Christmas in Blue Dog Valley: A Novel
Veterinarin Marigold "Goldie" McKenzie leaves Los Angeles after spending ten years sharing a home and practice with her fiancé, Brandon Burrows, the man she once thought she would marry, but they have started living separate lives.
"They had an unspoken agreement, she and Brandon. He cheated on her as often as he liked, and Goldie pretended not to notice. She didn't like the fighting and the making up and the broken promises to never do it again. It was easier to act like everything was fine. It was easier to ignore it, to go on with life as it was, and Goldie didn't know what happened that changed it all, what broke inside of her."
Turns out the vet tech, Romy, hired by Brandon, becomes his mistress, and neither tries to hide the affair. A mishap happens in the office between Goldie and Romy, and Goldie finds out how things really stand between her and Brandon when he says, "'It's my clinic,' Brandon replied. . . . 'You just work there.'
"Goldie felt as if she's been punched in the gut. For nearly the past decade, she'd been part of every single decision made at the clinic. She'd been there during the hard days and late nights. She'd sat with clients after their pet died, and they needed comfort. She'd not taken a salary for a year after they'd been sued by a client angry about the untimely death of their cat, because most of the money was tied up in lawyers. She'd celebrated with Brandon when they'd won the suit, largely in part due to her father's connections.'
"But as far as Brandon was concerned, she just worked there. Goldie guessed she'd known all along."
There is a saying that goes, "This is the straw that broke the camel's back," and Goldie knows a change is greatly needed.
Goldie learns about an animal hospital for sale in Blue Dog Valley, Wisconsin, so she contacts the owner, 70-year-old Dr. Gene Saltzman about taking over his practice. As a native Californian, she realizes this is a huge step to take, but she wants something totally different. They have a gentlemen's agreement where Goldie will take over on a trial basis until the beginning of the new year and if things don't work out, so be it.
Goldie arrives at the Milwaukee airport, dressed in California attire in November. Unaccustomed to the frigid weather, she shivers while waiting for Dr. Saltzman. Baggage is dispatched, and Goldie remains until nothing is left on the conveyor belt—that is except, a cat in a carrier. Seems someone abandoned the kitty, and she considers maybe she has been, too. Goldie, an animal lover, decides to take it with her it. As she lingers, she talks to the feline. Someone clears his throat, embarrassing her. He introduces himself as Cohen Gable, stating he's been sent to pick her up. On the two-hour drive from the airport, they start off on the wrong foot, and Goldie cannot wait to be rid of this cantankerous man who is around her age.
He teases her about being a "rich, hot California babe" now coming to the wilderness and bets she won't last a week. He laughs at the high heels and lightweight clothes she is wearing.
They arrive in town and Cohen drops her, her luggage, and the abandoned cat at the clinic stating there's a small cabin behind the hospital that is to be her new home. Dr. Saltzman left her a letter offering information about her quarters and the business saying it opens at 8:00 a.m. and she will meet Tiffany, his right-hand gal.
She is awakened the next morning by the cat hissing on her pillow and spying a huge dog in the living room. What the heck? A woman three times the size of the canine flings open the door and yells at the pooch she calls Kevin.
With a scowl on her face, the woman informs Goldie she is late. Uh-oh, Goldie thinks, this must be Tiffany, and by the look on her face, she thinks it will be difficult fitting in here. Tiffany is the intruder and states Kevin is a roamer around the town, and because the lock doesn't work, he often comes inside to sleep.
Tiffany is a hard nut to break, and it appears she wants nothing to do with the newcomer. She acts as if the animal hospital is hers and tells Goldie what to do. Not wanting to make any more enemies, she placates the older woman by offering to pick up some coffee. At Ruby's Diner, the scent of cinnamon buns makes her salivate, and she orders them to go along with the beverages. Ruby automatically strikes up a friendly conversation, pleasing Goldie that someone in the tiny village is welcoming. She considers heading back to CA, but she promised Dr. Saltzman, and she always follows through.
Time passes, and Goldie gets caught up in small-town living. She is called to a farm to help a horse with an abscessed hoof. Cohen shows up later, none too happy to see her. He is a farrier and plans to help, though her expertise is greater than his. She heals the horse, who belongs to the mayor, and he spreads the word around town about how good she is.
The small village makes always makes a huge deal out of Christmas and decorates long before Thanksgiving. Goldie arrives home after work and finds several of the town's folk decorating her house. She finally feels accepted. Tiffany insists she go to the local meeting pertaining to their annual Christmas parade, an event that once had a huge attendance. Due to the state putting in a new highway extension diverting access to Big Dog Valley, fewer people come and the town is dying. Goldie offers suggestions as to how to draw in visitors by including a carnival. Little does she know this whole affair will get dumped in her lap, but by being involved, she finds the residents embrace her, and she begins loving her new home, despite the fact that she is always freezing.
Her only obstacle is Cohen, who is against everything she suggests. She wonders if they will ever become friends. Through the grapevine, Goldie learns of Cohen's painful past, so she tries not to let his attitude toward her affect her.
Will Goldie stay in the now-friendly town and take over the animal clinic for good or will she run back to Los Angeles with her tail tucked between her legs? Will she and Cohen ever come to terms with each other?
This novel offers humor, excitement, and fun, and can be enjoyed any time of year.