Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike's College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it's title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper -- a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay -- and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn't know that a lot of Jaime's bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He's shy and doesn't understand why he's still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call "Hot-Hands" because of the way the man's hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he's accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It's a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he's more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime's point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime's motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he's a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he's out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn't know that. He's still confused about Jaime's motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he's seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn't the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise -- the meetings in the dark with Casper's "secret admirer" and the subsequent reveal of his real identity -- but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he's battling his own self-esteem.
I'm so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks "Hot-Hands" is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it's often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!...more
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by thisReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by this author. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a novel by this author since I read Finding Zach, a book which remains one of my all-time favorite m/m romances. So I knew going into this book from the blurb and from loving that book that this would most likely be an intense read. In some ways it was, but less so than I think I was expecting. But, it did live up to my expectations and ended up being a good read.
Joshua Chastain is a shade of the man he once was — a strong, confident, healthy and intelligent undercover FBI agent. Those qualities were all taken away from him during his three year undercover mission infiltrating a ruthless and dangerous gang in Chicago that heavily trafficked heroin. And though he did everything he was put there to do — bring down the operation from the inside — he also did other things, made sacrifices to himself and others to get the job done. And now, after leaving the FBI and in rehab for his heroin withdrawal and addiction and the unbelievable depression from his memories of death, Joshua is so far from the man he once was that his family no longer recognizes him.
His mother and his uncle Tucker conspire to bring him out to his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico. It’s a place he frequented and loved as a kid, but it’s also the perfect place for him to start to come back to himself. In an ironic twist, the ranch’s main operation is the rehabilitation of abused horses, a program run by Tucker and the ranch’s foreman, Elian Kelly. Eli is more than a foreman to the ranch, but also Tucker’s good friend. And seeing Tuck’s young nephew is heartbreaking. He sees him as a broken man he can try to put back together just like the horses that he has a gift with helping. The fresh air, good and hearty food, and reliable and loving family are what Joshua needs to put the past behind him and learn confidence in himself again. The connection and eventual relationship between Joshua and Eli wasn’t part of the plan.
Much of this book was what I was expecting from this book and this author. This is a hurt/comfort story of epic proportions, something that was similar to Rowan Speedwell’s other novel, Finding Zach. Joshua is not much a guy who needs a little rehab, but a severely traumatized person, emotionally, physically and chemically, from his forced addiction to heroin. And Eli is the gentle giant, reliant and safe and perfect in a lot of ways. I mean, this makes for a good setup, something that has worked well for this author in the past. And I liked this couple together. I felt like a lot of time went by setting up the story and I would maybe have liked to get to know Eli and Joshua actually together in their relationship for longer than we got, but they have a crazy amount of chemistry that came through for me, and the dynamic works well for them and goes hand in hand with the setting really well.
So the problems that I had with the book didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book — it remained something highly enjoyable to read. Maybe it’s that Finding Zach is such a hard book to live up to for me, especially with a character like Joshua who so reminded me of Zach with all of the emotional turmoil he has to work through throughout the book. Still, this wasn’t a perfect read for me. Some of the behavior of the characters seemed a little too… contrived, like the totally happy-go-lucky family atmosphere at the ranch. On the one hand this made the book not overly filled with excess problems but it made Joshua’s problems seem overbalanced in counterpoint, which made their behavior and constant support grating (not their support for Joshua, but just in each other, day to day in the way they act). That probably makes no sense, but I don’t know how to describe it better without making it seem too nitpicky and as if it was a bigger deal than it really was. It just bugged me a bit. The real difficulty I had with the book was the ending.
I was hoping that this book wouldn’t end with (view spoiler)[a resurgence of the gang and the men who would obviously love to come after Joshua if he wasn’t so hidden. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But, I still would have probably preferred the ending to be a bit more subtle. I liked that Eli and Joshua were getting to know each other and work through their problems and I would have admired the story more if it continued in that direction without needing an outside conflict to come in from seemingly nowhere to act as a catalyst for the couple. And the way it was done made it a little worse than that, with the whole gay basher thing having been written so many times. (hide spoiler)]
So while I wasn’t quite happy with the ending, I still enjoyed the book and I liked the first half in particular. It really held my interest. The fact that the main character is dealing with a shitload of issues is just something that depends on the reader to like or dislike. I mean, on the one hand it does seem a bit much because poor Joshua’s life just kept going from bad to worse over and over again. So much of whether you like this book or not will depend on how you feel about that kind of character and conflict. In general, I don’t so much like that, but as I said before I was interested in seeing how I liked this one since I did like that kind of conflict in the hands of his author previously.
The other early reviews I’ve seen for this book have so far been raving, which is good. I think I’m maybe a little pickier than many other reviewers and that’s fine. Rowan Speedwell remains a great author and I’ll continue to look forward to her books.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I had a love/dislike relationship with the first book of this series, Sky Riders (reviewed here), mostly because though I liked the overall story I found myself drifting throughout the middle of the book. It just didn't keep my concentration (that is, admittedly, hard to do!). So I went back and forth for a few days before deciding if I should accept this book for review. As you can see, I decided to review it in the end. And though I feel like I had some of the same problems with this book that I had in the first, I'm still glad I made the decision I did. Even if most of that reason is that I need to be caught up for book #3, about Jeret, the one I'm really looking forward to!
Killian, "Cookie" as he's known to the crew of the Crux Ansata (or affectionately,"Annie"), is the second in command and has watched his captain and best friend Torin fall in love with bad boy Rain. The two are now happily settled and married, for the most part, and life has gone on as normal. Though he loves them all as family his life is still lonelier than the In Between. That all changes on their next rescue mission. Well, call it a rescue mission if you must, but they're really out for themselves. They're a mercenary crew and though they don't go out of the way to hurt others they're still criminals and happy to take what they can. When they hear of a son of an influential man has been taken hostage and is being kept as a whore on Kalliope 9, they make a plan to rescue the kid and bargain him back to his father for payment.
The plan goes off without a hitch, mostly. They do indeed rescue Neith. The first problem is that he is Rain's ex-boyfriend and the father in question the man who Rain delivered a major fuck-you to at the end of the first book. Besides the fact that Torin doesn't want Neith anywhere on board near Rain, Neith's father isn't going to pay them shit for his son -- both because he hates their whole crew and because he doesn't really give a shit about his son either. Complicating things further, Neith's captives are fast on their heels and they're not sure what they want. Is it Neith, or something he took from them? Neith is keeping secrets. But, it's natural, he's been tortured, raped and drugged to want it all with a new designer chemical called Pandora's Cure, a drug that makes the user crave sex from whoever or wherever they can get it, simultaneously shutting down any worries or fears or ability to think for themselves. With the drug moving out of his system, Neith is dangerous to the crew and to Killian, who wants to be the one Neith wants, even though he mostly wants Rain. Do the drugs affects negate any of the real feelings between the two? Or, is a relationship between rich and beautiful Neith and a big, brawny criminal a pipe dream to Killian?
I had the same problem reading this story as the previous one, in that I just had a hard time keeping my concentration. I'm not sure why. I wasn't sure with the last one and I'm not sure here… if it's my problem or something to do with the books. I think the most likely case is that I need quite a bit of sci-fi plot to get me interested in a space opera type story. That's not the case here. I mean, we do get an overall plot, with the slavers chasing them and all that. But for the most part and for the middle half of the book, this reads mostly like a contemporary romance, just with a few details added in here and there to make sure we remember that they're in an alternate world/spaceship. The setting fades into the background and the focus was on the couple. And there's definitely an internal conflict between Neith and Killian. Neith is mistrustful of his own feelings because of the drug in his system and Killian just wants to do everything to protect Neith, while at the same time hope he realizes that what they have is real and for the long haul. I just had a hard time keeping interest. I noticed that my concentration picked up again as the tension mounted in the chase.
But, for the most part this is a good story. I think that you should definitely read Sky Riders first. Not because you'd be completely lost if you read these out of order -- I don't think you would -- but because these stories are quite similar in theme and style and if you like the first one you'll know that you'll like the second as well. I really want to read the third book, which is coming out pretty soon. It's about the last of the crew, 18 year old Jeret, who is always the guy who seems to draw my attention whenever he's in the scene. I just love him, he's quite a unique character that I can't describe, but you have to read to see for yourself. So even if this book was only so so for me, I'm glad that I read it so that I could read Jeret's upcoming book :)...more
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into theReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into the swing of reviews and get caught up on some of them, especially the two serials from Storm Moon Press, which before getting sick I was thoroughly enjoying. I suppose it isn't so bad being able to read more than one of them in a row, especially with the Cari Z's Cambion serial.
We ended the second story in the Cambion serial ("Black Magic Woman") with the pair gearing up to flee Las Vegas. The City of Sin turned out to have more of a bite than these two were expecting and gave both of them a reminder that though they have some pretty powerful weapons on their sides, they aren't infallible. In the process of seeking a witch to divine the location of their quarry, Porter Grey, Devon lost his sense of touch for three days. What seemed like one of the better sense to gamble (rather than say, his sight) turns out to be almost impossible to deal with and Devon is relegated to letting Rio take care of him.
The pair flee Vegas to find Porter Grey, who according to the information of the witch Lynlis is in Seattle. But Devon is not up for any kind of mission, so they instead decide to stop in Oregon to visit Devon's dads. Ren and Emile are an enigma with many of their own secrets to keep. They're foster parents to cambions, teaching them to control their powers. But going home only highlights the growing feelings between Rio and Devon and puts Rio and his secrets in even more of a precarious position.
I think that what I liked so much about this third installment into the Cambion world is that it takes what we saw in the second and continues to develop it. Of course, some pretty big secrets come out, including the one Rio's been trying to hide, but while it was nice to find out what he really is, I liked seeing the developing intimacy between him and Devon even more. Devon's vulnerability stemming from losing his sense of touch brings that connection to the forefront; for the first time, Devon has to overlook his pride and accept help and seeing Devon in such a state shows Rio just how much he cares for the cambion.
Cari mentioned after my review of the second story that soon after this third one we'd get back to more of the action. It makes sense if you're considering it by the story. Now that they've gone home and their relationship is on much firmer ground than the casual sexual and professional relationship they had in the first story, it makes sense that the last half of this season will return the focus to their hunt of the demon summoner, Porter Grey.
I'm looking forward to story #4 (not long of a wait!) and in particular hopefully finding out more about Ren and Emile or seeing if they play any further part in the story. I also can't wait to see when Devon finds out what Ren is and by proxy what his dads are :)
If you haven't started this serial then this is a good time to get in on the action, with half of it now over (at least, these first 6 installments). If you buy the season as a bundle you get some free goodies along with it, the first of which was just sent out -- free story "The South Beach Job", which takes us back several years to Rio and Devon's earlier professional relationship when their sexual one is just starting. It's a good story that shows them before they change by their association with the other. Plus, it's always fun watching Devon in slut mode ;)...more
Not a lot more than some hot smut. It was pretty sweet and pretty short for being split between two couples, but I needed to tur2.5 stars (rounded up)
Not a lot more than some hot smut. It was pretty sweet and pretty short for being split between two couples, but I needed to turn my brain off for a while and this was good for that. Plus, I mean, it's brothercest and I always love that!...more
This is the second book of my Author Backlist Project for Mary Calmes and I'm so glad I chose this author first.Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the second book of my Author Backlist Project for Mary Calmes and I'm so glad I chose this author first. I've always really liked her books in a past, but I've missed a few of them here and there, this one included. I actually had a few problems with this book, but one thing was done so absolutely well (the character development) that I just couldn't give it less than a Really Liked It rating.
