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Reading m/m: a guide for the perplexed

The debate at AAR and elsewhere over m/m books and authors got us to thinking about whether the differences between m/m and m/f romances are as great as some readers on both sides seemed to believe. Four of us here at DA regularly read and review m/m in addition to m/f these days (and Janine and Jayne have read and reviewed both as well, with Jayne also reviewing f/f). We talked for a while about how the two genres are similar and different in terms of the books we read, and we thought it would be fun to write a post and ask DA’s readers for their opinions in the comments.

(1) Do you remember the first m/m you read? What worked? What didn’t?

Kaetrin: Not really. I think it might have been Off The Record by Matthew Haldeman-Time which was (at least at the time) available online for free. I think I first read m/m in about 2008. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it enough to try more and more.  But I had read a m/m romantic storyline first in Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter’s series.  Jules and Robin remain favourites.

Sirius: My first original m/m book (I am not counting Harry Potter slash I was reading for years before coming to m/m) was The God Eaters by Jesse Hajicek.  I do not remember for sure when I read it, but it was sometime in 2007-2008. I remember thinking that the world building was very imaginative, that the author took some things we know from history and science fiction/fantasy and managed to create something if not unique, something original and fun. Great world building is a must for me in a fantasy/science fiction. I also remember being impressed by the character growth of the two leads. Basically a lot more worked in this book for me than did not and I was eager and interested to read more m/m.

In very close succession I read The Charioteer by Mary Renault and Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale. These books also set a standard for me which I defined as “less sex, more story and characters”. Unfortunately for months after these three books I encountered the books which I thought of as “sex, sex, sex, sex, sex and a tiny bit of story and characterization”, and I was almost ready to give up. Thank goodness I eventually found many authors to enjoy and I’m not planning on giving up any longer.

Willaful: Like Kaetrin, my first romantic m/m storyline was in the Troubleshooters series, and I loved Jules and Robin. My first specifically m/m romance was The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon. What didn’t really work for me with that book was the sex scenes — not that they’re bad in any way, I just wasn’t into them at that time. I guess it’s an acquired taste. Come to think of it, pretty much all sex scenes have been an acquired taste for me.

What most interested me about the book at that time was the difference in the couple dynamic when one member isn’t much more physically powerful than the other. I came to it from a lot of category romances and older historicals, where violence by the hero against the heroine is fairly common. The Dickens With Love has positively traditional romance themes — deception and betrayal. At one point, one hero even calls the other “a liar and a cheat and a whore”; I felt so at home. But their conflict is expressed almost entirely in words, without the threatening aspects so common in older romance.

Now that I read more current and contemporary romance, in which authors are much less prone to having heroes overpowering heroines, this no longer stands out for me as specific to m/m. But the dynamic when a couple negotiates around physical control is still somewhat different.

Sunita: My first book was a sports-themed book by T.A. Chase, I think, that was free through the publisher. In retrospect it wasn’t great, too much sex and not enough characterization, but I loved the sports part and the novelty was intriguing. I read a few more free books and then started to look more systematically for authors I would like. I wound up with Fair Game and Tigers and Devils, and those set a high bar for the future.

(2) What would be the first book you’d offer someone who wanted to try reading m/m, and why?

Kaetrin: I think I’d say Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy.  It’s not an explicit romance but it is deeply intimate and romantic as well as funny and it has secondary characters (including a female) who are fleshed out and well-drawn. It’s one of my favourite romances and I recommend it to everyone and anyone. Other recommendations would include Muscling Through by JL Merrow, Blessed Isle by Alex Beecroft, Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton and No Souvenirs and Regularly Scheduled Life by KA Mitchell.  I’ve had the opportunity to look at my co-reviewers’ recommendations and I think I have all of them in my own collection – most of them are on the dreaded TBR which goes some way to explaining why they’re not included in my own recommendations list.

Sirius: It depends on what this person is looking for. For m/m fantasy I suggest The Lord of the White Hell or The Rifter serial by Ginn Hale. or The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles.  They have action, magic, great characters and of course a love story. For m/m romantic mystery, I suggest Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series or Death by Misfortune by AM Riley. Actually, since Adrien English is five books, Death by Misfortune would probably be the one I recommend first. I think this book encompasses what m/m romantic mystery is for me. For me it is a close to perfect blend of mystery and romance. For a contemporary gay romance, I would suggest Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. For a historical m/m romance, oh, who am I kidding, if the person would just ask for m/m romance I would suggest, no I would push on them as hard as I can, Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen. I have been pushing this book on my suspecting and unsuspecting friends both those who are already reading m/m romance and who have never read m/m romance before.   This book is just so great in my opinion – it is about two young veterans of First World War coming home, meeting each other, falling in love. Remember what I said before about wanting to get to know the characters in m/m romance as people as opposed to just sexual beings? This book delivers that in spades.

Willaful: Like Sirius, I would want to know their tastes and what they’re looking for. One of my most frequent recommendations is Pricks and Pragmatism by J.L. Merrow, just because it’s so beautifully characterized; it would be my first choice for someone hostile to romance, like my mom, because it’s atypical in many way. For someone with a literary bent, I’d suggest Harper Fox’s exquisite writing in Winter Knights. Tamara Allen’s lovely historicals are a great choice for a nervous newbie, for the reasons Sirius mentions, and I’d second Almost Like Being in Love for anyone who enjoys humor or epistolary novels. I think of it as a novel rather than a genre romance, but it’s delightful either way.

Sunita: My favorite introductory books are Fair Game and Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon and Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils. For readers who want a historical I’d recommend Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark and The Only Gold, or Joanna Chambers’ recent Enlightened trilogy. For readers who are interested in darker books with non-standard characters I strongly recommend Aleksandr Voinov’s Dark Soul series. All of these are as good as the best genre fiction, in my estimation.

(3) What are your most and least favorite tropes in m/m?

Kaetrin: Least favourite would be the evil woman who is evil.  There are villains in fiction but I want more from them than a one-note performance. I’m looking for nuance and depth to characterisation.  I have read books where the evil woman who it evil could have been given motivation but instead it’s come down to “she’s just a bitch” and that’s not a good enough reason for me.  It’s not that a woman can’t be the villain in an m/m story for me, but if she is, I want more than she’s just “bad” and I also want to see other female characters who are sympathetic without also being stereotypes.  I’d like a sense that they have their own lives and stories and they’re not there merely to serve the plot or as foils for the villain. While I do see the evil woman in m/f it seems to me that she’s far more common in m/m and often, she’s the only female character.

When I first started reading m/m I read a bit of “gay for you”.  I’m a little embarrassed about it now but I do still enjoy “out for you” stories.   I think you told me, Sunita, that you have friends in real life who would fit the “gay for you” paradigm but I gather it is not at all as prevalent in real life as it is in fiction.  I don’t believe that people choose their sexuality and the “gay for you” trope in m/m fiction tends to suggest otherwise.  I don’t think it’s as easy as “who would you turn for?”   Out for You stories however are a little different because there is an acknowledgement that the character has had homosexual/bisexual attraction before, whether or not he has acted upon it.  I like the idea of a love so great that the person is willing to make sacrifices (in any fiction, not just m/m) – in m/m that is most commonly seen in the out for you trope.  Coming out is, or can be, full of risk and being willing to be vulnerable for someone else is inherently romantic and intimate for me.

In general terms, I like the same tropes across all romance – friends to lovers, second chance at love and I love a good rescue. Except in an AU book, you won’t see marriage of convenience (I love MOC stories) in an m/m but most other tropes are available in both m/f and m/m and I’ve seen great examples of in both as well as awful ones.

Sirius: I happily glom books which deal with “from enemies to lovers” trope in any way, shape or form. The men do not even need to be full blown enemies – any kind of initial antipathy which transforms into friendship and love would do.   But as much as I love the books with the varieties of this trope, I will get cranky if the men are enemies on one pages and best buds and lovers on the second page. I think the main reason why I love this trope so much is because if it is well done, it provides me with tons of unresolved tension between the characters (sexual and otherwise) and I love it in my romances.  And if the change is done too fast, here goes my tension.  I think my favorite book which deals with this trope is Kei’s Gift by Ann Somerville. The leads are initially on the different sides of war, they are really and truly enemies as the book begins and at the end they are not and I completely believed in the change.  My other favoritebook with the variety of this trope (the men are not war time enemies in this book, but they certainly do not like each other much when the story begins) is The Only Gold by Tamara Allen. Otherwise I do not look for tropes when I pick up a m/m book – if the topic interests me here I come.

My least favorite trope – “rape him till he loves me”. With only a couple of exceptions where I thought the author managed to make me forgive the rapist, this trope almost never works for me, ever.

I am not a big fan of “Gay For You” either. I do not hate it and I even like a variety of this trope where the guy just repressed his feelings for men and  because he meets a guy whom he falls in love with, he is ready to acknowledge his feelings and admit that he is gay or bisexual (preferably bisexual). However “I meet you today and I never ever felt an inkling of attraction to men before and now I am gay” makes me roll my eyes. Recently I started a book where the guy seemed to turn gay after he read an erotic gay story written by the other guy. I did not continue reading that book.  I realize that all varieties of this trope are fantasy, but I guess when I read I can believe in some of those easier than in the others.

Willaful: My least favorite, because I’ve run into it so many times, is “We’re totally straight, really, but earning money by pretending to be gay for a porn site.” Some surprisingly good books use this plot, notably Hot Head by Damon Suede, but it’s just been done to death at this point.

I don’t think I have a favorite trope as of yet. Most of the wacky themes I love in m/f romance — convenient marriages, amnesia, revenge — aren’t common or likely in m/m. I also enjoy “second chance at love” stories, and I don’t think I’ve yet run into an m/m version. (Recommendations?)

But I enjoy the same general qualities in m/m as m/f. Heartbreak. Tenderness. Wit. Sincerity.

