Male/Male and Me

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Tara Stevensby Tara Stevens, Carina Press acquisitions team

I’ve always thought of myself as a one-man woman. Boy, was I wrong! Well, at least when it comes to my reading tastes.  If you had asked me a year ago, I’d have said that the male/male niche just wasn’t my cup of coffee or type of thing. I certainly wouldn’t have had a clue what “vanilla gay sex” meant.

That all changed last September when I volunteered to read a manuscript called Muffled Drum for the Carina Press acquisitions team. I confess I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a compelling and engrossing historical romance that just happened to feature two heroes in the starring roles.

Two hot men in uniform, transporting you to a different time – what’s not to love?

Since then I’ve become a m/m go-to girl of sorts, and have read not only gay historical romance with Gothic and paranormal elements, but contemporary gay fiction with no trace of romance at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novella or a full-length novel, either – if it’s m/m, I snap it up!

Now that I know what all the fuss is about, I have to admit that my discovery makes me feel more adventurous as a reader. I’m not going to get all Freudian on you and try to explain why an increasing number of women are devouring stories about two men getting it on. I will tell you the thing I like best about m/m books: the characters are not automatically lumped into the traditional male/female roles dictated by gender. The heroes start off on more equal footing, and sometimes being gay isn’t even a major issue or big deal – just an accepted reality.

I’m lucky to live in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for quite some time. We also just finished up another fabulous Pride Week here in Toronto. Homosexuality doesn’t equal shame or silence or stigma. For me, reading stories featuring two men is my little way of understanding and celebrating our diverse sexual and gender identities.

Of course, the smokin’-hot sex doesn’t hurt. :) Having said that, gay “stroke” books with just a bunch of sex scenes strung together are not for me. It can’t be all about the nookie or feel like porn with a superficial plot line. There has to be heart and heat. The story and voice of the manuscript are more important than the sex contained within it.

As a relatively new m/m disciple, I’m happy to see that the market for these books doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, if the number of submissions and recommended books we see on the acquisitions team are any indication.

My favourite m/m books are those with substance, believable conflict and strong character development. Balancing the romantic/emotional aspects of the relationship with the sexual tension makes for a more well-rounded story.

But enough about me – what intrigues you most about m/m books? Have you tried them yet?

Curious? Explore Harlequin’s  “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”


Comments

  1. Love the post! I actually would like to read more “adventurous” type stuff. You have convinced me! And love the pic…you look fabulous!

  2. There’s a whole lot of m/m out there also f/f but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, we all have different tastes and it’s good to know that we are being catered to

  3. I still haven’t read any yet…Some sounds really good but I always identify w/ someone in what I read & don’t know if I can get into it. I’ll dive in one day I’m sure as I keep hearing about it.

  4. I always find it funny that when it comes to readers of m/m romance gay men like myself are surprisingly in the minority. I came to gay fiction simply because I wanted to read about people who were “like me”, as opposed to people in “traditional” relationships. I originally also wanted books with those fantastic sex scenes, but the more I read the more I strayed away from them. I much prefer books with great prose and believable characters. If you haven’t given Bob Smith’s “Selfish & Perverse” a try I highly reccomend you do! It’s one of my favorites in the gay fiction genre.

  5. I read a few, out of which, one I liked..and the rest I didn’t. I guess what you said about the “heart and heat” is perfectly true. Where they show the characters undergo a well defined conflict in a believable plot, I am able to accept and even enjoy them!

    As to trying my hand at it.. I have one niggling at the back of my mind..and I hope when the time comes, I’ll be able to do it justice as a writer ;)

  6. I’ve read a few.
    Most, unfortunatley, seem to fall into the category of reasons for having sex, not love.
    The one exception I’ve found is a book series by Andrea Speed.
    There isn’t any sex, per se. The door is closed.
    But the love, the tragedy, the heartfelt emotions, the pain…it haunts me over a month after reading the last book. I fell in love with the main character, Roan. It doesn’t matter to me that he’s gay. I am so gripped by his life, his struggles and his fight to accept himself. Um… he has other issues. lol
    That kind of quality writing has spoiled me. I now look for that with any M/M romance I read – when emotions are involved, it makes whatever sheet action there is that much more poignant and important. That’s the same with any quality romance, no matter who the protagonists are.
    Touch my heart, and I’m yours.

  7. I just want to say how cool it is that I’m working with a publisher in a country where gay marriage is legal, and who welcomes romantic fiction of all kinds. Love it! Thank you, Carina Press.

  8. That’s it pretty much word for word for me. I’ve had people say ‘as a woman, what would I get out of it? I can’t identify with it.’

    It’s true I don’t have a snowball’s chance in… of ever being a part of those scenes, that dynamic. But I will never perform magic either, or live two hundred years ago, or two hundred years from now, and I still enjoy those books.

    Like you said, I love the way they approach a relationship on equal footing, without the assumed roles. I love the added tension there can often be–though certainly not always–because gay relationships aren’t accepted, or simply because they aren’t the norm, and the chances of the guy you’re attracted to being attracted to you are much less than if you fall for a girl.

    I love the added possibilities, too. When two guys square off and start throwing punches, we don’t think anything of it. Sure a relationship adds a whole new layer to it, but there isn’t the automatic horror of a man hitting a woman. You can have that sort of raw, testosterone fueled conflict you simply can’t have in m/f.

    And, quite frankly, men being tender, even gentle, romantic, being in love, is something any woman wants to read about, isn’t it?

  9. Michele,

    Two Carina Press titles that are great for real plots and real emotion rather than sex for sex’s sake are Fair Game by Josh Lanyon, (I’d recommend anything by him,) and One Real Thing by Anah Crow.

