Author Annie England Noblin brings us the Christmas spirit with her newest novel, “Christmas in Blue Dog Valley.” As in her other novels, she offers not only a sweet story of a woman trying to find her place in the world, but also the joy of having a companion animal by her side as she does so. In fact, right from the start we see that the main character, Goldie McKenzie, a veterinarian, has a soft heart.
She’s leaving the job and the jerk she lived with and worked with for over a decade to take over the veterinary practice of a rural vet she befriended in a Facebook group for veterinarians. She’s leaving a semi-glamorous life in L.A. working with the pets of celebrities to go to a small town two hours from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the airport, she hears a man talking to someone on his phone. As a lonely cat carrier makes the rounds on the luggage conveyor belt, she hears the stranger say he refuses to pick up a cat. He leaves. Goldie can’t bear to think of the cat left alone and abandoned in the airport, so she does what any of us would do, right? She picks up the carrier and takes the cat with her. I immediately loved Goldie.
The older veterinarian selling his practice, who Goldie thought was going to pick her up, doesn’t show at the airport, and instead we meet a handsome but very gruff man named Cohen. He seems a bit hostile, but he takes Goldie to the tiny cabin behind the veterinary clinic. She’ll be staying in the cabin for two months while she decides if she wants to buy the practice. The previous vet wants to move to Florida to be close to family, and he’s giving her time to make up her mind. However, none of the people in this small town trust a “fancy” L.A. vet. They all cancel their appointments.
The novel is a love story, a love story about small towns and how they can seem to be unwelcoming until you demand acceptance by showing what you have to share. It’s about unconditionally loving animals that might seem unlikable or sick or abandoned, and what they give us in return. It’s also about loving people, romantically and otherwise, when they need that affection. Goldie progresses from being practically shunned at the beginning of her small town stay to becoming beloved after she heals and saves lives (animals), demonstrates her many abilities beyond helping animals, helps the town get back in the Christmas spirit, finds friendship, reunites hostile families, and even finds love herself.
It’s not sappy. It’s charming. And while we know what will ultimately happen, we love it. We all want happy endings, and if the happy ending is for a whole town full of people who really need happy endings, all the better. Merry Christmas from Blue Dog Valley, and even if you read it on a beach in June, you’ll feel inspired and even warmer after finishing this lovely novel.
Please note: This review is based on the final, paperback book provided by William Morrow, the publisher, for review purposes.