For the Love of April French
by Penny Aimes
Release Date: August 31, 2021
Publisher: Carina Adores
Number of pages: 288
Source: ARC from NetGalley & Carina Press
Ages 17 and up
Read 8/22/21 to 8/23/21
April French doesn’t do relationships and she never asks for more.
A long-standing regular at kink club Frankie’s, she’s kind of seen it all. As a trans woman, she’s used to being the scenic rest stop for others on their way to a happily-ever-after. She knows how desire works, and she keeps hers carefully boxed up to take out on weekends only.
After all, you can’t be let down if you never ask.
Then Dennis Martin walks into Frankie’s, fresh from Seattle and looking a little lost. April just meant to be friendly, but one flirtatious drink turns into one hot night.
When Dennis asks for her number, she gives it to him.
When he asks for her trust, well…that’s a little harder.
And when the desire she thought she had such a firm grip on comes alive with Dennis, April finds herself wanting passion, purpose and commitment.
But when their relationship moves from complicated to impossible, April will have to decide how much she’s willing to want.
April French was having what she considered to be a good night. She was lonely and she was horny, but the lovely thing about Frankie’s, even on a Wednesday, was that she was probably not the only one. And the welcome wagon gambit was working. New doms always responded well to a little attention. She wondered how many of the hookups in her limited sexual history it accounted for—post-transition, of course. Her sexual history pre-transition was not only limited but singular.
On second thought, that was a depressing thing to contemplate. She decided to steer her mind back to the present, because her present was damn good-looking. He was Black, looked to be about her age, dark-skinned and tall, with narrow hips and shoulders that were probably narrower than hers, too.
There were clear hints of lean muscle under his suit, and the suit looked expensive. She didn’t really care about the name brand, but she had to admit the cost was reflected in how well it draped his body. He had short-cropped, wiry hair and that sexy kind of two-day stubble thing happening. A reassuring bass voice and an unreadable calm that made his face a handsome mask. The tightly wound dominants were almost always the most fun to see come unraveled with desire.
“So. You can flirt,” she said, trying to keep her voice even despite the smile tugging the corners of her mouth. It wouldn’t do to tip her hand just yet about how attractive he was. “And you wear nice suits. What else should I know about you?”
“Well, I just moved here,” he said. “Which you also knew. My name is Dennis. I came here from Seattle.”
She nodded, as Aerith set down a new Painkiller in front of her. “I’m April. Grow up out there?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Illinois, actually. Little tiny town.”
“Oh hey,” she said, her smile shifting to be a little less flirtatious and a lot more genuine. It was always a treat to meet someone from the same basic context; someone she could count on to get it. Not that she expected to spend much time talking about growing up in the Midwest, but it was still a nice bonus. “Ohio. I went to school out East, though, and worked there for a while.”
He laughed. “So a lot like me, but in the opposite direction. UC Santa Barbara.”
She bobbed her head. “Wesleyan.”
They exchanged graduation years; she guessed he was probably thirty-five or thirty-four to her thirty-two. “What took you out there?” he asked.“
It was as far away as I could get without driving into the ocean,” she said with a laugh. “And they had good financial aid. You?”
“About the same, about the same. Lots of loans, in the end.” She nodded as he went on. “While I was getting my masters, a couple of my friends got a start-up going and brought me in, and we headed up the coast to Seattle.”
“Ooh,” she said. “A techie. I should’ve known.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Well, most of the folks who come here from the West Coast are,” she said. Especially the ones who could afford that suit.
“You’re right, anyway. I was the support team, not the talent, though. My degree’s in technology management.” He sipped. “Start-up life isn’t for the long haul, so I came here to take a job as CTO for a small firm. What about you?” he asked.
She fidgeted with the little straw in her drink, then drew it out. Chomped a cherry deliberately. “Poli-sci major. I don’t use it, though.”
“Hm.” His eyes watched her mouth. Good. “So weird, isn’t Austin where they have that political particle accelerator?”
He was smirking at his pun, and she snorted. “Queeons and Kingons?” At his blank expression, she added, “You don’t read Terry Pratchett, do you?”
He shook his head. “No, I was just teasing.”
Her smile snatched at the corners of her mouth again. “Teasing’s okay.” She was fighting herself not to relax fully into the moment, to keep up her boundaries until they crossed the preliminary hurdles. This might not be anything, yet. But he was cute, and he was funny, and he was—so far—gentle. She thought she could really like this guy. She knew she liked the way his eyes settled on her, the weight his gaze seemed to have.
I really loved this story and would hate for anyone to pass it up due to the cover. While I believe the model on the cover at least fits the physical description of April, her personality does not come through. It’s not often I will include my opinion on a cover in my review, but when I feel the cover will possibly keep people from picking up the book I will speak up. April has a lot of internal issues she has to work through. April is also one of the kindest people one could meet and is always welcoming and warm to those around her. I actually almost passed on the opportunity to review this book because the cover made me think it would be too gloomy and morose for me. (I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.)
This is the debut traditional publication for Penny Aimes, and she did an amazing job. Being a cisgender woman myself, I learned a lot from this book while also being entertained by the story of April and Dennis. I never felt as though I was being lectured, yet the book gave me knowledge I didn’t even realize I didn’t have. On top of that, the love story is so sweet and sexy. April and Dennis have a connection from the start. Even their insecurities and past mistakes cannot tamp the fire.
Both Dennis and April have intense relationships in their past that went from wonderful to terrible. Neither know how to fully trust anymore, themselves or others. This can be extremely detrimental in the BDSM community. They both know this, especially Dennis, and take steps in their lives to protect themselves and others. In doing so, they put up too many walls. Until both of them accept that they need outside help, and seek out such help, they are never going to be able to be fully open with anyone, no matter how much they care. They have to learn to love and accept themselves before they can believe they are deserving of the same from others.
There are plenty of heavy elements in this story, but there is also so much joy. It’s almost as if it’s a coming-of-age story for adults. Especially April. She never had her opportunity to work through the feelings the come with being a teenager and learning who you are at that age. She had to learn who April was now, something she never took the time to fully do before. Even in therapy she kept a part of herself back in fear. Seeing April finally find the confidence and faith in herself was a beautiful thing.
I’m very much looking forward to more from this author. Some of her peripheral characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, but overall this was a story that will stick with me for a long time.
One last thing, the description of this book mentions kink and the characters are into the BDSM community. Don’t let the scare you away if that’s not your usual fare. This is kink-lite, so to speak.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and CarinaPress. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**
About the Author
Penny Aimes is a trans woman writing contemporary romance about trans women and other people who don’t always find themselves in romance novels.
She was assigned Hoosier at birth but has lived on the east coast and in China before landing in Austin, Texas. She lives in the heart of the music district with her wife and a very small bird with a very loud voice.
Connect with Penny Aimes
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