Blog Tour – Ari by Cheryl Headford
Author: Cheryl Headford
Genre: LGBT, romance, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
After having known each other online for some time, writers, Benji and Ari meet at a convention.
Their attraction is both immediate and mutual.
But all is not straightforward—Ari is intersex and Benji transgender.
Together they embark on a journey.
A journey that unites families, and heals old wounds.
But not everyone is happy with the blossoming love between these two unique and special individuals.
Will an act of aggression crush the flower before it can bloom?
Isis and Osiris came bounding out of the house, followed by two women carrying trays. The similarities and differences between Nancy and Skye were even more obvious in person. It was like looking at two halves of a personality, one severe and the other timid. Ari, it seemed, had inherited all the fun.
The trays contained a delicious selection of cakes and biscuits, and Skye immediately scuttled back indoors, presumably to collect more, or perhaps drinks. Marc was on the plates like a locust.
“Marc! At least say thank you.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled with a mouth full of cake.
“Don’t worry,” Nancy said with a smile that transformed her sour expression, “he’s not doing anything Ari doesn’t. I’m surprised he hasn’t got his face in the chocolate cake already. He must be on his best behaviour.”
Ari shrugged. “Don’t get too complacent. I already ate the—”
“Ari Fischer.” Skye’s voice was outraged as she strode down the path, holding a large jug and a tin. “Look at this.” She shook the tin at Nancy, who smirked.
“Don’t tell me, half of the gingerbread snaps have mysteriously vanished.”
“Half? There are four left. Four!”
Ari uncurled and danced over to his mother. He hugged her; then he grabbed the tin. “Oh well then, might as well finish them.”
“Ari.” Skye scolded as he dipped his hand into the tin and stuffed his mouth with something that crunched.
“Ari, will you please—?”
“Do you think there’s a point in scolding him?” Nancy broke in, cutting Skye dead. “He never listens, and besides, the boy’s too thin. There’s nothing there of him. He could do with feeding up.”
“Feeding up? You see how much he eats.”
“He burns it off with all that energy. Here, have some of these.” Not missing a stride, Nancy took up a plate of biscuits and handed them to me. When Ari would have intercepted the plate, she batted his hand away. “Visitors first, dear,” she said, and Ari gazed at me with an expectant expression. I don’t know whether he was waiting to see if I liked the biscuits or for me to relinquish the plate.
The biscuits tasted like heaven. They were sweet and light and crunchy, and tasted of butter and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “What’s in the biscuits?”
“Cinnamon,” Ari said instantly. “Nancy makes the best cinnamon cookies ever.”
Nancy beamed. “Thank you, dear, but those are your mother’s. She’s a serious challenger these days. Which is just as well as I’m getting older and no one knows how much longer I’ll be able to cook.”
“Mother. Don’t say things like that,” Skye exclaimed, almost dropping the second mug and stack of glasses she was carrying. “You’ll be around for many years yet.”
“I intend to,” Nancy said with a grin, “but no one knows what’s coming ’round the corner.”
A sharp breeze whipped around the corner of the house and made me shiver for a moment. It was gone as fast as it came, but I noticed Ari, Nancy and Skye all raised their heads and glanced around. I shivered again. Did they think it was a premonition? Was it? Hadn’t Ari said Nancy and Skye were witches? I hadn’t believed him, but maybe they were. If so, some of their stuff would have rubbed off on Ari maybe. He was very perceptive, did that count?
This touching story explores what it means to be intersex, transgender and gender fluid. The two main characters are young and inexperienced, and at times are insecure with their identity. Cheryl hasn’t made them flawless and this gives them a realistic quality.
Ari is eighteen, intersex, with elfin features, and according to Benji has “mercurial moods”. Another character calls Ari a ‘Little Imp’ and he behaves as such during much of the story. Ari is energetic and over the top, blurting out whatever’s on his mind, yet everyone who meets him can’t help but like him. Even Ari himself admits he is innocent and weird. Until now, he has been cocooned by his mother and grandmother. He comes across as immature and far from streetwise, and this results in Benji misunderstanding some of the things he says at first and also leads to trouble from others with upsetting consequences.
Despite all this, Benji falls for him within hours of their first meeting and is declaring his love and sharing intimate moments with Ari in the hotel bedroom during a UK Meet style conference. Ari and Benji met previously online through their writing connection, but hadn’t confided many personal details with each other. Ari has been reluctant to publicly state his sex, but soon finds he is comfortable revealing his body to Benji. They focus little on their writing interests and more on their burgeoning relationship during the weekend. Little is made of their writing throughout the story and their careers are set to take a different path by the end of the story. The two guys, as that is what they identify as, help each other understand who they are and how they view themselves over the course of the story.
Cheryl’s love of writing fairy/fantasy stories comes across in the second half of the book, and in fact, the plot takes an unexpected turn and focuses less on the gender identity issue and more on family relationships and their future. Despite all the drama that takes place, Benji’s love for Ari shines through and the overriding message of the book is ‘just be yourself’.
**Copy provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Don’t miss Wayward Ink Publishing’s Tickle Me Pink Sale!
25% off all list prices.
3 UK Swag Packs (Ari mug, notebook, rainbow pen) and
3 International Swag Packs (6.99 WIP gift card, bookmark, key chain)
Enter the RAFFLECOPTER DRAW HERE
CHERYL HEADFORD was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.