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From the Comfort of their Favorite Armchair
  March 16, 2001

Today's Featured Author - Karen Anne Ames

Rocketman

When I first sat down to read Karen Anne Ames’ sole work "Isn’t It Wonderful (To Be A Woman)", I had to take two things into account. First of all, that it was a personal fantasy story with autobiographical overtones. And the fact it was this author’s first work. That considered, my critical eye still had plenty to look at.

This tale of the post-OP Karen, once Donald, who shares her name with the author, is a perfect fantasy. The best of all possible worlds is contained within. Karen is universally accepted as a beautiful woman, save one person. I won’t tell you whom though. This makes up the only real conflict in the story.

The rest is like an idyllic dream world. Everything is overly cheery and warm and nice. And when a positive is forced over and over what results is not a story, but a piece of saccharine pie. And the prose can get so sweet and happy that it’s bitter.

The author hits that point a few times with the "Wonderful" world of Karen with prose that is a bit simple and un-involving. If it’d been more eloquent or poetic, then perhaps this method would have worked better, but alas…

The only really "...Wonderful..." bit of text are the occasional epiphanies about being who you need to be, not what other people want you to be.

Finally, have a few quips as well that seem little more than oversights on the part of the author.

First, wouldn’t one get pantyhose cleaned if you were running out of them, not go out and buy more, especially when you have a small income? And a good eighty percent of the story seems dedicated to the putting on, description or exaltation of women’s clothing. Which seems more like a lazy writer’s device to me.

Second, the characters are wearing heavy clothes, jackets and sweaters when we were just going into spring. Clearly, the writer skipped the interesting transition to the chilly days of autumn. Which would have been a bit of involving conflict.

Last, I noted that it is said Dick has two grown children, but Karen says he has none a few paragraphs later.

All of which should be trivial, considering the length of the story, but the way the author arranges it make them look like blisters on Karen’s immaculate hands.

Since this is idle fantasy, I’ll let it all go. I only hope that Karen Anne Ames flutters down from the spring blossoms for her next work and chooses to add a little more variation to the mix.

Julia Manchester

"Isn’t It Wonderful (To Be A Woman)" is very much a journey of discovery for Karen Ames, nee Donald, a post-operative transsexual. The story is partially autobiographical and partly fantasy, and we are left to draw our own conclusions as to where the line is drawn. 

Beginning some time after her operation, while she is still living with her understanding former spouse, the story chronicles Karen’s voyage of discovery from her first solo trip to a mall to her honeymoon in Hawaii. Miss Ames gives us a series of short vignettes, including a description of her first day of work in her job as a woman, her first date, her fiancÚ’s proposal, and her marriage.  Interwoven in her story
are brief descriptions of her feelings, motivations, hopes and fears.  She sketches "Donald’s" feelings about life and his early interest in feminine clothing, as well as his reasons for becoming a woman. 

We also meet Karen’s mother, sister, and brother, we and feel her apprehension as she sees her brother and sister for the first time since her operation.  Her mother’s unconditional love, and her surprise at her new daughter’s complete femininity make for an interesting scene, and her sister’s easy acceptance of Karen is contrasted by her brother’s more reserved reaction.

The scenes are generally brief, and Miss Ames manages to pack a lot into a relatively short story, but there are a few situations I wish she had explored in greater depth.   For instance, her description of her first kiss as a woman is all too brief.   All she mentions is that she enjoyed it, but she fails to describe her feelings and emotions.  

The story does contain descriptions of Dick’s (Dr. Driscoll, plastic surgeon) lovemaking, but they are tasteful, and her recounting of Dick’s proposal is very good.  After the proposal
Dick proceeds to seduce Karen, and though she had planned on giving him her virginity, the author makes it clear that she could not have possibly resisted, even if she had wanted to. A description of Karen’s feelings during her first sexual encounter follows, but doesn’t dwell on graphic sex, but rather her feelings about having her man inside her, along with a sense of regret that she had not had the operation
earlier in her life.  There are several references to this in the story, and one comes away with the distinct impression that this sense of loss is more than part of the story.  Regardless, the experience validates Karen’s decision, and she is completely convinced she made the right choice, finding "total contentment and happiness."

A particularly interesting portion of the story comes when Karen breaks the news of Dick’s proposal to Barbara, Karen/Donald’s ex-wife.  We are allowed to see Barbara’s conflicted
thoughts and emotions, including the irony of her former husband becoming another man’s bride.

The only psychological conflict in the story involves an internal struggle over whether Karen should tell Dick about her past.  I won’t spoil it by telling you, except to say that I really enjoyed this story.  It is an excellent first effort that is very readable and promises greater things to come.  Anyone who enjoys romance will want to read this work.

Personally, I hope Miss Ames will continue her writing career.

Editor - Heather Sinclair

 

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