Tag Archives: m/m

Color me surprised…or not

It turns out that a m/m author who has long used a masculine name turns out to be a white, cis, heterosexual woman.

On one hand, it’s been made abundantly clear — in mainstream publishing — that using a masculine name will get an author vastly more attention from publishers and editors.  So a pseudonym, eh, whatever.

On the other hand, this author assumed the persona of a gay man in her social media, which is more than just using a pen name.  I’d have to hunt for it, but I’m pretty sure there are posts or comments at various venues online (perhaps gone now but for The Way Back Machine?) in which the author writes about her partner and the impact of legalizing gay marriage, etc.  This author has long been pointed to by other m/m authors and readers as a successful gay man in the m/m industry, which is largely written by and for straight women.  The author never corrected those assertions and profited from them even as LGBT readers/writers voiced frustration with appropriation by non-LGBT authors.

Basically, this boils down to disclosure for me.

If I had hard copies of any of her books, I’d be tossing them right now.  As it is, I’ll be deleting files from my laptop and Kindle, which doesn’t really give the same feeling of satisfaction.

Disclosure:  I liked the Adrien English series, but other work by this writer has been hit or miss for me, and I stopped buying her work because I thought her pricing was ridiculous.  I refuse to pay $3.99 for a 20 page story.  Beyond that, I read very little m/m any longer for a variety of reasons that I’m not sure I could articulate coherently.  So this isn’t a reader flouncing off in a huff; it’s an observer who is just grossly offended by the lack of respect an author showed for her readers and others, first in her behavior FOR YEARS and second in the way she blows people off in her “coming out” post.

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Glitterland by Alexis Hall – quick thoughts

Glitterland cover art

The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

This is a book that I could appreciate, in terms of writing and construction, but I didn’t love it. For technical merit, I give it a 4.5/5; for my personal enjoyment factor, 3/5.

1. Sometimes the prose in this book is lovely and striking. (I loved the game of Nabble, and dinner being prepared, and other scenes.) While other times it edges past lovely and veers into purple.

2. I really hate when pronunciation is spelled out to match dialect/accent, and the spelling of Darian’s Essex accent was extremely distracting.

3. The narrator was a pretentious twit and not a very sympathetic character. Writer struggling with mental illness — should generate sympathy, right? But I spent most of the book wanting to smack him for being a snobbish jerk. Is it ableist to think that being ill doesn’t excuse him from common courtesy?

4. The blurb tells me that the narrator was the golden boy of the literary scene but nothing in the text showed me that. It just showed me a writer with some commercial success.

5. Another personal taste quirk: the bubble graphics used to accompany the time shift markers were twee.

6. Dear editors: the country in South America is spelled Colombia. People who come from there are Colombian. That famous Spanish-language mystical realism writer is not Columbian but Colombian. That’s not a UK vs. US spelling difference but correct usage in both BrE and AmE, and it was missed here. (And, yes, it’s another pet peeve of mine. Even though I appreciate the shout out to Gabo.)

 

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Long overdue: Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

TigerlandEr, my review is long overdue.  Not that the book was overdue.  Well, as a fan of Tigers & Devils, I wanted a sequel long before it was written but was pleased with its timing when it arrived at last.

And not that this is going to be a review, exactly, more a stream of consciousness listing of things I think might be relevant to potential readers.

Also possibly relevant:  I re-read this after The Reluctant Wag because it’s the only other book I know of that it set in the periphery of the Australian Football League.

Publication date:  October 2012

Publisher:  Dreamspinner

After an eventful and sometimes uncomfortably public courtship, Simon Murray and Declan Tyler settled into a comfortable life together. Now retired from the AFL, Declan works as a football commentator; Simon develops programs with queer content for a community television station. 

Despite their public professional lives, Simon and Declan manage to keep their private life out of the spotlight. Their major concerns revolve around supporting their friends through infertility and relationship problems—until Greg Heyward, Declan’s ex-partner, outs himself in a transparent bid for attention. 

Though Simon and Declan are furious with Greg and his media antics, they can’t agree on what to do about it. Declan insists they should maintain a dignified silence, but both he and Simon keep getting drawn into Heyward’s games. Simon and Declan will once again have to ride out the media storm before they can return their attention to what really matters: each other.

 

Cover art:  It matches a scene in the book and the models’ clothing suits/matches that of the characters generally.  Very similar to the cover art for Tigers & Devils.  All in all, inoffensive and frankly better than 95% of what’s out there IMO.

Heat level:  mild, kisses only on the page and other bedroom activities implied off-page.

Does this book stand alone?  Well, a reader could muddle through and get the main plot, but it really works better if you’ve read Tigers & Devils first.  Not just because you’ll know all the players (heh) but also because you’ll get to see what I think is the best part of the duology — Simon.

General observation:  My main criticism of T&D was that the last 1/3 of the book stretched too long and needed better pacing and editing.  That may have been a function of a debut (I think?) or editing by the publisher; I don’t think Tigerland has that problem.

What did I like?   This book uses the same general structure as T&D, dividing into sections that mirror that of a football game, with an epilogue as overtime.

Tigerland (and T&D too) works because of Simon’s POV.  As sympathetically as Declan is portrayed by Simon’s narration, as a character he’s too reserved and measured to work as the narrator here.  Simon, on the other hand, is a cynic and a pragmatist whose snark and pop culture references push the book along and give it a contemporary feeling — Godwin’s Law, Harry Potter, Devil Wear Prada, Star Trek, JFK theories, different musical acts, they all get dropped into Simon’s dialogue, internal and spoken.

Both Simon and Declan remain consistent, character-wise, in this book even though they’ve grown a little — grown together and grown comfortable with their relationship and their circle of friends/family.  Simon’s soft underside is mostly revealed in moments alone with Declan or with the people they’ve made their family.

I very much enjoyed the feeling of Melbourne as a secondary character.   T&D introduced me to some Australian slang (WAGs, bogan, etc.) and now I’ve learned about lamingtons (look good), vanilla slice (looks like a vanilla Napoleon), and the Apostles (on my list for my eventual Australia trip).

What didn’t I like?  Well…it felt like one subplot was wedged in and then resolved without being explained or used as anything other than a justification for the setting of the epilogue.

Recommended.  But perhaps you should take that with a grain of salt because I am not the most demanding of readers when it comes to this book or its predecessor (which was reviewed here).

 

 

 

 

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Belated review: O Come All Ye Kinky anthology

O Come All Ye Kinky

A BDSM holiday anthology edited by Sarah Frantz

Disclosure:  review copy provided by Dr. Frantz.

© 2012 Riptide Publishing

I’ve started and then deleted this post over and over in the last couple of weeks — nothing intelligent wants to come from my fingertips.  But the longer I go without posting, the less likely it is that I’ll post anything at all.  So here, in brief, are my thoughts on each of the stories.

Tree Topper, by Jane Davitt

Martin’s new to the scene, and his sub Stan has recently stopped taking him seriously. Their tree has floggers, clamps, and cuffs underneath it, but will they ever be used? Frustrated and confused, Martin knows it will take more than a star to guide him on his way to becoming the Dom Stan needs—but their path to happiness might be shorter than he thinks.

A sweet story about a new Dom who feels like he’s failing at his first D/s relationship.  The conflict here was all about lack of communication, which can be a delicate trope to employ without making the MCs either TSTL or unsympathetic, but it worked here.  I really liked that the MCs of this story TALKED to each other in the end about what was going on (or not) in their relationship in order to solve their problem. (B)

 ’Twas the Night, by Ava March

Percival Owen yearns for the nights when he can kneel before his lover, even though no self-respecting gentleman willingly submits to another. Michael wants his first Christmas with Percy to be perfect, but is frustrated by Percy’s inability to ask for what he wants. The gift Michael offers Percy—and that Percy offers in return—is the best Percy could ever hope to receive: his will to submit.

Historical m/m set in the English Regency or thereabout is hit or miss for me, because the HEA often can feel forced to fit modern expectations about gay relationships that were generally not acceptable or standard at the time, but the setting works here.  In this story, a new sub is struggling with his desires as wicked, and Christmas spent with his lover, being forced to articulate what he wants, helps him come to terms with them.  The HFN is tender but also notes the social and legal risk of their relationship. (B)

Fireworks, by Katie Porter

Rachel’s job is taking her to Tokyo, which means leaving behind her lover and submissive, Emma. When she summons Emma for one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, Emma answers, hoping desperately to be able to break through her ma’am’s emotional barriers and find the spark of love among the glittering fireworks.

Personal quirk:  I hate the word “helluva”.  In dialogue, I can let it slide, much the way “gonna” gets a pass.  Early use of it in this short story distracted me, and didn’t entirely suit the voice of the narrator using it (IMO).  I appreciated the f/f entry in the primarily m/m anthology, but didn’t love this story, mostly because the conflict felt weak, hinging on the personality and background of one MC who hadn’t been developed enough. (C+)

Candy Caning, by L.A. Witt

Nate is dreading the annual Christmas visit with his family, during which they will ignore or insult his partner and Dominant. Stephen tries hard to take Nate’s mind off the trip with the promise—and threat—of a three-foot-long candy cane. It’s a race to see if Nate’s resolve or the candy cane will shatter first.

There are things you put up with because you love your partner, and usually those things involve unpleasant holidays and/or family members; in this case, it’s both all at once, since Nate’s mother denigrates Stephen publicly during their holiday get-togethers.  Even anticipating it is causing tension between the two in the run up to the holiday.  While I was concerned about the potential use of the candy cane (so brittle and easily broken, even the large ones), I liked the teasing and anticipation, followed by the mushy relationshipy exchange that follows the play. (B)

Submissive Angel, by Joey W. Hill

After Robert found Ange bleeding in an alley, he employed the man in his vintage toy store as an act of charity. However, this Christmas, the eccentric young dancer will offer his thanks—and himself—to teach a brokenhearted Master how to open himself to love again.

My favorite story in the anthology, Submissive Angel reads like a holiday fairytale come to life.  In fact, I wondered if there was going to be a supernatural story behind Ange’s appearance at first.  Beautifully emotional and erotic. (A)

Open Return, by Elyan Smith

Fifteen years ago, Zach left the small Midwestern town he grew up in, confused and scared and determined to figure out who he was. Now transformed, he’s drawn back by the memory and promise of the dominant couple he left behind. Laura and Scott are still together, and as the year draws to a close, they explore old feelings and new ones as they discover they’ve all been waiting for Zach to come home.

This was an ambitious story involving a triad and a returning transgender MC that never really gelled for me.  Perhaps it was the isolation and angst of the narrator?  I liked the base plot but it didn’t really fit into the confines of a short story. (C)

Ring Out the Old and In the New, by Alexa Snow

Recovering from a mugging on the London Underground, Evan has barely left the house in weeks. His partner and Dom, Russell, finally manages to drag him outside on Christmas Eve, but it’s the surprise that Russell has waiting for him back home that helps Evan get past his trauma and remember what’s important: being on his knees for the man he loves.

The narrator in this story left me alternately sympathetic toward and frustrated by his almost-agoraphobia and ostrich-like behavior in the wake of his violent mugging.  The interaction with his partner is by turns aggravated, tender, and extremely hot.  Yet in the end I feel ambivalent about this story:  I liked the couple working through the aftermath, but wonder about the lack of professional mental health care. (Yes, yes, I know it’s fiction.  But fiction seems to gloss over so many serious problems, including mental health issues, with “love cures everything” even when that is manifestly not the case.)  (B-)

His Very Last Chance, by Kim Dare

Drew screwed up. So when his master, Kingsley, summons him on New Year’s Eve, he knows he deserves the punishment in store for him. Everything changed for Kingsley when he overheard Drew running his mouth to his friends on Boxing Day. Now, there’s only one way he can possibly ring in the New Year: starting over fresh, either with an ending or a new beginning.

The beginning of this story confused me: the narrator is expecting to be given his walking papers by his dom, in addition to being punished for oversharing in public, but I wasn’t clear why that drastic an end to their relationship is anticipated.  The expectation creates drama for Drew but feels overdone when Kingsley’s POV is provided, like a trumped up Big Mis.  Still, the story was well paced and I liked the relationship dynamic otherwise.  (B)

 

The stories are not linked in any way other than the involvement of BDSM in each story, which is probably for the best IMO — it is hard to have multiple authors with very different voices and styles write individual stories with common characters or settings.  Overall, I enjoyed this anthology and would be interested in reading other work by the new-to-me authors or revisiting the authors I haven’t tried lately.

Formatting and editing:  I have heard good things about Riptide’s editorial process, and if this book is an exemplar I’ll be looking to read more from them.  There were no highlighted passages with notes about punctuation abuse, homophone misuse, or run-on sentences…which is sadly uncommon in my ebook reading.  Very pleased.

Recommended.

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Recently read

The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles

Really like this author’s voice, although not all the books I’ve tried work for me.  This one did for the most part.  It is one of very few m/m/m books that works as something other than straight up porn, or has the third character as anything other than a brief distraction.  I thought the narrator needed a little development or more background, but otherwise was pleased with this book.  (B-)

A Younger Man by Cameron Dane

This book succumbs to pretty stereotypical bifurcation of gay men into masculine tops and feminine bottoms, in terms of equating sexual behavior with public/daily life.   In addition to having all the traditional female characteristics, the younger man was a victim/martyr (I think I was supposed to sympathize but it was Too Much) who engaged in TSTL behavior to create the two big outside conflicts.  The logic behind one Big Conflict was lacking and also playing into the Evil Woman m/m fiction trope.  Also, there was way too much sex on the page – which bogged down the pacing and made the book drag.  (D+)

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane

This book was a complete mess.  The narrator is an utter Mary Sue who is also spineless and a creepy voyeur.  The other main character needs serious mental health care:  there’s a difference between being damaged and being broken, and love isn’t a panacea, despite the narrator’s opinion and activities.  The women in the book are either: 1) victims; 2)  losers; 3) irresponsible sluts; or 4) close-minded bigots.  In fact, the women are to blame for pretty much every bad thing that happens in the book.  The whole thing was an angsty wankfest of misery with a chaser of painful, awkward, seriously squick-inducing sex.  I kept reading because of the train wreck factor – I wouldn’t recommend it and can’t say I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t look away.  (F)

As usual, YMMV.  Both of the train wrecks have gotten fairly high ratings at Good Reads and Amazon, so…

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Random observation

I’ve seen a few tweets about JR Ward’s book signing and excitement about her next BDB book, which is going to include a gay romance. (Yay? That whole series is a hot mess, so I’m not waiting with baited breath.)

Anyway, I find it somewhat entertaining that one very vocal fan of this couple is a reader who at RWA 2009 stood up in Ward’s Q&A and said that she totally didn’t get/see/feel the homoerotic vibe from Ward’s books that other readers did.

Perhaps on reread it struck her?

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Good and bad and temptation

In reverse order:

The temptation.  Audible.com is having a sale on classics through September 30th:  two books for one credit.  I bought copies of Don Quijote, Middlemarch, A Passage to India, and North & South.  I’ll have audio material for ages now, although I feel vaguely guilty about buying yet another version of DQ (5th – ebook and 2 editions in English, 1 edition in Spanish, and now the audio English).  Actually, in addition to the bargain price of the books, the narrator was the draw for two of them.  Juliet Stevenson did a fabulous job with Persuasion, and she narrates Middlemarch and North & South.  I’m going to end up buying audio versions of all Austen’s work…and A Room of One’s Own…and Lady Windermere’s Fan. Oh gods, my budget.

The bad.  I downloaded Chaser by Rick Reed; I can’t remember who recommended it originally, but the blurb was kind of interesting, in part because it had an overweight hero, which is as rare in m/m as an overweight heroine is in het romance, if not more so.  The writing wasn’t terrible, in terms of mechanics, although I did highlight some weird phrasing and punctuation.  But the stereotypes!  The manipulative, exploitative, sexually-overdone, shallow, cosmetically and gym enhanced BFF.  The hero who let his BFF walk all over him, who was ashamed of who he was attracted to, who jumped to conclusions at the drop of a hat, and engaged in diva-ish behavior.  The other hero could’ve been interesting, but he was just a straw man.  After two hot nights of sex, he was motivated to change himself for his One Tru Wuv (to whom he couldn’t actually talk about his body issues or the big changes he was making in his life), but there was no foundation for who he had been before or why he was changing other than to appeal to the other MC.  Who was, basically, an asshole who couldn’t face his own fetishes even in the safety of a therapist’s office and never bothered to mention that he liked large men but then got pissed off when his two night stand lost a bunch of weight.   This could have been a great story, but ended up being a shrill, gay version of all the het romances in which characters only get an HEA or HFN if they are buff and gym-polished.  F to the nth degree.

The good.  The End of Nowhere by Elizabeth George.  Really enjoyed this book and have things to say about it but want to reread it before attempting what will likely be a spoilerific review.  This is George’s YA debut, and her afterword notes how much her editor had to guide her and how steep her learning curve was for this new genre.  Which makes me wonder:  another big name author jumping on the bandwagon of YA in light of its recent popularity?  Back at RWA2009, one of the panels I attended was about how to write YA.  One of the key points of the panel was that things that work in adult fiction do not work for YA fiction and not all authors can or should attempt to publish in the genre.  On one hand, this read as YA, not adult fiction edited into YA format or wedged into its constraints.  On the other hand, at some point the YA market will be saturated; as much as I like YA, I like adult fiction more and am not willing to read ever increasing amounts of YA as former adult fiction authors transition to the current money maker.

 

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