After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.
Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate.
With this book I realized I have a new wheelhouse, a genre I can’t get enough of. I’m still testing the edges to see how broad this love goes but for now I’m calling it own voices BTQIA* romance, as in LGBTQIA* without the L and G. Don’t get me wrong, I like lesbian and gay romance! It just doesn’t thrill me as much as the rest of the acronym and who knows, I may be adding or dropping parts as I read more widely. Let’s break it down as it stands:
own voices – fiction “about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group” (definition by the person who started the hashtag, Corinne Duyvis)
B – bisexual
T – trans
Q – (gender)queer
I – intersex
A – asexual
* – other gender and sexual identities not covered above
Coffee Boy is own voices, trans romance. Kieran is an out trans man that runs into difficulties because he doesn’t quite pass. His hair is long and curly, and his looks scramble the brains of his new coworkers.
“Kieran, you are the administrative intern, aren’t you?”
“Oh, that’s so funny.” Marie beams. “Marcus thought you were a boy.”…
“He wasn’t wrong.”
We watch Kieran as he manages this new space and crushes on his boss, Seth. Seth’s heart belongs to another, though, and the romance is watching the pair realize that love is right there in front of them. The plot and page count match wonderfully, and while I was sad to see the story end it’s a sweet finish that left me smiling.
Along the way we see what it’s like to move through the world as someone that’s transgender. Kiernan faces different issues depending on where he is and what the world expects of him. We see how hurtful clueless people can be, as well as how allies can misplace their efforts. We also see what good communication regarding gender looks like, often from Seth. He asks the right questions, respectful questions, and accepts the answers calmly and completely. Because when someone tells you who he is, you listen, you know?
While reading I thought the narrative would have been better served in the first person, with Kiernan being the I. But then I realized – doing that would strip the text of the all important pronouns. The reader needs to hear Kiernan being called he and him so the misplaced ‘she’ has all the impact it should.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed Coffee Boy and in the process found a writer and publisher (NineStar Press) to follow in my new-found wheelhouse. Huzzah!