Fierce and Fabulous
Fierce and Fabulous is the first in a new male/male series by Elizabeth Varlet, Sassy Boyz. The series followers the members of a group of androgynous, gender-fluid dancers. They are sexy, seductive and dance in high heels – in the manner made famous by Yanis Marshall and his troupe. Elizabeth Varlet acknowledges Marshall as her inspiration.
Fitch Donovan is a builder who works for his family’s construction company. He is big and ‘straight’ and terribly masculine. Whilst accompanying his sister, her girlfriend, and other friends on a twenty-first birthday outing to a gay club, he sees Ansel Becke dancing and is enamoured immediately. At first, he thinks Ansel is a girl and is supposedly very confused when he turns and is in fact male. We are led to believe that –
He’s [Fitch] longed for this passion all his life—he just never dreamed he’d find it with another man.
On the drunken invitation of Fitch’s sister and friends, Ansel gives a lap dance to Fitch followed by a kiss. This leaves both men aroused and one embarrassed, and the other heading straight to the bar and free shots. This begins the steps towards a romance between Fitch and Ansel.
Ansel is gorgeous – we are told this many times. Ansel is androgynous and seems to delight in fooling men that he is female, which has left him with injuries several times. It is never remarked upon as a pretty horrible thing to do, just that it’s dangerous and Ansel risks not being on time for rehearsals if he gets hurt. Ansel is also a broken character, so this plot has parental abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, suicidal ideation and the death of the one person who tried to save him, Ray. Ray introduces him to a homeless hostel and there Ansel meets the other Sassy Boyz.
The writing is good and I always make a certain amount of allowances for the first in a series. However, this novel attracted me because of a very attractive cover and the premise of a gender-fluid main character. So often, the gender-fluid character or the femme gay man is the funny friend or the outrageous foil for the butch masculine, gay man.
I was so disappointed in the way Ansel was portrayed. An opportunity was missed – yet again – to present a gender fluid-person as a fully developed character. The fact that Ansel wears high heels, lipstick, and co-ordinated accessories is only mentioned in relation to how sexy he looks. This is an interesting part of him, intrinsic to his personality and yet it is never fully discussed.
Fitch never admits he is gay or bisexual; he is presented as permanently confused. This means any women in his life were less in some way, and Fitch even talks about how –
Usually he was relieved when his girlfriends finally broke up with him because, more often than not, he’d wanted to end the relationship much sooner and never had the heart. Hell, he’d never once felt like he might die if he didn’t kiss someone. Not until Ansel.
As with practically every so-called ‘gay for you’ book I’ve read the ‘straight’ character is nearly thirty. Being bisexual does not mean you are totally clueless until the magic age of thirty. It doesn’t mean that every relationship you ever had before the same-sex one is less in some way or that the opposite sex is bad in some way. Bi-sexual is in the name, one is attracted to both sexes. Sometimes, you are more attracted to one gender more than another; this just means you are more likely to find a partner from that gender pool.
I had hoped we had progressed from stereotypes where all gay men are lisping glittery butterflies and ‘confused’ straight men are big butch and burly. Where parents abuse and throw out their gay offspring. Where being gay means a bad start, bad teens, drugs, alcohol and prostitution until being saved by the uber-masculine lover. Fierce and Fabulous has all of this and more. There is a lot of sex – about which Fitch doesn’t seem at all confused – and not much else where the main romance is concerned. Apart from Ansel being ‘gorgeous’ and broken – he shows no interests or personality traits which allow me, as the reader, to understand why Fitch is going to fall so madly in love with him.
I am sure that there will be many readers who will enjoy the romance between Fitch and Ansel, and they will find a well written and well-edited novel. It’s just not for me.