Sunita: Least favorite is Gay For You by a country mile, although I’m not very fond of Out For You either. I think few authors pull off the complexity of the issues for the person coming out in the latter, and the former is too often a shortcut way to signal The One True Love. If it’s well integrated into the story I’ll read it, but I’ve read so many that aren’t that I’m allergic at this point. Favorite is probably reunited lovers or relationship in trouble. I like reunited lovers in the m/m context because the good ones blend external and internal conflicts and take advantage of the idiosyncracies of same-sex relationships, and I always like relationship in trouble wherever I find it.

(4) Are there ways in which m/m romances are like m/f, and are there ways in which they are different, aside from the obvious?

Kaetrin: I think they are the same in many ways. Let’s face it, there’s not all that much that two guys can do sexually that a girl and a guy can’t do. Anal sex is not confined to m/m – it’s all over m/f.  The only thing I can really think of that is in m/f and that isn’t in m/m is a vagina.

I read across both genres and I want the same kinds of things from my m/m reading as my m/f .  I want well drawn characters, demonstrated courtship and intimacy, showing not telling, a HEA/HFN (mandatory).  While, on its face, in an m/m book both protagonists start off equal in terms of gender (I think this is not always true but more later) and in an m/f it could be said that they do not because of the patriarchal nature of our society, I think it’s a fallacy to suggest that there is no power differential.  When it comes down to it no two people have equal power in all things.  They have equal value. But power can be about class, employment, finances, race,culture, social structure, age, personality.  Ultimately, I think any book about a relationship between two people has, at its core, either explicitly or implicitly, an examination and negotiation of power dynamics.  And they will look different from book to book.  There are m/m romances where one partner is younger or less affluent or where one stays home and keeps the house – they have to negotiate their power both with the other protagonist as well as with the wider world. Because our society still sees many of these things as “weaker”.   I think that there can be a gender power differential between two gay men, particularly when one is more “traditionally masculine” and one is more “femme” (and the more I read, the less I like either term). I don’t think that our patriarchal society views a “femmy guy” in the same way as a “manly man”.

Typically of course, an  m/f books isn’t going to put homophobia and bigotry at the forefront of the story and queer romance (of any stripe) can and does (although not always). And in general terms, m/m isn’t going to explore feminism  or women’s issues terribly much.  But what I’ve learned from reading m/m romance is that  the difference between them and m/f is very often more about the individual characters than their gender identity.

Sirius: I feel significantly less well read in m/f romance than I am  in m/m (or some other genres), however especially in the last few years I have read at least some m/f books which I really enjoyed. So I decided that I will try to answer how the good ones are similar rather than different.  I mean the differences are of course based on the obvious difference – the issues of homophobia, coming out are not going to be addressed in m/f romance. Although I’ve noticed that some m/f romances now include secondary gay romances (The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter, for example). But these issues would not be present as a source of conflict for main couple in m/f romance.

Besides as I stated before, m/m for me had always been an umbrella term not just for m/m romances, but for mysteries, fantasy,  sci-fi which include a romantic storyline with two men falling in love (or being in love and saving the world, finding the murderer, etc.). This is a huge difference for me, because I do not believe that mysteries and fantasy with m/f romantic story are being included under romance necessarily.

But m/m *romance* where the central storyline is about the couple working through the initial pitfalls to form a relationship or trying to make their existing relationship better and getting their happy ending has a lot of similarities with m/f romance in my opinion. In several m/m romances that I have read one guy is really rich and another is either very poor, or just regular middle class on the lower part of middle scale. Mary Calmes’ books are great example of that. In “Frog” one guy is a rich doctor, and another poor cowboy, who is literally struggling to support himself and won’t agree for the other guy to support him financially, that is why he won’t agree to stay with him permanently.  In “Old Loyalty, New Love” one guy is a young billionaire and his love interest is his bodyguard. I think the power dynamics they have to work through are similar to m/f romances where the guy is a billionaire/millionaire, and falls in love with the woman from poor family. I read plenty of Barbara Cartland when I was young though and this is what I am reminded of when I read those stories.

Stories that I love most in m/m and m/f have the partners respecting each other, leaning on each other if needed, helping each other in tough situations. All the  books  I would have recommended to the reader who is a newcomer to m/m deal with it in a way I love – I would also add Jordan Castillo Price’ books to that mix. M/f books that I read last year that come to mind which have the power dynamics that I loved were the Chocolate series by Laura Florand.

Willaful: The largest difference I currently see between m/f and m/m romance is that m/m seems less constrained by traditional ideas about sexuality; without the outwardly imposed double standard coming into play, there’s less baggage (probably not no baggage) about what is and isn’t okay. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an m/m hero worried about whether he’s being slutty, for example, which is surprisingly common for heroines of erotic romance.

And of course, the type of plots available are somewhat different — though authors do sometimes use fantasy worlds as a way around that. I confess to having been unable to resist an m/m fated mates/forced marriage vampire story.

Other than that, I think most m/m romance is… romance. It focuses on love, intimacy, physical pleasure, and commitment, just as m/f romance does. It can be just as beautifully written or just as dismal.

Sunita: I think the ways in which they are same are in terms of the romance tropes deployed. You see most of the same ones across the two genres, or what I think of as ones that serve essentially the same purpose even if they look different (Gay For You is analogous to the Virgin Heroine, for example). In terms of difference, I think the biggest difference is that in m/m you have two people who are socialized to be in charge, but good relationships often require that authority be shared. Watching two (cis) people from the same side of the gender binary negotiate that sort of compromise is fascinating to me. I don’t find many books that explore this issue (or do it well), but the ones that succeed are among my favorites.

Readers, how about you? For those of you who read both, how do you compare reading m/m and m/f romances? For those that only read one, what types of books from the other genre are most likely to appeal to you, if any? What would you like to see more or less often?

 

Sunita has been reading romances almost as long as she has been reading. Her favorite genres these days are contemporary, category, and novels with romantic elements. She also reads SFF, mysteries, historical fiction, literary fiction, and the backs of cereal boxes.

107 Comments

  1. KT Grant
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 05:17:36

    J.L. Langley’s My Fair Captain, a Regency Sci-Fi, published in 2007 was my gateway book for M/M romance: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2403922.My_Fair_Captain?from_search=true

    I love this entire series and recommend any fan of M/M or new readers to M/M to read Langley. So, so good.

  2. Amanda
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 07:03:20

    I read both and have been reading m/m for about 5 or 6 years. I think what annoys me most about m/f is the inequality that occurs within the relationship. For me it seems that at the start of the relationship the man has more power. From m/m I want to see more fantasy world building, like from the Ginn Hale books that are mentioned. And from both m/m and m/f I would like to see less sex. Sex is great but some of my favorite books are listed in this article and most of them are books with only a few love scenes.

  3. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 07:39:08

    One of the reasons I read more m/m than m/f is that I’m HIGHLY allergic to alphaholes, and I find a lot fewer of them in m/m.

    And I guess it’s possible that I’m less sensitive to gender dynamics in m/m because I’m not male… when I read an alphahole in m/f romance, I get angry on behalf of myself and all women and start thinking about social issues and inequality in the real world and how will things ever get better if… etc. In m/m, if I encounter a man who’s controlling and overly dominant with his love interest, I seem to be able to just dislike that one individual character, without setting myself off on an internal rant about the real world.

    Not an intellectually sophisticated reaction, probably, but it’s something I’ve noticed about my reading.

  4. Keishon
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 07:42:54

    I read both but I haven’t read very many. The first book for me was a good one and jmc recommended it – Bad Case of Loving You by Laney Cairo about a doctor and a med student who fall in love. There’s a story , great characterization, hot sex and a doctor’s strike.

  5. Isobel Carr
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:13:23

    I’ve been trying to expand my “auto buy” author list to include m/m (I have two authors so far: Alexis Hall [who seems to have mostly moved on to f/f PNR stuff, and I’m not a big PNR reader] and Heidi Cullinan). So I’m currently filling my Kindle with samples (I’ll be adding all the ones rec’d here that I haven’t already tried). My most recent request for recs was 1) No gay for you, 2) No books where being gay/coming out is the big hurdle/problem.

    Mostly, I just want a good love story with great writing and interesting characters. I don’t really care if said characters are m/f, m/m, f/f, or some combo there of. (also, I’m not big on first person pov; the writing has to be STELLAR for me to read a first person romance).

  6. hapax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:14:14

    I came to m/m from reading yaoi manga, and I like m/m for all the ways it *isn’t* like a typical yaoi: m/m is much less likely to have the stylized semme/uke dynamic, weird gender fetishes (no, gay men are not all transvestites or vice versa), rape-y encounters, underage (and quasi-incestuous) sexual relationships, and ubiquitous plot-irrelevant sex.

    (on the other hand, yaoi seems LESS likely to indulge in the “Evil Woman Is Evil” trope, although the Sassy Straight Girl Best Friend is omnipresent!)

    Of course, it’s very likely that I’ve just been luckier in the m/m I’ve read (most of the recommended books in the post) than in the yaoi, and I must emphasize that not all yaoi has the distressing tropes I highlighted (suggestions if anyone wants them).

    So it’s kind of ironic that I’m now interested in seeking out m/m that *does* have that yaoi vibe (dunno if I’d like it, just curious).

    Oh, and as I’ve said before, I don’t mind GFY if it’s presented well (really, as said above, Out For You) because there are so few truly “transgressive” relationships available in contemporary romance (well, I suppose there’s still adultery and pedophilia, but my reaction there is NOPE NOPE NOPE!)

  7. Isobel Carr
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:48:54

    @hapax: Gay for you always makes me think of Archer and The Wind Cries Mary.

  8. Sandra
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:57:30

    Can I just say how much I love Adrien English?

