Norah's Ark

Norah's Ark

4.4 5
by Judy Baer

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Hi, my name is Bentley.

I'm a mutt with a dash of pit bull in the soup, and I have issues. I'm not likely to win any beauty pageants, and I'm afraid of cats. But my human, Norah Kent, thinks I'm the greatest despite all my shortcomings.

The problem is Norah won't go out with anyone who doesn't like me. Norah says she's perfectly happy being single,


Hi, my name is Bentley.

I'm a mutt with a dash of pit bull in the soup, and I have issues. I'm not likely to win any beauty pageants, and I'm afraid of cats. But my human, Norah Kent, thinks I'm the greatest despite all my shortcomings.

The problem is Norah won't go out with anyone who doesn't like me. Norah says she's perfectly happy being single, and that in God's time she'll marry Mr. Right. But I think God's time may be right now, and Mr. Right may be Officer Nick Haley—the one guy who's afraid of a kitten-fearing basket case of a dog like me! I'll do just about anything to bring Norah and Nick together, even if I have to…gulp…woof!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Meet Norah Kent, a pet store owner who has her hands full, sharing her Christian faith with her best friend, Lilly, and caring for elderly Auntie Lou. Though she plans to one day become "the most enthusiastic wife and homemaker ever," for now she's single and devoted to animals. Norah's gifted at matching people, especially kids, with new puppies and kittens, but she's a little less talented at getting matched up herself. A number of local bachelors are interested, but she's not sure she reciprocates. Connor Trevain, a naval commander, pays more attention to Norah than to Lilly, who really has the hots for him. Also bidding for Norah's affections is Joe Collier, who keeps asking Norah out; everyone in town thinks she should snap him up, but she's not interested. The third in Norah's trio of potential mates is Nick Haley, a hunky cop who can sometimes be seen riding around town on a horse. Will one of these men capture Norah's heart? And will the inevitable love triangles with Lilly spoil a close friendship? Even though the characters could use more development, fans of Baer's Whitney Chronicles will enjoy this lighthearted Christian romance. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Steeple Hill Books
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Read an Excerpt

WELCOME TO NORAH'S ARK HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR IGUANA TODAY? Norah Kent, owner-operator of Norah's Ark Pet Store and Doggie B and B--Bed and Biscuit

I stood back and studied the sign I'd placed in the window. Creative marketing for a pet store has its own unique challenges. It's hard to know, really, if an iguana will lend itself the same "isn't that cute" factor as my Cuddle A Puppy Tonight! campaign had. It would help if I had an extra dime to spend on professional advice, but I usually have at least a hundred and fifty extra mouths to feed and that adds up. Granted, the fish and birds don't take much, but the mastiff puppies I'm currently housing make up for it. "New Monday-morning promotion, Norah? What will it be next, Grin At Your Guppy or Tickle Your Toad?"

I didn't have to turn around to know it was Joe Collier from the Java Jockey, the coffee shop and hangout across the street from my pet store.

"What do you think?"

"Makes me think I'd rather hug you."

"Get a grip, Joe, this is important business." I didn't turn around to look at him because I knew he was serious and didn't want to encourage him. Joe's been pursuing me ever since the day my menagerie and I moved into the storefront near him two years ago.

I left a perfectly nice, secure, decent-paying job managing a veterinary clinic and being a veterinarian's assistant to pursue a dream of owning my own business, and not even hunky, persistent Joe is going to derail me now.

"When are you going ease up, Norah? Norah's Ark has as much walk-in traffic as my coffee shop. You do as much business as anyone on the street."

I turned around to look at him. Joe is six feet twoinches tall, has curly black hair, pale blue eyes and the best muscles a lifetime membership at the sweatiest gym in town money can buy. He always wears a white, long-sleeved shirt with the cuffs rolled up his forearms, jeans and loafers without socks. That's no easy feat in Minnesota during the winter, but Joe's a guy for all seasons.

