It started easily enough. I was browsing my Kindle on Friday, February 7, and thought, “I wonder what’s popular in gay fiction.” Every now and then, I do enjoy reading something with some relevance to my sexuality. Usually, these are novels of coming out and/or coming of age. So there’s that, but the Kindle offered many new delights for less than $3 bucks — Romance! Sexy times! Erotica!
To illustrate what a dramatic turn this shift in reading for me has been, I had been known among my friends as a discriminating reader, someone with a taste in fine books and no time for pulpy rubbish. I might blame the Kindle as it makes it easy to hide your shame. Of course, now that adults read Young Adult fiction on buses for the entire world to know that they read simple-minded hero tales, this might be less important. I once picked up a guy on the bus who was reading a physical book of Celan poetry. Those days are pretty much gone, aren’t they? Look at these covers! There is no way I would read one of these in public, but I also doubt that many of these even come in physical books— there’s no money in that.
The books I’ve been reading like a crazed love-sick teenager are all Romance. There is a definite pattern and predictability in this genre of fiction that is different from Erotica and different, evidently, from Harlequins. In Erotica, you better well have cocks out and stiff by page two. In Harlequins, I have been told, you might get a ripped bodice and a meaningful, promising kiss, but you’re not going to get the sheets sweaty.
In the world of M/M romances, the stage is set with one troubled, imperfect man who, early in the book, meets another troubled, imperfect man. There is always something different about the men that attracts/repels the other man: a sneering lip, a short stature, a family history, a limp. They then have SEX. Detailed, graphic sex with large swollen members. Then there is a separation. Now we get to the heart of the romance: one wants more, one less maybe, though usually, it’s some outside complication, an inheritance, a domineering family, the threat of homo-exposure, a band of pirates, the Albanian mob that keeps the men apart, even though they can’t stop thinking of each other. Then, usually with one furtive kiss or shag, the protagonists get a night of unbridled pleasure with which to avoid the fact that they probably could both use therapy sessions. Finally and ALWAYS is the HEA— the Happily Ever After. Yes, that is right, ALWAYS. However, it is possible you might have to buy a second book to get to it.
One thing I find very interesting in this market, now that I am familiar with it, is that the majority of these books are written by women and read by women. At times, it’s pretty obvious. The worst books have men giggling, men wringing their hands much more than men with sex on their minds do, and one could easily insert a woman into the role of one of the male characters without needing to do much more than change gender pronouns. I am not sure what the appeal of reading the gay sex scenes are to women, but then I’ve never really grasped why men would want to watch lesbian porn either.
What I’ve decided is that women like reading about men with an emotional weakness that is solved by love. I am guessing that in straight romances, it is usually the woman who has to overcome some weakness while the man is just some prop with a dick. So perhaps the appeal of the M/M genre is you get TWO DAMAGED MEN who need love and sex to be made whole. It is the only thing I can think of. I think the better books in the genre have men who have issues, but still get on with things like having sex and running the family estate and, you know, like most men, just bottle up whatever is unpleasant, put that in a dark closet and get on making some money. That strikes me as realistic. I will add that almost every single book has a fag hag and an all-knowing compassionate ally. Maybe the ladies who read these imagine how fun it would be to have two fabulous hunky, though emotionally vulnerable, men to have tea with.
Why did I read so many? I have no idea. The fever gradually broke and by the end of summer, I was back to incorporating the more typical non-fiction I read and doing research again on the book I am writing. It has been a brutal year in our household and I suppose these fulfilled the ability to be doing something (I am not much of a movie watcher) that required little brainpower in exchange for entertainment. They were cheap and easy to buy. I would actually say they were good for me at this point in my life. I know that sounds crazy, right? But they got me through a rough patch. They got me thinking of trying some new tricks in bed. They made me a bit wistful for “one true pal” and so I am working harder on communicating the person I want to be. They are all gay-positive, and that can’t be undervalued. Still, when I look at this list, I can’t help but cringe at the bottom dwellers, which include the worst books I have ever read. Ever.
