**Spoiler Alert: This post may contain some spoilers about Kristan Higgins's books and some of the very cute companions within.**
Sometimes you pick up a book with a dog on the cover and think, “Please God, not another cute romance facilitated by a cute pet,” and put the darned thing back down. This is not what happens with Kristan Higgins books. Granted, her covers all have dogs on them (except for The Next Best Thing—more about that later).
It's obvious that Kristan Higgins loves dogs and they usually play rather prominent roles in her books, but they're not just a cute addition. Kristan Higgins's dogs have a lot to tell us about their owners.
In Catch of the Day, Higgins's second book, Colonel, a golden retriever, is the heroine's best friend. He's the repository of all her love and the being she turns to for solace.
When the humiliation and grief over Skip threatened to overwhelm me, Colonel would come over and nudge my hand with his nose until I petted him. Or he'd drop a ratty tennis ball at my feet, and if I ignored him, he'd repeat this ten or twelve times until I got the hint. He slept on my bed each night, his big head resting on my stomach as I fought off loneliness and tried to come up with a plan for my adult life.
Maggie's relationship with her dog says so much about Maggie's big heart. Her conversations with Colonel help the reader understand her loneliness. Her friends' grief at Colonel's death help us understand the close friendships she engenders. Colonel is an important piece in understanding Maggie.
In All I Ever Wanted, Bowie, the heroine's Husky mutt and Angie, the hero's pedigreed Irish Setter, define the beginning of their relationship. Callie, on the rebound from a nearly imaginary love affair and pretty uncoordinated in the realm of personal relationships, meets Ian, self-possessed, completely in control and rather closed off. They could not be less compatible than their two dogs.
“Wow, that is one gorgeous dog,” I said. “Is she yours?”
“Yes,” he answered. He eyed my whining dog the way a father eyes his teenage daughter's boyfriend.
“Bowie, stop,” I ordered tugging on the leash. My dog was getting aroused once more.
When Callie and Ian become a couple, that too is reflected by the dogs without relinquishing the traits that made them perfect for their respective owners.
Bowie sulked, but then, being half Husky, decided he couldn't sustain it and went into Ian's yard to sing to Angie then tried to mount her.
In Somebody to Love, Parker stumbles into dog ownership just as the rest of her life seems to be falling apart. Her hero is someone she has never liked and doesn't really trust. Beauty, her adopted mutt, is a tentative, fearful counterpart to Parker's uncertain entré into her new life and new love.
Beauty crouched behind Parker's legs as Maggie came in. “Hi Lavinia. Hi Parker!” she said. “Oh, you have a dog! Hi puppy! Can I pet her?”
“She's pretty shy,” Parker said, but Maggie knelt down, and to Parker's amazement, Beauty's tail wriggled a little bit.
Parker's response to meeting her is the same as her response to the challenges she faces.
Even if she wanted to have a dog, she had nowhere to put the thing. Parker wasn't sure where she herself would be sleeping tonight. Most likely, the car once again.
“I'll take her,” she said.
For a change of pace, we have Fat Mikey, feline companion to Lucy, the heroine of The Next Best Thing. Because cats are their own creatures and have an entirely different relationship with their people than dogs, it's really not possible for Fat Mikey to be a reflection of Lucy's personality. But he does just fine as someone for her to talk to and as comic relief.
Fat Mikey puts his front paws against her knees, and she smiles. “Animals sense when you're sad,” she says and I opt not to correct her by saying that Fat Mikey is probably about to make a move on Emma's dinner if Corinne doesn't cover up soon. Instead I pick up my cat and pet him, earning a disgruntled meow for interrupting his plans to nurse.
All this is to say that every Kristan Higgins book includes an animal and none of these animals are throw-away cutouts. Each has a personality and each contributes something unique to his book.
Have you fallen in love with one of Kristan Higgins's fictional dogs?
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website,www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.