    I read quite a bit of slash fanfic at one time, and when ebooks first started becoming available, downloaded almost everything I could find that was FREE, and that included a lot of m/m. Quality, as might be expected, was variable. I’ve become much more selective since then. But ARe offered “Death of a Pirate King” during their Christmas freebie promotion a couple years ago. I’d seen a lot of good reviews for Josh Lanyon but hadn’t read any of his stuff. I got hooked and went on a Lanyon glom. Now, he’s on my auto-buy list, even though I don’t read much m/m these days.

  9. Sirius
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:00:53

    @Amanda: I am curious whether you see more “equality” in the relationships in m/m than in m/f. Thanks :).
    I personally definitely like the dynamics where both partners (or the guys just figuring out if they want to be in the relationships) do not have rigidly fixed roles and help each other dealing with whatever issues arise for them. I like when one guy does not need rescuing *all the effing time* and instead they rescue each other. I like when they are figuring out when each one of them is better qualified to take the lead in the relationship and then they would switch. I had read books like that, but even in my favorite books lots of couples do not start “equal”. Money issues, class issues, even looks issues – all of that IMO often shows one party as less equal than another.

    The dynamics between two men are often different than between man and woman, sure (even though all of us I am sure read the books where humongous alpha guy takes care of a tiny damaged one all the time – and to me this mirrors the dynamics of the worst m/f romances which I swore off years ago ), but to me this does not necessarily the same as “equality” in the relationship. I just read it as a different kind of “unequality”

  10. Sirius
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:11:22

    To clarify – my very favorite dynamics between the couple (even though I will read all kinds) are the ones which occur in “Whistling in the Dark”. There is no alphahole, or just alpha of any kind, just two men, who have some problems and who slowly but surely realize that they cannot live without each other. Jack helps Sutton at some point in the story. Sutton helps Jack. They are both equally important for the story and the relationship, but I am still not sure if this counts as complete “equality” in the relationship, you know.

  11. cleo
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:38:22

    My first two m/m romances were Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton and Collision Course by KA Mitchell, and I think that was 2 years ago. Josh Lanyon was another early read.

    The first book I read in any genre with a gay male romance was probably the sf novel China Mountain Zhang, sometime in the 90s.

    I have to say that I picked up my first couple m/m with great skepticism (as a bi woman I was skeptical of both the idea of women writing gay men and of giving up my heroines). But I was hooked pretty quickly – like Kate Sherwood, I really, really hate alphahole romance heroes and they’re much less common in mm than mf.

  12. Caro
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:55:02

    @Sandra: Okay, I checked out the blurb for “Death of a Pirate King” and I’ve now got a sample sitting on my Kindle app. It sounds interesting.

    Like you, I first encountered m/m via slash fanfic. Actually, I’m old enough that it was the early days of K/S, and I read a lot, enough that I learned early on that m/m isn’t necessarily something I’m going to seek out as a genre. But a well written story is a well written story and one of things I enjoy about the m/m fiction I do read is that because the dynamics are different between two men that m/f, I find I’m less able to predict how reactions are going to go.

  13. Caro
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:03:37

    @Caro: Adding — and I find discussions like this invaluable because since I don’t seek out m/m, I must rely on recommendations for books folks think are superior.

  14. Sirius
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:08:57

    @Caro: Just to be clear – “Death of the pirate king” is the book four in Adrien English five book series. You won’t miss much on mystery plot, because they are separate for each book, but you will miss a lot about the character dynamics between Jake and Adrien and couple of other people :). Having said that, the only books I do reread on the regular basis are books four and five. I think book one and two are necessary for the series, but I am not as enamored by them. I think book three is fantastic, but some upsetting developments happen that I am not keen on rereading (relationships wise) and book four and five I have as comfort rereads.

  15. Michele Mills
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:24:41

    @Isobel Carr:Kaetrin told me to read Blessed Isle by Alex Beecroft (historical!), which I did, and she was right, it was terrific. The writing is exquisite, the setting is historically accurate and the conflict is heartbreaking. I really think you’d like it Isobel :)

  16. Sunita
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:32:33

    @Keishon: Oh, I forgot about that book, thanks for the reminder! I also picked it up on jmc’s recommendation, I think, and it’s a favorite. A lot of my recommendations have come from her.

    @hapax: Could you say more about why you find Gay4U/Out4U “transgressive?” Because I have the opposite reaction: to me it’s about saying “I’m not gay in the identity sense, I’m just in love.” Which is fine, I suppose, it happens, but it feels like a way to avoid larger societal questions and individual coming-out issues. And it’s so prevalent in the m/m genre that it makes me feel as if we’re sidestepping an important part of the gay experience in our reading.

  17. Sunita
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:34:03

    @Kate Sherwood: I think that’s a really good point. Women stand in for women readers (I don’t mean in the self-insertion sense) and maybe we take their flaws or difficulties more personally. Whereas with male characters, what the character is doesn’t necessarily stand in for more general male behavior.

  18. Lou Harper
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:06:20

    Thank you for the insightful and well-balanced article.

    I can’t say I’ve ever read m/f romance, although I’ve read romantic stories like Jane Austen’s. As much as I like Austen, the heroine’s limited scope of action has always been a source of frustration. Basically, they spend large chunks of the story waiting. I know it’s historically accurate, but still frustrating.

    Of course, I could read contemporary romance to avoid this issue. I think my avoidance of het romance comes from the fact that I’m unable to identify with traditionally feminine characters. The heroines I identify with take names, kick ass, and don’t wear high heels or makeup. However, those characters don’t lend themselves well to romance.

    The power dynamics you guys mentioned is also a major issue for me. I agree there are power issues in m/m as well, but I feel they come from a different place. The characters weaker/stronger because of who they are, not because of their gender. And even then it’s not always clear-cut. The Adrien English series is an excellent example for this. Adrien is seemingly the weaker character, certainly is physically, while Jake is the big alpha male. However, Adrien has an inner strength and stubbornness that make him stronger than Jake.

    In real life an aggressive, authoritative man is called and go-getter and is revered. A woman acting the same way is a harpy and a bitch. It’s hard to escape this even in fiction.

  19. Willaful
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:13:12

    @Lou Harper: I don’t think you’re alone in your feelings, and there are books out there… the first recommendation off the top of my head is the In Death series, which features a very tough female main character who’s extremely uncomfortable with the traditional trappings of femininity. (Some readers don’t like the way her lover occasionally takes over and dresses her up, but she’s still essentially the same person; it’s part of their give-and-take, IMO.)

    An even better recommendation might be Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook, which features a heroine so strong, the hero is exasperated that he never, ever gets to rescue her.

  20. HJ
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:17:24

    I’m very pleased with the recommendations you’ve made for m/m, which include several of my favourites. I won’t repeat them all. but do agree that Tigers and Devils is an excellent first m/m romance. Josh Lanyon is my all-time favourite; I love the Adrien English series but there are an awful lot of other really good books by him, too. I saw mention of Harper Fox; I would suggest that, like Josh Lanyon, she can do no wrong and every book of hers is well worth reading. Similarly, I was pleased to see mention of Joanna Chambers’s Enlightened trilogy — many lovers of historical fiction worry that a happy ending in m/m is almost impossible because of the severe penalties in the past, but this trilogy achieves it convincingly.

    As well as Harper and Joanna, there are a number of excellent British m/m writers, many of whom you’ve mentioned (e.g. J.L. Merrow and Alex Beecroft). I would add Josephine Myles for contemporaries with very real British dialogue and Charlie Cochrane for mysteries set in the early 20th century and starring two Cambridge University fellows.

    Sirius is right, however: much depends on what the reader really likes. There are a lot of fantasy/paranormal m/m books and because I don’t like that I can’t say which are good. However, Jordan Castillo Price receives rave reviews from everybody! I like mysteries and historicals, so I know more about them.

    Some slightly more unusual m/m books which I love are by Ben Monopoli: The Cranberry Hush and The Painting of Porcupine City. I also like Jay Bell’s Seasons or Something Like series, starting with Something Like Summer and moving through Winter, Autumn and then Spring.

  21. cs
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:23:34

    Wow looking at the books you all started on shows me how long I’ve been reading M/M. Scary.

    For me I enjoy all tropes I think the problem relates to authors not attempting to make them original. I suppose that’s the same in any genre and not closed off to M/M fiction.

    One thing I’d definitely like to see is more bisexual characters. Not I’m bisexual and we forget that aspect because I’m with a man. It would be great to see an author really get into that aspect.

    Evil!Women in M/M is disgusting. 95% (not fact) females write this genre what is wrong with them? I see rather than less.

    I love G4Y but as you said very few writers actually write the complexity of the situation. I watched a video about a guy (whose now with his boyfriend) didn’t identify as being gay or bisexual, and happened to fall in love with him. I believe that some people may mock or disagree etc etc, but there are stories out there and it’s not a fantasy based element. Not for me anyway.

    Tigers and Devils is a fantastic book. Sean Kennedy should write more and faster because he’s a splendid writer :)

  22. Caro
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:33:47

    @Sirius: Thanks for the heads up. I’ll give the sample a try and if I like the style, I’ll go check out Book 1. That happens a lot — I read a sample for a book later in a series and then go back and buy the beginning.

  23. Janine
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 12:46:37

    Great roundtable! I loved reading it.

    Readers, how about you? For those of you who read both, how do you compare reading m/m and m/f romances? For those that only read one, what types of books from the other genre are most likely to appeal to you, if any? What would you like to see more or less often?

    I’m not well read enough in m/m to say what tropes I prefer or don’t. I wouldn’t say that I read only one, but even though I’ve enjoyed some m/m books a great deal, I’m much more likely to pick up an m/f romance, and although at the moment the historical romance genre isn’t thriving, in the past that book has been most likely to be a (hopefully smart) historical m/f romance.

    As for why, it has at least in part to do with the same reason others shy away from reading m/f. I’m deeply interested in how men and women negotiate gender-based inequality. Of course, the problem of sexism still exists today, but somehow seeing women triumph (at least in their personal relationships) in an earlier era is all the more satisfying to me because gender inequality was even worse back then.

    That hasn’t translated to reading historical m/m, even though of course gay men faced even worse discrimination in the past (including in some places and times, the threat of execution). I think I’ve yet to pick a historical m/m precisely because of that. Having relatives who had to hide who they were to escape death during the World War II era makes it hard to want to read about someone else who faces the same plight. Still, a big part of me would love to find the courage to read a historical m/m, and I would love to get some recommendations for those.

    And while I’m asking for recs, are there any good historical f/f novels out there that people can recommend? Besides Sarah Waters’ books?

    Also, I haven’t come across many bisexual characters in romance outside of erotica or erotic romance, and I’d really love to read some romances in which bisexuality isn’t treated like it’s mainly there for sexual kicks. Can anyone recommend a romance (either m/m, m/f or f/f) with a bisexual hero or heroine that isn’t an erotic book?

  24. Willaful
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:00:22

    @Janine: I reviewed a book with a bi male character: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-reviews/review-the-dom-project-by-heloise-belleausolace-ames/

    It is an erotic romance, but I don’t think the bisexual aspects are for kicks.

    I would definitely recommend Alex Beecroft for historicals. Several of her books are set in less common periods where homosexuality was regarded in a different way (though not necessarily positively) and those might be easier for you to deal with. Her “age of sail” books are set during the period where hiding is necessary, but she pulls it off, IMO. They’re all good, but Blessed Isle would probably be the one to start with.

  25. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:08:08

    @Janine: I’m not too widely read in the genre, but I really liked the Enlightenment series by Joanne Chambers. It’s set in Scotland in the early 19th century. There is an element of having to hide because they’re gay, but there’s also a lot of class issues addressed, interesting characters, and a good plot, too.

    Set just a little earlier (I think… when the hell WERE the Napoleonic wars?) is A Minor Inconvenience by Sarah Granger, and I really enjoyed it, too!

    Neither of these works is a sex-fest, but there’s heat that comes from the characterization, for sure. I really liked both of them.

  26. Janine
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:14:49

    @Willaful: Thanks. I’ll check those out.

    @Kate Sherwood: I always remember the timeframe of the Napoleonic Wars by thinking of it as concurrent with our War of 1812. More precisely, Wikipedia says they took place from 1803 until 1815.

    Neither of these works is a sex-fest, but there’s heat that comes from the characterization, for sure.

    That sounds right up my alley. I love it when the heat comes from the characterization, but I’m not looking for sex-fests right now, and I’d especially like to see a bisexual character portrayed in a book that isn’t one.

  27. hapax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:16:38

    @Sunita:

    Could you say more about why you find Gay4U/Out4U “transgressive?”

    Hmm, maybe “transgressive” isn’t the right word? There is a certain trope of “crossing boundaries” in historical / paranormal romances, of love that Just Doesn’t Happen: most usual with class in historicals, sometimes across ethnicities / races / cultures, often with species in PNRs and SFR (e.g., the main romance in Psy / Changeling) — it isn’t an Impossible Love in the sense that it’s tragic or socially disapproved, it’s something considered just not possible… yet there it is, it happened!

    And that’s sort of what I get out of GFY. It (usually) isn’t about “this is shameful” or “the world will never accept this”, it’s about “Uh, how the heck did this HAPPEN?” And that’s a trope that for some reason punches my buttons.

    I’ll cop to it being a guilty pleasure, and one that I’m not particularly proud of. I’m well aware that it takes the experience of real live people (including some of my dearest friends) and “other”-izes it (is there a word for that? Maybe “fetishizes”, altho that’s not quite it) for my entertainment.

    But at the same time, I’ll own it; when it’s done well (like, oh, Tere Michaels’ FAITH AND FIDELITY), it’s like catnip to me.

  28. cleo
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:23:05

    @Janine – for historical f/f, I liked Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller. It was published in the late 60s, iirc, and not as genre romance, but it’s a lovely, slow romance between two women in 19th C upstate NY.

    For bi romance that’s not erotic romance – I’ve read a few that I can recommend (with caveats). Dynama by Ruth Diaz – f/f with a bi Latina single mother who’s also a super hero. It was reviewed here and at SBTB. I thought it was fun, I liked the characterization of the bi character, but the plot was a bit weak.

    For m/m, Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane has a bi hero who stays friends with his ex girlfriend, but it’s such an ott angsty id fest that I can’t recommend it without a lot of caveats. Promises by Marie Sexton, which I love, has a hero who reads as bi, but never actually identifies as bi. LA Witt’s written several mm with matter of factly bi heroes (Conduct Unbecoming is the one I can think of) but her books have so much sex they might count as erotica. Ymmv.

    The only m/f I can think of is Butterfly Tattoo. The hero is bi – although he doesn’t identify as bi, others identify him that way. His (male) partner was killed in a car accident and he’s raising their daughter. I enjoyed the romance between him and a former actress, but I really, really disliked that he was closeted at work. So I can’t give that one an unqualified rec either.

  29. Janine
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:41:46

    @cleo: I read Butterfly Tattoo and thought it was terrific. I’ll check out the others. Patience and Sarah sounds especially interesting since I used to live in upstate NY and that area has some fascinating history.

    I appreciate the recs very much, but I hope more people weigh in on Sunita’s question, too. I’d love to hear what others want more and less of in m/m, and how they compare it to m/f.

  30. cleo
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:45:21

    @Janine – fwiw, another f/f historical that I have on my wish list but haven’t read yet is Taming the Wolff by Del Robertson, about a cross dressing female pirate captain who falls for a high born woman she captures and holds for ransom.

  31. Sirius
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 13:50:55

    @Janine: This probably not exactly what your cup of tea, because as far as I remember there is enough of “erotic” in this romance, but I still recommend it if for nothing else then for a different than the usual treatment of male bisexual character in m/m romance. And by usual I mean that even if he identifies as bisexual (which I do not see nearly enough as I would have wanted to), his attraction to women is all but forgotten.

    The book is called “Second chance Sam” by Bren Christopher.

  32. Marianne McA
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:01:49

    Janine, I’ve just read KJ Charles’ new book ‘Think of England’, which is set in 1904, and really enjoyed it.
    In general, while I do read some m/m it’s a bit like reading Alistair McLean or something – it’s fun from time to time but I find I miss having women in the story.

  33. Treasure
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:12:31

    My first m/m books were free down loads from Amazon, it was Josh Lanyons that really showed off the genre and what it could be. So I do recommend the Adrien English series as a good starting point.

    For me the first few books I read didn’t have that birth secret from a teenage one night stand trope that I was seeing way too often in m/f romances. It was a very welcome break to find the OTP falling in live w/o drippy toddlers or sullen teens in tow

    If you are looking for something more historical and less romance Diana Gabaldon has a decent mystery series the Lord John books. No real romance or sex and the mysteries are decent

  34. Sirius
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:31:25

    @Lou Harper: Have you tried Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews? This is UF series with a strong romantic elements and while UF is never going away, romance gets bigger and bigger presence in each book. Kate and Curran managed pretty much get me back to at least reading some m/f romance in hopes to find a couple which would excite me as much as they do. Curran *is* an alpha male but I would argue that Kate is an alpha female and can kick back when Curran crosses the line as much as she can . I would say though that usually I never doubt that Curran respects her a lot, not just loves her. Must stop, I can sing praises to these series forever.

  35. Kate McMurray
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:36:45

    Thanks, roundtable, for a great discussion. So many good recs here.

    I also came to gay romance via Brockmann and then the Adrien English series. I read m/m and m/f in equal parts these days. I’m glad someone made the point that these are not as different as they are generally perceived to be. I don’t view LGBT romance as a genre; it’s a sub-category or niche, like multicultural. Romance is romance. Gay romance deploys a lot of the same tropes, structures, ideas that het romance does. To my mind, it’s mostly that the gender politics are different.

    One of the things that has irked me somewhat about the recent articles about gay romance is that they treat the “Why do women read/write gay romance?” as if there would be a monolithic response. But ask a dozen readers or writers what they like about gay romance and you’ll get a dozen different answers. (Or, for example, a couple of weeks ago, a reader told me she didn’t like m/m because she liked to insert herself into the stories she read as the heroine. If there was no heroine, she couldn’t do that. I thought that was really interesting. And totally valid. Readers read differently. Although you all probably knew that.)

    I’ve been really selective about what I read lately, sticking mostly with my autobuy authors and enthusiastic recommendations from friends, so I haven’t been noticing trends as well as more astute readers have. I avoid the same tropes in m/m as I do in m/f, though. I’m not sure I can speak to what I’d like to see less of, and anyway, one person’s NO NEVER STOP IT is another’s catnip.

    But I would like to see more gay historicals! I love historical romance. They gay historicals I have read have been pretty good across the board. Maybe there’s a limited audience and/or authors are afraid to tackle them, but if you put a gay historical romance out there, you have one sale for sure. *raises hand* (I second the recs for KJ Charles and Joanna Chambers, two authors of recent gay historical romance that I really enjoyed. And Tamara Allen. And Alex Beecroft. And the Bonnie Dee/Summer Devon collaborations, most recently The Gentleman’s Madness. I really liked Heidi Cullinan’s A Private Gentleman too.)

    For f/f recs, I like Ann McMan. She writes funny contemporaries.

  36. etv13
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:42:44

    I read a bunch in a cluster, and I can’t remember exactly which was first. They were False Colors, by Alex Beecroft, Bound and Determined, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow, and Dark Heart, by Thom Lane. There was also a category-like one about a mechanic and a rich guy named Lawrence, but I don’t remember the author or title. (I got it as an e-book before I had my Kindle, and read it on my computer — not an easy way to read!) I also read Uneven and Remastering Jerna pretty early. A lot of the m/m I read when I was first reading it featured some kink, and that seems to have dropped off quite a bit. I don’t know if that’s just a change in my reading habits or a change in what’s getting published or reviewed.

