Best in Show, by Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 27, 2016
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Solitary mystery writer Julian Wilkes doesn’t want a pet, but his sister persuades him to visit Lingwood Animal Rescue, where he is immediately taken with a large ginger tabby cat. Before he can settle into the joys of cat ownership, however, he discovers something very unusual about his new companion.
Macavity Birch is cursed. By day he is a large tabby cat. At night he can be himself—a human male with ginger hair and oddly yellow eyes. He didn’t mean to end up in the animal rescue, but he never meant any harm when playing the prank that resulted in his curse, either. Happily, Julian adopts him. But while exploring his host’s home, he discovers the diary of a long-dead relative.
Unfortunately, not all of Mac’s ancestors are dead and buried. His great-great-great-grandmother is very much alive, and she’s a powerful witch who doesn’t take kindly to the sharing of family secrets. When Mac reveals himself to Julian in order to save him from bigger trouble, he achieves just the opposite, plunging Julian deeper into a magical mystery with him.
Best In Show is an amusing and fast paced shifter story that revolves around lonely bachelor Julian and cursed cat-shifter Macavity (Mac). The two first meet under rather auspicious circumstances when Julian accompanies his sister to the local animal shelter in search of a pet. It’s only when he gets home does he realize that he’s gotten more than he bargained for.
I’ve said it before, but I love shifter stories. I like that every author brings something new to the table, creating their own take on shifter lore and making it their own. So, when I heard this was a book about a cat shifter that gets impounded and adopted by a mystery writer, I was very intrigued indeed. Plus, I love Jensen’s writing and I think her novellas are always really well done. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me as well as her past books. At times, it felt rushed and there were a few instances where I felt better editing might have been beneficial. For instance, it’s common knowledge that animal shelters routinely neuter male cats and dogs. So you can imagine a cat shifter would be concerned about keeping himself intact. But then I read this:
“Then it was done. Mac rested a while, letting minutes tick by uncounted. He wriggled his fingers and toes, counting ten of each, and gave his dick a happy squeeze. ‘Hey buddy! Good to you’re still with me.’ Most cats left shelters without such essentials…”
I’m pretty sure that all cats leave with that particular essential intact! It’s the nuts that get removed. Sure, it’s a small mistake to make (unless you’re a cat!) but one that kind of jarred me when I first read it. Unfortunately, every time Mac shifts back to human he mentions his happiness at being, er, not a eunuch, so it’s a repeatedly brought me out of the story. It also made me want to yell BALLS! every time he grabbed his dick. But that’s just me.
From Mac revealing himself to Julian to the final scene, things move almost too quickly. I would have loved to have known more about Mac’s great-great-great grandmother, a powerful witch with a bit of a nasty streak, and about his shifter family in general. For those reasons alone, a little more time with Mac’s family would have been great. I think this story might have benefitted from a few extra chapters.
This is still an enjoyable book if you like shifter stories in general, and having your shifter stuck in an animal shelter is pretty amusing, so for that fact alone it’s worth reading. While there are some small issues with the plot, I found it an entertaining story nonetheless and if you’re looking for a cute, quick read this should be right up your alley.
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. A lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
Find Kelly online at https://kellyjensenwrites.com/
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.