Tin Cat is about Amber, a woman who owns and runs a comic book shop. Allow me to pause and say – that is awesome, and what's even more awesome is that her shop has both male and female customers, and she has a female co-worker, and no one thinks that is weird or that the women are fake geek girls or that they exist only to be oogled. THANK YOU.
One year before the book begins, Amber was hit by a car and became paralyzed from the waist down. She lives independently, drives, runs her shop, and is just basically awesome, but she has huge emotional issues due to the fact that she's only had a year to adjust to the paralysis, there was a trial in which she was viciously slut-shamed, and her boyfriend, who was already a jerk, dumped her when he discovered that the paralysis would be permanent. So she's got some issues.
One night Amber discovers a cat with no collar. She adopts it.
Here lies my first TANGENT ALERT, because her action in adopting the cat was great but she forgot to do something important. My cats have collars and name tags. Very nice ones. But, it is statistically improbable that they are wearing one, because they constantly escape from their collars and their collars are always on the floor and not on the cats. Thank God if I ever misplace my carpet it will be equipped with identification. Anyway, the cats are also microchipped. So, if you find a lost animal with no collar, before you assume it is yours to cherish forever, could you just take a few minutes to run it over to the vet or SPCA or pet store and have it checked for a microchip? And then the vet will say, “Oh, that's Carrie's cat. She didn't abandon it; it ran out past her feet when she was getting the mail and she's been looking for it frantically for a week”. Thanks.
Anyway, the cat in the book is a time-travelling, cybernetic cat (yet another reason to have it scanned for a microchip – what a scene that would have been!). A really hot guy shows up and says that his name is Hunter Gray and that he has time-travelled to Amber so that he can catch the thief that is using the cat to rob a bank, and so that he can protect Amber from the thief.
Good stuff first. For starters, any book starring a female comic book storeowner is automatically going to have me begging to read it. Throw in a cybernetic cat from the future and I'm yours. Additionally, Amber is a great, though often exasperating, character. She can be really frustrating, especially when she constantly assumes that no one will ever love her because she's in a wheelchair. But her paranoia about how potential lovers will view her is understandable because of her history, not to mention the reality of how much discrimination there is in our society against people in wheelchairs.
I hasten to add that all of the other characters, with the exception of the boyfriend who dumps her before the book begins, think that this particular hang-up is absolutely ridiculous and that she is a wonderful and attractive woman who needs to extract her head from her butt. I liked seeing a disabled woman be independent in a realistic way (it involves a lot of hard work, modifications to her home, and support from friends) and I especially liked seeing a disabled woman own her sexuality and enjoy it. I also deeply appreciate a choice she makes near the end of the book, which I'll leave to you to discover.
Alas, a romance needs two well-rounded, engaging characters, not one. The biggest problem with the book is that Gray isn't so much a character as he's an ideal fantasy. He's hot, he's buff, he has no flaws except secrecy, and he's totally enamored of Amber by the end of the first day of their acquaintance. He's perfect in every way. Within hours he talks as though he has known Amber for years. He has no job except to protect her so he is completely available to devote himself to her. He always says and does the right things to make Amber come to terms with her disability. The only thing he can't offer is a long-term commitment because he has to go back to the future. Sure, I like him – what's not to like? But I don't feel like he's a person. I actually feel a little squicked out by how conveniently perfect he is.
Then there's the villain. The villain doesn't have a mustache, which is a shame, because he'd clearly love to twirl one. The villain stays conveniently absent for most of the book and then shows up and does all the Bond villain type of things – sets them up to be killed by a bomb with a long, long fuse instead of shooting them in the head, gloating about his clever plans, etc.
Here are some of his lines:
“Mister Gray is unfortunately delayed”
“My little minion will make sure that you don't”
“I have a pressing engage-ah, sorry, appointment, elsewhere. Adieu and farewell Mister Gray, Miss Gerald”.
REALLY? The villain was such a walking cliché that as soon as he appeared, all the menace completely disappeared from the story. Even the exciting possibility of our heroes being destroyed by an exploding cat could not renew my sense of suspense.
As you may deduce from the perplexingly bad villain dialogue, the dialogue deteriorates part way through the book. It goes from being funny to forced. At the beginning of the book, when Amber says, “You're going to tell me that my cat is planning to rob the bank?” I laughed. By the end of the book, when Amber and Gray are tied up waiting to be killed by a bomb, and Gray refers to his cybernetic hand implants as “handy”, I groaned. Again, it seems like a very badly written scene from a James Bond knock-off.
Also, there's a big reveal that Amber is furious about, and I didn't understand why. It involves something that happened long before Gray met her. I understand that she's angry that he keeps secrets from her, but she seems to have another level of anger, as though he's revealed that he's cheated on her, even though he hasn't. Conflicts seem to arrive out of nowhere just so that the characters can have a lot to angst about while they are waiting to be killed by the exploding cat (OK, that's funny). SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO ARE AFRAID TO READ ABOUT A CAT BOMB: The cat is fine.
Much like the rest of the book, I wanted to love the cover but didn't. I think the only problem with it is the very, very bad quality of the photoshopping. I like all the components but they are just slapped together in the cheapest possible way. I LOVE that the model looks like an actual person who actually eats. I love that she is in her wheelchair. I like the comic book background, although it sort of looks like graffiti. But wow, that is some cheap-ass photoshopping going on there. I noticed that that's a problem with a lot of the books published by Champagne Books. Quick, everyone go buy a book from Champagne Books, and then they will have more money to spend on covers, and I can stop bleeding from my eye sockets.
So, to wrap this up, Tin Cat is a fun book with a great premise. It has a lot of good things to say about living with a disability (although it says them over and over again). It never reaches its full potential but I did enjoy it. I would have liked more time with the comic book store customers and Amber's supportive group of friends. For that matter, I would have liked more time with the cybernetic cat, although it doesn't talk or anything. It's basically just a cat. I wish the book had been able to bring more elements together because instead of being OK, it could have been awesome. But “OK” is not a terrible thing and you could happily wile away an afternoon with Tin Cat.