Title ~ Charlie in a Red Dress
Author ~ Zoe X Rider
Publisher ~ Hela Press
Published ~ 8th May 2014
Genre ~ M/M Romance
Rating ~ 3.75 Stars
When Charlie agrees to go to a Halloween keg party as the “girlfriend” half of a boyfriend-and-girlfriend costume with his best friend, Jeff, he has no idea what he’s signing up for. The night of the party, Jeff’s older sister tweezes, squeezes, and transforms Charlie into Charli, a curvy, curly-haired brunette in a flare-skirted red dress. The shoes are hell, but the attention Charli gets at the party—especially from Jeff—goes straight to her head. When Jeff walks her to her door at the end of the night, neither of them is quite ready to give up the act.
Hair remover: Check
Bikini cream: Check
Red Lippy: Check
Nail varnish: Check
Sexy underwear: Check
Boob enhancers: Check
Control hose: Check
Red dress: Check
Long curly wig: Check
Red ankle strap high heels: Check
This is pretty much the routine we girls go through (give or take a couple of details) every time we get ready to go paint the town red and we probably don't think twice about each stage of the transformation but in this instance its Jeff's best mate Charlie who's being defuzzed, tweezed, primped and painted so he can be transformed into "Charli", with an I, for a fancy dress party at their dorm, and it's poor Charlie who puts himself through this 'grooming' hell with the aid of Jeff's sister Lydia, just so he can come out the other side looking as authentic as possible, and if the final description we get once they've worked on him is to be believed then he ends up looking pretty damn good!
Both Jeff and Charlie are straight, but they take the change from Charlie into "Charli" pretty seriously and I found myself smiling at what lengths they go to to get it just right — Including some pretty intense use of bikini hair removing cream. Talk about taking manscaping to the extreme! LOL. I laughed to myself at the visual of Charlie in his sexy silky undies trying to tuck everything away, boosting his bra with 'Chicken Fillets' and struggling with figure hugging, spanx effect panty hose, that ended up low slung in the crotch, down between his knees till he got a lesson in how to pull the stupid things up! This part of the story was pretty funny and I thought I could see exactly where it was going to go, and in a way I was right but by the same token colour me surprised too!
This is sort of gay for you but with a (definite) difference. To be honest I thought it was just going to be another bit of lightweight sexy fluff, where the two of them realise that once Charlie is in the dress, looking pretty hot, their latent feelings would emerge for each other, there'd be some flirting, some fanoodling and before you know it... Gay and in love! Well, be prepared for something a touch more in-depth than that. Zoe X Rider pulls a little rabbit out of the hat along the way and towards the finish the story changes from cute to something a little more thought provoking and it was round this part that I had a slight wobble. I really enjoyed Jeff and Charlie's story and I loved that it didn't follow the predictable path it could have but I'm not sure that I fully believed the sudden shift in their relationship, when, after having sex, a certain revelation about one of the characters sexual leanings came out. For two straight guys, decisions were made quickly and I found myself wondering about how certain things would work between them long term, but I guess because there are constraints in the length of a short story I didn't get to see any of that. There was an epilogue and as sweet an ending as it was, I still felt that there was more to be looked into and would have liked to have seen it developed more because this is actually a really interesting concept.
For a new adult story, the sex is quite hot and a tad kinky, even though its not 'full on' but there's an aspect of their 'role playing' during sex that pulled me slightly out of the scene because I love my m/m action to be ALL man on man, and because of the subject matter, technically speaking that isn't totally the case in this but that's no detriment to Zoe. She's a great writer, with a really easy style of writing, its just something that I'm personally set in my ways about.
To be honest these niggles of mine might not even hit any one else's radar because for the most part this is still a fun, sometimes cute, quirky take on cross dressing that actually gives you something to think about. One that gives another's view on defining sexuality.
Something Charlie muses about at one point in the story...
"What if the world had fucked it all up, shoving people in a few select boxes.
What kind of world would it be if everyone could just be like what they liked and be with people who liked them, and no one gave a shit 'what' anyone was?"
You can't argue with that, can you?
A Word from Zoe X. Rider
Almost right after “Charlie in a Red Dress” was released, I took off for the RT Booklovers Convention, held in New Orleans this year, right at the edge of the French Quarter.
The first day of the con, I hooked up with author D.R. Slaten, who should change her pen name to “Trouble,” especially when she’s in New Orleans (though I suspect she’s trouble anywhere, in the best of ways.) As just one example: we set off on the RT Pub Crawl on Bourbon Street Wednesday evening with absolutely good intentions—we were going to collect our beads and get back to the con to claim our keepsake prize for it. Instead we wound up in the front row at a burlesque drag show, slipping dollar bills to dancers. (D.R. also wound up on stage, but that’s another story.)
