Medford romance novelist Kaylie Newell has gone to the dogs.
Newell's latest book, "Falling in Danger," is about a journalist who stumbles onto an illegal dog-fighting operation and about the remarkable ability of dogs to recover from horrible situations and become loyal, family pets.
Kaylie Newell will hold a book signing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at Barnes & Noble, 1400 Biddle Road, Medford.
She hopes the book will tackle some dog-breed stereotypes — which she readily admits she used to have — while providing a tantalizing love story that's hard to put down.
The book is loosely based on events surrounding the headline-making case of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who was convicted for dog fighting. When she watched the news break on television, Newell says she worried about the future of the rescued animals.
"I got the idea for the book when the Michael Vick story broke and all the stories afterwards about the dogs being adopted out," says the 38-year-old.
"I started thinking about whether that was a good idea to adopt a dog, especially one who had been through something like dog fighting. I also wondered what it would be like as a journalist covering those stories and whether it would change someone's mind even if you had preconceived notions about certain kinds of dogs," says Newell, who was a communication major in college.
True to her style as a romance writer, Newell managed to weave a tale of love into dog fighting and scandal. The main character, a young journalist, falls into danger while investigating a dog-fighting ring and falls for an undercover officer.
Websites and news features provided numerous stories about former "Vick dogs" that became therapy animals and even family pets. Such tales provided Newell with food for thought.
After researching and writing her book, Newell says her perspective has shifted. Wanting to make a difference, she asked her publicist, Pamela Swisher at Beachwalk Press, to contribute 40 percent of proceeds from her book to an animal charity.
Newell chose the Pixie Project, a nonprofit, animal-adoption agency based in Portland, because family members had a successful adoption experience with the agency, which keeps all its animals in foster care to enable potential families to see them in a home environment.
Amy Sacks, executive director of the Pixie Project, was touched by Newell's gesture, saying the Pixie Project has received generous gifts from animals lovers in all walks of life.
"We've had a heavy-metal concert done for us, hair salons who cut hair for us, clothing boutiques," Sacks says. "This is definitely our first romance novel. I must say she takes the cake on that distinction. But we're an eclectic group over here, so this was fun."
"We were really happy to donate part of the proceeds to Pixie Project," says Swisher. "We hope it makes a lot of money for the shelter."
Newell says she hopes her story will prompt people to rethink assumptions about any kind of animal.
While she's owned cats and dogs before — her own dog died of old age earlier this year — Newell says she's always been skittish about certain breeds.
"I've always been a little bit afraid of dogs in general. I like dogs, and I've grown up with them, but I think a lot of people are intimidated by pit bulls," she says.
"I was in downtown Medford once, and some guy was walking down the street with the biggest, toughest-looking pit bull I've ever seen in my life. The ears were clipped and, on top of that, he was wearing a black, spiked collar. It made me want to grab my kids and cross the street.
"Since I wrote this book, I've read and seen so many things about what great dogs they can be. I truly believe, if you don't generalize a breed and treat them on an individual basis, that all dogs can be smart and playful and loyal."