What a treat to read a genuinely sweet romance that includes a gay male and a trans main character. Hopeless Romantic is a genre romance. Boy meets girl, boy courts girl etc., etc. complete with HEA.
Nick Fraser is a gay guy who wants all the trappings of the rom-com movies he loves, except with another guy of course. He doesn’t think that sort of thing is for everyone and doesn’t promote it as such, but he does want the fairy-tale courtship, romantic gestures and fairy-tale wedding. So far he hasn’t met someone who will commit to him or his fantasy – and then he meets Katie.
Both Katie and Nick are university students. Nick is doing his PhD in English and Katie her degree in Art. They come from very different backgrounds and have different life experiences. Nick’s parents are totally accepting of his sexual identity, are middle class and fairly affluent. Nick struggles with student poverty and seems pretty stubborn about accepting help especially from his parents. He shares a flat with a friend, Tucker who is also a student but helps out when he can.
When his car breaks down and will take time and money he doesn’t have to fix, Nick finds himself dependent on public transport. It is on a bus trip that he properly meets Katie to talk to. She is pretty and likes the same music and they both love 80’s movies. Nick finds himself attracted to Katie, which confuses him as he has always identified as gay.
Katie invites him along to a gig her friends are playing, giving him the flyer she designed for them. He goes and the two of them bond over their mutual love of punk and indie rock. Later that night, the news that Katie is a trans female confuses Nick, and he is a little hurtful when he suggests he is attracted to her because he must have realised somehow she was ‘a dude’.
Katie makes him realise that she isn’t and never has been male and as he gets to know her better, he realises the truth of this, so much so that he questions himself and the label he has always identified with. His friend Tucker – who doesn’t really label himself, but accepts he is asexual – makes Nick realise the flexible nature of human attraction and that it is possible to fall for a person and not a gender. Nick is quite happy to identify as Bi if that is a label people will give him if he is with Katie.
Katie introduces him to some of the realities of being trans including taking him to meet a good friend who is a tattoo artist and does her laser hair removal. Katie bought the machine, and her friend gives her treatments in return for storing the machine and recommending her trans friends go there for hair removal at a regular price. Katie works as a bartender and does artwork to pay for her hormone treatment, but she decided long ago she didn’t want any operations on her genitalia. Her reasons for this are well explained and work well in this context where her love interest is a gay male. Despite this there is a brief reference to ‘a strap-on’, but the sex scenes are not overly explicit or long.
This is a romance and the whole affair is structured around the upcoming wedding of one of his group of straight, long-standing friends, where Nick is a going to be a groomsman.
I enjoyed reading Hopeless Romantic, which is well written, and is a romance rather than a polemic on being trans. It shows how easy it is to accept those who are different without being scared of doing or saying the wrong thing simply by being a kind and genuine person. Nick falls for Katie before he knows anything about her other than their shared interests and expectations. Although he says some unthinking things at first, Nick wants to learn what Katie likes and needs because he likes her and wants to please her, NOT just because it is politically correct.
Ironically, I have not given Hopeless Romantic a higher grade because there is very little conflict in the plot. It isn’t often you will hear me complain that everyone is too nice but here, they are.
This is a sweet romance that gently reveals life and love for a trans woman and a gay man in a feel good novel.