By Jeff Favre,
HerBusy Life Critic–
Whether it’s Harry Potter or Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic novels, a series has to start somewhere. For “Second Acts,” by Julia Dumont, her world opens with Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers. Some might call this novel chick lit, while others would call it a spicy contemporary romance. And while both might be accurate, they do a disservice to a well-crafted page-turner that is equal parts sexy and funny.
As a self contained story, it won’t matter if you read this novel or the second in what appears to be an ongoing series, Starstruck Romance and Other Hollywood Tails.
This one is lighter on the graphic sex scenes than its successor, but it’s heavier on the humor. Also,Dumontdoes a remarkable job of not only introducing these characters, but also planting seeds for the book to come.
Dumont’s protagonist is Cynthia, whose business, a dating service called Second Acts, is just starting to take off. What makes Second Acts unusual is that Cynthia provides plenty of personal service, including monitoring an emergency cell phone for each of her matched couples while on they’re on their first date, in case something goes awry.
The reason Cynthia has so much free time is that her love life is lacking. Yes, there’s Max, who flies in and out of Cynthia’s life, but she can’t take his overt womanizing-even while she tries to convince herself that she wants an open relationship.
As with Starstruck, the most interesting character is Lolita. Best friends in the second novel, they meet for the first time in this story. Lolita runs a high-class dog salon for major celebrities. She wants a man, but no one will come between her and her dogs, which appear to have special magical abilities. This strange divergence into almost sci-fi territory seems ridiculous at first, butDumont somehow makes it work by keeping it mysterious.
Yes, there are some racy sex scenes, including a near lesbian encounter for Cynthia.Dumonteases into these sections so they creep up on you, and they don’t feel shoehorned into the plot.
Best of all, Dumonthas a real way with humor. She takes realistic characters and puts them in situations that get progressively more strange and the laughs build throughout the novel. Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers is a quick read, and for this type of book that’s a good thing. The possibilities for a long series seem endless.