Title: Starting from Scratch (Housemates #5)
Author: Jay Northcote
Publisher: Jaybird Press
Release Date: April 12th 2017
Page Count: 249
Reviewed by: Ele
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.
Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.
Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.
It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?
Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.
Length: 57,000 words approx.
Believe me when I say that this book is Jay Northcote at his best. I really hope that all MM readers will give it a chance. If you don’t trust this coming from a cis het woman, trust that it is a well-written, own voices story.
We met Ben and Sid briefly in book 4. This is their love story. Because above all else, this is an incredibly sweet, sexy and romantic story.
Ben is an amazing character. His imperfectly perfect voice felt so honest and authentic to me, and I believe the author did an amazing job conveying his emotions to the reader.
I loved that we also had Sid’s POV. Sid was a bit misunderstood, I think. He might be a manwhore (and why is this wrong anyway?) but he didn’t actually get the chance to settle down. He will find it in Ben.
This is a relationship driven story, but during its course we get to see the characters grow so much. Ben especially, comes such a long way.
Not everything is all sunshine and roses, and the build up is slow but steady. A lot of happy moments are threatened by Ben’s insecurities. A lot of sex scenes are close to ending abruptly because of Ben’s gender dysphoria. This just made the story feel even more real to me.
This isn’t an angsty story. There is a bit of conflict (I use the term loosely) in the end, but it is easily (I use that term loosely too, because trust in never easy) resolved. It’s mostly Ben and Sid trying to navigate their new relationship, all while falling deeply in love with each other. In my book, the ending is a HEA.
It’s not the author’s job to educate me about trans people, but I feel that as a reader I got a lot out of this book. The story itself is not preachy at all, and the author does not make a point to explain things, but we get to experience a lot through Sid and Ben’s eyes.
I suspect that a certain long haired blond with lacey panties might get his own story. If this happens, I’m prepared to worship the ground Jay Northcote walks on.
Very highly recommended!