This one has been sitting on my shelf a while and I have the vague recollection that I thought an opposites attract by a pair of writers might be fun plus I was interested in a book with a trans hero since I don’t see many stories including them. Better late than never, etc, so I finally picked it up.
Now here’s the thing. I can’t do my usual review. This is going to turn into a ‘lecture’ no matter what. I can’t get around it. Because, my final impression was that this was more a fiction story with some really pointy points made to the reader than an LGBT contemporary romance which is what I thought I was picking up. I’m not opposed to a fiction story at all or that the authors wish to use their writing to convey their beliefs, but it does make it a little problematic for me when it’s supposed to be a romance and the other stuff overshadowed the romance.
The story opens with Bluewater Bay B&B owner, Derrick Richards watching his last paying guests drive away without paying because he refunded their money after burning the breakfast yet again and driving them off with shoddy service. He is disgruntled and dissatisfied with life in general and the B&B that was his parents’ legacy to him in particular.
He has hated having anything to do with it since he was a kid and other kids made fun calling him a maid. He was also in the closet for the most part because he had the idea that his dad wanted him to be a manly man. Derrick’s only relationship was with a queen and he is hard on his ex and far from understanding. Derrick has pretty much driven off most people with his bad attitude over the years.
Derrick went away and worked in the logging industry as a lumberjack and now for three years he has run the already flagging B&B into the ground. He is relieved when he decided to close it up and go back to logging when bedraggled Ginsberg arrives at his door shivering from the cold rain and bearing his arm in a cast. Derrick has pity and lets him in, but then has to get rid of the guy if he wants to close up the B&B. Derrick chooses to drive Ginsberg out with poor service after realizing his guest is transgender and he doesn’t want Ginsberg to think he is getting rid of him for that reason.
Ginsberg has learned to be wary of big, buff manly types and waits for Derrick to freak out because not only is Ginsberg gay, but he is transgender and still going through the last of the process. But, as a stunt man on the set and going through an injury that will lay him up for almost eight weeks, Ginsberg needs a cheap place to stay and this tired rundown B&B is it. He is well aware that Derrick is making no effort to welcome him or treat him well as a guest, but it is not because of Ginsberg’s orientation. It’s just Derrick being Derrick. Ginsberg decides that Derrick and the inn will be his project. He sets out to bring the inn back to order, bring Derrick out of his antiquated beliefs and need to hide, and carefully navigate the attraction that has blossomed between them. But when all is said and done, his stay is on a time limit and is there really any hope that Derrick will change?
The story was only moderately enjoyable for me. I felt like I was in the midst of a lecture couched as a story. For instance, I was supposed to find it a bad thing that Derrick was displeased that his guest was wearing his deceased mother’s apron. It is made clear that it is because he is disdainful of a guy wearing something frilly, however my initial thought before I was given the reason for Derrick’s displeasure was that there was another reason for his reaction-an obvious one (the guy rifled through things and put on his deceased mom’s apron- I wouldn’t care for that either). This started me to thinking about where I was being led with this ‘lesson’. In another instance, I was supposed to see him as a Neanderthal because, as a guy who runs around in jeans and flannel plaids work shirts, he doesn’t care to be presented with a pink apron as a gift and he shies away from assembling confectionery treats. Why was he expected to love pink and suddenly enjoy making tarts? Again, my mind leaped to him having a preference, but no, it’s because he has to be rigid in his idea of gender role.
I get it. We’re supposed to be stepping away from antiquated ideas about what is male, female or both. But why did nearly everything have to feel like a lesson? This is a story. And because Derrick is a Grade A jerk- he truly was- I felt a bit guilty because I saw it this way. I resented that Derrick was set up so neatly as the ‘cautionary tale’ character (or more like caricature) instead of a guy with flaws and a need to grow, but also having some hero-worthy traits, too (to be fair, there are a very few against all his ugly traits). I took exception to being led about. I was supposed to dislike Derrick and definitely dislike his views while finding sweet, long-suffering Ginsberg’s views enlightened and expansive. How could I help, but not feel that way after the way the story was set up? Would it have been so bad for Ginsberg had a few flaws that needed work, too?
Now after saying all that, I didn’t hate the story. It was fun seeing these two opposites do the work of pulling the failing inn back together and I liked the idea of a stuntman hero. Jim was a favorite as a secondary character and the little dog, Victoria Beckham was a scene stealer. Ginsberg’s history and present circumstances earned great respect with me. The fumbling first sexy times rang true for me as Derrick learned what it was like to be with a transgender male and I loved that he made Ginsberg feel appreciated and wanted. My heart hurt for Ginsberg when Derrick delivered that scathing, awful speech near the end when he had his huge freak out. And Derrick, he infuriated me, but also had me feeling great pity because he was so locked in his past that he couldn’t move forward. I was glad the authors allowed time to pass after Derrick’s big screw up in which the guys had to start over and Derrick had to prove himself.
I am glad that the authors chose to spotlight a transgender romance hero and even a non-binary gender secondary character as well as the issue of gender roles. Ironically, I do find learning about people different from myself an engaging part of stories (just don’t brow beat me with it).
The book is part of the ongoing Bluewater Bay series. The series is written by a team of authors and is loosely connected from book to book by the setting making the reading order flexible.
My recommendation is going to be to those who are looking for something more challenging than simple LGBT contemporary romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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