    Josh Lanyon, J.L. Merrow, and Harper Fox are all auto-buys for me (except that for some reason, I seem to be resisting Brothers of the Wild North Sea). Muscling Through is one of my comfort reads, and I love the two featuring the psychic plumber, Pressure Head and Relief Valve. I also like a lot of Z.A. Maxfield, who is also an auto-buy for me, but it may be that some of the attraction of them for me is that many of them are set where I live, in Orange County.

    I don’t really think in terms of tropes, but I do hate it when the only woman in view is Evil, and I think the author’s treatment of the mentally ill ex-wife in K.A. Mitchell’s Not Knowing Jack is a serious flaw in that book.

  37. harthad
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:49:31

    @Janine: John, Henry’s love interest in Rag and Bone identifies as bisexual. The book isn’t a romance (and the sex is mostly offstage), but it does spend a lot of time on relationships of various kinds, and John is a strong, smart character. Because this is the last of a series (the Henry Rios mysteries), I wouldn’t start with it; its emotional payoff would be kind of lost if you weren’t familiar with Henry’s personal and professional trajectory in the previous books.

  38. Ridley
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:50:38

    @Janine: I really, really enjoyed The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin by Colette Moody, which was a f/f pirate romp, and I liked Innocent Hearts by Radclyffe, which was a western f/f.

    I don’t read much m/m, because of a bunch of reasons, but I did like the Alex Beecroft Age of Sail book I read but forget the title of. It wasn’t False Colors, it was another one.

  39. jmc
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 15:36:00

    @Janine: F/F historical recommendation: Michelle Martin’s Pembroke Park, a f/f Regency that has generally gotten good word of mouth. It’s older — I’m not sure Martin is publishing any longer or if it has been converted to an ebook — but I found a copy at Paperbackswap.com (which I promptly put on Mt. TBR).

  40. Julia
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 16:18:53

    I read both m/m and m/f, but I tend to stick to very different sub genres in both. In m/f I’ve been mostly a historical reader, but I don’t usually read m/m historicals because it’s too hard to get a realistic HEA (although I have read some great ones like Joanna Chambers’ series). In m/m I mostly read contemporaries, but I can’t stand m/f contemporaries because most of them have conflicts that are too close to the conflicts I have in my real life, and I read for fun, not to rehash all my own problems in my head.

    Despite reading such different sub genres, I’m still looking for the same things in m/m and m/f romance – character development and growth, intimacy between the characters, and a balanced partnership.

  41. cleo
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 17:29:55

    I tend to go for the same sorts of romances no matter the genders involved – I like romances where the h/h have to work for their hea and I especially like it when they rescue each other back.

    I think a lot of mm has an emotional quality – a grab you by the heart and don’t let go approach that makes some mm addictive book crack. I don’t know if that’s part of the fan fic legacy. Sometimes I enjoy that but sometimes it’s too much for my taste.

    I’m not a fan of the super broken men trope, at least when it’s done badly (IMO at least). I love it when two damaged characters help each other heal or come to terms with their past, but I’m not a fan of trauma piled on top of past trauma, seemingly just to add character, then magically cured with true love and or hot sex, and there seems to be a lot of that in mm. (Also NA, but I don’t read that much).

    I dislike gay for you for the reasons Sunita mentioned, plus bi erasure – and viscerally, I just don’t get it (similar to how I visercerally don’t get vampire romances).

  42. Ducky
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 18:03:04

    I really enjoyed Mary Renault (both her contemporary novels and historical ones) when I was a teen and I read some good m/m fan fic some years ago. The last several years I was sticking mostly to m/f romance. Recently I thought I should read some m/m again but since I read that awful AAR blog post with those hateful quotes about women and from women I admit I am turned off the m/m for now.

  43. Sunita
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 19:07:35

    @etv13: On kink: I think it does still get reviewed, but much less here at DA since SarahF moved on to be an editor. I rarely read it and I don’t think Sirius reads that much of it either. And the m/m review space is more fragmented now since Jessewave’s site closed. There are plenty of sites, though, and reading Goodreads reviews of m/m will help you sort through them if you’re interested.

  44. Willaful
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 19:29:10

    Unfortunately, I think our tastes as reviewers in this genre are very similar — which isn’t really surprising, since DA probably turned me on to most of the m/m authors I read. I used to be more adventurous about trying new authors, but after being burned quite often, I’ve started clinging to the familiar.

    There are some excellent groups for m/m fans on GoodReads.

  45. PeggyL
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 21:19:51

    Truthfully, I haven’t read much m/m and haven’t quite understood its popularity over the last few years–until this thread, that is.

    I suppose I could explain my own lukewarm response to this genre: I’m first and foremost a hero-centric romance reader and although I have zero tolerance in real-life alphahole-ness, I tend to be a lot more lenient towards such behaviour in fiction (as long as major grovelling is involved at some point, hopefully not too late, like, in the end). So when same sexes (including f/f) are in a story, I’d get a bit distracted/confused in assigning which lead as the “alpha” or otherwise. Or, are they supposed to be equal?

    I even tried a few menage-a-trois-themed books. But they weren’t satisfying in the sense that the two same-sex characters usually do not engage that much, in or out of bedroom. And the emotional aspect is generally lacking (for me anyway).

    So, I shall bookmark this thread and its recommendations for future reference. In fact, I’m sure some are already in my TBR-mount.

  46. Kaetrin
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 23:33:48

    @Sunita: I’m interested in your comments about Gay for You/Out for You. I tend to the latter these days rather than the former. But the majority of the Out for You books I’ve read in the past year or so are where one character has had same sex attraction but previously hasn’t identified as bi or gay. Then they meet the person who makes coming out a step they want to take. So I don’t read it as “I’m not gay, I’m just in love”. (I’m sure there are books like that; I’m just not reading them these days.)

    I read an Out For You book recently where the character basically says that he’d been attracted to both sexes in the past and it was just “easier” to have relationships and sex with women. But when he meets the hero of the book, he decides (over time) that “easier” isn’t enough anymore. And I figure that happens – possibly much more in fiction than in real life (in the same way that there were only 27 Dukes in England during the Regency but you wouldn’t know that from reading romance).

    So, for me, that’s what I’m reading for when I’m reading Out for You books. That emotional tipping point where the “reward” outweighs the “risk”. That may well be only a subset of Out for You books I guess, but they’re the ones I enjoy reading.

  47. Kaetrin
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 23:50:16

    @PeggyL: I’m a hero-centric reader too and I think that’s part of why I like m/m romance so much. I don’t really think about who’s in charge in a relationship – I figure it’s like most relationships, there are times when one partner takes the lead because they are skilled in a particular area/have the time/inclination etc and other times when the other takes the lead. I don’t think “equal” in this sense means “identical”, rather, “having the same value”.

    As to menage, it sounds like you might prefer m/m/f menage rather than m/f/m menage. The code there means that there is sexual/romantic attraction between the guys as well as each guy and the girl. You might like Tea for Three by Anne Douglas, Hotter than Ever by Elle Kennedy, Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson, The Submission Gift by Solace Ames or Laid Bare by Lauren Dane. They’re all m/m/f menages.

  48. Rachel
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 00:04:32

    In m/f there is often (but not always) the ‘when will she say yes to sex’ aspect of the plot, and often (but not always) in m/m the sex is a given and the plot is really about the creation of a relationship, which is the romance for me – though now I’ve written this, I realise it’s just a reworking of your power dynamic comments with smaller words :) But at the moment I really like sci fi and fantasy m/m. I haven’t found a lot of it, I really like Claiming Tails by Lyn Gala. Kaje Harper and Megan Derr do fantasy m/m, some of it is ok, some is churned out, but I like the idea that m/m is equally viable as a dynastic marriage, etc, in these worlds.

  49. Linette
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 00:11:46

    Interesting discussion. I was introduced to gay fiction through Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner. But while I loved the protagonists, the ending depressed me so I stayed away from gay romance for a while and stuck to m/f romance. I returned to m/m by way of yaoi manga and slash fan fiction which then rekindled my interest in m/m books. I was lucky because the first books I read were Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and Jordan Castillo Pryce’s Psy-Cop series. They convinced me to continue reading in this genre. The timing was also perfect because I was getting pretty tired of the repetitive nature of most m/f romances. I guess all the sweet and naive virgins and feisty TSTL heroines not to mention arrogant, know it all, too perfect to believe alpha heroes had started to turn me off.

    That’s not to say m/m doesn’t have its share if analogous characters but there are less of them. And unless an author is obviously writing “chicks with dicks” the power imbalances in m/m lie more in the social, political or economic differences between the protagonists rather than in gender and physical strength which I find more interesting to read about.

    My most recent foray into the genre steps a bit outside the box. Chronicles of Ylandre is a fantasy romance series set in a sort of Rennaissance-medievalish world which is peopled by male hermaphrodites. I thought I’d find it too weird for my taste especially if it was anything like The Wraeththu Chronicles. But to my surprise I got hooked and now look forward to each new installment.

  50. Susan
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 00:54:00

    I guess the appeal of m/m for me is the escape, the sense of “other” outside of my direct personal experience. Sorta like why I prefer historical m/f over contemporaries. Sometimes I just need to pack my mental bags and go far away from my life. (If this makes sense.)

    I was surprised to see how many of the books mentioned that I’d either read or have in the TBR mountain. (Never enough time!) But I have clicked on a couple that I’d had languishing on my wish list, so I’m going to keep checking back for other recs. (Thank you, everyone.)

    I think pretty much any of Josh Lanyon’s books would top my list, particularly the Adrien English series. Jordan Castillo Price’s Psy Cop series is another fave. And, altho it’s a fantasy series rather than romance, I love Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner books for so many reasons, not least of which is the relationship between Alec and Seregil.

    Thanks for the post, Sunita.

