Sep 25 2015 12:00pm

Plenty New Under the Sun: Male/Male Romance Best Bets for September 2015

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow

The romance has such a basic formula, and there have been hundreds of thousands of them written, but authors still manage to come up with fresh plots, characters, and settings across all subgenres. Here are some of the more intriguing sounding stories for the month.

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow

Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

This is one of a growing number of unusual historicals set in the 1920s, but it's not in the world of flappers and sheikhs. It's a restrained, somewhat sombre character study of honorable people suffering the aftermath of a terrible war. (Though of course since it's Merrow, there's humor as well.) I particularly appreciated Matthew's matter-of-fact attitude about living with a disability. Although this is fairly short, there's plenty of atmosphere to submerge in.

Base Instincts by Larissa Ione

As a Seminus demon, Raze’s life literally depends on having sex with females. The problem is that he doesn’t desire females, and it’s physically impossible for him to be with males. Thankfully, he and his best friend, Fayle, have an arrangement that keeps him alive . . . if lonely. He finds some solace in his work as a medic at Thirst, a vampire club known for its rough clientele. But his carefully structured world turns upside down when he meets a mysterious male who makes him want what he can never have.

Slake is an assassin used to getting what he wants, and what he wants is Raze. But he also wants to earn back the soul he sold when he was a much different demon. All he has to do is capture a runaway succubus named Fayle and hand her over to her family. What he doesn’t count on is being caught himself by a web of lies—and his attraction to Raze.

Raze and Slake must navigate a dangerous world to be together. But as Fayle’s jealousy of their relationship turns deadly, they find themselves embroiled in a battle not only for their love, but their lives and souls.

I'm always irritated by paranormal/supernatural premises that completely ignore homosexuality, so yay for Ione exploring what might happen if a Seminus demon, born with a biological imperative to have m/f sex, was gay. Other than that, it's a pretty typical “Demonica” story, with tough guy heroes and high stakes. Raze had a small role in Revenant, as one of the doctors at Underworld General Hopsital, but this can be read as a stand alone.

Taking a Chance by A.M. Arthur

Taking a Chance by A.M. Arthur

The last time Elliott fell in love, his fiancé cheated on him. Now fresh out of rehab, Elliott's confidence lags behind his libido... not that that stops him from lusting after the sexy carpenter working on his kitchen—from a distance. He won't risk his sobriety on another potential broken heart.

As half of an experienced home renovation duo, Augustus expects this job will be easy. Until he sees the house's tenant, a man he never thought he'd meet—his ex's other man. Augustus knows he should say something about their secret, shared past, but he's tongue-tied by their intense, unwanted attraction.

Despite attempts to keep things professional, the two men give in to temptation and forge a genuine connection—and his developing feelings for Elliott leave Augustus in an impossible situation. If he stays, his secret will always hang over the relationship. But telling the truth might send Elliott spiraling to a new rock bottom and cost Augustus the only man he's ever really loved.

This plot screamed “read me,” and the set-up is very fun too. (Auggie is the “straight man” on a t.v. show called “Nailing It,” and despite the buff man on the cover, my personal vision of him owed much to the cuddly Al from “Home Improvement.”) But the story was even more unusual—one character is HIV positive, and STDs are still pretty taboo in romance. This is very much an “our friends are our family” series and characters from previous books abound, but I was able to keep up.

Valor on the Move by Keira Andrews

He’d give his life to protect the president’s son. But he never expected to risk his heart.

Growing up gay in the White House hasn’t been easy for Rafael Castillo. Codenamed “Valor” by the Secret Service, Rafa feels anything but brave as he hides in the closet and tries to stay below the radar in his last year of college. His father’s presidency is almost over, and he just needs to stick to his carefully crafted plan. Once his family’s out of the spotlight, he can be honest with his conservative parents about his sexuality and his dream of being a chef.

It’s definitely not part of Rafa’s plan to get a new Secret Service agent who’s a walking wet dream, but he’s made it this long keeping his desires to himself. Besides, it’s not like Shane Kendrick would even look at him twice if it wasn’t his job.

