Jackass Flats isn’t quite like any other small town in Texas. True, there are tumbleweeds, trucks, and trouble, but there are also shifters. Coyote, burro, buffalo, antelope, even bunny shifters ranging from rabbits to jackrabbits. Whether it’s true that this is the result of an ancient curse or just the way the world works, the natives of this place don’t care. As long as Mama Cee keeps slinging her chili, it’s all good.
For Maddie, a coyote shifter and DEA agent, it’s all about getting the dirt on Degio Moreno, a drug runner and generally unpleasant fella. Helping her — more or less — is Deputy Clyde Hopps, a jackrabbit and all around decent guy. But when the informant who tipped her off makes a break for it, with Maddie in hot pursuit, it’s a truck that ends up nearly breaking them all! Fortunately, the dandy driving the rig, Beau Lapine, managed to avoid turning anyone into roadkill.
But that’s about where Beau’s good luck ended. His rig is damaged, though the expensive Rolls Royce he’s delivering to Diego Morena is fortunately unharmed, but he’s now stuck in Jackass Flats while he waits for repairs. At least there’s good company to be had. Deputy Hopps is easy on the eyes, and with the whole town playing match maker and a full moon on the rise… well, maybe there’s something in Jackass Flats worth sticking around for.
Clyde Hopps, where do I begin? He’s easy going, mellow most times, and while he gets snippy on occasion with the random rule-breaker, he doesn’t seem to have an aggressive bone in his bunny body. He lets workmen walk all over him, says “yes ma’am” when the local ladies bully him, and is pleasant enough, if a bit bland. In short, he’s a perfect I-guy for the reader to hitch a ride with while they explore the wild and crazy world of Jackass Flats. Of course, he’s instantly smitten with the tall and handsome Frenchman who got himself stuck right in the middle of Maddie’s case. Without even speaking to Beau, Clyde’s already half in lust and a little in love.
The man in question, Beau, is French and the black-sheep son of a wealthy family who chose to leave home with his trust fund and a suitcase rather than marry the doe-eyed young bunny shifter his parents had picked out for him. He’s a walking, talking, smiling stereotype with affected manners… sort of, a love for rich things… sort of, and an accent so thick Pepe Le Pew would be proud. He’s also teeth grittingly inconsistent. “The” becomes “zee,” but “this” and “there” don’t loose the “th.” “This” becomes “thees,” not “zis” or “zees” until it does. While he’s sort of hinted at as being fastidious, he has no problem with picking up a filthy dog, carrying her to the nearest diner ,and feeding her from his own plate. He seems to have the dog so that we know he’s a good guy, because only good guys would pick up a dirty, three-legged little dog.
I think Beau is supposed to come across as either a refined gentleman or a fish out of water, but instead he came across as rather bland in comparison to the characters that infested Jackass Flats. For all the stereotypical, thick and bothersome accent, Beau is a blank slate. I never really got anything from him as to who he was, other than that he was French and wouldn’t mind having a bit of a tumble with Clyde.
But the biggest problem for me isn’t the bland characters. This is a book where every side character has a Story. They’re filled with Personality and homey, folksey Charm. It weakened the book and made it a bit of a chore to read, to be honest. There’s a reason we spend more time with the primary characters — heroes and villains — than we do with the townsfolk. We have to get to know them in order to relate to them and their story, in order to feel sympathy for their plights and joy at their successes. The regular, normal people are there to add depth to the story and hint at a complexity to the world that supports our protagonist. When the supporting cast has more character and more appeal than your main character, it’s… not a good sign.
Back to Beau and Clyde for a moment and their relationship. I have never been a fan of insta-love. Insta-lust I can accept, but love always feels like something to important. How can you fall in love with someone you haven’t even spoken to? Clyde — after a first glimpse at Beau — is already smitten. When he finds Beau canoodling with another shifter, he’s hurt and upset. A guy he didn’t even speak a single word to, and he’s already upset he found someone else?
However, the author actually manages to put in a good reason for this! (Good in the sense of it fitting the world and the mythology; it felt natural and right to the world of this story.) The full moon is coming, a time during which every shifter gets the urge to find some company and get… ‘comfortable.’ Clyde is recovering from the loss of his partner and lover, but even he’s feeling the draw of the First Moon. It makes his reaction to Beau more understandable and explains why he is instantly fixated upon the other rabbit shifter. Especially since this is the first time in a while he’s been a participant rather than an on-duty officer.
There are parts of this book that work. Unfortunately Clyde and Beau don’t. Not for me, at least, and the accent feels… silly. I understand the author wanted to make certain we knew Beau was French, but by making his conversation so cartoonishly stereotyped it took away from what he was saying, forcing the reader to focus on how it was said.
The plotting was tangled as the author tried to show off Jackass Flats while still giving us Beau and Clyde’s story. It was too little of one, too much of the either, and ended up being too distracting and disjointed. But that’s not to say there isn’t potential in the world Camdyn created. The idea of First Moon and the guardian shifters who protected the weaker bunnies and other, gentler shifters from the coyotes and cougars intrigued me. It’s a very nice mix of mythology and nature that I hope to see more of in future books.
I think if the book had focused more on the town and the tangled strands of history and relationships of the people rather than on Clyde and Beau it would have been a more engaging read. I’d be interested in more books from this world, but not with these characters.
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