Becoming Kerry

Becoming Kerry - Lynn Kelling Originally reviewed at Sinfully.

4.5 stars

At only twenty years old, Kerry has been through more than his fair share of difficulties. We know as far back as eight years old he was physically abused, beaten by his step-father for showing signs of being gay. Something that continued sporadically for years with minimal family intervention until things went too far. Even after that, his abuser returned to live in the house, leaving Kerry just trying to stay out of the way and project the right image until he left home; his family dynamics are complicated to say the least. Nobody seemed to know how to relate to him. Moving in with Jamie, his transgender now ex-boyfriend, Kerry once again finds himself putting on a front and tamping down his own feelings, identity and needs in order to be what Jamie needs. He’s finally taking steps to live the way he wants – wearing a kilt and dancing at a gay club are the first steps in his evolution.

Ewyn has known loss. His brother was murdered in a hate crime and his inability to have prevented that has driven him to help protect others. He works in private security and at the club where Kerry dances. When he first sees Kerry he feels a need to approach him, sensing his vulnerability. Kerry is an arousing combination of masculinity and femininity that embraces everything Ewyn has been looking for in the women he dated and the men he wished he had. Kerry calls to the caretaker side of Ewyn who immediately fears for what could happen to Kerry as he sees the same goodness and light within as he saw in his brother Darcy. Ewyn is pretty intense in his insistence that he help Kerry, something that has been problematic in the past.

Kerry quickly finds himself trusting Ewyn with his safety and his heart. He still worries, but Ewyn’s words of encouragement and his open desire for Kerry help him to start to let go of the concerns that have held him back. Ewyn really falls for Kerry the moment they meet, but this isn’t insta-love. Ewyn is the first person to not just accept Kerry, but to encourage Kerry to be himself. While I loved Ewyn’s open acceptance and encouragement, nothing ever shook him as far as Kerry’s transformation goes. He’s a bit too perfect, but he is exactly what Kerry needs. There really is no drama between them. The focus is on Kerry’s transformation and the outside forces that threaten it.

Since this is Lynn Kelling, there is darkness and suffering. I would advise you to check the warnings as there is some violent content. (There is also a BDSM tag on the book, but that refers to Kerry’s submissive nature and Ewyn’s desire to control, not any hardcore BDSM scenes.) Kerry’s outward presentation of his feminine self isn’t going to go over well with everyone, just as his being gay doesn’t. There are a lot of layers to the story as there are many layers that Kerry needs to shed in order to become his true self. Outside events seem to coincide with each new step Kerry takes forward, some threatening his safety and security and others helping to propel him forward.

Lynn Kelling doesn’t shy away from stories about characters with challenges, characters who have been broken by life, but are ready to take back control and become the person they were always meant to be, and she created a beautiful story for Kerry. Here, Kerry blossoms once he feels he is safe to do so, when Ewyn and Ewyn’s mother offer complete acceptance, when his brother Kent acts as a bridge and a buffer with the rest of the family as Kerry becomes comfortable in her (and at this point in the story that is the pronoun Kerry prefers) own skin. While Kerry’s family situation is all very much a work in progress at the end, I did miss seeing Kerry actually confront Michael and Michael offer an explanation. The “he’s not the same person” mantra that the family keeps spewing and an “I’m sorry” wasn’t enough for me and Michael’s seeming change of tune toward Kerry didn’t completely satisfy my need to see some penance paid by Michael or proving he is trustworthy.

Finding Kerry is a lovely exploration of one character’s discovery of how to be their true self. Kerry’s journey to make the outward presentation of himself match how he feels inside is very personal to him and not necessarily conforming to anyone else’s ideas on gender identity. It’s only when he finds the safety and unconditional love Ewyn offers that he is able to begin to break out of the shell he had been hiding in.

Other than my few minor personal quibbles with the plot I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The focus on Kerry and his metamorphosis and Ewyn’s role in supporting and loving him pulled me in and didn’t let go. Seeing him able to take something positive from all the pain he’s been through and to come out stronger for it made the difficult journey worthwhile.