Hi Roxanne and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, A Dog Called Valentine!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
A former police K9 handler and a determined shelter volunteer work together to prepare a misfit stray for adoption and discover that the dog is not the only one needing rescue.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
“Congratulations! You’ve been approved,” said the text message. “Here’s your match. Please contact us at your earliest convenience for details. Have a great day!”
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
This book began with the title, which just popped into my head one day. I knew I wanted to write a book about a dog called Valentine, and two people who’d given up on love, and who dreaded Valentine’s Day as a result. I love books with dogs in them, especially pathetic, rescue dogs. This one’s as pathetic, and adorable, as they come!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I often include family members in my stories, and in this one, the heroine’s mother and the hero’s grandmother play important roles. The mother-daughter side story surprised me in its intensity. There’s a scene in which the two of them reach a new level of understanding and respect and closeness, after years of difficulty. I got a little teary-eyed writing it!
The hero’s grandmother is a delightful, funny woman determined to solve his single status by nominating him for The Bachelor. He, good grandson that he is, often watches the show with her – and the heroine joins them, eventually. “Boy watches reality TV with girl and grandmother.” Definitely not a story line I’ve used before!
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Most of my books unfold very visually during the writing, but this one rolled out in front of me like a movie, so this is a fun question. This is the meet-cute, in which we see Lily in the park chasing Valentine, who has slipped the leash.
She braced one hand on the back of the bench. Valentine was on the opposite end, eyeing her. She feinted one way. He jumped, but didn’t run, poised to see what she’d do next.
“He’s loving this, you know.” The man reached down to the canvas messenger bag lying on the bench and pulled out what appeared to be a paper lunch bag.
“That makes one of us.” Lily grabbed for the dog, who danced just out of reach, then play-bowed, barked, and took off again. “Feel free to help. Or just stand there and watch. Up to you.”
The man said nothing, but the hint of a smile played at the corners of his mouth. He was enjoying this as much as the dog was.
He took a few steps away and leaned casually against a tree trunk. He opened the paper bag, took something out and let the bag fall at his feet.
Lily glanced between him and the trash container, a few steps away. “Littering? Really?”
“Your dog’s running loose in a public park.” He took a large bite of his sandwich.
Valentine stood panting, possibly confused now that he was no longer the center of attention. He closed his mouth, lifted his head and sniffed the air.
“Tuna, left over from lunch,” the man said, around his mouthful of food, giving her a knowing nod. “Irresistible.”
“If you say so,” Lily replied.
Valentine trotted over to the crumpled paper bag, nosed it.
“See?” the man said. “Hey, buddy. You like the smell of this, huh?”
“Good,” Lily whispered, moving towards the dog. “You hold him and I’ll—”
Valentine leaped away before she got anywhere near close.
The man said nothing, but his lips tightened, and Lily got the distinct impression that he was annoyed.
“He was right there,” she said. “Why didn’t you grab him?”
He cleared his throat and turned toward her. “Ma’am,” he said. “Your dog doesn’t seem inclined to being grabbed.”
“I can’t exactly leave him ‘running loose’ so if you have an alternative suggestion, I’m all ears.”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That lost causes aren’t always lost. That people and relationships are complicated and you never really know what’s going on inside someone else’s heart. That when the time is right, the solution appears, if you’re able to see it.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
In December, I released the third book in my contemporary women’s fiction series with Kensington, called BLACKBERRY COVE, a Sunset Bay novel. I have new small-town romance series I’m about to start for Tule, as well as a couple of standalone novels I’m hoping to self-publish later this.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Tule tote, copy of ebook A Dog Called Valentine and Tule swag.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: In A DOG CALLED VALENTINE, Lily does a lot of things out of obligation, at the expense of her own dreams. Rescuing the dog is one of the first “good deeds” she does by *choice* and even though it’s much harder than expected, she doesn’t give up because she believes it’s important, she wants to give the dog another chance. What things do you do out of obligation? Is there something you need to let go of in your life, in order to allow something better to come in, something you might be more passionate about? How could you make this happen?
Excerpt from A Dog Called Valentine:
The ropy flesh she’d felt under the shirt was in fact lines of tissue marked by scars. Two short, shiny pink lines, one large jagged one and numerous small dots.
He was trembling, his breath fast and shallow.
Valentine got to his feet, padded over and put his head on Shane’s leg. Shane stroked him, and his trembling eased.
“What happened?” Lily asked.
“Gunshot wound.” Shane’s head twitched. “About a year and a half ago. It’s mostly healed.”
“Did you get mugged?” She sucked in her breath and stepped away as a worse explanation came to her.
