Life on the Leash: Victoria Schade
Genre: Chick Lit/Romance
Cora Bellamy loves dogs. She loves them so much, in fact, that she’s started her own dog training business. Based on a philosophy of love and understanding, she wants to prove the harsh well-known trainers that they’re wrong. So when she gets the opportunity to audition for a dog training TV show, she jumps at the chance.
There’s still one thing standing in the way: her latest client. He’s charming, handsome, and seems to like Cora back. The problem is that he’s taken. What’s a girl to do? Luckily she has the acquaintance of another client to help her. Eli is a great assistant, and little does Cora know that she may be attracted to him as well.
***There may be minor spoilers.***
I often enjoy a fun, chick-lit novel. I always enjoy dogs. And I also enjoy supporting local talent. So I knew this book had to be mine!
The story focuses on the life of dog trainer Cora Bellamy. She doesn’t have a ton of problems in her life, per se, as she’s gotten over her ex-fiance and is enjoying her dog training business. But excitement is about to manifest itself in the possibility of a new dog training show.
You have several chick lit tropes here for the most part and most are well-drawn.
The clumsy protagonist who leaves her corporate job to start a quirky business: Cora. Her story was interesting and different.
Her party-loving voice of reason best friend: Maggie.
The evil ex: Aaron. He really has no purpose here, and it’s often distracting. More on that in a bit.
The evil corporate-esque giant who is a bully but somehow has a following: Donald I mean Boris Ershovich
The gay best friend who loves clothes, acts feminine and uses words like “darling”: Darnell
We interrupt this post with breaking news…
HOW TO WRITE GAY CHARACTERS
BY FICTIONISTAS UNITED
1. Follow the exact same character-creating process you use for straight people.
2. Make them attracted to people of the same gender.
3. Um, that’s it.
It really annoys me when writers try to be “diverse” and then write characters according to their cardboard cutout stereotype. Schade obviously tries to be diverse here, maybe to a fault (do we need to know the groomer friend’s lesbian backstory?) I did actually like Darnell. I’m just sick of seeing him show up in every book I read as the gay side character.
My main issue with the novel was that it seemed to focus too much on events that weren’t important to the narrative, while it didn’t often focus enough on the things that were important. The whole balance was a little off. The first half is almost entirely about dogs and there’s not a lot of romance there. (Which was fine, save for the fact that again, there’s not a lot of love development in the second half either so maybe there should have been more of a love story there.) Characters spend so much time complaining about a certain famous dog trainer that I was like, “Enough already! We get it.” Then in the second half, nobody mentions him anymore. Hardly.
This lack of focus creates a few problems. First: I didn’t always care. I really didn’t care about seeing drawn out scenes of Aaron’s reality TV show when I could have been seeing the chemistry grow between Cora and Eli and Charlie, something we desperately needed more of. Second: there is no time for any chemistry to develop. When a fight breaks out between the two, it comes out of nowhere and is clearly just there because “it’s chick lit, and a fight always happens at this point!” It had to be rushed, because, well, there was no time for development. They’re not even in a relationship! And then it was resolved way too quickly with no effort. Actually, I almost started laughing when I read it because of how far out of left field the “argument” came from.
Third: the book skipped from problem to problem so much that it’s easy to forget details. The main characters all go to a party at some point that Cora was apparently invited to. I couldn’t ever remember that happening because it was glossed over so fast. This brings me to the fourth and biggest problem: the book can’t find an issue to focus on. Was it about the dog training show? Was it about Cora finding love? It doesn’t stay on one problem long enough to answer that. This could have been helped if the author spent less time going in-depth about Cora’s roommate’s job issues, drawn-out shopping scenes, Aaron’s TV show, and scenes of partying at clubs (le snore). There are several issues presented that could make for great drama: an evil client possibly holding stake in Cora’s life, going head-to-head with a popular brutish dog trainer (also, I found it strange that Schade implied Cora was going to take him down when they weren’t going head-to-head or even meet); and so forth.
As for the romance itself? Exploring Cora’s moral dilemma with her taken love interest was also exciting, as you don’t see that very often. I know a lot of us who are interested in love have been tempted to date someone in a relationship at some point. It’s easy to guess who she’ll choose, but I wish there was more relationship development. There wasn’t enough here to get me completely invested in these relationships. I also felt that their climax was pretty weak, even for the genre. It tried to be quirky but didn’t make a lot of sense (remember the left field fight I mentioned?) Additionally, Cora doesn’t face a whole lot of obstacles so not much is at stake and it falls flat. It might have been better to spend more of the book showing Cora hosting the show instead of having her wait on the audition results. Waiting does not good drama make. Changing the focus to the show alone could have solved many of the book’s issues.
Okay, let’s talk about the good, because this really isn’t a bad book. I did like some of the subplots, despite how they were distracting. I was especially drawn to one about a woman called Beth Ann, a troubled woman with a poodle living in a tough situation. I was rooting for her. I loved the dogs and their personalities, and there were lots of dogs to love here. Ultimately, I also liked the characters. The dialogue was real, the setting was established, and from a basic perspective it all flowed fairly well. There’s not a lot to talk about, but the story itself was entertaining.
This was a cute, fluffy book that wasn’t perfect. I did enjoy seeing what would happen next and looked forward to picking it up again to see the characters. Because there was no clear goal in mind, and the one that existed couldn’t be solved by anything but waiting, it fell somewhat flat. Honestly, I feel like it just needed a few more rounds of edits than anything, because in addition to questionable choices, there were definitely some errors I picked up on. It’s a fun piece of chick lit. If you like dogs, you should go for it because the dog stuff definitely overshadows the romance. Still, don’t expect it to win awards any time soon.