Dogs v Cats v Parrots v Bearded Dragons v All The Animals. Who Will Win? You Decide!
We're talking about our favourite four-legged sidekicks in romance at the PHS this month. After all, the world is a better place with pets! But which one would be the best companion for our hero/heroine?
Geri Kratow - I Heart Parrots
My choice doesn't have four legs, it has two. A parrot may seem an odd choice as a secondary character in a romance novel, but when you’ve lived with one for twenty-nine years, it’s an automatic pick. Our Yellow-naped Amazon Ripley (named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien) came into our life when it was only 12 weeks old, and we were married a mere 2 years (we’re into the beginning of our fourth decade). Ripley, who the breeder said he was certain was a girl, taught us how to love and care for a living being other than ourselves. As two junior officers in the Navy and also in the same squadron, we needed something to come home to and help us remember we were a couple beginning our lives together.
When I wrote Navy Rescue I wanted to convey the complete family life that Gwen and Drew had before her presumed death in a P-3C aircraft ditch in the South Pacific. A bird was perfect, and because it was so vocal it allowed for more fun with writing the scenes and dialogue.
Did I mention we found out that Ripley is a boy when he was 19 years old? We were transferring back to the States from Belgium and it was at the height of the bird flu. Ripley needed a certificate of health and we were able to get DNA testing quickly. Imagine our surprise! Our “good girl” baby bird was a boy.
We quickly learned that Ripley missed nothing; he can mimic my voice almost exactly and his vocabulary is upwards of 1000 words. He doesn’t use his entire wealth of words every day, but we hear his whistles and he yells “bye bye” whenever I leave the house.
I’ve had pets in most of my books, and our German shepherd-mix that we rescued while stationed in Russia is depicted on the cover of Navy Rules. Pets enrich my life so much I can’t imagine writing without them!
Lara Temple - I Heart Dogs
I love writing animals into my books – they often aren’t planned, they just sneak in there, stripping away the social masks my characters wear and bringing out the best and worst in them. This was the case in one of my upcoming Wild Lords books (Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal, out early 2018 and the second in my Wild Lords series which kicks off in November this year). While researching, I came across the peculiar tradition of burying black dogs in cemeteries to protect the dead – they were known as Grims and I immediately knew my story had to have its own Grim. I found the tradition bizarre but so poignant – it spoke of fear and loneliness, a need to bring order into a chaotic and dangerous world and even to maintain a gateway to those we lose.
These were precisely the emotions underpinning the this book where my rakish but guarded hero Lord Ravenscar and my sassy but vulnerable heroine, Lily, had childhoods marked by loss and isolation. Children in these situations often become strongly attached to pets, and Lord Ravenscar adopts Grim as a puppy after he loses his parents and brother to illness (Lily also had a childhood ‘pet’ to helped alleviate her isolated childhood on a tropical island – in this case a manatee named Rupert).
There is something timeless and otherworldly about Grim – he finds his way in and out of houses, welcome or not, adding a Gothic touch to the tale. But he is really about the ability of love and loyalty to offset loneliness – he is gentle and adoring and endlessly forgiving. Both my hero and Heroine are strong, stubborn individuals who have dealt with pain and loneliness by trying to build a world that meets their needs, so for me Grim is symbolic of both the human need for companionship and safety and the need to take risks to earn them. He is the perfect pet for Lord Ravenscar and Lily who needed their own defenses softened by such a symbol of steadfastness and sacrifice for love (there is even a little Grimlet puppy in the epilogue – I couldn’t resist).
I don’t know what animals will sneak their way in to my next books but like the animals that enter our lives, I’m sure they’ll enrich them.
Joss Wood - I Heart Bearded Dragons
To be perfectly honest, while numerous pets have entered and departed our household, a bearded dragon has never been a resident of Chez Wood. With two kids besotted with animals I do remember (apart from cats, dogs and birds) rats, Chinese fighting fish, normal fish, silkworms and shongololo’s (a common African miilipede). I remember my son begging for a snake, tears in his eyes begging. He didn’t get one: I have a rule about pets needing to be, at the minimum, warm blooded.
Linc, my hero in The CEO’S Nanny Affair is the single dad to Shaw, a four-foot-high bandit. Shaw is totally cute and I wanted him to have a “boy” pet, something that would be help intensify the contrast between him and the other child in the book, my heroine Tate’s ward, the beautiful Ellie. So, that how Shaw ended up with a bearded dragon which I think is a pretty cool pet for a little boy.
As long, of course, the little boy isn’t mine.
Amy Lane - I Heart Broken Animals
When my oldest kids were little, we would watch The Jeff Corwin Experience religiously, and it was a great show! Wildlife adventures, science and conservation information, a personable host who was my age. Good stuff!
But the thing I loved most about the show was that the host loved snakes. He adored them. He was a herpetologist of all things—who does that? But seriously—this guy looked at snakes the way my dogs look at me: as though all of the mysteries in a vast world resided within.
Boys and animals have always fascinated me—I was the girl with the kitten, right? Fragile, skittish, occasionally baring claws. Girls are expected to be nurturing. But boys, going out and having adventures with dogs and horses and turtles and snakes—they always seemed so rough, so tumble—and so vulnerable at the same time. I’d seen my father cry when our dog was hit by a car—didn’t they know that those adventures were dangerous?
When I grew to write gay male romance, I tended to include animals. It says something fine and noble about a person if they can care for a creature in an uncertain world. And my heroes are often gruff, working class men who don’t always make the right choices—animals will love them unconditionally, throughout all of those turbulent growing up things. It doesn’t have to be a soft and squishy animal, an animal the whole world assumes is easy to love—often, like my guys, those aren’t the creatures most in need of affection.
A guy who can love a three-legged tomcat or an iguana named Mrs. Darcy or a pied rat is a man who can love through the bad decisions, the turbulence, and the self-inflicted pain that life has to offer.
Those guys, to me, are the most heroic of characters and the most romantic of men.
Rachel Dove - I Heart All Pets
I love animals in romance books, in fact I have even written some into my books - from cute kittens to a cow in labour! For me, animals are an important part of many people's lives, and shouldn't be overlooked in fiction, especially in novels of love, family and caring for others. Dogs are always the animals that stick in my mind, and I think that they open up some meet cute opportunities for people to meet in novels. A girl goes to an animal shelter, meets a hunky vet.....a single girl takes her new pup to the park, where he promptly takes a shine to the local Labrador complete with tall, dark and handsome owner....rogue dog chases a lady into a shop doorway.....who can resist a waggy tail?
My favourite animal in a romance book goes to the beautiful Zeus, a trained German Shepherd dog. He is the sidekick of Logan Thibault, a war weathered U.S. marine in Nicholas Sparks' novel, The Lucky One. Leaving the battlefield with PTSD, Logan returns to his sister's home, collecting his loyal dog, and ends up walking across the country to find...ah, I won't spoil it!
The book is a heartfelt romance, bittersweet in places, and Zeus stayed with me as an important four legged character. He consoles Logan, has his back and is always there in times of need. I am a sucker for canines, and he is a beauty. For me, a dog in a story only ever enhances the experience. Aside from Mr King's Kujo, of course!
Is a romance novel better with the addition of a four-legged, two-legged or even a finned friend? Do you have a favorite from a book you've read? Which pet do you like to read about in a story? Vote for your fav and/or tell us about the animals you think we should have added to the #PinkHeartPoll in the comments or by using #fourleggedfriend on Social Media to join the #PHS community's discussion.
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