Gay Marriage in Romance Novels

Scribbled below are my thoughts regarding a recent article from a literary critic bemoaning the lack of gay marriage and long-term gay relationships in fiction.  He either is not familiar with male/male romance or dismisses the genre, hence my response.  I do not claim to have a great deal of expertise on the topic, but I can provide one fan’s perspective.  I also list some of my favorite works that focus on married gay couples (and link to an article commenter who listed ten more serious male/male romance works).

In response to: “It’s time fiction reflected gay married life” by Matthew Griffin

My Response | Commenter’s Ten Works | My Favorite Gay Marriage Fiction


My Comments

It is easy for literary critics to overlook or dismiss “pulp” fiction when looking for thoughtful and meaningful insights into society and social relations.  The author of a recent article lamented the lack of fiction that reflected gay married life.  He indicated some popular fiction (e.g. science fiction) and popular cinema (Brokeback Mountain) had been meaningful to him.  However, he also stated that much of the gay literature he had read usually focused on past difficulties (such as homophobia and AIDs) and almost always had tragic endings.  When he read gay literature that was focused on more positive relationships, he found it generally to be rooted in sex, beauty, physical pleasure, and repeated encounters with different partners rather than long-term relationships.

As a reader of the male/male romance, I do recognize there are many works in this genre that may focus on physical pleasure, superficial appearance, and/or immediate conquest/hook-up/coupling of two men.  However, serious readers of this genre will recognize there are many works focused on personal and romantic gay relationships and the societal issues surrounding their long-term struggles and success. Many works have focused on a journey to marriage, both in the newly legal sense as well as in the long-term relationships that has been part of gay culture in the United States for decades.  (Before any U.S. state legalized gay marriages, most of my gay friends in long-term, committed relationships used the terms “married” and “husbands” to refer to themselves even if broader society called them “partners.”)  The male/male romance genre has always included serious explorations of permanent love and relationships, and gleefully has also incorporated legal marriage into newer plot lines.

It’s possible this author is unfamiliar with this somewhat “niche” genre, or may dismiss it as “pulp” fiction that is not worthy of serious consideration, as some others have done in the past.  Whatever the author’s experience or opinions,  I do not want to rehash old arguments but I will take this opportunity to say popular fiction has often made insightful comments on current society and aspirations for a better world.  Pulp science fiction in print and on film of past decades has predicted both technological and social developments in society, from Isaac Asimov to Gene Roddenberry.

The often maligned romance genre has been too often dismissed by some feminists and scholars as stereotypical fairy tales or simply reinforcing traditional patriarchy, reinforcing a stereotype that a woman needs to be with a man to be complete.  Yet there are plenty of examples in this broad genre of powerful women breaking  gender norms, and often knocking down men devoted to patriarchal/male domination in relationships, and uplifting those who are willing to join with strong women in challenging at least some repressive gender roles.  (One doesn’t have to be a misandrist or totally opposed to long-term monogamy or marriage to support the equality and empowerment of women.  I have always embraced the feminist label for myself, and also enjoyed many male/female romance books with strong women as well as male/male novels.) In a similar manner, while some “male/male” romance works seem to be focused on titillation, plenty have social and personal substance in their stories and relationships.

In short, I am arguing that the male/male romance genre has seriously tackled gay long-term relationships, both before and after the legalization of gay marriage, and that romance as a genre should not be summarily dismissed even if some works are simply focused on immediate pleasure rather than more serious issues.  (While this is probably not news to any who are likely to read this, it did make me feel better to vent a bit.)

A quote from the article:

The gay literature I read in the years after that never quite answered my questions. Much of it is rooted not in the drama of long-term relationships but in the sharp pang of sex, in the search for love in immediate beauty and physical pleasure, often moving from one object of desire to another in quick succession.

Below are two lists of male/male romance series that have a rich depth and breadth that reaches far beyond the sex/beauty/physical focus which the author describes above.


Ten strong male/male romances focused on long-term relationships:

Provided by a commenter responding to the article on The Guardian‘s website

1. More Heat Than The Sun series by John Wiltshire
2. Cut and Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
3. Stockhlom Syndrome series by Richard Rider
4. Special Forces Series By Alexandr Voinov
5. The Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon
6. The Shatterproof Bond series by Isobel Starling
7. The Psycop Series by Jordan Castillo Price
8. Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
9. Captive Prince series by C.S Pacat
10. The THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet


Some of my favorite “gay marriages” in recent fiction:

Love Lessons series by Heidi Cullinan
Promises series by Amy Lane
Bear, Otter and the Kid series by TJ Klune
Unto Us the Time Has Come by Sean Michael
Hope by Rick Reed (7&7 Anthology of Virtue and Vice)
Love Lessons series by Heidi Cullinan

Comments:  The series covers college-aged and new adults from a wide variety of backgrounds and approaches, from jaded players, Disney-princess twinks, gay men fleeing religious discrimination, rich and financially struggling, suburban and rural. (Series is set in a Midwestern college environments that reflect my own experience.)

