Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lips Like Ice by Peggy Barnett

Well now, this certainly wasn't the book that I was expecting. When Peggy Barnett pitched it to me, I thought it would just be a fun bit of erotic gender-bending fluff. Of course, knowing Peggy, and knowing what else she writes, I really should have expected more. Yes, there is a lot of eroticism here, and it definitely breaks the gender binary, but none of it is fluff. In fact, Lips Like Ice is a very deep, very thoughtful story that goes to some very dark places, both physically and psychologically.

Before I get into its themes, let me set the stage for you. Lydia awakens from a surreal sort of illness, bereft of both her memories and emotions, to find herself in an alien land. All she knows is that she has been brought there by the Queen, to serve as a pet for an adolescent royal. Not a friend, not a companion, not a lover, but a pet that will help its owner to learn compassion and caring. As for her owner, the Prince is an elf-like being – perhaps a god or an alien – from a civilization that looks down on humanity as a lesser, animalistic race.

That brings me to the first theme here, which is one of dominance and submission. Human pets are a common aspect of BDSM erotica, usually with a collared slave who happily submits to the role. There’s a servile, submissive element, but it’s clearly role-play. Here, Peggy strips away the safety and sanity of the role-play framework and explores what it really means to be a pet, not a person. Lydia is ignored, her comforts disregarded, and often completely dismissed – not out of cruelty, but simple neglect. She nearly dies because the Prince doesn’t give any thought to her needs, and more than once is kicked like a puppy when he’s in a bad mood. It’s a relationship that evolves throughout the tale, but that role of pet, that question of ownership, is always there.

Not surprisingly, the theme that excited me the most is the one that Peggy uses to take the story outside the gender binary. The Prince, when we meet him, is a smooth, hairless, genderless being, on the cusp of maturity . . . at which time he will choose a gender. The very idea of being able to choose a gender is an attractive one, but Peggy doesn’t play it safe or easy. The Prince comes from a culture where only firstborns are expected to choose male, and younger siblings female. The fact that he has chosen male is a great scandal, putting both Lydia and himself in grave danger. There’s some fascinating exploration, particularly in the latter part of the book, into why he chose male, what prompted it, and what it all means. Anybody who has ever stepped outside the gender binary will immediately appreciate the dilemma he faces.

Actually, the Prince’s world is one in which sex is just as bent as gender, but I will restrain myself (as much as I’d love to gush over the imagination there), and not spoil the surprises!

The final theme here is one of consent. Lydia is very aware of her circumstances, and painfully aware of the ways (both deliberate and unconscious) in which the Prince tries to domesticate her and win her affection. She knows all about feeling like a victim. She’s aware of the perils of Stockholm syndrome, and she constantly questions her own actions towards the Prince. The question of rape looms large over the entire story, and if it gets uncomfortable at times . . . well, it should. To easily dismiss it or resolve it would be to neuter the whole story, and some role/gender reversal in the final act of the story really brings this theme home.

There are so many things I’d love to say about the story itself, but you really need to let it develop for yourself. Peggy took it in places I so did not expect, challenging me, delighting me, and ultimately rewarding me with an absolutely perfect ending. Lips Like Ice is often deeply thoughtful, to the point of being philosophical, but just as often tender, erotic, and exciting. OMG, is it ever worth a read!


Friday, January 30, 2015

Freebie Fiction Friday - Putting the TG in TGIF!

Well, if it's Friday, then that must been it's time for Freebie Fiction Friday . . . time to put the 'TG' in TGIF (and the 'FD' in Friday)!

Every Friday I take the initiative to search through thew newly free titles on Amazon, and to identify those that might be of interest to trans* readers, fans, and lovers. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my iPad, using Kindle for iPad, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

A fantastic batch of titles this week - lots to read, and a little bit for everyone!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

He's Stuck as a Schoolgirl: A Novel of Transgender Sugar and Spice by Mindi Flyth

Author Mindi Flyth is a master of the transgender genre. In her latest work, a novella titled "He's Stuck as a Schoolgirl: A Novel of Transgender Sugar and Spice," a magic spell goes awry and an ineffectual young man accidentally transforms himself into a 10 year-old schoolgirl.

Although life as a 27 year-old male wasn't exactly pleasant for Joe, as sweet little Josie he now has to put up with schoolmate bullying and other childhood embarrassments such as being talked to like he was not really a person. While retaining Joe's original personality, the "Josie" personality begins to emerge in our schoolgirl. "Hissy fits" and pre-pubescence are deftly incorporated with prurient male desires. How the author integrates these conflicts is pure art. The whole formula is so tastefully and humorously done that it really works.

Our little heroine does everything in her power to rectify her initial horrible magical mistake and change herself back to her former self. In the process, she comes to some wonderful realizations. The question we are left with is, "Can a little school girl learn to become a happier person than a 27-year-old male who takes little or no responsibility for his life?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes by Dani Mitchell

The ever-lovely and oh-so-talented Carollyn Olson actually introduced me to A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes back in November, and her recommendation carries a lot of weight with me. I can't explain why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I am pleased to say that Dani Mitchell's transgender fantasy is everything Carollyn promised . . . and just a bit more.

First of all, I love how the narrative was structured. We actually open with a brief, somewhat ominous snippet of the Greg's thoughts as he awakens from surgery. From there, the story leaps back in time to the beginning of his journey, but Mitchell continues to scatter those mysterious surgical scenes throughout the novel. That structure adds a whole other dimension of anticipation to the story, leaving us to wonder precisely why he's been hospitalized. Early on, the fact that his father is an abusive alcoholic leads one to wonder whether it will be a beating that will send Greg to the hospital, but little hints and clues give rise to even stranger worries later on, before ultimately revealing the truth.

I don't want to spoil any of the magic here, so I'm going limit myself to talking about the initial set-up. When we first meet Greg, we discover that he is a closet crossdresser. It's nothing sexual or fetishistic for him, just a means of finding comfort and de-stressing in an abusive home. He is smaller than most of the boys, leading him to be bullied, but he has some good friends and dreams of becoming a mechanic. Eventually, he meets Kris, a beautiful young lesbian who becomes his best friend. Just when you think you know where the story is going, however, Kris disappears under suspicious circumstances, and Greg's life goes on without her for a couple of years.

Not long after Greg's dad discovers him dressed, and sets about destroying all his clothes and shoes, Kris suddenly reappears. She seems to have one of those too-good-to-be-true story of a rich relative who took her in after her parents threw her out for being a lesbian, and it's at this point that the surgery snippets get a little more weird, with talk of tattoos and making clients very happy. Greg does comes out to Kris as transsexual, but almost immediately there are some off hand comments from her aunt that add even more mystery to the situation, especially in light of how the surgical scenes are progressing.

That's all I will say on that, however, as discovering how (and why) the story develops should be up to the reader. It's a carefully structured story that's full of drama, sorrow, and moments of indescribable happiness. Greg and Kris are such a perfect couple, you can't help but want them to have the biggest, best, most happily-ever-after in history. There is such joy in their scenes together, such unrestrained happiness, that you can't help but fall in love with them. As for the other characters, Greg's dad is pretty much the archetype of a drunken bully; his mother is a surprisingly strong character, especially with her growth in the latter half of the book; while Jennifer, Kris' aunt, is more of a plot device than a fully-fleshed character, but you'll wish you had an aunt like that as well.

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes has its moments of darkness and sorrow, and does get quite ominous in parts, but you will come away from it with a smile on your face and a sweet little pitter-patter in your heart.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Freebie Fiction Friday - Putting the TG in TGIF!

Well, if it's Friday, then that must been it's time for Freebie Fiction Friday . . . time to put the 'TG' in TGIF (and the 'FD' in Friday)!

Every Friday I take the initiative to search through thew newly free titles on Amazon, and to identify those that might be of interest to trans* readers, fans, and lovers. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my iPad, using Kindle for iPad, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

A fantastic batch of titles this week - lots to read, and a little bit for everyone!