Title: What It Looks Like
Author: Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 264 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Contemporary, BDSM, Transgender Romance
At a Glance: This novel was full of angst, violence and more than its share of kinky sex, but it was also the most honest tale of one man’s journey toward happiness I have ever read.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Eli Bell is the only son of a police chief inspector and a forensic scientist. He’s grown up wonky in a world that only deals with the straight and narrow — and his new boyfriend isn’t helping.
Rob Hawkes is six feet of muscle, tattoos, and arrest warrants. A career criminal and a former guest of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, he’d rather hit Eli’s parents than sit down to dinner with them. One wrong move, and Rob could destroy Eli — and his family — without a second thought.
But this isn’t what it looks like.
Rob’s not in control here — and Eli’s the one to blame.
Review: I am going to go out on a proverbial reviewer’s limb here when I say that Mathew J. Metzger’s newest novel, What It Looks Like, seemed to me to be a very emotionally charged story that rang with such truth I wondered if it was a glimpse at a more personal experience than just fiction. When I read this book there was such honesty and raw hunger in Eli’s character that I felt I was getting a firsthand account of the hell that a transgender person might live through in real life. I can only guess at that—and please know I do so with infinite awareness that I can never fully understand the journey a person takes when faced with the knowledge that their body has betrayed them, and they are not who they really are on the outside. Having said that, I also would venture that this story will not be for everyone. There were definite BDSM themes as well as a lot of anger. At times, it was almost uncomfortable to read since that anger was sometimes physically manifested and families that hit are never very pretty. Having said that, I also would emphatically state that each time things got rough in this novel, I felt it was vital to the plot and true to the characters. So, let me delve a bit into the story and highlight some of the elements that made this novel work so effectively.
Eli is an angry young man. While his parents and sister acknowledge his transition from female to male, and have supported him in a limited way, there is still the nagging feeling that he has never really been a male in their eyes. At the age of twenty-one he is adrift, working a boring, uninspiring job, living at home and trying to find his way in a relationship that no one outside himself and his partner approves. Also Eli longs to complete his physical transition with bottom surgery that is currently too expensive and his parents refuse to support, which only further exacerbates the tenuous relationship he has with them. In essence, he is a powder keg ready to blow, and that is just what happens over and over again in this stunningly emotional story.
Rob skirts the edge of the law every waking day. Coming from a background rife with abuse, poverty and abandonment, he has only his younger brother to anchor him. Slowly he is allowing Eli to become that stability in his life, but Rob is a devilishly complex man—both violent and yet gentle with Eli, with a less than strong grip on his anger. For far too long the world, specifically the police, has looked at him with a prejudiced eye, not seeing the real Rob Hawkins but only a violent thug who will never change. Eli’s dad, a police chief inspector, is one of the guilty that never looks beyond Rob’s tattooed exterior to see the gentle soul beneath. But Rob is the only person who has taken the time to see the real Eli—the man who desperately wants to lead a normal life with full acceptance.
Eli is torn—a man in the middle of two warring factions—parents who distrust and refuse to give his boyfriend a chance, and Rob, whose anger and frustration reach a boiling point within seconds of being in proximity to Eli’s folks. The tension is wearing him down, and he may be forced to choose—his family or his lover. Either one means an intolerable loss.
Yes, this novel was full of angst, violence and more than its share of kinky sex, but it was also the most honest tale of one man’s journey toward happiness I have ever read. Each moment in this story was critical to understand Eli’s struggle. Brutal as it could read at times, the truth behind the words was apparent—and what a way with words this author has. I was plunged headlong into every scene as it played out before my eyes. Mr. Metzger’s prose, along with Eli’s pain-ridden inner dialogue, gave me a front row seat to the downward spiral his life had taken and his struggle to survive it all.
Families are always flawed, human beings are selfish at heart, and every character written in this novel has some piece of that. Yet the layers the author invested in Rob’s personality really gave us a key to understanding why Eli loved him so much. There was nothing easy in this novel—every victory was bittersweet and every loss keenly felt—and yet, in the end, there was such hope, such love.
I am in awe of this story. I am grateful for the truths hidden within it, for the chance to more fully understand what some transgender men and women deal with every day, for the emotional turmoil they must face. What It Looks Like is a hard fought tale of love and acceptance that is not to be missed.
You can buy What It Looks Like here: