In the September issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS, we feature an article on the explosion of male/male-themed romance, exploring the origins of gay love stories and discussing the appeal for a growing audience of straight female readers. We asked our male/male romance authors and experts so many questions that we couldn’t fit all the answers in print. Here, we hit them up for some romance recommendations and ask about some of the biggest misconceptions of LGBT-themed love stories.
Who is your favorite go-to author of gay romance?
Heidi Cullinan: Gosh. It really depends on the day. I love K.A. Mitchell and Z.A. Maxfield, and of course Marie Sexton. I have a real soft spot for Kim Dare, and Amber Kell is coming up close. Those two are “deep cuts,” with an almost yaoi feel within the m/m universe. In the same way I loved escaping into Harlequin Presents in high school, I love losing myself in Dare and Kell, where the world is simpler and my mushy little heart will never get broken.
Josh Lanyon: Picking one is almost impossible. I’m a big fan of Ginn Hale. She writes brilliant gay speculative fiction. Harper Fox, L.B. Gregg, K.A. Mitchell ... I’m afraid to start because I’m going to slight someone.
Sarah Frantz: Oh, wow, that’s a long list. My auto-buy list (for contemporary romances, at least): K.A. Mitchell, Heidi Cullinan, James Buchanan, J.L. Merrow, Harper Fox. Alex Beecroft (historical romance) can’t write fast enough for me. I also love A.M. Riley, Dani Alexander, Ava March, Kim Dare, Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow, L.A. Witt and Damon Suede.
Kate McMurray: My go-to authors: Z.A. Maxfield, Heidi Cullinan, Rowan Speedwell, K.A. Mitchell, Ethan Day, Marie Sexton and, I’m sure, a bunch more I can’t think of right now.
Damon Suede: Well, I couldn’t pick just one because it depends on my mood. If I want wild inventiveness and deep character, I’ll pick up Amy Lane, because she writes in every subgenre with so much passion and precision. For sizzling banter and funky eroticism in unexpected settings I’d point you towards Z.A. Maxfield. If I want raunchy, rowdy romance with a buttery dollop of comedy I’ll go for Heidi Cullinan, my cohort in Rainbow Romance Writers shenanigans. For tender angst and intimacy, I’d pick up Mary Calmes, because of her mindfulness with character and pace. Marie Sexton for blistering, contemplative contemporary with a creamy center. James Buchanan for passionate intensity and red-blooded alphas. Jordan Castillo Price for amazing paranormal mystery and heartbreaking twists. Ethan Day for excoriating wit and near-Regency restraint. And L.B. Gregg for demented, scorching comedy-thrillers. I could never pick just one, but now I want to go back and reread about a hundred books. And of course, there’s this amazing J.R. Ward person I keep hearing about …
RT reader Heather: I have a special love for “gay for you” stories — where one or both of the men aren’t attracted to the same sex in general, but fell in love with a particular person. Excellent example: Faith and Fidelity by Tere Michaels. A loose sequel is Love and Loyalty, and the actual sequel is Duty and Devotion.
What is the one myth about male/male romance that you’d love to bust?
Heidi Cullinan: That it’s written entirely by straight women for straight women. Yes, that’s a large part of the base on both sides, but it’s not all there is. We have many gay men and women writing and reading our romances, and their orientations do not always line up with what they read and/or write. Lesbian women do write gay male romances, and they read them, too. A large number of the “straight” women writing male/male romances privately identify as bisexual, polyamorous, questioning, queer. There are a number of trans writers within our genre, too, and again within the readership.
To me this speaks about how much freedom there is, with both a blank page and behind the covers of a story. Books have always been the places we could be ourselves. The idea that our orientations can have freedom there as well is simply a logical extension.
Sarah Frantz: The biggest myth for me is that it gets away from gender dynamics. That’s not true. It’s impossible to get away from gender dynamics, no matter whether you have two men or a man and a woman. You’re always dealing with gender. That said, m/m romance means that readers rarely have to deal with male/female gender dynamics, which can sometimes be a relief. But m/m romance is steeped in our gendered expectations about what it means to be a man, especially a gay man. The biggest cliché is the issue of Gay For You. The plot is a guilty secret for me, but I dislike it when the characters persist in thinking, “I’m not gay, I just love this other man,” rather than admitting by the end that, yes, they’re actually gay.
Josh Lanyon: That it’s all porn.
Damon Suede: That it’s different from any other type of romance. Last year I came to my first RT Booklovers Convention to represent the Rainbow Romance Writers and had one of the best weeks of my life. I had never been before, because I’d always assumed that LGBT romance was reviled by RT and its readers. Stupid me: People fell over themselves to make me feel welcome and celebrated! I’ve owned Kathryn Falk’s book on writing romance for over 25 years, but I hadn’t visited an RT Convention ever, because I felt certain I’d be unwelcome. I turned up in Chicago half-certain that I was marching towards a pink-suited lynch mob of angry Barbara Cartland fans determined to scour the genre. A large part of that is the persistent mislabeling of LGBT romance as something “dirty” or subordinate — and, ironically, it’s the same impulse that forces people to call all romance porn and to ridicule it at every opportunity. So, mislabeling makes me insane. Shame-based logic is shameful.
To read the entire article, you can pick up a copy of our September issue in stores now, or subscribe to RT BOOK REVIEWS! For more M/M coverage visit our Everything Romance and Everything Erotica pages.