“Oh, man. You’re not a gang member, are you?”
He gave a short bark of a chuckle. “No. The opposite,
actually.” He inhaled and then exhaled harshly. “I was a cop.”
That’s where his military demeanor and concern for her safety came from.
“In Prince George?” she guessed.
He nodded. “I had to come down here for rehab.”
“Has it been successful?”
He gave a slight shrug. “Mostly. The overhead painting
set it off, though.”
“No kidding.” She smoothed her palms over the wide
expanse of skin. “You’re on medical leave, then?” He made a noncommittal sound. “Yeah.” “When do you have to go back?”
He moved his head to the side and was quiet. “It’s not when,” he said, after a time. “It’s if.”
She paused. Go back to police work? Or go back to Prince George? She wanted to ask but sensed he didn’t want to talk about it.
Maybe he didn’t know.
“Don’t stop,” he begged.
To have such a strong man admit weakness to her like
this was strangely exhilarating—and discomfiting. She could so easily hurt him, without meaning to.
“I’m no masseuse, but does this feel okay?”
He groaned. “Better than okay. I might fall asleep right here.”
His obvious pleasure went straight to her head, making her giddy with success. She kneaded and pressed and rubbed, wondering how long he’d been suffering in silence.
“How did it happen?” she asked. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
He was quiet for a long time. “I was tracking a robbery suspect,” he said eventually. “I got cocky, impatient. Stupid. Here I am.”
He made it sound like a dumb mistake, a bet he’d lost, the punch line to a bad joke.
“You’re lucky you weren’t killed.”
He stiffened. “Yes. I am.”
Valentine whipped his head around, then barked and
galloped toward the door.
“Gram’s here,” Shane said, grabbing his shirt and tugging it back on.
Lily turned to the wall that had the patch of Fog Mist on
it and stared at it without seeing. She didn’t know if she was about to cry or punch something. She took a deep breath. She needed to get her conflicting mass of emotions under control before Dolly walked in. Especially if she’d brought her friends.
Pretending to be Shane’s girlfriend was supposed to be simple. Two people in a temporary bind, helping each other out while standing in solidarity against the unreasonable demands of family.
This felt complicated.
This felt…like it was becoming more.
She brushed her hands against her jeans, but her palms
still tingled from the texture of his skin.
SHANE HAD OFFERED to take the dog off Lily’s hands for the morning, while she ran errands. It would give his shoulder a rest and, he had to admit, Valentine presented an intriguing challenge.
The light rain of earlier had let up so he took the dog into the backyard and tossed the ball. Valentine leaped after it, joy visible in every move he made.
He had an attractive, engaging personality, but the pre- vious neglect had left him so emotionally needy he had a hard time focusing. He was also big, active and he shed profusely. With so many young, undamaged dogs always in need of homes, Valentine wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice.
“You need a trick,” he said to the dog. “A hook. Some- thing to make you stand out. But in a good way.”
But he feared it would take nothing short of Valentine being able to fetch a beer from the fridge to get him adopted.
He was just too much dog for most people.
Shane liked big dogs. Well, he liked German shepherds. Titan had weighed almost eighty pounds of pure, beautiful muscle. And that coat was a pain in the ass when it blew out twice a year, leaving clumps of fluffy undercoat everywhere.
And so smart, Shane often thought the dog could read his mind.
Titan had been his constant companion from puppy- hood. No wonder they’d been close.
Valentine had been shunted from home to home, person to person, never getting a chance to bond with any one human long enough for someone to uncover his potential.
The dog sat down in front of him, dropped the ball at his feet and whined.
“I think you’re smarter than you let on,” Shane said. Val barked.
Val barked again.
“Really.” He put up his hand to keep the dog from bark- ing a third time. Valentine held his peace.
It shouldn’t matter to him whether this animal found a home or not. There were a million homeless dogs in the world and a person could break his heart trying to save them all.
Except for some damn reason this particular dog mat- tered to Lily. And that mattered to Shane.
He broke off a piece of freeze-dried liver and tossed it to him. Val snatched it out of the air like a frog catching a fly, without breaking his sit.
“You are a smart boy, aren’t you?”
What if this was the first time anyone had recognized Val’s potential? Most bad behavior in dogs was born of boredom or fear or some unmet need.
All of which described Valentine.
When Shane had been twelve years old, after his third
time being sent home from school for fighting, his parents had put him in karate. In the first class, he’d gotten his ass handed to him by a ten-year-old. He threw himself into learning the moves, even the boring katas, burning off all that anger and frustration that came from what was finally discovered to be a mild case of dyslexia. Karate gave him a physical outlet for his energy, and it gave him confidence.
