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2015 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Canning the Center by Tara Lain

Canning the Center by Tara Lain
Gay Contemporary Romance
Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 17, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 163216261X
ISBN-13: 978-1632162618
Amazon: Canning the Center
Amazon Kindle: Canning the Center

A Novel in the Long Pass Chronicles

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?


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.



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Tags: rainbow awards 2015
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