Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Demi, Non-Binary
Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild
About The Book
Mel is half Angel, but despite her ability to heal and read minds, she feels powerless to help anyone. When a prophecy shows a local pet supply store owner driving their car off a bridge, Mel sets out to stop it.
Baily, owner of Barks and Bits, is barely holding it together. Things keep going wrong, and their depression spirals out of control. Just as they start wondering if they’d be better off dead, a new friend provides a glimmer of hope. But is that enough to keep living?
Mel never thought saving Baily would be easy, but she can’t figure out when, where, or why Baily’s suicide will happen. As her confidence fades away, she wonders how she can help anyone when she needs so much help herself.
This book, by an author who specializes in Queer literature, is a bit of frontier for an old cis gay guy such as I. It is a prequel novella to a 2017 book by the author called Power Surge. There is no romance to speak of here, and certainly no M/M romance, given that the only M characters are elderly, straight, or dead.
All that said, Codair offers her readers a sensitive and thoughtful look at the lives of people who are not only non-binary, but also beset with issues related to serious social anxiety. Mel, a smart, blond undergraduate with a steady boyfriend, is also half elf and maybe less than half angel. She’s got some human, but I’m not sure I got the whole bloodline correct. In any case, she’s someone who cares—perhaps too much—about her duty as an angel (from a family of demon hunters!) to protect people.
One of her projects is her cousin Erin, who has no clue as to their family lineage or their special powers. Erin is non-binary (they/them) and divorced from someone named Jules who is, as far as I could tell, non-binary and/or trans. They, like Mel, suffer from serious social anxiety, but unlike Mel they have dealt with it. To a point. Theirs is a fraught relationship, because for all their love for each other as kin, Erin resents Mel’s meddling and Mel can’t help but freak out about Erin’s unacknowledged identity as paranormal.
As if this isn’t complicated enough, they overhear (Mel mindreads) another young non-binary person named Bailey, who runs the local pet supply shop with her uncle, Cooper (one of the elderly M characters who barely exists here except as a plot prop). Bailey and Erin seem destined to be friends—but Mel understands that between preventing a disastrous prophecy and dealing with her cousin’s social anxiety, it’s not going to be an easy road.
I gave this book four stars, because I think it does a great job of presenting this group of characters, weaving in the rather startling paranormal aspects of their universe. It was hard for me to get past all of the gender identity content, especially given how I identify. But the fact, is, Codair does her darndest to open up this world to me, and I think the real world needs more writers like her.
Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.
Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.
By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.
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