Desert Isle Keeper
The Impossible Boy
I was not expecting to find a DIK queer romance so early in 2017, but Anna Martin has achieved that status with The Impossible Boy. Stan, a young gender-fluid fashion journalist and blogger from Russia via New York and Milan, is beautiful, and …proudly wears his blond hair long, his high heels sky-high, and his make-up perfectly executed. He isn’t the stereotypical gender-fluid character you often see in romances these days. He is just himself and he looks androgynous and likes to enhance his feminine nature, but he still has male genitalia and a flat chest – that is who he is. He wants a man who wants a man, but recognises, loves, enjoys and respects the female side of his nature. He has just settled into his flat in London and is enjoying finding out about his new city home.
Stan visits a real ‘dive bar’ in Camden Town and is attracted by the devil-may-care attitude of the barman, Ben. Ben is a wannabe rock star playing endless rehearsals with a band whose members also happen to be his best friends. He has tattoos, piercings and black hair done in various styles including a Mohawk. He also lives with his friends in the filthiest, untidiest most undesirable house share in London. Stan’s attraction to Ben is definitely reciprocated, and they go out on a date followed by another…Their dates are believable, ordinary, and so very sweet.
I love Ben. He presents as a big badass guy all dressed in black, but he is also well-educated, tutors youngsters in various subjects for their exams and has the softest, warmest heart. He falls for Stan very quickly, quite stunned by his external beauty, but it becomes more than physical attraction, as each man falls in love with the beauty inside the other. Their love story is so warm and ‘ordinary’ – and I mean that as a good thing. It could happen, we want it to happen to us – there are so many people who want to be seen and loved for who they really are and it has nothing to do with being gay or straight etc. Most of us do start out in flat shares and low paid work and nights out at the pub – it’s a life we can all relate to, but with the focus on true love.
This novel delivers all anyone could want from a romance. The characters are so engaging that the reader cannot fail to empathise with them. There are wonderful secondary characters, like Tone, who is unexpectedly wise, Sherrie, who is everyone’s Mum, and Kristy, the work friend we could all do with.
Stan has the mental scars left by teenage anorexia and Ben, who treats Stan like his beautiful princess, is simply not equipped to recognise whether Stan is well or not. Ben’s group gets the exciting job of supporting a big rock band on tour which could well be their big break, but Ben must leave Stan at home as he is too busy with work. Ben and Stan meet up during the tour and have a wonderful night together and despite missing each other dreadfully, Ben is reassured that Stan is all right without him.
I spent the whole of the first part of the book feeling tense. I loved Ben and Stan’s relationship and the others in the story so much, I was constantly waiting for the bigot, homophobe or rock fan who would ruin things. However, Anna Martin does not fall into using tropes or formulae easily, and the second half of the book, whilst very emotional, is also well handled, believable and finishes as any romance reader would wish.
In gender fluidity and anorexia, this author has tackled two difficult subjects, and she does so with finesse, respect and interest. I love this novel. I love how she portrays a gender-fluid character as a real life person and not just a boy in lipstick and the odd dress. I love Ben, who is the purest soul with the warmest heart and I’m so glad gentle Stan finds him. I love that Ben being gay is never treated as a negative issue just a facet that helps make Ben who he is. I like that their lives boast an average mix for their age of straight friends, male and female friends, gay and gender-fluid friends. Life for them all included gay clubs, straight clubs, pubs, takeaways even the Brixton Academy, where I have seen several bands!
Anna Martin is not a new author, but is new to me. Having read and loved The Impossible Boy, I shall be reading more of her books.