"There's no time for a small business owner to 'ease up." You know that." I waved my arm, gesturing at the rows of businesses housed in quaint, former Victorian homes flanking both sides of Pond Street. Pond Street was named, tongue in cheek, because it runs directly into Lake Zachary, one of the largest, most populated and popular boating lakes in the city. In fact, every street in Shoreside runs directly toward the lake, like spokes on a bicycle. The avenues, which would normally run in the opposite direction, are more in an every-man-for-himself pattern. The slightly rolling terrain and difficulty of finding one's way around town only made it more appealing to people. Over the years, Shoreside has become an exclusive and trendy--if confusing--place to live.

"None of us would be here if we 'eased up." The summer traffic here is great but winters can be slow. We have to work when the sun shines--literally.

"So just slip out for a couple hours this Saturday night and I'll introduce you to this great Italian restaurant I know. Think of it as an opportunity to pay tribute to my maternal ancestors. What do you say?"

Joe has a smile so beguiling that it can melt ice cubes. If I don't give myself some space to think, I succumb to it every time.

"I'll let you know later."

"Not much later, I hope," he teased. "I have a whole list of other beautiful women to ask out if you turn me down." His dimples dimped--or whatever it is dimples do--but I still resisted. "I'll tell you after I close the store tonight, okay?"

"You're a hard sell, Norah. Maybe that's why I like you." He chucked me under the chin as he does my dog Bentley, a mixed breed Staffordshire terrier, beagle and who-knows-what-else, and sauntered back to the coffee shop.

If he thinks my hard-to-get persona is attractive, that means that saying "no" is only going to fuel his fire. I'll have to think of a new tactic to keep him at bay.

It's not that I don't like Joe. I do. Almost too much. The problem is that I'm just not ready for Joe. He wants a serious girlfriend, someone with marriage potential who is ready to settle down, and I'm not that girl--yet. Sometimes I worry that he might not be willing to wait.

Still, I love owning my own business and being independent and I want to have that experience for a while longer. I'm a throw-myself-into-something-with-total-abandon kind of girl. When I marry, I'll be the most enthusiastic wife and homemaker ever, but right now I am focused on the shop. Besides, although I've never admitted it to another living soul, I'm waiting for bells to chime, to feel the poke of Cupid's arrow as it lands in my backside or sense a shimmery-all-over feeling that I imagine I'll have when I fall in love. It's my personal secret. Everyone thinks I'm a sensible realist. Hah! Nothing could be further from the truth.

I decided to leave the iguana sign up for a day or two to test the response and was about to reenter the store when Auntie Lou came out the front door of her store to sweep the sidewalk. Surreptitiously, I watched as she tidied up the front of Auntie Lou's Antiques. Her name is actually Lou-ella Brown and her age is--well, somewhere over a hundred and fifty, I think. Auntie Lou is the oldest antique in her shop, cute as a bug and wrinkled as a raisin. She also dyes her hair a fire-engine red-orange that makes Lucille Ball's and Carrot Top's tresses look anemic. This morning her distinctive hair was tucked under a cloche hat and she wasn't wearing her upper plate so she looked especially raisinlike. Still, I found her smile appealing when she waved me over for a visit.

"How's my pretty today?" Auntie Lou asked. She always says that. When she does, I immediately flash back to Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. If I had a dog named Toto, I'd grab him and run.

"Great, how are you?"

"Arthur kept pestering me all night and Ruma-tiz, too. Those boys are pure trouble."

Translation: her arthritis and rheumatism are acting up again.

"Sorry to hear that."

"Oh, to be young and pretty like you!" Auntie Lou reached out and touched a strand of my long, dark hair, which is currently in one of its wilder stages.

I inherited my naturally curly hair from my mother who, no matter how hard she tries, can't get those kinks and waves to settle down. Mom's blond and beautiful and has settled for an upswept do that tames it fairly well. I, on the other hand, have let my dark hair grow as long as it will and usually harness it in to a whale spout sort of ponytail that erupts from the top of my head and hangs to somewhere between my shoulder blades. People--especially kids--always want to touch my hair to see if it's real.

My mom also has remarkable gray-green eyes which, happily, I also inherited. As a child, I would look into her eyes and feel as if I could actually see her tender heart en-shrouded in that smoky gray-green haze. My dad says I have the same eyes, "only more so." He insists I actually wear my heart on my sleeve and it's my entire soul that is on display in my eyes. It's an interesting concept but I try not to think about it. I'm not sure there's a good mascara sold to enhance one's soul.

I am a big softy. This much is true. I'm a total pushover for children, the elderly and anyone who is an underdog or down on his luck. I am also a complete and total sucker for anything with four feet, fur, gills, wings, claws, tails or webbed feet. I volunteer as a willing midwife to anything that gives birth in litters, broods or batches. I love tame and wild, pedigreed and mutt alike. I've been this way since the first time I grabbed our golden retriever Oscar by the tail as a tiny child and he licked my face instead of giving me the reprimanding nip I deserved.

My parents still remind me of the Christmases I'd cry when I saw a doll under the tree instead of stuffed animals and the bucket of oats and toddler swimming pool I kept filled with fresh water in the backyard "just in case a pony came by." I rode the back of our velvet floral print couch like it was a bucking bronco until my plastic toy spurs shredded the pillows and I was banished to pretending to ride a horse around the backyard. I must have looked deranged, now that I think of it, whooping and slapping myself on the butt to make myself go faster. Good thing I didn't own a riding crop or whip.

My dad is a veterinarian and my mom a nurse, so there was usually something with wings or paws bandaged up and living at our house while it mended. In fact, I assumed that everyone had a pet snake until I took mine to my friend's house to show her mother how pretty he looked now that he'd shed his old skin. That, I was quick to discover, was a very bad assumption. She did forgive me, however, as soon as the paramedic revived her.

Anyway, I'm a softy for all the unique characters on Pond Street, too.

"You got a good mouser over there?" Auntie Lou inquired. "I'm in need of a shop cat, a working feline. How much will it cost me?"

"Not much. I'll drive you to the animal shelter tonight and we'll find something perfect for you. I think a calico kitten would be a great accessory for your antiques. He'd sleep on that soft cushion on the platform rocker in the window...."

"How do you make a living, Norah? I want to buy a cat from you."

"Let's adopt a kitten and I'll sell you a kitten bed, food, toys, catnip and a scratching post instead."

Auntie Lou shook her head helplessly. "And I'll make you sign a paper saying you'll buy him a lifetime supply of food from my store, if that will make you happy."

"Done, you silly child." Auntie Lou patted me on the cheek and turned to reenter her shop.

I like to consider myself an adoption agency, not a pet store. I place animals in homes. I spend time with prospective pet owners helping them decide what type of pet is best for them and then help them find the perfect one. I've even considered adding "pet consultant" behind my name. Dad says I'm nuts, but I actually make a great living selling all the pet accessories people need for their perfect pet. I have a very loyal following--all people as nutty about animals as I am. I also run the Doggie B and B--Bed and Biscuit--out of the back of the shop for loyal customers who want to travel and have their pets in a safe and familiar place. The business keeps growing, especially now that I include all pets, not just dogs, and have begun serving homemade birthday cakes to those who celebrate their special day away from family. Once a customer caught me and his beagle wearing paper birthday hats and howling out an eardrum-splitting rendition of "Happy Birthday To You." Needless to say, I got a huge tip and a lifetime fan. Only animal people understand these things.

Of course, I do have the usual pet store animals in my store--at least two of everything just like Genesis 7:8. "Of clean animals and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah." Except the rabbits, of course. I always start with just two, but, well, they are rabbits after all. Anyway, if it was good enough for God and Noah, it's good enough for me.

