Mackenzi Lee, Bestselling Author Of The Gentleman S Guide To Vice And Virtue, Takes On Dutch Tulip Fever My Brother Bastian Was Born In A Tulip Field, Or So The Story Goes The Woman At The Church Orphanage Boasted This Proudly To The Seed Merchant Who Had Chosen Bas As His Apprentice Lucky For Me, He Took Us BothWhen A Single Tulip Bulb Sold For The Price Of Amsterdam S Finest Houses, The Flower Shop Was Supposed To Be Our Future, Our Survival But When Our Master Died, There Wasn T Even Money To Pay For His Coffin He, Too, Had Caught The Tulip FeverBas And I Hatched A Dangerous, Outrageous Plan, A Plan I Hoped Would Save Our Shop And Save Us I Would Dress As A Man, Take On A New Name, And Attempt To Sell A Fake Semper Augustus Bulb, The Rarest And Most Valuable Tulip Of All, To The One Merchant In Town With The Money To Pay For ItBut Then I Met His Daughter, Elsje, And Fell In Love With Her At First Sight Immediately, We Were Bound Together And The Longer I Lived A Man S Life, The Less It Felt Like A Disguise The Trousers Fit Better Than Dresses Ever Had, And My New Name Dripped From Elsje S Tongue Like Sweet SyrupNow, I Hardly Know And Must Discover What To Do Who To Save Who To Become Who I AmMackenzi Lee S The Madness Blooms Is Perfect For Fans Of Jessie Burton The Miniaturist , Sarah Waters Tipping The Velvet , And Ruta Sepetys Salt To The Sea Rumors of this book being postponed indefinitely have been greatly exaggerated It s coming Release date TBD. Thank you very much to Sarah Barley from Flatiron for sending me a copy of this book to read review It s so appreciated from this small town teen librarian A few things to preface what I m about to say I am a cis lesbian I encourage you to seek out reviews and thoughts from trans readers as it gets closer to the release date and people receive arcs and e arcs of The Madness Blooms This review contains a lot of spoilers, including the main character s chosen name I will not deadname the MC in this review This review will focus on moments of violence perpetrated within the book, rather than on summarizing narrative elements This review is not meant to deter anyone from reading it, but my experience reading The Madness Blooms was not wholly positive The purpose of my review is to speak on potentially triggering content and the implications of its inclusion in the overall narrative.I ve discussed several points in this review with Mackenzi Lee, and we explained our positions to each other With that said, let s get into it The Madness Blooms is not F F, so don t get it twisted The MC is a trans boy who uses the name Pim The love interest is a queer girl Again, there are no relations between two girls in this book I, like many others, was under the impression it would be F F, and a large contributor to said impression is the pronoun usage of the marketing copy Mackenzi and her team have stated they are reworking the copy to better reflect Pim s gender identity Overall, this book was not for me I absolutely love and respect queer historical fiction, but frankly, this story pulled a lot of triggers To warn you again, spoilers ahead There are two minor gay men in the story One is murdered and Pim discovers his body The description is graphic, and to be honest, I felt blindsided by it The other man attempts to sexually assault Pim in a later scene, which brought up a lot of feelings about gay men being portrayed as predators So we have violently murdered on one side and terrible, nasty rapist on the other Cool, cool Pim is outed at the end of book, and this scene is also graphic It happens in front of the whole town, and it is done via a man baring Pim s chest to prove his gender This part hit me the hardest, as it hits every beat of the outing the trans person trope It was brutal to read, and I think it s obvious why The public humiliation, the baring of trans people s bodies against their will, it s a violent and re traumatizing trope I would feel much differently about those moments in a different context, particularly if they were in an ownvoices book Historical accuracy is a common reason historical and fantasy authors use to explain the inclusion of deeply embedded cultural violence against characters with marginalized identities To that, I say that trans people have led rich, full lives in a multitude of places, in a multitude of ways all through history I know that Mackenzi Lee consulted people in the trans community through the process of writing The Madness Blooms , but I can t help but feel that Pim s journey just isn t the story this book should have told Other people may not feel the same.If you have questions or wish to talk about anything contained or not contained in this review, DM me on twitter thylaed. I m changing my initial preview because there s no way I m leaving it up when it was unintentionally misgendering the protagonist But apparently this book s team has decided to deadname and misgender the character in the blurb although the protagonist is a trans guy Idk man, seems shady and just uh, wrong. so after misgendering, deadnaming, and shaming a trans character in the name of historical accuracy I will make a point to not read this book ever There has apparently been a conversation going on for several days about this book on Twitter, and as I am currently deactivated on Twitter a story involving me jokingly threatening my best friend with death for a bad meme no I m not joking I have missed much of said conversation However, I do feel that since I have quite literally been excited about this book for a year, I should say two things 1 In the past, Mackenzi Lee has shown herself to be very dedicated to queer historical fiction and representation within such I am concerned by several things having to do with this book, but I will readily admit that the death of a side gay character while it bothers me, on a personal level, as I find the trope somewhat triggering bothers me less on a narrative level than it would in other contexts I wrote a post on the bury your gays trope a year back that discusses why this could, in certain contexts, be concerning I would put this book into the category of all queer cast based on premise alone and find this to be, though worth mentioning as falling into a common trope or perhaps being in bad taste, not inherently homophobic The author is also bisexual No, I don t think representation being ownvoices inherently discounts it having problems, but also yes, that is relevant 2 However However. This book was marketed as an f f romance from a blurb perspective It is apparently actually about a trans man and a queer girl who fall in love It is concerning to me that the official synopsis has so blatantly ignored this What is particularly concerning is that this is not a problem with the author specifically as Meredith Russo pointed out on Twitter but that no one, throughout the long days of publishing, throughout the years where this book has been on Goodreads I added this book to my shelves in May of 2017 thought to themselves that maybe, just maybe, the blurb should not misgender the protagonist That is deeply concerning I understand the argument that the main character is questioning their transness, but it seems the prevailing opinion and one I agree with is that the synopsis should have done a better job of conveying or implying this, as it led me and literally all of Goodreads to misgender this character for months I appreciate the good intentions but that s honestly just come on There s also a wider conversation to be had here about lanes and where the line comes between writing a trans character and writing a trans story when that isn t your role I don t think writing outside your lane is inherently a bad thing However There are lines The blurb is apparently being changed, so on the actual representation, I will be awaiting reviews by trans reviewers The only detailed review on here seems to be by a cis woman, although that is still worth reading A reviewer friend of mine Caidyn, who is transmasc, is reading this now Please don t dogpile him, god bless, amen Blog Goodreads Twitter Instagram Spotify Youtube This review can also be found on my blog I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review CW homophobia, transphobia, outing, deadnaming, gender dysphoria, unsupportive family, graphic sex scene, and possible alcohol abuse THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AS I DISCUSS PROBLEMATIC PLOT POINTS First and foremost, I want to make some statements about this review upfront A lot of you know me, but this review will be posted on Goodreads and Twitter and, obviously, this blog I m also going to bump it up in my story on Instagram.I don t know where it s going to go and who will see it So, I want to put right up front a few things about me and this review.1 This is my opinion alone from an ownvoices standpoint, informed by my own experiences I do not have any interest in speaking for the whole trans community and I will not be I can only speak of my experience and thoughts around this book Life would be boring if all transpeople thought the same and this is one opinion of a highly nuanced situation.2 If you were offended found this book problematic, I m not trying to diminish your personal experience, just talk about my own.3 I also have an issue with the marketing done around this book I don t like that it was marketed as F F then, surprise , the MC s trans It s horribly problematic and needs to be fixed I m glad that Mackenzi has been working on changing that.4 This review is about the content of the book I want to talk about the actual content and my perception of it.5 I love Mackenzi Lee s past work The Lady s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is the book that helped me realize I m aroace.6 I welcome comments and ideas that differ from my own However, I will not allow for cruelty If anyone starts being rude, I ll delete your comments I don t want to have to monitor that, but I will if I have to.I m not on Twitter We might have a shared Twitter, but Chantel is the one who runs it I rarely pop on over there So, when the drama came around about this book, I had already requested this, super excited for Mackenzi s new F F book set in Holland which I ll be shortening to TMB so I don t have to type the title over and over again Then, I started seeing Mackenzi on Instagram correcting the marketing and Chantel began filling me in about the stuff on Twitter.I wasn t going to read this book until December or January I like reading my ARCs about a month before they come out because then it s fresh in my mind But with this I felt like it was something I needed to read right away because I didn t think that Mackenzi Lee meant any harm.Thanks to her stories and other authors, such as Adrienne Young on Instagram that authors rarely, if ever, have control over their marketing and cover designs and descriptions And, I also know that Mackenzi is a huge supporter of the LGBTQIA community and has captured our historical experiences in her past books.Mackenzi also used trans sensitivity readers Including Meredith Russo And, personally, I m with Meredith Russo So, spoiler for my own views As a transman, I didn t find this triggering or problematic I felt like it captured the historical reality of being trans in the 17th century And it was wonderful Screenshot taken from Twitter and her Twitter thread.I m a huge history nerd, I always take historical fiction with the historical context Such as, there were certain historical realities and laws that criminalized sexuality and gender expression Those were present in this book and I appreciated her capturing that honest reality Also, queer characters didn t have the language that we have today to explain their gender and sexuality And I loved that, again, in this book Mackenzi honored that and wasn t anachronistic.The book was unapologetically trans without ever using that word.Now, I ll get to that in a second because I did see someone s comment on Goodreads if you see this review and it was you, please tell me and I will link people there that said this book is adult than YA with the current content And, I agree there It s definitely adult than YA It reminded me of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg ownvoices historical transman book TMB has very adult themes to it, even though the characters were teens.A little bit about using the word trans in this book Transsexual was a word that was first used in the 1920s and transgender was first created in the 1960s Definitely not a 17th century word And this book is about discovery It s about our transman MC discovering who he is and coming into that identity.When I was reading it, I was struck by how represented, how seen I was, by this book It s so hard to find book about transmen that accurately captures what it feels like to discover your identity There was one quote that stood out to me Remember, ARC quotes are liable to change, especially since this book has been pulled from being published for the near future A MANACLE I HAD NOT KNOWN WAS AROUND MY NECK UNTIL IT WAS REMOVED, AND SUDDENLY, I COULD BREATHE, I COULD BREATHE, I COULD BREATHE AT LAST That s a quote from the MC after he got his hair cut off I distinctly remember the day that I cut my hair from being super long to very short And that captures how I felt when I did it and looked in the mirror, seeing a bit of myself each day.Then, there was the description of gender dysphoria that made me stop because it so captured the feeling One second, so, so masculine and knowing that you re a man and fully inhabiting that role, only to then be slammed back into the depressive and anxiety ridden reality of your body not matching how you pictured it in your mind It cut me right to my heart because, God, Mackenzi got it 100% right.There are a few main characters in this The MC, who I am going to refer to as Pim in here Pim s birth name, and what he s referred to for a good portion of the book, is Lena I know there s a huge discussion of deadnaming around this book, but he doesn t choose Pim as his name while pretending to be a man whose name is Pim until 41% and it isn t until the second to last chapter that he really chooses it as his own It reminds me of George by Alex Gino She chooses the name Melissa but is called George throughout the book and most reviews call her George as well.I ve already mentioned that I loved Pim I loved his journey to self discovery I loved how accurate he felt I just loved it As I said, it s so hard to find a story where a transman is the main focus And it was so refreshing to read something that made me feel represented.Then, there s Elsje, Pim s love interest I did like her She was fun and quirky and so queer However, I felt like she could have been fleshed out a bit as a side character There was not much to her besides how she loves tulips and is totally interested in Pim and helps affirm his gender.Bas is Pim s older brother I I didn t like him He s drunk most of the time and is very unaccepting of Pim s identity I m very tired of the trope of an unaccepting sibling I want accepting sibling rep I m going to come back to this a little later.Then, there s Jan Jan has a very minor role for most of the book I think that s a damn shame He s very accepting of Pim and Pim s gender He encourages him to live as a man I wanted of him Bas was very unaccepting, Elsje middling with acceptance, and Jan was super supportive I liked that there was a spectrum of support, but there needed to be of Jan.The plot itself is pretty straightforward Pim and Bas are orphans, taken in by a tulip seller who suddenly dies and leaves them with a lot of debt They find out that he might have had a Semper Augustus a very expensive and rare tulip and go to claim it However, the man who had it is in jail away from Holland Pim decides to take on his identity and sell it, then they get out of there.The first 60% of the book was very positive and moved at a good clip It was a fast paced fun ride Around 66% I identified it in my status updates the tone changed and it became bleak Throughout the book, it was mentioned that people could get hung for being gay But, around 66% there s a graphic hanging Then there s Pim being outed later, around 80% There s also been some discussion about the ending and how unhappy it is