It is no secret that I love gender-bending fiction. I’ve read and reviewed many books over the years that delve into the topic. For the most part, I’ve found myself drawn to works that are written by women, bringing the male into the world of womanhood and giving a deeper insight into what that means. However, I’m always open to seeing how male authors take on femininity. When I came across mention of A Woman’s Passion by Alan Barrie, a book that’s been in print well over a decade, I wanted to give it a try and see what the genre was like back then. I went into this book hoping I’d love it. I came out of it more frustrated than satisfied, which made me sad.

The main character, aptly named Alan Barrie, is a self-proclaimed straight man who has long wondered what sex is like from a female perspective. Now, pushing aside the author insertion of naming the character after himself, the subject of sexuality comes up again and again, mainly to assure the reader that despite whatever feelings are developing between the characters, heterosexuality is to remain at the forefront. This is really about a man coming to terms with the fact he’s transgendered, but it’s couched in this time-limited forced feminization fantasy. More aggravating to me are the ideals that the book promotes in terms of what makes a woman who she is and how that relates to her sexuality. The book is very much a male fantasy that buys into the gender tropes rather than trying to tap into the female viewpoint.

After years of wondering what it’s like for a woman, being met with strange glances every time he brings it up, Alan finally finds a girlfriend who understands and wants to help, by way of some family magic. Her mother figure has the power to change Alan, for one week, into a woman. That way, he could get the full female experience, including the sex he so desires. But, wait, that won’t work because he’d still be a straight man inside his mind. Instead, they’ll make the transformation gradual and Cassandra will condition him to be a woman, to think and act like one, so that when his body is fully female he will have sexual desires for men. I think that’s what bothered me most. I find it offensive that the author sees sexuality as something that can be conditioned. The main character is not straight, no matter what he thinks. The fact that the author asserts that Alan can turn on and off his feelings by way of a one-week training session is hard to deal with. So, too, is the ideal of female desire that he is working toward. Alan takes on the name Allison during his transformation and, after the gradual process of changing, she becomes a 5’7″ woman who weighs only 118 pounds. This is after she recedes in age to 14 before aging again as a girl. I was constantly confused as to the reasoning behind this, other than to play out male fascination with female development.

The constant push towards helping Allison lose her virginity was the main theme of the week. It was why Alan chose to go through this experiment in the first place, but Allison flip flops on her desire to go through with it on multiple occasions. Alan is willing to stop the transformation half-way through the week, for fear that Cassandra will become jealous of his developing female sexuality. This is in conflict with the understanding that Cassandra is straight and does not look at Allison in a sexual manner most of the time. Both the characters are dealing with defining who they are and what they mean to one another, so it was nice to see that conflict acknowledged. However, the male/female interactions of Allison and her dates were not as appealing to me as the short scene in which she explores her body with a vibrator, a present left by Cassandra. In that scene, she’s not defining herself through male interaction, but instead coming to terms with herself and her desires. She and her body are one in that situation and I think the author shined in that exploration. I just wish the other scenes were up to these standards. Instead, I’m left with a book that promotes stereotypical experiences and gives a twist at the end that is essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card to all the changes and desires that have developed among these characters. Alan, as Allison, can have everything and not have to give up any part of his/her identity. It left me to question if this was truly what men think when they look at women and wonder “what if?”

Rating: 2/5