Wendy reviews Grounded by Aidan Wayne. Published by NineStar Press August 21, 2017, 120 pages.
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
We would like to say Happy Release Day to Aidan Wayne and congratulations! Please be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a very cool handmade prize donated by Rainbows4All.
Between raising his daughter Camille, his work as a full-time pastry chef, and his hobby of capoeira, Baz’s life is pretty full. He may be a little lonely, but he’s too busy to think about it all that much.
When his cousin Alaina introduces him to Terry, another capoeira student, Baz is instantly drawn to him. Though quiet and withdrawn, Terry ends up being a fun, interesting person who Baz can’t help but fall for. And when Baz does things, he doesn’t do them halfway.
Terry is a successful voice actor and a talented martial artist. But the fact that he’s shy, on top of being a trans man, has kept him from really dating. He likes Baz, he does—he just doesn’t want to mess up their friendship by failing at romance. Still, Baz is nothing if not stubborn, and Terry is willing to give things a try
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Baz was going to throw up.
It was finally time for the Roda Capoeira showcase. Baz’s martial arts school put on a demo once a year, and he was one of two people demonstrating advanced flips. He was ready, he’d been practicing for weeks, the show started in ten minutes, he was the eighth performer out of twelve, and he was going to seriously throw up if he thought anymore about performing in front of an audience. He was fine with regular capoeira games, the fighting dance performed in a roda circle. But for some reason this felt a lot different from playing a game with his regular group.
Maybe it was because Andre and Aunt Emma had collaborated with the local community broadcast system, so there were television cameras around.
There was a quick rapping on the dressing room door—three sharp knocks to warn them all before it was pushed open. Someone Baz had never seen before walked in, looking for all the world like they belonged there.
“Terry!” Lydia, who was closest to the door, immediately rushed at them, throwing her arms around their neck. They looked tiny next to Lydia’s five-ten frame but didn’t buckle after being practically jumped on. “Oh my god, Terry, you’re back! Guys, Terry’s here!”
Baz turned to get a better look, grateful for the distraction, as all of the eleven other performers made their way toward the door and the short dark-haired newcomer, who quickly disappeared underneath a multitude of hugs. Dee, who had been putting on their makeup, practically tripped over themselves to run forward.
“Hey everyone,” Terry said, muffled under Dee and Alaina. “Missed you.”
“I’m glad you made it. Welcome back.” Andre grinned, clapping Terry on the back.
“Well, I couldn’t miss the showcase,” Terry said, smiling down at the floor. They spoke quietly, but in a way that carried. “And I’ll be coming back to classes finally. Got my schedule changed around. Just wanted to tell you all that I’m here. Put on a good show so I can see what I missed?”
“Yeah, of course,” Lydia said.
“I’ll let you guys finish getting ready. See you all soon.”
They left with a wave and a bunch of goodbyes, with a promise to Andre they’d come backstage again after the show.
Baz caught Alaina’s arm as she made her way back to the mirrors to finish helping Dee with their makeup. (Dee used they/them pronouns, so when it doubt, that was what Baz had learned to default to.) “Who was that? I’ve never seen them before.”
Alaina looked delighted. “That was Terry. I think I’ve mentioned him to you before? He’s the guy who does Tae Kwon Do and likes all the same bands as you. You’d be great friends. I’m so glad he’s back—I’ve been dying to introduce you. And, you know, see him again.”
“Has he been coming to capoeira for a long time?”
“He’s been pretty off and on. But it sounds like he’s going to be back.”
“Five minutes till curtain, everyone,” Andre called. “Let’s get into our seats.”
The performers all rushed around finishing up last-minute touches, and Baz was distracted enough by the commotion and the rest of the showcase that his nerves died down, at least a little bit.
Friends and family alike stayed after the showcase to hug and congratulate the performers. Aunt Emma came over carrying Camille, who put her arms out to hug Baz as she talked excitedly about the show, lapsing into and out of English and French.
“Glad you liked it,” Baz said. “Are you excited to spend the night with Aunt Emma?”
“Yes! We’re going to watch a movie, and I’m going to make dinner.”
“You’re going to help Aunt Emma make dinner,” Baz corrected.
Camille stuck out her lip. “I could make dinner all by myself. I’m five. I’m pretty big.”
“I know,” Baz said, lifting her up high once before setting her down on the floor.
“Baz—” Alaina walked over to him, pulling Terry along by the hand. “There you are. This is Terry. Terry, this is Baz. I told you about him. He does Tae Kwon Do too.”
“Oh yeah,” Terry said, looking up at Baz with a small smile. “I remember. You like the band Brink Hotel, right? I uh, I wore a shirt of theirs once, and Alaina started talking about you.”
