Tag Archives: gay fiction

Law of Love by Bob Masters

Hi readers!

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m the publisher over at Deep Desires Press — we publish erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance of all romantic pairings.

Law-Of-Love-Bob-Masters-600.jpgI wanted to share Law of Love with you. This short novella came to my inbox a while back and was immediately taken by it. On the surface, Law of Love is a sweet M/M romance (with a few erotic scenes) between a park ranger who’s never even questioned or explored his sexuality and the cute lifeguard that gets a job working with him.

Digging deeper, though, Law of Love is set in 1969, shortly after the Stonewall Riots, and is thus set in a time of tumult, as the LGBTQ community begins loudly demanding equal rights. Paralleling this setting of liberation is the liberating internal journey of Joseph, the park ranger.

Over on the Deep Desires Press blog, I just shared an excerpt from Law of Love. In this scene, Joseph has realized he has some sort of attraction to Jimmy, the lifeguard, but he hasn’t yet clued in that it’s a romantic attraction. Moreover, this is the scene where Jimmy more or less forces Joseph to loosen up. Joseph has been a straight-laced park ranger since he finished college and really hasn’t ever done anything wild or adventurous — but on a midnight boat ride, Jimmy strips down and skinny-dips in the lake, inviting Joseph to join him.

As I read this scene, particularly in the context of the whole book, the simple act of Joseph deciding to drop his boxers was incredibly moving and very empowering.

You can read the excerpt here.

And you can find out where to buy your copy here.

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Book Review: Vermilion

Vermilion

Nathan Aldyne

A dead young hustler is found on the lawn of a queer-baiting legislator. Boston’s political and queer communities are up in arms about the matter, and police are bent on finding the killer — fast. Best friends Daniel Valentine and Clarisse Lovelace team up and hit the streets of Boston. Through a sinister underworld of bars and baths, bondage and blackmail, they’re out to solve a very bizarre murder.

(The cover image above is far more interesting than the edition I had…)

Vermilion is a murder mystery, a genre I almost never read.  I can count the number of murder mysteries I’ve read on one hand and still have fingers left over.  Thus, I can’t really review this book in the context of the murder mystery genre, as I don’t know what the tropes and expectations of the genre are.

However, it was definitely an enjoyable book.

Valentine and Lovelace make a fun team of investigators.  They aren’t police, PIs, or anything like that — they’re two people who want to see this murder solved.  And the fact that Searcy, a homophobic cop, is bent on proving that the entire queer community is somehow responsible, only complicates matters.  Valentine and Lovelace investigate the murder in their own way, using their network of gay colleagues, friends, and lovers to help them track down information — an avenue of investigation not open to Searcy.

The mystery was well laid out, the kind of mystery where it’s possible to fit the pieces together if you work really hard, but it’s in no way predictable.  Based on the back cover blurb, though, I was expecting a little more sex — but this isn’t an erotic mystery. While I was a tad disappointed by that, it certainly didn’t detract from the story and it was probably stronger for not having sex scenes.

While a tad slow in spots, Vermilion was an enjoyable read.  It was one of very few forays into murder mysteries that I’ve taken and I enjoyed it.  When my to-read pile diminishes a bit — as it is, in fact, slowly doing — I’ll check if the library has another Nathan Aldyne mystery.  (Hmm… I just noticed on Goodreads that Vermilions is the first in a series of murder mysteries starring Valentine and Lovelace — I am now definitely going to see if I can track down the next couple books!)

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Book Review: The Hardest Thing

The Hardest Thing

James Lear

Once a major in the US Marines, Dan Stagg fell foul of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is now struggling to make sense of civilian life.  In his late 30s, tall and muscular, Dan works as a bouncer at an East Village nightclub.  When he’s offered a fortune to protect the young male secretary of a powerful real estate developer, Dan takes off on a road trip with a hot blond companion who makes it clear that “protection” doesn’t stop at the bedroom door.  But Dan soon realizes he’s being used as a shield for a much more sinister operation and has to choose between easy money and the ideals that he once fought for.

