Pine Hollow has everything Ally Gilmore could wish for in a holiday break: gently falling snow in a charming small town and time with her family. Then she learns some Grinch has pulled the funding for her family’s rescue shelter, and now she has only four weeks to find new homes for a dozen dogs! But when she confronts her Scroogey councilman nemesis, Ally finds he’s far more reasonable – and handsome – than she ever expected.
As the guardian of his dog-obsessed ten-year-old niece, Ben West doesn’t have time to build a cuddly reputation. But he does feel guilty about the shelter closing. So he proposes a truce with Ally, agreeing to help her adopt out the pups. As the two spend more time together, the town’s gossip is spreading faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. And soon Ben is hoping he can convince Ally that Pine Hollow is her home for the holidays…and the whole year through.
Lizzie Shane is a new find for myself and my goodness, does she give off the most amazing first impressions!? The Twelve Dogs of Christmas was just the most gorgeous, charming, movie-esque type of book ever – I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to see it come to Hallmark or Lifetime in the next few years! This is a dog lovers dream come true, mixed in with Christmas and the most adorable romance, you just can’t go wrong.
The entire set of characters that Lizzie introduces us to throughout The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, were just the absolute best. Our leading lady, Ally, was a woman in search of what she wanted her life to be. The life she had in New York was filled with success, however, she knew she wanted so much more and it just so happened, there was a particular man in Pine Hollow that she could imagine her perfect life with. She was the most loveliest of characters, with a passion for saving the dogs in the shelter her Grandparents owned and was threatened with closing. Our leading man, Ben, had a strong reputation of being the Council’s Scrooge and after being the one to inform Ally and her Grandparents of the closing of their shelter, it only seemed to grow worse. However, who I thought was going to be an extremely stubborn man and dismiss Ally’s demands to save her Grandparent’s business, Ben stepped up and gave as much support as he could to find the dogs their life-long homes, in order to make sure no one would be left behind when the shelter closed it’s doors for the very last time. I loved how he used his council connections to create a segment in the town’s newsletter, featuring one dog per week, in the hopes that a loving family would come forward and take a furry friend home. Astrid (Ben’s niece) and her friend, Kimber, were also just the absolute sweetest – desperate for dogs of their own, they volunteered at the shelter every single day, wanting to prove to their parents that they were old enough and mature enough to take care of their own.
Speaking of Astrid and Ben, I think I definitely need to dedicate a small paragraph of their situation in this review, as it was complicated and endearing all at the same time. Losing both of her parents and Ben losing his sister, the two need to work as a team and move forward in their lives, just the two of them. Ben is constantly fearful of being a bad parent to Astrid, with the high expectations of attending every school event and sharing Astrid’s packed lunches on social media, along with carrying a heavy case load in the council and now supporting Ally with finding the dogs a home, there’s a never ending list of tasks to complete and he can never seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel. By now, he had wanted to continue all that his sister wanted and was far from even starting it all up. Lucky for Ben, he had the most incredible support system within Ally, his friends and his parents – if only he would stop being so stubborn and understand that it is okay to ask for help sometimes. No one is Super-Man, nor should anyone try to be. Astrid and Ben’s relationship was my favourite of them all, watching them adapt to one another, push boundaries and work as a team – they were the most heart-warming family and I only wished the best for them and their healing hearts.
The town of Pine Hollow itself was, as I said right at the beginning, a Hallmark movie in the making. The atmosphere was every type of cosy and wonderful, I can’t imagine anyone ever saying they wouldn’t want to live in such a stunning town! Add the Christmas atmosphere to it, the Christmas events, the town parade, the school shows and the Christmas fair – I would like to escape their right now, please! Like any other small town, the community were gossipers at it’s finest, leaving no one able to carry a secret. Nevertheless, they only had everyone’s best interests at heart and came together when the opportunity arised/was needed. A moment that comes to mind is when Ally and her Grandparents get snowed in – the whole town come together to help.
Speaking of coming to the rescue, it’s safe to say that Ally and Ben both saved one another, without ever planning or expecting to. The two of them got off on a shaky start, however, they both surprised one another and didn’t live up to the awful assumptions both had made. They ended up finding every moment available to spend time with one another and eventually develop feelings that both knew were only going to end in heart break. Ally wasn’t destined to stay in Pine Hollow forever and Ben wasn’t ready to allow a woman in to his life, needing to learn to be a parent to Astrid, first and foremost. Despite all of that for the moment, they had some of the cutest moments together, for example, baking brownies together, taking photos of the dogs in cute little Christmas outfits for the newsletter and attending the Christmas parade together with the dogs on a float. There were a lot of obstacles to dodge throughout this story and sometimes I wanted to bump their heads together at their sheer stubbornness to open their hearts to the possibility of a world they didn’t ever believe would happen for themselves. Ben’s character development throughout this book had me feeling so incredibly proud of him, as he grew to learn a lot about himself and that couldn’t have happened entirely without the support of Ally.
I couldn’t recommend this book more – I would re-read it every year and never get bored of it. It is the perfect, Christmassy romance, for dog lovers and Hallmark movie lovers all over the world. Your heart will absolutely melt and it will be so worth it. I now can’t wait to continue this series with Connor and Deenie, who I was already super invested in with this book and they barely even featured in it together haha!