Promises series by Amy Lane

Comments:  Thes tear-jerker novels follow a strong young man who suffers, survives, and thrives in a difficult, homophobic environment, including taking in a friend ejected from his family for being gay, and a couple growing through their taboo attraction, war, and the development of an increasingly broad and inclusive family. (Set in the Sierra Foothills very close to my current location.)

Bear, Otter and the Kid series by TJ Klune

Comments:  Extremely humorous and rather irreverent series filled with laughter surrounding serious issues.   I must admit, this actually isn’t one of my personal favorites, as one of the characters drives me too crazy, but overall is a fan favorite for a “laugh-out-loud” take on serious issues.

I actually personally prefer the At First Site series, which is even less reverential and more caricature-driven humor. Even so, I see plenty of realistic attitudes and experiences in the characters even if they are driven over-the-top in humorous but endearing caricatures.

Unto Us the Time Has Come by Sean Michael

Comments: Gay marriage can lead to gay divorce, and this holiday story centers on a gay couple and their kids coming to terms with celebrating Christmas while separated. Interestingly, many of the (female) reviewers found the men’s behavior to be extremely knuckled-headed, and wondered why it took them so long to get their heads out of their a**es. I found their behavior utterly believable. I’m just not sure if it’s a male versus female point of view, or maybe I just have my head too far up my own…

Hope by Rick Reed

Comments:  This short story (available in the free 7&7 Virtue & Vice anthology) centers on a man dealing with the fallout of HIV in the 1990’s but able to survive and move on to love and eventually marriage.  In some ways, a relatively pat and simplistic story, but one that resonated deeply with me.

To Arizona by Meg Harding (review)

Tagline: Hockey player/otter shifter shipped to the desert deals with a tough captain…
Altnernate: Alphahole turns a tough but smaller hockey player into a buttercup…

To Arizona Book Cover Image

Title: To Arizona 
Author: Meg Harding
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 46 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:

My true reaction:   1 star  – I hated it.
My Objective-ish rating:   3.5+  stars (for intriguing shifter ideas and writing)
Summary:  Hockey is my least favorite professional sport, and at times some of the worst aspects of the (in my opinion) over-the-top aggression displayed by hockey players (and not really related to the athletic skill required to play) is front and center here. Readers who love the “rough and tumble” of hockey players’ behavior on the ice are much more likely to find the love interest in this story to be compelling and interesting than I did.
Why I’m reviewing it:
I might have skipped even reading this, but I enjoyed another m/m romance between hockey players so much (Him by Sara Bowen), I thought it was worth a quick read.
One of my favorite author’s once said she’s not happy about a newly released book until she receives her first scathing, 1 or 2 star review.  (She has a good fan base, so I’m guessing her  “excitement” at receiving a bad review means she wrote something compelling and strong enough for somebody out there to be offended or repulsed.)  I’m offering my two cents about this book in that spirit. Since I had such an extremely negative reaction, and since there are plenty of other glowing reviews (so my one honest but negative critique shouldn’t adversely impact a talented author’s sales), I’m mostly posting this in an attempt to complete my reviews of the entire anthology, hence my honestly felt (but perhaps over the top) rant is below.
The writing quality and innovative setting probably rate at least three or more stars (some of the shifter scenes were incredibly cute) but in all I honesty I wish I hadn’t read this.

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Otter shifter Dustin gets traded to the professional Arizona hockey team, where the weasel shifter captain Chandler takes him in, shows him the ropes, and tries to make him toe the new line.  Of course, this means the two fight like hell. 