“Good things, I hope?”
Terry shrugged a shoulder. He was right around Alaina’s height, and about as slender. “Mostly that we’d be good friends. And that you’re a pastry chef? I think.”
“Well, that’s true.” Camille tugged on his hand. “Oh, and this is my daughter, Camille.”
“Oh, uh, yeah, I know Camille.” Terry waved at her, and she shyly waved back. “From Alaina and Emma. They bring her sometimes.”
“Oh.” Right, Baz had forgotten that if Terry had been coming to capoeira classes for a few months, he’d probably have met Camille there. Aunt Emma often watched her at the studio while Baz was at work.
“Talk about something,” Alaina said, waving a hand between them, before crouching down to talk to Camille in French.
Terry looked at Alaina and then up at Baz. “Um. So, how long have you been training in capoeira?”
“About seven months, give or take.” When Aunt Emma had decided to start a capoeira studio with Andre, Baz had fallen in love with the Brazilian martial art. His schedule had only recently let him start to train seriously, but he’d thrown himself into it. “Haven’t seen you around though. How long have you been training?”
Terry shook his head. “I’ve been pretty off and on. I used to train at another place, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how they ran classes. I’ve been out of it for a while. But I’m looking to come back here. I really miss it.”
“You should,” Baz said. “It’s a great group. I mean, you know Andre, so you know he takes it super seriously, but it’s still fun. It’s one of the only activities I do where I’m just drenched with sweat at the end.” When Terry snickered, Baz smiled and asked, “What?”
“Spoken like a true martial artist. And I have to say—your routine was awesome. Have you really only been doing this for seven months?”
“I just come a lot. I bet you could get into flips, if you come back.” Baz was always trying to get more people to try the more acrobatic movements in capoeira. He took private lessons to learn the more advanced stuff, but if enough people showed an interest, then there was talk of forming a full-on class, which would be awesome. “You just fall down a bunch of times, and eventually, you start catching yourself.”
Terry laughed again, a low, quiet thing, barely an exhale. “Maybe once I’m back up to speed, I’ll try some acro classes. Andre thinks I could start in the one-and-a-half class again and flounder for a while, but I’m thinking that going to level one and sticking with it for a couple months might make more sense. I’ve been out of it so long that I really need to brush back up on the basics.”
“Oh yeah? Which days were you planning on coming?”
“I work kind of sporadically, but I’m going to try making the Tuesday morning class, and then the weekend ones. Maybe once I catch up, I can start going to a more advanced weeknight class.”
“Hey, I’m in the Tuesday class.” He was a little advanced for it, truth be told, but it worked with his schedule, so to it he went. “So I’ll see you there.”
“Yeah, here’s hoping.” Terry smiled and looked down at the ground. “I’ve been missing it, you know? And coming to the showcase showed me just how much. I’m looking forward to getting back into it. There’s a lot I want to learn.”
Baz knew the feeling. In the grand scheme of things, he really hadn’t been training in capoeira very long, but he couldn’t imagine his life without it anymore. He was really lucky he’d been able to come as often as he could with the schedule he had, and even luckier he didn’t have to pay for those lessons, since Aunt Emma owned the studio and gave him a steep discount. “Hey, glad to have you back at the Roda studio. Everyone else seems pretty happy to see you again.”
Terry shrugged, his gaze dropping to the floor again. “So, um, you’re a pastry chef? That’s pretty awesome. I’ve always thought it was really cool. Pastry cheffery.”
That startled a laugh out of Baz. “Pastry cheffery?” Terry grinned up at him before ducking his head, and it made Baz want to smile too. “Yeah, sure, that’s one thing to call it. The hours aren’t the best, but I love it. I work nights right now, but I’m supposed to be moving to a new position in a couple of months.”
“Yeah, I know what it’s like to work weird hours. But it’s really great that you enjoy it. I, uh, I watch a lot of baking and cooking shows? And, I mean, I know that’s not how it’s really done, but I like seeing food get made.”
Camille tugged on Baz’s hand, and he focused on his daughter. Alaina was nowhere to be seen. “Papa,” she said in French, “I’m hungry. I want to go home with Aunt Emma.”
“Okay, let’s go find her,” Baz replied. In English, he added to Terry, “A bunch of us are going out to dinner together. You want to come?”
Terry startled, his eyes widening. “Oh. Uh, I—maybe?”
“You should come,” Baz continued enthusiastically. “We’re meeting at Anita’s Kitchen.” Camille tugged on his hand again. “Sorry, sorry, let’s go, love.” He glanced back at Terry, smiling as Camille pulled him away. “Lydia or Alaina can give you directions if you need them.”
