From author Beth Kendrick comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about bad dogs and the women who love them…
Lara Madigan has a gift. She can help you find your soulmate—your canine soulmate, that is. As a dog trainer with a soft spot for strays, she’s found perfect homes for sulky Shih Tzus, broken-down Border collies, and diabolical Dalmatians. But while she’ll always make room for one more rescue mutt, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to another human being. Especially after her live-in boyfriend drops the bomb: He’s not a dog person.
Horrified and temporarily homeless, Lara and her furry pack move in with her mother, a wealthy fashionista who forbids even a single drop of drool. As word gets around the exclusive gated community, Lara is overwhelmed with demands for her services. A model wants personal training for her overweight “flabrador”; an aging socialite preps her pedigreed puppy for dog show domination… If Lara can survive the breakup, the outrageous requests of her high-maintenance clientele, and her dogs’ systematically destruction of her mother’s McMansion, she might finally find the rescue dog who rescues her in return– leading her straight to the guy who could be her perfect match.
read an excerpt
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service
“I’m short, I’m balding, and I’ve put on twenty pounds since my fiancée left me for her personal trainer. You’re my last hope for love.”
Lara Madigan froze in the drug store parking lot, one hand on the door handle of her Oldsmobile station wagon. She didn’t recognize the wheezy male voice behind her and so she hoped, for a moment, that perhaps he was addressing someone else.
But the guy made a deep, phlegmy noise in his throat and persisted: “You’re the matchmaker, right?”
Lara turned around slowly, pulling up the collar of her coat to shield her neck from the chilly winter wind. “Yes, I am. Pleased to meet you.” She offered her right hand, and the man grabbed it like a lifeguard’s buoy, both of his sweaty palms engulfing her fingers.
“Peter Hoffstead. You have to help me.” He tightened his grip. “I’m desperate.”
Lara’s mind automatically whirred into assessment mode. The first thing she noticed about Peter was that his outfit didn’t match his personality. Though his complexion looked pasty and his remaining hair was graying, he was attired in visible designer labels: Cartier watch, Rock & Republic jeans, Burberry belt. From the neck up, he was Bill Gates, but from the neck down, he was P. Diddy. Someone else had clearly picked out his wardrobe—someone who wanted him to be more of a debonair playboy and less of a middle-aged homebody.
She gently but firmly pulled away from his grasp and rummaged through her shoulder bag for her business card. As she handed it to him, she cautioned, “I’m always looking for promising prospects, but you have to understand that I can’t match just anyone. All my prospective clients undergo a rigorous screening process and my standards are very high. I have to consider the long-term happiness of everyone involved.”
“One of your previous clients can vouch for me.” Peter rubbed at his nose with a clean but wrinkled handkerchief. “Mark Heston–he’s my neighbor. He said you hooked him up with Amelia.”
“Amelia!” Lara softened at the name. “What a sweetheart. How’s she doing these days?”
Peter shrugged. “Great, I guess. Mark never shuts up about her. I need you to do for me what you did for him.” He stuffed his hand into the pocket of his black leather jacket and offered up a stack of cash. “I’ll pay whatever you ask. I’ll double your usual fee.”
Lara made no move to accept the folded green bills. “What I do isn’t about money. It’s about finding a true soul connection. I want all my pairings to last a lifetime, so I need to figure out exactly what your needs are and who best meets them.”
Peter nodded, and as he stuffed the money back into his pocket, he sighed with resignation. He stopped posturing and name-dropping and gave her a glimpse of the raw loneliness festering beneath all those designer labels. “Look.” He spread out his hands. “I know I’m not the most appealing guy, physically. My fiancée made that very clear before she left me. But I’ve got a lot to offer: love, stability, all that stuff.”
Lara tilted her head and took in his body language. Years of trial and error had taught her that it didn’t really matter what a prospective client said. People used words to manipulate and evade, to justify their mistakes and prejudices. The truth was in the tone of their voices and the light in their eyes.
“When I make a commitment, I keep it,” Peter continued. “I own my own business, I work at home…”
“You do?” Lara’s eyebrows shot up. “Do you have a yard?”
“Half an acre,” Peter assured her, puffing up with pride. “Fenced. Backs up to a nature preserve.” He beckoned her closer. “With hiking trails. I’ve started jogging four days a week. Well, I do a fifteen-minute mile, which I guess doesn’t technically qualify as jogging. But I’m trying. And it’s easier to get motivated to exercise when you have a partner, you know?” He looked at her with a mixture of hope and chagrin. Clearly, he was bracing himself for her refusal.
She started compiling a profile in her head: attentive, outdoorsy, willing to learn…
“I’ll do whatever you tell me to do. You won’t be sorry. I just need help meeting women. I’ve tried going to bars, signing up for Internet dating sites, but nothing’s working. I need a wingman–someone to break the ice. Will you help me? Please?”
He gazed at her through his smudged, crooked glasses, and she started to smile. This was a good man, with a good heart, who just needed a little boost to his confidence. A carefully-chosen companion to help him rediscover his sense of self-worth without pricey logos or ostentatious displays of cash.
“I think I have the perfect match for you.”
His whole body tensed with anticipation. “You do?”
Lara nodded. “Cute, charismatic and virtually irresistible. Guaranteed to draw a crowd wherever you go.” She brought up a photo on her cell phone and showed Peter the snapshot of a scrappy, scruffy yellow terrier. “Meet Murphy.”