Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Be My Queen by RayeAnn Carter

You know that feeling when you get in a groove, where it seems like every book that leaps into your hand is a winner? It doesn't happen often, but I do so love it when it does! First I got to admire Drag Dolls, Dames & Divas for the latest issue of Frock, then I landed an early review copy of The Broken Forest that I loved, and now I've finished lingering over the romantic beauty that is Be My Queen by RayeAnn Carter . . . and I couldn't be more delighted.

As transgender romances go, this is the best that I've read in years. It hooks you emotionally as well as intellectually, making you care about Lavender, even as you swoon over Diego. There's some real uncertainty to the tale, which Carter develops nicely from the first page, making us wonder even as she reveals the facets of Lavender's life that drive those uncertainties. She's such a beautiful girl, but one who is deeply vulnerable and so terribly afraid to allow herself to feel any sort of hope, especially for love.

The early revelation that Diego is bisexual certainly helps to alleviate some of that uncertainty, but there are so many other factors at play, so many other people with the power to come between Lavender and love. I've never rooted for a fictional character as much as I did for her. I was completely invested in her life, her love, and her dreams. I wanted to see her get the happiness she deserved, but there were moments when I really doubted whether we'd get a happily-ever-after. When I say I cried at the point where she returns home to find her room trashed, her hormones stolen, and her journal missing, I'm talking real tears - the kind that make your mascara run.

The transgender element here is both prominent and respectful. Carter does a wonderful job of establishing the friendships and rivalries between the girls, of exploring how they cope with being outsiders, and how they strive to fit in. Lavender's personal history is tragic, but I loved how she took charge of her life and her transition. It's expensive, but it's entirely sweet the way she works whatever odd jobs she can, like flirting with boys to woo them into the ice cream shop of her adopted grandfather. Similarly, I thought Carter was very tactful in dealing with the challenges of being a woman with an erection that betrays her attraction to Diego. It's a situation that's as humorous as it is uncomfortable, but one that's never played strictly for laughs.

Romantic and endearing, Be My Queen is a lovely story that that's well-told, with remarkable characters, and a genuine feel for the art of romance.

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