You know I love my romance. I read it a ton, I tend to be quite critical of it, and most times, that means I select books I actually end up liking. From time to time there’s one where I just go: did I like this though? And, although I had pretty high hopes for this one, that was what ended up happening with Winter at the Dog & Duck.
So winter’s taken a bout for the colder – like, it’s been freezing for the past week. And it’s kind of got me in the mood for Christmas? Which, naturally, considering it’s only February, isn’t quite optimal. I’m not the only one, though, I’ve heard multiple humming Christmas songs this past week. And it’s going to be at least as cold this week. Which means that reading this book? Rather perfect!
“Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton. Working shifts at The Dog and Duck and running her own doggy-day-care business, Ellie’s looking for a much simpler way of life and a good old fashioned Christmas.
But Little Leyton’s landscape is changing; Johnny Tay, Ellie’s ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding, has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie’s heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life’s looking a whole lot more complicated…
Can Ellie juggle her emotions and commitments in time to celebrate Christmas?”
That’s what Goodreads has to say about this one, and if that sounds kind of similar to Christmas at the Dancing Duck, which I reviewed a couple of months ago, that’s pretty normal. As a matter of fact, that’s why I wanted to read it. There’s the main character who comes from a job in London and finds “home” at a smaller pub. There’s the male interest and then the other male interest. One of whom, naturally, is interested in buying the pub. Maybe.
There’s the absolute certainty that the book is going to end with a couple happily in love. And there’s the struggle of not knowing whether the pub will survive and – if so – how. But that’s kind of where the main comparison ends.
Now, Winter at the Dog and Duck seems to have all the elements that made me like Christmas at the Dancing Duck as much as I did. It even has Duck in the name as well! However, where in the Dancing Duck those elements result in an incredibly nice read, in Winter at the Dog and Duck, something seems to be missing. It’s kind of like making a recipe with all the ingredients, but then you forget to add any seasoning, the thing that makes the dish tasty, yours and slightly different from everything else you’ve read.
Plot-wise, nothing is surprising, and at the same time, everything is. The plot is just about completely as can be expected. It’s just that it doesn’t really seem to be linked together internally. There’s a lot of times where weeks seem to have passed internally, but time-wise that’s not possible. Or the story jumps from one moment to the next without any remarks on the amount of time that has passed, and then it turns out that it’s months later.
When Polly ends up with her guy, there’s this idea that this has been going on for quite a while, but at the same time, Ellie had no idea. So either Polly just moved real quick, or Ellie is clueless about her friends’ lives.
To be real, that second one is actually a possibility. Ellie does not seem to notice much at all. There’s a couple of times where, as a reader, you’re given clear hints about something that’s going to happen. Polly’s relationship, again, is a prime example of that. Ellie, however, seems to be highly focussed on her own life and her own life only. That also results in a lot of things that, to Ellie, are real possiblities, putting the reader on the wrong foot. The kind of wrong foot that leaves you with the impression that the story is not quite over. Or that there’s a couple of plot holes. Either one of those works just fine.
One last thing – Ellie has a deep love for cliches. There’s a lot of “oh goodness” and “oh Max”. And a lot of adjectives (“My whole body throbbed in exquisite anticipation of what was to come next” and “my sweet delicious release” are just two examples) Also, there’s these gems:
“Oh Max, thank you so much for everything. I’m so sorry for ever doubting you.”
(I) felt so lucky that Max was back in my life and we could pick up where we’d left off with our relationship, carving a sparkling future out for ourselves
I mean – this might just be me, again. But just try saying either of those out loud – it’s awkward, right?
The rating: 2.5/5
Story-wise, I liked this book (Amazon (affiliate link), Goodreads). I mean, I finished it ànd I’m going to be reading the next two books in this series. (the third of which, is coming out this Thursday!) In the grand scheme of things, though? I’ve definitely read better stories, and I’ve reviewed at least one on this blog that takes the same basic plot and executes it better.