Author: Anna Martin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
This is not your average love story.
Ben Easton is not your average romantic hero. He’s a tattooed, badass, wannabe rock star, working in a perfectly horrible dive bar in Camden Town. His life is good, and he’s totally unprepared for how one man will turn it upside down.
Stan isn’t your average heroine. As a gender-fluid man, he proudly wears his blond hair long, his heels sky-high, and his makeup perfectly executed. A fashion industry prodigy, Stan is in London after stints working in Italy and New York City, and he quickly falls for Ben’s devil-may-care attitude and the warm, soft heart Ben hides behind it.
Beneath the perfect, elegant exterior, Stan has plenty of scars from teenage battles with anorexia. And it only takes the slightest slip for his demons to rush back in while Ben is away touring with his band. With the band on the brink of a breakthrough, Ben is forced to find a way to balance the opportunity of a lifetime with caring for his beautiful boyfriend.
Stanislov Novikov is new to London, about to start a new job when he stops in a pub where he feels quite comfortable, especially when he realizes no one is even looking at him, at least not in any odd way! He is genderfluid and has had plenty of experiences with people being confused by being attracted and then confused since he is a boy that looks like a girl. Ben Easton has been in London awhile, although he was born in New Zealand, he came to London with his parents and now, at age 26, works at the pub Stan stops in at, as well as being a tutor and guitarist in a band called Ares. On impulse, Stan leaves Ben his number and thankfully, for both of them, Ben calls!
The story is told from Stan and Ben’s alternating point of view.
This book is broken into two parts, as well as the chapters, and I will warn you, part two will require tissues! For me, that is never a bad thing when an author can get me so involved in the story and the characters that I also cry at the challenges they face as much as I laugh and cheer for them! Which is exactly what happened for me here.
On paper, Ben and Stan seem like an odd couple – Ben is the tattooed, wannabe rock star working at a pub, living in a house with his bandmates/flatmates and playing in a band that may or may not be serious. Stan is a creative editor with fashion magazines, has his own blog and can rock a dress and heels as well as he can own skinny jeans and flip flops! However, a conversation Stan has with their friend, Tone, is probably the best way of how their relationship works “He sees the girl and likes her, and can touch the boy and like him too. He doesn’t try and make me ‘fit’ into any tick box category. He just lets me be.” How beautiful is that?!? Genderfluid or not, is that not something we’d all like to have?
Ben is a big marshmallow under his tattoos and Stan has some scars from his past – the biggest one being his anorexia that started when he was around the age of 12-13. As anyone who has read about anorexia, or any other eating disorder, it is about control rather than it is about food and I have to say the author dealt with it very well. It was important to the story, but it was not the entire story. The primary story is the romance, and the anorexia is part of it because it is definitely part of how they move forward.
The secondary characters are probably what really make this a 5 heart story, especially Tone, who works in the same pub as Ben and is also the drummer of the band. He initially seems like the comic relief, but as you get into part two, in some ways, he almost seemed to be the real hero of the story since he turns out to be able to help Stan recover from his relapse and call Ben on it when he’s treating Stan too much like glass! I liked the character of Tone initially, I loved him by the end of the book! Tone and the rest of the secondary characters – Geordie, Summer, Sherrie, Jez, Kirsty, all become a chosen family together, and that may be a part of what helps Stan after his relapse, that there are people who care about him, who accept him and he can be himself with.
If you do like stories with femme men, genderfluid or transgender characters, you will likely enjoy this, even moreso if you like stories set in London! The story does have some angst, although it is more of a hopeful romance where even the sex scenes between them are sweet, loving and hot. In the author notes, she says this book took 4 years because she wanted the story to be told the right way, but it came down to writing was true for these characters – and what a beautiful story it is! It may not be your average love story, but that can be a good thing!