Review: Grounded by Aidan Wayne

GroundedRating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


French ex-pat Baz is a man of many hats. First and foremost, he is the single father to a six-year-old little girl named Camille. Next, he works full time as a patisserie for a popular restaurant. Finally, he dedicates a goodly portion of his scant spare time to capoeira, a martial art heavy on the acrobatics. Between all three of these, Baz barely has time for himself. Yet when a charmingly shy young man shows up at the capoeira club, Baz can’t help but feel a stirring of a long-dormant emotion: attraction.

For Terry, his hectic work schedule as a voice actor has made it hard to carve out a routine, let alone set aside time for maintaining his martial arts training. After watching a capoeira showcase at a local club, he is eager to get back into the swing of things. It doesn’t hurt that his friend Alaina is also a member of the club and happy to help him figure out a good schedule. It doesn’t take long before Terry realizes Alaina is also keen to get him in touch with her cousin, Baz.

Familial machinations aside, Baz and Terry are quick to form a tentative friendship around their mutual love of sport. In fact, Baz finds himself increasingly interested in Terry—a young man who seems so shy on the surface, but whose caring and talkative nature shines through the more time they spend with one another. It doesn’t take long for Baz to realize he wants more than just friendship, but what he doesn’t know how Terry will respond.

The truth is, Terry has long assumed that his being a trans man meant he would be single. More than that, he was never very comfortable with sex and since his transition, he thought he’d lost all interest in it. When Baz starts making romantic overtures, Terry is equally flattered and frustrated. On the one hand, Terry finds he might like very much to be a part of Baz and Camille’s sweet and loving family. On the other hand, Terry can’t help but feel inadequate if for no other reason that his complete lack of experience and being unable to commit to a physical relationship. Not to mention Terry’s near consuming self-consciousness about his own body.

Despite all the noise, these two manage to build something pretty special—and they feel it growing deeper with every visit. When the first test of their compatibility rears its ugly head, however, both of them need to take a moment to think long and hard about what they want out of a potential relationship.

This book is built entirely around the Baz/Terry relationship. Wayne’s careful attention to their characters helps elevate an otherwise pretty low-key story into one that is a bit more memorable. Both main characters have interesting jobs—Baz is a patisserie and Terry is a voice actor. Their jobs add a bit of dimensionality to them as characters and, arguably more importantly, introduce an element of conflict in the schedule. This, in turn, helps drive the plot a bit. Specifically, Baz’s work hours keep him busy nights while his daughter Camille keeps him busy most of the rest of the time. This means he’s a man who doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to a relationship. Similarly, Terry’s job as a voice actor means he might be called away on a job at a moment’s notice and it could take a week or two or more to complete the job.

As inconsequential as scheduling conflicts seem to be, this does play an important role in the story. Baz is the main narrator and we get to see him reacting to his own schedule, figuring out if he wants to prioritize time with Terry initially and then figuring out what it means when he needs to prioritize time with Terry (especially when he can’t control how long Terry might be away on an assignment). In other words, their work commitments bring into sharper relief how Baz feels about making time for Terry and how Terry reacts to someone finally making time for him.

On the other hand, there are some parts of the book that I just failed to really grasp. One big “huh” moment for me was the fact that Baz is apparently a French expat. Not only that, but at least two members of his extended family (an aunt and a cousin) are with him. Wayne pours effort into maintaining this French connection: Baz speaks French with his daughter in several scenes throughout the story and mentions visiting his parents in France at least once. The fact that Baz is French takes a couple chapters to figure out. Why this character is French is not clearly established, either. It’s such a fundamental bit of establishing a character…like their name or their physical description. I feel it should either be clearly laid out from the get-go or left entirely to the reader’s imagination. Having to read a goodly chunk of the book before realizing Baz is speaking French to Camille because he IS French feels a bit amateurish.

The only real let down in the story was actually Terry. I missed the part of the blurb that explained he’s a trans man, so when he first gets introduced, I didn’t really get the impression he was anything other than a slim, shy cis man. This is significant because much of this character’s makeup (on-page at least) revolves around how he struggles to be comfortable in his own skin, apparently because he is a trans man. Here, too, I had to read a goodly portion of the book before Terry himself spells it out for Baz (who was maybe in the dark? This aspect wasn’t well explored, either, despite having an omniscient narrator with Baz’s POV).

When Terry first meets Baz, he’s painfully shy and Wayne consistently describes him—well, like a shrinking violet. Even after he gains a little confidence as far as being with Baz in a romantic relationship, the nervousness never really goes away. On the one hand, I feel like I can definitely relate to the whole “you like me?! your really like me?!” feelings Terry clearly has. On the other hand, I didn’t feel these emotions did justice to Terry because the reader never felt them from Terry’s point of view…we just saw Baz reaction (albeit very tenderly, openly, and dream-boat-ily) to Terry’s insecurities. Without his own narrative voice and consistent descriptions that make it seem like Terry’s more of an avatar rather than a well-rounded character, this made it hard for me to get into him as a character.

As far as the prose goes, it’s mostly pretty okay. That said, the first few chapters were sort of a chore. Dialogue between Baz and Terry was disappointingly repetitious, and when you only have a hundred pages or so to work with, it stood out to me. Thankfully, the characters are able to move onto other discussions later in the book. I also thought Terry, for all that amounts to a walking insecurity complex, had strong speech patterns (that sometimes annoyed me but I realize this is not unlike how young people talk today).

Overall, if you’re interested in reading a story featuring a trans man character or one about The Perfect Boyfriend, one that does a respectable job at including a child into the narrative, this would be a satisfying read.

camille sig

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