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Review: Circle of Change by Lainey Cairo

Dear Ms. Cairo.

Circle of Change was recommended to me when I reviewed a romance that had a transsexual character. This story has a transsexual protagonist, Kim, a Female to Male (FtM) student (high school, then college). Kim finds love as he enters makes the transition out of high school. I enjoyed following his transformations, but the story was, unfortunately, basically suspense-less, plot-less. There was nothing at stake.

Kim hates high school. There’s nothing but homophobia and hate there for him, but he’s in his senior year and determined to make it out. His mother is a priestess in a local coven that brings in a new member, Dash, who felt the previous coven he was with was homophobic. Kim begins to go through hormonal transition, while Dash begins the process of being admitted to the coven. Dash and Kim feel an immediate attraction, but when Kim comes out as a female-to-male transsexual, Dash quickly rejects him, sending Kim spiraling back into depression for a bit. But Dash’s continued participation in Kim’s mother’s coven brings them back into contact, and they slowly begin to explore a fully sexual relationship.

Once Dash gets over himself, after they get together the second time, the story is “merely” a fictionalized recitation of sex between a FtM and a cisgendered gay man. I put “merely” in scare-quotes because I acknowledge and appreciate the fact that this is not an easy thing to pull off. However, there is no relationship tension, no will-they-or-won’t-they about anything, no barrier for them to overcome. Once they’re together, they’re committed to each other and to their relationship, both sexual and emotional. Which is a good thing. And how it hopefully happens in real life. But as a story, I wanted more tension somewhere.

At the same time as the relationship progresses, we’re following Dash through his full inclusion into the coven. The story takes place over a full year, something which is very unusual in romance novels these days (in my experience), so that was a nice change. But although I read it all the way through and although I enjoyed it, the story really felt like a manual of how to have positive, affirming, fun sex with a FtM transsexual AND how and why to join a coven. It was NOT about the trials and tribulations of a romance.

So I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. But…it needed more there there.

Grade: C

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

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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.

6 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention Review: Circle of Change by Lainey Cairo | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 15:55:28

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by K.C. Kahn-Malone, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: Review: Circle of Change by Lainey Cairo http://bit.ly/dwaoby […]

  2. jmc
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 21:30:06

    SarahF, have you read any of Cairo’s other work? I’m curious about whether you have a similar criticism in them as well.

  3. Joan/SarahF
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 21:38:01

    @jmc: I have not. “A Bad Case of Loving You” comes REALLY well-recommended, so it’s on my TBR list. But there’s a lot in front of it. Have you?

  4. jmc
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 21:55:05

    @Joan/SarahF: I’ve read “A Bad Case of Loving You”, which I loved, and another (can’t remember the name) that is really more general fiction than romance. Bad Case doesn’t really have trials or tribulation in the relationship, other than some tension about the student/teacher relationship. The other book has a plot set up that seems ideal for relationship tension (closeted gay athlete and his ex) but much more time is spent on his illness and recovery, rather than the relationship.

    Also, criticism of them not in them as I wrote in my earlier comment.

  5. Sunita
    Nov 20, 2010 @ 16:50:08

    I agree with jmc (surprise, surprise). I really like Bad Case of Loving You, despite my usual squickiness about student-teacher relationships. The book is funny, well-written, and does a great job with the setting. I read One Way Street and liked it okay. The Australian Rules Football stuff seemed pretty good to my untrained eye, but I found the abundance of slang interrupted my reading flow, and the combination of the messed up relationship and the illness/rehabilitation was kind of a downer. I’ve now read 3 of her books (Undercover Blues is the third) and think BCoLY is by far my favorite of the three.

  6. Christine
    Nov 20, 2010 @ 21:59:34

    I really liked “Running the Nullarbor,” too. There’s a sequel, but I haven’t read it yet.

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