Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2021
"It Started with a Dog" was such a cute, fun, happy book! How could it not be with a title like that? Author, Julia London, is a new name to me, but this won't be the last book of hers I quickly devour. The novel is set in Austin, Texas as Deja Brew, a new, very hip coffee house is about to open, complete with egg shaped wicker chairs that hang from the ceilings! They will offer mini pies, keto, vegan, and gluten free treats, and a wide array of coffee drinks in a modern, fabulous, two story venue, complete with a free lending library where no one will keep track of books that are borrowed. Meanwhile, across the street, the owners of a long established coffee shop/diner, Lucky Star, are in a panic because business is already waning, and now there will be competition that may be insurmountable.
Talented, hard working, Harper Thompson, has masterminded the the grand opening of Deja Brew. Christmas week she shares an uber of some sorts with a group of people and one seemingly crazy driver. With planes and buses to be caught, bad weather and traffic, and passengers who are really anxious to be dropped off at their destinations, the driver turns his car around, stopping short so that things in the car go flying, including the Harper's and Jonah Roger's phones. Jonah is seated next to Harper, but she can only see a bit of his face. They each grab their phones quickly, just as Harper has to hop out of the car. Jonah soon boards a plane to Chicago to spend time with his cousins, while Harper heads home to see her parents, who are the least warm and fuzzy parents on earth. They provided material goods, but not much else. In fact, in the middle of Harper's winter break, her parents suddenly take off for some exotic vacation. While home, Harper notices a strange photo on her phone. She does NOT have a dog, but there is a BIG dog staring back at her from the screensaver. It does not take long to figure out that she has someone else's phone. Because the passengers had been so crowded in the car, none of them really saw one another's full faces, only profiles, so Jonah and Harper never saw one another's faces. Scrolling through the phones in their hands, they like what they see and realize what has happened. Jonah reaches out first. They begin forwarding texts and messages to one another for the week they are each away, and make a plan to meet as soon as they are both home again to swap phones. That is when sparks begin to fly.
The couple hit it off immediately, and Harper falls in love with Truck, the dog in the phone photos. She volunteers at a dog shelter, walking dogs, and brings Jonah with her to walk Bob, the grumpy bulldog, and Lulu, the three legged dachshund. That first walk is a fun scene! Quickly, they develop a loving relationship until Deja Brew is about to open and they realize they are competitors. Will they be able to survive all that will ensue as each shop hopes to gain or maintain customers in the wake of the others' business?
The scenes with dogs were some of my favorite, as the dogs had big personalities and were so goofy. I also loved Jonah's family, who all work in the coffee shop. Jonah is only supposed to be there to help out after his father's cancer treatments, but he knows the shop needs an overhaul, and that he wants to be there for his family, despite an incredible offer of a job of a lifetime in his field (engineering). He has choices to make, while Harper is duking it out for a promotion with a seemingly snooty and conniving co-worker. The entire cast of characters is filled with fun, kind, quirky people. They know how to have fun, and to make others feel warm and welcome. This was a feel good book, like a box of donuts and a frappe' on a dreary winter's day. You will cheer for Harper and Jonah to find a way to co-exist in businesses set steps apart on the same street, and to not let anything come between them.