As much as I enjoyed The Night (and I really did enjoy it), I really should have paid greater attention to its extended title of A Cross Dressing Fantasy and More . . . particularly the “and More” part. You see, there is a point where the story takes a hard left turn into pure magical fantasy, and it’s a transition that I really didn't see coming, not based on its humble beginnings. That’s not to say the surprise transition doesn't work – in fact, the mystery and confusion it creates is a very nice touch – just that it pulled me out of the story for a while.
Before we get to that, let me just say that Tawni Katherine Bonds is a wonderful writer who clearly understands the cross dressing experience. The first third of the novel, where she captures the thrill and the exhilaration of dressing, the physical sensations of both material and fit, was my favorite. She does a lovely job of taking us inside Heather’s head, allowing us to share in what she’s thinking and feeling. The battle between body and mind, between joy and terror, was exquisite. Her desire to step out onto the balcony, under the cover of darkness, as a first public excursion is echoed beautifully in her fearful paranoia of being ‘made’ the first time she does leave her room.
The experience of finding the mysterious love letters slipped under her door is fantastic, and really allows us to share in her progression from closeted cross dresser to honest and open transsexual. It’s that experience which forces her to confront her desire to not just express her femininity, but to truly become a girl, and it’s that desire that provides the twist for the second half of the story.
I won’t spoil the ‘how’ or the ‘why’ of that twist, except to say that the way the relationship between Alex and Heather develops is a joy to watch. There are serious questions of trust involved there, especially as Heather allows herself to become involved in intimate, erotic games of bondage and sensuality. Alex’s gift to Heather allows her to express the woman inside, to explore her limits, and to test the strength of her own convictions.
As for the final chapter, it took the story in yet another new direction, and one that excited me to no end. I’m not sure how Tawni will deal with all the developments in the next book, but I applaud her for allowing Heather to so confidently and so definitively claim her own identity. The Night is that rare breed of story, one that truly blends the allure of cross dressing with the appeal of femininity. Highly recommended.