Welcome to Dalmatian Island!
Here at Dalmatian Island, it’s all Dalmatians all the time!
Hi, I’m Grace Tyler, author of His and Hers Dalmatians, my contemporary novella about second chances and – Dalmatians! I fell in love with them when I was a kid. My uncle is a firefighter, and he always had a "Smokey" in his backyard. Smokey I, Smokey II, Smokey III…Gorgeous, but we weren’t allowed to touch him/them. Temperamental, I guess, but a beautiful boy.
Callie and Hayden James have nothing in common, other than their last names and a pair of Dalmatians. Their relationship was just as volatile after their divorce, so they split up the dogs to maintain the peace. After two years apart, attending the wedding of mutual friends forces Callie and Hayden to see each other again. Can this event lead to a truce and sharing custody of the dogs?
Behind the Scenes--The birth of a book
I love reunion stories, because they demonstrate the difficulties of making a relationship work over the long haul. The words, "And they lived happily ever after," don’t really demonstrate what happens after a couple walks down the aisle, as anyone in a long term relationship can verify.
From here, I borrowed an idea from the movie "The Parent Trap," but instead of splitting up twins, I’ve split up the couple’s Dalmatians. The movie focuses mostly on the children’s reunion, but I’ve focused on the divorced couple’s reunion, which is forced on them by the need to attend the wedding of mutual friends.
Questions I wanted to explore were why do couples break up when they really love each other? How can I make my hero and heroine have significant enough differences to necessitate a divorce and yet have enough commonalities and a strong enough love to bring them back together in the end?
Why Dalmatians, as opposed to any other breed of dogs? First and foremost, they are beautiful dogs with elegant markings and regal bearing. And they do not make good pets for many people, because they require a lot of exercise and interaction. Hayden discovers this after he begins the single life. Our hero is a high powered business man and travels a lot. Consequently, he has to hire a live in caretaker for his dog. Hey, he’s got the bucks.
Dals are beloved by the aficionados of the breed, and have many fun characteristics. They are highly intelligent, athletic, and tend to be mischievous. They also display what is known as a "grin." In the pictures I saw of it, it looks like the dog is growling the way the teeth are displayed. But Dals actually smile when they are happy or excited, and the way to tell the difference when you are inexperienced with the breed or the individual dog is to watch his tail. If his tail is wagging and his teeth are bared, he’s smiling at you.
The Talented, Off-Beat Heroine
Callie is a sculptor and pottery artist, and now she's trying her hand at running an art gallery with her friend, Rita, who put up a chunk of the money to get it started. Once the gallery opens, Rita is off to her next project—setting up a show for Callie and other Salt Lake City artists in New York City. Rita totally stresses Callie out, and now that our hero (her ex) wants to hook back up with her, Callie is really on the edge.
Now this, this was the garage as he’d remembered it—boxes of supplies, sculpting knives, pots in various stages of completion stationed on tables around the room, three pottery wheels, several mud spattered chairs. And something new—a rectangular kiln stationed at the rear of the building.
"It’s your dream studio," he said, unable to contain his smile. "What you’ve always wanted."
"You made it possible," she said. "You and your grandiose divorce settlement."
"You would have done it yourself someday." He shoved his hands in his pockets resisting the urge to touch a large plum vase in the center of the room. "That’s a show piece," he said, gesturing toward it with a casual nod of his head. He’d watched Callie for hours during the first year of their marriage, watched her sculpting the elegant lines of similar pieces as though she coaxed the vessels out of the clay.
Licking her lips, she smoothed back a stray lock of the chic bob to reveal one of her delicate ears. He hadn’t liked that short haircut when he’d seen her for the first time from across the dining room at The Black Horse. It was growing on him—her ears and her neck exposed all the time. She moved so gracefully, something not always apparent with that wild mane of hair she’d worn during their years together.
"I guess it is a showpiece," she said. "At least, it is supposed to be."
"What do you mean?"
"I don’t know if you remember Rita. She’s my partner in the gallery on West Temple." She bit her lips, looking off to her left.
"And?" He prompted her when it seemed she wouldn’t continue.
"Sorry." Inhaling loudly, Callie took a seat on one of the battered wooden chairs in front of the vase. "We’re trying to arrange a show in New York. Rita is working with an agency, and we’re working on setting up a show with some other Utah artists. We may include some from other western states as well."
Hayden had never jumped for joy in his life, but he felt like doing it now. "That’s incredible, Cal. Why aren’t you more excited?"
Huffing out a breath, she rested her head on the edge of the table. "I can’t get excited. Not until Rita gets things arranged, Hayden. I can’t."
Hayden walked up behind her. Hesitant at first, he let his fingers drift down the curve of her shoulder and squeezed her upper arm. Touching her proved an exquisite torture. "Calista David James, you are a dreamer. Don’t you believe in your dreams?"
"Yes," came the muffled reply. "I just don’t believe in me."
Hayden could understand her reluctance to commit her emotions to the possibility of a show in New York. If it didn’t come through, she’d suffer a great deal of disappointment. "Dreams are nothing without commitment, Callie. You know that."
She stood up then, ceramic dust coating the side of her face, her hair, and the bodice of the vivid purple, floor-length tent she’d worn as a dress. "I committed myself to us. Look how that turned out."
