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Heart of the South #3

Worth Fighting For

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For two gay men in the Deep South, fighting for love and family can lead to one beautiful, sexy, and unexpected knock out . . .

In college, an “are you sure you’re gay?” experiment with his (female) best friend left Sterling Harper married with a baby on the way. Eleven years later, his life is flipped upside-down—his wife has died, his “little boy” is transitioning to her new life as a girl, Alexa, and his embittered in-laws have proven too transphobic to babysit for the summer like they’d planned. They’re fighting for custody of Alexa, though, so Sterling can’t afford to give them more ammunition. If only there were a nice, conservative, trans-preteen-friendly nanny available on short notice . . .

Jericho Johnston doesn’t do “conservative,” but Alexa takes to him immediately. He’s got a teaching job lined up for the fall, a killer smile, and loads of charisma . . . but he is not going back in the proverbial closet. It doesn’t take long for the two men to go from comrades-in-arms against their rarified community to two men in love. This kicks off the looming custody battle with Sterling’s bigoted in-laws, though, and the idea of two gay men raising a trans daughter isn’t going over well with anyone. Now, with so much to lose, Sterling and Jericho must fight harder than ever—for themselves, for Alexa, and for their future.

186 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 14, 2018

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About the author

Wendy Qualls

10 books80 followers
Wendy Qualls was a small ­town librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer. At that point she put her expensive and totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two girls, two dogs, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. Wendy can be found on Twitter as @wendyqualls. She is represented by Moe Ferrara of BookEnds Literary Agency.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Sandra .
1,674 reviews308 followers
November 20, 2018
This is the third book in a series, but can be read as a standalone - I haven't read the previous books, and had no issues at all here.

When in college, Sterling had a little "are you sure you're gay" experiment with his female best friend, which resulted in a pregnancy and a subsequent marriage. Now 11 years later, Sterling has lost his wife, and is now raising Alexa, his trans daughter on his own.

As his in-laws are homophobic and transphobic a-holes who continue to deadname Sterling's daughter, he's not willing to leave Alexa with them for the summer as planned, and hires someone to be a live-in nanny instead, while he goes to work as a busy dentist in a praxis he hopes to buy out at some point.

Enter Jericho. Needing a transitional job before starting a teaching position after the summer, Jericho jumps at the chance to move in with Sterling and Alexa. As a gay POC, he knows only too well how bigoted people in the Deep South still are, and it comes as no surprise to him that the in-laws are a-holes.

With close proximity, the two men build a strong friendship that slowly turns to more - while falling in love wasn't in the plans, love happens when you least expect it. Obviously, Sterling coming out as gay, having a gay live-in lover, and raising his daughter, enrages the in-laws, and they sue for custody.

I really like both Sterling and Jericho quite a bit. Sterling clearly struggles - not only is he deeply in the closet, he's also realizing that loving his daughter for who she is unfortunately isn't enough. He has to learn to navigate the waters of handling a pre-teen, with all that entails, on top of Alexa's transition and the subsequent issues at school and elsewhere (people are awful, as expected). Sterling needs to find some backbone - his desire to keep everyone happy, to not argue, to not stand up for himself only backfires, and it wasn't until the very last moment that he found the strength to fight back, just in the nick of time.

Jericho is much stronger than Sterling. Having dealt most of his life with prejudice in small town southern USA, he provides quiet support to Sterling as the man finds his way, but also becomes a strong advocate for Alexa's transition, shielding her from her grandparents' hate as much as he can. He's fully aware that the job is temporary, and that the relationship may not survive the summer, but he's willing to risk his heart to help Jed and Alexa navigate through the struggles.

While the in-laws appear to be caricature Southern Baptists Bigots, I have heard too many people utter the same homophobic and transphobic BS they spew in the area in which I live, and I know that this stuff is still rampant among the oh-so-Christian people in the South. Christ would be horrified if he knew what misery and hate people spread in his name.

Obviously, there are some tense, nail-biting moments, as we fear with Sterling and Jericho to find out whether Alexa will be forced to live with the bigots and as the boy she isn't, or if she'll be allowed to stay with her father, who loves her unconditionally and only wants what is best for her.

Spoiler (not really) - Love Wins!

Thankfully, things are starting to slowly change in this country, despite those who are still screaming their bigotry from the pulpit, as the younger generations stop buying into hatred, and start looking at people as just that - people.

I loved this book. This is the type of book we clamor for - positive and inclusive of all things LGBTQ, and a realistic portrayal of complex characters. More of this, please!

** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. **

Profile Image for Fabi.
1,009 reviews145 followers
August 5, 2018
This is a very inclusive, and positive LGBTQ story. It has three main characters. An out and proud, gay POC man. A buried in the closet, white gay cis man. And a 10 year old transgender girl at the start of her transition.

The story is more about life than it is about romance. However, it's a new and budding romance that gives life the impetus it needs to make changes.

Sterling is a widower with a young, transgender child on the spectrum. His in-laws refuse to accept their grandchild's transition so leaving her with them over summer break would be disastrous. On short notice, Sterling looks for a summer nanny.