That, ultimately, is really what makes this story so incredibly special. Landry is most often seen as the fucked up guy in their relationship but Trevan has a lot of issues as well. But somehow, this author made these characters that so so messed up and also who sometimes aren't exactly likable, accessible and understanding to us through their love for each other and in Trevan's case a very strong moral compass (skewed according to convention, yes, but still unyielding). Trevan refers to them early in the story has completely codependent, but that it is okay because it works. That's the truth. Landry is barely capable of making it through the day on his own, but Trevan needs to take care of him, needs the control in a way that is unique to him. I almost don't even know how Mary Calmes pulled this off. Their relationship is so unusual, but so utterly charming at the same time and almost the whole story is devoted to the psychology of it all, but completely under the radar. So much so that by the end of the story I felt like the story had been about something totally different (the external plot) but that I knew these characters way better than I know most when I finish a book. That is to be commended.
I found it a little unfortunate that we don't know Landry's family better since the end of the book really has a lot to do with them, but then I understood it as well. The last 60% or so reminded me quite a bit of A Matter of Time and this whole story had a lot of Mary's trademark zinging dialogue that I've grown to love. Ultimately, how you feel about this book depends on how you will feel about the relationship. I can't say that I loved the characters, but I liked them a lot and respected the hell out of them. I felt a bit like there wasn't a driving focus in the plot, and that's why I say that how you feel about the relationship will affect how you feel about the book. There are two real sub-plots, Landry and his family and Trevan and his "job." Maybe it is that I'm used to a traditional narrative that I'm finding this hazy, but ultimately it didn't overly affect my enjoyment of the story and you have to give Mary Calmes props for this book.
These two books I've read, this one and last week's book, Acrobat, are two of the best books this author has written in my opinion. Still, Acrobat takes the cake for my favorite. I liked this one a lot, but I didn't love it....more
Pretty disappointing, although I wouldn't say that the quality is TOO different from typical Joyee Flynn stories. Maybe it also se1.75 stars
Pretty disappointing, although I wouldn't say that the quality is TOO different from typical Joyee Flynn stories. Maybe it also seems worse because the one before this is one of the better Joyee Flynn books....more
I actually liked this one the best of all three. This is a very straight-forward bite-size increment shifter series, but this story went a li3.5 stars
I actually liked this one the best of all three. This is a very straight-forward bite-size increment shifter series, but this story went a little bit deeper. Instead of a simple outside threat, there were a few more plot twists and I found not only James' illness a nice change to the series, but the particular reason for his affliction. It was more interesting and seemed to have a bit more meat behind the story. Much more enjoyable....more
I've meant to read this for a long time now, and lately I've been on a SF kick, especially an interspecies union kick, so I thought I'd pull this oneI've meant to read this for a long time now, and lately I've been on a SF kick, especially an interspecies union kick, so I thought I'd pull this one out. Though the writing is solid, it wasn't much for me. There's very little little world building and the aliens weren't very alien, just humans with wings. What I like about the alien/human pairing in these stories is working through the differences, the culture shock, the alien world... whatever it is as long as it is actually alien.
The romance is really quite sweet and I imagine that most people will enjoy it. There wasn't enough of a connection for me between the characters to make up for the lack of the other elements I was hoping for -- so I was ultimately disappointed and ended up skimming a few parts (the sex) because I just didn't feel it....more
I really liked this short by KR Foster -- sweet, a little bit sad, and a lot hopeful. The only niggle I had was the head-hopping, which constantly madI really liked this short by KR Foster -- sweet, a little bit sad, and a lot hopeful. The only niggle I had was the head-hopping, which constantly made me go back a paragraph to make sure who was the focus of the narration. Other than that, it was a sweet and endearing story....more
From what I understand, this is the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transgeReview #2 for Reviews by Jessewave
From what I understand, this is the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transgendered people in a starring role. Sure, there have been books (not many, though) that deal with varying gender discussions in all sorts of ways, occasionally in the forefront, but not often, and very rarely about trans, intersex, or gender fluid people (thought that is a completely different discussion). Like all marginalized populations there is often several turnings of the tide, and with last week’s post by Jaye Valentine and Wave on men who cross dress (you can see it here, if you missed it), the growing group of m/m readers who are calling for books that look into the lives of a more diverse group of people, and this new shiny book by LA Witt just recently released by Amber Allure, it is high time, I think for a book about this subject that reaches this audience. Sure, not every book is to everyone’s taste for a variety of different reasons, but I’m happy to read an m/m book that delved more deeply into this subject, and I hope most readers agree with me. And though I would never have though to explore that in a paranormal subtext, I can see how the idea of shifting between genders, a familiar trope, can be used to illustrate the warring factions some people have between their brain and their body. Now that I’ve had my say — off to the review.
The book opens from the POV of Damon Bryce, worried about his girlfriend Alex who he hasn’t seen or spoken to in over two days. They’ve been dating for two years, and Damon is worried about the silence. Alex left him last to meet her parents, a pair of extremely radical fundamentalists, and the visits always send Alex into a spiraling depression that can last days or weeks. Yet, Damon loves Alex, and no matter how often she pushes him away for what seems no reason at all, or refuses to marry him, he knows he has to check up on her. When he arrives at her house, a nearly naked man answers the door and Damon’s first thought is in anger, assuming Alex is cheating on him. Yet the man is in pain, something about a terrible headache and he can barely walk. After getting the strange man settled on Alex’s couch, he finally listens to the man’s story — or rather, Alex’s story.
Alex is a shifter, a small group of people that are able to shift between both genders. He has been afraid to tell Damon because of the suffering and rejection experienced growing up in such a hostile home. Furthermore, Alex is regretful that she didn’t tell Damon before this point because now he’s stuck, unable to shift, after his parents drugged him and had a shady surgeon implant a black market device in his spine, which in their eyes will make him right with God. The loss of his female form is staggering. As a shifter that generally spends an equal amount of time in each body, he feels the extreme loss of half of his identity. Not only that, but the after-affects of the surgery seems the be the most terrible headache in existence.
Damon takes Alex to the hospital where Alex finds that the surgery had caused a spinal fluid leak, resulting in the terrible pain in his head. The situation isn’t serious, but they both soon learn exactly what his parents have done with their illegal actions. The implant may not be stable and could cause paralysis and death. The removal of the implant is incredibly expensive and infinitely more dangerous than the original procedure. And even if Alex is able to get the implant removed, he still might never be able to shift again. Alex also has to decide if it is worth pressing charges against his parents. He wants to save his little sister Candace from his parents clutches, but she already seems to be brainwashed against him. And on top of all that, how will Damon deal with him now being a man? Damon doesn’t know what to think. He loves Alex, but he keeps trying to find the woman he loves in the man standing before him. Can they have a relationship that isn’t sexual? Or is it possible that he can see past the biological trappings and focus on the person he loves with all his heart?
This is a slow story, that really isn’t a romance until quite far into the book. I have been very interested in other people’s reception of this book since it came out earlier this week and I have seen some people say that they don’t believe this is actually a romance. I disagree — sure, it isn’t typical, especially in m/m where the majority of our hero’s are strapping bucks with devilish smiles and killer sex drives. Maybe a better classification for this is a love story (and don’t get upset guys, I don’t mean that this doesn’t end with an HEA, which is all I’ll say about the ending). What I loved most, I suppose, is Damon’s slow realization of what love really means. Damon is a steady and empathic man. He isn’t afraid of what his friends and co-workers will think of Alex being a shifter. The issues he needs to work through are purely internal, and the issues he worked through and the support he offered were heartening to me.
