I’m a big fan of Lauren Connolly’s more recent work, but when I realized this one had a pitbull as a side character? I jumped on it! Much like the dog, this book is sweetly heartwarming while also packing a bit of muscley punch.
“I’m sure I can get this right. Pumpkin is meant to be mine, and I’m meant to be hers. We’ll figure out things together.”
Dash started working with animals while he was still in jail, and now that’s out on parole, the animal shelter is one of the few jobs that’ll take him. It’s something he finds fulfilling, if a bit boring, at least until Paige walks in. Paige found an injured pitbull while out on a run and is convinced that they’re meant to be together. Newly arrived back in her hometown of New Orleans, after discovering her fiancé was cheating on her, she’s back to living with her parents and determined to put her energy into someone more predictable. So Pumpkin – named for her color and because she’s attached to a squeaky pumpkin toy – comes home with her. But when she realizes she needs more help with her, she goes back to Dash for lessons. Dog lessons turn into friendship and then something else, but how can an ex-con and the daughter of a judge bridge their two worlds?
“You’re giving me a book?” He sounds incredulous.
“I’m giving you my number. In a book. So technically, yes.”
Paige is, well, weird. She knows she’s quirky and a bit of an oddball, but she still can’t help but wish people would overlook her tendency to put her foot in her mouth. She’s the type of person who seriously refers to her dog as her life partner. And, much like with her job as an editor, she’s able to quickly winnow out the good inside a dog (or person) and ignore the rest. Paige’s family is loaded. Her father is a prominent judge and her mother restores classic cars – aka, an absolute nightmare for Dash, who went to jail for boosting cars for his uncle’s chop shop. He loves cars so much he stashes car magazines under his mattress instead of the usual guy suspects. He knows nothing good can come with associating with her but he can’t quite seem to resist her – or her obvious love for Pumpkin. Even though he’s served his time, Dash can’t forgive himself for the mistakes he made, though he’s committed to never making them again. He’s so used to judging himself that he can’t help but assume Paige is judging him, too, though that’s the farthest thing on her mind. Paige likes him, likes how he interacts with Pumpkin and with her, and things just naturally flow in a romantic direction. And for Dash, figuring out that life can be more than just survival can be a very rough ride. Their chemistry together is great and the ways they found to incorporate their mutual love for cars was, uh, interesting to say the least.
“But honey, she’s a”—Mom lowers her voice to a whisper—“pit bull.”
It’d be hard to ignore the blatant comparison between society’s instinctive reaction to pitbulls and how felons are treated, and for the most part, I think it works well. Most of it is Paige’s ability to cut through the noise and respond to the heart of a person, even if that person isn’t wholely receptive to it. As the proud parent of possibly the derpiest pitbull mix on the planet, I’ve heard a lot of the anti-pit sentiment so can certainly sympathize with Paige over that. The side characters are pretty delightful as well, even Paige’s pushy ex. Her mother is an absolute hoot, and Dash’s roommate Cole is obvious sequel material.
Overall, a cute pitbull, a heartwarming slow burn romance, and some vintage cars make this a fun read.