Penny Aimes’ debut romance, For the Love of April French, is a remarkable and tender story of acceptance, an exploration of self-reflection and a tantalizing slow burn between two compelling leads.
The eponymous April French has a complicated relationship with her Austin-area kink club. As a transgender woman, it's been her mission to make the community feel as inclusive as possible. But the group's members either see her as a supportive, maternal figure or a novelty, rather than as a potential romantic partner or kink participant. April is also still healing from an abusive dominant who took advantage of their power differentials.
Dennis Martin, a wealthy man originally from Seattle, is a newcomer to Austin. He carries his own baggage within the kink community, burdened by past mistakes he made as a new dom. He and his longtime partner experimented with BDSM, but their mutual inexperience led to broken trust and, eventually, the end of their relationship.
To call this romance a slow burn, while apt, wouldn’t fully do justice to Dennis and April’s love story. Their connection is instant, but both are extremely guarded and raw from past experiences. April is used to temporary fascination and assumes abandonment is imminent. While Dennis has done the work to become a more cognizant dom to his partners, he’s still wary of ruining that fragile relationship. Their sexual needs align, but so do their insecurities surrounding power and trust.
Aimes weaves in plenty of commentary on and positive portrayal of kink communities and the purpose they serve for their members. Consent is at the forefront of many interactions, providing examples of both enthusiastic consent and the dangers of miscommunication between partners. The layers of attraction are slowly peeled back as April and Dennis’ electric physical connection evolves into a relationship in which their emotional fears are laid bare. Though the romance between Dennis and April is in the foreground, Aimes also pays attention to both characters’ internal journeys toward forgiving themselves for their mistakes and finding the strength to persevere through past trauma. The romance is incredibly sweet, and the BDSM and kink scenes are off-the-charts hot. It’s a nearly seamless blend of cozy courtship and seductive, compelling eroticism between two soft, adorable nerds.
A nuanced depiction of kinky queer communities that is clearly written from a place of earnest love and appreciation, For the Love of April French proves that heartwarming fluff and sexy kink can go hand in hand. The only question that remains is, when can we have more from this rising star of romance?