Thu
May 17 2012 4:00pm

Too Much of the Same: Why M/M (and F/F) Romance Doesn’t Float My Boat

The cast of Queer As FolkReaders of erotic romance, it seems, like to read about men getting it on. With each other. A decade ago, more women than men tuned in to watch Queer as Folk, Showtime’s hour-long sexually explicit drama about the lives, loves, and sexual exploits of a group of gay and lesbian friends. If I recall correctly, and as evidenced by the pic above, there were more men than women on the show, which featured plenty of nudity and lots and lots of fucking. A decade later that’s what I most remember most vividly, although I also learned something I had not previously known: Men can fuck in the missionary position.

That’s what popped into my mind when I heard that Qhuinn and Blay’s lovesick angst will play out in a Black Dagger Brotherhood novel due in 2013 from J.R. Ward. It won’t be the first gay “mainstream” romance—after all, it’s been five years since Suzanne Brockmann’s All Through the Night—but the steam level of Brockmann’s book can’t match that in Ward’s, whose writing is far more sexually graphic. Homoeroticism, a hallmark of Ward’s series, has become more pronounced over time, so perhaps it won’t be an “issue” for readers. Still, it’s a hop, skip, and jump to go from “it wouldn’t bother me” to “this is a compelling secondary story” to “wow...that’s hot...I want more, and please don’t leave out anything!”

An online friend—BarksLessWagMore—who was once an AAR Reviewer and now writes the Fetch Me My Fainting Couch blog reads prolifically, and among her romance choices are a goodly number of m/m romances, including those of the erotic variety. I asked her what appeals to her about reading m/m romance, and m/m erotic romance. Her response? That she finds it hard to find well-written, well-developed romances with a focus on the love story within a genre filled with “crazy paranormal/action-fest” titles, so much so that at this point, she’s concluded “that those writers in the m/m genre are doing it best.” She adds, “I won’t lie and say that the appeal of two hot guys falling in love isn’t a draw and a nice change of pace from traditional romance, but for me it comes down to character believability and how well the romance is developed. Most m/m romances (or at least the amazing ones) maintain a focus on the two leads falling in love despite all of the obstacles.” (Those of you interested in discovering which titles BarkeLessWagMore finds amazing may click here for her m/m page at goodreads.)

My friend lost me at “the appeal of two hot guys falling in love.” I’m not making a judgment—political, religious, or otherwise. Far from it, and in real life (and outside of romance reading), I couldn’t care less about who beds whom; c’est la vie and all that. But reading romance is an intensely personal experience for me. It goes to the core of my sexuality, and sexually speaking, I’m simply not turned on by the notion of two men or two women doing What People Do when they’re in love. I don’t care if two men in real life do What People Do when they are in love, but watching it...reading it...fails to arouse me because that intensely personal connection is missing. The heroine of a romance/erotic romance novel is my personal placeholder. If two men are making love, after all, it becomes impossible to be All About Me. Without a heroine in a scene to placehold for me, it’s not at all about me. Pout. What’s there to get turned on about?

Substitute two women for two men and that failure to be turned on morphs into a total turn off. During a sex scene it’s me feeling what the heroine feels and what the heroine does, and if a heroine does another woman, I’m sorry, but getting up close and personal with another woman’s vagina provokes a very unpleasant, visceral response. That said, when my daughter once hypothetically asked what I would do if she were gay, my immediate response was, “Bring your girlfriend home for Thanksgiving!”

Let’s get back to two men, though. While I can’t help but turn the heroine into a placeholder, my friend interprets stories about two hot guys falling in love differently. Whether the stories she reads are explicit or not, gender is not at issue. I don’t know what that says about the two of us. What I do know is this: I have the same intense reaction to what I see that I do to what I read. When the final episodes of Game of Thrones’s first season aired, I knew bad, very bad things were going to happen. My husband was not available to hold my hand for those final two Sunday evenings, so I TiVo’d the episodes until he could watch them with me. Weenie that I am, I needed moral support to get through what was to come.

The Cast of HBO’s GirlsHe doesn’t understand why my response to TV shows is so intense. We actually stopped watching E.R. and NYPD Blue after the deaths of Dr. Mark Greene and Det. Bobby Simone because I could no longer handle the emotional investment. On the other hand, I felt no connection at all when tuning in to watch the premiere episode of Girls. Indeed, my only reaction was to be grossed out after watching a scene in which two friends with benefits have anal sex. The “ew” factor wasn’t the sex itself, it was that afterward they sat bare-ass naked on the couch without any thought given to putting down a towel first.

Obviously the notion of two hot guys falling in love appeals to a segment of women readers, and that segment is growing. J.R. Ward’s decision to take Qhuinn and Blay center stage attests to that, and so do the ever-growing number of m/m erotic romances written specifically for the female reader.

Laid Bare by Lauren DaneAlthough I’ve tried, I’m just not a fan. Even authors whose “straight” erotic romances I’ve liked, some paranormal, others contemporary—Cameron Dane, Tielle St. Clare, Evengeline Anderson, Lorelei James, to name just a few—have not lured me in. The book to come closest, Lauren Dane’s Laid Bare, features a love story involving a woman and two men. First the men fall in love with the heroine. Then they fall begin to dig each other, and the heroine finds it all incredibly hot. I liked the book overall and the scenes involving the heroine and the homophobic father of one of her lovers were well-written and emotionally gripping. But what the heroine found incredibly hot, I found incredibly...not.

Though most of the m/m storylines I’ve read were written by women, I have tried a smattering of full length books and short stories written by men. I can’t share the titles, but the result has been the same: I felt nothing.

My motto as a reader has always been “never say never,” and it has served me well. Perhaps with the right story I’ll feel something.

So I’d like to open the discussion to your recommendations on which books and/or authors to try, and why: Would I be better served to try a m/m story written by a gay man who doesn’t have a straight woman in mind as his primary audience, or will I strike gold reading women authors who write for women? Will I have my aha moment with a menage story or with a more traditional boy-meets-boy story line? I may not ever become a m/m erotic aficionado, but maybe I can understand why others are. And to broaden the discussion, feel free to share your comments overall on m/m romance.

 


Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on goodreads, be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.

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41 comments
Chelsea Mueller
1. ChelseaMueller
Laurie, I'm not a m/m aficionado, so I can't give suggestions. I just really enjoyed your post.

I, too, use the heroines in romances as placeholders. For me, f/f doesn't work not for the viceral reaction you have, but because I feel like I'm being pulled in two directions. I can't slip into just one character's mind.

With m/m I can disassocate. I don't get the same kind of connection I would with m/f, but it's easier for me to appreciate it because I'm not trying to wedge myself into the scene as it were. (Unless, maybe, in a sandwich type position...hmm)

However, all that said, I'm so invested in Qhuay that I'll be reading that thing and loving every second of those two together.
Lisa Marie
2. Lisa Marie
I too need to feel a personal connection with the main characters when I read a romance — especially the heroine, because I want to be able to identify with at least one of them to any degree that I can. With M/M romance, there is no heroine involved. And F/F romance? Well, I could relay a very long conversation I had with my S.O. about why porn films shoot far off the mark. I am not and never will be attracted to women in "that way."

Being able to closely identity with the characters is what makes me rave about a book (many romance novels a cumbersome read for me; my better half and I are childless by choice, so plots that involve pregnancy, babies or kids won't totally suck me in). Like you, I don't care what happens in other people's bedrooms. But there are certain things that I can't force myself to be politically correct about, so I can't lie and say that M/M or F/F romance turns me on. Give me hot, erotic sex between a man and a woman — and yes, I'm even okay with a litttle bit of kink! :)
Miss_D
3. Miss_D
I really enjoyed Lena Matthews "You Can Leave Your Hat On". I don't generally read M/M books but I like that author's multicultural romances as well as her writing style. I was not disappointed and ended up being a total fan of the novel. I would suggest that book by her as well as her menage book "I Never", which is M/M/F but I found to be more about the love story between the two men. How they felt about the woman in the mix was already a given so the story instead focused on the feelings between the two men & making the menage relationship work beyond the sex factor. It's a very good read.

I've not read any F/F books. No interest in them, yet I liked watching "The L Word" and don't have an issue with other shows or movies that features lesbians. I think my reading choices differ from my viewing choices but I tend to be more open-minded about my cinema choices and picky about my books. I've always been that way, though, and I think it's because I don't branch out to new authors easily. Once I have an author I like, I tend to read all of his/her books in a short time span.

While I've only read a few M/M books and fanfics, I think one of the main ways I get drawn is by the emotions expressed. I guess I'm the opposite of the commenters who've posted already in that I don't connect with a heroine in a novel as a placeholder. I connect through the emotions by both characters to each other and to events, so I guess it's not tied so gender-specifically for me even though I've read so many more straight, monogamous relationship romances than I have any other kind of romance.

As for QAF, I was big into it and in to the fandom and I would suggest you check out the original UK version of if as it was FAR superior to the USA remake.

Not everything floats the same boats but I do think it comes down to the answer to the question "why don't you like gay romances?" that will determine things. And in all honesty, M/M and F/F romances could simply just not be for you.
Lisa Marie
4. Jen at Red Hot Books
I am one of those readers that does find m/m romance to be hot. But it sounds like the genre is just not right for you. And there is nothing wrong with that at all.

I don't like BDSM. Much like you describe your feelings about m/m or f/f romances, I don't get the appeal at all. I know other readers who love it and I gave it a good try. But in the end, I never did like it and I no longer attempt to read it.

I think we all need to be ok with our own tastes. And if they're not the same as our friends'... well, it takes all kinds to make the world go round, right?
Lisa Marie
5. JanineD.
I am the complete opposite. When I read and get immersed in a book, I never imagine myself as the main character (male or female) instead I long to get taken out of myself. I don't picture myself in lieu of the heroine, instead there is some one so completely unlike me and that's the way I love it. Not to say that there aren't characters that I identify with because there often are and that's a big appeal for me. However they are still separate from me. So reading M/M or F/F? Makes no difference to me as long as the story and characters are good. I don't read it in order to picture myself having sex with the lead, I read it to enjoy a hot story about two (or perhaps more) people falling in love.
Lege Artis
6. LegeArtis
I'll try to explain how it works for me:
I read and enjoy m/m fiction a lot. Some of my favorites books are from m/m genre. For me it's all about the story. Therefore m/m and m/f are not so different genres for me. When author introduce character and made me care for him/her, I want to see his/her happy end, regardless if love of their life is someone of opposite or same sex. I don't need to be turned on by couple to enjoyed their story. I just need to be touched by their story.
It's a great post and I totally understand- It's just not your cup of tea. I, myself, can't read YA books and menage books at all. :)
Rakisha Kearns-White
7. BrooklynShoeBabe
Well written, and to each his own. When it comes to m/m romances, either on screen or on paper, I submit to my baser instincts. Two hot guys, semi hot guys, one hot guy and one okay guy getting it on is total turn on for me. Voyeurism is not a sexual proclivity of mine, but I do put on my voyeurism goggles when it comes to m/m. It's a world I've never been. It's a world I can't be in (beacuse I'm a woman). And, I get to see an emotional side that most straight men don't reveal. I haven't read BDSM m/m erotica. But, BDSM doesn't really float my boat. I'm more of a light S&M chick.
Jessica Novak
8. jessn1017
THANK YOU for posting this! I have been struggling with my feelings about this topic ever since J.R. Ward made her announcement about her next book. I was afraid that if I expressed how I felt, people would automatically go to the "hate" and "homophobia" side of things (I've seen it happen elsewhere), so I was reluctant to express my feelings. But those things have nothing to do with the reasons I'm not into the whole m/m thing, at all!

I, too, use the heroine of a romance novel as my "placeholder". I want to be taken into the story and experience things as she does. I just don't get the same identification with a gay man in that way. I am okay with (although don't actively seek out) m/f/m... as long as the men are both giving all of their attention to the heroine (in my head: me) and not each other! Call me selfish, but when I'm reading to escape, I do want it to be all about me (a.k.a. the heroine)!

Another thing I look for in a romance novel is a hero I can fall in love with, my "book boyfriend", if you will. Again, I have trouble doing this when the hero is a gay man. I've witnessed how it ends when a woman falls for a gay man, and, well, that way only leads to heartache!

And I don't agree that there is some sort of dearth of well-written m/f storylines that are forcing women to find their reading pleasures elsewhere. I find plenty of well-written m/f stories that I enjoy reading. Of course on rare occassions I end up with a dud, but that's a risk you take when reading anything! I find using reviews from trusted bloggers, recommendations from friends & family, and being willing to catch up on author's backlists, and alternate with other genres I enjoy, I have a plethora of great m/f stories to read and therefore have not felt any need to dip into the m/m or f/f arena to satisfy my need for great writing.

I very much appreciate that commenters so far have had a "eh, so it's not your cup of tea" attitude, and I feel the same towards those who do read and enjoy m/m or f/f stories. "Eh, if that's your cup of tea, go for it." But please understand, it's just not mine.
Lisa Marie
9. Joanna Shupe
This is what's so great about the romance genre: there's something for everyone. And we get to have awesome discussions like this one.

I just discovered m/m romance through Roux & Urban's Cut & Run series...which blew me away. Well written, funny, touching, suspensful...and yeah, it happens to star two dudes. Two hot dudes who are FBI agents. Yep, I'm sold.

I'm a sucker for a bromance. Always have been, always will be. (If you've seen The Tudors, come on -- Henry Cavill and Jonathan Rhys Meyers! Who's with me?) So m/m romance works for me.

That said, I've never read m/f romance and put myself in the heroine's place, but I know a lot of women do. If that's the way you read, then I can understand m/m romance leaving you a little unfulfilled. Probably the way I feel when I read f/f stories, which to be fair, I haven't read many.

But there should be no judgement about what you read or why. That's why all the different genres exist. And what matters is that someone, somewhere out there, is reading a romance book.
Laura K. Curtis
10. LauraKCurtis
I'm not among the "placeholder" crowd and it's always been hard for me to explain the distance I feel from M/M romances, but I think jess hits the nail on the head when she says:
Another thing I look for in a romance novel is a hero I can fall in love with, my "book boyfriend", if you will. Again, I have trouble doing this when the hero is a gay man.
That's it exactly. I want a hero I can imagine falling in love with and I have NO desire to imagine falling in love with a man who loves other men.

Also, I feel as if in many ways (other than physically) men and women are fundamentally different. Of the M/M books I tried, I either had a hard time believing those were actually men (they don't read like any men I've known, either gay or straight; instead, they read like women's fantasies of how men might communicate), or the books seemed to be all about sex and very little about love, or—when the heroe/s seemed realistically male to me, I had a hard time relating to him and his lover.

I've never tried F/F fiction--since I am looking for a book boyfriend, I really don't think a woman would do the trick!
Laurie Gold
11. LaurieGold
Chelsea -

I'm so pleased you liked my blog! I've only read the BDB sporadically and so don't have the investment, but I'm not averse to seeing how Ward handles it.

Lisa -

I am a mom, so pregnancy and children don't bother me, although when a passel of brats appears in an epilogue, sometimes I love it and at other times I hate it. I too like a bit of kink; perhaps we could exchange recommendations?

Miss_D -

I've read and enjoyed Lena Matthews before; she coauthored a book with Maggie Casper that I liked. I'll take a look at the title you mentioned. Thanks.

Jen at Red Hot Reads -

I find that the BDSM titles I've read are among the erotic romances I've most enjoyed. There is a limit, though, to the intensity and depth of exploration into the fetish that I can't cross. Part of it is plain out discomfort, but part of it is also that I once came across a Real Sex episode on HBO featuring that kink, and those partaking of it were not fantasy material. ;)

Janine, LegeArtis and BrooklynShoeBabe -

I'm so glad you both commented. I really wanted to hear from readers like you. BTW, it's not that I see myself with the hero, it's more that when things are done to the character I identify with, we have the same body parts. I do like YA books, but probably wouldn't have had I not started reading them when my daughter was growing up. We both read quite a few Chick Lit for Teens books, which drew me in. BTW, if you're ever interested in giving YA another shot, I strongly recommend the Travelling Pants series; I often suggested them to adult women when I worked at B&N. As for menage books, I am averse to the notion in real life, but some authors do it well. Finally, BDSM vs S&M...what's the dif? Maybe I'm mislabeling what I've been reading. Quelle Horreur!

Jessn -

It sounds like you and I are a little separated at birth. How nice
Laurie Gold
12. LaurieGold
Joanna -

I love the scenes in The Tudors with Henry Cavill and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Two totally gorgeous men with a strong friendship, at least fictionally.

Laura -

Fascinating; we come to the same place from different ends.
Lisa Marie
13. willaful
I've noticed that my husband needs a placeholder and I don't. Our brains just seem to work differently in that way. I wonder how he would react to m/m or f/f. I agree with BL,WM -- m/m is where all the interesting ideas and characters are lately.
Lisa Marie
14. Double D
In terms of straight up smut, eh - I completely understand. You should only read what turns you on and not feel the least bit guilty about that, but falling in love is universal. I'll never physically identify with a man, but I can absolutely do so emotionally - gender or sexuality has no bearing on my connection with well-drawn characters. It just seems as if the sexual aspect is tripping you up, so perhaps slash erotica just isn't for you. But, if you are determined to finally "get it" maybe try easing yourself in with something more "tame" like Jeannette Winterson (Written on the Body), Sarah Waters (Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet), and David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy).
Lisa Marie
15. dick
I don't read m/m, f/f, mmf, or whatever combinations either. Call me a stick in the mud, but I just can't see any of those combinations as "romantic." There's no "otherness" to try to understand and relate to.
Lisa Marie
16. isntitionic
The one thing that I absolutely loath in romance novels is the weird alpha/beta relationships that a lot of romance novels seem to thrive on. The BIG male and the teeny tiny female who just wants to be dominated and told what to do. I, in fact, really dislike power unbalance in my romance novels. I don't like Alpha males, and at times it can seem daunting to find great romance novels that do not play into this trope.

