ONTD Political

Straight Woman Doesn't Understand LGBT romance books.

3:24 pm - 05/17/2012

Readers of erotic romance, it seems, like to read about men getting it on. With each other. A decade ago, more women than men tuned in to watchQueer as Folk, Showtime’s hour-long sexually explicit drama about the lives, loves, and sexual exploits of a group of gay and lesbian friends. If I recall correctly, and as evidenced by the pic above, there were more men than women on the show, which featured plenty of nudity and lots and lots of fucking. A decade later that’s what I most remember most vividly, although I also learned something I had not previously known: Men can fuck in the missionary position.

That’s what popped into my mind when I heard that Qhuinn and Blay’s lovesick angst will play out in a Black Dagger Brotherhood novel due in 2013 from J.R. Ward. It won’t be the first gay “mainstream” romance—after all, it’s been five years since Suzanne Brockmann’s All Through the Night—but the steam level of Brockmann’s book can’t match that in Ward’s, whose writing is far more sexually graphic. Homoeroticism, a hallmark of Ward’s series, has become more pronounced over time, so perhaps it won’t be an “issue” for readers. Still, it’s a hop, skip, and jump to go from “it wouldn’t bother me” to “this is a compelling secondary story” to “wow...that’s hot...I want more, and please don’t leave out anything!”

An online friend—BarksLessWagMore—who was once an AAR Reviewer and now writes the Fetch Me My Fainting Couch blog reads prolifically, and among her romance choices are a goodly number of m/m romances, including those of the erotic variety. I asked her what appeals to her about reading m/m romance, and m/m erotic romance. Her response? That she finds it hard to find well-written, well-developed romances with a focus on the love story within a genre filled with “crazy paranormal/action-fest” titles, so much so that at this point, she’s concluded “that those writers in the m/m genre are doing it best.” She adds, “I won’t lie and say that the appeal of two hot guys falling in love isn’t a draw and a nice change of pace from traditional romance, but for me it comes down to character believability and how well the romance is developed. Most m/m romances (or at least the amazing ones) maintain a focus on the two leads falling in love despite all of the obstacles.” (Those of you interested in discovering which titles BarkeLessWagMore finds amazing may click here for her m/m page at goodreads.)

My friend lost me at “the appeal of two hot guys falling in love.” I’m not making a judgment—political, religious, or otherwise. Far from it, and in real life (and outside of romance reading), I couldn’t care less about who beds whom; c’est la vie and all that. But reading romance is an intensely personal experience for me. It goes to the core of my sexuality, and sexually speaking, I’m simply not turned on by the notion of two men or two women doing What People Do when they’re in love. I don’t care if two men in real life do What People Do when they are in love, but watching it...reading it...fails to arouse me because that intensely personal connection is missing. The heroine of a romance/erotic romance novel is my personal placeholder. If two men are making love, after all, it becomes impossible to be All About Me. Without a heroine in a scene to placehold for me, it’s not at all about me. Pout. What’s there to get turned on about?

Substitute two women for two men and that failure to be turned on morphs into a total turn off. During a sex scene it’s me feeling what the heroine feels and what the heroine does, and if a heroine does another woman, I’m sorry, but getting up close and personal with another woman’s vagina provokes a very unpleasant, visceral response. That said, when my daughter once hypothetically asked what I would do if she were gay, my immediate response was, “Bring your girlfriend home for Thanksgiving!”

Let’s get back to two men, though. While I can’t help but turn the heroine into a placeholder, my friend interprets stories about two hot guys falling in love differently. Whether the stories she reads are explicit or not, gender is not at issue. I don’t know what that says about the two of us. What I do know is this: I have the same intense reaction to what I see that I do to what I read. When the final episodes of Game of Thrones’s first season aired, I knew bad, very bad things were going to happen. My husband was not available to hold my hand for those final two Sunday evenings, so I TiVo’d the episodes until he could watch them with me. Weenie that I am, I needed moral support to get through what was to come.

The Cast of HBO’s Girls

Girls Will Be Girls?

He doesn’t understand why my response to TV shows is so intense. We actually stopped watching E.R.and NYPD Blue after the deaths of Dr. Mark Greene and Det. Bobby Simone because I could no longer handle the emotional investment. On the other hand, I felt no connection at all when tuning in to watch the premiere episode of Girls. Indeed, my only reaction was to be grossed out after watching a scene in which two friends with benefits have anal sex. The “ew” factor wasn’t the sex itself, it was that afterward they sat bare-ass naked on the couch without any thought given to putting down a towel first.

Obviously the notion of two hot guys falling in love appeals to a segment of women readers, and that segment is growing. J.R. Ward’s decision to take Qhuinn and Blay center stage attests to that, and so do the ever-growing number of m/m erotic romances written specifically for the female reader.

Laid Bare by Lauren Dane

Laid Bare by Lauren Dane

Although I’ve tried, I’m just not a fan. Even authors whose “straight” erotic romances I’ve liked, some paranormal, others contemporary—Cameron Dane, Tielle St. Clare, Evengeline Anderson, Lorelei James, to name just a few—have not lured me in. The book to come closest, Lauren Dane’s Laid Bare, features a love story involving a woman and two men. First the men fall in love with the heroine. Then they fall begin to dig each other, and the heroine finds it all incredibly hot. I liked the book overall and the scenes involving the heroine and the homophobic father of one of her lovers were well-written and emotionally gripping. But what the heroine found incredibly hot, I found incredibly...not.

Though most of the m/m storylines I’ve read were written by women, I have tried a smattering of full length books and short stories written by men. I can’t share the titles, but the result has been the same: I felt nothing.

My motto as a reader has always been “never say never,” and it has served me well. Perhaps with the right story I’ll feel something.

So I’d like to open the discussion to your recommendations on which books and/or authors to try, and why: Would I be better served to try a m/m story written by a gay man who doesn’t have a straight woman in mind as his primary audience, or will I strike gold reading women authors who write for women? Will I have my aha moment with a menage story or with a more traditional boy-meets-boy story line? I may not ever become a m/m erotic aficionado, but maybe I can understand why others are. And to broaden the discussion, feel free to share your comments overall on m/m romance.


I find this to be irritating in a few ways as a lesbian romance reader. Its written specifically to straight women about this one woman's opinion so its hard to put my finger on it. I just find it unnecessary because it doesn't go into much detail about the real problems with LGBT romance/erotica written for straight people. Its just her 'visceral' reaction. 

I thought maybe a good book discussion might come of this. Anyone have any LGBT romance book (or any type of genre) recommendations?

I enjoyed The Gunfighter and the Gear-Head by Cassandra Duffy which is a steampunk romance set in a distopian future. Its the first of a series called the Raven Ladies. 

If you want more recommendations, check out the LGBT book site that I made for a library science class.
ladycallie 18th-May-2012 03:55 am (UTC)
Oh, snagging both Dane and Duffy's books recs. I read lesbian romances primarily, but Two For One: …a novel about having choices by Sean David Wright is one of the few bisexual novels I've found that is decent. It's been too long since I've read it for me to give a good review, but I enjoyed it at the time and it's found a home on my shelves (which is coveted real estate).

As for lesbian titles, I second the Sarah Waters recommendations from above. I personally will read and love anything from author Radclyffe (her new paranormal series, penned under pseud LL Raand, is unbelievably hot. Like, OMG, I didn't know I could still get that turned on by fiction, kind of hot).

Georgia Beers - Starting from Scratch is a nice, quiet romance with very human characters. No dramatics, just a natural romance.

KG MacGregor's Shaken series (which began as a Zena femslash fic) is pleasant, although the second book is the weakest of the series.

The Killing Room by Gerri Hill is a nice crime/suspense/romance, and it's decently long, with believable characters and a dog (I love dogs).

I know Malinda Lo's YA adaptation of Cinderella, Ash, has been mentioned in many LGBT circles, but I didn't care for it at all. YMMV.

One of my favorite fanfic authors has recently published a teen lesbian vampire novel called Immortal Longings: A Vampire Novel by Diane DEKELB-RITTENHOUSE. However, I have not had a chance to read it yet.

Tanya Huff's Quarters series (and most of her works) feature same sex couples who are viewed as no different then opposite gender couples.
staringiscaring 18th-May-2012 03:59 am (UTC)
Oooo, if you like lesbian romance then check out The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer. Its based on Greek mythology and centered around Persephone. Its truly lovely.

Thanks for the recs!
ladycallie 18th-May-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
That sounds amazing! Thank you!
staringiscaring 18th-May-2012 04:28 am (UTC)
Its a beautiful story. One of the best YAs that I have ever read.
gargoylekitty 18th-May-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
Definitely second that! Was pretty good.
dollsome 18th-May-2012 06:08 am (UTC)
Ooh, I've got this one on my Kindle; I definitely need to find the time to read it! The whole premise is STUNNING.
nagasasu 18th-May-2012 04:52 am (UTC)
Lo's Huntress is a better novel than Huntress, but the romance.... YMMV there.
gargoylekitty 18th-May-2012 05:04 am (UTC)
Agreed. While definitely personal opinion, enjoyed Huntress overall more than Ash. Not that both aren't good in their own right.
ladycallie 18th-May-2012 05:11 am (UTC)
I've got Huntress already, but because I was so unimpressed with Ash, I backshelved it. I'll give it a try though. Thanks!
maladaptive 18th-May-2012 01:08 pm (UTC)
I might have enjoyed Ash if it hadn't been sold as lesbian. As it was I spent the whole book going "where is the love interest!? All I have is a stupid girl and her infatuation with the obviously creepy douchebag that is never properly explained!"

I can ignore stupid protagonists and creepy douchebags when the writing is that pretty.
sparkindarkness 18th-May-2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
Tanya Huff's Victoria Nelson series contains a lot of REALLY homophobic infantilising of gay men and devaluing of gay men's love, so, I'm not sure abotu her other work but the Blood Ties series is skeevy
ladycallie 18th-May-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's unfortunate. I've not read that series. Her Keeper trilogy is fine, but the lesbian stuff happens at the very end, so you don't get much.
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