What happens when your spouse discovers your secret? You’ve been living a dual gender life and she walks in on you in one of her outfits. How does she react? Russell Radcliffe, a married man with two teenage children, is about to find out when his wife discovers he’s been plundering her wardrobe.
During the halcyon days, gender confusion brought only minor episodes of dysphoria. He had no idea how to discern; what to make of the emotional roller coaster. He played it off as a minor disorder that would certainly be remedied by the right woman. His definition of ‘the right woman’ was any woman who agreed to more than one date and was at least mildly attractive.
When he met his wife he felt the pull of marriage. It was about complying with societal norms. At that juncture in his life Russell’s gender dysphoria had gone dark; it submerged making him believe the feelings were an aberration possibly and offshoot of experimenting with controlled substances. This was long before the term “recreational use” was coined to help society feel good about its transgressions.
Amanda was beautiful, sensual and no pushover. He chased her until she caught him making him believe he had accomplished something monumental. She planted the seeds of success; making him believe his financial success wasn’t only possible, it was his birthright. She supported him through graduate school with the understanding he would return the benefit to her in financial security.
This story isn’t about gender manipulation. It turns on Russell’s need to find a safe place to live a life free from the pressures wrought by gender confusion. When the dysphoria resurfaces Russell is caught emotionally flatfooted no longer satisfied living vicariously through his wife. Every dress, every pair of high heels and every undergarment teased him mercilessly. Amanda had no idea. Mandy was unaware. She thought his attention to her every sexual need was borne from his male libido. She was a woman’s woman and fully expected her husband to be the masculine man.
The dysphoria surfaced again when Mandy began to build a social network when the kids reached puberty, leaving her husband with them for the evening. Mark and Meghan were coming into their own; they didn’t need or want adult supervision. Their father t first absorbed in binge television watching to burn off the pressures of the day. One evening he wandered into the master closet dominated by his wife’s wardrobe. The hint of pheromones emanating from his wife’s shoe collection beckoned him to the slippery slope. Russell didn’t dare confide in his wife. He had seen how she reacted when their son Mark’s mannerisms hinted at a soft emotional underbelly.
About the Book
Gates of Submission (New Boundaries: Book One)
Genre: LGBT Fiction
Publisher: Can’t Put It Down Books
Date of Publication: July 28, 2016
Number of pages: 315
Word Count: 103,216
Cover Artist: Genevieve Lavo Cosdon
Russell has lost everything; his wife Mandy, his children and his suburban mini-mansion. Left with only the tatters of a once successful life, he discovers the courage to venture beyond the boundaries of conventionality. Stripping off his male exterior, Allison makes her debut, bringing a ray of hope that life might offer more than pain and confusion. His boss, Sylvia, a dominant and beautiful sexual powerhouse, has other ideas after discovering his deepest secret. As Sylvia’s hold on Russell tightens he is torn between shame and desire. Can he break free from Sylvia’s grasp? Will he choose to be: Russell or Allison?
DIVORCE. THE WORD RATTLED around in his brain like a steel ball in an old-fashioned pinball machine. The papers had arrived at his office that morning by courier; he was officially divorced. Russell Radcliffe pulled his cherry-red Mercedes Benz convertible into the garage of his modest rancher and slid the transmission lever into park. Stung by the events of the day, he sat quietly, struggling with the dramatic change in his lifestyle. The five thousand square foot McMansion, the pool with elaborate cabana complete with wet bar and massage table, the Mercedes and the Range Rover, the country club membership, the well-earned upscale lifestyle—gone. The dream life with his children and the woman he promised to love for better or for worse were now a memory.
When days were rosy and nights sultry, the couple fell for the trappings of opulence. To support their lifestyle Russell and his wife mortgaged themselves right to the edge, not close enough that a fall from grace was eminent, but close enough that Russell could feel the spray from the waves pounding on the financial rocks below. The last brick in the wall crumbled; the mansion—her dream home—had a for sale sign with a picture of a 40-something big-haired, big nailed, real estate goddess in the front yard. The real estate market had softened putting a large portion of their nest egg in harm’s way. His wife got to remain in the house with the two teenagers, forcing him to relocate. She wanted everything before she would cede his car to him. He wanted that car; he needed that car. He equated the car with his identity even more than the house.
