(Scroll down to read an excerpt.)
From Claire Cook, USA Today bestselling author of the novel-turned-movie-turned-series starring Diane Lane and John Cusack comes Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later, Book 3 of the hilarious and heartwarming Must Love Dogs series.
Sarah Hurlihy knows how to move on to the next guy. But she really, really doesn’t want to do that anymore. What she wants to figure out is how to stick around and make things work with John Anderson. But John’s suggestion for a romantic trip to canine camp before Sarah’s job as a preschool teacher gears up again is sounding anything but romantic, and Sarah and her sisters are worried about their father’s new girlfriend, Sweepstakes Sally. And there’s a hot new male teacher at Bayberry Preschool. Could it be that what Sarah wants and what she needs are two entirely different things?
“Though the third book in [the] series, one does not need to read the previous two, but most assuredly will want to. Funny and heartwarming, Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later reflects Ms. Cook’s ability to inject comedy into every day circumstances, supplying a remarkable and compelling read.”—Nancy C. Lepri, New York Journal of Books
Praise for Must Love Dogs:
“Funny and pitch perfect.” –Chicago Tribune
“Wildly witty” –USA Today
“Cook dishes up plenty of charm.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A hoot” –The Boston Globe
“A hilariously original tale about dating and its place in a modern woman’s life.” –BookPage
Praise for Claire Cook:
“Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs) has built a brand writing light-hearted women’s fiction blending kernels of the absurd and comedic in compulsively readable combinations.” –Shelf Awareness
“The exuberant and charming Claire Cook is one of the sassiest and funniest creators of contemporary women’s fiction.” –The Times-Picayune
“[Cook’s] poignancy and sassy humor resonate with readers; her theme of reinvention uplifts and inspires.” –Savannah Magazine
Excerpted from Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later
Copyright © 2014 Claire Cook. All rights reserved.
“Here we go again,” Carol said from the backseat.
My sisters Carol and Christine and I were on our way to our family home to meet our father’s latest girlfriend. Our father had summoned us. I was driving. Christine was still mad at us for leaving her out of our last adventure, so Carol was uncharacteristically sitting in the backseat and letting Christine ride shotgun.
Because everybody with any sense at all was at the beach, we had the Marshbury back roads practically to ourselves. The light up ahead of us turned yellow. I accelerated, changed my mind, hit the brake. Tried not to think that there might be a metaphor in there somewhere about the way I lived my life.
I rolled down my window, hoping for a sea breeze. Soggy August air pushed past the wall of air-conditioning, on a mission to frizz my hair. I hit the button again and listened to the window chug its way back up.
While we waited for the light to change, I checked up on my hair. The signs of frizz were undeniable and almost enough to make me yearn for the crisp fall air. Except for the fact that I was a teacher.
“I can’t believe summer is practically over,” Carol said. “I am counting the milliseconds till the kids are back in school.”
“Don’t,” I said. “Please don’t.”
“Dad sounded pretty excited about this Sally when I talked to him,” Christine said.
“Now there’s something new,” Carol said. “Dad excited about a woman.”
I clicked the blinker of my trusty old Honda Civic, took a right past a canopy of sugar maples. I pretended not to notice that a few random leaves were already changing color.
“A rose by any other name and all that,” I said, “but you have to admit Sally sounds like a step up from Sugar Butt.”
Christine sighed. “I can’t believe I still feel left out that I missed meeting someone named Sugar Butt.”
Carol reached forward to give her a pat on the shoulder. “You’ll get over it, Chris. And just so you’re completely looped in, Ms. Butt was definitely a step up from Dolly.”
“Dolly,” we groaned.
“Marlene was the classiest,” I said. “And her casseroles were amazing, even if she did have them delivered by her caterer.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” Christine said.
“Actually,” I said, “it’s the casserole that counts.” I relied on my father’s date-baked casseroles to supplement my own pathetic cooking skills.
“Well,” Carol said, “at least he’s finally using the laptop we bought him instead of that clickety-clackety old typewriter. One can only hope that online dating will improve the demographics.”
“As well as the casseroles,” I said.
“I can’t believe Michael didn’t come with us today,” Christine said. “I mean, Billy Jr. and Johnny bail on us all the time, but Michael’s—”
“Practically a sister,” Carol said.
“I think we have to cut him some slack,” I said. “Now that Phoebe and the girls are finally back home, he doesn’t want to blow it.”
We offered up a moment of silence for our brother Michael’s bumpy marriage. My praying skills weren’t much better than my cooking skills, but for what it was worth I threw in a quick Hail Mary anyway.
