When I first sat down to read Karen Anne Ames sole work
"Isnt 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 authors 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 wont
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
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
itd been more eloquent or poetic, then perhaps this method would have worked better,
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
Finally, have a few quips as well that seem little more than
oversights on the part of the author.
First, wouldnt 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 womens clothing. Which seems more like a lazy writers 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
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 Karens immaculate
Since this is idle fantasy, Ill 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.
"Isnt 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 Karens 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 fiancÚs proposal, and her marriage. Interwoven in her story
are brief descriptions of her feelings, motivations, hopes and fears. She sketches
"Donalds" feelings about life and his early interest in feminine clothing,
as well as his reasons for becoming a woman.
We also meet Karens mother, sister, and brother, we and feel her apprehension as she
sees her brother and sister for the first time since her operation. Her
mothers unconditional love, and her surprise at her new daughters complete
femininity make for an interesting scene, and her sisters easy acceptance of Karen
is contrasted by her brothers 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
The story does contain descriptions of Dicks (Dr. Driscoll, plastic surgeon)
lovemaking, but they are tasteful, and her recounting of Dicks 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 Karens feelings during her first sexual encounter follows, but
doesnt 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 Karens decision, and she is
completely convinced she made the right choice, finding "total contentment and
A particularly interesting portion of the story comes when Karen breaks the news of
Dicks proposal to Barbara, Karen/Donalds ex-wife. We are allowed to see
thoughts and emotions, including the irony of her former husband becoming another
The only psychological conflict in the story involves an internal struggle over whether
Karen should tell Dick about her past. I wont 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.