Title: Being With Him
Series: Horizons: Book Six
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 137 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Holiday
At a Glance: The only problem I had with this story was the length. I hope the author chooses to write more about Zeb and Alex. They are both incredibly sweet characters who have their fair share of challenges to overcome on their way to a happy-ever-after.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Zeb Araneda leaves his privileged but closely supervised life in the Philippines to study architecture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where his new roommate is openly gay Luca Dilorio.
Alex Boulet is a successful print model who appears to have it all, but on closer inspection, the ready smile never reaches his mesmerizing green eyes. Tired of living alone, Alex moves in with fellow model Chyna Davidson, Luca’s boyfriend.
Away from his father’s watchful eye, and with Luca’s help, Zeb learns to navigate his new environment, and experiences freedom of choice for the first time. This fresh perspective allows him to step out of his comfort zone and act on his attraction to Alex.
The holiday season has always been difficult for Alex. Sappy commercials tug at his heart, and storefront windows depict idealized scenes that remind him of what he’ll never have: a loving partner willing to accept his truth. Will this Christmas be another disappointment, or will Santa finally make his wish come true?
Review: Although Being With Him is the sixth in Mickie B. Ashling’s Horizons series, it could be read as a standalone, in my opinion. This is also listed as a holiday romance but again, it’s subject matter definitely extends beyond the regular Christmas-centric stories that we often read. This story centers on two men, both with rather unique circumstances. First we have Zeb—who comes from a rather rigid Catholic family—who comes from the Philippines to the States to pursue an architecture degree at Ithaca College in New York. For the first time, Zeb is out from under the very watchful eye of his wealthy parents and is exploring both his freedom and his sexuality. Although he has never been with a man before, the sex and relationships he has experienced with women have been lackluster and uninspiring.
His roommate, Luca, introduces him to his boyfriend’s roommate, a fellow model, Alex. Alex is transmale and decidedly gorgeous. The two have an instant chemistry between them, but Alex is wisely reluctant to be Zeb’s first foray into gay sex—particularly since Alex has chosen never to have bottom surgery and wears only a prosthesis, which means being intimate with a man is a very risky and potentially hurtful experience. Being truthful with his dates often opens Alex up for the worst transphobic reactions. However, Zeb wears Alex down with his honesty, and the two begin a long-distance relationship. Despite Zeb’s openness, Alex is wary of falling for the man, and with each intimate encounter, feels the pressure building toward more intimacy in and out of the bedroom.
This novella was an incredibly respectful window into what it means to be transgender and how that plays out in a real relationship. The frank discussions that this author allowed her characters to have about not only the physical changes that go on when a female is transitioning to a male but also about the intense body dysphoria issues many trans folk have to deal with was a real eye opener. I felt that the discussions between Zeb and Alex were not only enlightening but the best way to show how their relationship was progressing in the story. After all, this was a long-distance relationship, and a novella to boot, and therefore, the author really had to use her page time wisely if we were to get any sense of how Zeb and Alex were growing closer over such a short period of time.
The only problem I had with this story was the length. I felt like we just got started with these two guys, and the journey ended. I really wish the author had chosen to make this a longer book so we could get a less intense information dump and more time spent with just the two men navigating their new feelings for each other. Instead, we got the shorthand version of all that, and it left me feeling just a bit cheated, and some of the discussion seemed forced and premature for where the two were in terms of trusting and knowing each other well enough to divulge such intimate details.
I hope the author chooses to write more about Zeb and Alex. They are both incredibly sweet characters who have their fair share of challenges to overcome on their way to a happy-ever-after.
You can buy Being With Him here: