A Stella Review: Defying Conventions by Cecil Wilde

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RATING: 4 stars out of 5

DefyingConventionDanny and AJ have been online friends for years, and secretly in love with each other. When the opportunity to attend a comics convention comes up, they decide to go and share a room. But friendship online does not always translate to friendship offline, and both are anxious about how the meeting will go, and the friendship change, when faced with challenges easily avoided behind the safety of computer screens…

“You’re perfect.” AJ smiled up at him as they walked.

Danny smiled shyly and looked down at their joined hands.”I’m not.” He squeezed AJ’s hand. “But it’s awesome that you’d say that.”

“You’re not literally perfect, but you’re perfect to me,”AJ clarified. “Perfect in all your imperfections.”

Defying Convention is the first Cecil Wilde’s book and the first book with a transgender MCs I read. I’m so glad I got a chance at review it. It was an unexpected surprise.

AJ is a non binary, they don’t want to define themselves as female or male gender. They’re a funny and affectionate geek with pink hair and pink bunny slippers.

Danny is a transman, an insecure young man that suffers from panic attacks.

They’ve been best friends online for five years and this is the first time they meet in real life. The occasion is a comics convention and at the same time their five years anniversary. Most of all they’ve been in love with each other but just haven’t realized they already were in a love relationship, even if they haven’t met before.

I think they are perfect together cause they keep each other safe. Especially AJ is so protective and respectful of Danny’s issues, they understand him like no other can. While the cute Danny still can’t believe AJ is real, sometimes he thought he made them up in his mind. Having bad issues with physical contacts, it is so sweet to see him open up with AJ, who are so touchy feely.

In some ways this book was instructive too. I wasn’t aware of the meaning and use of specific terms in the transgender world.
First of all, the author chose to use they/them/their when they referred to AJ and I admit it wasn’t easy to read. I was ready for the use of it/its but I looked out and I understand why they chose them. Still, sometimes it diverted my attention from the story. Nevertheless, as you can see, I chose to follow the author’s lead and so I used the same pronouns in my review too. I want to respect their choice.

I also appreciated how the author addressed some transgender issue. Reading about Aj being so resigned in their everyday challenges, made me want to hug them. I totally understand it’s a serious subject but this is a light and funny book so I was glad it was handled lightly.

Of course this is not an m/m romance, so you need to be ready to read about sex between a transman and a Non Binary friend (with women’s parts). There isn’t a lot of sex, just one scene and really hot(LOL). Reading only m/m books, I can say I usually am very strict and don’t want woman parts in my books. In this one I was well aware of what I was going to read but it didn’t bother me, cause of course AJ has a vagina but I didn’t think of them as a woman. I was pretty good to try to be neutral as they wished.

I realized in Defying Convention the author chose to tell us not much about how AJ and Danny met online and became best friend, perhaps showing us some particular moments in their online time. They gave us just this brief time frame, these five days needful for them to finally be physically together and maybe try to be a couple. I usually am so greedy I always want to know more about everything. In this case I believe focus on “the now” was the perfect choice, at the end we’re talking about a book of just 65 pages.

I’m a sucker for sweet characters, AJ and Danny were so cute together it was impossible not fall in love with them. Add a good writing and a funny story, I can totally say this book was a winner to me. Highly recommended.

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju: I really like it and it totally fit the book.

Sales Links:   Less Than Three Press      All Romance (ARe)    Amazon    Buy it here

Book details:
kindle 65 pages
Expected publication: January 28th 2015 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN 9781620044773
edition languageEnglish

Review: Static by LA Witt

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Static coverDamon Bryce and Alex Nichols have been together for two years and while things have not always been easy, they remain deeply in love.  But Alex has a secret, one that she has been afraid to tell Damon because she is sure it will cost her his love.  Alex Nichols is a shifter, one of  a small percentage of the population able to switch genders at will.  Shifters are discriminated against, considered less than equal by the rest of the “static” population.  Being known as a shifter could cost Alex not only Damon but her job as well so Alex kept silent.  Then she is drugged and a black market implant surgically inserted to prevent her from shifting.  Now Alex has become a static, a one gender person,  but in her male form. The truth is out and the ramifications for Alex are crushing.

