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GAY WRITES REVIEW: “Tengo una Pistola” by Bryl R. Tyne

This review is part of our Gay Writes celebration. Don’t forget to comment on the original post for a chance to win one of those prizes as well as commenting on this post for a chance to win a copy of this book.

Dear Mr. Tyne:

I wanted to review a Trans romance for our Gay Writes Week but that proved more difficult than anticipated. Maybe I just don’t know where to look, but I could only find yours. (If anyone else has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.) You suggested your 10K word short in the anthology Cocked and Fully Loaded, so I read it and enjoyed it, despite some questions.

First, can we please acknowledge that the title of the anthology is just…awful? Right. Thanks.

The story itself is very cute. It’s set in some nebulous past, in the wild wild West. The first-person narrator, Chuck Samms, tells his story in western dialect. It’s pretty well-sustained throughout, both his thoughts and speech, but I know that’s an issue for some readers, so it’s worth mentioning. He gets home from 10 days on the range and wants nothing more than a hot bath, some hot food, and his partner Mitch. Except he discovers that bath and partner have both been co-opted by Carmen, a prostitute from town. Chuck is disconcerted to find himself attracted to Carmen and throws a pretty spectacular misogynistic tantrum that Mitch calls him on with his fists. Considering I’ve labeled this a trans romance, I’ve pretty much given the plot twist away, of course, but the reveal is humorous and well-handled and the ensuing sex between the three characters is hot.

What I really like about the story is that the story is not just about the sex, as many shorts are. Fundamentally, it is about the romance between Mitch and Chuck, about their commitment to each other. And I love that it’s told in the roundabout way men tend to use to tell themselves things:

I stopped, dead cold in the dark. Felt kind of odd without my welcoming committee of one, but I reckoned Mitch had maybe gone into town for the night. He did sometimes. Well, a lot, actually, but I couldn’t blame him. What were he supposed to do, sit around and wait on this old man?

I turned up the lantern beside the door then knocked the dust from my hat. In the dim glow, I wandered into the kitchen and hung my hat on a chair before rummaging in the cupboard for matches. After lighting the lantern in the center of the table, I looked around. The room set spotless. My second indication something weren’t quite kosher, not a dirty dish in sight. There sure as hell weren’t any warm meal to stave off the pain that hit me all at once and recoiled my guts, either. Had he used the kitchen at all while I were away?

“Mitch?” I called again, this time louder. But as before, I received only a ballad from a solitary cricket holed up in the pantry.

His pain is not, of course, hunger. It’s his feelings. And the story deals with them as obliquely as he does, and I love when a first-person narration can get that right.

The problem I have with the story is precisely in the dealings with Carmen. Romance tends to have what I call the Victor/Victoria trope: if one character is cross-dressing, the other character’s body and libido instinctively knows about the cross-dressing because of their attraction to the cross-dressed character. This is usually used in squickily heteronormative ways: it’s proof that the cross-dressed character MUST be their actual sex, because God forbid any character ever be attracted to a member of their own sex. So, the fact that Chuck partakes a bit of this trope is…interesting to me. He’s depicted as a violently misogynistic good old boy (who happens to be gay, of course) and he’s attracted to Carmen when she’s a woman, but only because she’s really a man?

Then again, when he discovers that Carmen “has a pistol,” he’s perfectly happy to deal with her as a woman and she’s certainly depicted as fully transgender, as much as anyone could have been in a nebulous past. But…better transgendered than being attracted to a woman? And I’m also…vaguely uncomfortable with Carmen’s status as pure vehicle for sex. She only speaks Spanish and at one point, Chuck tries to figure out a translation:

“Hey Mitch.” I glanced behind me and found him stripped to his drawers.

Thumbs under his waistband, he paused. “Yeah?”

Guess he were about as ready as Carmen and me was. “Um . . . how do you say, bed, in Spanish?”

“Just say, sex.” He shucked his drawers to his ankles and stepped out, cock stiff and swaying. “Pretty much all she understands.”

Um, okay. So in a m/m romance, the one woman is, of course, a prostitute, and is quite literally, the purely sexual conduit for the two men to express their feelings. She is, again quite literally, incomprehensible and is used solely for sex (after all, she’s a prostitute). So, while I appreciated the writing, the emotions, the twist, the story as a whole, this kinda made me a little uncomfortable. I understand that for the plot to work, she couldn’t be able to explain herself to Chuck. But it still made me uncomfortable.

That aside, though, I was impressed with the writing, the character construction, and loved having a trans character in the story. And I’m actively looking for more romances like that.

Grade: B-

Best regards,
-Joan, Sarah F.

We have a DIGITAL copy of Bryl’s first story, If I Were a Lady…, a fully transgender romance, to giveaway. No geo-restrictions. Comment by 6am EST on Thursday to win! (One win per person for the week of our Gay Writes giveaways, but feel free to comment on all posts to increase your chances of winning!)

And feel free to recommend some more trans-romances for me. I’d love to read them.

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

20 Comments

  1. Merrian
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 04:43:24

    Even with the caveats you have mentioned, this is still an intriguing sounding story just because of the voice. May be I can mentally squint and think the views Chuck holds of Carmen are realisitc for the times. So I will put my hand up for the digital giveaway.

    ReplyReply

  2. Ell
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 05:50:34

    This review had me thinking of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” for the first time in years. Now, *that’s* a trans romance. Not a book, though.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jambrea
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 06:18:39

    I would love a chance to read Bryl. I have never read a transgender book and am very interested.

    Thank you!

    ReplyReply

  4. Angie
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 06:42:50

    Try Laney Cairo’s Circle of Change. Great transgender romance, about a young gay transman who has a thing for another guy who has a thing back until he finds out about the trans part. I liked that the cis character didn’t automatically respond like a grad student in gender theory, but really blew it at first out of startlement, being faced with an issue he’d never really thought about before. The rest of the book has a great character arc for him as he realizes he was a jerkwad and figures out what to do about it. Good stuff.

    Angie

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  5. Anonymous
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 07:44:22

    How is this the last of the Gay Writes? The original post says six gay book reviews (I count only four posted) and that it will be National Coming Out WEEK here at DA. That was 2 days ago.

    What happened to the whole week devoted to GLBT stuff?

    ReplyReply

  6. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 07:48:28

    @Anonymous: ::headdesk:: It’s not the last. I cut and paste the header from the wrong post. I have two more book reviews and a movie review queued to go live for tomorrow and Friday. Sorry.

    ReplyReply

  7. Tweets that mention GAY WRITES REVIEW: “Tengo una Pistola” by Bryl R. Tyne | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 07:48:34

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bryl R. Tyne, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: GAY WRITES REVIEW: "Tengo una Pistola" by Bryl R. Tyne http://bit.ly/dvAbdJ [...]

  8. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 07:49:22

    @Angie: Wow! Thanks for the recommendation. Totally looking into it.

    ReplyReply

  9. Bryl R. Tyne
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 09:09:55

    Thank you for the insightful review, Sarah. I do appreciate your candor and am always thrilled when someone enjoys my writing.

    I like that you almost got my character, Chuck, too. Though he comes across as misogynistic, he is truly only projecting his deepest fear, for he does accept Carmen fully as a woman and as trangender after he realizes she’s not there to steal his man, Mitch. That was Chuck’s biggest concern–Mitch deciding it was time to “settle down and start a family”, and Chuck saw that presumption as the end of the world he’d grown accustomed to with Mitch.

    I do have other stories with characters of transgender, most of them romances. LOST, the 4th story in my The Zagzagel Diaries is not romance but Zag’s charge in the story is a transwoman. Some readers may enjoy it.

    ReplyReply

  10. Ridley
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 09:35:38

    I can’t remember the title, but I know there’s a book set in VT (?) involving a bi man, who’s a professor at a local school, about to get a sex change. At first he’s involved with a woman, but then falls in with the woman’s straight ex-husband when she can’t hack it with him/her post-op.

    Maybe someone can remember the title?

    ReplyReply

  11. sirius11214
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 09:56:39

    I would love to read this one.

    ReplyReply

  12. Reader
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 10:02:43

    “He's depicted as a violently misogynistic good old boy (who happens to be gay, of course) and he's attracted to Carmen when she's a woman, but only because she's really a man?”

    When you’re getting into books like this, with tranny, drag, and transgenders, I don’t think any of the rules apply. It’s such a small segment of the lgbt community, not to mention society in general, it tends to fall into more idividualized categories that don’t always makes sense. In other words, sometimes it is what it is. And then there are ladyboy and sissy stories, which is a completely different, though small, category…and always completely ignored by reviewers. And yet some of these books are selling off the shelves…with no reviews at all. Someone’s buying them even though someone’s ignoring them :)

    With that said, great review and it sounds like an intersting book.

    BTW, all you have to do is click on over to ARe or Fictionwise and you’ll find more than a few “T” stories in the erotica/fetish categories. They may not all be romances, though.

    ReplyReply

  13. whey
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 15:06:13

    In addition to Laney Cairo’s “Circle of Change”, I’d also recommend Laney Cairo’s “Crossing the Line”. It’s not a romance so much as coming-of-age, but still very sweet.

    ReplyReply

  14. May
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 18:56:14

    Please enter me into the draw for this book. It looks very interesting.

    ReplyReply

  15. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 19:00:51

    Just want to remind everyone that you’re in the drawing for a copy of Tyne’s If I Were a Lady…, not “Tenga una Pistola”. If that matters at all.

    ReplyReply

  16. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 14, 2010 @ 09:34:43

    @Jambrea is our winner for this giveaway. Congratulations! You'll be getting an email from me. And everyone else, don't forget to go to our main Gay Writes post and enter there for the chance to win many more books.

    ReplyReply

  17. Jambrea
    Oct 14, 2010 @ 09:44:57

    @whey: I LOVED Crossing the Line. It was very good

    AND…WOOHOO! Thanks. :)

    ReplyReply

  18. Sylwia
    Oct 15, 2010 @ 16:36:21

    Just wanted to add another ‘trans’ book recommendation – M. King “Filth” [2010]. And I second the ones made for Laney Cairo books.

    ReplyReply

  19. Merrian
    Oct 16, 2010 @ 18:39:30

    I haven’t read the Lainey Cairo books mentioned above but did enjoy her two ‘crossing the nullarbor’ books which are UF except they involve an Australia at war and crossing the Nullabor desert with a baby, Pine Gap, mega fauna, inland seas and a very realistic take on the Australian Regular Army as well of course as magic and a really nice love story between two guys from different worlds.

    ReplyReply

  20. Review: Circle of Change by Lainey Cairo | Dear Author
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 14:01:07

    [...] of Change was recommended to me when I reviewed a romance that had a transsexual character. This story has a transsexual [...]

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