Must Love Dogs: Hearts & Barks: (Book 7)
Claire Cook favors us again with her enchanting and humorous latest addition of her Must Love Dogs series with book #7. Though some may consider these "beach reads," they are feel-good, kick back, and relax novels to be enjoyed any time of year. Hearts & Barks is no exception.
Sarah Hurlihy and her fiancé John are facing Valentine's Day while in the middle of renovating Sarah's childhood home, taking care of their menagerie of two dogs and five cats, and working at their careers, while deciding on a wedding date and venue. John suggests they elope to Mexico, have a barefoot beach ceremony somewhere, or do something spontaneous and different.
Trying to lighten the mood, Sarah says, "'You hate to go barefoot. . . . '
"I couldn't seem to stop myself. 'You know, Gandhi walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him frail. And because of his diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him—wait for it—a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.'
"John was still giving me that look."
Though Sarah loves John, she wants things to stay as they are. Being stung by her first husband, she is fearful about making another commitment. Sarah refers to her ex-husband as a "wasband" to Polly, who lives with her and is her single and pregnant teaching assistant at the Bayberry Preschool where they work.
"'Wasband is too good for him. Maybe I could start referring to him as my ex-baggage. Or oven my ex-hole."
"'HATT has a nice ring to it,' Polly said. 'It's short for husband at the time.'
"'Sure, I said. 'As long as I can call him an ass-hatt.'"
Sarah had wanted a baby with her ex, but he always had the excuse the time wasn't right. Now, he's remarried, and Sarah is amazed at how quickly he has children with his new, and younger wife. Meanwhile, she laments about her biological clock, which she fears is running out. Though happy for Polly, she wonders if she'll ever become a mother.
With Valentine's Day approaching, everyone is abuzz as to how they will celebrate, but Sarah and John are riding along a rocky road because of her concern of commitment. This is where Sarah's angst is most apparent. She wonders, am I good enough for John? What if we marry and everything falls apart? Her emotions make her vulnerable and her concern is understandable. John is also a bit apprehensive because the loud and boisterous Hurlihy family are always underfoot. Will they ever get any privacy?
When Sarah finds hearts affixed to her classroom door, she speculates as to the sender. Polly surmises this is John's doing, but seeing their current situation Sarah doesn't think so, and this puts her in a funk.
Sarah plans a spur-of-the-moment baby shower for Polly. She does not understand why things are tense between them then learns she is getting a new teaching assistant named Damien—and a young, handsome guy, too, no less. She believed Polly would be reassigned after her maternity leave, but with her "bitch" of a boss, whom she refers to as "The Grand Mighty Poo-Poo" Sarah is the last to know anything, which only adds to her anxiety.
Then when Sarah's brother gives her some information about John, her head spins and she is angry, causing her to wonder if she really knows him and if there is a future for them. This turns out to be a case of miscommunication, which proves how easily a relationship can deteriorate by not talking things out and being honest with each other.
This fun-loving and delightful cast of family members and supporting characters offers laughs while supplying not only humor but also heartfelt lessons on love. Cook involves the reader as a member of the Hurlihy clan to share all their foibles and adventures. With examples of games and crafts giving ideas for the pre-school set as well as touches of mystery, suspense, tension, romance, and even a recipe, this covers the whole spectrum of entertainment.