Jericho Johnston has a degree in childhood special education and years of experience working with children from all walks of life. Recently back from a 3 year stint in Haiti, he just needs a summer gig to tide him over until the new school year starts.

Ten year old Alexa used to be Oscar. She basically stole the show in this endearing tale of family and community and personal honesty. I dare you not to fall in love with Alexa while reading this book.

At times I considered whether she was being portrayed as too mature for her age. But you know that it's life experience that matures us, not necessarily years of life. This little girl dealt with more than most adults do.

Hats off to her supportive father. I empathized with his responsibility and adult decisions. I felt his struggle to always do the right thing.. He also came across as too old for his age. But again, life experience.

Jericho, the live in nanny - wow, can we all please have a Jericho in our lives? He was a wonderfully supportive man who came from a wonderfully supportive family.

I enjoyed the story. It was very much outside of my personal experience. If I'm completely honest I'll admit that I may have felt just a little uncomfortable at times with the age of the transgender girl. But I recognize that is me being old and sheltered and not a reflection on the story itself. Kudos to the author for writing a story that needs telling. A story exposing homophobia, transphobia, racism, and classism.

Review ARC graciously provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Nee.
206 reviews52 followers
August 9, 2018
Wow! I truly enjoyed reading this well written story! Sterling is widowed and raising his 10 year old daughter whom transitioned into one brave, smart, and witty young lady! Sterling hires a nanny to help out with Alexa while he works as a dentist. The nanny names is Jericho aka Mr. J, it’s just amazing how great he is with guiding and helping Alexa during her transitioning as well as important aspects of life! Sparks fly between Jericho and Sterling things get steamy!! Want to know the rest dontcha! Go read this book you won’t regret it!!😊😊😊I just love them together! A must read!!!❤️ Thanks Wendy Qualls you rock! 😉😊😊
Profile Image for Book Gannet.
1,572 reviews18 followers
August 13, 2018
I found this book really frustrating, because while I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of it, the last bit was far too rushed. The steady pacing that drew me in completely collapsed at the end and left me feeling a little disappointed.

First off, the characters are great. Jericho is an absolute sweetheart who is perfect with kids, patient with Sterling and absolutely gorgeous on top. He doesn’t appear to have a single flaw, except for one unexpectedly cowardly moment. Other than that he is amazing. Alexa is also pretty great as she transitions over the school holidays and has so much fun with Jericho. Sterling was probably the weakest character of the three, but then he’s also the one with the most stress and is dealing with all the problems. I still liked him, and loved how supportive he was of Alexa, I just wished he would slow down and think about what he actually wanted from life instead of coasting along and panicking when someone asked him about it.

The three of them are great together and I loved seeing all their relationships deepen. Especially when Jericho finally makes a move on Sterling. It takes a while and their relationship grows very slowly, which is fine given the context of the story, but it did mean everything at the end was rushed.

Because there is a lot going on at the end. One moment things are going in a cautiously positive direction, then everything blows up and suddenly there’s a custody case, Alexa is back at school and struggling, and the relationship is broken. All of this comes up and gets resolved in about two chapters, and that didn’t work for me. Jericho and Sterling never really talk. Which really annoyed me, because while Jericho is clearly all in, Sterling is so much harder to read and he clearly has no idea what he wants. I felt that Jericho deserved better, and wished they’d had a chance to talk it out instead of this rushed-up “Ta-dah! Everything’s perfect now!” fix.

Which is a real shame, because the rest of this book is an amazingly LGBTQ+ positive family story with a mixed race romance. Yes, it does also deal with transphobia, homophobia and racism, but the bonds between the main three are delightful. I just wish the pacing hadn’t collapsed. Because if I hadn’t loved everything else so much, I wouldn’t have felt so let down by the end.

(ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.)
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,290 reviews412 followers
August 17, 2018
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.5 stars

After reading and reviewing the first of this series (Worth Waiting For), I was excited to be able to read this book. I had high hopes because I really did enjoy the first, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the slightest. This was an incredible story, with characters I fell in love with. I read it straight through in one sitting. It was compelling and captured me from the very first page.

My heart hurt for Sterling. He seemed…lost. He had a very busy work schedule and was considering buying out the share of the other dentist in the practice. He didn’t get to spend enough time with Alexa, and he felt awful about that. Her transition was difficult at the end of the last school year. Other children laughed at her when she showed up in a dress and told them. His in-laws are trans/homophobic and have accused Sterling of abusing Alexa by allowing her to go through this “phase.” To top it off, Alexa is on the Autism spectrum and she sometimes has angry meltdowns. The man needed someone like Jericho, not only a help with Alexa, but to be a calming influence on him.

Read Kenna’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Roberta Blablanski.
Author 4 books62 followers
July 12, 2018
***ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange for honest and impartial review.***

This is not your typical romance story and that's what made me like this book so much. Sterling is raising his 10 year old daughter, Alexa, alone after his wife's passing. He hires Jericho as Alexa's live-in babysitter for the summer. The reader gets a unique insight into Alexa and her transition to the girl she knows she is. I appreciated Alexa's perspective as a young person beginning the transition process and all the challenges that come with it. The reader also gets Sterling's perceptive as a closeted gay, single dad struggling to cope with the loss of his wife, the out-right nastiness of his in-laws, all the while he has his hands full of a rambunctious child. Jericho's perspective is that of a gay POC living in a closed-minded environment.

