From the blurb:
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.
Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.
As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.
Sometimes I rate a book 3 stars because I just sort of "liked" it overall, or sometimes I rate books 3 stars because there were parts that I really liked and parts that I didn't like so much and they averaged out. The latter is the case with this story.
Kris Ripper did a lot right with this story, including writing a book with a trans male MC in a M/F relationship, which is notable because it is so rare in romance. I really like reading books that expand my horizons, and I think I learn something newish every time I step outside my box in queer romance. Not that this book reads as particularly didactic, but because it brings up issues that I hadn't realized before.
I'd say that this book is queer romance for queer readers. Not that you have to be queer to read and enjoy it (case in point, me), but because it is a book that feels like it was meant for the QUILTBAG community at large.
I'm going to start off by talking about a few things that I really liked about the book. I absolutely loved the sex scenes, and I wish there were more of them. Every time Alisha referred to Ed's dick in that husky way and brought out the dirty talk... loved it. I'd never read a book with a male trans MC who hadn't had top surgery[top surgery (hide spoiler)], and I was also interested to see how that played out. It was handled well, I thought, and it felt true to life. I thought it was interesting how Ed called his front hole a pussy because I thought that word would be... triggery, but I guess to each trans-person their own. The sex scenes were a jumble of erotic and informative, and I really enjoyed the combo.
I also found a few things so be SUPER interesting. I'd never thought about gendered-noun languages and how difficult that must be for a trans person!! It really blew me away. I mean, you aren't just mis-gendering with "her/him" but with so many nouns/adjectives. That's just... insane.
In addition, I also found the sexuality of the MCs to be really fascinating. Alisha considered/considers herself a lesbian and hasn't ever been attracted to a guy... until Ed. Now she has to re-think her terms for herself. Is she still a lesbian if she has a boyfriend? I found it interesting how she relabeled herself just queer only attracted to queer people. Would she be attracted to only trans men or cis men too and why or why not? I wanted to ask Alisha a million questions!
Ed was interesting as well. It must be strange going from having the world view you as a lesbian to as a "straight" person. I was really intrigued by Ed's responses to all of that.
However, the book wasn't completely successful, unfortunately. As in the second Queers of La Vista book. I struggled with the romance. I didn't connect with Alisha at all, and I wish we had gotten inside her head too. She seemed too flighty, too scattered, and I couldn't pin down her personality. I mean, I was happy that she liked Ed for himself, but I feel like that was one of the few qualities that connected them.
Also, I felt like that book was much more focused on the mystery at hand than in the romance. I'm NOT a mystery-lover, and it is irritating me more and more how the mystery keeps building but never gets resolved throughout the series. I really don't like being kept in the dark, and the thought of more and more books where a killer looms and we have to guess who it is, it makes me want to quit the series. There was so much talk about who is dying and why and theories that to see the thread continue into the next book and not get a conclusion is hard for me.
I also thought that the snarky, "I'm better than you" attitude of the MCs towards Ed's housemates was a bit tiresome. Give those guys a break, Ed. They seemed pretty decent, actually. In addition, I can't ignore the fact that the pace dragged at times, and that this book took me days to finish, which is usually not a great sign for me.
I wish this book had been simply a contemporary romance with no mystery involved. I wanted to feel the build-up and sexual tension and CHEMISTRY between Ed and Alisha, which is why I read romance, after all. However, though I might quit this series at this point (especially with a menage book coming up... not my style), I will be looking for more from Kris Ripper in the future. I will also rec this book to my friends who are looking for queer literature that feels real.
*Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Catch ya later!