Review: Trans Shift by Noah Harris

Trans-ShiftRating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Freed from the shackles of a body, a lie, a life that wasn’t truly his, John has finally found a place where he can be himself. With this new start, he is able to identify as the man he knows he is, hold down a job he enjoys, and just be a happy, independent adult. An adult that happens to have a huge crush on that one customer who always orders a mocha with a lot of whipped cream.

Tired of having to constantly hide his attraction to other men, Tyler leaves his werewolf pack to strike out on his own. Without the constant attention of a particularly tenacious and domineering female werewolf, Becky, Tyler can finally breathe freely. And there’s one particular barista who strikes his fancy.

John and Tyler happen to make a connection when they randomly meet in a club. What started off as innocent ogle-eyes across a coffee counter turns into a serious attraction. One hot night on the dance floor has both men hooked. Despite their limited experience and the hefty secrets they pack, Tyler and John make a powerful connection. A few hot kisses turn into dates, which progresses into a full-fledged relationship complete with co-habitation and physical intimacy.

John knows he needs to tell Tyler about his former life as a woman, that full disclosure is required. As he struggles to find the perfect time to break the news, Tyler’s werewolf background—hidden from all humans, including John—comes back with a vengeance. Even as the lovers try to find a way to work around their differences, the odds continue to mount against them. With so many secrets left unsaid between them and the odds working hard against their happily ever after, John and Tyler will have to look deep to find the strength to overcome the adversity.

Okay! So this book was rife with potential. Harris’ book is brimming with talking points: the secret world of werewolves, the taboo of being a gay werewolf, being transgendered, being transgender and in a relationship, being in a relationship with someone who is transgender, destructive and abusive ex-lovers, scorned women, etc. etc. etc. There is so much  material here, I was really looking forward to this story. Not necessarily that I was gearing up for a mind-blowing read, but hats off to anyone with enough gumption to put all that into a single book!

That said, there was a lot left to be desired in the execution of the book.

1) The setting is utterly forgettable and wildly convenient to whatever the MCs happened to have needed. John, for example, is able to live independently on the wages he earns as a barista. Maybe I’m just being too cynical, but who can afford to live on their own on minimum wage? And a stone’s throw away from this fictional town is a zoo where Tyler, sans credentials, snags a job tending the wolf exhibit. Bonus points for all this being conveniently close to wide-open spaces for Tyler to run around in werewolf form without any worries over being caught.

2) The angst is almost tit-for-tat. Both characters clearly have major secrets and they are the direct cause for all the angst in the book. While that’s neither here nor there, I disliked the unimaginative parceling out of said secrets. It feels as though they take turns putting each other through the emotional wringer when these secrets are revealed. Most bothersome is that the two doozies (for Tyler, it’s being a werewolf; for John, it’s being transgender) play out exactly the same, except that the “wronged party” is flip-flopped. Meaning that the set-up and reaction to the revelation of the second secret is exactly the same as the set-up and reaction to the first. To me, this shows a worrisome lack of emotional maturity on both characters’ parts.

My biggest disappointment, however, is how the author handled the portrayal of a trans character and a relationship with a trans character. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that Tyler wouldn’t suspect anything the first time they have a hot kiss in a dance club (that’s despite my years of being conditioned to expect turgid members when the romantic leads finally get together). But as John and Tyler’s relationship continues to progress and progress and progress and winds up with them actually having penetrative sex…well, it tears a big old hole in my lecherous heart that Tyler doesn’t even go for a reach around. John doesn’t come clean when they start to live together, when they admit they love each other. How do you live a life so completely in the presence of someone with whom you share a physical and emotional connection and never find yourself in a situation where they’d see all your bits…be it in the shower, on the toilet, fooling around on the sofa, good-morning-blow-jobs, I-have-a-headache-hand-jobs, whatever. All to pave the way for John being trans to be the supermassive black hole of an antimatter bomb that gets dropped in the last quarter or so of the book.

And in the last couple of chapters,

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John discovers he’s pregnant. Initially, I was skeptical that could happen given A) Tyler doesn’t even know vaginal penetration is physically possible with his boyfriend B) Tyler’s little swimmers would literally have had to have dripped all the way to John’s ampulla (I had to google where fertilization actually happens). I quizzed my FTM cousin on point B and he said that if John wasn’t on birth control, it’s still biologically possible…still, dripping to the ampulla?

All the individual elements sound promising. I’m tempted to say this book is “good” in the sense that a soap opera is “good.” Maybe the writing or the characters or the plots are utterly contrived to the point of being ludicrous if not worthy of outright criticism..that said, it’s got that sort of “train wreck” quality where you just can’t help but keep looking (or reading in this case). If you’re a die hard werewolf fan or curious about trans books but not ready for a full on exploration of what it means to be trans, you might enjoy this book.

camille sig

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