The author does a great job of developing each characters' own voice. I sympathized with each of their varying struggles. There's no sugar-coating or skimming of serious issues that come with being transgender and autistic, black and gay, and gay and closeted. A book simply cannot have such varying, unique characters without addressing homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism.

Sterling is a great parent to Alexa, and Jericho is the perfect addition as her advocate. Jericho helps dad and daughter navigate the ups and downs of her transition, and I just wanted to hug him for being so awesome.

The romance between Sterling and Jericho is definitely a slow burn, but once Sterling gets his head out of his butt, theses guys can't keep their hands off each other. They are so sweet with each other and i loved reading their growing connection.

If you're looking for something different from the norm, the book is worth the read.
Profile Image for Diane Dannenfeldt.
3,430 reviews54 followers
July 21, 2018
I really enjoyed this one a lot. I was worried that I was going to be lost as I didn’t know when I requested the book that it was part of a series. We I wasn’t lost and it can be read as a stand-alone. We have the story of Sterling who is a widower trying to raise has trans daughter on his own. He inlaws are nasty pieces who refuse to acknowledge her as Alexa. They are supposed to watch her for the summer but Sterling changes his mind when they won’t accept Alexa for who she actually is and the mother-in-law cuts a chunk out of Alexa’s hair to make her look more like the boy she was born as. Needless to say Sterling loses his shit and tells them they will not be watching her for the summer. Sterling meets Jericho during and interview to find a live-in nanny and there is an immediate attraction. Things are not all rainbows and unicorns. The nasty in-laws accuse Jericho of some horrible things when they first meet him and decide that they are going to file for custody. There were a couple of small issues I had with the story. The first was, Jericho didn’t have a conversation with Sterling and just takes off. The second is I didn’t like that Alexa still called Jericho Mr. J in the epilogue, they are living as a family and I would think at the very least she would have called him by his first name. And the last is the book cover. Now I may be wrong, because it isn’t real clear but, Jericho is a bald black man and the person on the cover doesn’t really look like a bald black man. But as I said these were small issues and didn’t take away from the story. I will need to go and read the other books in the series.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cee Brown.
1,305 reviews34 followers
August 14, 2018
💫✨✨💫3.5 fighting stars💫✨✨💫

When I read the blurb, I was quite interested in these men's story, and what a tale they had to tell. Sterling, a single, gay man who found himself in a marriage of convenience due to impending fatherhood after questioning by his best friend. Then Jericho, a gay man who had to seek his closet all over again for a job he desired. Throw in a trans daughter, homophobic/trans-phobic grandparents and you certainly have a story worth fighting for.

As always I kept an open mind when reading and I feel as if the author did a wonderful job of presenting Alexa and her father's drive to do whatever it took to make his child happy. I wanted Sterling to have more of a backbone, but not everyone can be tough fighting all the time. The relationship, though slow burn, was well written also. The hesitance, the way they navigated everything was told with a realism that I could envision. With so much going on in the book, it was good to see a summer job became a love of a lifetime.

I voluntarily and honestly reviewed this book without bias or persuasion from the publisher through Netgalley.
Profile Image for JD Crittendon.
1,118 reviews10 followers
February 26, 2019
Worth Reading!

3 1/2 ⭐️⭐️⭐️! A likable, heartwarming, romantic story between special needs teacher Jericho & Dr. Dentist Sterling & transitioning “Alexa”.
Profile Image for Kirstin.
1,755 reviews15 followers
July 13, 2018
I was given this ARC in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley.

Sterling Harper is going through the motions of life when his wife dies and his son (who's on the spectrum) decides she wants to transition. In an effort to find a home provider/nanny for the summer he finds Jericho Johnson. Jericho is a spec ed teacher by day and a gay man by night.

The team dynamic is great from the start. I loved the writing. It was a sweet story with good forward momentum and the characters were true to form. There was definitely a possibility for this to go off the rails with depth of transgender, autism, gay, legal issues, but it stayed the course and was enjoyable.

It was definitely worth my time and a good, quick read.
Profile Image for Lauren loves llamas.
800 reviews60 followers
August 19, 2018
Trigger warnings: racism, homophobia, transphobia

I think this could easily have turned into an after school special sort of book. After all, we’ve got a gay black special ed teacher who’s just back from volunteering in Haiti, a closeted widower, and a trans tween girl with autism, all set in a rich, white Southern neighborhood. However, what we end up with instead is a sweet story about both love and family.

“God, was Jericho some kind of sexier, trans-friendly Mary Poppins?”

When widower Sterling has to look for a summer nanny on short notice – thanks to his in-laws’ complete inability to accept that Alexa is trans, including forcibly cutting her hair – he lucks out with a reference for special needs teacher Jericho, newly arrived back in the States after spending a few years volunteering in Haiti. Not only is he amazing with Alexa, he’s also easy on the eyes, though that’s something that firmly-in-the-closet Sterling tries to ignore. As the summer progresses, though, and they find themselves acting more like a family than a nanny and his employer, both Jericho and Sterling must decide whether what they have has to end with the summer, or whether they’re willing to fight for their new love.

