Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Short Story Anthology


Love & Limitations is an anthology of five short stories by author J. Scott Coatsworth. The anthology has clear themes tying the different stories to each other on a conceptual level. All of them share the idea of finding someone. Several of them feature transgender main characters. Unrequited love and finding love after loss are two more prevalent themes. Surviving the holidays also features in several of the stories. I think these stories are a great way to unwind after a hectic day prepping for festivities and all the trappings of modern holiday celebrations. They might deal with heavier topics and personal tragedy, but each one highlights the points in these characters’ lives when they finally overcame their grief and their struggles to find a place to belong and a person to belong with. Some of these stories have been previously released in other places, but this is the first time they have all been published together, and the first release of the The Boy in the Band in any form.

One of the best things about these short stories is how complete they feel without being full length. I love how fully formed these characters felt. Each one had a strong sense of individuality, and the people they surrounded themselves with made for compelling reading. Below, I will give a quick synopsis of each story and some highlights about the stories I particularly enjoyed.

I Only Want to Be With You

Derek has recently lost his mother. While he’s going through it, his good friend Ryan is there to get him back into the business of living day to day. Derek really appreciates how Ryan innately knows what he needs and how to support him. Derek really does not appreciate that Ryan is attached to a terrible man who simply cannot see how great Ryan is.

Even though Ryan shows every sign of wanting to be a better and closer friend to Derek, Derek can’t help but see how his friendship with Ryan is a point of contention for Ryan and his boyfriend. Derek thinks removing himself from the situation is a way to remedy the problem, but it just makes both Derek and Ryan miserable. These two may be the best of friends, but can they open their hearts to each other to see if there’s a way to move forward together?


The Boy in the Band

Over the summer, Justin came out as transgender. His mother is the opposite of supportive, and he had to forge her signature in order for the school to abide by his preferred pronouns and gender identity. On the plus side, Justin’s had the whole summer to plan how to survive being transgender in high school. That plan gets thrown out the window on the first day when he gets singled out for making trouble on the bus, despite having done nothing wrong. That sets the tone for Justin’s return to school. One thing after another comes crashing down, or blowing up around him.

Despite everything being generally terrible, there are two things that give Justin hope. One is making a queer friend in the band. The second is meeting a new student who transferred from out of state. The new kid is also queer, and Justin can’t help but have feelings for him. As good as these things are, Justin quickly learns nothing lasts forever, especially when his crush rejects him. With disappointment heaped on rejection heaped on not being accepted, Justin decides to take action into his own hands. But before he can make any undoable decisions, Justin meets Ryan, half of a gay couple who just may prove Justin wrong and show that life can be worth living.

What I liked about this story is how Justin’s lived experiences are told in short, well organized bursts of activity. It really highlights how much he struggled, and his isolation and hurt feelings. These are told in flashbacks, as Justin is grudgingly telling his story to Ryan. At the same time, Ryan and his partner open up their hearts and their home to Justin and part of their story is also interwoven into Justin‘s. As far as storytelling goes, I thought it was a really solid presentation with great balance between the younger generation and an older generation and that sense of sound family and the feeling of belonging that comes for meeting someone who can meet you where you are because they’ve been there before.



Dominic works for a design magazine as a layout editor by day, and toils away at writing in his free time. Sometimes, it feels like the drudgery of work sucks all the joy out of him. Thankfully, a few months ago, new leadership came to work at the office. Luckily for Dominic, that leadership comes in the form of a sexy gay Italian man named Dante. Having long had a thing for Italians (after all, Dominic’s once and current roommate/ex boyfriend, Enrico, is Italian himself), Dominic suddenly finds work a whole lot more interesting. Even better, Dante singles Dominic out to help with a big name project for the magazine. Getting close to Dante is everything Dominic thinks he wants, But he strangely finds himself struggling to keep his professional and aspirational romantic life on the right track.

