Only Real Dogs Need Apply
WANTED: Female volunteers for 8 week test study of new beauty product. Only real dogs need apply.
When Lana Hatchett sees the ad, she’s torn between a desire to hunt down and kill the perpetrator and a secret hope that this time the promise of beauty in a jar will be true. All her life she’s been ugly. All her life she’s endured jokes about paper bags. All twenty-six years of her life she’s sought a solution, and she can’t bear it if another promised miracle falls through.
Miracles aren’t quite Drew Mercado’s line of work, but they’re closer than most people would think. Officially he’s a biochemist. Unofficially, he’s a wizard. His latest spell is the one he hopes will make him rich--a beauty cream that contains a powerful enchantment to make anyone who uses it gorgeous--but in order to market it he has to go through the testing process.
He needs a minimum of forty volunteers to meet the FDA’s testing standards. He’s invested a lot in start-up costs already, and if this product doesn’t go through, he’ll be ruined. Thus when he gets a cranky call from a woman who demands to know if this is “one of those damn makeover shows,” instead of following his first instinct, which is to hang up, he does his best to reassure her.
Thus begins Lana and Drew’s adventure together, in which innocent product testing becomes an agonizing ordeal. Lana demands direct attention from Drew, and in order to keep her in the study he agrees to be her personal counselor through the process. In eight weeks, Lana’s face goes from dog ugly to head-turning gorgeous, but inside she’s still the same ugly young woman, frightened and defensive.
When she looks in the mirror, she remembers all the years of being ugly, and sees herself that way still. She tells Drew off for trying to fool people, calls him a charlatan, and storms away.
In order to rescue his test study, Drew has to pull a Pygmalion act not only on Lana’s body, but on her personality. He tries magic, but it only helps temporarily. In order for Lana to truly feel beautiful she must change the way she thinks. Drew’s dismayed to find that none of his magic will do the job.
In desperation, and to keep her from giving his beauty project a failing grade, he asks her to go out on a date, hoping the reaction of people who see her out in public will convince her of her new beauty. Lana slowly begins to blossom under Drew’s flattering attention. After a glamorous night at the theatre, when she’s mistaken for a movie star, she realizes she’s falling in love with Drew.
Panic ensues. She doesn’t know how to be in love with a living, breathing male who’s actually paying attention to her. Ugly girls can only do love of the unrequited variety. She’s terrified it’ll all turn out to be an illusion.
Drew can’t understand why she’s suddenly acting crazy. He tries his best to soothe her, but everything he does only seems to make it worse. Finally he confesses to Lana the true nature of his beauty cream, and demonstrates by rubbing some on himself. Lana’s finally convinced--and throws a fit. How dare he lie to her! How dare he pass off his mumbo-jumbo as a legitimate product? Never mind that it works!
Drew is astonished to realize he cares less about getting rich than about having Lana in his life. He’s actually grown quite fond of her, and recognizes that beneath her angry and rather grumpy exterior is a frightened girl who is really loving and sweet.
And he loves her. And he’ll give all his dreams up rather than lose her.
He tells her so, and it shocks her into silence. Staring at him in disbelief, she asks him why. Why would he give up what he’s worked his whole life for?
“Because,” he says, taking her in his arms, “You’re the most beautiful ugly woman I’ve ever met.”
Killer Yapp here: “I’ve never understood why the word DOG is a synonym for ugly!!! I’ll have you know I’m a very handsome beast and anyone who says different will be lunch on the hoof.”
Miss Snark here: This is pretty good. Other than the dog thing of course. We get a sense of voice, a good overview of the plot and resolution, and a sense of how the characters develop. In the novel itself I’d be watching for good strong minor characters that aren’t mentioned here cause of space limitations I hope.
Killer Yapp here: “I’d chew it up and bury it in Central Park. Ugly dog indeed. Foolish non-poodle mammals!!”