Val didn’t tear up Lily’s pillows and dig holes in her backyard because he was bad, but because he needed an outlet.
“I need to find your version of karate, buddy.” He tossed the ball again and went to the storage shed where Gram had enough stuff to stock a hardware store.
Within thirty minutes, using a few lengths of PVC pipe, some leftover two-by-fours and spare bits of plywood, he had a makeshift agility course.
Well, two jumps and a stay table.
He attached Val’s leash and walked him toward the first jump. It was about six inches off the ground, hardly a barrier for a dog his size.
Val walked up to it, then stopped and looked at Shane. “Jump over it, bud,” Shane said.
But the dog walked around the other side.
Shane kept leading him but picked up the pace, ap-
proaching the second jump at an easy jog. This time, he tightened the leash so that there was nowhere else for Valentine to go and no time to stop.
Val hopped over it without even slowing down.
“Good boy!” Shane bent down and ruffled the dog’s ears. Val leaped up against him, knocking the jump over with his tail. It didn’t matter. He’d done the right thing.
Then Shane put the two jumps in a row, a few paces apart. Holding the leash away from his body, he led Val toward them again at a slow run. Val jumped the first and then the second, then turned and looked at Shane as if to say, “Well, where’s my treat, man?”
“You are a very, very good boy!” Shane praised him and rewarded him with treats.
The dog’s heeling skills were improving, but only on leash. Would Val jump on command, off leash?
He unclipped the leash and started to run around the yard again, slowly. As he expected, Val joined him. It was a simple matter to direct the dog toward the jumps and this time, Val took them with deliberate strides. He’d figured it out.
“Oh, man.” Shane thumped the dog on his rib cage and gave him more treats. “You’re brilliant, Valentine!”
He’d forgotten how much fun running the obstacle course was. Titan had practiced it as part of his police dog training, so that he would be prepared to work under as wide a range of circumstances as might present themselves in his daily work.
He ran around the yard a few more times. He couldn’t wait to show Lily what they’d learned today. She’d be so thrilled. He could imagine her competing with Val, her hair trailing behind her as she ran, her cheeks flushed with excitement and success.
The same way her cheeks turned pink when she was flus- tered. Like when she’d stood in front of him in nothing but a towel.
Or how she might look if he kissed her.
He could imagine her soft hair trailing through his fin- gers as he cupped the side of her face, the sweetness of her lips against his, the look of dark promise in her eyes.
He shook off his train of thought and glanced at his watch. Lily would be finished with her errands soon. He should bring Val back. Gram’s wishful thinking had no business putting ideas into his head that did not belong there.
“Come on, boy. Let’s go get you cleaned up.”
He brushed out the dog’s coat on the patio. It was grow- ing back nicely. Soon, the scars would be invisible.
Poor bastard. How long had he suffered with those wounds? And how was it that his disposition was still so pure, so sweet?
If only people could be so resilient.
If only he could be so resilient.
Maybe then, he’d have a chance at a real relationship
again. Maybe even with someone as great as Lily. She deserved someone a hell of a lot better than him.
“Good job, buddy.” The dog leaped off the porch and shook, flapping his long ears and wiggling all over with pleasure.
He hoped that whatever family Val went to would be willing to do agility with him. The dog was a natural.
Tomorrow, he’d build some more jumps and maybe a weave pole. He could bring out the sawhorses, for an elevat- ed walkway and maybe even make a teeter-totter.
It wasn’t fetching a beer from the fridge, but agility would certainly set Valentine apart.
Would it be enough?
THE NEXT DAY, Lily was two hours into organizing a spread- sheet of annual foundation events when her cell phone buzzed.
She answered the call, happy to take a break. Any day now, the caterer would be demanding final numbers for the next Kovac Foundation benefit dinner and Marisa was dithering on the guest list.
“Hey Ariel,” she said. “Which would you rather pay $1000 for: scallops or prawns?”
“I do not understand your world,” the shelter manager said.
“Not my world,” Lily corrected. “My mother’s world. You’re probably calling to check up on Valentine, aren’t you?”
“How’s he doing?”
She closed her laptop and set it aside, moving from her cozy home office, where Valentine lay snoozing in his crate, to the living room.
It was ridiculous, but she didn’t want to talk about the dog while he could overhear her.
“So far today, he’s only destroyed one pair of socks. That’s a big improvement from yesterday, when he stole a loaf of bread off the counter, dug a gigantic hole in my yard and terrorized the paper delivery girl through the window.”
