EtR Book Club: Circle of Change by Laney Cairo

I’m really excited to be discussing Circle of Change by Laney Cairo.  This was my first romance with a trans* character.  What a way to start, right?  I have to be honest, when I read the book that first time, it was out of intellectual curiosity.  I wanted to see how an author would handle a trans* hero in a romance novel.  What I walked away with was Kim, a real, relatable person.  Someone whose problems are both similar to and nothing like my own.  He made me think.  Kim and Dash both broke my heart at various points in the story, and in the end I was left rooting for them, that they both continue to grow in their relationship.

In other words, I had exactly the experience I hope to find in a romance novel, with a side order of increased awareness.  These characters and their experiences stuck with me over the months since I first read it, and they held up when I read it again for this discussion.  And I haven’t hesitated to read about a trans* character since.

Here’s what Laney had to say about Circle of Change:

Circle of Change is an early novel, written before I had professionally published anything apart from a handful of short stories, and published later. The novel was intended originally as an exercise in experimenting with structure, which I was exploring at the time. I was intrigued by the idea of an artificially imposed framework, in the form of the year of Wiccan rituals, and the challenge of working a standard romance plot around that framework. I’ve never returned to that kind of structure for another novel, but I recall the writing process as being a positive experience, without much of the three quarter mark plot flailing I had been prone to until then.

I wanted to play with the trope of the inspirational romance, adapting the more conventional inspirational romance plot structure and writing a novel that I would actually want to read. I don’t live in a spiritual vacuum, and I enjoy reading books that reflect this. However, not all of my books that have religiously observant characters in them are actually inspirational romances. Jude, from The Tockleys, is a Buddhist, but the story of The Tockleys is not dependent on Jude finding insight or consolation from his religious practices. Kim and Dash, in Circle of Change, however, can’t find each other until Dash finds his own truth through Wicca. I think there should be more Wiccan inspirational romances.

Since I’ve come out as genderqueer, I do feel like Circle of Change has in some way become more respectable as a book. Obviously, I’m the same person I was when I wrote it, just now with more mileage on. And Circle of Change is still a romance novel about Kim and Dash. But readers don’t necessarily read books in a vacuum, and if I’m around at conventions or online, being visibly genderqueer, then it is going to alter how people read Circle of Change. If I wrote Circle of Change (or another gender/trans novel) now I’m publicly genderqueer, I’d write something different I think. With a really, really happy ending. And more, better, sex. I would like as much validation and joy as possible. Stories about us should be stories about people having *awesome* lives.

I’m all for people having awesome lives. 😀  But in my opinion, the ending of Circle is just right.  Hopeful, but not settled.  Not finished, because the wheel of the year keeps turning, and there will be new challenges, new journeys, new opportunities for growth.  It ends in a balanced moment for both the characters and the year.  A perfect ending point for the structure of the book. And Kim and Dash are so young.  I want to believe that they will have a long and amazing relationship, but it’s too soon for them to have a Happily Ever After type ending.

So, now it’s you’re turn.  What did you think of the book?  Did you notice how Dash’s experiences with the coven paralleled his growing relationship with Kim?  And what did you think of Kim?  Was there a particular moment in the story that really stands out to you?

Let’s hear it!



10 thoughts on “EtR Book Club: Circle of Change by Laney Cairo

  1. OK, I have a question for Laney. Why the name Kim? I’m assuming he picked it for himself, but in the US it’s almost always a girl’s name, so I found it a curious choice.

  2. I didn’t know that. And I’m now surprised that none of my beta readers or my editor pointed this out. In Australia, Kim is both a male and female name, and the name Kim raises no expectations in me as to the gender of the owner of the name. Given the amount of arguing over beer brands and mayonnaise my betas did, I wonder why no one pointed this out to me.

  3. “If I wrote Circle of Change (or another gender/trans novel) now I’m publicly genderqueer, I’d write something different I think. With a really, really happy ending. And more, better, sex. I would like as much validation and joy as possible. Stories about us should be stories about people having *awesome* lives.”

    Hi Laney. 🙂 I’m curious about your comment above and am really hoping I don’t cause you any offense by interest. So…

    Like Becky, I often think a romance which features young couples, especially those who have challenging lives, is more convincing for me as a reader with a ‘happy for now’ ending where the future is a hopeful one.

    Would the change in your approach be partly due to Dash and Kim’s story being an inspirational one? Or is it more to do with increasing awareness about those who identify as GQ/T* being able to have a ‘normal’ – I hate that word, but I’ve no doubt this is one a number of people would use – extremely happy, fulfilling and satisfying relationships, both loving and sexually?

    I was also interested in your description of ‘Circle of Change’ being more respectable now. Do you think your identification as GQ has somehow lent a validation to the story?

    Again, I’ve no intention of causing offense. I’m rabidly nosey as others involved in this site have experienced for themselves. Please don’t feel as if you have to answer my questions however, I’ve no wish to put you in an uncomfortable position.

    • Hi Kris 🙂 No offense has been caused.

      It’s for the second reason. While Circle of Change was supposed to be ‘inspirational’, that was for the spiritual content, not Kim and Dash’s story. And it’s ‘inspirational’ in a Claiming Space kind of way, rather than in a Everyone Should Dance Naked Under The Full Moon Now Recruit Recruit Recruit kind of way. I also don’t like ‘normal’ as a word or idea’, but those are the stories I now want to write, and tend to work on. Again, I’m writing the stories I want to read, about people with rambling layered lives, who talk a lot and do many things, only some of which are related to queerness. And who have awesome lives.

      I do feel that, now I’ve come out, that my authorship of Circle of Change is possibly perceived as more valid, as though it’s now okay for me to talk fictionally about genderqueerness without it crossing a privilege line. This could be an entirely subjective perception, based on my own concerns about my legitimacy as a queer author and a genderqueer author.

      Thank you for your questions. They made me think, but not feel uncomfortable.

      • Thanks for answering, Laney. I appreciate your openness and generosity.

        “This could be an entirely subjective perception, based on my own concerns about my legitimacy as a queer author and a genderqueer author.”

        I think you’re one of the few authors associated with this genre I’ve known to actually express such concerns. A number tend to become immediately and aggressively defensive if issues like legitimacy and authenticity are raised.

        I reckon such self-awareness and self-reflection is very admirable indeed.

        Thanks again for allowing me to be nosey. I’m grateful.

  4. I’ve read the book several times and I really loved it. The most important thing for me was to realise that gender and orientation are not fixed, like they are shown mostly in society. It’s important for young people to have the room to figure out how they feel and how they want the world to see them. For me personally as a mother of a bisexual crossdressing teenage son who struggled with his identity it was a great eye opener and also very comforting. It’s a difficult story with a hopeful ending, just like real life is.

    And for the record, here in the Netherlands, Kim is both male and female.

  5. It’s funny you would discuss the book just now, because I had read it some years ago, and then I re-read it some 3 weeks ago.

    The first time I loved the story, but I was a bit irritated by the Wiccan theme, I found it too dominant. The second time I thought the Wiccan them was blending beautifully with the story, event though it remains a bit foreign to me ;-).

    If Laney is reading this: I loved your ”Bad case of Loving You”, so much that I’ve got it on paper. And subsequently I bought most of your works. Thank you for sharing your talent!

    Be well!


    • Hi Anotella. Yes, I am reading 🙂

      I’ve always wondered how the Wiccan scenes and concepts appeared to people from outside paganism, how easy the material was to digest, and it’s interesting to finally find out!

      Thank you for your kind words about Bad Case.

      • I wondered what others’ reactions would be to the inspirational elements, too. I studied Wicca years ago, and I remember just enough from those days to be dangerous. :p What I didn’t immediately remember, the rituals brought back. So I was able to relate Dash’s spiritual growth to the growth of the relationship. For me the rituals were descriptive but not overwhelming, and I wondered how they seemed to people who were less familiar with Wicca. Or more familiar.

        And Donal the circle invading cat cracked me up. Mine would race laps around any circle I cast, and he wouldn’t settle down until I took it down again.

  6. A scene that was shocking to me, in an emotional way not offensive, was when Helen sat down with Kim and Dash to discuss safe sex. Earlier in the book, the doctor brought up the possibility of pregnancy, and in the medical setting it was just one more medical concern. But when Helen talked to the boys it was a slap of reality. A moment of cognitive dissonance, because Kim’s identity is completely male, and yet he has to take precautions or he might end up pregnant.

    In that moment I really thought about how horrible that would be. To be a man, to be living as a man, and find yourself accidentally pregnant. For medical reasons, it would be very bad for me to become pregnant. So it’s a concern that I can totally relate to. But on top of the medical concerns, the moral considerations, to have a pregnancy that threatened my identity as a person…. The idea was just mind blowing.

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