The Burnt Toast B&B, by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz
Series: Bluewater Bay (Standalone)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4 out of 5
This book was on sale for only 99c when I was finishing up the latest in the Bluewater Bay series (Rain Shadow, by L.A. Witt), so I snatched it up. I’m not super familiar with either author, but I couldn’t resist this summary!
After breaking his arm on set, Wolf’s Landing stuntman Ginsberg Sloan finds himself temporarily out of work. Luckily, Bluewater Bay’s worst B&B has cheap long-term rates, and Ginsberg’s not too proud to take advantage of them.
Derrick Richards, a grizzled laid-off logger, inherited the B&B after his parents’ untimely deaths. Making beds and cooking sunny-side-up eggs is hardly Derrick’s idea of a man’s way to make a living, but just as he’s decided to shut the place down, Ginsberg shows up on his doorstep, pitiful and soaking wet, and Derrick can hardly send him packing.
Not outright, at least.
The plan? Carry on the B&B’s tradition of terrible customer service and even worse food until the pampered city boy leaves voluntarily. What Derrick doesn’t count on, though, is that the lousier he gets at hosting, the more he convinces bored, busybody Ginsberg to try to get the B&B back on track. And he definitely doesn’t count on the growing attraction between them, or how much more he learns from Ginsberg than how to put out kitchen fires.
The plot is fantastic. The pacing is spot-on, there are great emotional ups and downs, and Heidi and Rachel write some really fantastic narrative.
Derrick though… he’s “a prick of the highest order”, as even he admits. I mean, he’s just not a nice person. He’s selfish, and has some very outdated views of gender roles and the way the world works. But normally characters who are dicks have a reason for being dicks. Derrick… doesn’t.
Derrick is effemiphobic. EXTREMELY effemiphobic. He is, frankly, so terrified of anything “girly” that he is on the verge of losing the B&B that his late parents opened because the idea of cooking and cleaning is abhorrent to him.
That in itself isn’t the problem; I think a character like this who struggles to change their ways is complex and worthy of redemption. But Derrick has no reason to be the way he is. He references his dad a few times, but then admits that even his dad helped out in the kitchen sometimes. So why is Derrick such a D
And shit, shouldn’t a guy like Ginsberg be a little more careful about doing girly stuff like this if he wanted to be accepted as a man? (Kindle Loc. 39/197)
Ginsberg, however, is a fantastic character. He’s a trans man who is totally badass, working as a stunt double on the local film set. He may be small, but he’s happy to be thrown through windows and hit by cars all day long. And he’s a hell of a lot more “man” than Derrick is! I love how he prods and pushes Derrick into getting the B&B back into shape, making it popular again.
“I’m not here to try to impress your outdated understanding of masculinity.” (Kindle Loc. 78/197)
The relationship between the two men is actually really lovely. Ginsberg makes Derrick a better person… until the threat of Ginsberg leaving Derrick for work threatens our favorite asshole to do what he does best: act like a prick. But Derrick treats Ginsberg really well, and his being trans is never an issue.
Derrick winced. “I don’t actually like country music. I just play it to annoy you.”
“You piece of shit!” (Kindle Loc. 58/197)
In the end, I really wish Derrick’s motivation for acting the way he does had been more obvious. If there had been backstory about how his father had forced him to be more “manly” and pushed him into a very rigid, stereotypical gender role, then I could understand the character better. But Derrick was just a Dick.
Huge shout-out to Heidi and Rachel, though, for writing a gorgeous trans character! A+ to the authors for that!
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