Shane’s worked his way up through the Secret Service ranks, and while protecting the president’s shy, boring son isn’t his dream White House assignment, it’s an easy enough task since no one pays Rafa much attention. He discovers there’s a vibrant young man beneath the timid public shell, and while he knows Rafa has a crush on him, he assures himself it’s harmless. Shane’s never had room for romance in his life, and he’d certainly never cross that line with a protectee. Keeping Rafa safe at any cost is Shane’s mission.

But as Rafa gets under his skin, will they both put their hearts on the line?

Andrews specializes in unexpected settings for deeply emotional m/m romances, with her Amish trilogy, her World War II buddies, and now a bodyguard scenario set in the White House. (Raise your hand if you're a little disappointed one of the heroes isn't the President.)

The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee

The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee

When a storm is brewing, taking shelter could be the most dangerous move of all.

One careless, public sign of affection cost Daniel Pierce’s lover his life at the hands of a hate-filled mob. Grief-stricken, Daniel retreated from society to a sheep farm in the wilds of the north. Years later, Gregory Tobin erupts into his solitary life.

Sent to confirm the existence—or the death—of the Pierce family’s lost heir, Tobin isn’t sure he’s found the right man. The gruff, shaggy hermit calling himself Jacob Bennet bears little resemblance to photographs of the younger Pierce. Tobin needs more time to study his quarry.

With lambing season in full swing, Daniel grudgingly admits he could use an extra hand. Through a long, exhausting night, they parry back and forth as Tobin probes closer and closer to the truth. And something beyond casual attraction simmers between them.

They come together in a crash of desire, but ultimately Daniel must overcome the terrors of the past to reconcile the man he was with the man he’s becoming—a man capable of loving again.

Warning: Many sexy encounters on a sheep farm—NO, not like THAT!—between two adult males with temperaments as different as night and day.

Falling in love over a long night of lambing is certainly different, especially after the Paris setting of The Bohemian and the Banker. Next up will be a merchant and a clergyman. It's good to see ordinary people in historical romance.

Vespertine by Leta Blake and Indra Vaughn

Can a priest and a rock star obey love's call?

Seventeen years ago, Jasper Hendricks and Nicholas Blumfeld's childhood friendship turned into a secret, blissful love affair. They spent several idyllic months together until Jasper's calling to the Catholic priesthood became impossible to ignore. Left floundering, Nicky followed his own trajectory into rock stardom, but he never stopped looking back.

Today, Jasper pushes boundaries as an out, gay priest, working hard to help vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He's determined to bring change to the church and the world. Respected, admired, and settled in his skin, Jasper has long ignored his loneliness.

As Nico Blue, guitarist and songwriter for the band Vespertine, Nicky owns the hearts of millions. He and his bandmates have toured the world, lighting their fans on fire with their music. Numbed by drugs and fueled by simmering anger, Nicky feels completely alone. When Vespertine is forced to get sober, Nicky returns home to where it all started.

Jasper and Nicky's careers have ruled their lives since they parted as teens. When they come face to face again, they must choose between the past's lingering ghosts or the promise of a new future.

Another unusual pairing: out gay priest and rock star. Both religious and non-religious reviewers praise Jasper's sincere convictions, though this is steamier than an inspirational romance.

Playing to Win by Avery Cockburn

Playing to Win by Avery Cockburn

Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER to be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?

Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.

Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds, want different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.

Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other's hearts.

Note: The Glasgow Lads series contains dirty talk with a Scottish accent, naughty bits of a gay nature, and characters who call soccer “football.”

I thought Kate McMurray's Rainbow League was a nifty idea.... but an all gay “football” league in Scotland?! It's got something for everyone, especially if you enjoy an across the tracks romance. All the books in the series have different couples and stand alone.

Devotion by Grace R. Duncan

Will Tanner realize he's wrong and claim his mate before Finley's devotion is gone?

Finley Cooper is tired of waiting for his destined mate to be ready to claim him. In deference to human laws, he’s already agreed to wait until he’s eighteen. But now his birthday has come and gone—and his mate has a new set of excuses. Finley doesn’t understand it any more than his wolf does, and he’s beginning to wonder if fate made a mistake.

Tanner Pearce wants nothing more than to claim his mate, but he worries that Finley is too young. Tanner will never forget what happened when his best friend mated at Finley’s age, only to have that mate end up feeling trapped and breaking their bond. While rare, it can happen, and the fallout Tanner witnessed as his best friend tried to deal with the break has haunted him for years.

