Title: California Skies
Author Name & Publisher: Kayla Bashe (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: January 13, 2016
Bandits came looking for the legendary emeralds belonging to Maggie’s family, killing her older brother and scarring her face. She can’t change the past, but finding the jewels will help her injured sister recover. In need of reliable muscle, she goes to an old friend of her brother’s: tough-as-nails nonbinary bounty hunter California Talbot.
While Maggie expected hard roads and violence, given the tragedy that provoked the journey, she wasn’t expecting the bar fights, snakes, and bandits to be the easy part—and the difficult part to be a growing attraction to someone who’d probably never look twice at her mutilated face.
This was a very enjoyable read. I liked the characters and how the author showed their past friendship as well as why California would be interested in helping Maggie out. I like when characters have that tension between them and have those feelings for each other and yet don’t realize that the other person feels that way. It builds expectation and can result in some very humorous scenes. The one thing I did have a problem with is the use of they/them as a pronoun for a trans person. It took me a while to realize Bashe was only referring to one person, which I found confusing. When I realized it was being used to refer to only California, this sort of plurality made me think there were two people inside the character. And there were times I had to reread passages to make sure I was clear on who exactly was being referred to. I can only hope that some gender neutral word comes into widespread use so this type of confusion can be avoided in the future.