Holy crap was this book hot.

Author James Lear combines a great mystery with some of the hottest erotic fiction I’ve ever read.  Dan Stagg is a very likeable narrator with a complex backstory.  Typically, I’m not fond of first-person narrative, but Dan is one of the few examples of first-person that I truly enjoy.

Dan was in love, once, and then his whole world ended.  His lover died and Dan got kicked out of the military for being gay.  Now, he struggles to make ends meet.  Throughout The Hardest Thing, Dan grows, he heals from his past, he accepts what’s been done, and he risks his heart with Stirling (the young male secretary from the cover blurb).  We get some nice backstory, appropriately placed and meaningfully written, of Dan’s history with Will, his lover from the military… it makes the developments in this book all the more meaningful.

Stirling is an interesting character, too.  When we first meet him, he is very annoying.  He’s, like, the stereotypical New York gay man, but when the shit hits the fan and that facade drops, we get some insights into who Stirling really is.  And, you know what?  He’s quite likeable.

Then there’s the whole problem of people wanting to kill them.  That kind of makes falling in love difficult.

And holy hell is the sex in this book hot.  The sex between Dan and Stirling, which happens throughout the first half, is very hot and enjoyable.  But then in the second half, it almost turns porn-ish (but very high quality porn-ish), what with all the random blowjobs, truck stop bathroom aggressive hookups, and gym showers/sauna sex.  I made the mistake of reading a chapter, the one with the aggressive group sex in a dirty truck stop bathroom, while on my break at work.  Thankfully no one noticed my *cough* physiological reactions *cough* to the chapter.

This is one of those rare books where I have no negative comments, only positive.  I see the cover says “A Dan Stagg Mystery” — I really hope that implies there are more books to come.  If there are, I’m definitely reading them.  Just not at work.

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GLBT Characters in Mainstream Fiction

If I want to read a book with an accurate portrayal of GLBT characters, I’m best going with something that is specifically marketed as GLBT fiction.  But why should I have to do that?  We all know that GLBT persons are a component of society and are in every aspect of our lives, yet we for some reason largely exclude them from mainstream fiction.  (And I’m using “mainstream fiction” to mean anything other than that which is specifically labelled as GBLT fiction.)

GLBT characters have been very few and far-between in the mainstream fiction I’ve read in the past couple years.  Perhaps that’s why GLBT fiction thrives?  Because if someone wants to read about GLBT characters, they know they have to turn to GLBT fiction?

I sometimes wonder if part of the reason for the scarcity is because heterosexual writers are intimidated by the prospect of a GLBT character.  If s/he has no experience with homosexuality, how can s/he write a homosexual character?  I don’t buy this as an entirely valid excuse.  A great number of gay romance novels are written by heterosexual authors.  While a GLBT character can have a certain authenticity when written by a GLBT author, it is not an exclusive ability.

I also sometimes wonder if it’s because heterosexual authors generally do not think to include GLBT characters.  Again, I don’t buy this.  White authors write about characters of other races.  Local authors write about characters in other places.  (Sorry for the rhyming sentences, this isn’t turning into a Dr. Seuss poem, don’t worry.)  So if an author’s imagination can conceive of all sorts of characters and locations outside of their general experience, then why don’t they include GLBT characters, when, presumably, they personally know GLBT people in their workplaces, families, and friends?

And, again, I have another wondering.  Perhaps authors don’t include GLBT characters because they worry that highlighting such might make that character a “token gay.”  While that can be a real concern (and I can actually accept this reason, though disapprove of fear holding people back), it can easily be overcome by following one simple rule: treat GLBT characters the same way you treat straight characters.

We all fall in love.  We all go on dates.  We all have successes and failures with our relationships.  We all have families.  And we are not defined by our sexuality or relationships.  We all have jobs, we all have commitments, we all volunteer, and we all have friends.

Straight characters make references to their husbands and wives, they mention dates they’ve been on, and they refer to their family — authors can do the exact same thing with GLBT characters, just by switching the gender of the pronoun.

While I find GLBT characters rare, they have not been entirely absent.