When Finley finally has enough, he threatens to find someone who will claim him if Tanner doesn’t, and Tanner realizes he needs to come to terms with his fears or risk losing his mate forever.

From the reviews, this is definitely not for readers who hate the Conflict That Could Be Solved Just by Having a Damn Conversation, but I have a thing for fated mate stories that go a bit awry.

Betrothed: A Faery Tale by Therese Woodson

Betrothed: A Faery Tale by Therese Woodson

Faery royalty have always married for duty rather than love. Prince Chrysanths should be no different—except with a human for a father, the prince known as Puck already is different. When he is betrothed against his will to Prince Sky, Puck flees to his father in the human world, only to have Sky follow.

Prince Sky Song of the Clouds isn’t thrilled with the prospect of marriage either, but is bound by duty to follow through. If he can’t win Puck over, the faery realm might very well dissolve into utter chaos. Too busy arguing, Puck and Sky are unaware there are others with a vested interest in seeing the betrothal fail. In a bid for Puck’s crown, they’ll seek to keep them apart, even as Puck and Sky realize that duty and love don’t always have to be mutually exclusive.

It shows how far romance has come that convenient marriage stories featuring gay supernatual beings aren't actually all that uncommon! But it's still a pretty wacky plot, and anyway, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover? This is the author's first full length novel.

Dangerous Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

After the events of Reyhome Castle, Henry Strauss expected the Psychical Society to embrace his application of science to the study of hauntings. Instead, the society humiliates and blacklists him. His confidence shaken, he can’t bring himself to admit the truth to his lover, the handsome medium Vincent Night.

Vincent’s new life in Baltimore with Henry is disrupted when a friend from the past asks for help with a haunting. In the remote town of Devil’s Walk, old ties and new lies threaten to tear the lovers apart, if a fiery spirit bent on vengeance doesn’t put an end to them first.

Really going off-theme here, but I know readers will want to know that there's a new Jordan Hawk book out. This continues the story of the lovers from the popular gothic paranormal, Restless Spirits.

Have you came across any particularly fresh m/m lately? Or do you prefer the tried and true?


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow  
Base Instincts by Larissa Ione  
Taking a Chance by A.M. Arthur  
Valor on the Move by Keira Andrews  
The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee  
Vespertine by Leta Blake and Indra Vaughn  
Playing to Win by Avery Cockburn  
Devotion by Grace R. Duncan  
Betrothed: A Faery Tale by Therese Woodson  
Dangerous Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk  












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.


Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. unquietlyme
I recommend Signs of Life by Melanie Hansen. So damn hot! Release date: Sept 28. The first chapter was a real tearjerker and got me invested in the story. One of the best M/M romances I've ever read. The love heals all theme is tried and true, but the setting and characters were unique to me.

Successful lawyer Jeremy Speer has it all—a loving husband, a beautiful home, and a cherished dream that’s about to become reality. He’s learned not to take happiness for granted, meeting the challenges of life and love head-on with unwavering commitment and fierce devotion. A series of tragic events leave Jeremy shattered, adrift on a sea of unimaginable pain. He’s able to piece his life back together, but instead of embracing it, he merely exists, using isolation and punishing physical exertion to keep the world at bay.

High school teacher Kai Daniels has a heart for at-risk kids—he was one himself, and a teenage brush with the law and some troubled years behind bars left him scarred inside and out. With courage, hard work, and the support of friends, he’s built a fulfilling life that leaves no time for a relationship.

An intense encounter with Kai at a gay club ignites a spark in Jeremy that he thought was extinguished forever, but he’s unwilling to destroy the fragile peace he’s managed to create, and he leaves Kai humiliated and disappointed. Things should have ended there, but a bizarre occurrence brings the two together in a way neither of them expected.
2. Kareni
Thanks for a list with some very enticing choices.

For those who might be interested, the first book in the series by Avery Cockburn is currently free to Kindle readers:
Playing for Keeps (Glasgow Lads Book 1)
3. willaful
Thanks for the link, Kareni, though unfortuately the deal seems to be limited to certains regions. :-(
4. Kareni
Well, drats! I see it's no longer free for me either, willaful, so it must have recently expired.
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