I recently watched and enjoyed the Hallmark Channel movie made of this book, so I thought it might be a cool idea to get the book for my mom for Christmas. And yeah, I'm reading some of the books I bought her before she does--I'm a speed reader, I try not to damage the book, etc. I'll admit I had kind of a hard time separating the events of the movie from the book, so bear with me on that one. But I enjoyed them both in the end.
Ambrose the cat (a.k.a. Tom and a bunch of other names) is on his ninth life, his most recent owner just died, and he's praying for help to get away from this dog that's after him. He'll be good, he promises, if he's just saved. He is saved, by a hot fireman named Zachary Stone, and Ambrose swears he'll try to make the guy's life better. Ambrose figures out early on that Zach needs a mate, and preferably a better one than the snotty older woman he's dating who hates cats. But Zach's not into commitment--he's already kinda freaked at the idea of committing to a cat, but nobody else will take him and Zach ends up feeling fond of the cat he renames Tom. His incentives for dating Blair seem to be that she's hot and not necessarily looking for commitment--but it looks like she's wanting more after all, AND she's antagonistic towards poor Tom/Ambrose. Oh yeah, and she's mean enough to get a girl fired from her job, so Zach gets fed up with her early on.
This book gives a good profile of why a guy would be a commitmentphobe--Zach got burned when his parents divorced and his mom remarried and got stepdaughters, and Zach got left behind with his drunk dad. Now his mom and family have moved back to town, but Zach feels very reluctant and still kinda angry with her and his dad and would rather spend Christmas working at the firehouse. (There's also a fiancee who dumped him awhile back, but she's barely mentioned.) Anyway, Zach's dedicated to the bachelor life and isn't inclined to lead a nice girl on.
Unfortunately or fortunately for Zach, he does end up meeting a nice girl, once and future vet school student Merilee, when he's looking for pet food. (She's the poor girl who lost her job thanks to Blair.) The two of them keep running into each other and discussing cat stuff, and when Merilee's nice to Ambrose when he's freaked out at getting his picture taken by Santa, Ambrose decides she'd be a much better girlfriend, and stops eating so that Zach will have to call the "cat whisperer" he knows. Likewise, Merilee ends up relying on Zach for help when the cat she rescued from the shelter she works at is discovered in her cats-prohibited apartment and she can't find anyone else to take poor Queenie. But when romance starts to bloom, Zach quickly backs off, making Merilee sad and having to resort to online dating.
In keeping with the "nine lives" theme, we find out that Ambrose seems to have ah, gone through his lives pretty quickly and had a lot of fast fatal ends. Ambrose remembers Zach and Merilee as having tried to save him in past lives, Blair as being someone who killed him in a past life, and Merilee's cat Queenie as being his old girlfriend Aphrodite.
In the end, Zach has an experience relating to his family and his work that leads him to resolving his feelings about a lot of things, and there's a happy ending.
All in all, l thought this was a sweet book to read, and pretty well done. I liked how the main characters were written, especially seeing things from Zach's point of view, and at times Ambrose's. So, four stars, and a fun holiday read if you can find it.