A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde is a luscious piece of wish-fulfillment in which a character who is basically the amiable, generous, bisexual nerd-programmer-billionaire (that probably has Steve Jobs as his Mirror Universe Evil Twin) falls for a bratty young art student undergrad basically because said art-student isn’t groveling in front of him like everybody else is.
This is a delicious older-man dream, a billionaire romance that I actually saw the point of for once. (I mean, billionaire romances are supposed to be wish-fulfillmenty, and of course this was deliciously wish-fulfillmenty…. I guess this is a wish that I can relate to.) And because the author put so much energy into making sure that both characters felt equally vulnerable, they seemed to be real people rather than roles. The Steve Jobs analogue is dysphoric about his gender, but not in a way I’d ever encountered before — he doesn’t seem to want to transition or even change his pronouns so much as just have deep discomfort with his AMAB body.
This is contrasted with his young snarky boyfriend, who gets a Cinderella transition narrative written from the inside (the author is nonbinary.) So it’s not “older cis man saves young trans man”, it’s the two men saving each other and by the time the younger man accepts that kind of help it’s actually a big accomplishment on the older dude’s part to get him to trust him enough to consider it, and what’s more, he’s not cis so that really changes the dynamic.
The sex scenes were especially focused on exploring comfort and discomfort within a relationship between two trans people, and sometimes they didn’t have sex, either. This book has a lot of cuddling scenes and they felt totally natural; you believe it as a reader that they’re enjoying that on its own level and that sex would have felt weird for them at that moment. In other words, the sex isn’t just there to give the audience some frosting on the cake but are part of the characterization.
You also get a great supporting cast of one MC’s cis queer girl bestie and the other’s trans sister. They’re adorable, too.
One time when I was visiting my best friend when she was in vet school, we went to a steakhouse where I ordered an improbably perfect dish. It was a salad (I love salad) with steak on it (I love steak), BEETS, one of the cheeses I can eat without taking a pill, and I forgot what else, but the point was that every item in the salad was something I love. Usually, that doesn’t happen when you dine out. You get a protein you want with some useless sides, or you get a fantastic salad with all the veggies you love but no hopes of a protein beyond uninspired, underseasoned grilled chicken. This was different. This was something that had all the elements I wanted without any of the stuff I don’t like.
Get the picture?
A Boy Called Cin was like that salad, for me: a perfect little book and pretty much everything I’d want in a m/m book with a trans man, especially since I like older men. I’d been getting increasingly frustrated recently with the fact that so many romances have that scene near the end where the couple nearly breaks up, or does break up, before their happy ending. I just plain old don’t enjoy reading that. This book did not do the thing. That’s such a relief.
Trigger warning that Cin’s birth family sucks, but they’re really not in that much of the book.