“You’re the best daughter a dad could ever hope for,” Sterling said, and pressed a kiss to the top of her head as soon as she held still long enough. “I’m happy for you to feel pretty, Pup, but no matter what you look like you’ll still be you. And I love you more than I can ever say.”

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a ton of experience with trans people, especially trans kids, but it felt like everything was handled with sensitivity. Sterling was, in some ways, the poster dad for how to handle a trans kid, and Jericho seemed perfectly placed with ties to the community to help both him and Alexa. At times she did seem too mature for her age, but I’ve found that to be true with some kids on the spectrum. Alexa hesitated to tell her dad just how badly the kids at school were treating her – just how badly her grandparents were treating her – out of not wanting to burden him anymore. Where Sterling failed, though, Jericho was there to fill in the gaps. One of the sweet things about them as a couple was how well they complemented each other, plus their romance was absolutely adorable. Yes, there’s lots of chemistry and it’s plenty steamy, but the moments that stuck with me are the adorable ones – for instance, them holding hands during sex. Even as their romance progressed, though, they both understood why Sterling wanted to keep it secret, and why it couldn’t continue past the summer.

“You’re the upstanding, heterosexual widower, who doesn’t date anyone and devotes himself to his child and…I don’t know. Learns knitting, maybe. Bonsai. Spends every day pining over your late wife’s memory. You’re worried that if you stop pretending, someone’s going to see that you aren’t actually the dad equivalent of June Cleaver, and it’s all going to come crashing down.”

My biggest pet peeve with the book was that the grandparents were just so stereotypically bad people. While care was taken to point out that their bigotry was not religiously motivated – they’re the kind of people who attend church more because it’s simply what the right sort of people do rather than out of any sort of actual faith – they’re not only blatantly transphobic but also racist and homophobic, going as far as to basically accuse Jericho of being a pedophile. Honestly, I would’ve preferred if they’d been a bit more gray morally – if they’d been portrayed as people who deeply loved Alexa but just struggled with ingrained prejudices and truly thought they were doing what was right for their grandkid. As it was, we’re left more with the sense that the only reason they had any relationship with her was because it was the thing to do. A more minor quibble was that the “black moment” happened so late in the book that there was very little time left to resolve both it and the big custody battle.

Overall, this was such a lovely, inclusive romance, and I will definitely be looking forward to Ms. Qualls’ next book!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,659 reviews46 followers
August 12, 2018
I received a copy of Worth Fighting For from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I was really intrigued about this book when I first heard about it. It follows Sterling, a white dentist in a small town whose daughter recently came out as trans, and Jericho, a Black special needs teacher who spent the last three years closeted teaching in Haiti, as they spend the summer getting to know each other and developing a romantic/sexual relationship. The biggest conflict in Alexa’s grandparents, who refuse to call her by her correct name and constantly misgender her. The conflict cumulates into a custody battle because the grandparents believe that Sterling allowing his daughter to dress and act as herself is abusive.

This had SO. MUCH. transmisia , that at times it felt excessive. We mainly get it through the beginning and at the end, and largely from grandparents. Alexa talks about the people at school also being mean, but that isn’t as large a part of the story as her experiences with her grandparents.

I liked the beginning of Jericho and Sterling because it felt a little slow-burn but the transition into a sexual relationship felt a little abrupt and awkward to me. The ending was emotional hit and I cried, but in some ways I loved the relationship and friendship between Alexa and Jericho more than I liked the relationship between Sterling and Jericho.

Overall, this was an interesting book and I liked that Sterling supported his daughter from the get-go with occasional name-slip-ups, but there were definitely times I felt the transmisia and misgendering were excessive.

Content notes:

〰️ transmisia (esp from grandparents)
〰️ changing granddaughter’s clothes
〰️ trying to force “boy’s” haircut on granddaughter
〰️ deadnamed by grandparents
〰️ father calls grandmother out on transmisia
〰️ “exotic locales”
〰️ casual ableism
〰️ daughter is on the spectrum - some of dad’s heads up to sitter make me uncomfortable...
- Alexa is on the spectrum. She doesn’t always make the most logical decisions, so you may end up spending half the summer reminding her not to take stupid risks in the name of curiosity. She also gets fixated on the strangest things and wants to talk about the same topics over and over again.
〰️ death of wife in past - cerebral aneurysm
〰️ meeting a trans woman and thinking “Regina was stunning. Not in a “man who looks feminine” sense, or even “that woman is hot”—Sterling’s first impression of her was more akin to damn, that is a gorgeous human being.” Whyyyyy the “man who looks feminine” bit???????????
〰️ mention of bullying/kids being mean
〰️ racism
〰️ alcohol consumption
〰️ watching porn together
〰️ masturbation
〰️ on page sex
〰️ commenting on contrast of skin tones
〰️ misgendering
〰️ “being trans is a phase”
〰️ homomisia - esp equating gay with pedophile
〰️ “more than friends”
〰️ using African-American instead of Black to describe Jericho’s race - by Sterling, not clear how Jericho may ID
〰️ amanormativity - assumption that one day Alexa will experience romantic attraction
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Isaiah.
Author 1 book76 followers
January 21, 2022
To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews.

I got an ARC of this book.

I was pretty terrified of this book when I saw some of my friends starting to read it. The fact that this book featured a very young trans character spooked me. I am always afraid of what drama the author will put that character through and how awful the representation will be. Qualls nailed it. Everything about the trans character screamed “real person that just so happens to be starting her transition”. There was so much more to Alexa than her being trans, though other people wanted to only see that aspect. All of her plot lines seemed well done and I am so very thankful for that.

The main plot was the romance between Jericho and Sterling. This was a slow burn that started as purely physical that magically morphed into love (I really hate how this is seen as the normal for M/M relationships and even dating advice articles talk about how to turn that hook-up into more since it was so fun). Thankfully the plot went far beyond the physical, otherwise I would have had a lot more issues.

My main issue with the nanny to lover plot is it read just like another book I have read in the last year which was fake husband to lover. Everything had to be hidden and quiet, sneaking around the queer kid that was queerer than the grown men. If I hadn’t read that other book, then I might have enjoyed this one a bit more since this one had more substance to it.

The sex scenes ranged from the more innocent to some very general vanilla sex. The first few times that the two guy got together wasn’t penetration, but condom use was still super off. There were multiple blowjobs, there was a scene about swallowing, and rimming all without condoms despite the activities being risky (technically). Neither men discussed their last STD/STD test results or if they were ever tested. One of the characters only had sex once in his life eleven years prior. The other hadn’t been with anyone in three years. They discussed all of that, but not what their status was or condom use. There weren’t even condoms in the house until they had planned on having a whole evening together. There was a scene where buying the condoms was embarrassing because the self-check was out of order. There was more about buying the condoms then the risks they were taking without them. Though the actual penetration scene did have a lot of talk of lube and stretching. There was a lot about being tense and being careful. It was a wonderful change from just ramming home and done.

Overall, I was so into this story. It hit so many of my buttons. Smart, nerdy, insecure men that need some healing and support: check. Dedicated fathers who are really trying their best: check. Overall really good men who actively try and help others: HUGE CHECK.

If you need a sweet story with a bit of a waves that aren’t overly dramatic, this is a great choice. The drama is very well controlled and very believable. It was the type or romance novel that I would be happy to star in.
Profile Image for Vikki.
22 reviews3 followers
July 9, 2018
**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review**

I downloaded this book with a bit of hesitance as I had previously read the first book in this series and wasn't a fan. However this one was so much better and I finished it in one sitting as I couldn't put it down.

The story focuses on Sterling Harper, a recently widowed single father and his struggle to raise his trans daughter Alexa in the bible belt town of Willow heights. After an argument with his wife's grandparents over their acceptance of Alexa, Sterling is forced to hire a nanny to babysit her over summer break. Enter Jericho the openly gay and very attractive special ed teacher who manages to turn both Sterling and Alexa's life around in just a few short weeks.

I felt like this book story had its positives and negatives. I loved Alexa so much as she was such a sweetheart but I thought at times some of the things she said/words she used were just a bit too advanced to be believed. I loved the fact that she was a young trans girl as this is something which isn't seen very often and any other books I've read with trans characters they have all been much older. Also I thought Sterling was such a great father to her even at times when he didn't fully understand but I could see he was doing his best to make her happy.

Jericho was just as likeable as Sterling and Alexa. He was just awesome from the word go for me and is everything an educator should be. You could feel his genuine love for Alexa and his job. I do wish however that the camp element would have been explored more as I would have liked to see more of him as well as his clearly awesome family.

One of my main criticisms was how the last quarter of the book was constructed. I felt like it was all wrapped up too nicely and quickly between the case involving Alexa to the immediate "I forgive you" between Sterling and Jericho in regard to their relationship. Also felt that some scenes were over explained and I found myself at times skipping a page here or there as it didn't really add anything important to the plot.

All in all I really enjoyed this story as I feel like it was a little different from the typical m/m romance novel. I would have loved to see a follow up to this story exploring the case and their relationship more but I hope there will be a fourth book in the series.
Profile Image for Fritz42.
1,266 reviews
February 4, 2019
It was the transgender aspect of this story that prompted me to read it.

Sterling is a widower with his recently transitioned, autistic 10-year old daughter, trying to get through his life. It's been two years since his wife's death. The two of them had been friends, caught up in an unexpected pregnancy when Sterling had slept with her during college to "see" if he was really gay. Working as a dentist, he was going to have his in-laws watch Alexa over the summer months. Only those plans changed when said in-laws refused to acknowledge and accept Alexa's gender identity.

Looking for a live-in nanny for the summer, he ends up interviewing Jericho for the position. Jericho is highly qualified, having a special ed teaching license and vast experience working with children with special needs and older trans children. He immediately bonds well with Alexa, and the three of them have a great relationship. Somewhere along the line, Sterling and Jericho notice the other's attraction, and the two of them add a sexual component to their relationship.

