Dogs And Goddesses
by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich, paranormal (2009)
Little Black Dress Books, £5.99, ISBN 978-0-7553-5143-5


Dogs And Goddesses is a wacky story best read with minimal expectations when it comes to romance, because the characters are superficially developed, to say the least. The romances (there are three of them here) are also pushed down my throat without any attempt being made by the authors to show me why these relationships have any chance of working.

Okay, in Summerville, Ohio, we have three women. South Californian gal Abby Richmond has inherited a coffee house from a late aunt, and she decides to settle down here with her dog Bowser to make a go at a fresh start. Meanwhile, local Daisy Harris is babysitting an unruly Jack Russell of her mother. Then we have Professor Sharrat "Shar" Summers who is trying to complete a thesis on the Mesopotamian goddess Kammani-Gula, a task that both her mother and her grandmother couldn't finish in their lifetimes, while dealing with a lackluster love life and her bizarre sexual arousal upon the sight of a statue of naked Mesopotamian god-king. All three end up at a dog training course conducted by some woman who calls herself Kammani-Gula.

Despite having nothing in common, the three women become friends because the authors say so. What these women don't know is that Kammani-Gula is really the goddess in question and she sees in them the reincarnation of three of her precious circle of priestesses that will rejuvenate her worship in this world. The next thing our heroines know, their dogs are talking. Abby is plagued by a stereotypical academician hero who seem to originate from another planet given how socially inept he is. Daisy falls for one of Kammani-Gula's trainers. Shar gets the thrill of her life when the splitting image of the statue she is in love with (don't ask) shows up in her place.

Now, I love dogs. I'm a dog person. Give me the ugliest and smelliest pooch around and I'd still find a hundred excuses to adore that little darling. However, in this story the talking dogs drive me nuts. A problem here is that the authors always use the words barked or growled while describing what the dogs are saying, and I get very distracted trying to imagine how one "barks" out things like "River!" It also doesn't help that the talking dogs add nothing of value to the story. They are just there to be cute or to be very obvious matchmakers, telling our heroines that the men they have no reason to trust are the ones they should get naked and offer themselves to. Because these dogs drive me absolutely crazy, the first two-thirds of this book are painful to wade through. The romance elements are so contrived and artificial, the academics are portrayed like lobotomized creatures from a distant planet (Shar, lusting after a bloody statue!), and the cuteness overdose makes me worry for my health.

The last third, when Kammani-Gula decides to get nasty, is when things finally become readable because the main characters stop acting like sickly sweet kids trying to jump each other's bones in the most PG-13 manner possible. I'm secretly hoping that the talking dogs all die in the end, but alas, that is not to be.

And am I the only one who feels a little downbeat by the last page of this story? We have Kammani-Gula and Sammu-la-el, both by accounts dating back to the Mesopotamian civilization. And yet, Sammu-la-el gets women throwing themselves at him left and right while poor Kammani-Gula is driven by her own insecurities to star in her own version of Sunset Boulevard instead. You can argue that Kammani-Gula's own neuroses are to blame for this, but come on. The authors can't even give Kammani-Gula a hot young stud to play with? Before he settles for Shar, Sammu-la-el certainly gets to sample hot babes young enough to be his... well, let's not even go there. The message here seems to be that thank goodness that Shar manages to snag a man to love her before she becomes really old and seriously, old Shar is so lucky to snag a stud like Sammu-la-el who can have any nubile young woman he desires.

And here I am, thinking that stories of neurotic washed-up women are the shtick of cynical aging queens that rule Broadway. I feel like pulling out the karaoke machine to terrorize the neighborhood with my tear-stricken rendition of Fantine's I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérables before wailing dramatically, "There is no rain, so all the flowers are dead! Dead!"

Anyway, while I can't say that Dogs And Goddesses works completely for me, it has its occasional funny scenes and also a late third or so that makes a pretty good read. It's just too bad that I find most of the gimmicks used by the authors here to be as annoying as can be. Those talking dogs!

Rating: 68


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