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!