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The Twelve Dogs of Christmas


The Twelve Dogs of Christmas

What do you get when you mix a woman with a curmudgeonly view of Christmas (as in "Bah, humbug!"), a thousand-mile road trip with a dozen rescue dogs, a town that celebrates the Christmas spirit to the fullest, and a handsome and very kind paramedic who rescues the damsel (and her dogs) in distress? Why, you get Susan Wiggs’ latest novel, THE TWELVE DOGS OF CHRISTMAS. If this sweet read doesn't get your heart ready for the season of giving, then your heart is as filled with ice as the fictional upstate New York town of Avalon is with snow and holiday cheer.

In fact, while reading this book, replete with detailed descriptions of snow falling, making snow angels, skating, skiing, and snowflakes falling gently under dim streetlights decorated with garlands and lights, I kept looking outside. I was puzzled by the fact that there was no snow, just dreary fall rain. It truly felt as if I should have been in a winter wonderland as Wiggs’ characters were.

Brenda Malloy has two reasons for hating the holiday that she adored when she was a little girl. Prior to the night that her father passed away on Christmas Eve, and then the Christmas that her beloved dog almost died while providing proof of her husband's cheating, she had loved Christmas the way that only a very young child might --- believing in the magic of Santa Claus.

"If this sweet read doesn't get your heart ready for the season of giving, then your heart is as filled with ice as the fictional upstate New York town of Avalon is with snow and holiday cheer."

But now Brenda does everything she can to ignore the holiday. She lives in Houston and is thrilled to finally have a permanent home after a childhood of moving due to her mother being in the military. One of the bright points in Brenda's life since her divorce has been her rescue dog, Tim. She is very involved with the rescue group Underdogs, which takes homeless animals from the Texas area (there are a HUGE number of homeless dogs in Texas and other southern states), finds homes for them in the North and transports them there. One of the people who was supposed to be on the two-person transport couldn't make it, so Brenda reluctantly agrees to go, with the understanding that she would be back in Texas in time to go on a two-week luxury cruise celebrating her mother's retirement.

From the moment that Brenda sees the transport van, decked out in Christmas glitter, we know that this is going to be a holiday romance extravaganza. Eleven dogs (Tim makes 12) are on their way to a new life, and little does Brenda realize that she, too, is on that path. While there may be close calls and almost-avalanches, we can be sure that nothing too terrible will happen because, hey, this is a romance. We know there will be a happy-ever-after, right?

Suspension of disbelief is a must, especially when rambunctious dogs escape their leashes (I literally cringed when this happened; in real life, many lost canines are either newly adopted or foster dogs who don't know the area and tend to run away and get lost with tragic results.) But just as no one was harmed in the making of this book, no dogs were lost in the snow, either.

As these animals all end up in their perfect adoptive families, Brenda just might have a new leash --- er, lease --- on life and decide that parkas and perky paramedics, snowy nights and silent snowfalls, and serendipitous encounters are worth holding onto.

As Wiggs points out in her Author's Note, dog (and cat) transports are a real thing. Many shelters and rescues in the North bring up dogs from the South, where the shelters are overflowing, and animals are often killed on a daily basis to make room for new arrivals. It's heartbreaking. If you want to help, donate to your local animal rescue. And remember, #adoptdontshop.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on October 19, 2023

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
by Susan Wiggs

  • Publication Date: October 17, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0063253518
  • ISBN-13: 9780063253513