  51. Susan
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 01:02:13

    @Ducky: Now that you mention it, I guess Mary Renault was my introduction to m/m many years ago before I even knew there was such a thing as an m/m genre. Or even before I knew much about m/m relationships at all. But I loved historical fiction so it was inevitable that I’d eventually read her books. The Persian Boy, in particular, just about broke my heart back then (and still does a bit now).

    (I wrote another post, but I got flagged as a spammer.)

  52. Kaetrin
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 01:04:38

    @Susan: I fished it out for you :)

  53. PeggyL
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 03:12:33

    @Kaetrin: Thank you so much for your recs. :)

  54. Sunita
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 09:07:51

    @hapax: Ah, OK, now I get it, thanks! I can totally understand that, and what you’re describing does make it slightly different from the “virgin heroine” trope in m/f, except insofar as the plots choose to rely on the One True Love scenario (which they don’t always). In the right hands it can work for me even though part of me feels as if I’m reading a whitewashing of the real experience. And the Tere Michaels book is a perfect example.

    @Kaetrin: I agree that the reward > risk scenario is a common theme in Out4U books, and I don’t have quite as much trouble with them as I do most Gay4U books (the latter often have no engagement at all with gay identity per se, or the issues of being gay in the larger environment). I think my problem with the Out4U setup is that most of the men I’ve known avoid someone who is just coming out of the closet, because they have so many issues to work through. It’s somewhat analogous to ending a relationship or coming out of rehab or having some other big life change and deciding the person who helped you through it is the One. Maybe he or she is but maybe they’re your Transitional Person. So I have trouble suspending disbelief.

    Maybe as same-sex relationships become more accepted in societies, gay identity will become weaker (certainly it’s changing somewhat across generations now). Which is its own issue, of course, but I don’t see the books engaging that seriously either, so overall I just find them unsatisfactory.

    But I totally get that it can be an enjoyable trope, if you can treat erasing parts of gay life as equivalent to erasing parts of historical class relations to create hundreds of dukes. We do stuff like that all the time as romance readers and writers, and everyone has their own bright lines.

  55. Fara
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 11:16:23

    I want to ‘ditto’ those who have said this is an awesome roundtable – it is. Like several of you (Caro, particularly) I come to M/M by way of slash fanfic (I, too, remember K/S and I write in fandom still), and to be honest, romance is less my preference than other genres (mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, historical) with m/m relationships (perhaps what I mean is a balance of the relationship against other elements). I started with slash fanfic but also sought out as much other gay or m/m writing as I could find: Mary Renault, of course (her Alexander series is still among my favorites), Marian Zimmer Bradley’s “Catch Trap” (I offer up reluctantly in the wake of the news about her), “China Mountain Zhang”, and others.

    I know most of the names mentioned here though some of them I haven’t yet taken a shot at, so I thank you all for the wonderful recs!

  56. Janine
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 11:35:52

    @Sunita: I also really appreciated Hapax’s explanation of why the trope appealed to her; it makes me understand better why it’s so popular. What you say about “out for you” being akin to getting into a relationship while coming out of rehab or another big life change makes a lot of sense to me. I think sometimes by focusing so much on the romance, the genre does a disservice to other issues that the characters would have to deal with.

    Thanks to everyone for the recs, too.

  57. cleo
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 12:14:07

    @Janine: one more bi hero recommendation – Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon, if you haven’t already read it. It’s one of my favorite Lanyon’s – great 1940s LA setting, and one of the heroes is bi, although of course they don’t use that term.

    @Sunita: I also have trouble suspending disbelief about heas in gay4you and out4you – I don’t expect first relationships out of the closet to last irl (although I’m sure some do).

  58. JPeK
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 14:33:27

    I first began intentionally seeking out m/m novels (romance, sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, erotic, mystery/thriller, or any combination of the above) about 3 years ago. I like diversity in my reading and discovering books that feature 2 (at minimum!) male leads with some sort of romantic/erotic relationship between them was a happy moment in my reading life. It’s hard to recall the first few, but Brockmann’s was among them.

    I like reading from the male perspective in m/m, partly because it’s relatively different from my lived experience (I’m a woman, grew up with 5 sisters, no brothers, have way more female friends than male, etc). In particular, I like seeing how two men negotiate a romantic relationship, partly because I read so many f/m romances during the decade-plus before I began reading m/m.

    And I agree that one of my most despised tropes is the evil-woman trope. I don’t automatically have a problem with gay4u or out4u tropes; it just depends on the execution of the trope in the story. I am tired of the gay4pay stuff I was seeing all the time awhile back. (/Hothead/ is an example of an author taking a potentially annoying trope and turning it into a really enjoyable story — there are always exceptions!) Also, I don’t have a problem with m/m sex scenes, but I absolutely want them to add something to the story (e.g., character and/or plot development) … though that’s equally true in f/m or f/f books. :)

    More than anything, I like how m/m and f/f books open up more possibilities, in so many areas (I.e., not just the romantic or sexual sense).

  59. JPeK
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 14:49:31

    I thoughtfully typed up a pretty thorough response on my Kindle Fire, but lost it all when I hit submit, and I’m way too lazy to type it again. So, my short version: I love how m/m and f/f books add to my reading options. I’m all about diversity (in characters, genres, tropes, and so on). I first began intentionally seeking these books out about three years ago. Brockmann’s books (go Jules!) was among my early m/m books, but I don’t recall the other books specifically.

  60. JPeK
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 14:53:56

    @KT Grant: I also love these books! The entire series is fun. I add my voice to your recommendation to sci-fi fans, or even Regency fans who are open to a m/m version of that genre’s tropes.

  61. cleo
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 16:36:04

    @Fara – I was a little reluctant to mention it, but since you went first, MZB wrote one of the first f/f that I read too – I don’t remember the title anymore, it was so long ago, but it was one of her Darkover books. I also read Friday by Heinlein in my early 20s – my first bi and poly female main character (again, not a book I’d recommend but it was eye opening at the time).

  62. Janine
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 17:24:05

    @cleo: I read Heinlein’s Friday a a teen. Eye opening is a good way to describe my reading experience too. I suspect it doesn’t hold up well, so I haven’t revisited it.

  63. Crane Hana
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 17:42:24

    Great recs, people. I’m taking notes. I feel really old. I read Mary Renault in the eighties, along with mainstream fantasy with M/M aspects: Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, Misty Lackey, Judith Tarr (the Avaryan books still break my heart), and Tanya Huff (if she would only write a sequel to ‘The Fire’s Stone’). I got into M/M big time in 1994, after finding Nifty.org and the Pendor stories from Elf Sternberg. Not long after that, I started reading M/M fan fiction.

    I love complex characters and settings, so I’m really happy to see more of those being offered across all subgenres of M/M romance. Another vote for more genuine bisexual characters, too.

  64. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 17:54:47

    It’s interesting to see all the interest in bisexual characters.

    As an author, I’ve shied away from writing bisexual men because I was afraid it would seem like a cop-out. Kind of like gay-for-you, a way to make it “okay” for the character to have sex with men. “It’s okay, he’s not really GAY… he’s bisexual! He still likes pussy! He’s not one of THEM.” (or the gay-for-you corollary, “It’s okay, he’s not really GAY… he just really, really, REALLY likes this ONE GUY. It’s unusual, but it’s okay! He’s not one of THEM.”)

    Possibly I was over-thinking it!

    I hadn’t thought of myself as contributing to bisexual erasure, but I guess I kind of was. Yikes.

  65. Willaful
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 18:17:28

    @Janine: My husband has been wanting me to read Friday for years, to give my perspective as a romance reader, but somehow I can’t seem to make myself. Perhaps it should be my July BFB.

  66. Cari Silverwood
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 18:27:36

    I’ve read Friday too. Heinlein’s writing has aged better than most. He’s just weird at times.

    @Janine if you want a story with a bi female and don’t mind some erotic scenes with kink and polyamory try Ein by Sorcha Black. Despite those, it’s not erotic romance. It’s set in a gritty medieval fantasy world without the trappings of magic. Features gender inequality where the heroine triumphs despite that inequality.

  67. hapax
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 18:39:01

    Oh, FRIDAY. I remember loving that as a teen and being infuriated by it as an adult.

    It’s a great story, mind you. But if a rather squicky male obsession with pregnancy bothers you, you might want to handle it with tongs.

  68. Janine
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 18:45:21

    @hapax: I suspect I would feel the exact same way you do if I were to read it again. My taste has changed a lot since my teen years.

  69. Janine
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 18:46:32

    @Cari Silverwood: Thanks, I’m on a fantasy kick right now so I may just check it out.

  70. Cari Silverwood
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 19:02:40

    @Janine Just be aware it is terribly tragic in parts. That’s putting it mildly.

    And lol Heinlein has some really squicky ideas. But he was fearless. I Will Fear No Evil – never forgot that one. A man’s brain transplanted into a woman’s body.

  71. cleo
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 19:41:48

    @hapax: I don’t even remember the pregnancy thing – just that she married one of her rapists. I haven’t re-read it, but based on my few memories of it, I doubt that it’d hold up for me.

    @Willaful: It’d be interesting to see what you think of it. I think Heinlein was ahead of his time in terms of writing about women but he’s behind our time.

  72. cleo
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 20:04:28

    @Kate Sherwood: This is why I love DA.

    This issue of whether or not identifying as bi is “taking the easy way out” gets argued about A LOT in queer spaces. A lot of people see it that way, including lesbians and gays – so I can see why you’d feel that way as an author. There are studies suggesting that bisexuals have worse mental and physical health than at least some populations of gays and lesbians, and there’s more awareness now that being bi brings it’s own challenges, even if it can also bring some privileges that lesbians and gays don’t have.

    To be honest, I suspect that there’s not a huge demand/market for bi male heroes in m/m. But those of us who want to read about bi characters really, really, really want to read about them (in m/f too, please).

