Skip to main content


Wouldn't you know it: After stating that I was mostly staying away from reading challenges in 2014,  I then spent most of January doing a reading challenge. A chance comment of mine during a conversation prompted my friend Sig to hold me to something I said in a reading report post several months before, about doing some research into gay romances with a view to finding some good ones. I'd read a few since then, but had not been too impressed.

Sig happens to love this genre and considers herself an expert on the subject. In the second week of January she handed me a Kindle loaded with a bunch of gay romances in various subgenres, including some of her favourites with various other stories thrown in for variety. She challenged (or rather ordered) me to read at least 10 of them, preferably at least one erotica story and one BDSM subgenre story.

By the way, I should say that by good ones I meant romances that have the qualities I like in a good straight romance: an interesting or thrilling story with strong emotions, engaging characters that undergo plausible development in the course of the narrative, no "sex instead of character development" scenes, no more than one sex scene per every 60-or-so pages and preferably only one long sex scene.

I have, in the past, been able to ignore an over-abundance of the last two items, but only when the first three items were in place. I usually get around them by skimming, and I can tell you: I did a fair amount of skimming through some of these stories. It seems that in gay romance - usually referred to as M/M romance - there must be sex in at least every other chapter. I found a handful of books that had less, and another handful in which the frequent sex scenes were short and written with enough skill and variation not to make me suspicious of an overuse of the "cut, shuffle and paste" technique, because, face it: there are only so many ways in which you can write a sex scene before they start getting repetitious.

Generally speaking, the fewer the sex scenes, the better the character development and story were, with the sex being used for verisimilitude and extra flavouring, rather than being the main focus of the story. Some, however, were just sex scenes strung together with the barest hint of a story and lead characters with the (admirable) physical charms but also unfortunately the plastic personalities of Action Man dolls.

All of these stories fall into the "all dessert and no main course" category of literature, although some are apple pie while others are meringues.

What I do find refreshing about M/M romances is that in the sex scenes, the authors tend to call things - both body parts and actions - by their names. Not necessarily medical names - penis is not a common word in these books - but rather the terms used in everyday talk. If you've read straight romances you will be familiar with the flowery evasive language and metaphors used in the sex scenes in about 95% of them. There aren't a whole lot of those in use in these books, and the language tends not to be as purple as in straight romances. For example, I only found one mention of the "velvet covered steel" kind in 20 books, which, had I been glomming straight romances, would have been a record. This plain language, of course, means that when taken out of context many of these sex scenes could easily be read as porn. It's the context, the story, and the feelings that temper them and make them erotic rather than pornographic.

A final interesting point is that of the 20 books by 14 authors, it seems only two authors are male. They, and about half of the others, go by gender-neutral author names - either initials or unisex names - while the rest go by recognisably female names. I have no way of knowing how many use pseudonyms and I didn't feel like going into the research to find out, but since this type of literature is out of the literary mainstream (although it seems to be slowly paddling towards it) and has certain associations some would consider shameful, I am assuming most of these names are pseudonyms.

So, will I continue reading M/M romances? I think I can safely say 'Yes' to that, but I will be careful in my choices before I start buying rather than borrowing them because, if you didn't already guess, I f***ing hate it when romance authors use sex to replace character development or to stuff plot holes, and I will need to find out which reviewers I can trust to help me avoid such books and which authors write the kinds of stories I like.
I'm working on the reading report, will post it later this week.


Popular posts from this blog

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.

Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.

Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.

Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got:

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?

Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…