I went to B&N today. I have the remains of a gift card just begging to be spent. What did I buy? Nothing. Because the romance section at my local B&N is pretty craptastic.
I was hoping to find a copy of Maya Banks’ book, Be With Me, which made it to the semifinals of DABWAHA. (Go vote for Iron Kissed in the final!) But no, nowhere to be found. They didn’t even have any copies of Lisa Kleypas’ Smooth Talking Stranger — I wasn’t looking for a copy, but noticed the absence when skimming the new release section. How can you not have a copy of that book? One copy of Elizabeth Hoyt’s last book, but nothing more. Nothing by Joanna Bourne or Sherry Thomas. A lot of Stephanie Laurens’ backlist, along with Sherrilyn Kenyon. I dunno, the romance section is really uneven, and not very well-stocked or maintained. More reason for me to stick to Amazon or other online sources.
The shelf skimming did give me something to think about for SBD: there were a couple of trade paperback m/m historical novels among the new releases. One by Erastes and one by Alex Beecroft. I’ve read an excerpt of one of Beecroft’s books, but nothing by Erastes. The idea of both sort of appealed, but I ended up leaving them on the shelves because the idea of an HEA for a gay couple in a historical…is a really hard sell for me. I’m sure there were gay couples who managed to live happily together, but the risk of imprisonment or execution for loving someone of the same sex kills the idea of the HEA. I would have the same problem with a contemporary gay romance set in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Or with any romance set in Ireland just before the Troubles, or in India about 62 years ago — how can I believe in the HEA, when I know what’s coming? It’s one thing to "know" that a couple will have the usual highs and lows in life after their HEA, it’s another thing entirely to know that their HEA is constantly threatened by the political/social strife or reality of the day.
On this same note, while browsing at an e-book publisher’s site a few weeks ago, I read the blurb of a m/m romance set in Puritan New England. Hmm, I thought, that’s interesting — how will they get their HEA? Because it was tagged as romance, I expected HEA/HFN. Put it in my cart, and was given recommendations based on that selection. One of the recs was the sequel to that book. Except it didn’t have the same two heroes; based on the blurb, one of them decided that homosexuality was wrong and married, and the other left town. The sequel was the other guy finding someone new and struggling with his love for his ex, or so the blurb indicated.
Reading the blurb of the sequel was a big WTF moment for me. Either the first book did NOT have an HEA/HFN, which means that tagging it as a romance was false advertising, or the author broke up the HEA/HFN in order to eke another book out of those characters. Whichever it was, I wasn’t interested. Removed the first book from my cart and haven’t been back to that bookseller.
Here’s the thing: given the setting, any HEA/HFN would’ve been difficult for a gay couple. And if the publisher had tagged the book as plain historical fiction, I’d’ve been totally into the story. But labeling it as romance but then presumably breaking the HEA/HFN rule? Not on. It messes with reader expectations and undermines a reader’s trust in both the publisher/marketer and the author.
Unrelated: check out the Bracket of Evil, which cracks me up in a sad, twisted kind of way.