  73. Kaetrin
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 20:28:58

    @Sunita: That’s the part I struggle with – “erasing parts of gay life” – I don’t think it’s a serious problem to “create” loads of Regency Dukes – no-one is hurt by it. But does the Out for You trope do harm to actual real life people? If so, what is my responsibility?

    I absolutely agree with your comments about the “transition person” and why someone who is out and proud would not want to date someone who is in the process of coming out or just out. But I also know people who’ve been happily married to the person they left their wife/husband for, people who had a tragic loss and the first person they dated afterwards is the one they ended up with. I have a good friend who’s partner is a guy who had only ever been with women before they got together and they’ve been happily together for 8 years.

    I know in real life more often than not the transition person is the transition person and only sometimes do they turn out to be “the one”. I think romance fiction skews the numbers in a lot of ways – we have hundreds of Regency dukes, every hero/heroine (and combinations thereof) get a HEA, the proportionate representation of “transition” relationships which actually work is, I’m sure, way higher than IRL. But the ones that don’t work are never going to be the subject of a genre romance novel.

    (It brings to mind how every time there’s a post which says “there’s no such thing as love at first sight” we get a bunch of comments which say “yes there is; it happened to me” or a post about how few people who marry their high school/college sweetheart end up staying together we get a whole bunch of people saying “I did it and we’re still married.”)

    So, I can justify reading and liking Out for You. But then I think, am I contributing to the erasure of the gay experience? Because if I am, then that’s a problem I need to address.

  74. Sunita
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 20:47:19

    @Kaetrin: I agree that it’s a real-life occurrence. Just like there are dukes in real life, and probably handsome dukes we’d consider real-world hero types. But the sheer preponderance in each case is what gives me pause. And I don’t think manufacturing hundreds of dukes never hurts anyone. Basically we’ve turned Georgian and Victorian England into a romance amusement park. We’ve erased the politically active working class, we’ve made Chartists and Luddites and agricultural workers into comic relief and/or people to be saved by the aristocracy. Sure, none of them are alive now, but their descendants are. I don’t think Scots today generally appreciate having their country turned into Brigadoon in romance novels, at least there are some vocal ones who don’t.

    When we have so very many Gay4U and Out4U plots, we’re basically creating a genre that makes an occurrence that is not commonplace into a norm and a more-than-common plotline. In the meantime, people who are comfortable in their sexuality, or who have issues coming out of the closet that affect their ability to form permanent relationships for a while, are not written about as much. They’re certainly not discussed as being emotionally compelling in the same way, let alone cracktastic. And yet there’s nothing unromantic about these lives. It’s not as if their experiences are being ignored because they can’t be properly addressed in an HEA-required story. That’s what bothers *me* about the disproportionality. We complain about women who need to be saved in m/f, but men who get saved in m/m (rather than saving themselves) seem more acceptable.

  75. Janine
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 20:48:46

    @Cari Silverwood: Does it have a tragic ending? Or does it end on a note of hope?

  76. Kaetrin
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 21:54:00

    @Sunita: I like to read all kinds of m/m – those men who are out and proud and those who struggle are just as interesting to me. I don’t think I’ve used cracktastic to describe Out for You but I agree some may describe it that way.

    I’m a sucker for a rescue trope in any romance – and I like it best when all romantic partners do some of the rescuing, no matter their gender. Not that I think Out for You is about rescue – I don’t.

    I suppose Tigers and Devils could be described as Out for You – Declan was firmly in the closet before Simon came along and even though it wasn’t his decision exactly to come out of it, he ultimately chose Simon and being with him over the closet. All the other books on my list are different tropes and styles and I think what they all have in common is compelling characters and stories.

  77. Wahoo Suze
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 23:49:13

    I discovered m/m when I bought my ereader in 2009 or so, just about the same time that Agency Pricing was instituted, and couldn’t find my regular reads. I think the first one I read was J.L. Langley’s Without Reservation. I tried a whole bunch, found new auto buy authors, found some that I haven’t given a second chance. I check reviews when I’m waffling, and if a book has been deemed intriguing by DA, I get it, and have found some really, really good books that way.

    The thing I really like is that who’s taking what role in the family has to be discussed and agreed upon (most of the time) in m/m. In m/f, if it’s anything other than traditional male/female roles, it gets remarked upon and explained. Otherwise, it’s just assumed as natural.

  78. Sunita
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 00:08:26

    @Kaetrin: I was responding to your question, but I didn’t mean to suggest that you were reading for particular tropes. I was speaking more generally about what I have observed through my own reading, and I’m sorry not to have been clearer about that.

    I agree with you that Tigers and Devils basically has an Out4U storyline, but to me it works because so much of the book is about the ramifications of coming out, both in terms of the individual and in terms of the relationship. It felt authentic, whereas I’ve read any number of stories in which coming out is a huge deal for about a minute and then it’s over. Or it’s at the end of novel, and we’re supposed to believe that it’s accompanied by an HEA. That’s when it feels like a trope to me, and one that isn’t successfully employed or explored.

  79. Cari Silverwood
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 01:04:06

    @Janine. Ein has a good ending, yes. Very positive. It’s the journey that’s at times tragic, but there’s also great joy. Keep your Kleenex on hand.

  80. Kaetrin
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 01:25:31

    @Sunita: I think we agree on this more than we disagree. If the coming out process isn’t part of the story and dealt with in a meaningful way, it won’t work for me either. Then it just feels like a gimmick and they don’t generally work for me in fiction at all.

  81. Cari Silverwood
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 01:28:35

    @Cleo I don’t want to hijack the thread but I write bi characters in the Mff vein. ie women who are bi.
    I really think there’d be a far bigger market for bi male characters. Ff in general isn’t widely read because most romance readers are straight women in love with the male body. Mmf should have a lot of appeal. Even my bi female fans are almost as keen to see mm in their menages as Ff.

    I’d be extremely surprised If the market for bi males in books isn’t huge compared to the market for bi women.

  82. cleo
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 08:38:08

    @Cari Silverwood – I think you’re right about bi men being more popular in romance than bi women (unfortunately). But I also think that bi men are less popular than gay men, especially in mm (I’m thinking of the “eww, no vaginas” fights in the mm reading community, which often translated into no bi or trans* men as romantic heroes, just gay cis men).

  83. cleo
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 09:28:38

    @Cari Silverwood – I’m still thinking about this. I don’t read much ménage, so I’m less familiar with the nuances in ménage. I think mmf is more popular than mfm, which I think means that straight or straight-ish male heroes are more popular than bi heroes in ménage, although I completely believe you that mmf is more popular than mff. I don’t know what all this means, except that I think bi characters in general are a harder sell than gay or straight. Although I don’t know if that holds true for f/f. And it also seems like women are a harder sell than men. Sigh.

  84. cleo
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 09:36:14

    Blast. System thinks I’m a spammer

  85. cleo
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 09:48:17

    @Cleo – argh, I get the codes confused. I meant that mfm is more popular than mmf.

  86. Susan
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 11:07:53

    In the 70s I came across many gay/trans or “other” gender characters in science fiction and fantasy. I have since then found a lot of gay sub plots and stories in my various reading. I did not read romance at all until I got my first e-reader. I started to read m/f romance, m/f erotica which lead to menage which lead to m/m.

    Funnily enough modern fantasy and science fiction does not stretch the gender roles like it used to. Not mainstream published at any rate. The sub-genres are so strictly defined lately that there’s not much room for experimentation. It’s odd that science fiction about the future is more traditional in the publishing field.

    First gay character book I read, I think, was Heir of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley. First genre m/m was Handyman by Claire Thomas (I still re-read it once in a while). First slash was the brown wrapper GRUP fanzine with Kirk/Spock slash.

    Gay for You is to m/m what the secret baby plot is to m/f, I think. Some out for you stories are very powerful. I would recommend a mystery, Mahu by Niel Plakcy. Kimo has to out himself in order to report a murder in the parking lot of a gay bar. It is very powerful. There is romance later in the series, but they are mysteries first.

  87. Sirius
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 11:45:02

    @Susan: I love Mahu mysteries and totally agree that those books are mysteries first. Do you agree that he explores much more of the romantic angle in his “Have Body will guard” series? I actually liked those significantly less.

  88. etv13
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 19:58:15

    Adrien English is an example of Out for You being very well handled. (Don’t read further if you are worried about spoilers, though I will try to be discreet.) Indeed, the last two or three books in the series focus on the damage done by the closet, both in Jake’s life and in at least one of the mystery plots. Jake tries to stay in the closet (and the LAPD), he marries a woman, and he ends up hurting himself, his wife, and Adrien. In the end, he comes out and loses everything but Adrien — his job, his marriage, even the house he owned before he got married. (Which makes no sense to me as a matter of California community property law, but whatever. It’s no worse than the LAPD turning up about a dead body in Pasadena, and at least it makes thematic sense.) The mystery involving the body uncovered when Adrien remodels his shop involves even worse damage. Even near the end of the very last book, when Jake is packing up his house and his soon-to-be ex-wife comes by, Adrien observes that they are in a lot of pain. There isn’t a quick and easy resolution, and it makes the happy ending feel more earned. I do have some misgivings based on the fact that Jake is kinky and Adrien isn’t, but I am not worried about Adrien being Jake’s transition person or anything like that.

    By the way, I started dating my husband when we were fourteen, married him when we were twenty-four, and we will be celebrating our thirtieth anniversary in August.

  89. Kaetrin
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 20:03:40

    @cleo: I’m another who enjoys reading bi characters. I’d happily read more. I don’t know how popular it is but we know there’s at least two of us! LOL

  90. cleo
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 20:17:48

    @Kaetrin: Yay. It’s nice to not be alone. I tend to assume that anything I really like won’t be popular (based on previous experience, not just pessimism).

