Title: Femme by Marshall Thornton
Published by: Kenmore Books
Genre: Contemporary Queer Romance
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: One empowered femme does not need to deal with one closeted straight-acting boy’s drama…even if the sex is hot. Femme is a relatively low angst romance with pro-Boi vibes with friends and family who take a long time to figure their stuff out but do get there in the end.
Queeny cocktail waiter, Lionel, wakes up to find himself in bed with Dog, a straight-acting softball player and the two embark on a rocky road to romance. A journey that requires coming out of the closet, going into the closet, a pair of red high heels, many pairs of red high heels, a failed intervention, a couple of aborted dates, and homemade pom-poms. Mostly, Lionel and Dog learn what it means to be a man.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Marshall Thornton from Boystown, AKA Nick Nowak Mysteries. You know, the Chicago series that takes place in the last era when Vaseline use was more prevalent than its condom counterpart? Does his style make you think, “California?” No? How about “Los Angeles?”
Thornton’s terse writing isn’t one that I would have expected to evoke the Los Angeles gay (and surrounding) scene. But if, like me, you thought this, you’d be wrong. Thornton has a wonderful grasp of LA grit: of the side streets, the alleys, the bus rides, and the particular way in which you can walk down the street in five-inch stilettos to getting killed just by not having the correct change for the bus.
And not a slice of avocado was mentioned anywhere!
Funny thing about California, and Southern California in particular—it’s fairly conservative. Sometimes, it’s really conservative. Dog’s family could be mine—that sense of drama, righteousness, and the weird flavor of God with undertones of “I know so much better than you.” Okay, this is not just a SoCal phenomenon. It’s all over. But Thornton captures the subtle flavor of the disbelief that I experienced (“You aren’t really gay” “You just need therapy” “I know you better than you know yourself”) so well, I…well, I might have had a flashback or two.
Fortunately, there’s Lionel. He’s lovely. And he has a thing for high heels. They make his ankles look amazing. Which is great, cause they need to keep up with his incredible ass.
Really, this should be the first thing I mentioned. How many times have you read something on Facebook or Twitter lamenting the lack of books showcasing fabulous femmes? No? Okay, how many times have I read them? A lot. Like…alotalot. And something this book gets right is both the sheer amount of crap femmes get for being femme and the incredible strength it takes to show up and be authentic over and over. It reminds me of some saying … something…about teabags? Anyhow, you know what I mean. Lionel is hella strong, youknowhaddimean? Lionel’s awesomeness is obvious but, weirdly, not so obvious to those around him, which is what his journey involves.
Now, gotta say. I was bummed (See? SoCal speak alive and well) that Dog was one who didn’t appreciate Lionel’s awesomeness. I mean, he did…but he really didn’t. Quite honestly, there was a point when Lionel told Dog to lose his number and I was one hundred percent in agreement, ready to kick Dog’s ass with sequined stilettos.
Dog got there in the end.
Which was the point. I just wish this wasn’t how things were. Well, considering Thornton’s penchant for delving into the not-so-fine points of life with characters who grudgingly take good, slow long looks at themselves, I can’t exactly blame the author for going there. After all, it’s what he does. And who he is.
Which may be why he picked the tagline he did. It’s from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
What you may not like: The love interest is a bit of a weenie when it comes to loving hard on his femme lover. I was annoyed but I was meant to be.
What you will love: I loved the gritty Los Angeles vibe, the awesome bestie, the small fiscal revenge, the heels, the epiphany, the surprise allies, and the wonderful, funny, sparkling femme named Lionel.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra