Introducing the family

I like the concept of Nicole Galland's Stepdog - boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, but will he fall for her dog; more importantly will the dog like him?

The dog in my life
 Having been in a couple of relationships where there's been that tricky moment of introducing the new man in your life to your beloved pooch, I know it isn't easy. Unless you're a dog owner or a dog lover, you don't appreciate the complications. As a dog-loving friend of mine said "I thought they were great till I introduced them to the dog, then it was game-over. It's love me, love my dog."

So far I've had the ex that the dog put up with (mainly because he had a dog too, though even that wasn't enough for Dylan Yorkie-X, who decided to go to the pub instead), the ex that the dog tolerated (lots of embarrassing gazes from the other sofa "Geez, you could really do better than that"), the ex that the dog hated (dog was right!), and current partner, who is the first guy that Alfie has honoured by retrieving his frisbee to him (normally A ignores whoever I'm with, and expects me to do all the frisbee throwing).

For any dog lover their dog is a hugely important part of their life. He's not just a dog, he's the person they live with. If they're single, Dog is often the last thing they see at night, and the first in the morning (a well-aimed paw in the stomach makes a great alarm clock). Whoever else may have wandered in and out of their life, Dog has always been there; so "the dog" is not going to suddenly disappear, or have to make way for the new man/woman. There's going to need to be compromise on both sides, and sometimes (because it's harder for the dog to change its routine, especially if it's an older hound), some understanding will be required from the new guy/girl, even if they're not dog lovers themselves.

Stepdog is a bit of a slow starter, lots of romance, general irritation with the dog from the new partner, gradual acceptance of the dog, everything seems to be going well (though it's pretty boring); but then the book really takes off when it moves into a completely different gear. Dog is dognapped by girlfriend's psychopathic ex, and suddenly we're into completely new territory. The last two thirds of the book were utterly brilliant. A great bad guy (bet you won't spot the villain), some truly nasty shenanigans, a part comic, part suspenseful road-trip across the USA (with some great music listening tips) and the obligatory romantic ending.

A romcom with dogs, that is improved considerably with a good dollop of suspense. It's not great writing, but it's a lot of fun to read. It is apparently a departure from Nicole Galland's usual writing style, and I'd be very interested to read one of her other novels. Great fun for a dog lover, perhaps not quite so thrilling for anyone else.


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