Sep 3 2013 9:30am

First Look: Shirley Jump’s The Sweetheart Bargain (September 3, 2013)

The Sweetheart Bargain by Shirley JumpShirley Jump
The Sweetheart Bargain
Berkley / September 3, 2013 / $7.99 print, $7.59 digital

The Sweetheart Sisters, a trio of sassy, well-meaning grannies (who aren’t against a sip of bourbon with breakfast) are ready to dispense advice and help create happy endings with a little of what they do best—meddling.
Animal therapist Olivia Linscott is the Sweetheart Sisters’ first target. Running from a bad marriage and a lousy job, Olivia is determined to save the dog shelter she inherited from the mother she never knew and, above all, to protect her broken heart. The Sisters want to tie the spirited young do-gooder to wounded helicopter pilot Luke Winslow, but the intended pair keeps slipping the leash.

Luke’s dreams were shattered by a career-ending eye injury. Adrift and bitter, the last thing he wants is romantic involvement. But when a golden retriever in worse shape than he is scratches on the door, the dog brings in a whole lot more than puppy love…

Animal therapist, puppy, dog shelter are all irresistible tugs on my heart. So of course I had to read Shirley Jump's The Sweetheart Bargain. Within its covers, I found plenty to satiate my obsession with the canine family and a sweet love story too.

Olivia Linscott was abandoned at Brigham and Women’s Hospital right after her birth. Adopted into a loving family by one of the nurses who cared for her, she never wanted for anything, but still she always wondered why her birth mother had left her.

Struggling after the end of her short marriage, Olivia jumps at the chance of new beginning. While she is distressed by the news of her birth mother’s death, she is warmed by the thought that her mother cared enough to mention her in her will and leave her a wonderful Florida bungalow. She immediately packs up her things, relieved to leave behind a cheating ex-husband, and the cloying sympathy of her friends.

Arriving in Florida, she finds that lawyer’s picture was deceptive. The house is dilapidated and decrepit. Amongst the overgrown yard is a sign stating Rescue Bay Dog Rescue. She even finds an emaciated golden retriever huddled under a tattered awning.

Of course her first thought is to rescue the wounded animal, but it escapes under the picket fence into her neighbor’s yard, which is how Olivia meets the ogre—aka Luke Winslow—next door.

Despite numerous attempts, the dog remains elusive to Olivia. And she has only limited time to hunt for it, because she almost immediately she starts her new job working as an animal therapist at Golden Years Retirement Village, with her beloved Miss Sadie, a white bichon frise. Her new career is the only good thing to come out of her divorce, and Olivia loves making in a difference in the lives of her patients.

Olivia’s gaze went over her shoulder to the people assembled for her morning group. Most sat, eager for Miss Sadie to come over and interact with them. The dog’s appearance had become a fun ritual for pretty much everyone at Golden Years.

It is there that she meets Luke’s grandmother, Greta, and her cronies, Esther, and Pauline. Greta thinks that Olivia is just the person to get her grandson out of his funk.

Not only did Luke Winslow, a former pilot with the Coast Guard lose his best friend and fellow pilot, in a catastrophic rescue attempt, he's lost his career, too. Half blind with a detached retina, he now spends his days between despair and optimism that his latest eye operation will restore his vision. Little does he know that a golden retriever sees him as its one ray of hope:

He started to argue, but the damned dog had already wriggled past his legs, into the house, and then dropped to the kitchen floor. Luke opened his mouth to order it out then stopped.

The dog’s breath was coming in fast, shallow pants of distress. Its tail thumped a weak patter against the title. Friendly. Grateful.

The dog needed help. Poor thing. That damned compassion returned in a stronger wave.

While Miss Sadie works her magic at the Golden Years, the hurt golden retriever, Chance, works his magic between Luke and Olivia. But he doesn’t stop there. When Olivia takes the dog to the veterinarian she discovers her sister:

The door to the room opened again and a tall, think blonde in a white lab coat entered the room. She could have been Olivia’s twin, with the same frame, same hair color but most of all the same wide, forest-green eyes. . .

Working a hospital that utilizes pet therapy, there is so much that Ms. Jump gets right:

“Sometimes, patient living in retirement homes, nursing homes, rehabs have trouble getting excited about therapy. They’re in pain or they’re depressed, or just plain unengaged. Animals can bridge that divide, and not just get people smiling but encourage them to interact. There’s something about handling Miss Sadie a dog biscuit that’s so much more fun and rewarding than handling a therapist a toothbrush.”

And there is nothing more heartwarming than reading about the bond between humans and animals.

Learn more or order a copy of The Sweetheart Bargain by Shirley Jump, out today:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Leigh Davis, Blogger

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Shirley Jump
1. Shirley Jump
Thank you so much, Leigh! I'm thrilled you loved the book! All the credit for the animal therapist parts go to an impassioned animal lover and animal therapy expert I interviewed in Indiana. She's the real hero of that part :-)
2. Kareni
Sounds like a good read; I'll be on the lookout for it!
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