The newest book by Susan X. Meagher is not only a sweet romance but a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of sexuality.
Kit is turning forty and straight, thoroughly straight. She is a liberal with gay friends, supports a lot of gay causes, but she is – no doubt in her mind about it – straight. Then she meets Bailey – cuteness incarnate, who is a lesbian, a boi, and out and proud. A perfect dance of attraction begins. Susan again is the master/mistress of a slow simmering romance until the flames flare and consume Kit and Bailey.
But Kit struggles with her self-identification and Bailey with her insecurity about this identification because falling for a self-professed straight woman is for a lesbian according to the lesbian rule book a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. This is where the story becomes thought-provoking. Ever since the Kinsey-Report, we have known that sexuality is more fluid than a simple straight/lesbian binary. And recently among the younger crowd who is growing up in a more accepting society the “labels” and personal expressions of sexuality have become more fluid, too. Being queer now describes a whole gamut of sexual orientation without pigeon-holing or requiring a binary decision.
“I think sexuality is complex. Really complex. And I am absolutely certain sexual orientation isn’t binary.”
Frankly: this is new and overdue and something to be expected in a society open to more possibilities. And at the same time it is challenging for all of us who grew up in a different time where you had to struggle to come out and identify yourself against a hostile society: Where falling in love with a straight woman might have spelled disaster and where the word “bi-curious” was not in the least positive. Inside Out is a perfect reading companion to this new, wonderful challenge to our LGBTQ-rainbow-universe. While reading and enjoying the tender romance revolving around Kit and Bailey, Susan X. Meagher makes us subtly understand our own internalized queer-phobia and challenges our perception of the old binary straight vs. gay. Well done.
Another layer which enriches this book is the baggage both main characters come with. They are both outliers. Kit is the one liberal in her very conservative and traditional Bostonian family. Her job, her friends (OMG a black person and OMG gay people) and being single instead being a trophy wife to a successful male are alien to them and make her an outcast and very private person, private as in not willing to be out in any form.
“Since the day she was born she’d just felt a little off – a little different. Outside of her family, classmates, even many of her co-workers. But it wasn’t like that with Bailey. With her she was an insider.”
Bailey was and is as a lesbian boi who wears the cutest suits and ties, an outlier to “normalcy” too. But her family, going against their traditional background which does not encourage homosexuell behavior at all, is accepting of her, even though it is difficult though for them. But past experience made her wary of anyone not being out, let alone claiming to be straight. Another curve-ball is thrown into their budding romance by their perception of what feels comfortable in the “in” and “out” game.
At last. The story is set in Washington DC where Kit is part of the frantic political circus – first by being a political blogger and running a gossip site and second because she had been the long-term girlfriend of a prominent senator. Bailey is a computer nerd and totally innocent politically. The setting is well-developed and believable and is a great stage to develop the themes around the romance.
The book is very obviously a romance and can be enjoyed as such. But the sub-themes and layers added to it give it a lot of depth which one would not ordinarily expect from such a “light” read. The author plays with our comfort-zones, challenges our perception of what is “right” and “wrong” and still writes a sweet queer romance. Only a master-writer can pull that of and Susan X. Meagher is nothing less than a true master. The writing is totally “Meagher” – at a leisurely pace, with a lot of attention to detail and an insightful development of character and setting. The main characters are very likeable and the sex is hot. The recipe for this book is: Savor slowly and expect some unexpected education of your taste-buds.
You can download a sample or purchase Inside Out by clicking here.
Haven’t been able to finish and don’t think I’ll ever get around to it. Disappointing, as I’m a fan of many of SX’s tales. For me, this one has no chemistry and pretty poor characterisation. It just never sparks to life – seems a bit like writing by rote.
An excellent review for what I know will be an excellent read. “Inside Out” is surely not one I’m going to miss.
Fantastic review! Thank you so much. I am a HUGE fan of Susan X Meagher and finished reading Inside Out only a few days ago. Coming out in the early 70’s with much more ‘limited’ vocabulary and freedom – this book really challenged my own levels of acceptance and beliefs in feminism and sexuality. The book is brave and very well done. Brava. Ms Meagher! I salute you…and thank you Bookgeek for a great review.