In the world of Standard Poodle breeding, competition for Best of Opposite Sex is keen. Not among the dogs, of course—it’s a foregone conclusion that Margaret Turnbull’s Cedar Crest Kennels will trot off with the lion’s share of awards at any event within a hundred miles of Norwalk, Connecticut. But Peg’s niece, novice breeder Melanie Travis (Once Bitten, 2001, etc.), has a much harder time judging among human males. Her onetime beau, gorgeous Sam Driver, wants to make amends for his six-month rupture of their relationship with a two-carat emerald-cut diamond. And Melanie’s ex-husband Bob has a novel peace offering of his own: a Shetland pony named Willow. Ostensibly a gift for their son Davey, Willow actually boards at Long Ridge Pony Farm, whose owner, Pam Donnelly, seems to have more than a passing interest in Bob. The gift brings renewed contact between Melanie and Bob—contact that intensifies when a boarder dog, a dachshund named Dox caught in the middle of a custody dispute between yuppies George and Marian Firth, is stolen from Melanie’s home, prompting her to ship Davey off to his father’s until things settle down, which of course they don’t. Melanie goes right on being stalked—by TV reporter Jill Prescott, who thinks Melanie will lead her to a juicy story; by Phil Dutton, a late entry in the contest for Melanie’s affections; by a mysterious enemy who invades her home; and, most urgently, by her unresolved feelings for Sam.
Like a poodle with a puppy cut, Berenson’s ninth is all fluff.