Russell replayed those last days of their marriage. In one fell swoop, Mandy revealed she was having an affair and had the divorce papers served to his office the next day. Not only was he not getting any, an interloper had been planting in his garden. He told Mandy that he was willing to forgive her, that she would regret leaving him, that she couldn’t stand on her own two feet.
“Come to your senses Mandy. Quit this foolishness and think it through.”
She had laughed. “Do you think I haven’t thought this through? Do you think I’m doing this because I want to get your attention?”
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this to me. I just want you to stop. Adultery is against the law.” His voice was strained; he wanted desperately to get through to her. His wife stood arms akimbo, her long sleek legs ran from her blue skirt, through nude pantyhose, and slid perfectly into navy blue patent leather pumps. She was attractive, even after two hard pregnancies. Her auburn hair wafted in sultry waves across her soft shoulders ending elegantly just short of the middle of her back. Large hazel eyes were framed by high cheekbones, thin nose and highly sculptured eyebrows. Her complexion hinted at regular trips to the tanning salon.
“When you started wearing my clothes I knew it was over. You were the one who turned our marriage into a farce, not me. ” Her tone was accusatory. “And don’t think threats will work with me, kiddo. I can ruin you if you put me in that position.” Her gaze was cold steel.
Russell looked her over; he would have begged her to stay if his pride wasn’t so strong. He loved her; she was his female role model; everything he wanted to be in a woman he saw in his wife. But he couldn’t condone her desire to find pleasure in another’s bed. Looking away he calculated his options; they were bleak. Losing his job wasn’t an option. He had worked long and hard to parlay the master’s degree in finance into a high profile position with an investment banking firm. He figured he would be summarily dismissed if his superiors knew he was transgender.
After the divorce he licked his wounds and decided to buy down-market. The shock of a smaller place on a postage stamp lot made him wish he hadn't been so critical when his wife unceremoniously disclosed her extramarital affair. He lost that struggle and was losing others. He would never give up his femininity even though it had meant losing his wife, who realized she wasn’t the only woman in his life. This had cut her deeply and she had made him bleed.
As he sat in the car with the engine running he considered pressing the activator button to bring the garage door down and seal off the garage. Just one click and he would fade slowly into eternal sleep.
About the Author
When not creating fascinating characters and sensual scenes, Nikki writes inspirational essays which she posts regularly on her website, www.NikkiDiCaro.com. A proponent of parity, equality, and unconditional acceptance she is a frequent speaker and presenter on gender sensitivity and workplace equality.
Twitter handle: @NikkiOliviaDi1
Gates of Submission was an interesting story with some well-developed characters and a nice balance of fantasy drama and real life romance. Nikki DiCaro works a lot of elements into her plot, from the politics of divorce, to workplace harassment, to LGBT issues, to issues of friendship and romance, creating a story that is almost bigger than itself.
Russell is an interesting character, but also an exasperating one. He wants the best of all words, but often doesn't know what that means. Clearly, this is a man struggling with some deep-seated issues, and it is very easy to sympathize with his gender identity struggles, but sometimes I just wanted to shake him and make him confront the women in his life. Barb was probably favorite character in the novel, a true transsexual woman who has deal with her pain, challenged her tormentors, and come out of it a stronger woman. At times it seems as if she is more than Russell deserves, but precisely what he needs.
Sylvia was over-the-top, the kind of villainous, sexually harassing boss who can only be found within the pages of an erotic fantasy, but important to the plot. It is important that we be conflicted about her, a little aroused by her fetishistic power games, but horrified by the impact they have on Russell. Bethany was a difficult character for me, in that I liked the way she was developed, loved the initial twist surrouding her, but thought her final actions were too much for the story.
As for that terminology I mentioned, it bothered me that Russell referred to Barb on more than one occasion as "a woman who was a guy" (he should understand her situation better than anybody), and there were several instances of "transgenders" that bothered me (it is an adjective, not a noun), but otherwise this was a very respectful, largely positive exploration of gender and gender identity.