"The Second Happiest Day" by A. E. Hammock is a romance novel, not without some redeeming qualities. It's a pretty well written and nicely edited book with a smooth and easy flow. And the scenes depicting physical intimacy between the burgeoning Kara/Madison relationship were moderately exciting. The author also does a great job in "normalizing" the concept that a person with a female gender identity, who has physically transitioned to the gender role of a woman, including taking hormones and having cosmetic plastic surgery, can function in a lesbian relationship while still continuing to have her male equipment. How this occurs for Kara was professionally and accurately described with a titillating tenderness. Lastly, the parents of each of the partners were refreshingly understanding and supportive of this new relationship and that was a positive for this work, although perhaps a tad unrealistic.
Where the book fell short for this reviewer was in several areas. From beginning to end there were frequent and annoying references to "the older woman," "the younger woman," "the taller woman," "the redhead," "the brunette," "the history professor," etc., etc. We're only talking about two people here and I think the reader should be responsible enough to be able to recall their names, at least after a little while. So this technique, ostensibly to make sure one is still following the story, got pretty old after a short time. Another thing I found vexing were the all-too-frequent references to a veritable smorgasbord of microbrews. Listen, I enjoy a good strong IPA as much as the next person, but I found the almost gratuitous name-dropping of designer beers to also be quite bothersome. And these gals certainly were guzzlers, too! While I'm on the subject of irritations, how much food can two svelte young adult women eat? Almost every time they were together, which was quite a bit, Kara and Madison were described as chowing down on one fattening meal after another. In really life, each would have certainly put on 20 pounds in the hundred and fifty pages of this book. Not a very realistic amount of food consumption for a woman or even a woman who once was a man, in my opinion.
However, the biggest problem with this book is that it just seemed to go nowhere. The story provided little more than the development of the relationship between the two would-be lovers. There was one portion that I won't give away involving Kara's ex-wife, that could have proved to be quite interesting if it had played out differently, but I think the author missed the boat in favor of avoiding conflict and going for a more acceptable ending. All in all, this novel proved to be just an ok read - not great by any means, yet not quite bad. Four stars is generous. Maybe 3.5.
[Reviewed by Samuel]