When we pulled into the driveway of the 1890 Victorian all five of my sisters and brothers and I had grown up in, my entire childhood flashed before my eyes the way it always did. Every firefly caught in a jar. Every mad dash through the sprinkler. Every slam of the warped wooden screen door. Every date that braved his way across the moat-like wraparound porch to knock on the massive oak front door—not that there were all that many of them.
“Come on,” Carol said, “let’s get this over with. Dennis promised the kids we’d hit the beach after dinner so they could fly their kites.”
“Ooh, that’s a good idea,” Christine said. “Kite-flying always tires them out. Maybe we’ll meet you there.”
We crunched across the crushed mussel shell driveway, clumped our way up the steps and across the wraparound porch. Carol gave a quick knock, turned the old brass doorknob. “How many times do we have to tell him to lock the door . . .”
“He’d probably just give everyone he met a key,” I said.
“Da-ad,” Christine yelled. “Your favorite daughters are here.”
A pile of boxes greeted us in the entryway.
“Jeez Louise,” I whispered. “His girlfriends sure don’t travel light, do they?”
Christine was already squatting down to read one of the boxes. “A case of Depends? Whoa, they’re certainly not getting any younger.”
Carol put on her reading glasses and leaned over another box. “A 48-piece knife collection? You don’t think he’s taken up knife throwing, do you?”
“Right,” Christine said. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “The new girlfriend balances an apple on her head, and then Dad chooses a knife and lets it rip.”
“Come on, you guys,” I said. “Don’t be rude.” I lifted the flap of another box, which had already been opened so therefore didn’t register on the rude-ometer.
I pulled out a can. “Dog food? He doesn’t even have a dog.”
Our father stepped into view, raking his mane of disheveled white hair with one hand.
We took turns giving him a hug while we waited for his new girlfriend to materialize.
“Where is she?” I finally asked.
“’She walks in beauty,’” our father said, “’like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies/And all that’s best of dark and bright/Meet in her aspect and in her eyes.’” He turned and drifted off in the direction of the kitchen, as if he were exiting stage left.
My sisters and I looked at one another. “Browning?” Christine said.
“I don’t think so,” Carol said. “It might be Yeats.”
I shook my head. “It’s totally Tennyson.” I lowered my voice. “Why do you think his new girlfriend didn’t come out to greet us?”
“She’s probably powdering her nose so she can impress us,” Christine said.
Carol shrugged. “Maybe you should take a quick peek around, Sarah. Just so we know what we’re dealing with this time around.”
“Me?” I said. “Why should I be the one who has to peek? I drove.”
Carol made a beeline for the kitchen. Christine was right behind her.
Since my sisters had left me no choice but to play Nancy Drew, I took the scenic route, running my hand along the worn mahogany banister as I passed the center staircase. I glanced up at the gallery of family photos above the stairs, trying to ignore the gap, like a missing tooth, where my old wedding photo used to hang.
I reached for the old cut glass doorknob that led to the back room we once used as a guestroom-slash-den-slash-playroom. Sleuthing away, I opened the door a crack. A pile of clothing claimed the bed. It looked like at least some of it still had the tags on. For the first time it occurred to me that maybe the women my father brought home never made it upstairs to the master bedroom.
I hadn’t set foot in our parents’ bedroom since about a month after our mother’s funeral. We’d finally made ourselves split up the pieces of clothing we wanted to keep to remind us of her. We spent the rest of the day crying and packing up everything else to donate to a women’s shelter. A part of me hoped our father had turned their bedroom into a shrine to our mother: votive candles surrounding framed photos on every available surface. Another part of me wondered if he’d simply moved to another bedroom, the way I’d relocated from my own master bedroom when my former husband Kevin moved out.
I had absolutely no urge to climb the stairs to see if my parents’ bedroom showed signs of occupancy, or even cohabitation. Unlike Nancy Drew, sometimes I really didn’t want a clue.
When I got to the kitchen, my father and Carol were sitting at the scarred pine trestle table. A towering stack of boxes on the other side of the kitchen blocked the single glass door to the patio. The counters were littered with smaller boxes and padded envelopes, some opened, some not. Our father’s laptop sat on the middle of the table, its charging cord stretched like a mini-clothesline to the nearest plug.
Christine was pulling bottles of iced tea from one of the boxes. I yanked open another box. Beet juice. I held out my hand for an iced tea.
“You want to tell us what’s going on, Dad?” Carol said. “I mean, you practically order us to come over and meet your new girlfriend, and then she doesn’t even wait around for us?”
“She’s not one to sit still for long, our Sally.” Our father put one hand over his heart and sighed. “But I’m smitten with that kitten.”