The Cat's Fancy
Julie Kenner tackles a modern-day, urbanized version of “The Little Mermaid” in The Cat’s Fancy. Maggie is a black cat with ambition. She loves her owner Nicholas Goodman so much that she’s willing to transform into a human to save him from the biggest mistake of his life: marrying Angela Palmer, the coldest Ice Queen this side of the Arctic Circle. With the help of Old Tom, a mysterious cat with magical powers, Maggie manages to change into a woman. Old Tom’s spell, however, has some limitations. She can only remain human during the night; at dawn, she changes back into her feline form. She can’t tell Nicholas her secret. And Nicholas has to declare his love to her before the night of Halloween, which is just a week away, or she will remain a cat forever.
Nicholas is a man with problems. His fiancee’s father, who also happens to be one of his law firm’s biggest clients, wants to acquire Vision Entertainment, a small media company that is surprisingly resistant to takeover efforts. Nicholas is under pressure to get the company for Palmer, by fair means or foul. He’s also having some doubts about Angela, but he knows he’ll need to go through with the engagement and close the Vision deal if he wants to make partner at his firm. There’s also his loopy, unemployed sister Deena, and his troublemaking best friend, Hooper. Then a naked woman shows up at his house on the night before his birthday.
Although the book shows great promise, it is at this point that several additional and confusing plot points begin to interfere. Nicholas tears himself away from the extremely friendly, albeit mute, beauty, and runs to Hooper’s place, convinced that it’s a birthday prank. Hooper denies any knowledge, but he’s found out that Vision is in need of a new hostess, which will give Nicholas an opportunity to place a mole within the company. Nicholas goes home and finds his visitor gone. But his sister Deena meets her and they immediately hit it off.
Deena and Hooper decide that Maggie is the perfect woman for Nicholas because she disturbs his equilibrium; plus, she’s the anti-Angela. Maggie explains her lack of background by claiming amnesia (a move inspired by viewing Jerry Springer and daytime soaps) and says her absences during the day are nothing more than an attempt to recover her memory with strolls around the neighborhood. Then Nicholas and Hooper decide to use Maggie as their mole within Vision. Very conveniently, the owner of Vision loves her and practically hires her on the spot when they meet. Meanwhile, Nicholas is increasingly attracted to Maggie and seeing Angela in a different light, Deena and Hooper are beginning to develop a tendre for each other, and Halloween night is coming closer and closer.
The Cat’s Fancy is a very likable book. The fairy-tale theme is very charming, and Kenner has a good feel for dialogue and cat behavior. However, the plot has far too many gaps, and the characters sometimes behave irrationally. For example, Nicholas leaves a mute, naked stranger at his home the first time Maggie shows up, alone and unattended – and Nicholas lives in L.A., no less, land of the free and home of the deranged.
The way Deena and Hooper embrace Maggie with open arms and accept her amnesia story wholesale also defies belief. Amnesia usually indicates overwhelming trauma of some sort, but nobody takes Maggie to the doctor or to a psychiatrist for a checkup. Since Hooper is a detective and Nicholas a corporate lawyer, not having them conduct extensive background checks or being more cynical about Maggie’s appearance just isn’t convincing. And when Maggie’s feline origins are revealed, their responses require too much suspension of disbelief.
The Cat’s Fancy is worth looking up if you really like paranormal romances, especially shape-changer romances. The unconvincing characterization and skips in plotting are balanced by an easy, readable writing style. The book is only slightly better than average, but Kenner has potential, which she proved with her series title from earlier this year, Nobody Does it Better. You may want to skip this effort but look for that earlier title and also keep an eye out for her future releases.