As he and Camille made their way through the backstage crowd of friends and families, looking for Aunt Emma, Baz couldn’t help but hope Terry would come out to dinner with them. He seemed like an interesting guy, and Baz always enjoyed meeting interesting people. He was pretty positive Alaina had been right about them hitting it off. She usually was about that sort of thing.
Terry had seemed so surprised at being asked to go out with them though. And his whole demeanor read kind of quiet, kind of shy. Baz hoped he hadn’t accidentally scared him off or something. Being shy and doing capoeira didn’t really mesh that much, at least not in Baz’s head, but it was entirely plausible. It was just kind of hard to get a read on the guy, was all.
Seven of them, Terry included, ended up taking a big table at Anita’s Kitchen. Baz was seated next to Terry, which he was pretty sure was Alaina’s doing. She sat on his other side, with Lydia, Andre, Marcus, and Ben rounding out the group. The first few minutes were a flurry of ordering drinks and food, and then chatting about the showcase performance.
“So, not to repeat myself,” Terry said to Baz over the noise of the table and the rest of the restaurant. “But your routine was really impressive. Some of the stuff you did I’d only ever seen Andre demonstrate.”
“You could do it yourself if you decided to work on those flips in a class,” Baz coaxed, not about to let that thought die yet. “Just saying.”
Terry lifted one shoulder, his mouth quirking. “Maybe. I think I need to build myself back up first. I’ve been out of capoeira for a while.”
“You always come back better though,” Andre put in. “Most people lose it when they’re gone for a while, but you always come back stronger and more flexible.”
“Well, you know. I work out a lot at home too.”
“What do you do?” Baz asked.
“Oh, uh, Tae Kwon Do mostly.”
“Oh yeah, cool. What kind?”
“Awesome. What degree are you?”
Terry glanced down at the table. “Third.”
Baz grinned. That was so cool, and he said as much. “That’s great. I’m a second degree in Han Moo Kwan style. Do you spar?”
“Some. Shim style isn’t really a sparring school, but you know, I do it.”
“We should totally spar sometime. You don’t want to get rusty, right?”
Terry’s lips quirked again. “I’m probably already rusty. But yeah, that sounds good. You’d have to take it easy on me though. I’ve been out of it for a while.”
“Oh, and—” Terry hesitated before saying “—maybe we could do a capoeira teaching spar? That’d be fun. I’m really out of it though.”
“We should get together,” Baz said immediately. “What’s your number?”
Terry’s eyes widened—was he surprised at being asked?—but he gave it to Baz readily enough. Baz put the number into his phone and sent Terry a text. This is Baz.
“Oh,” Terry said, pulling out his phone. He grinned down at it and then looked up at Baz again. “Okay. Okay, cool.”
“I’m dead,” Baz said after his private acro class was over. “Tell my daughter I loved her.”
“You can’t be dead,” Marcus said reasonably. “You still have level one to do.”
“I know,” Baz said. “And it’ll be good; it’ll be fine. Ugh.” He sat up and started stretching out his wrists, looking over when the door to the studio opened. “Oh, hey Terry.”
“Hi,” Terry said before taking off his shoes and hanging up his backpack. “Am I late?”
“Right on time,” Lydia said. “We’re about to start warm-up.”
“Nooo,” Baz said, even as he pushed himself to his feet. Terry glanced at him, a question obvious in his expression. “I’m just tired from acro,” Baz explained, taking a place next to Terry as they started the ginga warm-up.
“I didn’t know we had a full acro class yet.”
“Oh, it’s not a class. I take private lessons with Andre on Tuesday mornings.”
“Oh. Well that explains your routine during the showcase.”
Bas grinned. “Thanks. Are you going to do any of the team rodas?”
Terry shrugged. “I guess it depends on how I’m doing. I really need to relearn a lot of skills.”
“Andre said you always remember your stuff though.” Baz was already impressed with how smoothly Terry was moving—and not sounding out of breath at all, besides. “It’s just a matter of putting different movements together.”
“That’s easy to say,” Terry said, smiling a little. “But it’s a lot harder to do when you’re, say, in the middle of playing and your partner kicks and you forget how to duck.”
Caitlyn laughed from Terry’s other side. “She’s got a point.”
Terry’s smile vanished, and he dropped his eyes to the floor, missing a step. Baz’s stomach clenched. “Um,” Terry said, as he resumed his momentum. “I’m not a she.”
“Oh my god,” Caitlyn exclaimed. “I’m so sorry—I’m usually really good about that sort of thing. I’m sorry!”
Terry shrugged a shoulder and looked up long enough to make eye contact with her. “It’s…it’s, well, it’s not okay, but I’m used to it.”