This is why I appreciate m/m because (and this is not ALWAYS the case, if you have ever read m/m slash on the internets) there is this understanding that there isn't a power imbalance because its two guys. There is a lot that can be said about what that means and blah blah blah. But, that is part of why I tend to appreciate m/m romance novels. I also DO like the idea of two attractive men falling in love and such. But, I also not a girl who puts myself into the books I read.
Lisa Marie
17. BarkLessWagMore
Thank you for posting my thoughts. I am a reader who doesn't put myself into the books I read which is probably a good thing since I read some very dark books. I just want to add a caveat here to my comments posted in the article and say that I absolutely do not believe there are no fabulous love stories being written in the romance genre today only that I am finding them more difficult to find. I always prefer character driven novels that focus on the relationship between the characters. Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone and everything I've read by Courtney Milan are the kind of books/writers I still adore.

Way back when I first starting reading the romance genre heavily I could find keepers easily (or maybe I was just easy? LOL). Linda Howard, Lorraine Heath, Pamela Morsi (ahhh, "Simple Jess"), Nora Roberts, Katherine Kingsley and on and on but somewhere along the line things changed and the books I was picking up that everyone was recommending started to bore me and I realized I was picking up books that relied too heavily on suspense or paranormal or mystery subplots and didn't have the level of emotional intensity or the angst that I was craving. I was basing my choices on reviews and I was still going wrong. I even stopped reading the genre for a few years because of it and then I stumbled across m/m which has been a treasure trove of angst and relationship development heaven for me.

Some of my favorites have been:
My Summer of Wes by Missy Welsh (a sweet confection of a romance)
The Gentleman and the Rogue by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon (a historical romance about a hardened war veteran and the hilarious and sweet man who changes his life)
Heidi Cullinan's Nowhere Ranch (a little hardcore but so powerful)
Amy Lane's Keeping Promise Rock & Chase In Shadows (if you want to ache and cry and be tormented for days read this author)
Bloodraven by PL Nunn (hardcore and graphic fantasy with lots of outside obstacles but this one I LOVED because of the slowly developing trust that developed between the two leads)

Some of these have been reviewed at my new blog m/m reviews others on Goodreads.
Lisa Marie
18. BarklessWagMore
Laurie, you are right I don't care about gender both in RL and in my reading choices. Love is love but without good relationship building any "erotic" bits will fall flat anyway. It's the story and more importantly the characterization and the author's ability to make me care about these people.

Try Josh Lanyon if you haven't yet. He's good or at least I believe so.

And as a sidenote could you guys consider shutting off the Captcha? I've had to resubmit my comments 3 times because I can't read the smooshy letters.
Lisa Marie
19. Lisa Marie
Laurie,

Right now I'm reading "The Siren" by Tiffany Reisz, and it's totally scrumptuous. And I mean, a real turn-on, which is strange for me, because I'm personally not into the BDSM scene. But the characters are so rich and developed, they draw me into their world. Also enjoy Roni Loren and Shayla Black. :)
Lisa Marie
20. chris booklover
I can read m/m and f/f books, but I can enjoy them only in the way I do general fiction - not as romances per se. Menage books seldom work for me because they are almost always utterly implausible.

It's interesting that some readers state that gender does not matter, and only a good story does. If this is true f/f books should be as popular with romance readers as m/m ones, but that is far from the case.
Laurie Gold
21. LaurieGold
Lisa Marie, thank you fo the rec of The Siren. I downloaded it.

I also just went through my database and pulled some of my favorite kinky stuff that's older rather than newer as you're liable to find newer suggestions all over the place, including here (ie, Cherise Sinclair and Sarah McCarty and Lora Leigh). Much of it is BDSM, to varying degrees, and of varying lengths. Most are short stories:

A Whole New Light by Julia Devlin
More than Magick and A Bite of Magick by Rhyannon Byrd, as well as Against the Wall, Waiting for It, and Triple Play
Love's Prisoner and Jared's Wolf and Really Unusual Bad Boys by MaryJanice Davidson
Seducing Sharon and Conquering Kate by Marly Chance (AKA Oath of Seduction and Oath of Challenge)
Board Resolution by Joey Hill
Stranded and Bound by the Dream by Angela Knight
Wonderland series by Cheyanne McCray, now reissued with different titles as Jaymie Holland
Fever by Kimberly Dean
Jane and the Sneaky Dom by Hannah Murray
Caralon series by Lacey Alexander (Hot for Santa, too) - the Carolon series, and the Wonderland series seem like outgrowths of Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series from years and years ago
Tapestry series by N.J. Walters - books one through three
Animal Attraction and Claimed by the Wolf by Charlaine Teglia
Maverick's Black by Maggie Casper and Lena Matthews (I have other Casper recs as well)
Laurie Gold
22. LaurieGold
BarkLessWagMore, I am going to look up some of your recs. Thanks for them. BTW, if you register, I don't think you need to deal with captshas. The ones FB forces me into at times are horrendous.
Lisa Marie
23. Ann Somerville
I'm surprised - and disappointed - to see that this blog chose to post Ms Gold's article on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Not because it's homophobic - not liking m/m and f/f doesn't make you a homophobe any more than liking it or reading makes you into a GLBT ally - but because it is, inevitably, going to invite homophobes to comment.

