Today we're featuring a special treat - not one, not two, but three reviews of Prudence MacLeod's transgender romance novels. These are all romance novels in which the main characters are dealing with complex issues, and who develop mutually beneficial relationships that help them through. The three books also have the recurring theme of saving a life and the subsequent Karma that balances this in the universe.
Shelly's Turn is a very sweet and tender novel about a transgender youth who overcomes the dual agony of gender variance and child abuse to finally achieve her proper niche in the world. Without giving away the story, she does so with the support of a small contingent of very loving people. In the final analysis, the author, who demonstrates great knowledge about the transgender subject matter in all three of these novels, provides an accurate portrayal of the transition process in the context of some very difficult family dynamics. Her account of Shelly’s gender change also demonstrates a parallel process. It is the shift, eventual acceptance and ultimate embrace of the child's abuser, a sad, angry and homophobic father who served as the major stumbling block to Shelly's transition.
Seela is a book about a romance author who not only operates in stealth mode about her gender change, she’s keeping still another secret. Besides her switch to a female gender role she packs a knockout punch like you can’t imagine and is willing to use it under certain conditions. I won't say why, lest it spoil the reader’s enjoyment. However, I will say that this lady turns out to be a brave heroine, a sweet soul whose strong suit is in saving the lives of people and animals. Like all of us, though, she has her faults. Perhaps she’s a little too quick to demonstrate her violent temper, and she seems somewhat co-dependent, at least initially. This aspect is evidenced by her willingness to sacrifice so much for the love of Seela, a beautiful yet terribly traumatized partner-to-be. Eventually, it all makes perfect sense, though. All in all, this is a lovely romance about two sweet women who find synergy and ultimate happiness in helping one another and in the process, gain the love and support of family and friends. For these two, the total is greater than the sum of its parts.
As with the other two MacLeod transgender novels, the main characters in A Simple Twist of Fate are dealing with a complexity of issues. In Jamie’s case it is apparent PTSD from the sexual abuse he experienced in his late teenage years. As a result, his volatile anger is easily triggered by internalized homophobia. Drinking is his way of coping, and provides him with a temporary escape. Our transgender heroine, Genie, is the perfect counterbalance, providing the love and understanding that allows Jamie to confront and overcome his demons safely. This is probably because she is dealing with, and in the process of exorcising, her own internalized specters, so she knows the score. The author is a veritable “Wizard of Oz” as she subtly demonstrates that both Jamie and Genie had these powers all along, but just never realized it until they found the love together they had always sought. As with the other two books by this author in the transgender genre, the two main characters develop a mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship, where Jamie gains the ability to finally process his feelings of anger, homophobia, and the pain of abuse he has experienced that has led to his alcoholism. Genie, because of the model of strength and courage that Jamie provides, finally gains enough inner strength to see herself as the woman she was always meant to be.
These three books are all entertaining transgender love stories and wonderful romances that can be thoroughly enjoyed as light summer reading!
[Reviewed by Samuel]