Hello, Doggy!

Elaine Fox
2008, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061175692
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

I read and enjoyed Elaine Fox's first two dog themed books (Guys and Dogs and Beware of Doug) and looked forward to reading this one. When I finished it, I felt like a bit like Goldilocks - not enough of some things, too much of others, and some were just right.

Psychologist Tory Hoffstra is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: co-author a book with Keenan James, the hot new self-help guru. The trouble is, she has no respect for psychobabble, especially in the hands of the untrained and uneducated, which is the category that Keenan falls into. She decides to go undercover at his luncheon round-tables to prove that he has no idea of what he is doing and is dangerous because of it.

Keenan James really does want to help the women who attend his “Just Dump Him” luncheons, even the glamorous newcomer "Vickie," who tends to disagree with him. He had not planned to give advice to heartbroken women as a secondary career. A successful television writer, he only sought to comfort his brother's (Brady, from Beware of Doug) ex-girlfriend. The ex sent more friends to Keenan for advice from the male point-of-view and soon he is giving advice in weekly luncheon meetings. These meetings led to a television special on a cable network and now he wants to write a book about relationships. When the publisher asks that he take on a new member, he knows she is a plant, but he does not know that she has it in for him.

When a book is named Hello, Doggy!, you might expect the dog to play a major role in the story, but there is not enough of the dog in the novel. Barbra Streisand is a golden retriever/poodle mix with a few quirks; she only comes when using her full name - or to the song People - but lacks a unique personality. I guess after reading of the diabolical Doug, I expected more from the canine third-wheel. The dog originally belonged to Keenan's mom, but he took over her care when his mother was no longer able to do so. The author misses the opportunity of letting the reader see the transformation of Barbra Streisand from "my mother's pet" into "my dog" and fails to make use of another scenario she sets up - having the friendly, good-natured animal overcoming Tory's fear of dogs.

I think that Fox went overboard with Tory's troubles. Not only is she afraid of dogs, her own book idea was rejected, she is jealous of her sister, her eight year relationship stagnated and she appears to be developing some shopaholic tendencies. And did I mention she was fired from her job as a psychotherapist? My guess is that she could use some therapy. Tory is also opinionated, but sincere in her beliefs. This leads her to quarrel (often) with Keenan in regards to the advice he gives out. These arguments lead each to put forth psychological theories to back up them up. While the author avoided getting too technical or scientific, it still came very close to psychobabbling.

What Elaine Fox got right was her hero. Keenan is everything a hero should be. He is thoughtful, charming, caring, handsome, rich, and he loves his mother. In fact, with the exception of his mother's ill health, Keenan has been living a charmed life. Tory provides a challenge for him, which piques his interest. Still, the unequal status of their relationship (his success vs. her crash) bothered me a bit.

Hello, Doggy! is not without humor and I did find myself laughing at several points. I just wanted the dog to have a bigger role, less psychological talk, and a more equal relationship...then everything would have been "just right."

-- Carolyn Esau

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