The eponymous commentator at no.15 is on record (
http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/review-betz-and-uszkurat-on-lesbian.html#c4698164850369403490)
as stating that m/m and f/f stories cannot be romances because same sex relationships preclude the possibility of reproduction. (expanded on here:
http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/whats-at-core-of-genre.html)

Quite aside from the extraordinarily narrow view of love and marriage this view espouses, the objection to gay marriage/civil unions on the basis of an inability to procreate is a well-worn and frequently used argument promoted by anti-gay hate groups, as is the idea that same-sex relationships are phony or fake or lacking in some way.

So I am sad that by narrowing the scope of romance to that which turns the reader on and in which the reader can imagine herself participating, Ms Gold has opened the door for dick to air his offensive, anti-GLBT views yet again (he goes from forum to forum specifically to do this.) I acknowledge this was very unlikely to be the intention, but I'm surprised no one else has questioned the idea that m/m or f/f stories can't be romance.

To address Ms Gold's post - I too like to identify with one or other partner in a romance, but like many readers, I can happily identify with a male protagonist (a lifetime of media indoctination almost forces women to be able to do this out of self-preservation - after all, if one waits for a strong female character in movies or TV shows to identify with, one will wait a loooooong time.) And since arousal is not my primary motivation for reading any relationship-based story, I am satisfied enough with a compelling plot, a strong buildup to a HEA (or HFN), and likeable, admirable characters. I want to read about people. I'm not particularly interested in what's in their underwear since I don't want to get up close and personal with anyone's junk.

If you want pure romance without being forced to confront sexual positions you don't care for, I can heartily recommend anything by Tamara Allen. If you can't fall in love with her guys, then nothing is going to convince you that m/m stories can be romantic.
Laurie Gold
24. LaurieGold
Ann, thanks for the recommendation. I'll be sure to check out Tamara Allen.
Lege Artis
25. LegeArtis
@Ann Sommerville
Hi, Ann! I love your Darshian Tales. :)
I'm a huge fan of m/m romance books and I did cringe when I read that particular comment, but about a month ago there was similar discusion on this topic (regarding the spoiler about J.R. Ward' next book which will feauture m/m couple) where I defended same sex romance. Actually, I was mad, 'cause one commenter wrote that he/she doesn't want to read m/m book, 'cause he/she doesn't need a lesson in what's politically correct, and I commented back that I don't find m/m books to be that- I think of them as romance fiction. It's not even a question for me. But, there are prejudices on the other side, too. One of the biggest m/m review sites doesn't review m/m romances if there's a heterosexual sex scene in them. From their explanation of such policy I found out that I, apparently, am not a "pure" m/m reader. And so, I'm a lesser reader. ::my head blows::
Well, I am a romance fiction reader and, in a way, I'm defending here a romance genre in general, 'cause romance is about two people finding love, true?
Lisa Marie
26. Ann Somerville
"I'm defending here a romance genre in general, 'cause romance is about two people finding love, true?"

Absolutely true :)
Lisa Marie
27. JillSorenson
First, I'd like to thank you for including f/f in this conversation. It's so often ignored during m/m discussions and I appreciate the effort to be inclusive.

I read Laid Bare and enjoyed it, but I had the exact same reaction to the m/m pairing. The central relationship had so much going on that the menage felt like a distraction, and I just didn't believe the main hero would be open to touching another man. It read like something the author thought was sexy, not a natural progression for the characters.

However, I also read Dane's first futuristic erotic romance, can't remember the title, which featured two straight-ish? heroes who have a sexual relationship before the heroine comes into the picture. I don't read much m/m or m/m/f but this one worked for me. It was hot.

I wouldn't ever say that m/m isn't romantic, but I don't really want to read about two men having sex. I feel a little displaced or voyeuristic with that pairing, especially if no woman is present.

F/f is different and I'm not sure why. I do find it sexy. I think I have an easier time identifying with gay or bi female characters than gay or bi male characters.

I also think that some women enjoy reading about things that they wouldn't necessarily like or do in real life. This might be the case with menage, bdsm, super alphholes or whatever. It can be a fantasy indulged only in fiction. So, even if you're not into it as *yourself*, you can go along with the fantasy because the *characters* find it sexy.

Again, thanks for the topic.
Lisa Marie
28. Heidi Cullinan
I started writing LGBT romances before I read them, but they're acutally now the only romances I can read. I read voraciously from 1990 until about 2006, and from then until 2009 I read no romance at all because I couldn't get into m/f romances no matter how I tried. Either they felt manufactured by a lab in New York or never allowed me to fit into the placeholder Laurie talks about, which I totally get. It was a heartbreaking loss, because reading romance was so part of my psyche, but I just couldn't do it anymore.

