Review: Jay Northcote – Starting from Scratch

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Author: Jay Northcote
Reviewer: Lucy
Publisher: Jaybird Press
Genre: Mm Transgender

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Summary: Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defenses and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

Review: This is part of the Housemates series and we got to meet both Ben and Sid in Watching and Wanting, the book prior to this one. Not having read the entire series I was a little worried of being lost but this is a definite standalone. Ben has returned to university and he’s starting on the life he was meant to lead. That includes having a boyfriend, which he desperately wants but which also terrifies him.
For his part, Sid has had quite a lot of hookups and he hasn’t settled down or committed to anyone. I like to think the reason is that he’s been waiting for his perfect one, Ben. It makes things a little awkward that Sid has hooked up with Ben’s housemate and friend, Jude. Jude has a new boyfriend (whom he chose over Sid) who is jealous of that and sometimes it makes Ben a little leery as well. But both Sid and Jude know there is only friendship for them.

Ben definitely has self-doubts and body dysphoria and there are many moments that are either crushed or less than they could have been because of his insecurities yet it seemed truthful and you can understand why he would feel that way. He has the greatest family, supportive and loving, and while that goes a long way to helping him, he himself has internalized transphobia and how awful does that have to be? Hating such a fundamental part of yourself? He wants to be honest and yet there are problems with that and problems with being stealth. “But he’d fought so hard and been so through so much to get to this point where the worked looked at him and saw a man. Ben was afraid that if he told people he was trans, they’d see him differently. But by keeping it a secret, he had to hide so much of himself.”
It is meeting Sid that gives him a little courage to see what can be, although the first time doesn’t go very well. They give it another try though and you can just see how they click. Sid gives Ben the courage to be honest and Sid’s reaction to Ben’s truth is how everyone should react. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but I want to understand.” He is accepting, supportive and it doesn’t make a difference as to how he feels about Ben. He also appreciates how hard it has to be for Ben to have to “…lay yourself open like that.” I liked that he and Ben talk about things, because it’s new territory for both of them and assumptions can cause problems. And sometimes, the talking was amazing. “You’re eye-fucking me so hard, I need lube.” Yesssss.
I adored that when the guys play their top five celeb shags, Ben immediately knows who they will be. Even his overreaction to something was understandable when you remember, this is his first relationship in his body. It’s a delicate line they tread at times but it remains clear that these two were meant to be together.
This was much less angsty than I feared it would be. I enjoyed the journey of Ben and Sid and more importantly, Ben’s journey of acceptance of himself.

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