I loved Jericho's relationship with Alexa. He was so good for her, treating her with honesty and respect, helping her achieve more control with her emotions, and being there to encourage her every step of the way. I loved how he stood up for her, even when it was more difficult for her father.

I loved how Jericho was with Sterling, taking him by the hand and letting Sterling finally explore his sexuality in ways he had never been able to before.

I enjoyed the epilogue, seeing where Jericho, Sterling, and Alexa end up and seeing Lito and Dave from Worth Searching For.
Profile Image for Sherry.
724 reviews11 followers
August 12, 2018
2.5 stars

Worth Fighting For is a very low-key story, maybe too much so for a book that includes the word “fighting” in the title.

What initially attracted me to the book was the description of the plot, which involves a transitioning transgender child. That child was the result of a sexual experiment between Sterling and a female friend that both confirmed he was gay and led to a baby and a platonic marriage that ended with his wife’s death. Sterling’s in-laws’ refusal to accept their grandchild as a girl leads him to hire special ed teacher Jericho to take care of his daughter for the summer. Jericho just happens to be very handsome and gay, which leads to complications when their mutual attraction can’t be ignored.

So far, so good. The thing is, I expected that the book would include a lot more conflict than it does. The book description mentions a custody battle between Sterling and his in-laws, but that only flares up toward the end of the story and is resolved relatively quickly. It also references Jericho’s refusal to stay in the closet, but he’s not exactly flaming, and it doesn’t really become an issue until near the end of the novel.

So, not a lot of “fighting” goes on here. Mostly, it’s a story of two men becoming friends and then lovers. I’d say that the closest thing to conflict through most of the story is the struggle to have people accept the transitioning of Oscar to Alexa, and in my eyes, that was the most successful part of the novel.

Overall, this book didn’t really do it for me as a romance, but I did appreciate the emphasis on the importance of trans acceptance.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Cathy Geha.
3,551 reviews61 followers
August 14, 2018
Worth Fighting For by Wendy Qualls
Heart of the South #3

I had more trouble wrapping my mind around this book than the one that came before it. You have a LOT of information shared that can educate someone new to the genre BUT perhaps too much at times. The idea that this would be a story focusing on a custody case between widowed father and his in-laws was not the main focus that I thought it would be and in some ways dealt with too briefly. The romance was so-so but I really didn’t see what the two saw in one another…sure…they had a nice home life when Jericho came in to nanny for Sterling’s transgender daughter Alexa and there was attraction between the men but I didn’t really understand the deeper connection. I also did not understand Sterling. Why? Okay, he was definitely in the closet except to a few people BUT before he could rally explore his sexuality he was with a woman, she was pregnant and he gave up all he could be for his daughter. Sure, his wife Dana was his “friend” but I really don’t know what the couple had to make their lives plod on for a decade except the child they had together. So, in thinking about this book it is hard to really decide what I thought. I did like it in some ways but felt it could have been so much more if Sterling and Jericho talked more, if Alexa was perhaps not also dealing with Asperberger Syndrome on top of the transgender issue, if Sterling was a bit stronger character…with his mother he should have been, I think. Anyway, I liked it well enough to finish but really wondered how realistic it would be and if a story like this could or would ever happen in real life.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books – Lyrical Shine for the ARC – This is my honest review.

3 Stars
Profile Image for Jess Gabriel.
Author 4 books14 followers
August 17, 2018
Update to original review: It appears that the blurb has thankfully been updated and is now a more accurate representation of the book.

Original review to NetGalley:

I really enjoyed this. Wendy Qualls is a new author to me, and I wasn't disappointed.

First off, I will echo the other reviewers that the blurb isn't really an accurate representation of the book. It feels like the blurb was written before the book was ironed out and the author decided to shift focus. The transphobic grandparents do play an important part in the story, but this is NOT a book packed full of custody angst.

This was a relatively low-angst story of newly-transitioned Alexa, widowed Sterling, who is finally able to explore life as a gay man (and examine the consequences of coming out), and Jericho, a confident teacher with a heart of gold. I adored Alexa as a character. Yes, she was somewhat mature for her age, but I didn't think it was unrealistic. She really was the star of the story.

Jericho and Sterling's characters weren't quite as fully developed, but I still felt like I got a good sense of who they were. Their exploration together was sexy, but their relationship seemed to be a bit of a side-story. I didn't feel the chemistry between them until they admitted their attraction, and there wasn't time on page for their emotional relationship to develop. It felt a bit disjointed at times, and their ending felt abrupt.

With that being said, something really kept me drawn in, and I really enjoyed the familial interactions between the three of them. I'm not leaving feeling disappointed. I'm looking forward to see what Wendy Qualls comes up with next!

*Provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for ButtonsMom2003.
2,660 reviews13 followers
October 13, 2018
A very touching book.

Worth Fighting For is the third book in the Heart of the South series but it can be read as a standalone. This is the first book I've ever read with such a young transgender character. The blurb for the book describes the story well.