Review:  Chandler struck me as the worst type of example of the obnoxious, domineering Alphaholes from male/female romance (or instead, perhaps more charitably, just acting like a typically rough and tumble hockey player enforcer and captain).  The writing was fine and sometimes very interesting and innovative, especially in the area of cute shifter behavior.  However, at the center of the story were two characters with a potential romantic interest. basically with a larger hockey player going all “emotionally-stunted caveman” on a smaller hockey player’s a**.  This means acting like a possessive, uncommunicative douche, picking fights with him and bashing other players as ways to “court” the new guy.  I know a romance story is not working for me when I’m routing for the two protagonists to not get together.  When Dustin (who I liked) realized the Chandler (who I thought of as “the Alphahole”) was “courting” him and decided to give in (because he liked Chandler’s aggressive dickishness, I guess), I ending up disliking both characters so much I felt they kind of deserved reach other.

On the positive side, the shifter scenes were innovative and absolutely adorable.  Given the adolescent, thuggish, Neanderthal, emotionally stunted behavior of the main love interest, unfortunately there is no way in hell I can find the entire story “cute.”

Recommended for: Hockey fans;  Romance readers who appreciate emotionally stunted domineering men (alpha-wannabe alphaholes) who let their “caring” out in other ways.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  fire  –  A couple of explicit scenes (hard for me to rate, since I disliked the main love interest so much).
Passion:  No hearts for the humans involved. (Dustin seemed to like muscle-bound dick well enough, but it’s too bad the guy attached to it came across as a  super-douche.)
heart heart – Some passion and chemistry expressed in shifter form.  (Of course, the way Chandler expressed “passion” and “chemistry” and “lust” did not work *at all* for me.)
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (uber-snark with spoilers):
Dustin concludes that Chandler is—in his own backward way—courting him. He suspects if he doesn’t figure out what signal Chandler is looking for specifically, this will continue on for a while and leave both of them nothing but frustrated.”
 My reaction to that line:  How about get the fuck away from me you obnoxious, emotionally stunted, domineering, preening fucktard douchebag?

More Beautiful Than a Unicorn by Bell Ellis (review)

Tagline: Fairy tale of a shy virgin with both a unicorn and an exotic hero who keep fading away

More Beautiful than a Unicorn Book Cover Image

Title: More Beautiful Than a Unicorn 
Author: Bell Ellis
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (12k words, 38 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-514-4

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star   (I liked it alot! – but I’m a sucker for fairy tales)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Synopsis: At 25 years of age, Tobias is a bit frustrated at being a virgin and being alone, but when he begins catching sight of a unicorn, he’s not sure what to do.  After being rescued by some ruffians by the exotic Amar, Tobias realizes he wants more love and connection than he’s had, but more than anything he just needs to spend time with someone he really loves.


Review: A fairy tale through and through, the author brings a little character to fabled characters, including a sweet but earnest modern male virgin and a stout, experienced, and true Unicorn stallion.  Tobias comes across as a truthful and truly  shy young man slowly thrust into a fantastical story.  The connection between the protagonists moved a bit more swiftly (at least in terms of exposition, although it developed over a longer bit of “story” time) than in a full romance novel, but decently on pace for a short story-length fairy tale.  The ending had an interesting twist, cementing the focus of the story, which I say would be the importance of a pure love.


Recommended for fans of: Fairy tales; unicorns; sweet virgin men; the power of love (almost at first sight); sweet and simple sappiness (in a good but simple way) over sizzle.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire – not explicit, mostly fade to black, but some heated hints and tantalizing tastes
Passion: heart  heart  – A tremendous amount of love and passion implied, but in a fairy tale kind of way (rather than sizzling, although fans of denial might find it even more compelling)
Genre:  Adult Romance

A Cat Builds a Raft by Bee Allen (review)

Tagline: Shifter living the life of ease as a housecat finds his otherwise workaday caretaker has otterly dangerous pretensions

Cat on a Raft Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: A Cat Builds a Raft 
Author: Bee Allen
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Sites:  Publisher | Goodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-511-3

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  (I liked it. – Cat lovers might like it even more.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Unwilling to deal with family expectations and complexities,  Zeke takes refuge with a relatively luxurious life as a housecat. Toby, his human companion, pampers him as a cat demands, and it’s too good to expose himself as a shifter.  When an intruder up-ends the comfortable life of human and cat, family issues haunt both of the companions, requiring a review of their priorities, wants, and needs.


Review: While not the most romantic story in the world (to me), this quick read explores several themes with some intriguing interaction and interplay.  The owner/pet dynamic is on display with just a nice display of cat-like attitude from the shifted man.  For a short story, the author weaves a setting and conflicts within shifter families that is simple enough to absorb but also complex enough to enjoy.  The focus of the story is the relationship between the two men (or a cat and a man), but I found the details surrounding the shifter setting, behavior, and conflict to be possibly more interesting.


Recommended for fans of: Housecat shifters; feline attitudes; alternate shifter paradigms.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat:  fire  fire  – While mostly about characters, there is a small but heated bit of sizzle.
Passion:  heart  heart  – The relationship is a bit more as friendship and respect, but some chemistry builds.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There was another character who was incidentally bisexual, and I am appreciating seeing this type of queer man receive some attention in this genre, as we do make up a significant portion of men who love men.

Fieldwork by Charles Payseur (review)

Tagline: Shy shifter with a secret is thrust into a dangerous, field-agent assignment with a buff partner (who just might be a “danger” in his own way)

Fieldwork Book Cover Image

Title: Fieldwork 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (12k words, 38 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-510-6

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Everyone thinks Agent Ignacio Ritter, a desk agent at the Central Xenomorph Organization, is a wolf-shifter, and he is too embarrassed to reveal the truth.  When paired with tiger shifter field Agent Reed Daily, mysteries may be investigated.


Review:  Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick jaunt into the life of an accountant with a “shameful” secret being drawn out into dangerous but important situation and exposed to a big, tough, and interesting man.  I’m a sucker for the shy, quiet protagonist being drawn out by more agresssive characters around them, and this aspect of the story worked very well for me.  As a reserved anti-hero, Nacho was not too passive, but for me had a nice balance of awkwardness with a reason or two to stand forth.  Reed was not very complex, but a pleasantly tantalizing and accepting foil for the more introverted protagonist.  The Chicago mob theme added an interesting flavor, with a shifter twist, but was mostly dressing for Nacho’s personal struggle and story.

Recommended for fans of:  Awkward, smaller, less aggressive protagonists; buff men who respect and like the quiet, little guy; a nod to Chicago mob activity with a shifter twist.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  –   Not explicit, but the promise of more…
Passion: heart    heart  – There clearly was some attraction between the two, and a start to some chemistry.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:

I enjoyed the plot device regarding target practice giving the two potential partners a reason to quickly expose some of their story to each other (and the reader).  “For every shot you miss, you answer one of my questions.”

Shifter By Mark Wildyr (review)

Tagline: The young native, his best bud, the enchanted isle, and trans-formative magic witch unleashes true desires with plenty of sizzle

Shifter Book Cover Image

Title: Shifter
Author: Mark Wildyr
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Erotica
Format:  Short Story (5k words, 19 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-508-3

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Recently come of age, Gray Fox paddles across the lakes to visit his long-time but separated friend.  A spirit on an enchanted isle has ideas on how the young man should enter adulthood, perhaps giving the canoeist a story to share upon their reunion.

Review:  This erotic story might not be typical m/m romance, or necessarily appealing to those looking for more romantic, relationship focused stories, or typical shifters.  This rather atypical shifter really worked for me, and the combination of a coming of age/”first-time” sizzle with just enough of an interesting story and relationship really worked for me.

In short, the native/indingenous setting was a nice frame for a rather sizzling short tale, invoking some nice “shifting” magic to turn up the heat.  A budding attraction between two recently come of age young men was a light but appreciated touch to round out the “first time” vibe.  This alternate shifter might not work for some readers of m/m romance, but I really liked the weave of sizzle, magic, a trans-formation, and a bit of young love (or at least lust).

Recommended for fans of:  Nicely sexual native/indigenous/First People spirituality and shifting; those who don’t mind a bit of a feminine touch in their m/m romance;  sexy witch stories.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire  –  The focus of this read was the explicit heat which, for some readers, might be a tad different than typical m/m romance encounters.
Passion: heart  heart   – Clearly some atraction between the two friends, but the physical heat seemed more important.
Genre:  Erotica


Other Comments (with spoilers):
I personally loved the gender fluid aspect of the story, a bit of a trans-forming witchcraft made the “witch” character an intriguing place to me (and I personally am not squicked by female sexuality mixed in with my m/m romance).
Also, two “straight” young men overcoming their prejudice and enjoying what they have likely longed for.

Werewolf PTA by Felicitas Ivey (review)

Tagline: A doctor with an exotic pedigree comes to a small town only to encounter mysterious deaths – and an attraction to the lawman charged with investigating them

Werewolf PTA Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: Werewolf PTA  
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 51 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-509-0

Retail:  $2.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star  (3 stars)

After reading this story, my reaction was very mixed and I was unsure as how to rate it.  As an innovative and interesting shifter story, I enjoyed a somewhat novel approach to “romantic” shifter stories and would give it 4 stars.  However, the romantic relationship was not very compelling to me and perhaps rates just an “o.k” (2.5 to 2.75 stars).  If I average the two, it results in a 3.2 to 3.3 star rating overall

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Malak, a doctor of Persian descent who recently set up practice in a small town, knows the three men killed on the night of three different PTA meetings had very suspicious deaths. However, dis cussing his true beliefs with the sheriff may be difficult, as he has a hard time keeping his eyes off the attractive lawman.

Review: The story and ideas felt refreshingly innovative for a shifter story to me as a reader of paranormal romances, although are probably not uncommon in speculative fiction.  The multi-cultural background of a character or two was integrated nicely into the shifter mythos and even a bit into the fearful reaction of a small-town.  Overall, the plot and mechanics of the shifter setting and story interested and intrigued me as a reader.

Unfortunately, I did not find the relationship very compelling.  Mechanically, it’s hard to point to anything in particular but I will just say it didn’t work for me, especially once Faysal entered the picture.  Indeed, I found myself feeling more of a creepy vibe than a lusty, attraction chemistry between the pair.


Recommended for fans of:  Investigations of deadly, evil threats in a Supernatural– style; shifters versus weres; characters of Middle Eastern/Muslim/Persian origin.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire  – There were two quick and nicely heated scenes.
Passion: heart   – The chemistry of characters did not work for me, although the doctor’s sweetness on the sheriff (as opposed to others) worked nicely into the plot.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

 

As somebody who lived through the AIDS crisis and lost a ex-lover during the period, the “I’ve got a one month test so let’s bareback” really squicked me out.  (This is kind of strange, as I think sometimes I don’t bat an eye at unprotected sex in romance novels if the safety issue is not mentioned. This particular scene made me want to go re-read Hope by Rick Reed.)

 

I enjoyed when Faysal spoke with a fake, over-the-top Middle Eastern accent to get the goat of any xenophobic, close-minded listeners.  I had an Iranian colleague who occasionally piled on a thick Persian accent to tease people, and I heard his voice when Faysa took on his rather provocative attitude.

Daniel’s Lynx by Ava Hayden (review)

Tagline:  Jilted fifty-something veterinarian discovers the beauty of small town wilderness, including a rare Lynx and a hunky neighbor

Daniel's Lynx Book Cover Image

Cover: Catt Ford
Title: Daniel’s Lynx
Author: Ava Hayden
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 55 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-507-6

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  half-star  ( 4.5 stars – I really liked/loved it.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: At fifty-five, Daniel had lost his wandering, cheating partner of over a decade, and needed a new start.  Moving from the city to resume his veterinary practice at a remote wildlife reserve seemed just the ticket.  His new home was plenty intriguing, including visiting wildlife, a rather rare lynx, and a sexy, mature new neighbor, Ronan.

Review:  The author does a good job of taking some standard shifter themes and tweaking them just enough to make them a bit more interesting and believable.  Even more intriguing, the story wraps these paranormal ideas around sometimes neglected romance themes, including mature men and a lover jilted by an ex going through a midlife crisis.  For those looking for  young, fresh, extra-heat this might not be quite the right mix.  However, readers who appreciate a decent dose of sweetness woven into stories of slow recovery form deeply felt betrayal and restarting life in one’s 50’s, it’s a delightful story with just the right touch of bittersweet flavor.  For a novella, the work does an excellent job at incorporating a good range of themes, including clumsy conversations, painful memories, and slow but steady recovery, while not ignoring lust or passion or sizzle.

Recommended for fans of:  romance for the mature/middle-aged men; traditional shifter themes with a slightly different  take; the sweetness of establishing a true connection after betrayal; rustic, small-town, wildlife friendly settings; a bit of reality (death and danger to animals) in a wildlife setting.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire  – Although not the center piece of the novella, the two quickly sizzling scenes, including a first-time together and make up sex, were nicely realistic, lustful, and plot-appropriate, if a bit brief.
Passion: heart heart  – The attraction of the men seemed real.  The physical chemistry was a bit understated but definitely present, and a friendlier, more deepset passion balancing vulnerabilities, physical attraction, and growing friendship blossomed slowly.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

I found this to be an excellent if bittersweet exposition of a mature man separating from a partner who took a different direction.  After 14 years together, Daniel’s break-up with Kit wasn’t quick or easy for the mature man, which I really appreciated.

 

“He’d spent months in a fog. He’d kept wearing the ring long after Kit had made it clear that they were over. And no matter what Jonathan said, that really was pathetic.”

 

One of my favorite parts was the shifter reveal, believable enough and different enough to be nicely inventive and a good break from the most common type of shifter fare.

 

The lynx providing for his “family” was adorable – “Words didn’t say love the way mouse tails did.”

Spiked and Feathered by Jessica Walsh (review)

Tagline: Stressed call center boy hits a new bar leading to sizzling and feathered stress-relieving experiences

spiked-and-feathered

Title: Spiked and Feathered 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (7k words, 21 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-506-9

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star half-star (2.75 stars – I liked it ok.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: After a particularly bad day on the phones,  Anthony hits a strange bar to unwind a bit, and hits it hard. The results include a hint of just what kind of bar it is and just what kind of trip that kind of establishment can deliver, but the evening in the bar was just the beginning.  Waking up within sweet shits and a hint of feathers takes Anthony to another level of “escape” from work.

Review: While this is another story that is not overly compelling, it was certainly an enjoyable trip.  Anthony was very sympathetic, the grind at the end of the day all too real and his attempt to escape and unwind (and overindulge) read well – nicely evocative of the “bad day at a bad job” blues.  After an empathetic set up, the journey turns plenty wilder and hotter, with trip into typical/sexy and a bit more fantastic fantasy spiced with sizzle and a bit of imagination.

Recommended for fans of: quick, heated escapes at the end of a long day; bird shifters; frustrated workers looking for some (a bit sizzling) relief.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire – For a short story, there were a couple of heated and explicitly enticing exchanges.
Passion: heart  heart  heart   – The chemistry was physical but the lust and excitment seemed true.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I am very much enjoying the emergence of openly (and usually non-chalantly) bisexual main characters.

Love lessons by Heidi Cullinan

Tagline: Jaded player and romantic twink forced to share a college dorm room

Love Lessons Book Cover

Title: Love Lessons

Author: Heidi Cullinan

Genre:  Male/male romance
Format:  Novel (373  pages)
Series: Love Lessons #1

Book Sites: Author | Publisher  | Goodreads
Publisher: Samhain (Oct. 2013)
ISBN: 9781619218277

Rating: star1 star star star star1 (I loved it! )

Synopsis:  Jaded Walter Lucas is forced to leave his off-campus apartment and room in a single room with freshmen Kelly Davidson. Kelly is a gay man right out of a Disney princess mold, with an extreme naïveté when it comes to relationships and love, and who has a deep, abiding belief in true romance.  His older roommate is a bit of a player, and his example just might shake the innocent lad’s faith in love.  Throw  in campus politics, impactful family issues, and constant tension and Walter is in for a challenging year.

Review:  Brilliant.  Sappy and cute at its core with a decent amount of sharp edges around the story.  O.k., clearly this is my kind of story: well-written; a familiar (to me) setting explored accurately and realistically; real world cynicism vs. romantic idealism; and two opposite characters I really like and relate to.

Heidi Cullinan was already one of my favorite authors for her Minnesota Christmas series, and this work shifts from small-town, northern Minnesota bear-like men to a college campus setting. As much as I loved the previous series, the antics of two college kids, a wealthy but alienated player and a small-town romantic, was a wonderful romp through college romance.

It’s hard for me to be objective, as the writer’s work on Minnesota small-towns and Midwestern college campuses rings extraordinarily true for me, as those locales are central to my own personal background. However, the sometimes awkward but often sweet chemistry between the protagonists is even more entertaining and captivating for me. So count me as a fan boy and you can take my review as one enamored with the author’s setting, characters, and writing, but it’s clearly one of my personal favorites.

Recommended for fans of:  Disney (especially princess movies); naive gay boys saving themselves for Mr. Right; jaded men fighting through family, abuse and relationship issues that made them so cynical in the first place; extremely sweet if at times a bit difficult coming-of-age stories.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  fire  fire – While trust and love and growth are the focus of the work, the explicit and sensual scenes are wonderfully heated reinforcements of the story.
Chemisty: heart heart heart heart – The unconsummated attraction, like, and love is very powerful, and the building lust and love between the jaded player and the Disney romantic underlies the friendship and the chemistry.
An example of the non-sexual passion:  Even though watching a Disney movie together and holding him close while they slept had been better than any sex Walter had ever had in his life.
Genre:  Adult Romance

 

Additional Comments:

Originally read and rated in 2014.  Re-read in 2016 as a new installment in the series has been released.