Alex is an example of what a harsh world can make of a person. He is a puzzle to be solved as we slowly learn more about his childhood and how those experiences correlate to his fear of being touched at times, his deep pits of despair, and his self-medication with alcohol. The change of his body to match the gender of his mind at any given time has really been his only therapy in life, and when it is gone, he has no way to cope. What I found most interesting in the discussion within this novel about gender shifters and transgendered people were the differences between them. I loved Tabitha, Alex’s best friend and boss — a biological man who identifies as female, but until such time as a safer and better surgery is invented is permanently pre-op. When Alex loses his ability to shift he unexpectedly leans on Tabitha and can finally understand what it must be like to be faced with the possibility of permanently feeling like you reside in the wrong body. Still, Alex is lucky in that half the time he feels male. He still has a reprieve from that crushing feeling. The exploration of the issues was done very sensitively and thoroughly and presents a real challenge for the romance between Alex and Damon.
There are quite a few surprises within, and let me tell you, it has been quite difficult to talk around them all (so I hope I’ve done a good job). Some readers may find fault with the ending, but I didn’t. I was surprised that I wasn’t surprised, if that makes any sense. The ending is definitely open to interpretation, which I thought really worked for the couple and I could see their way forward in a very clear light. LA Witt has impressed me in a quite a few of her books with the deep psychological dynamics that arise between her characters. She has her characters really work through their problems. I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you felt the same with this book. I was certainly satisfied and I came away from the book still thinking about what she wrote days later. No matter your reception to the story, that’s worth a lot. Last, but definitely not least, during my reading I kept thinking of this story as a GFY plotline. Now, I’ve changed my mind. I think this is a story about finding someone who is the right person for you. I think that is the real message Witt was trying to show.
NOTE: As for the use of pronouns, I stuck with a similar usage as the novel. NOTE 2: I think this is one of the most beautiful Amber Allure covers I’ve seen yet, and I think it does justice to the story.
Original GR Review - June 30
I've been a fan of LA Witt for a while and I'm always a fan of her stories dealing with very deep and convoluted relationship dynamics. This is another story in that vein, but this time she tackles the subject of gender and people who are intersex all with a very clever paranormal twist.
Alex is a shifter (gender shifter) that was born male. While every shifter is different in this society that reflects a contemporary US, Alex is pretty even divided in which gender he prefers, simply changing his body to match the gender he feels in his mind. There are two problems, however. One, Alex has been dating Damon for two years now -- as a female, and hasn't yet worked up the courage to tell Damon that she is male also; and two, Alex's radially fundamentalist mother and step-father have been pressuring Alex to surgically implant a device that will cause Alex to become static, remain in one gender. The story starts from the POV of Damon, not having seen or heard from Alex in over two days after he knew Alex was meeting her parents. He goes to look for her and finds a man in her house. After a very surprising conversation for him, Alex tells Damon that she went to her parents house, where they proceeded to drug him and have a shady back-alley surgeon implant a black-market device into his spine against his will. For the time being, until he can make sure that the forced surgery wasn't botched, whether to decide to press charges against his parents, and whether it will be possible for him to have the implant removed, he is stuck in the male form. Along with his manic depression over sometimes being in the wrong body and his fear that he'll be stuck that way forever, Alex will have to work out his relationship with Damon, a completely straight man who can't seem to find the woman he loves in the man that now stands in her place.
I thought this was a beautiful story about what it means to love a person -- their soul and not the trappings that surround it. Who are we really at our core, and what difference does societal pressure put on us to conform? LA Witt deals with some heavy issues here and this is not a light read, though the emotions are well balanced throughout the novel. The pace is very slow, as much of the story from Damon's POV revolves around his growing awareness of what it means to be a shifter, and how he can stand by Alex. Can he find a way to love the man? Or will he be able to see that the man and the woman are the same person? It is a very interesting take on the GFY trope, and one that I felt was handled very well.
Kudos goes to Witt for her creation of Alex's friend Tabitha and the gang at The Welcome Mat, the bar which Alex bartends and also Alex's safe haven away from the world. I also loved the sub-plot of Alex's little sister Candace, though I wish that we'd gotten to know her a just a little better. Most of all, I found this story fascinating. Usually with a slowly paced book such as this, I find myself reading at a slow pace, but I devoured this book, unable to put it down.
A favorite for sure, and possibly my favorite of LA Witt's works so far....more