What a fun book this is! At the center of the story is Keenan James, a guru to women everywhere giving advice on relationships. He's done quite well for himself and is something of a celebrity.
Tory Hoffstra is an insecure psychologist who despises people like Keenan, people who will take advantage of the average consumer and pretend they are experts for a quick buck. Tory has been asked by her publisher to co-write a book with the famous Keenan James because they want credibility from her, but Keenan will bring in the big bucks and guarantee a bestseller. Tory is appalled, and insists on checking him out first in action.
Keenan leads a weekly women’s group to discuss their relationships and give them advice; Tory manages to get a spot in his group, disguising herself as the luscious Vicky Smith. But first off - and coincidentally - Keenan has just moved into the same building as Tory's ex-boyfriend, Stewart (although Tory and Stewart still seem to be in this relationship that is going nowhere fast), so a disguise for the women’s group is mandatory. Tory runs into Keenan while he is walking his mother's dog (a task he has taken on unwillingly). Tory is deathly afraid of dogs, especially the cute golden doodle named Barbara Streisand. This makes for quite the scene, with Tory behaving hysterically while Keenan tries to calm the hyper dog down. There are a lot of laughs in the book, and between the antics of this uncontrollable dog and Tory's disguised moments as Vicky Smith at the round table, the humor is never lacking.
Tory uses her own relationship with the ex-boyfriend at the round table, and eventually it's apparent that she's taking a lot of her own real life situations into the meetings. She is no longer making things up. And while Tory at first despises the idea of dressing up, putting on makeup, and making herself look attractive to the opposite sex, she notices the effect she has on men when she is disguised as Vicky. Every day, two ladies at a cosmetic counter help Tory look her glamorous best, and as most of the book is told with a humorous bent, the scenes with Tory and the two ladies are pretty funny as well.
While she uses a fake persona to pretend she needs love advice, Tory watches the other women in the group and cannot believe they are all falling for Keenan’s scam. She doesn’t believe he knows what he’s doing and thinks he’s actually ruining all of their lives. She has a hard time keeping her anger in check, but it doesn’t take long for her to let Keenan know how she feels. And it’s not just anger that she’s feeling - lust somehow enters the picture, to Tory’s embarrassment.
Claudia, Tory's sister, is mistaken for a friend of Tory's, because there is no way Keenan would believe they are related. Claudia is the opposite of Tory - glamorous, has a lot of friends, and seems to be their mother's favorite. Tory doesn't like her because she thinks Claudia is selfish and self-centered, but what I found amazing is how Claudia's true self is revealed a little at a time. Elaine Fox does a great job creating such a fully dimensional character, first allowing the reader to see her through Tory's eyes, then watching the transformation as Tory begins to understand what her sister is all about.
One could classify Hello, Doggy! partly as a Cinderella story, because Tory goes from ugly duckling to someone very attractive. But the main emphasis of the book is the humor, as well as the theme of not judging someone for what they see on the surface. The relationship between Tory and Keenan starts out on an odd note, because Keenan falls for “Vicky” first before learning who she really is. Tory has a hard time seeing past Keenan’s career as an advice guru; she feels that only someone like her has the credentials to help these women - Keenan doesn’t even have a degree in the field! But while her anger for him continues to rage, she cannot control the attraction she has for him.
Hello, Doggy! is laugh-out-loud funny and very entertaining. I will definitely read more by Elaine Fox.