Thursday, 10 February 2011

Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon

****1/2
Newly widowed Juliet has nothing left in her life since the death of Ben except their dog, Minton and daytime TV.  Despite her family's best efforts it is only when she is forced into looking after her parents ageing Labrador, Coco, that she begins to face the world. She finds that dogs are easier to cope with than people, but through the doggie network she finds herself in great demand for her dog-walking, pet sitting skills.  An attractive spaniel leads to her meeting her gorgeous, freshly divorced owner too.
With her fledgling career, Juliet and Minton are still rattling around a tatty semi with the loudest neighbours ever.  Despite her reluctance to become involved in the Kelly's raucous rock 'n' roll lifestyle, their lodger Lorcan, becomes a trusted friend as he gradually helps refurbish the "forever house" in her own way and gently helps to become more sociable.
As she moves past the first year alone, Juliet realises that she needs people around her and she has to rebuild not just her own life but the relationships within her family.

I was looking forward to this as I loved "Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts" and this has the same type of pretty, twinkly cover!  It revisits the town of Longhampton and gives brief references to the dog rescue centre and a few characters from the previous book.  It's definitely a dog-lovers book and Minton is a complete star!
I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as "Lost Dogs", mainly as it seemed to take a while to get going.  Juliet's grief is (obviously) the major point of the narrative, but that also means that she doesn't do or say a lot whilst in the throes of despair.  Juliet is a pleasant enough character and her actions are totally believable, but she's a bit dull.  Her mother, the nicely interfering Diane, is realistic and well meaning, but I didn't really get to like the high-powered sister, Louise.  Post-baby crisis didn't excuse her behaviour or attitude for me, I just found her a spoilt brat, type.  The Michael and Lorcan set up was no contest for me...give me a handyman anytime!  The Kelly family next door were light relief and added much needed humour at times.
It's a gentle, cosy, heartwarming read and handles a bittersweet theme very well.  I will definitely buy her next book, it just didn't quite hit the mark as much as her earlier one with me.