I was asking on Twitter a couple of weeks ago for a romance with a transgender main character, and someone from Riptide sent me The Burnt Toast B&B, which just came out last week. I realize that I’m not exactly reaching deep into my TBR, but any time I actually read an ARC is a minor miracle so I’m counting it as January’s short read for the 2015 TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian.
This is the fifth book in a series set in a small town in Washington state that has become a tourist destination thanks to being the filming location for a popular TV show, Wolf’s Landing. I haven’t read any of the previous books in the Bluewater Bay series but I did not feel as if the story had any gaps.
When the book begins, Derrick Richards, an out of work logger, is in his third year of trying to keep his late parents’ B&B afloat. He’s only got one set of guests and they leave before he can serve them their titular toast. Just as Derrick decides to give it up, Ginsberg Sloan shows up. Ginsberg is a stuntman, temporarily sidelined by an arm injury. They share an instant physical attraction, but they couldn’t be more different in their personalities.
Derrick is gruff and pretty un-evolved. Having been bullied along gender lines as a child, he now asserts a defensive masculinity whenever he feels threatened, which is pretty much all the time. He’s still in many ways a wounded child, afraid of being direct and figuring out who he is and what he wants in life. Instead of just telling Ginsberg that the inn is closed and directing him to another hotel in town, for example, Derrick puts him in a musty attic room and pretends the dryer breaks. I lost patience with Derrick almost from the first scene. Three years and this guy can’t figure out how to scramble eggs and make toast?
I think some readers will just love Derrick, the wounded child that Ginsberg helps heal and whose growth is signaled by a Big Romantic Gesture to win Ginsberg back after one too many stonewalling hurtful comments. But I found Derrick pretty juvenile. To me, he didn’t have counterbalancing attractive traits that made Ginsberg’s love for him plausible.
Ginsberg (he named himself after the poet) was a great character. I understood his love for his stunt job, his embrace of a wide array of gender traits without apology or fear, his optimism, his work ethic, and his difficult past. He happens to be transgender to Derrick’s cisgender identity, but, aside from a couple of awkward comments as Derrick learns more about Ginsberg, that’s not the source of the conflict between these two men. I was of two minds about that: (1) thank God one person being transgender is not the “problem” in this relationship, but (2) wait, this guy who is totally stuck in his emotional development and has a zillion gender hangups has absolutely no issues with a trans* partner? In other words, politically, I loved that choice,but aesthetically, given what I knew of Derrick as a character, I wasn’t totally convinced.
Different from most m/m romance I have read, The Burnt Toast B&B had only two sex scenes and very little mental lusting, which I appreciated (I appreciate the same thing in het romance, too). Both scenes were very well done and important to the development of their relationship. I liked Derrick the most in those scenes, because they revealed a tender, carefree, and unguarded side of him.
There was a lot going on with the tv show, the bustling town, Derrick’s former lover and current friend, Jim, even a vicious little dog named Victoria Beckham. A bit of a Welcome to Temptation vibe, but not as funny. Definitely on the sweeter side, but deals with significant emotional issues as well. I’m glad I read it.