Tbh, I found it pretty happy Pim didn t get the girl, but, he was living his authentic life so how is that unhappy Now, I mentioned I love historical accuracy I hate books that feel anachronistic However, in this case, I think things could be edited out I do not think that there needed to be a graphic hanging That could be removed completely from the story without impacting things It s a scene that pushes the story from YA to adult for me I wished that it hadn t included that Sure, it s historically accurate, but it doesn t add to the story.I also mentioned that I wish Bas would be changed Either made supportive, given a smaller role, or bring of Jan into the story to further offset Bas s lack of support That s one thing that I wanted to be changed desperately when I was reading it Because each time Bas came in, I knew that he d be saying something that was rude and or triggering It didn t add to the story and it felt gratuitous.So, what are my overall thoughts on the book I felt myself represented from when I was a teen trying to figure out who I was and figuring out slowly There are definitely things that could be changed and removed, but it was so good I would 100% recommend this to people as an authentic trans read.Whenever Mackenzi is ready to put it out for publication, I ll be preordering it so I can have it on my shelves right next to the Montague Siblings. this book was initially announced and marketed as an f f romance as far back as May of 2017 Since then, it has come out this is a book between a trans man and a girl Most people reading the arc say it looks like Lee tried to write an f f romance, pivoted and wrote a trans story instead, smushed it all together and didn t get great results Further, arc reviews have told me this book includes view spoiler the graphic depiction of the hanging of a gay man, the sexual assault of the main character by a gay man a bad trope which is never addressed and is also depicted graphically, the rejection of the main characters transness including deadnaming and rejection by their love interest and a non happy ending hide spoiler edit a little less excited for this nowyes i have an ARC of this suck on that, fellow queers. you re telling me a cis author marketed this as a sapphic romance to later reveal the protagonist is a trans man and deadnamed and misgendered the character in the synopsis information here Update my original review was based on the original blurb, and there are now reviewers who have talked about the content of the book itself Please make sure you seek out the reviews that are sensitive to the trans angle of this book I won t be reading this book from the extracts shared and discussed by multiple reviewers it s clear that it is far too invalidating, problematic and triggering Do ask yourself that if a book with trans rep is too painful or problematic for trans readers to safely navigate, then who is it for Cis readers who enjoy reading about the trauma of trans folks I am sad but not surprised to see one of the sensitivity readers of this book identify themselves they, too, wrote a trans story that was marketed as a beautiful romance but was a long trek through extremely triggering transphobic and homophobic content These stories certainly have a place they are important for cis people to read so they understand the trauma that many trans people go through when they are treated badly and grow up surrounded by transphobia The only trans readers for whom this is a safe read are those who are in a better place with a support system around them But it s extremely important not to romanticise or glamorise the trauma, which from the extracts shared of The Madness Blooms is precisely what happens The book from the sensitivity reader, who is trans themselves whose pronouns I am keeping neutral to preserve anonymity since this review is about The Madness Blooms and not them , did not glamorise any of it, and therefore to me their book had purpose and has conveyed its message These may seem like small nuances but they change everything in the message that the book conveys I understand that a lot of what happens in The Madness Blooms is passed off as historically accurate but remind yourself of this the trans stories that we know from history are the ones that have been highlighted and documented by cis chroniclers and historians We don t know the stories of the trans people who went on to live completely fulfilling, normal, peaceful lives because that causes no scandal and therefore no chronicling So to insist that a historically accurate depiction of a trans character is to show scandal and suffering is a flawed argument Original review This is terf territory Calling a trans boy girl , using she her pronouns and deadnaming him allowing your fanbase to tout your story as wlw ff lesbian romance for months years and finally dimishing these actions as a mistake I have lost faith in this book A guy in love with a woman, no matter how we perceive his body, doesn t love her in a sapphic way So for the author and marketing team to pass this off as a mistake that s easily made and is just a bit of clumsy marketing gone wrong, is not only unacceptable, it s actually revealing Trans men are not interchangeable with lesbians in menswear, unless you re a terf If you care about trans people, there are many good books out there for you to read instead, and you can find them through Ray Stoeve s database of trans ownvoices stories.