"This is different," he insisted, though the failure of their marriage had colored his belief in himself for a while too. "This is about your talent."
"It’s not just talent," she protested, scuffing the toe of her sandal along a seam in the concrete. "It’s a lot of luck and impressing the right people. Choosing the right path."
"I have a theory," he said, tucking her inside the shelter of his arm. He brushed the dust from her cheek and the side of her nose and wiped it on his jeans, a gesture he remembered from their shared past.
"What’s your theory?" She looked up, meeting his eyes. He had always loved the rich chocolate of her eyes, now dewy with a hint of moisture collected in the corners.
"When you’re on the right path, things work out easily. So—how is the gallery working out? Your partnership? The new work you’re preparing for the show?"
"It’s all going well," she admitted. "If I let myself be optimistic, I’d say it’s fantastic."
She used to be optimistic. Before their divorce.
He’d invested a lot of time and energy convincing himself that it takes two to succeed in marriage, and it takes two to fail. So he couldn’t shoulder the blame for Callie’s cynicism on his own. He felt the weight of guilt nonetheless.
"If it’s going well, there’s your sign of good things to come."
The Dreamy, Richer than Sin Hero
Hayden comes from old money. He's a trust fund baby trying to make a name for himself and step out of the shadow of his deceased father. This explains his easy use of the conveniences his money can buy as well as his overcommitment to his business during the first years of his marriage. Hayden loves fiercely, and he enjoys taking care of the people and animals in his life. In his view, money makes a good vehicle for service. Callie, on the other hand, wouldn't think his service counted unless he used his own hands to render it. They are learning to meet in the middle on this issue, as well as other issues.
He shares Callie’s passion for art, and is awed by her talent and proud of her achievements. Nature inspires him as well. He is more removed from the challenges facing our planet, but he enjoys outdoor recreation. And of course, he loves both of the dogs. He enjoys their companionship and their individuality, for Ricky and Lucy are unique and special in their own ways. The reunion of this family is meant to be, and I hope you will participate in their quest for happiness by reading this special story.
A breeze lifted Hayden’s hair as he tossed the Frisbee to Ricky again. The dog caught it with ease, despite the fact that they hadn’t played for the past few weeks due to Hayden’s business trips. Board rooms and dinner meetings couldn’t compare to Saturday afternoon at the park, the sun warm on the back of his neck. He’d left his shoes beneath a nearby tree while he enjoyed the cool crush of the bright spring grass beneath his bare feet.
Ricky brought him the plastic disc and dropped it before standing on his hind legs and slapping his paws on his owner’s chest. Hayden put his arms around the dog and petted him vigorously, eliciting a sharp bark and a kiss from Ricky. Laughing, Hayden tumbled the Dalmatian to the ground and wrestled him until he collapsed. The dog flopped down next to him and treated his owner to a wide smile, sporting a mouthful of teeth and wagging his tail ferociously. The first time he’d seen a Dal smile, Hayden was put off by the bared teeth. But the breeder had explained it was a show of affection and how to tell whether the dog was angry or happy. Ricky was definitely happy today.
Hayden hadn’t seen that smile very often since leaving Callie’s.
He covered his eyes with his bare forearm and inhaled deeply of the smell of sun and spring grass. Gradually the tension he’d been harboring for an entire month ebbed. His latest deal had been grueling, and all the while he worked on it, he’d battled his anticipation of a reunion with Callie. He hadn’t expected the wedding to be so peaceful, he thought, twisting up the corners of his mouth.
Ricky flopped his head and front paws onto Hayden’s chest, and the man and his dog lay still on the ground. Ricky’s muffled snuffing and throaty grunts punctuated the sound of other people enjoying the weather and the park environs. When he really concentrated, Hayden could tune all of it out, even the Dal’s grumbling and wiggling against his rib cage, and just listen to the music of the birds overhead in the old-growth trees.
HIS AND HERS DALMATIANS
By Grace Tyler
Presented by Moonlit Romance
Courtesy of Romance Junkies' reviewer, Scarlet:Witnessing these two proud characters struggle to overcome pride and misconception is a lesson in forgiveness that is unmistakable. Grace Tyler’s love for dogs come through loud and clear as we watch Lucy and Ricky get to know one another and their respective humans all over again. HIS AND HERS DALMATIANS is a breezy love story I am glad I indulged in.For the full review, please visit my friends at Romance Junkies!
A four cups review by Maura:This is a good contemporary romance...a wonderful tale of two people reconnecting. Callie and Hayden’s second chance at love is a nice love story with all of the ups and downs necessary and the Dalmatians Lucy and Ricky are a wonderful touch.For the full review, please visit my friends at Coffee Time Romance.
I hoped that readers would like my book, but it still takes me by surprise when I read my reviews and there--in writing--you like me! You really like me!
From Narcissus at The Long and the Short of It:His and Hers Dalmatians made me believe in new beginnings all over again....watching them fall in love all over again is one of the moments where I truly believed in happily ever after not just happily for now. The dogs play a huge part, bringing the couple together and at the end, doing their best to seal the deal permanently. Ms. Tyler pens a beautiful, modern love story in which I fell in love with all the characters and even made me want a pair of Dalmatians!To read the full review, please visit my friends at The Long and the Short of It.