Monday, June 15, 2015

The Accidental Human (Accidentals #3) by Dakota Cassidy

Wanda has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has been given six months to live.  Unlike her supernatural friends Marty and Nina, Wanda has not had the luck of meeting a supernatural lover and so decides that it's time to get her affairs in order, so as not to burden her friends and family when she is gone.  Enter the very human Heath Jefferson.  Heath is down on his luck and very much in need of a job and so decides to answer Wanda's ad for a make up sales person.  First, Heath must convince Wanda that even though he is a man, he can sell makeup to women and then when he discovers his attraction to her, Heath has to find a way to make Wanda admit her attraction to him as well.  The clock is ticking though, and with only a few months left to live, Wanda has to consider whether its fair to lead Heath on, though he just might be the love of her life.

The Accidental Human is a bit of a relief after reading Accidentally Dead, which had Nina as the protagonist.  Wanda is thoughtful, conservative, and an obsessive list maker.  Learning of her impending death causes Wanda to step outside of her comfort zone.  Unfortunately, Wanda is another gently used protagonist, so part of her dealing with her impending death, is to attempt to have a friends with benefits relationship with Heath.  Wanda also begins to swear freely for the first time and even calls her childhood bully to tell him off.  For the most part, Wanda is enjoyable.

I still found myself cringing with every scene Nina appeared in.  Nina continues to be hostile and angry for the sake of giving the appearance of toughness and ends up being a distraction each time she appears. I like that Wanda is the glue which holds the friendship between her, Marty and Nina together.  At the end of the day, despite their differences, these women really care about each other and make their relationship a priority despite the hectic nature of their lives.  I really like that Nina encourages Wendy to have sex and take of her "womanly needs", without any kind of shame. 

The love interest in The Accidental Human is Heath, a former vampire. Heath wakes up one day to find that he is human after two hundred years and all of his earthly possessions have disappeared because they were all the result of magic.  With his manservant at his side, Heath is determined to embrace his sudden humanity, though it means sleeping in a homeless shelter while searching for a way for a job.  Having been turned down from various fast food placed and Walmart, the prospects look grim.  If this is Cassidy's version of attempting to introduce class into the Accidentals series, it fails miserably.  Heath mentions that it is difficult to stay clean and yet, beyond this statement of fact, he is always impeccably groomed. Because of his sudden poverty, Heath is forced to eat things like Ramen Noodles and Spam, yet is overjoyed by this diet because he finally has the opportunity to eat food after two hundred years.  He only vaguely mentions gaining weight because of his diet and never discusses how a diet lacking in things like fiber, fruit and vegetable and high in sugar and starch, can leave one unhealthy and without energy.

When Heath calls about a job selling Bobbie-Sue  makeup products, and Wanda expresses doubt about his ability to sell, he invokes gender discrimination.  This is meant to be used for a laugh because it perplexes Wanda because she cannot understand why a man would want to step outside of society's rigid gender roles and sell makeup, despite the fact that Heath goes to great lengths to make it clear that he needs a job.  This bit of role reversal with Wanda being Heath's boss and Heath invoking gender discrimination for laughs really didn't work for me at all.

In terms of inclusion, it really The Accidental Human is a hot mess.  There is tons of speculation regarding Heath's sexual orientation by Wanda and her friends.  This is followed by constant assurance that not only is Heath heterosexual, he is so uber confident in his masculinity because he can sell makeup at a Trans America pageant and doesn't get upset when the contestants come on to him.  Really?  No, really?  Naturally, Heath breaks a Bobbi-Sue record selling to the contestants and all this because he is supposedly so progressive when it comes to gender.
"What, in all of creation, made you think to scope a venue like this? I mean, never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought something like a pageant of this nature would drum up so much business.""That's because you're a woman."

Her face instantly hardened. "Pardon?" She was a little tired of the knuckle-dragging comments.

But that didn't thwart his honesty. "I said, you're a woman, and you think only other women wear makeup. It's a natural conclusion. It was kind of an outside-of-the-box thing for me. It's not a fault on your part, just a gender thing, I guess. I happened to see the flyer for the pageant in a paper I was reading, and it dawned on me that this would be the perfect place to sell makeup. Even if it's unconventional."

"It was genius," she mumbled, unwilling to admit too loudly that he'd just set some kind of Bobbie-Sue sell-a-thon record.

"Say again?" he prompted, sucking his cheeks in, clearly fighting off a grin.

Wanda planted her hands on her hips and sighed out loud. "Okay, fine. It was genius.The thought never occurred to me. In a million, bazillion years, I'd have never thought to sell makeup to transvestites."


"Right, and on the way home, I'd really like the full explanation on the difference between the two. Because it seems, you're the go-to guy and all. (page 51)
The Miss Trans America pageant and its contestants is the the first introduction to GLBT characters in this series and they were all one big walking predatory stereotype.   None of the contestants could keep their hands off of Heath and of course, being as confidant as he is, Heath didn't freak out about it, further endearing Wanda to him.
He'd had not a single qualm about coming here, a place most straight men would run out of slicker than snot runs out of a nose in winter. He'd waved tubes of makeup around, applied eyeshadow, glossed the lips of men , and never once batted a single, judgmental, mocking eye.

That he hadn't said word one about the fact that in reality, these were men who were dressed like women, was so—so—sooooo… just so. She hadn't quite found the right adjectives to apply to Heath, but that he hadn't had a field day with what some would consider out of their comfort zone left Wanda feeling some serious respect for him. Whether she wanted to or not. (page 51-52)
Cassidy has Wendy repeatedly assert that the trans* contestants really are men, despite their presentation as female.  One even quips about giving up hir left testicle to Wanda and Heath for introducing her to Bobbie-Sue foundation.  Wendy even refers to the contestants as "transvestites". At this point, I think that Cassidy would have done better to continue the erasure in this series. 

In terms of race, despite being set in New York City, the Accidentals series continues to be erased.  Given how Cassidy has treated inclusion of GLBT people, this is perhaps a blessing in disguise.

The Accidental Human is chick lit and therefore one cannot go into it expecting high literature of any form.  Taking that into account, The Accidental Human is exactly what it is supposed to be.  The relationship between Wanda and Heath is sweet and fun.  I love that Heath expresses his love with Peanut Butter Cups and I love the committed friendship between Wanda, Marty and Nina.   In terms of social justice, there's definitely a lot of fail in this series and particularly in The Accidental Human. That being said, this is the best of the series that I have read to date, even if I did have to put up with Nina.