Hi — I’m so delighted to announce that CANNING THE CENTER has made the first round cut in the Rainbow Awards and is named an Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention! The Honorable Mentions go to those books that receive one or more high rankings from judges. The actual finalists in each category — mine is gay contemporary romance — will be announced in December. This pleases me so much because Canning the Center is a favorite book of mine. Here is what one judge said about the book —
“My feelings for this author have been spread out throughout this review. Suffice it to say: I will be reading a number of her non-sports novels to see if they reach the high mark set by the first two stories. Tara Lain is an excellent author who, for this reviewer at least, tells a most excellent story and whose previous and future works I look forward to reading.
Sometimes a plot can follow what is a “standard” m/m progression: “Am I gay?”; “does that guy like me?”; the two MCs getting together on the DL; characters forced into coming out to their families; homophobia running rampant in one of the character’s workplace; a happy ending; etc., etc. Canning the Center has all these tropes, but manages to present them in such a way that the reader is rooting for the MCs all the way through the book. Ms. Lain definitely knows her football, and throws in plot twists and turns that make a “standard” plot work wonderfully.
Ms. Lain sets her story in her hometown of Los Angeles, and use her knowledge of the city to the max. As a native Angeleno, I enjoyed knowing where events took place, and feel that even a reader knowing nothing of the city would be just as “at home” in her setting.
This reader really got to know not only the MCs, but most of the all-but- most-tangential secondary characters. Jamal Jones, the titular center on the team, his family and friends, are roundly and well developed. The second MC, a part-time drag queen, who can “pass” in a casual day-to-day situation, along with the man (Trevor Landry, an off-the-test-charts mathematician) is Trixie when he wants to be, but co-exists with his creation. This is a most unusual side to the drag scene meme, and gives a very unique dimension to the two halves of the man. Throughout, the MCs friends, employers, families and other secondary characters seem to be just as well-developed as the MCs (to the extent they need to be.) Wonderful characters throughout a story I didn’t think I would like all, since I don’t enjoy football, the drag scene, or homophobic bosses who blackmail their players into doing as they wish. Excellent.
Once I got past my prejudices about football and the drag scene, I was quickly involved by Ms. Lain’s warm straightforward style. I had expected to have to force myself through this particular novel, and, instead, was caught up quickly in the plot and its straightforward way of presenting its characters, both major and secondary. I think no finer compliment can be paid to Lain’s style, plot and character development, than that I’m halfway through the first novel in the series of which this novel comprises a second effort.”
In case you haven’t read CANNING THE CENTER, here is an excerpt to tempt you. Or click the link to see more reviews, excerpts, and buy links. —
Excerpt: Canning the Center by Tara Lain – the Football Star and the Drag Queen
Six foot seven inch, 300 pound Jamal Jones loves football, so when he finds out the ultra-conservative owner of his new pro football team fired their current center because he’s gay, bisexual Jamal decides to stay in the closet and hang with the females. Then, at a small drag show, he comes face-to-face with his sexual fantasy in the form of Trixie LaRue, a drag queen so exquisitely convincing she scrambles Jamal’s hormones — and his resolve to nurse his straight side.
Trevor Landry, aka Trixie LaRue, hides more than his genitals. A mathematician so brilliant he can’t be measured, Trevor disguises his astronomical IQ and his quirk for women’s clothes behind his act as a gay activist undergrad at Southern California University.
To Trevor, Jamal is the answer to a dream — a man who can love and accept both his personas. When he discovers Jamal’s future is threatened if he’s seen with a guy, Trevor becomes Trixie to let Jamal pass as straight. But Trevor risks his position every time he puts on a dress. Is there a closet big enough to hold a football pro and a drag queen?
“Bunny, I don’t think this is a good idea. Why don’t you drop me off and go on your own?”
God. He should stick his head in a bucket and drown. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think about how awful it would be for you to be with all these dumb jocks.”
Trevor put his hand on Jamal’s shoulder. “No. I mean you can’t put your precious future in my hands. What if they all know I’m a guy? You’ll be wrecked. You’ll lose your job and—” He waved a hand. “—everything.”
Sadly, he told the truth. “No one will know. My sister isn’t as feminine as you look tonight.”
“No, to anyone. Plus they won’t be looking for you to be anything but female, and people see what they expect.”
“I’d much rather it was just you and me going out to dinner, but they know I have a date, and everyone expects me to bring you.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Trevor took deep breaths. He gave a long, slow exhale. “Okay, since we’re doing this, prepare me. Who will I be meeting?”
“Manny Hartford is the coach. It’s his house. I doubt the team owner will be there, although he could. Name’s Arondel, and he’s a total conservative.”
“Clearly the best person to introduce to your drag queen boyfriend.”
Jamal laughed, but he really liked that word, boyfriend. “One other significant player is Boogaloo Johnson. He plays on the team with me, and it’s his sister you saw in that photograph. He’ll be looking to figure out why I want you instead of his sister.”
“Did you explain I have a dick?”
“I missed that part of the briefing.”
Trevor placed his well-manicured hand on Jamal’s arm. “I’ll do my best, Bunny.”
“I know.” But, man, was he praying that Trevor’s best was good enough.
Another fifteen minutes and they were cruising up a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. Unlike some of the other wealthy areas of LA, the houses on these streets generally boasted the best of modern architecture. A true California style instead of something some rich guy dragged back from Italy, like you saw in big sections of the southland. Jamal slowed and looked for an address.
“Yeah. There. That’s where we’re going.” A glass and wood house on a rise was all lit up. As they got closer, they saw a sign that read Valet stop here.
Jamal pulled over, and a guy about his age opened the door. “Good evening, sir. You here for the Hartford party?”
“I’ll take the car. Just keep this ticket.”
Jamal slid out and started around for Trevor, but the valet beat him to it. He did get to see the guy’s eyes widen as one of those long legs in a black stiletto heel stepped out.
The kid’s voice sounded a little breathy. “Good evening, ma’am. I hope you enjoy the party.”
Trevor—or he should say Trixie—offered a hand like the queen of fucking Sheba, and the valet helped him out until he stood in his high shoes, towering over the guy. “Thank you.”
He, uh she—Jesus, he’d never had this much trouble with pronouns in his life. Names weren’t much better. But he needed to get used to calling her Trixie again quick.
Trixie walked around the car, and Jamal met him—shit, pronouns again—with an arm. Feeling that strong, lithe bicep slide against his reminded him again how not a girl this Trixie was. He leaned in close. “Man, you’re something special.”
Trixie looked at him with that direct gaze. “You’re pretty damned great yourself. You in that sweater could be packaged and sold in place of Viagra.”
Jamal laughed. “This old thing?” He’d only spent an hour running out to a store to buy the white silk sweater. He’d picked it because the sales guy said it clung in all the right places and, since the man seemed to be sporting an erection while saying it, Jamal figured it was getting the response he wanted.
“I’ll do my best to carry this off for you.”
“Thank you. I know.” All the way up the walkway, the butterflies in his stomach warred with the throb in his cock.