Rating: 3.75 stars
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From his green hair to his flippy skirts, Kyle is flamboyant, free-spirited, and knows how to flaunt it. His outgoing nature helps him maximize the social and public aspects of his work for a local HIV charity, but it’s his patience and dedication that make him a success helping run the charity behind the scenes. These are also imperative qualities when it comes to coparenting the son he’s raising with one of his best friends, Evie. For all that he seems like an open book, however, Kyle knows he and his family life are likely too unconventional and too vulnerable for him to come traipsing home with just any man. Yet his friends Evie and River both know he’s not the kind of man to settle for a string of one night stands—just so long as the right man comes along.
Being the right man has been something of a quest for computer programmer, Nic. While his staid mode of dress and equally mundane job allow him to fly under the radar, everything else has been a hard-won battle against the female body he was cruelly born into. After years of hard work, Nic is finally comfortable in the knowledge that he ‘passes.’ Yet when he meets Kyle as the contact person on his latest programming project, Nic suddenly finds himself envious of the freedom Kyle takes to just ignore the ‘rules’ and be his natural self.
When Evie finagles her coworker Nic and her baby-daddy Kyle into going out for a night with the group, she hoped they would hit it off. Indeed, the sparks fly and Nic and Kyle soon ditch the drinks for a flaming hot hookup at Nic’s place. After a bed-shattering good time, however, both men are reminded that they’re not cut out for coupledom. Kyle retreats behind his just-for-fun persona and Nic struggles to keep it professional when just the thought of Kyle has his heart racing.
Despite the distance they try to keep, however, the pair get thrown together in the most dramatic way when Kyle’s small office goes up in flames and he’s barely able to escape. Nic comes to the rescue, offering Kyle a place to stay. In no time, the two are living out of each other’s back pockets like they were born to do. All the while, they quietly learn to accept that sometimes, feelings can be returned without the stark threat of rejection. Nic learns that Kyle is honestly attached to him as a person, while Kyle learns Nic wants to be part of a flamboyant family.
The story centers mostly on the relationship between Nic and Kyle. The chapters are short (about 10 pages or so per chapter) and flip-flop between third person narration from Nic and Kyle’s perspectives. I thought this delivery worked super well as it allows the reader to really get acquainted with both characters and understand, from the get-go, what their hang ups are and why. Even though I never really got the angst-high from reading about the action from only one character’s perspective, both Nic and Kyle have plenty of things to angst over with themselves.
Speaking of the hang ups, we learn that Nic’s worries over passing as a man started with his family rejecting him for being trans (and gay? this is never really explored on page, just summed up as “yup, they rejected Nic”). Given his physical limitations as a man (he’s had bottom surgery, but not a full phalloplasty), Nic fears Kyle might only be interested in him for the novelty factor. When it becomes clear that Kyle is definitely into Nic for Nic, however, a whole different kind of baggage comes out of the woodwork: is Nic brave enough to act on his curiosity to explore a latent feminine side.
Yeah. That was Nic’s big thing, once he realized Kyle wasn’t just humoring the trans guy. It’s pretty awesome to see Nic mulling over his desire to wear more flamboyant clothing, even skirts and makeup like Kyle does, without it threatening the masculinity he’s worked so hard to develop.
Kyle’s baggage is related to his son, Kevin. He “only” co-parents with Kevin’s mother, Evie, so the kid doesn’t feature prominently in the story until Kyle’s figured out Nic isn’t just a one night stand, but might actually be a stable presence in both their lives. Despite the plethora of scenes where we see Kyle and Kevin interact, however, I never really developed much of an attachment to Kevin. And, unfortunately, Kyle’s main appeal for me was his aesthetic—the wearing of skirts or flouncy blouses, the dyed hair. The big daddy-kid scene where Kyle’s trying to teach Kevin a moral lesson about not fighting and all that felt terribly jilted to me, too.
The other big thing in the story is the fire that burns down Kyle’s workplace. Kyle makes it out and manages to drag his boss, who’s been knocked unconscious in a stairwell, before they were in very clear and present danger. The act is deemed as a hate crime and the characters feel like the police are half-assedly investigating. That has a whole lot of potential written all over it, but Davies never spends much time (like at all) discussing the social implications of a hate crime or the lack of police involvement in bringing the guilty to justice. Given the intense focus on bringing Kyle and Nic together, I didn’t mind that so much…but it was irksome to have the characters mention these feelings on page and have such scant follow up. In fact, the whole fire thing does get a resolution, but it felt so rushed at the end that I didn’t think it was really justified. The whole ending to that arc just set my teeth on edge because it drags in some supporting characters who could have otherwise just been the average faff to flesh out the work-a-day scenes and has our MCs acting in ways that don’t really fit with what the previous 30-odd chapters have established.
Nevertheless, if you’re interested in a story featuring a transgender man, this story offers a unique picture of a fully transitioned man finding love and learning that being a man doesn’t have to mean sticking to a narrowly defined idea of “man.” The relationship that grows between Nic and Kyle is super detailed and flows very naturally and the handful of side characters are, for the most part, added fun (and mostly Kyle’s friends, so they kind of make up for his lack of real personality).