Then I found LGBT romances, mostly by accident. At first it felt like "something new," but quickly it became "something richer." Even the campiest and silliest m/m can still warm the cockles of my heart the way I am used to romance moving me. F/F is a little harder, and I'll get to that in a minute, but I've read several that I love, most notably Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. I swear that woman changed my whole life.

What we read and why is a personal thing, and it should remain that way. The comments I get from a lot of my readers for my m/m work are that they feel "heard" in a way they never felt they were before. Especially with my works featuring some BDSM, though it's not always that someone has closet kink. Usually it's that they have some more nebulous connection that the characters bring out--often I can't even see how they made the connection, yet they see it clear as day, which is wonderful and makes me love romantic fiction all over again. I also get a lot of bisexual women coming out to me in email because somehow m/m makes them feel heard.

When I read good f/f, I feel like someone's peeling back the crazy sexist shackles I didn't even know I was wearing. When I read m/m, I feel like I can take a vacation from female sexual politics, and I rest easy because there won't be a heroine being not-me and making me feel frumpy or old or Other in any way. I do think it's really different strokes for different folks. I had to laugh, Laurie, because what you describe about the "nothing" is what I feel for most m/f romances now, even onscreen. But give me a slashy moment in Sherlock of The Avengers, stuff that is entirely in my head, no relationship ever going to happen, and I'm transported without a moment's thought. Different strokes indeed, and thank god for it.
Lisa Marie
29. Annabel
I'm kind of the opposite of isntitionic in that the only thing I really need in the romance I read is some kind of power imbalance between the two main characters. I was reading a book last week and I couldn't get into it and I finally figured out it was because the male and female in the book were so...same...in every way. You would think it would be the same in m/m and f/f but it isn't always.

When I read m/m novels, the identification issue never really comes into play, because I'll identify with the more submissive or less powerful character, no matter the gender. As long as there's a compelling power differential, I'm totally there.

It's so funny how we all seek such different things in our perfect romance novel. Good thing there are so many diverse works to choose from!
Laurie Gold
30. LaurieGold
Jill, I'm glad you liked my piece. I'm going to look for the Dane you mentioned.

Heidi. I loved your comment. It made me think.

Annabel, as I read D/s where the woman is the s...why I won't read the reverse is perhaps another article ;) ... your comment about always identifying with the submissive intrigued me and may give me an avenue for m/m etotic romance. Thanks.
Jessica O'Brien
31. JLOBrien
I have absolutely no issue reading m/m romance. I think in the case of that kind of storyline, I don't put myself in the main character's "shoes" but I look at it more like observing a relationship dynamic that I can never be a part of (not being a male). What makes it odd is, I don't actively seek f/f romance because when I have read it (where that type of relationship was the main objective of the story and not just a side relationship) it just didn't do anything for me...and no matter what I read it has to do something for me.

I am a firm believer in read whatever you like...and like whatever you read.

And I absolutely loved Lauren Dane's Laid Bare. The whole Brown sibling series will never leave my bookshelf and will probably fall apart from being read so much.

Excellent post though :)
Lisa Marie
32. dick
Dear Ms. Sommerville: I try not to respond to ad hominem comments. I think, though, that it's possible to disagree about what the word "romance" connotes without resorting to them. I am not, despite my thinking that stories of m/m, f/f relationships are not "romance," I am not homophobic. I simply have a different definition of romance than you do; I think romance differs from love story.
Lisa Marie
33. HeleneMc13
My recommendation would be the Compass Brothers series by Jayne Rylon and Mari Carr. The series had me weeping abjectly, because the story is really about brothers going out into the world and finding their way back home to each other, their parents, home, and ultimately, spouses they love. The first book in the series, Northern Exposure, features a M/F/M triad (almost said couple :) ); the other books feature different non-traditional flavors of sex (exhibitionism/voyeurism, BDSM).

I can accept any type of relationship between the principals, as long as its emotionally compelling and I like the characters involved. I admit to liking an alpha male somewhere in the mix, but beyond that, I just want to read the melodrama of other peoples struggles, pain, angst, and ultimately, redemption and HEA. I've been through my own struggles, and find that melodrama is much more tolerable in literature than real life. But, I like a little drama, so I get it through fiction.

For me, relationships that involve same-sex partners who are not both "out" provides an immediate source of angst, relationship trouble. It's analagous to wanting/not wanting kids, or having to choose between work and family, that type of stuff. It's the idea of being divided and finding a way to overcome that for the people you love that compels me to read on.