  10. Heart is, I think, the most important part of any romance (or any other story, probably). In the novels I am writing when sex is appropriate it happens. If it isn’t germaine to the plot it doesn’t. I have read many m/m books and consistently like Josh Lanyon’s the best (just finished the excellent “Come Unto These Yellow Sands”). There isn’t always a lot of close examination of the mechanics of sex, but there is tons of heart there. His stories move me, his characters engage me, and his plots are always interesting. I just hope I can write as well some day.

  11. @Amita – thank you! Let me know what you think of your “more adventurous” reads when you get a chance :)

    @Julie – I couldn’t agree more – it’s great to finally have so many different sorts of love stories out there that actually reflect the reality of the world we live in.

    @Ivy – I felt like you at first, but I quickly discovered that relationships are relationships at the end of the day, whether they contain a man and a woman or two men or two women or a mixture of all three! Sure, gay relationships have their own unique issues, but I found it quite easy to relate to the day-to-day things involved in being in a partnership and all that entails.

  12. @Steven – thank you for your thoughtful reply and I’ll add your recommendation to my TBR list :)

    @Ju – good luck with your book!

    @Michele – you’ve really intrigued with your description of these Andrea Speed books… I love stories that stay with you long after you finish the last page. :)

    J.L. – I feel incredibly lucky to be involved myself!

  13. I haven’t read many m/m, but as you and others stated, any books that are a bunch of sex scenes strung together, no matter what body parts are involved, doesn’t do it for me either. Give me a story. Give me a reason I should care about these people. THEN give me a good love scene (or not, if it isn’t a natural outcome of events).

    I will definitely be adding to my TBB list :)

  14. Hi, Tara! I fall in with those who haven’t really read these types of books. I like your “adventurous” reading idea, though! :-)

  15. Great post. I’m so pleased that Carina press is publishing M/M.

    (And I’m happy to live in a state (NY) that just legalized Gay Marriage!)

  16. I adore male/male love stories. Sure, I like the hot sex in some(not all, some sex scenes whether m/m or m/f are too over the top) but when the romance comes through, it is fantastic. Some of my favorite male/male stories have little to no detailed sex. The story lines carry the burden and they do a great job at it.

  17. I could have written this exact post a year ago. Glad to have another convert ;)

    Why do I love m/m fiction…? I think you hit the nail on the gender role issue. I also really like the complexity of m/m relationships (and f/f….we’ve got some great f/f fiction books too). Just like Leah said above – I don’t have to live the experience myself to enjoy reading about it.

  18. I think for me it’s the appeal of the dynamic, and that they’re often stories of people stepping outside of the norm and taking a different and sometimes difficult road in life. I like m/f romance too, but the world isn’t exactly suffering any kind of shortage of that, so it’s interesting to me to read and tell some other kinds of stories.

  19. I have never had a problem identifying with male characters. I grew up reading SF/F, not romance, so most of the cool people to identify with were male anyway (or Mara of the Acoma). (Forgive the gross generalization, SF/F writers.)

    I look for heroism on both sides of the relationship whether I’m reading m/m or m/f or f/f or m/goblin/f/m. I throw m/f romances across the room on a regular basis when gender roles are ALL that characterize the “heroes.”

  20. I’m so happy that I was your first! :D

    @steven – going by my postbag, I don’t know if you are in a minority, as 99 percent of amy reader’s letters are from men. Whether that’s because gay men are just thrilled to find a genre that didn’t really exist a few years ago, or whether women just take it more for granted, I don’t know. I started writing because I felt there was a huge gap in the market, and was so happy to find that men were reading me,because they were the first people I thought I was writing for. Additional readers were a nice bonus! andI agree about the sex–the more Iwrite the less sex I write. It’s partly the publishers’ fault, though–in thebeginning, many publishers wanteda sex scene in every chapter, but many writers are going for plot and character led stories now, rather than just erotica. Particularly with historicals.

  21. Michelle,

    No prob, but I forgot Life After Joe. I don’t know how I forgot that one, it’s definitely one of my favorites.

  22. I haven’t read much m/m but I have read a little and have been surprised that I liked it!

  23. Hey! You’ve definitely piqued my m/m interest. Can you recommend any other titles?

  24. I LOVE M/M. I’ve always loved the male POV in romances
    (headhopping accepted here LOL). Having been brought up in a Catholic all girl family, the penis was endlessly fascinating to me. In M/M you get two or more. One of my faves (of all books from 2010) is Resistance by L.M. Turner. It blew me away with the emotional story & the characters. Some great lines and it was gritty, brilliant, & all that is wonderful about a book.”

  25. @tara thank you! i’ve been pimping out that book everywhere

    @erastes That’s awesome that so many men write to you! I always felt like there had to be more gay men reading these books than my classes were leading on. I feel as though guys read these books and think of it more as gay fiction, rather than a romance novel if that makes sense. Thanks for the insight about publishing. After learning how little control the author has over things like the cover of their book, I wondered whether they were forced to write more sex scenes than they preferred to, or what other changes they were required to make

  26. @Leah – “And, quite frankly, men being tender, even gentle, romantic, being in love, is something any woman wants to read about, isn’t it?” – I couldn’t have put it better myself! What a lovely, thoughtful way of looking at it :)

    @Adam – congrats! Let’s hope the rest follow suit soon.

    @Inez – I agree with you – if the story is powerful enough, the sex is almost secondary in some of the best m/m stories I’ve read.

    @Erastes – Ha! I found your “the more I write, the less sex I write” comment intriguing. I’m glad the sex in every chapter expectation has fallen away now.

  27. Although I haven’t read that many M/M romances, I have read yaoi manga and watched yaoi anime years ago. Yaoi is also M/M romances geared mostly toward women. Hm…

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