Damon is deeply in love with his girlfriend Alex.  Then he finds out that Alex is a shifter in the worst way possible for them both, when he confronts a man in his girlfriend’s apartment and finds out that man is Alex. Not only has Alex lied about who she is but now that Alex is male, Damon feels bereft of his fiance and best friend too.  Damon has always thought of himself as straight.   He still loves Alex, just not in the same way he used to.  Damon won’t abandon Alex to face the decisions ahead of him alone.  The surgery to remove the implants is both costly and dangerous.  And Alex’s insurance won’t cover the procedure.  Damon gives Alex the support he needs but can Damon give Alex all the support in every way possible that Alex wants?

Alex must decide to accept being forever a static male or to try for the expensive surgery and the slim chance that he will be able to shift once more. As Alex faces an uncertain future, Damon must decide if he is able to love Alex, the person inside the body Alex is in, including a male one.  So much about their future is risky and unpredictable.  Can their love surmount all obstacles including gender?  Alex and Damon are about to find out.

LA Witt’s Static is not only one of the best stories I have read this year, it is also one of the most timely.  We live in an era where gender issues, especially those of transgender people, are prominent both in the media and the judicial system.  New laws are being written daily to promote equality for transgendered people and those of gender fluid identities.  And for every new law written and steps forward, there is an equal number legislated to oppose those measures and gender equality.  In my opinion, the most important weapons in the battle for equality for LGBTQ community are knowledge, education, and awareness.  Static by LA Witt brings that knowledge and awareness home in a story that renders the reality of gender and gender based issues beautifully, factually and emotionally.

I have always admired the author’s ability to create living, breathing characters that resonate with her readers but in Damon, Alex, Jordan, Sam,and Tabby, shifters and trans characters, LA Witt has gone farther, delved deeper with her characters so as to give us such fully actualized people, depicted so psychologically and physically real that we never question not only the authenticity of a shifter gender but their universe as well.

Just the beginning of the book is so emotionally devastating as Damon confronts a stranger in his girlfriend’s apartment, already assuming the worst about the situation. The reader is thrown into the anguish of the moment along with Damon and Alex.  All the fear, anger, hurt, betrayal, confusion of both people is revealed in painstaking detail leaving the reader transfixed by their anger as well as love for one another.  Witt uses alternating points of view from Damon and Alex to  pull the reader into their thoughts and feelings as the characters change and adapt to the events around them.  This format forces us to look at the situation with the emotions and perspective of both characters.  As the implant and it’s ability to freeze Alex into one gender impacts each person, we see not only Alex reeling from the reality of a one gender existence but also Damon’s (and  ours) inability to truly understand what that means for Alex mentally, physically as well as emotionally.  Can anyone who is “static” ever truly understand the both the physiological and psychological dynamics of  the transgendered or gender fluid community?  I am not sure but the author’s narrative goes a long way towards furthering that understanding and acceptance.  Here is Jordan, a shifter friend of Damon’s trying to help him see a part of the situation that Alex is going through:

Most statics have no frame of reference.  No way to understand what its like putting on high heels when your minds wants to be male or getting a hard-on when you are itching to be female.  And don’t even get me started on the body having a period while the brain is male,” She tapped her thumb on the blotter a few times, then went on.  “It’s hard to explain, but….well, you know that feeling when you’ve been wearing a pair of dress shoes half the day, and they start getting uncomfortable? And then they get to the point where they’re so fucking miserable, you can’t think of anything except taking them off?”

I nodded.

“Now imagine that pair of shoes is your whole damned body, and now there’s an implant that won’t let you take off those shoes.  If I had to guess, that’s what this is like for Alex.”

That is an accessible and useful way to start Damon and the reader along the path to understanding part of terrible pain the implant is inflicting upon Alex.  And although Alex is focus of the implant’s destructive design, we also feel Damon’s pain and confusion as he tries to accept that his “female” fiancé is now and perhaps permanently male, something  this very straight man never thought he would have to deal with.  All the internal  arguments, all the justifications and excuses he offers himself when he thinks of jettisoning his relationship with Alex are laid out for us to examine and work through ourselves.  Is the person the body they inhabit?  Is it their body we love?  Or do we love the person inside no matter what exterior they present to us.  It is an old and yet relevant argument.  And we watch as Damon has to find his own answers to that question, something that Alex realizes as well:

“I knew full well this was a lot for him.  It was quite possibly as difficult for him to accept that I was a shifter as it was for me to accept that I was now static.”

Just one of many powerful moments in a story full of them, strung along like pearls on a necklace that only gets more exquisite and individually unique upon closer observation and inspection.

Witt also brings in different elements of society to reflect the current status and  society’s perceptions of shifters within that culture.  Alex’s implant is the result of her mother’s and her mother’s pastor’s actions.  Just like those ministries who believe that they can “de gay” a homosexual through interventions and horrific ex gay therapies (now being banned in certain states), Alex’s mother and stepfather are members of a radical fundamentalist faith who believe they are doing “God’s will”.    If these characters come across as horribly real, it’s only because we have heard them in our media espousing their beliefs with nauseating fervor. Their actions and beliefs are chilling whether they are in fiction or on our cable news.

This is a love story, where one’s perception of love undergoes as fundamental change as one does transforming from one gender to another.   The romance is slow, sweet and absolutely rewarding.

I loved this story and cannot recommend it enough.  Consider Static and its great cover one of Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2014 in a year that has just gotten started.

Cover by LC Chase.  What an incredible cover, it’s riveting and gorgeous. Perfect in every way.  One of the best of 2014.

Book Details:

ebook, 283 pages
Published January 20th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 17th 2011)

Review of The Dragon’s Muse by I.D. Locke

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Rating 4 stars

 

A young half dragon half human has trained all his life to be a Guardian to a Muse, a spirit or god that provides the inspiration for an artist. When he is called by The Ring, a group of elders who choose the Guardians, and given a Muse to guard, he is surprised to be chosen, not only because of his young age but also because he is half dragon. Then The Ring informs him that the Muse rejected their last choice and has been without a Guardian since. And with that The Ring sends him off to meet his Muse.

Misu is a half Muse as he is half human half god.  He is also unique in that all the other Muses are women and he is a hermaphrodite. And   while all the other muses can inspire many, Misu is a Muse to only one artist at a time.  The last dragon The Ring sent him was totally unacceptable for a muse who uses their sexuality to conjure up the inspiration necessary for a muse of erotic poetry.  That dragon only saw sex as something for breeding, not as a joyful, fun act, so Misu sent him packing.  Then a new Guardian appears, a half dragon/half man that Misu has seen in his dreams for hundreds of years and Misu names him Gunari as is the custom.  Gunari is startled to find out about Misu’s physiology but Gunari is so attracted to the Muse that it makes no difference whether Misu is male or female as Gunari has always been attracted to both, something he chalks up to the human part of his heritage.  Both are so pleased with the partnership that it’s not long before they find sexual attraction deepening into something more.  As they explore their sexual natures, from BDSM to gentle loving sex, Misu realizes he loves Gunari. Now if only Gunari can recognize that he feels the same.

I am going to say right away that if you are looking for a story that is strictly m/m, this is not the story for you.  But if you want a good short story with a terrific premise and can accept a gender fluid being, then don’t pass this one up.  I. D. Locke takes the idea of muses and put’s their own neat little take on it.  Misu is a muse for erotic poetry for one artist as a time.  When you consider that erotic poetry is not exclusive to one gender, it makes complete sense to have a Muse who experiences the total range of human sexuality to better inspire erotic verse for any gender or sexual preference.  In the blurb, Misu is described as a male identifying hermaphrodite but I never got the picture that Misu identified with any gender, so I did wonder if that was to placate those readers wanting just a m/m story.  At any rate, Misu is so joyful about sex, that any boundaries, including gender identification,are not just unnecessary but also unwanted.

Misu just is Misu and completely content to be a hermaphrodite.  Misu loves sex in every way, in every combination and so feels that being a hermaphrodite is sort of double the fun. Happily for both, Gunari feels much the same.  Gunari loves Misu’s duality and take full advantage of every orifice possible as often as possible, and if studded paddles or restraints come into play, even better. Early on, Misu recognizes that it is Gunari’s face that has haunted their dreams for centeries and Fate is playing a part in bringing them together.  As Misu has had time to fall in love, it is new for Gunari to consider the idea. Locke does a wonderful job with the characterizations here.  Misu is such a gloriously happy sexual being and Gunari is a wonderful young half dragon who takes their responsibility seriously as a Guardian but also comes to love their Muse as well. There are such lovely touches here from the descriptions of Misu’s cottage and the field of flowers nearby full of butterflies to chase and sunlight to bask in.

And yes, there is lots of sex, hot sex, happy sex, bondage sex and penetration of every opening possible and every combination, male and female in detail.  Throw in some glowing auras and you have two very happy beings in a short story of love, sexuality and acceptance, no matter the gender.  If that sounds like something you would like to read about, then this book is for you.

Cover:  Alessio Brio was the cover artist and I find it just as unusual as the story.  The black background is textured to look like dragon hide, I think with Miso and Gunari (green hair) foremost in the design.