4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mickie B. Ashling, New Adult, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Chyna Doll by Mickie B. Ashling

Title: Chyna Doll (Horizons Series: Book Four)

Author: Mickie B. Ashling

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 320 Pages

At a Glance: The hope that endures through the pages is the absolute best reason to pick this story up and delve into the world Mickie B. Ashling has created.

Reviewed By: Janet

Blurb: Lil Lampert’s forty-fifth birthday turns the effervescent architect into a brooding mess, and his partner, Grier Dilorio, takes him to Italy to help him regain his zest for life. The timing is bad—almost-fifteen-year-old Luca has just started high school, and his mother and stepfather are also traveling. Luca is left in the care of Chicago Bear, Clark Stevens, and his partner, Dr. Jody Williams.

Growing up with two dads and two gay uncles has given Luca a unique perspective on gender roles, but not all the answers. He’s had a secret crush on his straight best friend, Chip, for years. Suddenly, Luca finds himself attracted to Chyna, Chip’s twin sister. Now he’s wondering if this means he’s bisexual.

Born with a sexual development disorder, Chyna should have been raised as a male, but due to an epic parenting fail, is being raised as female. Hiding the truth becomes more difficult when Chyna hits puberty, and crushing over Luca adds another element to Chyna’s struggle to fit in.

Is Luca’s moral compass strong enough to guide him successfully through this period of discovery or will he succumb to peer pressure and shatter Chyna’s dreams for happiness?

Dividers

Review: Wow! This was an intense book to read. I had read all of the previous books in the series, and had concerns about a book with a teenaged MC, what with the backdrop this series is based on. I really shouldn’t have worried, though. There was no squick about Luca at all. The teenage angst was appropriate to his age, and more importantly, was felt to be realistic and protective at the same time.

Jody and Clark, and Greer and Lil, were both further explored. Their relationships grew, and the effects of time on those relationships were exposed and defined to allow Luca to grow up to be the teenager he is in the story. If it wasn’t for the solid carryover of these very adult relationships, I might define this as a YA novel. The issues discussed: gender identity, bullying, peer pressure and family responsibilities are classic YA topics and are handled in an impressive manner. But…this is not a YA book. We are carried into the story as adults, protecting the young, nurturing their growth and allowing them to blossom safely, with our compassion at the forefront of our awareness as we read.

I have so much respect for this author for freely visiting topics that most would be wary of. I am a curious reader, and I love learning new things about people and places, and at no time when reading one of her books do I ever not learn something. Kinks and fetishes are a delight to learn about in the privacy of my own home, but the difficult topics she covers, like bullying and self-identity, are also explored, and these are emotionally felt by the reader as we are so immersed in her books that the events almost seem to happen to us. I would not say that Chyna Doll is an easy book to read, but it is now one of my favorites. The ability to force her readers to see things from multiple sides, and learn about new things in a balanced way, is a pretty awesome talent. It speaks to amazing research and world building, as well as character development which invests us in her work. We want the resolutions to work, and the characters to be happy, but we also want hope for the future, and she always delivers.

I would love to have parts of this book be compulsory for high school English classes, or maybe social studies, if that is still in the high school curriculum, but either way this is a book that should be read; for knowledge and awareness and personal growth. It is not a casual story to be enjoyed on a whim, but is an engrossing tale that will sustain you in ways I can’t describe. It manages to draw on so many emotions; it’s sexy, it has some great dialogue that’s funny and full of wit, it has moments that are disgusting for the portrayal of bullying at their worst and made me angry at parental powers that had been abused. And yet, the story still ended with hope. There are so many reasons to read this book, but I think the hope that endures through the pages is the absolute best reason to pick this story up and delve into the world Mickie B. Ashling has created.

Do yourself a favor and check out the first three books first, though: Horizons, Taste, and Daddio, to see the series journey so far and then tease your senses even more with Chyna Doll.

TNA_Signature_Janet






You can buy Chyna Doll here:

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Dreamspinner Press

After Some R&R – A Re-write and Re-edit, That Is – Mickie B. Ashling Gives Us A Re-issue of “Horizons (Horizons Series, Book 1)”

Sometimes letting go is the only way to find out who you’re meant to hold on to.—
J. Sterling, The Perfect Game

Since Mickie B. Ashling first published Horizons four yeas ago, a lot has changed for the LGBT community in our country. While Horizons was in final edits this time around, changes were happening so fast it was hard to keep up with them. I didn’t read Horizons when it was originally released, so it was a new book for me.

Aside from some timing issues with football seasons, which I know were a pain for Mickie the first time around, I found Horizons to be an enjoyable way to spend a hot day indoors! It is the story of Clark, the local college football hero with NFL written all over his future and Jody, an ER doctor. Jody is eleven years older than Clark and has suffered the loss of a lover after a serious relationship in the past. When Clark comes into the ER in his dirty, sweaty football uniform and Jody only has ten minutes left on his shift, it works out to be a very good thing he switched back into doctor mode to treat Clark’s broken arm.

It turns out that Clark’s arm isn’t the only thing broken. His spirit has been broken by his family’s constant pressure to excel at football because he is too dumb to do anything else. He has ADD, and his father has refused to medicate him, instead treating Clark like he is stupid, and not suffering from a very treatable learning disability. Jody is able to help Clark see that he just needs to learn in a different way than his peers.

Clark has long felt an attraction to other men, but with his family hating gay people almost as much as they love football, he has been forced to bury those desires. He has a reputation as quite a player with the girls on campus. Once he and Jody begin to spend more time together, it becomes impossible to deny the attraction between them.

When the combination of family and football put their relationship on hold, Ashling does an excellent job of taking us through Jody’s feeling. She looks at each piece of the process and we clearly see how deeply the loss of Clark is triggering feelings from the loss of Jody’s first serious lover.

The over-the-top way that Clark proves his love for Jody above all else is creative and surprising. Eventually, there is even a small degree of healing with Clark’s family. There is a spinoff of this book, Taste, about Jody’s best friend Lil. Jody wouldn’t have survived loving and losing and loving Clark without Lil’s support and friendship. I look forward to reading his story!

I also look forward to the day when Clark’s announcement would not be necessary. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Horizons here:

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