That's what has me so hooked on Qhuinn-Blay. They're right next to each other, but also worlds apart. What a mess- talk about melodrama. I also loved Lorelei James' Trevor and Edgard (and Chassie, ultimately), who get their HEA years after their star-crossed beginning. Their hidden relationship (Trev and Ed), Trevor's confusion over his own self-identity, coming to grips with his whole self, his wants and needs after a long struggle. Sex aside, that's compelling and universal.
Lisa Marie
34. Ann Somerville
"I am not homophobic. I simply have a different definition of romance than you do; I think romance differs from love story."

That makes no sense. You are certainly homophobic - I linked to specific examples of your homophobic statements. Your nonsensical parsing that says gay men and women can be in love but that doesn't constitute 'romance' is based on nothing but bigotry. Insisting on 'procreation' denies the title of romance to transgender individuals, infertile individuals, people who adopt, and couples over a certain age. You insist on this distinction to preserve a special definition of romance which can only be applied to certain heterosexuals. This is what bigotry does - claims and preserve privilege for one group, while denying it to another.

Furthermore, your 'definition' is of such a limited application that you are the only person I know who espouses it in the romance community. Even if it wasn't based in your very obvious homophobia, it would still contribute nothing. I could equally insist that all true romances must include a character who speaks French - that would carry no more weight than your highly individual assertion that romance must include the possibility of procreation.

(You might want to look up 'gay parents' in Google sometime. It might surprise you just how many gay couples are parents. We even have a senior minister in the Australian government who is a gay mother.)

By the way, you repeatedly misspell my name when you reply to me on forums. You've been corrected before, so you know what you're doing. That kind of passive aggressive insult doesn't help your reputation.
Megan Frampton
35. MFrampton
Thanks for all the thoughtful comments--it's clear this is a nuanced discussion, and we like to encourage passionate debate.
I'm glad Laurie Gold, the author of the post, has been so open to checking out new things our community has suggested, and is equally open to discussing her views. We support that agree to disagree stance.
Thanks for keeping things civil around here.
Charlayne Denney
36. Charlayne
I had never read M/M or F/F until after J.R.Ward announced the Quinn/Blay novel. I didn't know how I would react to reading a sex scene with the men so I went in search of some. I found some paranormal romance by Stephani Hecht and fell in love with it. They are short, not the greatest, but I found them fun.

I'm 55, a grandmother of 9 and married to my soulmate for 19 years now. I'm not homophobic, quite the contrary, I've got friends and relatives who are gay and lesbian (and I'm GLBTF member). It just never occured to me that there were books out there with this type of love story. And I've fallen in love with them. I'm glad this blog post was written.
Laurie Gold
37. LaurieGold
Helene, I appreciate the recommendation for the Carr series. I've had mixed luck with her in the past, but I'll take a look. As for the James series, I've not yet caught up to where you are in the series.

Charlayne, I've really been gratified with so many of the comments made here. I'll look for Hecht as well.
MKJDobson
38. Rose In RoseBear
Until I read this thread, I had never considered that readers of romance would consider the heroine of a romance as an avatar of themselves. I see the characters in a book as people to hang with, or to emulate; as an only child, the characters in the books I read were my friends, not me.

I'm no stranger to M/M romance --- heck, I was reading and loving K/S fanfic in the Seventies. (To the uninitiated, that's Kirk/Spock romance, very sexual and occasionally kinky.)

Beyond the sex in K/S, I was particularly intrigued by the intersection of warrior and lover. Is there a power imbalance --- physical or otherwise? Is that a desirable state of affairs, or should they strive for balance?

Yes, there are credible female warriors who struggle to build a workable relationship with a male warrior --- Eve Dallas and Roark come to mind, as does the grinding conflict in J. R. Ward's Lover Reborn between John Matthew and Xhex.

That lover/warrior conflict has a different appearance and texture when the lovers are both male; I anticipate great emotional tsunamis from Ward's Qhuay novel, and a new take on the how-do-we-love-and-fight dilemma. Cant hardly wait!
Laurie Gold
39. LaurieGold
Rose, I'm not sure "avatar" is the right word. I don't imagine myself to be the heroine when I read a romance, but I do feel what she feels. As for the power imbalance, that's something Annabel mentioned, and it's definitely food for thought.
mandy troxel
40. mandytroxel@gmail.com
no this is not the type of anal in books im into. nothing against gay but its not my cup of tea.
Lisa Marie
41. liberalgal
I find the attitudes expressed here really disappointing. And so much of it smacks of thinly disguised homophobia. I'm very happy to proudly say that love is love for me. I like my personal sex straight, but when it comes to the written kind all it has to be is done well. If I care about the people, that's all I need to be involved in the story. Bring it on! Y'all are just sad.
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