Meet the Author

Judy was born and raised on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people--either those she read about or those she made up in her head. Judy's most ambitious conjuring did not succeed, however. She kept a clean stall with hay and oats for the horse she imagined would come, but unfortunately, it never did. However, as an adult, she managed to make that dream come true and raised foundation quarter horses and buffalo for some years. A voracious reader, Judy learned to read with comic books, anything from Little Lulu and Superman to the Rawhide Kid. She sold her first story for $10 to a farm magazine. She still has the $10.

She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with a major in English and education and a minor in religion. At the time, Judy was simply studying what interested her, but she now realizes that she was educating herself for her future career as an inspirational romance writer.

Judy wanted to write for Harlequin even in high school but it wasn't until her youngest child learned to say "no" that she realized she'd better consider a second career to fall back on when mothering was done. Her first book was written with her little girl on her lap. Judy would type a few words and say, "Now, Jennifer," at which time her daughter would hit the space bar before Judy continued typing. It wasn't the fastest way to work, but it offered a lot of mother-daughter time together. An over-achiever, Judy has written over 60 books for various publishers. The mother of two and step-mother of three, she now has lots of family to enjoy.

In 2001, Judy went back to school and became a certified professional life coach. She is currently working on her master's in human development in the areas of writing, coaching and spirituality and writing inspirational chick lit which, she says, is the most fun she's ever had writing.

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4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Pet store owner Norah Kent loves the Lord and animals she dreams of one day having a family with Mr. Right, a person who must accept that she is prime caretaker of her beloved elderly Auntie Lou, is owned by Bentley the mutt, and must share her two passions especially her Christian faith. --- Three bachelors show interest in Norah. US Navy Commander Connor Trevain seems to care for Norah, but she fears stepping out with him because her best friend Lilly wants him. The townsfolk push Joe Collier, who asks Norah for dates, but she knows he is not the one so has ruled him out. Finally there is police officer Nick Haley, who has three things going for him. Bentley has chosen him though he seems to fear the mutt and she keeps hearing the bells. Still Connor is nice if only Lilly wanted someone else like Nick for instance. --- NORAH¿S ARK is a pleasant optimistic Christian romance starring an upbeat somewhat innocent (too naive around men) protagonist and a cast of eccentrics starting with her matchmaking canine and a horde of other two legged, four legged, and no legged animals). The fast-paced breezy story line will provide fans of Judy Baer with plenty of entertainment from start to finish as the audience will wonder just who will win the Norah sweepstakes. The novel lives up to its classic second line ¿HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR IGUANA TODAY?¿ as a fun filled tale. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Animal lovers must read this cute story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Mom read this first, and ended up reading part of the book to me because it was either too cute or too funny to keep to herself! Then, I read it after her, and I have to agree. It made me laugh out loud, get a lump in my throat, and feel all warm and fuzzy at times! The plot was nicely woven and the characters were spunky!! It had romance, and best of all, it had God!! Nothing bad in it. Loved all the animals! I look forward to reading another one by Ms. Baer! :)
Deborah_K More than 1 year ago
I'm a pet lover so of course I enjoyed this book. Reading about a woman who loves pets so much and therefore owns a pet shop would be like me owning a book store. I like the town with their street of shops. It sounds like it'd be a really nice place to visit and spend the day. The townspeople were really interesting to read about as well. Lily is eccentric but I would love to visit her shop. I liked Norah's relationship with her elderly neighbor. The new people in town were interesting to read about as well, since the reader becomes suspicious of the son with the recent vandalism creeping into the town. I liked Nick but I'm really glad that Norah did not give in to Nick's demands. I hate reading books where women are the ones that have to do the sacrificing in order to keep their men. I understand that Nick had some fear about past experiences with dogs, but he did not even try to compromise with Norah and Bentley. I almost was happy when it looked like she was going to choose her dog over him. Pets have a special relationship to people, sometimes they are closer friends than other humans because they are loyal no matter what. They love you for who you are and not because of how you look, pets are nonjudgmental unlike people. This book, in my opinion, was so much better than Million Dollar Dilemma. The characters in this story were more likable, and more convincing in character. Wonderful chick lit read.