Rating: 5 stars
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“There is no graceful way to tell someone you are not what they think.”
With that one painful and lonely statement, I lost my heart to Sky Kelly. Transgression by Theo Fenraven is perhaps one of the most emotionally charged novellas I have read this year. Chocked full of heart-wrenching admissions by nearly every type of person who falls beneath the LGBT umbrella, author Theo Fenraven casts his discerning eye on transgender and bisexual characters specifically. Both Sky (a pre-operative transgender female) and Zach (a bisexual male) struggle with people accepting them for who they are and how they live and love.
This is more than a “nice story” with a happy ever after. Transgression is a window into the anguish and isolation that is felt every day by men and women who have been marginalized by an uncaring and ofttimes bigoted society. Don’t get me wrong; there is no “preaching” here, merely a statement of fact that an entire section of our population lives as second-class citizens precisely because of the way in which they were born. The beauty of Fenraven’s writing is that he wraps up every keen observation and truth he chooses to share with us in a beautiful love story that entertains while it educates.
Zachary Fox is an up and coming actor new to the Hollywood scene. With a remarkably sensible head on his shoulders, Zach nonetheless harbors a secret that could derail his career permanently. He is bisexual. While having dealt with his own struggles from an early age that he was attracted to both sexes, Zach now realizes that many (even in the gay community) feel that he is hiding behind the “Bi” label and simply “lying” about being gay. He, however, knows the truth. Both men and women simply excite Zach. In order to keep the press at bay, he strikes an agreement with his costar Kris so they will be seen dating while he quietly pursues men on the side. In this way, he has the best of both worlds, but even Zach knew this can’t last forever.
After admitting to a friend that he is having trouble sleeping, Zach is introduced to an herbalist named Sky Kelly. A stunning woman with a demure and sensuous demeanor, Sky too is hiding a secret–more than one, in fact. After her father discovered that Sky liked to dress up as a girl, he tossed her away at the age of 16. Forced to make her way alone, Sky signed on as an escort and began doing the hormone therapy that would allow her to live as she always knew she was meant to–as a woman. Now with both female breasts and fully intact and functioning male organs below the waist, Sky struggles with the idea that she is nothing more than a “freak.” Yet the idea of an operation that has so very little guarantee of success keeps Sky from going any further in changing her body to look more female.
Both Sky and Zach know that if they can just be successful enough, if Zach’s acting takes off and Sky’s herbalist shop could become the sole source of her income, then they can finally live as they have always wanted to–out and proud, no longer hiding and feeling outcast with both the straight and gay communities. They simply need to stay hidden for now. Love has never really figured into their lives, until they meet, and then, their world changes completely overnight.
I must begin this review by stating how impressed I am by this author. Social commentary is not always easy to swallow, even when it is hidden inside a fiction setting, but Fenraven does more than just commentate. He evolves a well-written, intelligent, and beautiful love story that has moments that catch you, give you pause, and make you think. The true genius in the way in which the author lays out his story is that he allows you to come to your own conclusions. He leads you to the edge, shows you the truth, and then lets his story tell the rest.
Transgression is packed with characters that each have something about them that they have been made to feel embarrassed about–as if it is a dirty secret. Any anger they feel, while fleeting, is often centered on the fact that they are made to feel that they are “less” than others, freaks, evil, unnatural. From a simple kink, such as a man liking women’s silky underwear, to a transgender female trying to come to terms with her own body, the characters struggle with real emotions and the deep abiding need to just be loved for who they are, as they are, with no reason for change. The compassion and empathy the author demonstrates for each man and woman he creates is stunning. You feel what it is like to walk in their skin, feel their undeserved shame, and because Fenraven writes with such believability, you begin to understand how much those who are outcast suffer at the hands of bullies and bigots. I was amazed at how these characters wormed their way into my heart and leaped off the page with realistic clarity.
The story itself was compelling to read with a full range of well developed plot lines that included a love element, a stalking and murder and, in the end, survival. There were no “throw away” characters here, but many fully fleshed out and intriguing in their own way. I particularly liked Zach’s friend and personal assistant, Ricky. He was undeniably sweet and surprisingly fragile in many ways.
I honestly cannot say enough about this novel. I have read other works by this author and I must tell you he gets better and better with each story he gives us. Transgression is a thought-provoking story of love and survival that gives us a genuine transgender heroine who is smart and strong, while still being tender and loving. I highly recommend this novella to you.
Great review, I have read this too and it is a book that stays with you – I want Ricky’s story now!
An excellent review of a book covering such weighty subject matters. Thanks to you, Transgression has definitely made it on my “must read” list! Thank you for sharing . ^_^