“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”~ Rita Mae Brown
Jamal Jones, from Tara Lain's 'Canning the Center', thinks he's got it all when he is picked up by a professional football team. He's getting paid to do something he loves, but Jamal hasn't considered what he might have to give up to do so. Jamal is bisexual and intended to tell his coach, but when circumstances show him how homophobic the owner of the team is, he has second thoughts and decides to try to date only women as that is more acceptable. As fate would have it, Jamal does meet the woman of his dreams, Trixie LaRue. The problem is, Trixie is a drag queen. Meeting her leads to him getting to know the man under Trixie's skirt, Trevor Landry, whom Jamal is equally attracted to. Although it's a situation which for most men would be too confusing and would make them run for the hills, Jamal sees it as having the best of both worlds.
Jamal has it all, good looks, talent, and a huge heart. He is a gentle giant; in fact, his sister calls him Ferdinand after the children's story of a gigantic, formidable-looking bull who would rather smell the flowers than fight. Jamal's family is wonderfully supportive of him, not just due to him being bisexual, but because of his strength of character. Jamal would do almost anything to protect his family. By the time he decides he doesn't want to lie or have anyone else lie for him, particularly Trixie, it is too late. The coach and owner already know about him and Trixie and Trevor. They threaten to ruin Trevor and Jamal's family if Jamal doesn't get rid of Trevor and at least pretends to be straight. Faced with an impossible choice, Jamal calls Trevor and breaks up with him by voicemail. He regrets it almost immediately; he feels awful and is miserable without Trevor, but is even more upset with himself for dragging Trevor into his deception.
Trevor had an awful childhood. Rejected and mistreated by his father and brother, his mother is the only one who has ever loved him. Unfortunately he took the abuse to heart. To guard his bruised and battered heart, he created two personas to help him deal with it. Trevor lied his way into college, even received a full scholarship. This is Trevor's attempt to have a normal life. He's smarter than his professors and, in reality is so brilliant that he doesn't even need to go to college. To fill his need to wear dresses, he becomes Trixie LaRue, a very popular drag queen. Trixie notices Jamal, but wants nothing to do with him. In spite of herself, Trixie has to admit she's attracted to Jamal. When Jamal comes back to see her three nights in a row, Trixie finally decides to see him. She calls him her Chocolate Bunny. Although it's against her better judgment, Trixie falls for Jamal. They are an extraordinarily well-matched couple, burning up the sheets in bed and the best of friends out of it. Trevor can't believe how wonderful Jamal treats him. When Jamal worries about getting in trouble being seen with a man. Trevor suggests that he go out with him as Trixie instead. Even though Jamal tries his best to be kind in his message, Trevor knows a dump when he hears it. It threatens to break Trevor's heart, but, instead of discouraging him, Trevor decides to take responsibility for his actions; to stop hiding, and takes steps to cut through the deception he's created. He wants to live, if not an ordinary life, at least an honest one.
The genius of this book is not just the complex, well-written story, but the even more complicated, yet fascinating characters. Creating unique, interesting characters with flaws is one thing I look forward to in any of Tara's books. Tara has a way of having them reach in; grab my heart; and pull me into the story. Instead of merely being a reader, I feel I'm there, participating in the action. It's almost impossible not to become emotionally involved. Tara's villains are deliciously diabolical as well. I always cheer when they get what they so richly deserve. Fans of the first book will be delighted to be able to visit with Jamal's family and his friends, Will and Noah again, and to see how all of them have progressed since the first book.
This story can be read alone, but, as with any series, to completely understand the circumstances and their pertinence, it's good to know the history and the only way that is achieved is by reading the series in sequential order. I recommend this story to everyone who loves, football, smart and sexy men, and close family ties. Tara also reminds us that being yourself is the key to happiness. Thanks, so much, Tara, for the uplifting story.