Rating: 3 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.
I found Kelly Jensen through her This Time Forever series, each novel built around a family structure, be it decades old home or lodge in the Catskills. I love those stories so when Best in Show popped up as a discounted read I grabbed it.
Totally different in theme and characters, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag narratively speaking. I thought the idea was very cute and had a lot of promise. In fact, some of the promise was delivered in the comedic elements within the story.
The reason that cat shifter Macavity Birch has been cursed is totally due to his lack of judgement, inability to grow up, and yes, warped sense of humor. He entered himself into a cat show (with his cousin as his handler) and left with all the awards! Best in Show indeed! The fact that it drew unusual attention to an “unknown entry” who blew everyone who had practiced and worked so hard for those awards out of the water? Hmmm, he didn’t think of that. Nor the risks of exposing his family of witches and shifters to the world . A definite no no. So boom cursed, picked as a stray and brought into the local shelter.
Add to that Julian Wilkes, mystery writer, and potential shut-in. Bullied by his sister into adopting a dog as a companion, he ends up with a cat that acts strangely.
The main issue with is with the characters themselves. Macavity has a major case of arrested development. He never thinks about the consequences of his actions. He acts and leaves, often with a mess behind him. You totally buy that about this character so any change and what that might mean for him is harder to accept. It also makes the ending seem unrealistic, honestly.Julian Wilkes shows the most growth in his willingness to not only accept a cat into his life, but to come to care about it as well as the man he meets at the same time. Julian shows strength of character whether facing down his sister or Mac’s relatives, or the loss of his dream. I felt that loss for him as well.
I did like the fact the Jensen threw in the idea of what happens to Mac’s “equipment” to keep it safe since most shelters are spay/neuter. Here she answers that question. Magically of course!
I think that perhaps Best in Show had so much potential in its characters and theme but for me it came up short. I felt there wasn’t enough time to develop a realistic relationship for Mac and Julian to have a solid foundation to go forward on and too many other things are left unanswered. But the idea of a cat shifter entering himself in a cat show and the sheer joy of winning event after event? Hilarious. I wish we would have had a scene or two of that!
Cover art: Alexandria Corza. That’s an adorable cover, complete with Julian and Mac.
ebook, 87 pages
Published July 27th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634774760 (ISBN13: 9781634774765)