Ariel was quiet. “Are you giving him lots of exercise?”
“An hour in the park, twice a day,” Lily said. “Ariel, I hope I haven’t taken on more than I can handle. I thought I could do this, but some days, I think he’s actually getting worse.” She hesitated, not wanting to sound petty. “He doesn’t seem very interested in me. He’s got a big crush on this random stranger we met at the park, though.”
She told herself it didn’t matter that Valentine had switched alliances. He was a foster dog. It was better for them both if they weren’t bonded.
But did he have to show such a blatant preference for Shane?
The rejection stung. It wasn’t rejection, actually. It was disinterest and that was far, far worse.
Ariel laughed. “I take it this stranger is male. Is he hot? Interesting? Available?”
“He’s an ex-cop from Prince George who makes me feel like an idiot who can’t handle a dog.”
“You’re not an idiot. And it doesn’t sound like he’s a complete stranger anymore. How much time have you spent together?”
“I pass by his house every day on the way to the park,” she admitted. “Turns out, he needed some decorating advice, so he’s helping me with the dog, in exchange. He’s a decent teacher. I’m learning a lot. I wish I could say the same for Valentine. Shane says I’m not firm enough but after every- thing this poor dog’s been through, I can’t bring myself to be harsh.”
But that wasn’t being fair. Shane was never harsh. She thought about how quiet he’d gotten when they’d discovered Valentine’s scars, how gentle and careful he’d been with the clippers to keep from hurting the dog more.
“Sounds like they’ve connected,” Ariel said. “Do you think he might want to adopt Valentine?”
“I’ve had the same thought, but he says absolutely not.” She realized that Shane had never said exactly why he didn’t want Valentine. “He had dogs growing up, he said, but doesn’t have one now. Or maybe he has one waiting for him back at home. He came down here after being injured on the job.”
She forced herself to slow down. If she kept going on and on about the man, Ariel would sense that there was more to their relationship than neighbors trading services.
“Wait a second,” Ariel said. “A cop. From Prince George. What’s his last name?”
“Hang on. I know this. Gimme a sec. It’s in here some- where.”
Lily imagined her friend holding up a finger, her eyes closed in concentration as she rifled through her prodigious memory for the random bits of animal-related news and knowledge that settled there, waiting to become useful.
She told herself the curiosity she felt was only normal. But anticipation built with each second.
Then she heard a huge intake of air and Ariel was squeal- ing. The tap-tap-tapping sound told her that Ariel had leaped online for confirmation.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! Do you have any idea who you’ve been dealing with?”
Lily held her cell phone away from her ear. “I think you’re about to tell me.”
“I am,” Ariel confirmed, with a breathless hush. “You, my dear, oblivious pal, have had the privilege of working with a genuine hero.”
“You mean when he got shot in the shoulder? It sounded pretty bad.”
Lily walked to her front bay window, which faced the direction of the park, swallowing disappointment. This wasn’t news. One street over, just beyond those trees, Shane was no doubt working through pain to get back on schedule. His commitment was bordering on foolhardy. But she couldn’t deny his love for Dolly.
“Pretty bad?” Ariel echoed, sounding like she was about to faint. “He almost died. Did he tell you that?”
“Yes. It gets better. He ran through the woods for over a mile, carrying his partner, who’d been stabbed and shot, too. Did he tell you that?”
“No.” Lily felt behind her for a kitchen chair and low- ered herself onto it.
“Did Sergeant Bowman tell you while he was running, he radioed the location of the suspect’s next target, a gentle- man in his eighties? The suspect was arrested on the victim’s doorstep. Sergeant Bowman’s information saved that man’s life.”
Now Lily felt faint. “No. He didn’t mention any of this.”
“Did he mention,” Ariel continued, her voice thick with emotion, “that his partner bled to death in his arms?”
Oh, Shane. He put on such a stoic face.
“How…how do you know all this?” she asked her friend. But before the words were fully out, Lily knew the heart-
There was only one reason an animal shelter manager
would be so taken by the heroism of a cop from a small northern town.
It explained why Shane was so good with Valentine— and why he couldn’t return the dog’s affection.
“His partner.” Tears prickled at the back of Lily’s eyes. “Shane’s partner was a dog, wasn’t he?”
LILY OPENED VALENTINE’S crate. “Come on, boy. Let’s go for a car ride.”
She needed to get out of the house. She had to do some- thing, had to go somewhere she could be outside and breathe and think, without the possibility of running into Shane.
Her usual route through the park wouldn’t do.
Ariel’s revelation had shaken her to her core. It would take time to process the information before she dared see him again.
