Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
When Mark Talleo sets his sights on something, he usually gets it. A known lady’s man, Mark never sticks with one girl very long before he moves on to the next. And then he meets Josie. Mark isn’t sure whether it’s the red hair, the mystery that surrounds her, or that she plays hard to get, but he’s determined to get to know her.
Josie Frazier doesn’t have anything against Mark. In fact, she’d love to get to know him, but she can’t. Josie has a secret. One that she’s sure if Mark knew would send him running. Josie was born a male, but has lived her life as a female since she was six. As hard as she tries to deflect Mark’s advances, she can only hold off for so long, especially after they’re both cast as leads in the theater department’s production of My Fair Lady.
Mark likes Josie a lot, enough to introduce her to his family, but he knows she is keeping something from him. The more time Josie spends with Mark, the more she likes him, and the more afraid she is to tell him that she’s trans. But when a group of mean girls finds out her secret, Josie’s world is flipped upside down. Josie faces the bullying alone, still afraid to reveal her secret to anyone, especially Mark. But when she’s outed, Josie is forced to face her life as an openly trans girl, and Mark must examine the man he is and his true feelings for Josie.
Kimberly Gardner is back, ladies and gentlemen! And wow! I am a huge fan of Gardner’s writing and I have been for years. She’s been on hiatus for a while, but now she’s back and man, did she blow back into this genre with a winner. His Fair Lady is a book that reaches into the depths of what some see as taboo and brings to light a story that is beautiful and heartwarming. I adored this one from beginning to end.
Josie is the life, the heart of this story. Her being, her sexuality, her passion, and her love are the things that bring life to her story. I adore her—her strengths, her fears, her person. She’s beautiful from her introduction to the final scene. I think what I love the most is how Gardner outlined her growth from timid and a bit shy to bold and strong. She learns who she is after she meets and falls for Mark. She gains a confidence she never knew she had. She finds herself and learns to love who she is regardless of what others think. There’s such a realness to her character, one that I empathized with. As I was reading, it was as if she were a real person, one that I wanted to sit with, talk to, comfort. Josie’s story is one of inner beauty and overcoming fear. She’s kind of my hero.
Mark is the typical pretty boy college student. He’s a womanizer turned compassionate, one-woman man. What I love so much about him is his openness, his lack of judgment. At his core he’s a good guy, but his outer shell is an asshole. His journey from shallow asshat to caring and understanding is a huge draw in this story. I love that he’s more than what people think of him. I love that he has depth and feeling, even though he doesn’t always choose to show it. I think his character shows the most growth. He isn’t always perfect but he learns from his mistakes, and that’s what makes him so perfect.
This story is engrossing. Gardner does a wonderful job of pulling readers in emotionally and keeping them on edge with a story that is sweet and angsty and intriguing. I loved this so much. I was compelled by Josie and her inner struggle as well as the fear she held. I was also intrigued by Mark and his attraction to Josie’s mystery regardless of her secrets. And then there’s the mean girls… ugh. It’s hard to have taboo without mean girls. This group gives a level of conflict that I was enthralled by.
So the only issue I have is with the lack of on page consequences for the bullying. My heart broke for Josie over and over again and while there is a solution, I wanted more of a firm conclusion. What happened? How was this girl punished? How will it affect the next bully who thinks they can get away with it? Bullying was only a part of this story, but the way it affects Josie’s life is huge. I will say, this author writes bullying and its effects painfully and wonderfully. I just wanted a little bit more to conclude that storyline.
Overall, this comeback is everything I hoped for and so much more. This character driven story is beautiful and sweet and perfect. I adore it from beginning to end. I wanted so badly for the story to continue on. I can’t wait to see what this author comes out with next. I highly recommend His Fair Lady by Kimberly Gardner.