I finished reading this after Christmas, but honestly, with 2020 being the year it was and 2021 starting off the way it has, I needed the Christmas cheer to be extended into January! It was such a fun read, full of adorable dogs, colorful townspeople, and a romance that will keep you warm on the chilliest of nights. I also adored having the children play an important role in the story, with the niece really pushing her uncle to get more involved with people and letting him know that she sees more than he thinks. There was definitely a sad undertone, with the niece lost her parents not long ago and the heroine having also lost her parents years earlier. However, with a lot of love and Christmas spirit, this story brought smiles and happy tears.
Ben West, also known as Scrooge by the locals, is at the end of his rope. Ever since his sister and her husband died, he's taken over their positions on the PTA and City Council, along with becoming guardian to his dog-crazy niece. He's running out of minutes in the day, and his patience has long since left the building. When the roof collapses on the community center, he is forced to be the deciding vote to use the funding normally reserved for the rescue shelter to repair the building. Now all he has to do is keep his niece from finding out and demanding he get her a dog before the shelter shuts down. Ally Gilmore is spending her holidays with her grandparents when she learns about their funding being pulled, and she is furious. When she learns Ben is responsible, she goes to speak with him, and sparks fly. She is determined to save the shelter, and soon they are both working together to raise money, all the while ignoring the attraction between them. After all, Ally's home is in New York, and Ben wouldn't want her to come into his niece's life only to leave it in a few weeks. Christmas is a time for miracles, but they may be asking for too much this year.
I loved Ally and her grandparents, they were such a fun group of characters to read about! It's one of those times I wished they were real, so I could jump into the story and meet them in person. All the dogs were so cute, and as a dog lover and rescue volunteer myself, I found it enjoyable to read about how they worked to find each dog their forever home. The other volunteer they had helping, Deenie, was a hoot, and I hope she gets a book of her own soon. She would be perfect for Ben's friend, Connor. Ben was definitely a Scrooge, but he had a good heart. It was frustrating to see him being so blind to what he was doing wrong, and I thought it was interesting when he learned what really happened with his ex. The reader started to see another side to the story, and while Ben always had good intentions, it was clear that he had serious faults he needed to work on. It was hard watching him resist a relationship with Ally, even while I know why he did. You'll be on the edge of your seat reading this book, without a doubt.
I look forward to reading more about the people of Pine Hollow! Dennie and Connor next, please.
**I received a free copy from the publisher and this is my honest review.**