In TopKnotch, three Shih Tzu girls—Ginger, Hapi, and Missy, scheme to extricate their late 20’s-something owner, Robin, from a series of foibles. Robin is an engineer who works for her uber-successful, but domineering dad, Fritz. She’s engaged to marry Sean, who works as the intellectual properties attorney for their firm, Rosencratz & Dessein. Determined to connect Robin with an upgrade, they are always on the prowl for a new boyfriend to replace Sean.
Luck is with them when Robin meets Luke at a backyard pool party. Luke is a world-renowned engineer and inventor, and unlike Sean, he’s a really nice guy. Much to the dogs’ delight, Luke has super powers and can hear them talk! Hi-jinx ensues as the dogs scheme and conspire with Luke to connect with Robin. As Robin becomes increasingly torn between Luke and the “papa-approved” Sean, she discovers a few secrets of her own. She learns life is lived from the inside out by being brave and following your heart.
The plot turns on surprising inventions and chatty critters, giving a playful edge to the story that will appeal to readers who don’t mind a touch of fantasy. The emotions are serious, however, as those fanciful elements share the stage with romantic human drama, with Thomas balancing comedy (some “repugnant” ravens) with pathos, such as a scene in an animal shelter, where Luke “sometimes understand the woeful utterances of fear and sadness.” Inevitably, when Luke helps Robin solve one of her dog’s mysterious illnesses, the two start to wonder if there’s something more simmering under the surface.
Thomas relies heavily on dog dialogue throughout this charming tale, and Robin’s three Shih Tzus (Ginger, Hapi, and Missy) often steal the show (when Mary Ann and Sean are making fun of Robin behind her back, Missy threatens “She’d better snap the trap, or she’ll need a nurse”). Some of the doggy dialogue can be intentionally childish (“He’s such a poop bag, and I mean a big poop bag!”) and not to all readers’ tastes, but ultimately the three pooches play an important role in helping Robin kick Sean to the curb—and pursue a relationship with Luke, who seems to be a perfect fit. There’s some action mixed in with the romance, setting the stage for more fun in the next of the series.
Takeaway: A sweet romance with talking animals and many surprises.
Great for fans of: Jill Shalvis’s Stray Hearts, Julia London’s It Started With a Dog.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
California author CJ Thomas serves as a corporate recruiter for creative technological ideas and start-up companies in Silicon Valley. She has extensive experience in writing, having first produced the screenplay for this story - now in book format as the initial episode in her ongoing Topknotch Series.
Relating a romance from the point of view and conversation remarks of dogs is a unique and highly successful way to examine relationship developments. In this most entertaining novel the principle characters are three Shih Tzu females - Ginger, Hapi, and Missy - who not only are able to communicate with other animals (even crows!), but also with their owner, Robin, as they support her in family dissatisfactions and protect her from committing to an inadequate relationship with ‘the wrong male’ while also encouraging the bonding with Luke, a ‘right one’ who happens to be able to understand the Shih Tzu conversations, a factor that increases his superiority as the boyfriend of choice for Robin. The story is so well rendered, creating the roles of the human participants credibly, allowing the interactions and conundrums between Robin and her family as she matures, and the roles of the boys-to-men in her life (Sean and Luke), that the story comfortably progresses from fantasy to fine reality lessons. This is a very strong start for a unique and entertaining series from an author of great promise. Recommended.
This exquisite fictional story is more than delightful. As an animal lover, I always choose a book whose protagonists are pets. “TopKnotch” didn’t disappoint me at all.
Robin is a young girl whose life is a bit complex, just like any other girl of her age. However, she isn’t alone in the world; her three inseparable and loyal Shih Tzu dogs will do anything for her and her happiness.
CJ Thomas’ writing style is full of adventure, intrigue, love and friendship. The plot is well developed and the pace is fast, which I like.
I'm going to have a hard time waiting for the next installment in the series. Believe me when I say that as soon as I know the publication date, I will go for it immediately.
TopKnotch: Adventures With Our Clueless Human is wonderful book written by CJ Thomas. The story is about Ginger, Hapi, and Missy, three Shih Tzu dogs on the prowl to get their owner, Robin, a new boyfriend. It's a heartwarming story that has a lot of messages about life, relationships, romance, and just faith in general. This is a great book to read to young ones around the fireplace because there is so much love in this book. Well done and I highly recommend it.