Aug 24 2015 10:00am

The Sweetest Taboo: Male/Male Best Bets for August 2015

Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher

Along with some new titles by popular authors, I noticed a number of... not really taboo, but more unusual or challenging themes in this month's male/male offerings—particularly a number of heroes in the clergy.

Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher (L.A. Witt)

Isaac Morris has devoted his life to preaching against the sin of homosexuality. But when his sister proposes a documentary to demonstrate once and for all that it’s a choice—with Isaac choosing to be gay as proof—he balks. Until he learns his nephew is headed down that perverted path. Isaac will do anything to convince the teenager he can choose to be straight . . . including his sister’s film.

When Isaac’s first foray into the gay lifestyle ends with a homophobic beating, he’s saved and cared for by Colton Roberts, a gentle, compassionate bartender with a cross around his neck. Colton challenges every one of Isaac’s deeply held beliefs about gay men. He was kicked out by homophobic parents, saved from the streets by a kind pastor, and is now a devout Christian. Colton’s sexuality has cost him dearly, but it also brought him to God.

As the two grow closer, everything Isaac knows about homosexuality, his faith, and himself is called into question. And if he’s been wrong all along, what does that mean for his ministry, his soul, his struggling nephew—and the man he never meant to love?

Inspirational Christian male/male romances are certainly not thick on the ground! Gallagher, who writes steamy male/male under the name L.A. Witt, offers a tender, slow-burn romance with a little sizzle, but closed bedroom doors. It may not be quite a typical inspie, but Christian faith and redemption are major themes. If you're a fan of Witt's, you'll also run into into some old friends from the Distance Between Us series.

Don't Kiss the Vicar by Charlie Cochrane

Don't Kiss the Vicar by Charlie Cochrane

Vicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?

Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.

Can they run the letter writer to ground? More importantly, can they patch up their romance and will Steve ever get to kiss the vicar again?

Although this contemporary novella is a break from Cochrane's Cambridge Fellows series, it seems to have a similar “classic English cozy mystery” sort of feel. Like Lead Me Not, it's not super steamy.

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

For the man he loves, he will fight—body, mind, and soul.

Fourteen years ago, on a sun-drenched summer day on the banks of Craving’s Creek, Ryde swore to his best friend, Alistair, he’d never be alone in the world. Though Alistair was destined for the priesthood, there was something beyond holy about the first kiss they shared.

But a fun camping trip went horribly wrong when Alistair was involved in a horrific incident.

Now, at age thirty-one, Ryde’s life is a mess of alcohol and the painful imprint of his last look into Alistair’s desperate eyes. Since the evil they encountered on that shore, his first love has been lost to him—until he learns a friend’s wedding is to be officiated by a priest named Father Alistair Genet.

Amid the rush of emotions, one thought crystallizes: Ryde’s love for Alistair not only has never died, it’s stronger than ever. Stronger than God. But it may be no match for the church…and the repressed memories that are slowly tearing Alistair’s mind apart.

Warning: Contains a drunken confessional, a self-destructive clergyman, and a fight to the spiritual death for love.

Reviewers praise the passion and beautiful writing of this story—and warn about some disturbing themes, so tread carefully. The author is a Lambda Award finalist.

Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins

Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins

When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots.

The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they met, Denny taught Rafi to fly across the water, rowing hard in a knife-like boat. Now, two years later, on the wings of a rowing scholarship, Rafi is attending Denny’s elite college.

Even before the excitement wears off, Rafi is struggling with classes and fending off rumors that Denny’s family, not Rafi’s talent, won him his spot. To quash the gossip, Rafi tries to steer clear of the man he wants. A plan that evaporates in the fire of renewed attraction.

But Carlisle’s academic pressure cooker has Rafi barely treading water. And when a family crisis hits, both Rafi and Denny must pull hard to keep their relationship from capsizing in rough waters.

Warning: Contains a surly Dominican-American guy determined to show no weakness, a golden boy who knows his soft spots, some seriously dirty bachata dancing, and an excellent excuse for voyeurism in the locker room.

After a spin with an male/female couple in The Girl Next Door, Cousins returns to male/male for the story of Cash's nephew, Denny, introduced in that book. I'm a little relieved he's a few years older now!

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Astrid Amara, Jordan Castillo Price, Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, K.J. Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Lou Harper, and Andrea Speed

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Astrid Amara, Jordan Castillo Price, Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, K.J. Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Lou Harper, and Andrea Speed

Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.

My thoughts (and pretty much every GoodReads comment): Wow, can you believe that line up? I'm not even that big a paranormal reader, but I know that's an amazing crowd.

A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.

After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.

My introduction to Charles, which made me an instant fan, was the deliciously intense Regency story “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh,” in the anthology Another Place in Time. So I'm thrilled that she's returned to the Regency setting with this new series, which is loosely linked to that story. It will feature three different couples. I'm betting that naming a character Harry Vane was quite deliberate!