Sterling will not allow Alexa's maternal grandparents to care for her during the summer school break because they won't accept her transition. He hires Jericho to be with her and they all get along really well right from the get-go. Alexa is such a sweet girl most of the time. She is on the autism spectrum but that doesn't seem to affect her much unless she gets really upset about something. Jericho is a teacher and he is well equipped to care for Alexa and be the friend she needs to help her deal with the transphobic people she encounters. I felt so bad for her at times especially because of the way her grandparents refused to acknowledge her new name and refuse to accept that she now wants to be identified as female.

The romance between Sterling and Jericho is almost secondary to the story about Alexa, but what there is of it is really good. The book has a lot of things going on to get you engaged right away and to keep you engaged until you finish the book. Jericho is a great character and the way he accepts and cares for Alexa is so touching. He is fiercely protective of her when he sees that people won't accept her as she is.

The story isn't overly angsty and there are plenty of light-hearted moments to keep it from becoming depressing when things go wrong. I think Wendy Qualls is doing a great job with this series and I hope there will be more books coming.

A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book.
Profile Image for Terri Jones.
2,020 reviews26 followers
February 3, 2019
The Trans-positive parts of this novel are great, far as this cis chick can tell after a decade of reading Trans personal tweets. The misgendering hurts, though - realistic, but awful. I loved Alexa. She is her own hero. Best character of this novel.

The first job of a writer is to engage the reader and keep them engaged. I knew 1/3 in that this wasn't a five star story for me because I kept getting bored. Not enough to quit. But enough that I kept glancing at the progress bar, and skimmed repeated internal thoughts. That's bad enough, but the rest of the reasons for single-starring this are worse.

Sterling's not realistic. The author failed to reveal how he could possibly sustain what he endured. Nor was it revealed why he would do it to begin with. A reason is given, but it is weak. We even meet Sterling's mom. Opportunity to enlighten... Nope. She's great. Yet he is a doormat?

Beyond that, how could he not have any character growth even after Dana's gone? And really, Jericho's not much better until he's pushed enough. Ultimately, I can't believe a love wherein the hard topics are never confronted long enough for solid understanding. That's cowardice, and dull in a novel. In addition to all that, the final solution is not character-driven. It happens to them. They don't bring it about.

But the trans kid parts? Good. J with Alexa? Good! Everything else needs an overhaul. In my humble opinion.
Profile Image for Jennifer Shanahan.
890 reviews12 followers
July 20, 2018
Ironically, I read the first book in this series but not the second and didn't even realize that this one was the third because it really was in no way connected to the first story that I could tell (although I did read it quite some time ago). Based on its own merits, I liked this book but didn't LOVE it. Sterling is a widowed dentist who married his best friend because of an unplanned pregnancy but really was not attracted to her at all and they just loved as friends until she suddenly died leaving him with their 10 yo transgender daughter Alexa (aka Oscar). His in-laws, who are also his child care, do not accept Alexa's choice to be a girl and he realizes he needs a nanny for her. In come Jericho, the absolutely perfect candidate, a spec ed and teaching background, gay, has worked with many different types of kids, from a big family AND super hot too. The plot is predictable from that point on. Jericho is awesome with Alexa and he slowly works his way into Sterling's heart too. Bad situation happens and Jericho leaves but then comes back at the end and everyone is happy and they live happily ever after. Not the worst plot, but nothing new or exciting. I think it was better than the first book...I guess I'll have to read the second and pick which one I liked best. Thanks to NG for the ARC!
Profile Image for BOOKarina (Karina).
292 reviews21 followers
August 21, 2018
This was an unexpected read, I saw the cover and figured why not give it a shot ?
It was surprisingly tackling really serious topics, do not be fooled by the cover ! I really like the representation of trans issues (as a child who recently came out and family loss/problems, it also delves into the topic of disabilities (Asperger syndrome).
I loved Alexa, she knew who she was and didn't need anyone to tell her otherwise, she also tried to help her dad and while she was really mature for her age (10 years old), she was also enjoying her childhood.
The romance between Jericho and Dr. Harper was also really great, I wish there had been more moments between them, romantic and otherwise, as it fell short to me.
I was left at the end of the book wishing for more, more romance, more knowledge about Jericho, more insight on how Alexa felt, more everything.
I really didn't like the way Sterling (Aka; Dr.Harper) was acting so out of how his character seemed to be and how Jericho sometimes made choices that didn't make sense with the previous choices he had made.
The reasons I took stars off, were that it felt like something's were missing, inconsistencies of how characters react vs how they realistically would've and the suddenness of their romance that could've easily been fixed with more background stories and scenes, of interaction and thoughts between them.
3.25/5 stars
Ps: I received this book in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,037 reviews50 followers
July 3, 2018
One of the main characters, Jericho, was mentioned in the second book in the series and showed up briefly near the end. The MM romance is told from all three main characters, Jericho nanny and special education teacher, Sterling dentist and father his Alexa is trans daughter. I like getting to the points of view of all the main characters because they had an interesting journey to go no lonely together, but also individually.

