This story is a rather different take on A Christmas Carol. It's adorable, really, and I had a fabulous time reading it. The author, one of my favorites, also deviated from his usual style in this story - which I also quite enjoyed.
Ned Balding is a bit of a Scrooge. After his father died, he's been running the family's company, which allows no time for anything else. Stressed, overworked, Ned no longer resembles the decent guy he used to be. In fact, he's gone as far as considering firing a long-time employee right before Christmas, because the poor guy took a couple of days off after losing his dog. Listen, Ned - dogs are members of the family, and people naturally grieve, and your piss-poor attitude made me mad. Especially since the man in question, Jake Carrara, is still grieving the death of his mother, and the loss of his boyfriend - all in the same year. So Ned needed to cut Jake some slack.
Thankfully, Ned is prevented from firing Jake when a friend and co-worker steps in and halts Ned's tirade.
On the way home, still raging mad, Ned attempts to kick a dog, which is witnessed by a Salvation Army Santa - who issues a stern warning, and tells Ned that enough is enough.
Come morning, Ned wakes up in his apartment, but the world looks very different than it did the night before. For one, Ned seems to be closer to the floor. And covered in fur. Colors aren't the same either.
I really liked how well the author must have done his research to let us experience life as a dog. Some of it was fascinating, like the colors dogs apparently see, and some of it was hilarious, like lifting a leg to tinkle. I giggled quite a bit, watching Ned figure out how to be a dog.
Long story short, Ned is shocked, howls and barks, and ends up at the pound - well, almost. He's super lucky that the guy from the pound knows HD (he from Hounddog and Bean), so Ned, fortuitously, is put into foster care, being taken care of by none other than the guy he almost fired - Jake.
As Ned spends his days in Jake's apartment, and his nights sleeping on the bed with Jake, he starts to realize what an utter ass he's been, not only to the people he works with, but also to his remaining family. And he realizes that he has to make some drastic changes - if only he was able to figure out how to turn back into a human. On top of that, he sees Jake in a wholly new light, and can't for the life of him figure out why he would have been such a jackass to the man.
And then Ned has to make a choice, one that could cost him dearly - but he does what he does out of love, and by then he realizes that love is worth anything and everything.
Due to the plot here, we actually don't really see the romance fully developing, as Ned spends most of the book as a dog, and Jake obviously doesn't realize that the dog he's fostering is in reality his boss, but we do get a very happy ending, and a lovely epilogue that takes place a year later and showcases the changes Ned has made.
I thought it utterly adorable, with a good sprinkle of Christmas magic, humorous moments, and a massive act of selflessness that really shows the reader how much Ned has grown from the start of the book.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **