Desperate to keep his father and brother from going to prison, Levi Wallace agrees to marry the sheriff's daughter, a young woman who his already married brother got pregnant. In doing so though, he had to give up Arabella Trask, the local school teacher and love of his life. Eight years later, on her way home from school for summer break, Bella chances to find a snake-bitten Levi by the side of the road with his two young children nearby. She leaps into action to save the man she never stopped loving, only to find out that he apparently never stopped loving her either. His wife passed away and the bank is about to foreclose on his house too, leaving him and his kids in dire straits. When the children lie about her being their new ma, so that their aunt and uncle won't take them away, will Bella be able to forgive Levi and go along with the ruse?
Snakes & Jails & Puppy Dog Tails is a sweet short story about a couple in love who are reunited after being separated for eight years. Reunions are a favorite theme of mine in romance, so that made this novella very appealing to me. We don't get much from Levi's perspective but what we learn of him throughout the story makes him a likable and admirable hero. He was possibly the only responsible person in his entire family, so much so, that he gave up his true love to rectify his brother's mistake by marrying the woman the brother got pregnant. Even though it appears he tried to be a good husband and father, over the years, he never stopped loving Arabella and kept a picture of her in his Bible which I thought was very sweet. Bella is a lovely heroine with a really big heart. She's a school teacher who loves kids. All she ever wanted was to marry Levi and have some of her own, but that plan got derailed for several years. Thinking he had betrayed her, she tried to put Levi out of her mind but was never able to banish him from her heart, so when she finds him snake-bitten by the side of the road and his young children without supervision, she's quick to act and forgive.
Aside from a few lines of dialog that were a little unnatural, the story is well-written. Due to the short length, events occur and conflicts are resolved pretty quickly and easily. It might have been nice if it were a little longer to flesh things out a bit more, but overall, it was a very good read. Snakes & Jails & Puppy Dog Tails was a cute novella that left me with warm, fuzzy feelings all over. This is the second short story I've read by Mallary Mitchell that made me feel that way. I can't wait to try out one of her full-length novels to see what she can do with a longer format. Unfortunately, it looks like Snakes & Jails & Puppy Dog Tails is no longer available for purchase, and since the author doesn't appear to have a website either, I don't know if it will be made available again at any time in the future. That makes me very glad that I got it when I did.
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