Valentine jumped gracefully into the back of her car, al- ways eager for new sights. He’d filled out in the weeks he’d been with her and gotten stronger, too. His ribs were barely visible. The once dull and matted fur was now soft and shiny and thick enough that the scars were no longer visible. He was even learning to tolerate the collar, though she still used the harness most of the time.
She drove across the bridge to the north side of the river, with no conscious destination in mind, only knowing that she needed someplace peaceful, with trees and grass and quiet, where she could shed a few tears, if necessary.
When she reached the rolling riverlands on the edge of town, she almost laughed through the lump in her throat. Of course she’d end up here.
She clipped the leash to Valentine’s harness and he jumped down, calmer than usual, as if recognizing her emotional turmoil.
She hadn’t been here in ages. But it felt exactly right.
They followed the footpath that wended through the low-growing shrubs and grasses and blackberry vines nestled against the broad bank of the river.
“Hey, Daddy,” she whispered.
This place, where her father had often come to walk when he was troubled, was also now his final resting place. His ashes nourished the ferns and rushes next to the rippling water just as his spirit whispered to her through the bare branches, easing her soul.
Quiet, long-suffering Frank Garner had also been a hero, if not to the world, then to the daughter who was so much like him.
She let Valentine explore the mossy bank, sniffing and digging to his heart’s content.
“I think I’m in trouble, Daddy.” She tossed a pebble into the river. “I found somebody. And he’s a good guy. A really good guy. But he’s sort of…broken.”
She looked at Valentine. He was broken, too, a rehabili- tation project every bit as complex as Dolly’s house. Or Shane’s shoulder, for that matter.
With the right family, he’d make a good pet. She smiled sadly. They still had work to do. But she trusted that Ariel would find the right people who would love Valentine the way he needed to be loved.
Broken didn’t have to be permanent.
Shane had despised her pity over his injured shoulder. She wouldn’t be able to hide her heartbreak over the depth of his loss and intuitively she knew he would hate that.
Ariel, with her single-minded dedication to the animal shelter, wanted to include Shane in the February Adoption Option event. Since the flood, the need for funds was even more desperate. Having a decorated police dog handler train one of their rescue dogs would bring great public attention to their work, maybe coverage from the local cable network.
They always tied the event in with Valentine’s Day. Im- agine how much attention a dog called Valentine would get.
The thought should have made her happy. She wanted him to find a good home. That was the whole point of caring for him all this time.
But would people want Valentine for the right reasons? Would they see him for the fun, sweet animal he was? Or would they want to be able to say they had the dog with the sad story they’d seen on TV? Who’d been trained by a genuine hero?
Shane would never agree.
Ariel urged her not to tell him about her scheme until she’d ironed out all the details. She was certain that once they had a solid plan, and Lily warmed Shane up to the idea, he’d be happy to lend his fame to the cause.
Lily wished she had Ariel’s confidence.
She had a feeling that when Shane learned about this, he’d wish he’d never met Valentine.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
No good deed goes unpunished.
When an unwanted Valentine’s Day present is dumped at the shelter, volunteer Lily decides to foster the poor dog herself. A little attention is all he needs to blossom into a loving pet, ready for his forever home. Plus, helping a poor, rejected animal will distract her from her own problems. Win, win. Right? Wrong. Valentine needs more than a makeover if he’s going to be adopted. He destroys her home, hates to be groomed and when he behaves better for a perfect stranger than he does her, Lily swallows her pride and begs the good looking but quiet stranger for help
After losing his canine partner in a horrific moment that upended his future, sexy and stoic Shane turns to books, walks in the park and remodeling his grandmother’s home. No more intense K9 officer career, no more dogs, no more risks. But it’s hard to ignore the misunderstood mutt at the park and his well-intentioned, but clueless, handler. Shane reluctantly agrees to give her a few tips and tricks, but that’s all. He won’t care. He won’t get invested. And once Valentine finds his new home, his life can go back to normal.
But Shane doesn’t bargain on a new normal in town and, suddenly, Valentine’s Day will never be the same.
Meet the Author:
Born under a Scorpio moon, raised in a little house on the prairie, USA Today Bestselling Author Roxanne Snopek said “as you wish” to her Alpha Farm Boy and followed him to the mountain air and ocean breezes of British Columbia. There, while healing creatures great and small and raising three warrior-princesses, they found their real-life happily-ever-after. After also establishing a successful freelance and non-fiction career, Roxanne began writing what she most loved to read: romance. Her small-town stories quickly became fan favorites; print editions of her latest series were recently launched in France.
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