This past weekend, for no particular reason, I left the TV off and read. That hasn't happened in quite a while. I guess I've just been so caught up in knitting that I haven't wanted to put the needles down and read. So last weekend, while the Tivo recorded NCIS and SVU marathons, I snuggled in bed with the cat and a few books.
Again, it wasn't any particular plan, but what I ended up reading was m/m romance. I'd never read one before. Well, that's not true. I've read Force of Nature and All Through the Night, Suzanne Brockmann's novels featuring Jules and Robin. But the bedroom door is firmly closed in those books. In the books I read this weekend the bedroom door was wide open.
The first one was My Fair Captain by J.L. Langley. It's an interesting concept. Although space fairing, a couple planets have chosen to base their societies on Regency England. One has a completely male dominated aristocracy. And they're all gay. The young men must guard their virtue until marriage or until they come of age at 25. The reasoning behind the all male aristocracy was weak. But if you're willing to not think about it too hard and just be entertained, the rest of the world works. The writing could have used more polishing, too, but other than that I enjoyed it.
The second book was Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander by Ann Herendeen. This one I have more mixed feelings about. It's a bisexual Regency. Andrew is a "sodomite" who has decided it's time to marry and produce an heir. A friend introduces him to Phyllida as a woman who might be willing to marry him and still allow him to continue his lifestyle. Of course, they are immediately attracted to each other. After they marry, Andrew meets Matthew and they fall in love as well. My main problem with this book was that there was just too much going on. Andrew acts like an insensitive jerk and a whole series of unnecessary misunderstandings ensue, leaving Andrew and Phyllida estranged for a good chunk of the book. There's a whole espionage subplot that doesn't make much sense until a minor character explains the whole thing at the end. Andrew and Matthew have what seemed to me to be a pointless fist fight right before resolving their romantic conflict. At 532 pages, this book was at least 150 pages too long. For all that, I didn't dislike the book. I guess I'd heard so many good things about it online, my expectations were too high. I wish the love triangle among Phyllida, Andrew, and Matthew was more even. It seems to me that the only one who got everything s/he wanted/needed out of the deal was Andrew.
Then last night, I read Fairyville by Emma Holly. Let me just say, Emma Holly is hot. She can write a steaming sex scene, and this book was no different. I haven't read all of her stuff, but this was the first book of hers I've read that featured a m/m couple who ended up in a more or less committed relationship. Zoe, a professional medium, lives in Fairyville, Arizona, a city known for its strange goings on. Magnus is a fairy living in the human world and hiding from his mother, the fairy queen. Alex is Zoe's lost love, and although he doesn't know it at first, a changeling. Bryan is Alex's business partner who has been in love with him since college. And then they all get it on. A lot. I didn't quite buy Magnus' reason for hiding his nature from Zoe, and I wasn't 100% on the Zoe/Alex relationship. But other than that, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Holly has a gift for writing very hot sex scenes that also illuminate the charcters and advance the plot, all at the same time. Not an easy thing to do. I checked out her website and discovered that she has a writing workshop posted there. Believe me, I will be reading that.
After stepping back and considering all three, I've realized that they all have one thing in common- D/s themes. Is this because these books are already considered edgy because of the m/m content, so it's OK to go there? Is it because women are writing these books, and the idealized romantic hero is an aggressive alpha male, and that's being expressed through domination? Did I just get lucky and end up with three kinky heroes? More research is required. I did notice that both Andrew and Nate (in Captain) called their lovers "sluts." Is this also a m/m thing, or just a coincidence? Is this something that women want to hear but is socially unacceptable, even in our erotica, so we put it in a m/m relationship? Who are we supposed to be relating to, the dominant or the dominated?
A lot to think about. And this is just the tiniest tip of the genre-iceberg. If anyone has any suggestions for further reading, I'd love to hear them.