, I didn't quite expect how it played out. He cuts off contact with Austin, but then suddenly, possibly due to his misery, develops a little bit of the spine he's been lacking, and sort of kind of puts his foot down with his sister. His apology to Austin wasn't what I had hoped for, and Austin taking him back cost him some points too.
And then the book was over, with a sort of kind of happy for now that didn't fit the lighter tone of the earlier parts of this book. It ended a bit abruptly for me, and we don't have a real resolution to Evan's sister issue, as we don't see the proposed solution, and don't even know if he will do what he says he'll do.
And that's too bad, really. This was a lovely, cute, funny and charming book, with a nice slow burn, deliciously making me wait for the nekkid times, until the sister happened. The last 20% or so ruined the happy ending I was hoping for, and seriously yucked my yum for this book.
** I received a free ARC from the book's publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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