  91. Sirius
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 20:24:26

    @Kate Sherwood: I mean, I think it is possible to write it as “easy way out” you know? I am saying this as a reader, not as a writer, that I can see the scenario that would make me want to throw the book against the wall. But since I would never think of bisexual person in real life discovering an attraction and falling in love with a person of one gender as an easy way out, I can see myself enjoying such scenario very much.

    I very much prefer a gay character in the story to be one, or to discover that he is gay (or convincingly done out for you scenario), not just turned to be gay for that one person, but gay people are not the only people I want to read about. And I definitely include bisexual people in the characters I want to read about.

  92. Janine
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 21:15:17

    @Cari Silverwood: Thanks. As long as there’s a happy outcome I can take some tragedy along the way.

  93. Janine
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 21:16:10

    I want to mention Ann Leckie’s science fiction novel Ancillary Justice as a book I think might be of interest to some readers in this thread. It’s a space opera in which the gender of the characters isn’t specified, so their sexual preferences aren’t either. The book is hard to describe but well worth reading, and the ebook just went on sale for $1.99.

  94. Megan
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 22:09:45

    I was honestly driven away from a lot of general fantasy by the prevalence of rape, and a lot of the m/f romances I read back in the day weren’t much better. I read the Nightrunner series and liked it, didn’t like the Mercedes Lackey series, but definitely wanted more m/m fantasy romances. But when I found them, often they were usually more sex than anything, and too often slave fic, or some other version of rape-til-they-love me. I started writing for a lot of reasons, but one of them was definitely wanting to write m/m fantasy romances that weren’t mostly sex. I love me a good sexfest, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a fantasy and romance junkie at heart. I will do anything for good world building and good romance.

    These days there are many, many more books on offer than when I first got into yaoi, slash, and m/m (which was … 2000-ish?). Ginn Hale, Astrid Amara, Sasha L. Miller, Isabella Carter, Aleksandr Voinov, Kay Berrisford, Lexi Ander, Becky Black, off the top of my head, are all great mm fantasy/sci-fi romance writers.

    And I’m really happy that these days we’re seeing more books that aren’t strictly m/m. Way back at the start I often felt like I wasn’t allowed to write anything that wasn’t strictly m/m, (and if I had a bi character, which nearly all of mine are, then I couldn’t make too big a deal out of it) or add too many women to my books. But now we’re gradually seeing more and more of the spectrum in stories, and that has me stoked. I’m writing a story now I wouldn’t have felt like I could write way back when I started.

    I think the only m/f romances I’ve read in the past few years were the Pink Carnation books, which I really really liked, because they were cute and funny and just plain fun. But I am like three books behind now, IIRC.

    So far as tropes go, I will be an enemies-to-lovers fangirl until I die. I also like arranged marriage, fake relationship. I think those are more common in m/f, but I love when it shows up in lgbt stories.

  95. Sunita
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 00:05:24

    I am enjoying this conversation so, so much.

    I’ll third Susan and Sirius’ recommendation of Mahu. I really enjoyed the books I’ve read in the series and the rest are in my TBR. And I agree that the Out4U storyline is done really well in the Adrien English novels. The ramifications unfold slowly and not always predictably, and there is enough time elapsed that when Jake and Adrien do finally achieve what looks to be an HEA, it feels like it will really stick.

    And count me in the group of readers who will happily read romances with bi characters.

  96. Julia
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 00:19:35

    @Janine: Thanks so much for mentioning that Ancillary Justice is on sale! That’s been on my mind since it was reviewed here ages ago, glad I can get it now!

    I also just want to add my voice to those who would love to see more bi characters in both m/m and m/f. I’m more interested in bi men, but that’s only because the “bi women” I’ve read about haven’t been truly bi but rather “experimenting.” That makes me very frustrated since it seems to deny the legitimacy of f/f relationships by writing them off as a “phase.”

  97. cs
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 10:32:20

    @Kate Sherwood: Why would it be a cop-out? I would hope people who read the genre are more open minded. I think the issues stems from writers not actually fully accepting that their character is bisexual. I’ve read a few and it may as well be someone who is gay and not bisexual. I think research is the key and also not ignoring your character’s sexuality.

    It’s a shame I don’t see this changing. Money is made from M/M and most readers would probably cry river of tears if we ever had a bisexual character and on page male-female sex. It’ll read like m/m and that’s just unfortunate. Same goes for F/F stories whilst a genre I don’t actively read in it lacks readers.

  98. cleo
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 11:19:58

    @cs:

    I think the issues stems from writers not actually fully accepting that their character is bisexual. I’ve read a few and it may as well be someone who is gay and not bisexual.

    Could you say more about this? Maybe give an example?

    I think a character can be genuinely bi/pan without having on page sex with different partners of different genders. All of the suggestions of books with bi characters that I made up thread have characters who had relationships with men and women, whether they were on page or way in the past. That’s enough for me to read the characters as “authentically” bi. There’s such a huge range of expressions of bisexuality – from those who tend to have serious relationships with men and women more or less equally and those who are sexually attracted to men and women but tend to fall in love with or have serious relationships with mostly men or mostly women. I’d like to see a range of fictional portrayals too.

  99. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 16:42:37

    @cs: I’m kind of confused by your comment – at first you sound as if I’m underestimating readers by thinking they wouldn’t understand and appreciate a bi character, but then you say readers would cry rivers of tears if a character was bi… were you being sarcastic one of those times, or…?

    In terms of the rest – I don’t really subscribe to the idea of a character existing before I write them. So, no, I don’t think my characters aren’t bisexual but I just didn’t notice… my characters are whatever I say they are.

    As to why I may be misjudging reader reaction to a bi character? I think being a straight female writing m/m, in the current climate, may have made me a little TOO sensitive to criticisms about getting my characters’ sexuality ‘wrong’. Not in the sense of not accurately writing how I imagine the characters, but more in the sense of writing characters who are… oh, who are any of the many things straight females writing m/m are accused of writing. It’s gotten pretty ugly from time to time, and I think I do over-examine things, and may be too careful about my characters. Avoiding bisexual characters is part of that, I think.

  100. Althea
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 21:39:16

    cleo: As a bi woman who hasn’t dated anyone in a looong time (longer than I care to admit), I concur heartily with your comment. I may not be “sexually active,” as the medical folks say, but I’m certainly enjoying the view.

    One of the reasons I started seeking out non-het romance is that I, like several commenters above, hate alpholes. I also hate “rape-you-till-you-love-me” immensely – and the alpholes and rape-is-love turned me off all romance for many years until I found some decent stuff in my mid-20s. What I love about m/m – and f/f, which I write because there’s just not enough of it and I want more – is that these things are largely absent (or, at least, they’ve been absent in what I’ve read so far). Getting away from stereotyped gender roles also makes the stories better – more varied and interesting and diverse, less repetitive and formulaic. Rather than stories about feisty TSTL beauty/innocent virgin and rugged, MANLY alpha male, they’re stories about two (or sometimes more) people, with any combination of traits…which opens up a vast universe of plot and character possibilities that m/f seldom explores.

    I greatly enjoyed the Nightrunner series. In the vein of m/m fantasy (rather than romance) I also recommend Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman’s The Fall of the Kings. Absolutely gorgeous prose, arch dry wit, complicated plots full of scheming and machinations, and subtle commentary on class and gender. And – many of the characters (including both members of the male couple in the first book and one in the second) are bi. (A word of warning: the characters tend to be morally ambiguous Byronic-hero types rather than true heroes, especially in Swordspoint. But they’re utterly fascinating.)

  101. cleo
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 22:31:41

    @Althea – I’ve heard good things about Swordpoint, I’ll have to try it. I have read Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa A Barnett – a fantasy / mystery with an extremely

  102. Althea
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 22:41:01

    cleo – your comment got cut off somehow but I’ll have to remember Point of Hopes.

  103. cleo
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 22:44:48

    @Althea – I’ve heard good things about Swordpoint, I’ll have to try it. I’ve read the Astreiant series, starting with Point of Hopes, by Melissa Scott and Lisa A Barnett – a fantasy / mystery series with a very understated m/m romance and interesting class and gender stuff. The setting is kind of medieval Europe with a matriarchy instead of patriarchy.

    I hear you on sexual orientation not being the same as sexual activity. I’m a bi woman married to a man for almost 14 years. I’ve noticed that, at least in terms of “window shopping,” my pendulum has swung a couple times since we’ve married. Sometimes women are on my radar more, sometimes men.

  104. Diana
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 16:09:17

    I find the whole “I hate the power struggle between sexes. so I read m/m instead” commentary interesting. I’ve always wondered if that sentiment is really true and that widespread — why isn’t f/f more popular? Just like in m/m, the power imbalance is eliminated. But f/f seems to be a less prolific and less lucrative genre than its male-dominated counterpart.

    Loved reading the roundtable, though. I’ve been trying to work up the interest to read m/m for ages, but haven’t been successful. In the opposite of some posters above, I’m a heroine-centric and love my lady characters the most. M/m, in general, lacks interesting women characters, so I gravitate toward f/f instead.

  105. hapax
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 16:38:37

    I’ve always wondered if that sentiment is really true and that widespread — why isn’t f/f more popular?

    I will offer my cynical daughter’s answer to the question of why she read BL manga: “TWO hot guys with their shirts off.”

    When pressed on m/m, which doesn’t have the eye-candy: “Well, it’s about the only way to guarantee that you’ll get at least one guy actually talking about his feelings.”

    (I wouldn’t for a moment presume that these answers sum up all m/m readers, or even hapaxdaughter’s complete reasoning; People Are Complicated, Yo. But I did think they were funny!)

  106. Diana
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 13:58:20

    @hapax: Hahaha, I love those answers! And it is probably very true for lots of people reading m/m. :)

  107. Silkeeeeeereads
    Jul 18, 2014 @ 17:11:00

    Mine two reasons are easy. I never identify with the female characters. The second, and most important, two men are better than one. Simple.

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