Marshall Thornton is one of my auto-buy authors. I haunt his Author Pages hoping to find something I have yet to read. I even Google occasionally, like you do. And when I do find something new… oh, when I do? I gobble it up fast enough to make my head spin, then clutch it to my ample bosom for a brief sigh of pleasure, and promptly reread it again, this time to savor it slowly.
Yes, it’s called stalking in some circles, but I try not to be unduly burdened by labels.
Strangely enough, Femme is very much about labels, about stereotyping, about learning to stretch our imaginations, about discovering common ground, but mostly about acceptance even in the face of misunderstandings and holding onto old beliefs and expectations about who and what people are and how they should act.
Femme is a homage to all that divides us and all that unites us.
Lionel-slash-Lynette has always been one-of-a-kind, and we are introduced early on to this character’s panache, or should I say… flair for a dramatic, bold, often unfiltered approach to life. [As an aside, pronouns tend to be optional with this character, by design and by his/her own choice. Go with it.]
Dog, aka Doug, is the polar opposite, a bit of a bear with a bit of a (sexy) paunch, very much able to pass for straight, a jock and not quite ready to come out to his family. He’s into softball and the safe circle of friends who inhabit a gay bar that also just happens to sponsor the team.
As is typical with Thornton’s work, there’s humor and pathos mixed in with sharp and on pointe observations about the human condition. The humor is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes sweet, and occasionally a tweak to social consciousness to remind us that what underlies humor is very often harsh reality…
To wit, the morning after:
[Dog] “I don’t, um, I don’t do things like this.”
[Lionel] “You don’t have sex? That’s sad.”
“I don’t have sex with strangers.”
“Yes, it’s so much better to have cheap meaningless sex with people after you’ve cultivated a relationship with them.”
In four sentences Thornton encapsulates the essence of both characters: Dog/Doug, conservative, reserved (tongue-tied most times, good thing he has a sister) and Lionel, snarky, out there and committed to non-commitment. I could actually quote so many passages, I’d be copy/pasting nearly the entire book.
Here’s a suggestion: save me the effort, buy and read it.
Lionel also kills red stilettos, short shorts and eggplant-colored wall statements. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with Lionel’s sense of style or his snarky mouth. Chuckie in particular takes offense. You don’t want to offend the captain of the gay softball squad, there be consequences, and Lionel is the unfortunate benefactor of the man’s mean streak.
With no job and living virtually on the edge of poverty, how Lionel meets those challenges head-on is a fantastic case study in defining who you are and what it means to live your life as authentically as possible.
I will not lie, I adore Lionel.
And I really, really hate Chuckie.
The road to romance is rarely smooth, even in real life, and the speed bumps in Lionel and Dog’s budding attempts at getting together are numerous, often outrageous, wonderfully endearing, and frequently worthy of *facepalm*.
The supporting characters are many and varied, and each contributes strongly to the story, especially Doug’s sister Maddy. How Doug deals with his family is one of the highlights of this wonderful book.
When I finished Femme I wore a huge smile. Marshall Thornton took me to a happy place, and along the way he broadened my horizons by showing me that the rainbow consists of an amazing sliding scale of possibilities.
Femme is a Five Star and highly recommended read.
**For another feel good story, I highly recommend My Favorite Uncle. Thornton nails teen speak and teen everything in this coming-of-age(less) story.
Queeny cocktail waiter, Lionel, wakes up to find himself in bed with Dog, a straight-acting softball player and the two embark on a rocky road to romance. A journey that requires coming out of the closet, going into the closet, a pair of red high heels, many pairs of red high heels, a failed intervention, a couple of aborted dates, and homemade pom-poms. Mostly, Lionel and Dog learn what it means to be a man.