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REVIEW:  His Fair Lady by Kimberly Gardner

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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REVIEW:  Come as You Are by Theresa Weir

REVIEW: Come as You Are by Theresa Weir

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“Molly Young has a secret. To keep it she holds the world at a distance. Behind her lies a trail of dumped boyfriends who came too close to discovering what no one can know. When her estranged father dies of an unexpected heart attack he leaves an even deeper secret, one tied to Molly’s.

At the funeral repast Molly is unable to tolerate the shoulder-to-shoulder mourners and runs out the door and down the street to the nearest bar. Come dawn, with no memory of the past ten hours, she finds herself in bed with a beautiful stranger. She slips away before he wakes up, unaware of the role he’s about to play in her life. Is he the one guy who can convince Molly to face her painful secret and become the person she’s meant to be?”

Dear Ms. Weir,

I will admit that it was your name that got me to look at the blurb for this book and the opening hook that Molly isn’t at all sorry that her adoptive dad is dead that made me want to keep reading it. It’s fairly obvious why Molly hates her dead father though the reveal doesn’t take place until late in the story. Her self destructive behavior and avoidance of getting too close to anyone pretty much spell out what’s what here. She can be a real bitch at times and it’s painful to watch her hurt herself over and over.

Ian is a dream guy. He takes care of Molly before he even knows who she is in relation to him – and that part was a tad squicky to read about even though the reader knows from the beginning that they aren’t blood kin – and keeps on doing so over the course of the story. At times I had to wonder why he kept going back for more helpings of watching her wallow in pain though for her sake I was glad he did.

Why did I keep reading about these characters? Because your writing style grabbed me and wouldn’t let go and you made me care about what had and was going to happen to them. It’s not an easy read though the specifics of Molly’s past aren’t told in gory detail. I think watching her make bad choices and suffer from them took the place of that.

When it’s all over, I get the feeling that Molly is still a work in progress while Ian remains his perfect self. I would have liked to see him be a bit more imperfect, a touch more real but since he’s a balance to Molly’s darkness, he manages to work for me. The other issue from Molly’s past needed more resolution for me. But maybe we’re meant to be left with the feeling that for the first time, Molly is more in control of her life and that she’ll make her decisions when she’s ready. While the end of the book might have left things more up in the air than I wanted, the strength of the writing pulled me effortlessly along. B-

~Jayne

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