Cover of The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Three shadowy figures and a dog walk a wilderness path in the dark

About the Book

Title: The Lovely and the Lost
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Through Misty Morning Fog I See…
Drinking Buddy: Miscreant
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Violence, language)
Talky Talk: Grrr. Snarl.
Bonus Factors: Search and Rescue, Mysterious Loner Dads, Feral Child
Bromance Status: Companion

Cover Story: Through Misty Morning Fog I See…

Shadowy figures, and a title that vaguely implies this is a romance. You’re not even trying.

The Deal:

When Kira was a small child, she was found in the woods, filthy, neglected, and having reverted to a feral state. Little more than an animal, she was adopted by Cady Bennett, a dog trainer. After years of kindness from Cady and her son Jude, Kira has kind of integrated into human society. But…the Girl is always there. Angry, wild, and ready to burst out in a fit of animal rage. Do not touch her. No sudden movements.

Kira has a knack for working with dogs. She bonds with them. She, along with the Bennetts, train world-class search and rescue dogs. They can find anyone in the wilderness: lost hikers, children, fugitives, whatever.

Now Cady’s estranged father, Bales, has returned. He wants Cady to find a lost girl in a national park. The Bennetts, along with Kira’s friend Free, head off to the wilderness, hoping to track down the girl before it’s too late.

But why hasn’t Cady talked to her father in years? Who is Jude’s father? Who are Kira’s biological parents, for that matter? Who are Mac and Ash, the mysterious men from Cady’s past? Why does everyone have such short names?

Drinking Buddy: Miscreant

Two pints of beer cheersing

Kira, Jude, and Free call themselves The Miscreants, and have a lot of zany rules about what that entails. Jude is a smart ass and Free lives up to her name. But they also look out for each other. Free and Jude always make sure that no one gets too physically close to Kira or pushes her too far. And Kira is ready to defend any of her friends, two-footed or four-footed. They’re the perfect group of friends, but I don’t they’d welcome any outsiders just yet.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Violence, language)

Kira understands, possibly better than anyone, what it means to be lost in the unexplored wilderness. She remembers the poisonous berries, the cold nights, and the hunters’ traps. It’s hard enough for an adult who got lost while exploring. But if you’re only a little girl… Kira and her dogs are going to bring her back, no matter what it takes.

Of course, people just assume this girl wandered away from her campsite. What if someone…took her? These woods are not forgiving, and that’s under the best of circumstances. What if the woods have eyes? Hostile eyes?

Talky Talk: Grrr. Snarl.

Kira was a very original character, especially when she gets flashes of Girl, her previous feral self. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of that. If it weren’t for the cover blurb, I wouldn’t have quite understood her past until much further into the book.

Kira is absolutely single-minded in her determination to find the missing girl. If Cady or the local law enforcement tell her to take a break, she ignores them. Her family can carefully handle her, making sure she doesn’t get herself in trouble. But when the search for the missing girl gets grim, Kira vanishes. Girl takes her place. And one can’t reason with a wild animal.

The book takes place at the fictitious Sierra Glades National Park, which means this story could have been set anywhere from Alaska to Florida, though it had kind of a Colorado feel. I know the author just wanted the freedom to create, but I would have rather read about a real National Park.

If I had one big gripe with this book, it was that Cady’s history seemed tacked on and a little confusing. We either need full flashbacks, or fewer interchangeable male characters.

Bonus Factor: Search and Rescue Dog

Golden retriever looking at camera while being hugged by a man

The dogs Cady and Kira raise are not your typical well-trained mutts. These animals are disciplined champions. They can track anything, anywhere. Old trials, over water, whatever. The military gladly purchases these beasts for critical operations. These dogs will always obey their human, but only after intense training and bonding. 

And Kira is good at that. She knows what it’s like to be scared. She can work with hurt and damaged animals. She was there.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude. And Dad. And Grandpa.

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Now Kira is not a girl who wants the attention of boys. Any guy who gets too close is liable to get his arm ripped off. So when Gabriel, a local boy with a talent for dog wrangling joins the search, she’s instantly irritated. The feeling seems to be mutual. But while Gabriel doesn’t get along with humans, he has a knack with dogs, and that is something Kira can appreciate. And like Kira, he has a tragic past. Of course the smarmy local sheriff tells Kira that he’s a bad boy and she should stay away. Which is a great way to make a teenage girl avoid a guy.

Meanwhile, why does Cady never talk to Bales, her father? And who is this Ash guy, who seems to have a history with Cady? Could he be Jude’s father? And who was Ash, who vanished down in South America years ago and also seems to have a past with Cady?

Bonus Factor: Feral Child

A child flipping the bird

So how did young Kira wind up in the woods all alone as a little girl? What happened to her parents? Above all, how did she survive? Kira sometimes feels like an animal trying to get along in the human world. And that’s not always a bad thing.

Bromance Status: Companion

Like the dogs in the book, you provided pleasant companionship, at least for a short while.

Literary Matchmaking


Holly Schindler’s Feral seems pretty appropriate here.


In Ruthless, by Carolyn Lee Adams, a girl pits her wits against cruel nature and a crueler man.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a playdate with some dogs for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.