cover image Love at First Bark (Rescue Me #4)

Love at First Bark (Rescue Me #4)

Debbie Burns. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-7284-5

Burns charms with the complex fourth Rescue Me contemporary (after A New Leash on Love), which is much more than a cute critter story. Pet portrait painter Mia Chambers was in the midst of divorcing her unfaithful husband, Brad, when he dropped dead of an aneurysm, leaving her with her seven-year-old son, Ollie, and a pile of debt. St. Louis architect Ben Thomas has been in love with Mia for years, but she was married to his best friend. Ben and Mia begin to tentatively move toward romance, but then Mia meets 20-year-old Stacey, who confesses to having an affair with Brad that led to a baby. Stacey, daunted by parenthood, begs Mia for help with six-month-old Brody. When Mia discovers that Ben knew about Stacey and Brody, their relationship hits a speed bump. But in confronting this harsh reality, Mia learns what she’s made of, and Ben proves he’s always there for her. The animal shelter where Mia and Ben volunteer is delightfully appealing, and Mia and Ben’s complicated love will win readers over. Mia’s colorful, philosophical mother and endearing son add depth and richness to the well-paced narrative, as do a whole pack of lovable animals. This creative story will draw new fans to Burns’s satisfying series. Agent: Jessica Watterson, Sandra Dijkstra Literary. (Aug.)