This show, incidentally, was my first exposure to men in drag in real life. Oh my, but it was hot. I lost count of how many times I fell in love. Before this show, men in drag did nothing for me. Nada. Not a freaking thing. Which presented a challenge when “Charlie” started pulling itself together in my head earlier this year.
It all started with a YouTube video of a talk given by Ogi Ogas, co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts. Ogas and Sai Gaddam aggregated user data from the Internet—porn sites, fan fiction archives, forums, whatever—in order to study the behavior of men and women with regard to sexual desire. Ogas’ talk focused on the differences between male and female desire and sexual cues. According to their data, the four anatomical sexual cues—the four body parts men are most interested in—are breasts/chests, buttocks, feet…and penises.* Ogas uses that information to explain the attraction of straight males to “she-male”** porn. Such porn combines all four body cues into one image: big breasts, shapely butt, delicate feet…and a penis. The talk’s about 49 minutes long, and worth a watch if you’re at all interested in that sort of thing. (You, like me, might have objections to some of their findings and conclusions, but it is still overall very interesting stuff.)
I am always intrigued by what people are attracted to, and when it falls outside the accepted social norm, my brain tends to start going, “There’s a story in there!” That’s what happened with “Charlie.” It was nebulous at first, a vague, “What kind of story could I write about a guy who was attracted to men in drag?” I didn’t think I was actually going to write such a thing, because I didn’t find men in drag all that sexy. (Okay, not at all sexy.) But my brain likes a puzzle, so it kept on solving it: “What if there’s this guy whose best friend—and he doesn’t realize this about his friend—is attracted to men in drag. And what if this friend suggests they go to a Halloween party as boyfriend and girlfriend? What would happen then?” Before long Jeff and Charlie existed in my head, and I was sucked into their story. I had to know how it would turn out.
But I faced a huge challenge: there’d be a sex scene with Charlie dressed as “Charli.” Yikes. It wasn’t something I could just write around. A big question when you’re considering entering a relationship is “Could I actually have sex with this person?” You know, she may be wonderful and funny and get you better than anyone ever has, but if she has a pussy and you’re not into pussy…you have to stop and think about that. So they had to have sex, so that Charlie could see that he could have sex with Jeff. And he had to do as “Charli,” both because it gave him permission to do this and because it’s what Jeff was attracted to.
And then a funny thing happened: After getting some of the opening bit done so I had my footing, I jumped forward and started writing bits and pieces of the lovemaking. It was just flying at me: “They have to do this. This has to happen. Oh, this part will totally go like….” And it was lovemaking: tender and sweet, fueled by a combination of Jeff’s amazement that he was actually getting this and his determination to make it the best it could possibly be before the magic wore off and everything turned back into pumpkins.
It’s the power of characters. To be a writer, you don’t have to like what your characters like; your characters just have to like what they like, and if you can buy into your characters, it all flows from there.
When D.R. and I went to the drag show at Lucky Pierre’s, with the release of “Charlie in a Red Dress” fresh on my mind, I found myself looking for Charlie in everyone there, from the adorable guys at the door to the performers to the emcees. I imagined Charlie taking Jeff to a show like this, maybe for his birthday. How would he feel, sitting there in boy clothes while he watched Jeff be enchanted by the performers? What if they started going back on a regular basis? What if Charlie got up the courage to dress up for it one night? There’s another story in there somewhere. I’m looking forward to my brain teasing out what exactly it is.
*Female genitals are not included in the list of male sexual cues because Ogas and Gaddam had more trouble sorting that data out, but we can assume that for straight and bisexual men vaginas rank pretty high up there.
**Apologies for the offensive term: I’m using his word, and we are talking within a porn context, so it’s safe to assume that that’s what men who are looking for such things are searching on.
About the Author
Zoe X. Rider can’t play music (seriously: do not ask her to sing), but her life runs on it. When she’s not chasing bands the way some people chase tornados, she spends her time at home in the Appalachian mountains with two dogs and a very patient partner, who thinks she should get out more in the daylight hours—and not just to drive to another venue. Usually you can find her in her windowless basement office, writing by the light of the computer screen, or indulging in her favorite non-music hobbies: reading and eating.
Zoe is gifting one lucky reader an eBook of Charlie in a Red Dress, all you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below.