The Perfect Seasoning is an interesting tale, in that it’s definitely a genderqueer love story, but gender is not necessarily the focus. Instead, this is really the story of a woman rejected by her family, isolated by her job, and desperate for love. Anne has a tendency to jump into relationships, opening herself far too much, and far too soon, which (more often than not) results in her being hurt. When a beautiful woman begins hitting on her, the situation is so unique that she allows herself to believe Natalie really is just looking to drum up some business for her hair salon.
Just as there’s more to her come-on than is readily apparent, we soon discover there is more to Natalie than meets the eye. A proud, content, happily genderqueer individual, she was born James but prefers to express her femininity, even if she has no plans to ever “go all the way” and become a transsexual. That sense of being different, of being comfortable in a different expression of gender, without having to commit to either male or female, is as refreshing as it is intriguing . . . and erotic.
What follows from that initial meeting is a relationship in reverse. After a late appointment at Natalie’s salon, they head out for a few drinks. It’s an awkward evening, which only Natalie knows is intended as a first date, and there is some definite tension as they reveal their respective secrets. It’s that tension that sold me on the story, approaching the relationship in a realistic fashion, as opposed to simply having Anne ‘discover’ that she’s oddly bisexual, and completely open to an expression of gender she’s never before encountered.
The night ends in Anne’s bedroom, with the two lovers engaging in a night of frantic, desperate passion that leaves them with more questions than answers. Despite the still-unresolved tensions between them, both are interested in making a relationship work, so they step back from the bedroom to begin dating instead. Again, I loved the fact that sex didn’t magically solve all their problems or answer all their questions. Watching their relationship (and their mutual understanding) develop brings a sense of warmth and emotion to the story that elevates it from the realm of erotica to erotic romance.
By the time Natalie invites Anne home for the holidays to meet her family, we can see the relationship has progressed quite naturally back to where it began, with sex the next step, instead of the first. While it initially seems that meeting the family might actually be their undoing, it brings the two lovers closer together, ending the tale on a note that suggests (even if it doesn’t promise) a happily-ever-after.
A delightfully authentic, well-written story, I quite enjoyed this one. It was so refreshing to read a genderqueer story that didn’t fall over itself trying to be politically correct but, instead, approached things honestly and openly.