So before you rush out and buy one of these books, let me say these broad categories are not in order. Everyone has certain things they might like more than others, for example, I have spent the last several years mostly reading books and poems from the Regency/Romantic Era, so reading the Regency romances were particularly fun for me, while you’ll notice I don’t spend too much time reading about college boys coming out and screwing the team or being screwed by the team. I tend to like magical things but find shape-shifting (a thing I had no idea was a thing) really boring and silly. A lot of these books come in money-generating serials, many of which I read. I make a note if the entire serial is worth reading or where one should stop. Sometimes, you do just need to stop. Again, these all are firmly in the romance genre, so if you are looking for erotica, you’ll either have to turn a lot of pages to get to the juicy bits or go look for other books.
Finally, when I really started to get into reading these, I realized that the reviews on Amazon are mostly pointless and thought I might widen my reading in the genre by turning to a trusted source: a blog! Boys in Our Books: A Blog by Girls Who Like Boys in Their Books is a collaborative blog with M/M reviews written by ladies. There are plenty of things I don’t understand in the reviews which appear to make the girls get their panties all wet or bunched, but I did find digging through their 5-Star reviews useful for finding new books to read, across all types of sub-genres.
Well folks, let’s get on to the reviews!
I hereby recommend these books to GAYS looking for an easy, romping read.
A Case of Possession: Magpie Lord Series
A reluctant magician assists a possibly degenerate Lord fend off strange attacks on his body. Lust and death ensue. These are like a slutty, easy version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell with their world of Victorian England blended with magic and spells. I found this series completely enjoyable.
C. S. Pacat
In an imaginary world, much like ancient Rome, a prince is sold into pleasure slavery to his arch-nemesis! And now, under a secret identity, must try to save his own kingdom, protect the abusive master he has fallen in love with, and take his rightful place as a prince and build a lasting peace. I read them all and am waiting for the next one. I really do recommend them.
A Minor Inconvenience
A wounded soldier of the “ton” gets mixed up in a rollicking Napoleonic-era spy twister. Lots of balls between the action.
Measure of Devotion
In a world that seems like pastoral England with slaves, a snooty little shit is given a slave so he can go off to university. Except it’s not the slave he wanted, so he is a vicious asshole before actually discovering that loving the slave is a better proposition and worth breaking all taboos to be the person of integrity he wants to be. This sounds horrible, but I enjoyed this series of books. It’s so cheesy and eventually, they open an art gallery!
A Lord and a Scottish solicitor find joint interest in the pleasures of man flesh and solving injustice. I very much enjoyed this Regency series and would gladly keep reading them. I really would. I can’t wait for the next one to come out!
Red Dust Heart
A young lonely station-master (ranch boss) falls in love with the agronomic foreign exchange student there to learn about ranching in Australia. If the men were older, this would be more believable. As it is, it’s a sweet little love story in an interesting setting with a big dose of Gay Pride conquering all.
Blu is a hot as hell world-class thief, but alas, while sitting in a bar in Bogata, he is slipped a mickey for the world’s strongest date rape drug— where he is saved, though he has to be tied up and sexually used for hours, by a very hot CIA agent, Mick. Complications ensue: escaping the Albanian mob, vicious drug dealers trying to get the drug to market, and LOVE.
A smoking hot time-traveling tour guide is given the slip by a broad and has to enlist the help of a hot private eye from a different time! Mayhem ensues across a future Washington, D.C. with chase scenes.
If It Ain’t Love
A tale set in the Great Depression which starts as a pickup in a homeless shelter and ends in an apartment with people holding jobs. Sex and misunderstandings abound! A rather sweet tale of family redemption through acts of kindness.
If you have a Romance fever, you might as well add these to your reading list while you swill martinis and eat bonbons.
Think of England
Two secret agents, two different mysteries to solve, bump into each other in the middle of the night and form an unlikely duo to bring down the criminals and heat up the house party! Ok, it is definitely wrapped up with the potential that these two characters will appear in another book. I’d probably read it. Interesting in not only taking on Edwardian English mores but discussing anti-semitism and masculinity versus camp.
Bear, Otter and the Kid
The worst book cover ever, this “Shelter”-like story of a young man forced to be a parent to his kid brother while coming out and falling in love with his best friend’s older brother. The protagonist is a wise-ass and the plot hums along, though the conceit of being a 15-year old knowing that your future boyfriend is only 8 and that you will “wait” for him skeeved me out. The second book is good. The third book is terrible because the “Kid” has the exact same voice as the older brother, Bear, and wouldn’t you know it, the same exact creepy coincidence of the best, older pal waiting to be the lover of the child growing into a man. Eewwwwwww.
One Good Deed
An interesting premise: a social worker falls for a Serbian refuge in Milwaukee that he’s teaching English to. Complications include the death of the visa sponsor and heavy guilt due to shooting a father. A bit too much angst, but at least the Serbian lover is like, “Dude, get over yourself!”
The Gentleman and the Rogue
Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon
A hooker with a heart of gold comes to the assistance of a battle-damaged lord as they solve a grueling murder mystery and fall in love. I think I kind of read it twice.
The Psychic and the Sleuth
Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee
A private eye latches on to a fake psychic to solve a murder in Victorian London and to teach the pleasures of bondage and submission.
A Private Gentleman
A stuttering orchid collector and a man whore! What’s not to love in this Regency drama with plenty of stammering angst and horny times?
Forever in a One Second
I liked this book. A paramedic has an ability to magically heal people. He happens to save a hottie from the wreckage of a tornado, but he also happens to be chased by the Albanian mafia and some other bad people too…when all he wants to do is hide in a small town and bone his one true love.
Two orphan boys rekindle a romance in Victorian England as grown men while trying to solve mysteries and save money to buy a farm. It sounds crazy. And was. But at least both of the protagonists were of the same class, which is actually very rare in this genre.
The Trouble with Tony
A private eye visits a sex therapist, who happens to be a wounded vet, to solve a murder set right here in Seattle (kind of, because things don’t match and aren’t named right). I liked this one just fine. Very simple murder mystery, some hot sexy bits, lots of men yelling at each other, and breaking rules.
The Gentleman’s Keeper
Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee
A large sexy estate manager summons a rake of a Duke to come back to the country house to claim his bastard child. Complications ensue and shirts and pants come off, though there is a lot of sweetness as we realize the repugnant Duke is no such thing.
If you are truly on a love sick bender, you could read these. However, I might recommend a bracing ab workout instead.
Jordan L. Hawk
I can barely recall this book and I believe I read all three in the series. Steam-punkish, murder mystery in Victorian England. There was a geeky gay linguist and a fag hag to the rescue in one of them. Probably all of them. It should have been right up my alley, but I just don’t recall a single thing that stands out.
Somebody Killed His Editor
Layon is one of the big names in the genre. This book is a simple Agatha Chrisite murder mystery in a big house over a long weekend with gay sex.
An incredibly whinny college freshman falls in love with the captain of the wrestling team. Jeremy has to realize Beck has a lot of reasons to hide that he is gay, but it takes coming out to solve the mystery of the hidden cameras in the locker room.
An older man (like 28) meets a younger man on a train and thinks he is hot as he slouches. Except, we find out, the young man has a disease that makes it hurt to be touched and he is an emotional wreck, but he does have a boy fag hag to help make it to work. Could not care enough to keep reading the series. Whatever. Too much tortured soul for me.
Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden
I honestly can’t remember a single thing about this book. It is in a series, there are lots of men in Smithfiled. A Berkshire’s romance? I have no idea.
The Layered Mask
“Those disconcerting dark blue eyes had burned themselves into Downe’s brain”. That would hurt, no? This is a Regency marriage plotter with two gentlemen both needing wives, but desperate to be with each other. A lesbian saves the day!
A story of a closeted ranch manager and his falling in love and coming out with one of his ranch hands. This book had SO MUCH SEX. Like, holy smokes, how did they have the time to do any ranching? Simply too much sex in this romance. They have sex in the barn, in the pastures, in the rodeo, in the bunkhouse, and sometimes the horses watch.
The Gentleman’s Madness
Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee
A young lord locked up for his perversions finds redemption and steamy hot male-on-male action with one of the mental asylum’s wardens, who also exposes the mad scientist schemes actually happening on the ground! He does get fired.
Jordan Castillo Price
This is strange book and I can’t recall if I read the second one. A story of a fellow who leads “memory” trips for people in a mall, but a horrible accident has left his Dad unable to remember his wife’s spiteful divorce, and the son is incredibly emotionally damaged by it. There is a gay angle, but I don’t recall it at all. Maybe the gay sex happens in a virtual world?
A book I was really rooting for but it just doesn’t work— too unbelievable. A mute half Native American/half white teen is returned to the reservation when his Dad goes missing. There he finds he has been far too sheltered and so makes friends, including with the boy of the man who murdered his mother, which everyone on the Rez hates. Meanwhile, he learns every single indigenous craft and food possible. He also learns that 16-year-old Native American boys are surprised at how to open car windows in their uncle’s SUV and going to town is a thing of wonder. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. The romance is sweet if you can suspend all your critical brain.
My Brother’s Keeper
A ex-cop with voices in his head willing him to die and a man caring for his mentally-stunted brother meet and, after battling hicks, fall in a kind of love. More books to this series, but so over the top that I just could care less. ANGUISH.
Object of His Desire
A lumbering giant of minor landed gentry is invited to Lord Sommerville’s week-long country house orgy. But it’s a TEST OF LOYALTY. Does Henry desire Arsen for himself or his money? Is he a whore? Really, it’s just a very short story with too much hand wringing.
Two men, strangers to each other, are forced to share one cabin at the lake. What could go wrong? Sex and Love. Unclear on the order? Nope. Sex then Love.
My True Love Gave to Me
Set in 1817, the story of two English Gentlemen starting when they are 19. Thomas loves Alexander. Alexander loves Thomas back. But a weekend trip to get away and fuck like crazy, goes horribly wrong when Thomas gets an extreme case of “Being Gay can Get You Killed.” So he runs off to America for four years, ignoring Sasha. When he returns to win him back, he finds Sasha is no longer the loving boy he once knew (for two months), but a vicious used queen. Will he ever be able to convice Sasha they are meant to be together FOREVER?
The Current Between Us
An Anderson Cooper-ish journalist opens a gallery to show of his photographs while working on the last assignment so he can retire. He is famous. He is sexy. And, of course, he falls in love with the gallery’s emergency electrician and his whole life turns upside down in the matter of four days. Now he wants children.
Making it Personal
A lonely hot and sexy publisher of m/m fiction hires a prostitute, has greatest sex ever and then the next morning discovers that the prostitute is his morning interview for his personal assistant. Mayhem follows. There is a second story, set six years in the future that involves husbands still loving sex with each other all the time and surrogacy.
Sin & the Preacher’s Son
Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon
Jonah, beaten by his family for being gay, escapes to the circus where he finds the owner, Rafe, is secretly an English Lord. Big Scooby-Doo plot of “who’s been breaking the circus and why?” ensues, with everyone ending up in England happily ever after.
A Simple Charm
A carney love-story and coming of age tale when a townie decides the best course of action is to run away with the circus! A surprise twist at the end and it’s rather sweet. Gay and circus freak affirmative!
Taxes & Tardis
There is no Central Business District in San Antonio where a guy in a pickup truck couldn’t just park and walk into any building. An unlikely story of a beefy slutty electrician who falls in love with a Dr. Who-watching geek and gives up his man-whoring ways. Ok, so after reading this book, I watched a couple of episodes with Victor. I still don’t get the appeal of Dr. Who. This book manages to pack in the angst for situations where there doesn’t need to be any.
A billionaire’s son and the kid who grew up across the lake on a dairy farm get tossed together sharing a dorm room when the pipes break. What could possibly happen? It takes a bit of time, but the pants come off, and then there is some yelling before making up. So phony! As if the billionaire kid doesn’t already have a full dance card with other capitalists.
A big ol’ country boy-Lord closet case goes to a London whorehouse and requests that another customer come fuck with him for his deflowering. He is afraid of whores. LUCK HAS IT the other customer is hot as hell and also a LORD! But marriage drama ensues—despite all the hot man-on-man action, there’s lots of tears and rending of garments.
A seafaring adventure with every cliche you can possibly have in a seafaring tale plus MAN ON MAN ACTION. I really did not mind this silly bit of fluff told in alternating diaries of now-old men recalling the wild days of yore.
Amy Lane & Aleksander Vonov
A cute hot yank on vacation turns out to not be afraid of a little B/D or S/M or whatever it is called when it comes to a heartless English businessman. Weekend of desire! There is a second one, I could not be bothered.
In a future Red State/Blue State Americas, a team of Oregon operatives sneaks across the border to free a gay captive from the evil clutches of Idaho. If I was running away from hick-crazed militias, I don’t think I would have so much time for hot man lovin’ sex.
Bomber’s Moon: Under the Hill
This is one hell of a holy mess and something to do with a WW2 flying ace, a contemporary English-Indian, and a band of evil fairies living under the house. It makes almost no sense, but still, I give the author props for trying and I liked a sense of modern multicultural England. There are more books where I suppose the great mysteries are solved. I left them being mysterious.
A whore with a heart of gold helps a scientist uncover the darkest and sexiest parts of HIMSELF. I remember almost nothing of this book, but the science guy lives in a place with a lot of money and style. That sounds realistic.
TERRIBLE BOOKS: Life is too short to bother with this crap. Seriously. DO NOT READ THESE BOOKS.
My Fair Captain
Space Regency Romance is actually a thing! A spaceship captain goes to a planet that likes to pretend it is in Regency England except that gays rule it and all the royal offspring are genetically modified to be gay! But they must all remain virgins until they are 25 despite being fabulously wealthy and good looking. This is truly a TERRIBLE BOOK.
A Marked Man (Book 1 of 26 or something crazy)
Men who work for secret para-government assassin teams don’t spend a lot of time giggling or waggling eyebrows. GOOD LORD! There are at least 23 of these books, and I read seven of them before deciding enough is enough! The first book, not terrible: two assassins discover their true homo love for each other. But then this series goes to the wolves. A mix of werewolves and assassins, the books build stories off secondary characters from the previous book, creating endless potential if you happen to make every single person on earth gay! DO NOT READ THESE BOOKS. Please, have some pride.
Geek in the Woods
A geeky scientist moves to Bear Cove to set up a think-tank, falls in love with the local hardware store owner, discovers half the town can “shift” into bears, stays anyway, and promises not to tell anyone. Here all I was thinking about was hot guys having sex with their glasses ON! This book was TERRIBLE.
Time to Upsize
The first book in a trilogy I can not read. You can tell the writer is trying to create a funny, bitchy sardonic gay character. Still, every single joke and reaction falls flat in this tale of modern love in Sydney, where the drama queen protagonist dreads turning 30 and whose long-term sheltered boyfriend leaves him for the big-dicked neighbor in the flat next door. The set-up could prove hilarious, but not in this book. Just tedious.
Benjamin Pepperwhistle and the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders
With the fanciest cover, so much like a trade fiction cover, I’d have thought this book was top of class, but it is terrible. Not even really m/m fiction, but more like fetish fiction between a man and guns. No real obvious reason the kid wants to join the circus, no real reason to fall in love with him, but a lot of potential for him to get hard-ons while cleaning or smelling guns. Really.
The Left Hand of Calvus
A Roman transexual gladiator in a political thriller with lots of whipping and bondage and an un-gay ending. THIS IS THE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ.
So Pinned was panned… and it sounded so promising!