The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz #Review

The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz #ReviewThe Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau, Rachel Haimowitz

Series: #5 Bluewater Bay
Genres: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Published by Riptide on January 11, 2015
Pages: 214
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
    add to goodreads
three-stars      four-flames

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.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #93 LGBT
Mt. TBR #43
New to Me #37 series
Blogger Shame #8
Diversity #16

The following two tabs change content below.
I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Probably not the right book for me but thanks for the review.

    • Can’t fault you there, Mary, since it probably wasn’t the right book for me, either. 🙂

  • I’ve wanted to read a lot of the LGBT books that you review, but there’s something about this one that makes me not want to read it. Great review!

    • Yeah, probably my fault since I was rather mad at the book when I wrote the review. I really don’t like feeling manipulated and that’s how this one made me feel from early on.

  • I don’t mind when author try and convey their beliefs in a book, but if it’s a topic i am sensitive to or it turns too preachy, it can really rub me wrong. Derrick his attitude sounds pretty nasty at the start of the book, but I like the sound of Ginsberg and how he wants to help derrick and the inn.
    But the sound of how this one feels like a lesson about gender roles, sounds like that part isn’t as handled as well and I think that would bother em too. And ai gree it would be much more realistic for Ginsberg to have a few flaws of his own as well. And yes I love reading about different people, but if it feels too much like a lesson than a story it’s a shame.
    I am sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as it looked promising with the B&B setting. I hope your next book will be better! Great review Sophia!

    • Yes, that is how I feel, too. I don’t mind learning what people think through their writing and I don’t even mind encountering diversity of thought and belief that helps me understand. But when it’s a story, there is a line for me. I need it to still feel like I’m getting a story and if it’s a romance like this, then it needs to feel like that.
      Instead, I ended up reacting to the story in anger because I felt like the characters’ were set up to achieve an end instead of to grow and grow together.
      It took me nearly two hours to write this review b/c first I had way too many words and feelings on the page and then I couldn’t think of much to say and just wanted to be done with it. I guess, on reflection, that it at least drew a strong response from me and that is much better than indifference. 😉

  • I love it when authors have a moral to the story, but like you said, don’t brow beat me with it. I think there are plenty of ways to have these types of stories without shoving it down my throat. Kudos to the author for tackling some diverse characters that we don’t see very often in romance, but you have to make it more enjoyable to get people to read it and get lots of eyes on it. Great review.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    • Yes, it was a slow realization for me as to what was making me angry as I was reading this story. Then it hit me. Not to mention, the story was underdeveloped as a result.