As if falling for his boss wasn’t hard enough, Dominic cannot help but compare where he’s at in life to where Dante and even Enrico are. Dante has a high-powered job in the company and Enrico recently joined a multi-million dollar venture capital startup. Dominic needs this work project and prospective relationship to work out. Surprisingly, he finds an ally in Enrico. When Dominic has to miss work unexpectedly, Enrico calls the office to explain Dominic’s absence. When Dominic wants to seize the opportunity to woo his boss, he asks Enrico for some Italian help. Rather than putting him on surer footing, however, Dominic suddenly finds himself on uncertain footing…and it seems like Enrico is at the heart of it all.

This was a very relatable story about falling for the wrong person not once, but twice. About feeling stuck in your own life while it feels like everyone around you is whizzing on to great successes. And about finding love where you least expect it. I loved the dynamic between Dominic and Dante and between Dominic and Enrico. I especially enjoyed the anticipation of how (or if!) Dominic would have to choose just one lover. My only gripe is that I wish the big scene where Dante and his eventual partner come together got more on-page time, if only to help me savor how the cards ultimately landed.


Slow Thaw

As a transgender man, Col has had to work his ass off to earn the same respect in his chosen field of climate science. After years of study, research, and pure dedication (and at least one broken relationship), he’s finally hit the big time: a six-month long research posting in Antarctica. Even better? He’ll be assisting the research of famed scientist, Javier Fernandez, known for being the best of the best and for being more than a little bit of a curmudgeon. Still, Col knows he’s good and he is sure he can prove his mettle even to Javier. That is, until he meets the man.

Javier never enjoys new getting a new “fingy,” or “fucking new guy.” And he’s got no qualms leaving Col to deal with the heaps of supplies that came with him on the helicopter ride to the Antarctic research station where they’ll spend six months working together. At least Col doesn’t complain. And when Javier finds some surprising, and depressing, results in his latest core sample that Col confirms, he thinks he just might be able to tolerate working with another human for once. It’ll be a big change for a man who basically cut off his emotions after his husband died five years ago. All that is put to the test when Javier takes Col on a camping tour of the Antarctic ice shelf when a massive disaster leaves them stranded in the wilds of Antarctica.



It’s been almost a year since his husband was hit and killed by a car and Chris is thinking it might be time to find someone new to spend his life with. The voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like his late husband wholeheartedly agrees. Armed with a mostly healed heart and advice from his friend, Jake, Chris decides to give himself ten dates to find the new love of his life. And for fun, he’ll keep notes for posterity to make sure everyone gets a fair evaluation.

It turns out dating is incredibly hard. Chris chose his first date through Grindr, which led to some fantastic sex, but zero intellectual connection. His second date was actually more of an escort looking to pay down his student loans. Then there was the randy priest, the too-extra-everything, the extreme right winger, the perfect bookworm, the utter Dom, the total closet case, the performer, and the doppelgänger. Some dates were better than others, like the one with the bookworm and the doppelgänger, but nothing seemed to click. Desperate for advice, Chris reaches out to his friend only to come to the realization that one of those dates might actually have been perfect for him. The caveat? Chris reacted poorly when Toby revealed at the end of their date that he was transgender. With some time to think and a bit of friendly advice, Chris hopes he can take a second shot at love with the only person to make him feel something in more than a year.

The premise of this story was so much fun: ten dates in ten days for Chris to find his next One True Love. This was a great way to highlight the variety in the queer community. I loved that Chris doesn’t reject anyone outright, even when he knows he’d be incompatible with someone (like the too-extra-everything date) or when his dates can’t accept themselves for the gay men they are (like the priest and the closet case dates). I say this with a big asterisk as someone who is not transgender themself, but I appreciated Coatsworth’s exploration of how the cis-gendered gay Chris reacted to transgender Toby coming out to him. It was interesting to consider how and what Chris actually said, versus the impact it had on Toby and his own lived experiences as a transgendr man trying to find love himself.