Guardians Of The Haunted Moor by Harper Fox

Guardians Of The Haunted Moor by Harper Fox

The wedding is just the beginning…

Gideon and Lee have spent a year in chaotic married bliss, with all the trimmings – a dog, tricky in-laws, and a baby girl they both adore. But even the best of lives can be fragile, and a shocking family loss hits their new world like a demolition ball.

Gideon has little energy left to investigate a murder that’s taken place in the fields outside Dark. He still has his duties to his community, though, and with Lee at his side, he begins to unfold the mysterious death of Farmer John Bowe. It’s harvest time, ancient West Country magic in the air, and rumours are flying through the village of an enemy Gideon thought he’d left behind long ago.

Can the beast of Bodmin possibly be real? Everything in Gideon’s stoical police-sergeant’s nature says no. But Lee has taught him to see the world differently, and now they must pool their resources to unmask a killer before more lives are lost–and somehow find a way to mend their shattered family, too.

This is the sad (but happy!) finale for this romantic mystery/horror series. It's recommended that the books be read in order, since the characters and their relationship develop over times.

Viscount's Wager by Ava March

Viscount's Wager by Ava March

You never forget your first love, but is a second chance worth the gamble?

Anthony, Viscount Rawling, knows exactly what he wants in life and he isn't above having a look about London for it. When he spots recently widowed Gabriel Tilden at a ton function, he thinks he might have found love…again.

Gabriel is as gorgeous and reserved as he was when he broke Anthony's heart seven years ago. But they were only adolescents then…surely Anthony won't hold the incident against him. And especially not when the attraction between them is stronger than ever.

Gabriel came to London in search of distraction, and a teasing Anthony is impossible to resist. As Anthony introduces Gabriel to the pleasures that can be found in the city—and in his bedchamber—their bond deepens into something more. Yet both men are hiding secrets that could pull them apart forever…

The third in the “Gambling on Love” series rather aptly looks at gambling addiction, as well as dyslexia, in one of March's typically emotional historicals. The series doesn't need to be read in order, but previous couples do make themselves felt here.

When to Hold Them by G.B. Gordon

When to Hold Them by G.B. Gordon

Doran Callaghan doesn't know when to fold ’em. His gambling has landed him in debt and in jail, and now it’s got him stuck in the sticks in a reintegration program. He wants to turn his life around, but old habits come knocking, and some creditors are harder to shake than others.

Xavier Wagner cares more about the National Park he works in than the people around it, until a stranger awakens desires he didn't know he had. Doran's natural submissiveness turns Xavier’s ideas of how to treat a lover upside down. But Doran doesn't seem to know about boundaries—or even to have any—and Xavier’s not sure that Doran will say no if he needs to. Which means someone’s going to get hurt.

While Xavier struggles with his principles, Doran's past comes calling. Trusting each other is suddenly a matter of life or death, but Doran has to decide whether counting on Xavier—or himself—is a gamble he’s willing to take.

I think this may have the first major black character in the Bluewater Bay series, though it's the second interracial romance. The series has moved away from the initial concept to tell stories unrelated to the fictional Wolf's Landing books and t.v. show, and these character descriptions just leapt out at me. Reviewers praise the unusual D/s dynamic.

Ruin Porn by S.J.D. Peterson and S.A. McAuley

Ruin Porn by S.J.D. Peterson and S.A. McAuley

There is underlying beauty in destruction….

Miah Thade, Finn Reese, and Ritchie Meyer are Resonator, an indie rock band with an edge—best friends turned rock stars, known as the Detroit 3. When Evin Rene appears in their life none of them can deny he belongs with Rez.

They may have named their first album Ruin Porn because people get off on seeing how Detroit went from deeply loved to thoroughly forsaken, but they’re determined to prove that blight isn’t the entire story and blight isn’t always ugly.

Ritchie, Miah, Finn, and Evin take Resonator to a level no one anticipates. But no prosperity comes without sacrifice, and no secret stays hidden without a trail of lies. As Rez’s fame grows, so does the intensity between two of its members…as well as their potential for destruction.

Evin and Finn are about to discover the underlying beauty in their ruin porn.

This doesn't look or sound like typical genre romance, and I have to tell you that I haven't been able to find out whether it has a HEA or even a HFN. (The proposed name of the sequel, Two Way, also makes me feel a little cautious.) But what the heck, I've already declared this the month for challenging male/male romance, and the premise sounds fascinating.

Are there less common or somewhat taboo themes you'd like to see in male/male? Will the hot stepbrother trend show up next? Tune in for the September male/maleroundup to find out!


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher  
Don't Kiss the Vicar by Charlie Cochrane  
Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa  
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins  
Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Astrid Amara, Jordan Castillo Price, Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, K.J. Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Lou Harper, and Andrea Speed  
A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles  
Guardians Of The Haunted Moor by Harper Fox  
Viscount's Wager by Ava March  
When to Hold Them by G.B. Gordon  
Ruin Porn by S.J.D. Peterson and S.A. McAuley  















Willaful has been diligently reading and reviewing romance for the past seven years, but for some reason just can't seem to catch up. She blogs at A Willful Woman and Karen Knows Best.

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