“Sorry,” Caitlyn said again, looking upset. Terry nodded, and then Lydia switched them to a different speed, and the subject was dropped. Terry seemed to be concentrating on the movements and didn’t appear as though he cared to talk any more, right now.
That didn’t stop Baz from thinking about it. Poor guy. Just…the way he’d said he was used to it. It was so full of pain that it had hurt to hear it.
If Alaina hadn’t introduced Terry as male, if Baz didn’t know better from already knowing Dee, Baz might’ve just assumed. He wondered if that was why Terry had been so quiet the few times they’d spoken. Like he was curling in on himself a little bit, unsure of how to act around other people.
That really sucked.
The rest of class passed uneventfully, thank goodness. During downtime, Baz struck up a conversation with Terry about movies, since everyone was talking about the newest Batman film.
“I haven’t actually seen it,” Terry said, looking at his feet. “I heard it was pretty bad.”
“It was terrible,” Baz said with glee. “You should really see it. They mashed, like, five different movies into one. It’s a total train wreck.”
Terry’s lips quirked up. That was good. That was a good start. “Yeah? Maybe I’ll see it after all.”
“Do you want to see it with me? I could do with watching it again.”
“Oh sure. I’d definitely be down for seeing it again. When are you free?”
“Uh, you work nights, right?” Terry asked. “So would a matinee be better for you?”
Right. And it was nice of Terry to think of Baz’s schedule. “Yeah, that’d be best. And matinees are really the best time to watch movies, anyway. Much smaller crowds.”
“I’ve, uh, I’ve got time this Thursday. Do you want to…?”
“Yeah! Let’s look up times after class is over.”
Baz grinned at him, and Terry hesitantly grinned back.
Why I read this book~ This book was one of the submissions sent to RGR for the RGRTransAware event.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was that Capoeira was mentioned in the first paragraph. *Confession time* I only happened to know about it by watching the cartoon Bob’s Burgers. One of the characters (Tina) becomes infatuated by the Capoeira instructor and starts taking his classes. I admit that that’s probably not the best way to find out about a martial art form, but I was very happy to have recognized it, even if I still know less than I could about it. *side note* The Capoeira instructor from the cartoon has become a favorite and is now featured semi- regularly on the show.
The MC, Baz, is a character that I instantly liked. He’s just a good guy. He loves his daughter Camille and his job as a pastry chef, he takes his Capoeira seriously (his aunt owns the Capoeira studio), and even though his life is full, he feels lonely. It’s not made clear in the beginning of the story just how he came to be a single father of a five year old girl and to be brutally honest, I wasn’t sure (because I didn’t read the blurb) if he wasn’t the transgender character until later on in the book. That’s actually a really good point that I should make here. The writing is very well done and with enough gender neutrality that until a point somewhere around a third of the way in, that aspect isn’t entirely clear. And that’s very refreshing! That it just didn’t matter… at. all. His daughter Camille is a real sweetheart and will grab at your heartstrings. I liked that she played a key role in the story and that her upbringing was diverse.
Terry was the love interest in the story and was shy to the point that I was thinking to myself, “Come on and show me some self esteem, you can do it!.” I admit to quietly cheering him on because for a minute it didn’t seem to matter just how much Baz reassured him, he still wasn’t able to believe in himself. But once things were spelled out plainly, he gained the self confidence to grow in the relationship. Just like every transition is unique, Terry’s is as well. He chooses to stop taking T in order to continue with his career as a voice actor. Do I think that might have made a bit of difference in his confidence issues? I’m not sure it would have made any difference for Terry. I think that this character is just one of those painfully shy people who hasn’t had the opportunity to develop a good support system or deep friendships that would have maybe boosted his moral. It was good to see his character blossom a bit as the story went along.
This story, to me, was about patience and love and growing into a life with someone. It was a very sweet novella, it wasn’t driven by angst and I’m sure I will read it again. I look forward to reading other work from this author.
8 1/2 out of 10 Pots of Gold
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Aidan Wayne has been a jeweler, paralegal, neurofeedback technician, and martial arts instructor. And that’s not even the whole list. They’ve been in constant motion since before they were born (pity Aidan’s mom!)—and being born didn’t change anything. When not moving, Aidan is usually writing, so things tend to balance out. They primarily write character-driven stories with happy endings, because, dammit, queer people deserve happy endings too.
Aidan has several plants: Viola and Baby V., the African violets; George, the ponytail palm; Antigone, the orchid; and an unidentified succulent, the-plant-that-has-not-yet-been-named-but-is-often-called-Steve. They live with their plants on the seventh floor of an apartment building. The building has an elevator, but Aidan refuses to acknowledge its existence.