In George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (the Game of Thrones series), it is implied that Renly and Loras are gay.  However, this is so subtle in the book that I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for the gay scene in show.

And the Star Trek books have included GLBT characters in the last several years.  Well, G&L characters.  While I applaud the regular and appropriate inclusion of sexuality in Star Trek fiction, I am somewhat exasperated by the quality of gay relationships.  Each and every single gay person in Star Trek fiction, at least from my recollection, is happily married.  The straight characters date, get married, break up, and have relationship troubles, but the gay characters present an ideal relationship where everything is perfect.  It’s not quite reality.  I’d like to see a gay character go on a date and not like the guy by the end of the day.  I’d like to see a one-night stand (because we’ve seen so many of the heterosexual characters love em and leave em *cough*Kirk*cough*Riker*cough*).

Just once (though preferably more than once), I would love to read of a transgendered character, where being transgender is just an aspect of the person’s identity and the story is not actually about being transgender.  Like… a murder mystery where the detective is M-to-F.

Movies have gotten ahead of fiction in this regard.  There have been some wonderful characters in all sorts of shows and films who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual and their sexuality does not define who they are as a character.  I haven’t seen any transgender characters that I’m aware of, but I have no doubt that at least some of those characters were handled with care and respect and were stronger for the struggles they’ve been through.

Including GLBT characters in fiction is not difficult and, really, writing does not reflect reality if all of the characters are straight.  I think we’ve managed to reach a certain level of diversity in our fiction, particularly in racial diversity (though a lot of sci-fi is still a mainly-white cast, which I don’t think reflects where society is going), but we need to push the envelope a little more and bring in other diversities.

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Book Review: Once in a Lifetime

Once in a Lifetime

Ariel Tachna

Offered a yearlong medical research fellowship in France, Shane Johnson has many hopes for the experience: a chance to improve his French, an opportunity to hone his research skills before starting his PhD at Baylor, and the freedom to live life as an openly gay man for the first time. He’ll chronicle his year abroad with its challenges, victories, and setbacks as he struggles to balance his faith with his sexuality.

 

As he navigates the shoals of a first kiss, a first relationship, and perhaps even lasting love, Shane will have to balance his newfound emotions with his long-term plans, and he’ll face the decision of how his once-in-a-lifetime experience will fit into the life he wants to lead.

I started reading gay romance (and gay erotic romance) about a year ago.  It’s been less than 12 months, but I’ve read dozens of books already.  Once in a Lifetime, by Ariel Tachna, is easily one of the best.

Tachna creates a very likeable character in Shane.  This book is told through Shane’s journal entries as he embarks on a year-long workstay in France.  He uses the opportunity to attempt to live into who he is — a gay man.  More accurately, a Christian gay man.

Tachna did a superb job in integrating the question of faith in Shane’s personal journey.  Personally belonging to a denomination that believes in the full equality of GLBT persons, I found the author’s approach here extremely refreshing.  Too often, faith is used as a negative plot device — someone, whether it be the main character or not, has to overcome the conflict between faith and sexuality.  The truth as I see it, and apparently as Tachna and her character Shane see it, is that there is no conflict there.  Sexuality does not contradict faith.

Shane goes through a number of experiences that, I believe, are common in the experience of young gay men.  She handles it with care and compassion, never giving into the tropes of the genre, cliches and stereotypes, or the easy way out of situations.  Shane lays everything out openly and honestly and we grow with him.  We experience what he experiences.  We see when he is heading down the wrong path, but we know that he will see it eventually — and more, he will learn from it.  Tachna does an excellent job of balancing Shane’s experiences with his personality.  He’s led down the wrong path innocently enough, he learns from his mistakes, and he applies those lessons to the future.

In the end, Shane encounters a real love, true and deep.  His learning curve in the relationship, and his unfolding experience with sex, is wonderfully handled and a pleasure to read.  Tachna avoids the many tropes and cliches I’ve found common in many romance books and instead writes something real.

This truly is a wonderful read — it’s one of the best gay romance books I’ve come across.

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