New Life Incognita
by Gracie C McKeever, fantasy (1998)
LTDBooks, $5.00, ISBN 1-55316-939-5

What a fun thing it is when a book comes out of nowhere and socks it to me in the face. New Life Incognita is an unusual romance with a really unheard-of-in-romance twist: the man dies and is reincarnated as a woman. Some readers can balk all they want, but me, I'm too busy having the time of my life to worry about such irrelevant things.

Kelly Butler isn't a happy man. He is shot down in front of his girlfriend, and by his own best buddy (the latter having designs on said girlfriend)! The outrage indeed. However, he is given a second chance in life by those whispering italicized whispers that always hide in the light at the end of the tunnel. Ergo, he awakes in a hospital...

... as Dagny Diaz, a woman. A white woman. Uh oh.

It gets worse. Her - let's just stick to feminine pronouns from now on - hubby Tyler is mad at her for her affair with Edge Russell. Edge's a really bad boy who has seen too many Godfather movies. Then Amire, Kelly/Diaz's girlfriend from his previous life comes into the scene. Eeek.

To make things even more Eeek, Dagny turns out to be a junkie and her hubby's a Narc officer. Oh boy. This is Kelly's Quantum Leap quest - set things straight and he will get a happily-ever-after.

And oh boy, what fun it is to follow Kelly/Dagny to her happy-ever-after! Everything about New Life Incognita is just right. I adore Kelly/Dagny and Tyler who bicker, stumble, fight, and love all the way to the last page. Tyler is a nice man whom I think is way too patient for a woman like Dagny pre-Kelly-takeover, but hey, he makes a charismatic goody-woody hero. In nice contrast is Edge, the loonybin who just can't let Kelly/Dagny go. To be honest, I find him much more interesting than Tyler. I know, I know, I need to see a shrink.

There's also some element of Wiccanism, not that much to cause overdose or to distract me from the story. I really don't know how to convey how much I love this book really. It's simply yet wonderfully written, with a simple plot that manages to captivate my attention, and with simple characters, no one horribly tormented or anything, that manage to be larger than life. I keep reading until the end the first time around, then pause, and scroll up my screen all the way to the top for a second reread.

New Life Incognita, I'm afraid, just won't let go of me once I'm hooked.

There is one quibble though, that almost jeopardizes the whole story. The whole Tyler-Dagny/Kelly relationship dynamics is straight romance, which I find somewhat implausible because Kelly/Dagny remembers being a man. How could she make love to Tyler so freely? Of course, this can be convincing if one address the whole homoeroticism of a woman who remembers being a man sleeping with a man (s)he finds attractive. But hey, this is a romance, and I know some readers (even authors! :D) like the whole lines of sexuality set in black and white with no gray areas inbetween, so I shouldn't quibble on that.

There's no denying, however, that New Life Incognita has me hooked line and sinker. Definitely one of the best books I've read in a while. I must admit I still have no idea why exactly - characters, interesting premise, the villain, everything? - but you know what? I'm off for a reread. Life's too short of too much analyzing. It's fun, and it's all that matters at the end of the day.

Rating: 83

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