The main plot of this story was the romance between Jericho and Sterling after Sterling needs a nanny to come stay in his home for the summary after his late wife's parents do not accept his trans daughter and does not want her to spend the summer with them when he is at work. The tension between the in-laws and Sterling affect the relationships and lives of all three characters.

This is such a unique story, with the character of Alexa and all that comes with becoming her true self. I did wish that more of the past characters could get more page time to see where they currently are and what is going on, but otherwise a fantastic read and such a great find of a story.
Profile Image for Sadie.
125 reviews19 followers
August 28, 2018
4.5 enthusiastic stars!

OK, can I be blunt? There are like...practically no queer fiction books about raising a trans child. As in, this is the only one I can name - if you have a different rec, feel free to send it my way.

Given that lack, I'd probably have enjoyed Worth Fighting For even if the characters had been just alright, and the rep had been merely acceptable...but the cast was great, and the marginalizations were depicted with care and respect (IMO), so I'm basically a big Wendy Qualls fan now and will be reading her backlist ASAP.

This book has: a multi-lingual gay Black man with very dark skin + a widowed white single dad of an AMAB 10 yo child on the autism spectrum. Side characters include a Black adult trans woman, two Black adults who work with neuroatypical kids, and various queer men of undetermined ethnicity.

Content notes: pervasive misgendering and deadnaming (challenged), discussion of class differences, intolerance disguised as religion, mentions of white privilege and racial inequality.
Profile Image for Pjm12.
1,840 reviews41 followers
August 16, 2018
I enjoyed this book in the Heart of the South series a lot. The issues surrounding Alexa's social transitioning was handled delicately, authentically and with sincerity. I thought it was a very strong part of the story.

Jericho is a terrifically balanced individual, and his actions and words spoke volumes. I would have liked more indication of why he fell for Sterling, but that's okay. He showed all his true feelings, and was the best person to be there for that kid.

Sterling was stuck, and Jericho gets him moving. The grandparents-in-law represent the narrow-minded traditional religious point of view that needs to be shaken from their hypocrisy and their thoughtlessness. Maybe it all ended a little too easily, but by then, I did not want Alexa to have to deal with any more crap.

Very immersive, satisfying story. Thanks Netgalley. Was released on August 14. I am behind time. Sorry.

Profile Image for Amy Dufera - Amy's MM Romance Reviews.
2,671 reviews118 followers
November 11, 2018
Worth Fighting For by Wendy Qualls is a beautiful and tender romance.

I am shocked at how much the author manages to pack into this story. Sterling needs to hire someone to care for his transgender daughter. Luckily he finds Jericho who completely understands Alexa and helps her a lot. And luckily for both them, they have a mutual attraction. Their flirting is cute, their explorations are hot, and they definitely complement one another well.

Of course, they also have to deal with bigoted and transphobic in laws, some sad moments for Alexa at school, and a custody fight.

The writing is good, flowing nicely and keeping me interested throughout. The topics discussed are done with a lot of knowledge and understanding, and without any preaching.

I definitely recommend Worth Fighting For to anyone who loves a sweet tale.
Profile Image for Cat.
715 reviews7 followers
June 15, 2019
Found family romance

Sterling is a widower and dad to a newly-out trans daughter who is on the spectrum. Jericho is the live-in caretaker who will watch Alexa while school's out for the summer. But it's not a typical employer-employee situation (this is explicitly discussed by our heroes multiple times) and soon they give into their chemistry. I still like Worth Searching For, another book in the series, better because DOGGIES! but this was a lovely romance and Alexa is a standout character who never turns into a Plot Moppet.

Please note there are many instances of transphobia including misgendering (it's in the book sample) and a truly distressing confrontation that escalates into a legal threat. While everything resolves into an unambiguous HEA, it did get nerve-wracking and some readers may wish to avoid it.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,632 reviews43 followers
August 18, 2018
Worth Fighting For is a heartwarming story of a single father and his trans daughter trying to find their way. When his ex’s parents refuse to accept his child presenting as female Sterling Harper has to find new plans for his daughter for over the summer. Enter Jericho Johnston a teacher who has experience with trans adults and special needs kids. Mr. J takes on the job of nanny for the summer.
I fell for Alexa and really liked Mr. J. Dr. Harper took a bit longer for me to warm up to. This is a sweet, sometimes heartbreaking tale of love and acceptance and though it is part of a series can be read standalone.
186 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2022
So adorable as the two men slowly get together. I loved Alexa, the trans daughter, and I was glad to see so many characters standing up for her. I could relate to Sterling finding himself in a life he wasn't sure he would have chosen but coping as best he could with where he was.

I've found that with all three of the novels in this series, I thought the ending and conflict resolution was a bit rushed, but perhaps that's just me wanting to spend more time with these characters.
Profile Image for Reece.
92 reviews22 followers
February 15, 2019
Sweet romance, well worth the read.

I'm always a little hesitant to read LGBTQ+ romances by straight, cis women but I'm super happy I picked this up. Sweet, endearing characters and a wonderful, classic storyline make for a perfect combination for this well written, cozy read. Single parents are my weakness in romances, throw in a sweet trans daughter, and I'm in love.
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