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REVIEW: His Fair Lady by Kimberly Gardner

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“Mark Talleo is something of a dog with the ladies. Any girl, anytime, anywhere is his motto until he meets Josie Frazier. The long lean redhead not only shares his love of musical theatre, but her smoky sexy voice and infectious laugh drive Mark wild and haunt his every step. Equally fascinating is his sense that she has a secret, one he is determined to uncover on his way to becoming her leading man.

Josie does have a secret, one she guards with her whole self. Although she has always known she was female, her name used to be Joey and she’s still biologically male. As much as she yearns for love and acceptance, her fear of rejection is just as strong.

Mark’s need to know the truth is matched only by Josie’s need to hide it. But when malicious gossip reveals her deepest secret the price of honesty may turn out to be too high to pay. But if each can accept that the woman he wants is the woman she is then at last he may find His Fair Lady.”

Dear Ms. Gardner,

I’ll be honest and admit that the main reason I picked this book to try is because it has a transgender character. It’s not that I have any fetishes, I’m just trying to make sure our LGBTTQ reviews at DA actually have some characters who are BTTQ. To find any stories that delve into issues faced by this community is hard since I haven’t found that many being published. To find a nicely written one is a treat.

I liked Josie from the start. She’s smart, not easily bowled over when a hot guy asks her out and makes Mark work to get her attention and a date. So sure, a bit of this is because she’s got a secret and hasn’t dated much but a lot is due to some inner quality I sense in her that won’t accept second best or anyone only trying to see if he can get in her pants. My thoughts were validated later in the story when she verbally lets Mark have it after All Is Revealed and he panics. She does cry but only after a few choice shouted lines calling Mark on his cowardice.

Mark’s not too bad either but did notice that he’s really not the “dog” mentioned in the blurb. Perhaps I wouldn’t have taken to his character quite as much if he had been but the fact is that his only offense in this department seems to be not being firm enough in ending an almost over relationship. Once his attention is caught by Josie though, he’s a goner. He presses, retreats slightly so as not to be thought a stalker, makes sure Josie gets home, sees her to her door, calls her mother “ma’am,” and behaves as if someone raised him right. But he’s not unbelievable either given that his dorm room is a pit, he cheerfully calls his friend and roommate an asswipe, and would gladly get Josie into bed if she’s willing.

Josie’s anxieties and fears about revealing her gender are worked into the narrative without it seeming to flip on a neon “sign” stating ISSUES HERE! She takes care with her necklines and pulling her hair back from her throat, is silently grateful that her hormones will help her hide any erection she might get when things get hot and heavy with Mark, worries if a transgendered professor has realized her secret and has to face the fallout when her gender becomes known. And while this isn’t a “everything is genderly wonderful world,” it’s one that is perhaps more open since it takes place on a college campus, among theater arts majors, and with a hero who has a gay brother. I was watching to see how Josie’s and Mark’s parents were portrayed and was happy that this novella doesn’t have the disapproving families trope.

Perhaps all of the above mitigating factors smooth over the real dangers trans people face daily. Maybe Mark ends up being Super Boyfriend who is still sexually turned on by Josie despite the fact that she’s not planning on having gender reassignment surgery. But I enjoyed that the story focuses mainly on Josie and Mark and reaching their HFN – maybe HEA. B

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

16 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 09:33:45

    You know, I used to really like this author’s m/m stories several years ago – I am glad she is continuing to write (maybe she never stopped, just fallen off my radar :)). Sold.

  2. Eliza Evans
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 12:02:04

    Sold! I’ve been trying hard to increase the diversity in my romance reading, so this fits the bill perfectly.

  3. Jayne
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 13:04:51

    @Sirius: I noticed she has one about this hero’s gay brother and his romance.

  4. Jayne
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 13:08:38

    @Eliza Evans: I reviewed another Loose-ID book last year by Nona Raines called “His Kind of Woman” that I thought was pretty good too. It’s still on sale for $2.99 at their website.

