Title: Protecting Shawna
Author: M.C. Questgend
Publisher: M.C. Questgend
Publication Date: September 18, 2020
Shelves: Female-authored, transgender
The best authors are continually challenging themselves, pushing themselves in new directions, and striving to grow as storytellers. While I have always enjoyed M.C. Questgend’s edgy sort of erotica, she’s been making the push into more imaginative and romantic storytelling, as perfectly illustrated by Protecting Shawna.
As the story opens, war has come to US shores, with multiple foreign forces attacking, invading, and slowly occupying cities as they move across the country. With all of that happening, the tragedy that took the lives of Travis’ family has left him ideally (if sadly) positioned to isolate from the conflict, living off the grid in the vacation home he began building to keep himself busy before the war began. He’s not ready to open his heart again, but he has befriended a young woman at the pharmacy in town, and when looters and bullies threaten her safety, he temporarily takes her in.
This is a slow-burn romance with a soft, gradual reveal of Shawna’s transgender identity. There’s no angst or tortured anxiety there, and no shock/trap moment, just an eventual, inevitable sharing of identity. With the declaration of war a precipitating event rather than a driving element of the plot, Protecting Shawna can focus on exploring the characters and their growing relationship, and that’s where it shines. There’s no insta-love here, no desperation sex between lonely souls, just a slow build from friends, to a sort of family unit, to eventual lovers.
One element of the story that I came to love, transforming a genre cliché into something beautiful and significant, is the conversations Travis has with his dead wife. There’s so much guilt and sorrow there, a desperate need for forgiveness over both past and future, but when Shawna steps up to have her own graveside chat . . . well, that was just such a lovely touch, one that really transformed grief over love lost into joy over love found.
There’s some genuine tension to the story, and more than a few moments of violence as Questgend deals with the implications of foreign soldiers and domestic bullies, but as the title suggests, this is about Protecting Shawna, complete with one of my favorite HEA’s she’s ever written.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2
My sincere thanks to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.