Dana reviews Chyna Doll (Horizons Series: Book 4) by Mickie B. Ashling (Published by Dreamspinner Press, February 3, 2015, 320 pages)
This week we decided to review a book featuring a character that represents each letter of the LGBTQIA acronym. I had Chyna Doll in my library already and knew that it featured an intersex character, which isn’t that common outside of alternate reality or the sci-fi genre. I volunteered to review it because I read it in the past and enjoyed the story and learned a bit about what it means to be intersex.
Blurb: Horizons Series: Book Four
Lil Lampert’s forty-fifth birthday turns the effervescent architect into a brooding mess, and his partner, Grier Dilorio, takes him to Italy to help him regain his zest for life. The timing is bad—almost-fifteen-year-old Luca has just started high school, and his mother and stepfather are also traveling. Luca is left in the care of Chicago Bear, Clark Stevens, and his partner, Dr. Jody Williams.
Growing up with two dads and two gay uncles has given Luca a unique perspective on gender roles, but not all the answers. He’s had a secret crush on his straight best friend, Chip, for years. Suddenly, Luca finds himself attracted to Chyna, Chip’s twin sister. Now he’s wondering if this means he’s bisexual.
Born with a sexual development disorder, Chyna should have been raised as a male, but due to an epic parenting fail, is being raised as female. Hiding the truth becomes more difficult when Chyna hits puberty, and crushing over Luca adds another element to Chyna’s struggle to fit in.
Is Luca’s moral compass strong enough to guide him successfully through this period of discovery or will he succumb to peer pressure and shatter Chyna’s dreams for happiness?
I’ve read a few books in which it was possible for a male to become pregnant due to alien bodies, genetic experimentation, and alterna-worlds but those worlds aren’t based in reality. I do think that Chyna Doll would represent what an intersex person would deal with in the world we live in. For the record intersex is: a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries)
Intersex does vary from person to person, and the different types can be explored further online, but in this story, Chyna was born with PMDS which led to her having the external genitals of a male and internal organs belonging to a female. Medical authority would have her listed as a male but in a desperate move by her mother she was marked as a female on her birth certificate. Chyna didn’t have a problem being raised female. She enjoyed cheerleading, makeup, her long beautiful hair, but eventually she would hit puberty and hormones were a nasty wake up call to her mom’s impulsive decision. I try not to judge others parenting but in this case the lengths Chyna’s mom went to, to avoid discussing her choice, could be considered abuse.
I didn’t mention it earlier, but Chyna Doll is the fourth book in a series. Chyna Doll was the first one I read and I had no problem coming into the end of a series. You could read as a stand-alone, but it will probably make you want to read the earlier books. Luca first appeared in book two as a young boy. His father was a gay man who experimented with a girl to be sure of his sexuality and ended up having a son. Luca’s dad Grier ended up marrying a man named Lil and they raised him along with Luca’s mom and uncle. Though Grier and Lil feature heavily in this story, the main plot line concerns Chyna and Luca. Luca isn’t sure if he is gay like his dad or straight since he happens to be attracted to both Chyna and her twin brother Chip. For him this story is about self-discovery.
For Chyna it’s more complicated. She has hopes and dreams that are threatened by her changing body. Since she was raised female she also has a totally unexplored side to herself. There are a lot of difficult decisions for her in this story. Perhaps being a male might be a better choice? And what if Luca finds out her secret? Luca might just find he loves a person for who they are inside and not what gender they are.
Because this is a YA romance between Luca and Chyna the ending is very happy for now. There is a lot more life for them to live. There is exploration for both of them sexually, but details and orgasmic descriptions aren’t included. If you do like your book to have some sex, it does come in the form of Grier and Lil who are traveling in Italy. Their kinks provide some sexy moments in this book, as the two stories weave together.
All the secondary characters are wonderful in this series. I love Luca’s dads and his uncles Clark and Jody who watch him while the dads are away. I love the transgender woman Chyna meets who helps her through some rough moments. Chyna’s twin Chip is probably one of the best siblings I’ve ever read about. The only two I can’t say I cared for were the neglectful parents who’s decisions caused the main bulk of trouble in the story. I would definitely recommend this book and the series it belongs to. I felt like I learned something and really enjoyed the story too.
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
You can contact her at email@example.com or leave a comment on her blog at http://mickiebashling.blogspot.com