  5. Willaful
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 13:30:16

    Very cool to see this sort of story get published. I think the prevailing stereotype is still that all trans people have had surgery.

  6. Shannon C.
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 13:31:56

    Ooh. I’ll try this one out. I ran across this author by accident somewhere else, and I’ve always meant to read her work. Plus, I do love that Josie hasn’t had all the surgeries. I suspect most college students wouldn’t be able to afford to, and if she had I think I’d probably have been thrown out of the story.

  7. Annabeth Albert
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 17:56:43

    I absolutely adored this book. Devoured it all in a single setting last night. Really unusual and well-done.

  8. Kaetrin
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 00:31:05

    Sold. Thank you for pointing this one out to me Jayne. :)

  9. Jayne
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 02:52:40

    @Shannon C.: A while ago I watched a 2 part documentary called “Transgeneration” which profiled 4 trans college students. One transwoman was going to have all her surgery done at once – paid for by her parents – and it became a major source of conflict between her and another transwoman friend who was having to earn her own money and have her gender reassignment surgeries done piecemeal.

  10. Jayne
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 02:55:10

    @Willaful: The story presents Josie as having made the decision not to have surgery with no reason given as to why.

  11. Kaetrin
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 03:15:54

    @Jayne: I know very little about it but my understanding is that some people don’t have surgery F2M or M2F because the surgical options don’t necessarily give good physical sensation and function. At least, that is true for F2M – I saw it in discussions regarding Chas Bono – so it stands to reason that the reverse would also be true. I don’t think they can create a clitoris out of a penis. Maybe I’m wrong on that though.

    (Also, surgery is very expensive so that would be a barrier too I’d imagine).

  12. Kaetrin
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 07:20:31

    So, as I anticipated I didn’t actually know anything I was talking about in relation to M2F gender reassignment surgery. For various reasons I ended up looking it up and there’s even a rather graphic surgery video on You Tube which explains the procedure. Or at least, one type of procedure used in Germany. It turns out that yes, they *can* make the penis into a clitoris. In the video I watched, they reported that all 24 patients who had had this particular kind of surgery reported clitoral orgasm.

    It looked (to me) like it would be painful and I suppose it’s expensive.

    It is true that F2M is more difficult and it’s not uncommon that a trans* man would choose not to have the surgery because the results aren’t as functional.

    Anyway, just wanted to correct my errors above. Apologies for getting it wrong.

    Also, doctors are amazing.

  13. Sunita
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 07:52:42

    Thanks for the review, Jayne, this looks really promising.

    On the topic of gender reassignment surgery more generally, there are plenty of people who don’t choose to have it. It’s not necessarily because they can’t afford it, although clearly that can play a role given the cost. The Human Rights Campaign issued a series of videos last month on transgender issues, and one of them is about debunking the idea that surgery is a top priority.

  14. Willaful
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 11:27:10

    @Kaetrin: Kaetrin, if you’re interested, She’s Not There by Jennifer Boylen is a really good book by a transwoman who did successfully have surgery. I don’t think I’ve read anything by someone who chose not to — does anyone have a good title?

    One of the most interesting things about the book is that in her male body, Jennifer was apparently “straight” — fell in love with and married a woman (And hoped, wrongly, that would “fix” everything.) After hormones and surgery, she was attracted to men. Hub and I have an acquaintance who we initially knew as a lesbian woman and who transitioned and is now a gay man. I don’t know how often that happens, statistically, but it’s really intriguing.

  15. cleo
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 13:26:53

    @Sunita: That link didn’t work for me, but this one should work – http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/debunking-the-myths-transgender-health-and-well-being (and thanks for letting me know about it)

  16. Kaetrin
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 20:09:28

    @Willaful: Thank you for the rec Willa.

    @Sunita: I had a vague idea that surgery isn’t important to all trans* people but I really have no idea (I think I demonstrated that in my first comment *head desk*). And thank you for the link :)

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