Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Texas Hold 'Em by Sara James (#transformation #genderswap)

For a story with such a simple concept, Texas Hold 'Em is surprisingly deep and well-detailed. Where so many other authors would settle for a one-handed quick read with a clich├ęd payoff, Sara James refuses to take the easy way out. She gets deep into her characters heads and builds a multi-faceted drama around them, making the reader genuinely care about them and the consequences of their evening poker game.

Ken is one of my favorite characters in a very long time, a man tricked into femininity, transformed into a perfect cheerleader with a sexy Southern drawl. As Kendra, she knows who exactly she is and who she was. There is a clear distinction between her male and female identities, and she retains the presence of mind to make decisions for herself. The way she develops, growing into her new role and identity, is exceptional.

Of course, Kendra is not the only character here. She is surrounded by five of Ken's friends, poker buddies who are struggling to deal with a surprising act of magic when all they expected was a little crossdressing humiliation. You keep expecting them to turn on her, to take advantage of the situation, but that is not the story Sara James is telling her. She explores their moral and emotional quandaries, dealing with the awkwardness of this buxom cheerleader who used to be their friend. It is a story that alternates between awkward and humorous, and which does eventually approach a level of comfort where the reality of Kendra is taken advantage.

Until, that is, the night comes to an end and there are consequences to be dealt with. There is a major cliffhanger at the end of chapter eleven, where the story could go in multiple directions, but Sara James does the unexpected and tells a whole second story after that twist. Those final chapters are entirely different in tone, and I would argue they are the best part of the story, were it not for the fact that the first story is so strong on its own.

While I have enjoyed the stories of Sara James before, Texas Hold 'Em is on a whole other level. It is seriously that good.

Sara James (1968 - present) was born in the rural hills and valleys of New York state's Leatherstocking region, where she grew to maturity before leaving home to join the Navy. After four years of service that took her to Chicago, Boston, Memphis and San Diego, she returned home to pursue a dual degree in physics and mathematics with a minor in computer science. At the suggestion of an English professor who encouraged her to pursue writing as a career, she began to hone her craft by writing stories in private. Publishing her first work in the year 2000 with Reluctant Press, she has continued to write and publish while maintaining a full time career and family. Her hope is to make her professor's suggestion a reality and become a full time author.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoy Sarah's work, but I did have one big problem with this book. The poker game is wrong. "All in" doesn't work that way. Now it's possible to accept the situation and enjoy the story, but for me that was tough, as the bet simply could not have happened as it does in the story.