Dear Ms. Weir,
When Jane forwarded your email offering this novella to the DA reviewer loop, I will fess up to thinking, “this could be cute/great or it could be a bomb.” Sunita stepped right up and said she would read it, or anything else you had on offer, so I took the coward’s path and waited for her opinion like the children used to wait for Mickey to decide if he liked “Life” cereal. Boy, did I just date myself with the reference to that old TV commercial. (Go to youtube and type in “Life Cereal with Mickey). Anyway, when she said she liked it enough to recommend it for June, I slinked back into the picture and asked to read it too.
Max is tired of the losers his cat slave (aka person) Melody brings home with her after going out for evenings with her friends. The latest is a textbook example and Max announces his thoughts on the man by pissing on his clothes. After the loser, um man, stomps out yelling that Melody is a crazy cat lady, Max resolves to find Melody a man like the one they both lost when Max’s first owner – and Melody’s husband, David, was killed two years ago (which is forever in cat time).
The next day he sets out on his mission with a check list in his mind and follows a decrepit older man to a place that serves food. A younger man gives Max some chicken and Max thinks he just might have a winner here. Staying around until all the other people leave, the man notices Max’s collar and drives Max home where he and Melody meet. It’s not quite meet cute so Max repeats the scenario the next day and soon Melody and Joe are dating.
But after snooping, um that’s investigating, into Joe’s backpack, Max makes a horrifying discovery. Joe has a gun. Just like the one that killed David. His efforts to get Melody to notice don’t work but Melody’s family’s concern over who Joe is does leading Melody and her sister to decide to try and discover why Joe is so cagey about his life away from Melody. When the truth comes out, will there be a future for Melody and Joe or will Max have to start looking all over again?
This is quirky yet done with the talent of a long time novelist who is skilled at the craft of writing. You pack lots into the story so that it feels complete which is hard to do in a novella. But it never bogs down so that it must be rushed or some things shortchanged to get everything in. There’s a good balance between dark and light emotions which keeps the cat angle and Melody’s lighthearted style from getting cutesy. She’s that way for a reason because of the angst in her past which it seems she has not truly dealt with until the story starts. The fallout from Joe’s job helps her – and Max – process that and lay it to rest letting both of them move on and be ready for a future with Joe.
Joe is more an enigma for most of book but we still get a sketch of his basic character in how he relates to Max – in contrast to the First Loser the novella opens with. You drop hints throughout the story that show he’s not who and what he is passing himself off as but it’s as much a mystery to the reader as it is to Melody and Max. Still how he deals with Max’s suspected UTI and the trip to the vet solidly shows he’s a good guy
I wish more had actually been told from Max’s POV but there are just certain things he couldn’t intuit or, as Sunita says, he’d be turned into some kind of SuperKitty. I’m glad Max’s sense of judgement is sound as regards to Joe’s character and that Max gets a bit of the happy ending he was aiming for both with Melody finding a new partner and Max in reuniting with family. Will there be future Max novellas? I’m hoping so. B-