Title: Pawsitively in Love
Author: M.J. O’Shea
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Pawsitively in Love left me with more questions than answers and uncertain about the relationship between its two main characters.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: What Austin Lloyd lacks in academics, he makes up for in his love of the animals who frequent his pet salon. He’s not lucky in romance, though, and his family would like him to settle down with a good man. Austin—and his golden retriever, Maggie—couldn’t agree more.
Evan Partridge isn’t good at letting people in. His messy family life and the past that’s shaped him aren’t worth bringing up. But his pug, Dexter, sure likes the pet salon owner.
Austin and Evan get off to a rough start, but being friends soon turns into something more. Unfortunately, Evan’s secretive behavior nearly does the relationship in, and the budding love affair almost crashes and burns when Evan’s troubled sister shows up on his doorstep.
Not speaking to each other is killing them both, but Evan doesn’t know how to keep Austin and help his sister at the same time. He just knows he has to try. Winning back Austin’s trust back, however, is going to take a whole lot of work.
Review: Austin has started his own business—a pet salon that he has lovingly and exhaustively nurtured through its first few years and is finally seeing a profit. So when he has a difficult day and his last client of the day shows up late, it’s understandable when he gives the guy a tongue-lashing. But Austin is not happy with his behavior and goes back and forth before he finally contacts the man to apologize. Evan doesn’t do “dating,” and he even finds it difficult to have friendships with people, so Austin’s attempts at both are met with a “no strings attached” response. But Austin really likes Evan, and Evan himself is beginning to feel things he has never experienced before when it comes to falling for another guy.
I have read other work by M.J. O’Shea and really enjoyed her style. Pawsitively in Love worked on many levels for me, but where it fell short was fairly obvious and caused the story to stumble and raise more questions that were either left unanswered or vaguely handled.
Let’s begin with what really stood out as both sweetly written and well crafted. Definitely, Austin heads this list. He was such a kind and yet saucy man. By no means a pushover, he ran his shop with skill and efficiency, and I loved the fact that he had a desire to not only keep his clients happy but also had the gumption to right any wrongs he did to others. In fact, when we meet Evan, it is clear that Austin will have to somehow make amends for his rude behavior towards a new client. The cute dog aspect—both Evan’s pug, Dexter, and Austin’s retriever, Maggie, certainly helped to make this story a sweet one. But it was really Austin’s caring heart, his worry that his lack of academic degree made him somehow unsuccessful despite running his own pet salon, and his deep desire to both love and be loved in return that kept this story afloat and interesting.
Along with Austin was a scattered group of friends and his twin sister who obviously worried that Austin was not dating and were just bold enough to shove him at Evan every chance they could get. The group dynamic was a nice one, and it was great to see Austin and his sister bicker and stand up for one another like most siblings do. His friends were quirky and fun and more than once provided a much-needed break from the rather intense plotline that was Evan and Austin’s romance.
While all these elements made the novel a good one, both Evan and his sister Della were written in such a vague and almost shrouded way that their storyline put a hitch in this otherwise nice romance story. Repeatedly Evan told himself and Austin that he did not date. That, in fact, he wasn’t really good with people, and this gave me pause since Evan’s choice of job was a university professor. Surely one has to be “good” with people if you are teaching them? Secondly, I must admit that Evan almost presented as someone who was somewhat OCD—there were many references to his needing things ordered, clean, just so. Yet this hint at a possible compulsive disorder never really went far—as if it was a teaser but with no follow up, which left Evan just a really strange sort of guy.
Finally there was Della, Evan’s sister. Her over-the-top anger, her rudeness and her inability to hold a job at the age of thirty was hinted at as an issue that needed addressing in therapy. Yet, we never found out what was really wrong with her, nor did we ever learn exactly what happened to either Evan or Della in their childhood to make both of them slightly odd and definitely lacking in basic relational skills. All we did know was that their relationship with each other was toxic and it nearly destroyed what Evan was slowly building with Austin.
All in all, both Evan and Della seemed so out of sync with the rest of this fun cast of characters that I found myself wondering why the author chose to create such drama around the two of them but never fully explain what had happened to make them this way. And that, in a nutshell, is what threw me out of this novel repeatedly—Evan just never seemed fully fleshed out; rather, he was a one-dimensional man who lucked out in landing a very patient boyfriend in Austin.
Lastly, I had to wonder at the ending of this novel. It seemed a bit abrupt—sudden and not very convincing. Yes, there was forgiveness and reconciliation, but it was almost vague—and Della was still very present and really angry and unwelcoming to Austin, so I felt like we were left with a HFN type ending. Don’t get me wrong, that’s fin,e but it felt wrong somehow for Austin to be settling for someone who really hadn’t fixed his life more fully.
Author M.J. O’Shea writes wonderful characters and you can really see the talent she has in crafting her men with both emotion and depth when you meet Austin. I do wish we could have seen more of that true talent bleed into Evan as well. Somehow, he was just not quite good enough for Austin, and that left me shaking my head. In the end, Pawsitively in Love left me with more questions than answers and uncertain about the relationship between its two main characters.
You can buy Pawsitively in Love here: