Friday, April 30, 2010

Hit Me Baby One More Time

I'm a bit of a series 'ho.

There's nothing I love more than knowing that the story I'm enjoying will continue long after I finish the book I'm reading. A series, too, gives the author time to flesh out characters, show their depth, as well as have them change over a protracted period of time. Also, larger story arcs can be explored that extend over a number of books, adding to the overall complexity of the world in which the story occurs.

A few of my favorite series that have maximized world and character development would include:

Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann
I love how characters that start out as supporting cast develop over the course of the books, and by the time they get "their" story, they have a history, a personality, and on-going friendships/relationships. Sam, Max, Jules (among others) feel 3-dimensional. I root for/against the characters in this series, and feel invested in them.

PsyChangeling series by Nalini Singh
Any kind of speculative fiction really benefits from lots of time to develop the world in which the story takes place. The PsyChangeling world is one that has so many layers, and with each book, more and more of the world is filled in. (BTW, have you see the beautiful new cover for Book 9, Play of Passion, to be released in November? --->)

Nightrunners series by Lynn Flewelling
This fantasy series builds slowly, and the relationship between Alec and Seregil grows from one between a younger man/older mentor to that of equals and lovers. The series also allows each book to focus on a specific region/culture in the Nightrunners world.

Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon
When the final book in the AE Mysteries was released in December, I re-read the entire series. Doing that really allowed me to appreciate how Josh Lanyon crafted, not just each individual book, but the entire story. The coolest part was seeing how, though Jake undergoes the most obvious character growth, it was Adrien's more subtle changes that I most enjoyed reading about. Their love story could never have been confined to only a single book.

Now, I understand the whole saw about how it's better to leave people wanting more, but here are a few books that I really wish were series:

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
When I finished this book, I frantically scoured Robin McKinley's site looking for indications that book 2 would be written. This dark romance between the engaging baker, Rae and the loner vampire Con felt so fresh. There is so much rich material in this story that I couldn't believe it was a standalone. The author says she has no inclination to write more in this world. *sob*

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This story of the orphan Nobody Owens (Bod, for short) who is raised, protected, and loved by the ghostly inhabitants of the the graveyard is sweet, dark, and lovely. It's reminiscent of Tim Burton's movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, with its twisted sense of humor. By the end, I had a lump in my throat, and I wanted to follow Bod on his further adventures.

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price
While I tend to rave about JCP's PsyCop series, this is the story that introduced me to her great storytelling. Hemovore's completely unique take on the "vampire virus" is told from the perspective of the germophobic Mark, who assists the V-positive artist Jonathan. I'd LOVE for JCP to re-visit the gritty Hemovore world, either telling more of Mark and Jonathan's story or introducing a new couple.

Do you like series, or do you prefer stand alone novels? Is there a book you wish was a series? Or is there a series that would have been better left as a stand alone?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

True Confessions

Pin-up girl readingOK, so I have a confession.

I don't know how it happened. I was careful. Lists were made. Blogs were read. Bookstores and libraries were trolled. Lunch was had with other bloggers. Much discussion was had, and many books were exchanged in parking lots.

Yet, somehow, oversights occurred anyway.

I admit it.

I have never read Joanna Bourne's My Lord and Spymaster. Or Meredith Duran's The Duke of Shadows. While historical romance was my gateway into the world of romance back when I was a teen, there are some really big names I still haven't read. Laura Kinsale, Eloisa James, and Suzanne Enoch, among others.

And, when it comes to classics, there are other reading oversights. Being a lit major in college, I actually read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre 2 or 3 times for various classes, but sister Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights remains unread. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is another classic I never got to.

Whenever these books (or other much-read books I haven't read) come up in conversation, I always feel like I'm missing out.

Over the last year, I've finally gotten around to reading books that everyone else seems to have read, like JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, and Nalini Singh's PsyChangeling series. And, if it hadn't have been for The Book Smugglers Guest Dare back in January, I'd still be a Lord of the Rings virgin. (I finally read The Fellowship of the Ring.)

So, now, it's the moment of truth.

I told you some of mine. Now you tell me yours.

Finish this sentence:

I can't believe I still haven't read . . .

Come on back tomorrow and visit me on my second day here on the Island! Also, be sure to visit me at my place, Renee's Book Addiction.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cap'n Jack Chats About Being A Pirate - Savvy?

I’m excited to say, the handsome, debonair, yet ruthless and cunning Cap’n Jack has agreed to answer a few questions today about being a pirate. (He is just so damn HOT in an “I’m going to steal your virginity and jewellery”, sort of way.)

L: Thank you for agreeing to chat with me Jack! It is okay to call you Jack, is it?

*waves arms in air, gives gallant bow while sweeping pirate hat off head*
Happy to oblige my lady. You may call me Jack.

L: Hmmm. Charmed I'm sure..
So tell me Jack what kind of women do pirates usually fall in love with? Or, is the drinking and whoring thing pretty much a way of life for you Swashbucklers?

Oh a pirate never gives his love to just one If he did that the drinking and whorin’ would end. What’s a pirate without drinkin’ and whorin’?

L: Well, you know, da ladies (not wenches *g*) are all lovers of romance here on the island. Do you think, a pirate could settle down with one woman, as in a marriage and live happily ever after?

One woman? *looks horrified* Love, a bonny lass is a true treasure indeed, but a pirate doesn’t stop pirating simply because he’s found one treasure – savvy?

L: *sigh* Savvy.. *winks at Jack*
Why is it, do you think, women are attracted to bad boy pirates like you Jack?

*arrogant grin* We pirates are well known for our plundering skills. *winks*

L: Hmmmm.. "Plundering Indeed".
I know you hang out in Ms. Moonlight’s hut here on the island but do you have a lady love we don’t know about? Many of your fans think you quite fancy the fair lady Elizabeth Swan.. ??

*shivers* The wench who was responsible for my death and sending me to World’s End? No comment on the fair Mrs. Will Turner, as it were.

L: You have travelled the fair seas extensively and I know have seen many amazing things. Have you ever seen a mermaid Jack? If so have you ever um… *waggles brows* ‘talked’ to her?

I have not yet had that pleasure darling, but you know ol’ Jack – I’m always open to pleasure.

L: Tell me, does your mast ‘list to the left’ Jack? *winks*

*fondles moustache with leering grin* Capt’n Jack Sparrow’s compass always points true north love, you can count on that.

L: LOL Good way for the compass to point Jack - I know you pirates require "guidance" as it were. *g*
Your favored drink is rum Jack, do you have any stashed here on the island? I was thinking a good bonfire is in order at the luau tonight and I hear the stuff is quite flammable… *g*

*smiles fondly* Ahh love... that was a fine time weren’t it? Have you seen the photos? Most incriminating. Now MsMoonlight...she was quite put out by ol’ Jack when her hut burned down – quite accidentally I might add. Tweren’t supposed to happen at all. Took some work- she ain’t as forgiven as some lasses ya know – took some work but soon we came to accord as it were. *sighs at the memory*

L: Well I'm delighted you have fond memories of the inferno in question Jack. *rolls eyes*
Jack, thank you so much for answering my questions about being a pirate. Do you have any questions for da ladies Cap’n?

Aye! Whose hut am I staying in tonight? *looks around with a leer at all the women on the island*

Looks like the Cap'n isn't going to have a problem finding a volunteer to share a hut with. He does look a mite, um.. frightened though don't you think ladies? ;) lol

A big thank you to my blogger friend and fellow DIK Contributor Ms. Moonlight for being such a great sport and agreeing to be "Cap'n Jack". lol

Tori and I had a great 3 days on the island and will look forward to returning soon. I hope everyone is having a great week. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mermaids In Romance?

I'm not hallucinating about pirate ships today, (lol) but while laying on the beach I started staring at a rocky knoll peeking up from the ocean and got to thinking it would be a nice spot for a mermaid to surface and sun herself. Mermaids have always held a certain fascination for me, maybe it is their link with mysticism and magic and who really knows what sort of creatures hide undiscovered in the ocean's depths?

My initial exposure to mermaids in literature was as a child reading the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Little Mermaid”, first published in 1837. The fable tells the story of a young mermaid who lives in an underwater kingdom with her father, the sea king; her grandmother; and her five elder sisters. The Little Mermaid is allowed to swim to the surface to observe the world above when she turns 15 and falls in love with her prince when she sees him aboard a ship. She then saves him from near drowning when he is thrown into the sea during a storm. The Little Mermaid’s grandmother offers her a potion that gives her legs in exchange for her voice that is like a sirens song. It is a sad tale with no HEA for The Little Mermaid but has provided the foundation for many stories in romance.

Years later I became enthralled with Greek mythology and read Homer’s “Iliad and The Odyssey”, which in part tells the story of Ulysses and the Sirens who were three dangerous bird women that lured nearby sailors with their enchanting, seductive songs to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. The Sirens of Greek mythology have evolved over time and are occasionally portrayed as fully aquatic mermaid like creatures.

Mythical mermaids in today's erotic paranormal, and in paranormal romance, are characterized as sensual, beautiful and willowy creatures who can change to human form on land. In many stories they can only exist for a short period of time before having to return to the sea. Relating back to the sirens of Greek mythology, they often have beautiful lyrical voices when speaking, and singing. The heroes of romance stories are inexorably drawn to a mermaid’s inherent sensuality and grace and I think these mystical creatures make for great characters in romance, scribed by a good author’s imaginative pen. Certainly there is plenty of conflict to work with. How would a human and a mermaid coexist in our world and build a relationship?

I did some digging with respect to “mermaids in romance”, and found, that many of the stories are about human women posing as mermaids, not about an actual human/mermaid or merman relationship. However, more recently Joey W. Hill has written a series of novels, “The Daughters of Arianne”, which includes “A Mermaid’s Kiss”, “A Witch’s Beauty”, and “A Mermaid’s Ransom.” Hill creates a world of protagonist mermaids and angels and antagonist ‘dark ones’ integrating a sub-plot of a never ending war in her signature unusual romances. Joey W. Hill is known for her rich prose and BDSM themes and her mermaid series is no exception. I’ve read the first two stories in this series and found the relationships she crafts between the angelic warrior heroes and mermaid heroines quite spellbinding.

Some readers express difficulty with explicit sexual intimacy regarding mermaids, and certainly many of us have “walls” in erotic literature. Admittedly there is something about ‘fish sex’ that might cause a reader’s "squee-o-meter" to hit the red zone. However if you are comfortable with a light BDSM theme in erotic romance, IMHO it is fitting within the context of Joey W. Hill’s series, considering the H&H are mythical paranormal creatures. In addition, I felt, Hill crafted the intimate scenes extremely well.

In August 2010, Devyn Quinn’s first novel in her “Dark Tides”, series will be released entitled “Siren’s Call”. Quinn builds a world where mermaids as a species are on the verge of extinction and the few that are left are assimilating with humans, having learned early to hide their abilities from the world’s probing eyes. Coupled with their anonymity mermaids have lost memories of their culture and ability to wield considerable magic. The feisty mermaid heroine of "Siren's Call", rescues a human who is bent on his own destruction from the certain death in the sea. This brings about a series of surprising events, and sets the stage for the future books in the series. Devyn Quinn’s prose and graphic imagery is lush and beautifully crafted.

What about you? Do you like mermaid stories in romance? If yes, any particularly memorable ones that come to mind? What about mermen, any stories that you have read and enjoyed? How about a m/m romance with mermen?

References used for this post: Siren - Monster of the week by Chris Disario.
Romance Novels - Mermaid Page
Wikipedia: Sirens

Tori and I are back for the last day of our visit to DIK tomorrow and if you have a moment stop by for a peek at what for me was a fun post. ;)

Have a great day everyone! I’m enjoying an excellent read and a cold drink with a little umbrella stuck in it. What are those umbrellas for anyway?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Ahoy all, Tori and I are stretched out on a comfy beach chair enjoying the ocean sounds and watching the menz play a little beach volleyball. Today the sea is a beautiful azure blue and the sky is clear with a few white fluffy clouds. It is curious though because there seems to be a bubble of thick grey mist moving in floating on the water. Then I see a ship emerging from the mist and it anchors off shore. The flag it flies is the skull and crossbones. I rub my eyes with the heels of my hands and blink.

I look again and a group of men, pirates apparently are scurrying down a rope from the ship, and jump into a waiting rowboat, they begin to row ashore. A man with a wide brimmed hat sporting a long multicolored feather stands at the helm of the rowboat, even from a distance I can see his piercing green eyes, handsome chiseled features, and what looks to be a well toned physique beneath a flowing long sleeved white shirt split half way down his chest and tucked into tight breeches. He is wearing knee high black leather boots and has (yikes) a longsword in hand.

I call to the guys, they stop their game and look in the direction my shaky finger is pointing out to the sea. I take an extra long sip of my chilled beverage. The guys look back at me, shrug and pick up their game where they left off. I look back out to sea and my pirate and his ship have vanished. The mist is spiralling away.....

Strangely, I feel, bereft...

Okay, so there was no pirate, but hey a girl can dream right? lol

The first story I read about pirates was “Treasure Island” written in 1883 by Robert Louis Stevenson, a young adult coming of age story which immortalized pirate Long John Silver. "Treasure Island" is a pure adventure novel, but as a kid I always thought there was something romantic about these bad boy pirates sailing the high seas in search of treasure and trouble.

As an adult I read “The Flame and the Flower”, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ 1972, debut romance novel. I was astounded to discover that it was the first novel to detail physical intimacy between the hero and heroine (Brandon Birmingham and Heather Simmons). Woodiwiss addressed a number of themes in the book and it is felt to have revolutionized the historical romance genre. If you stop by and take a peek at reader reviews you’ll find readers either love or hate this novel. Brandon and Heather’s romance is certainly unconventional, but I think one has to keep in perspective the time it was written and give Woodiwiss credit for being brave enough to write a story that was unique and actually quite controversial for it's time.

The 80’s and 90’s hailed a number of memorable pirate novels. Julie Garwood’s “The Gift”; Virgina Henley’s bawdy “The Pirate and the Pagan”; Johanna Lindsay’s, “Gentle Rogue”; and of course Laura London’s, “The Windflower” which has been shared amongst bloggers on a tour. Beatrice Small’s “Skye O’Malley” tells the story of a courageous female seafarer who captain's her own fleet. This is only naming a few, there are many, many more.

A more recent favorite for many bloggers was the Judith James book “Broken Wing”. I haven’t read this story but from what I understand the hero sets out to prove himself to his lady love and earn his way by becoming a mercenary pirate. Fellow DIK contributor, KristieJ hosts “The Questors”, at her blog Ramblings on Romance etc. etc. which proved to be a very successful blogging promotion of this novel.

Fiona Jayde, recently published a short story, “Treasure of Devil’s Isle”, a time travel romance about a 21st century librarian who is thrown back in time waking up in the 18th century aboard a frigate with pirates and a handsome captain. What about time travel and pirates? Do you think you would enjoy this type of theme in a pirate romance?

I think there is something inherently romantic about a swashbuckling pirate. Is it their carefree life? Or, is it because they are bad boy scoundrels? Maybe it is the conflict, as they are unlikely to settle down with one lady love, unless of course a pirate is the hero of a memorable romance novel.

Lastly I wanted to share this picture of an um.. swashbuckler, and as my wise friend Mary recently noted, “me thinks his mast is listing to the left.” (Man I wish I’d thought of that line.) lololol

Reference sites used with respect to pirate romance novels: Romance Readers At Heart: Great Romance Novels of Pirates and Swashbucklers. Goodreads list of Historical Pirate Romance Books.

Do you have a favorite romance where the hero or heroine is a pirate? Any romance subgenres such as m/m, present day contemporary or science fiction that involve pirates? Or, are they strictly appropriate for historical romances?

Tori and I are looking forward to another day on the island tomorrow, and I’m going to chat about mermaids in romance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ali G writes a romance novel

Thanks for such a great discussion on comfort reads this week! What's sort of funny is that I sort of assumed everybody had the same comfort reads category as I do. Boy was I wrong. But we all go to the comfort reading well for similar things: the known. Getting away or being swept away in some form. People we enjoy. Reading is so amazing. Okay, does the following video have much to do with comfort reads? Not really. But can I stop myself from posting it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Question: What is so comforting about comfort reads?

I love comfort reads. And whenever my life feels turbulent - in a good way or bad way - it's what I go for. With all the exciting and new things happening in my life lately, I've been going for a lot of comfort reads. And it's made me think about comfort reads in general.

What is it about comfort reads that is so comforting and attractive?
One of my central comfort reads is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I have also gotten into Suzanne Enoch's Samantha Jellicoe cat burglar series. (thanks, Chris!!) Sometimes, I will go for a Regency historical, too.

I have been trying to think why books like this are so cozy, but I don't think I have the answer. A few ideas:

1. Is it the world of the book/series? The world plays such a big part in both the series I've named, and when people long for comfort, I think they long for stability. Home. Janet's mother's cooking. Palm Beach and the glittering mansions. Places that don't change. This is true with Regency historicals, too. The world tends to feel stable and dependable. Is that it?

2. Is it the dependability of characters? I'm only 3 books into Enoch, and I do sense the characters growing, but they are also comfortingly who they are. In Evanovich, too. Ranger is always this guy playing the edge, Joe Morelli is a macho Jersey guy. Stephanie trying to make her way in the world. When you read a comfort book, is it the people you coming home to? Is that it?

3. Is it the consistent struggle? Sometimes people are comforted and relaxed by normalcy. For example, I don't like my morning routine to be altered. Are the characters in a kind of routine, too? Not that the plots are the same, but the central struggles? Sam being lured by her old life, Rick exploring who he is with Samantha and trying to protect her while not smother her. The routine of Joe Morelli scowling about Ranger. The routine of Stephanie doing something crazy.

4. Other? When you go to a bookshelf and pick up a comfort read, what are you picking up? The people? the world? the ongoing struggle? Something else? Or is it the way all the parts work together?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Final Guilty Pleasure: Adorable Cat Videos

I blame You Tube for my bad addiction to adorable cat videos were you awww and sigh like you wouldn't believe. There are millions of these videos out there that you can spend hours watching. So for my last post here, I give you Meme, a too cute for words kitten, that will have you dying from the cuteness.

What are your favorite, I just die from the cuteness animal videos?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guily Pleasure: Lady Gaga

Remember how I mentioned my "bad romance" with romance books? I think I also have another bad romance going on with the quirky pop star Lady Gaga.

Did you know her Bad Romance video is the most watched video on You Tube with over 185 million views?

The first time I saw Lady Gaga, was back in October 2008 at Madison Square Garden when she opened for New Kids on the Block. Yes, I am a NKOTB addict also. (Inner 13 year old rejoices) This was right around the time Just Dance started to rule the airwaves. At the time I wasn't all that impressed, but then upon seeing the Bad Romance video (I can thank Jill Myles for starting my Lady Gaga appreciation) I was hooked. I quickly downloaded all her music and all I want to listen to is Gaga!

Even Major League Baseball mascots love their Gaga also:

What is it about Lady Gaga that has people raving? Is it her strange look, catchy music, or perhaps her loud and proud originality and eccentricity that many people are afraid to embrace?

If only I could be more like Lady Gaga and "just dance" to the beat of my own song. I do believe their should be more people like Gaga out there who are proud to be different and not afraid to show it.

I admitted my two guilt music pleasures (and I also love listening to Britney Spear's Greatest Hits Album), so what are yours?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: My Bad Romance Book Addiction

Thanks to Escape Between the Pages for this picture!

I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it's free
I want your love
Love, love, love
I want your love

I want your drama
The touch of your hand
I want your leather studded
Kiss in the sand
I want your love
Love, love, love
I want your love
(Love, love, love
I want your love)

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
I want a bad, bad romance

The above picture is a perfect example of what I am like if I am not surrounded by books. Books are my crack, my addiction, my bad romance as Lady Gaga would say. Ever since I've been thirteen, all I've ever wanted was books and more books. My average week would be me going to the library no less than three times during the week and hitting up 2-3 bookstores on the weekend.

If there was a used book sale going on, I was there and don't get me started if I ended up at a used book store. Once I spent three hours roaming the massive romance collection they had.

Now as a book reviewer who does get books from a publishers and authors, my addiction has grown. Not only do I drop everything and run to my door when I hear or see the Fedex or UPS truck parked on my street, but I also stalk my mailbox. I was even in the shower once and with my awesome hearing skills, jumped out of the bathroom and ran downstairs to get my box of books.

People are addicted to buying shoes and purses. Not me. If I enter a mall, the first store I go to is a bookstore. There have been times I've need essentials like underwear or socks and bought books instead.

Above are my bookshelves. The smaller square one is full of my "keepers", those much beloved books that I can re-read over and over. I must have about 100 books there alone.

The long, tall one my TBR bookshelf and it keeps growing and growing. And you know what? I want more!!

I've come to the conclusion that I'm having a bad romance with romance novels. The funny thing is, I don't think I'm alone with my "bad romance" either.

I think we all have a bad romance addiction to something or another. What's yours?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Category Romance Themes in m/m - Part 3: The Rest

After the last two days of posts, I've come to a bit of a standstill with my ideas for discussing the conventions found in Mills and Boon category romances and how they are applied to m/m books.  Why? You may ask.  Well. simply because there aren't that many more to choose from.

Take another of my favourite storylines from my teen reading: The boss/secretary romance.  I can only think of one m/m book which has used that theme.  Lord and Master (and its sequel, Lord and Master 2: Taking Work Home) by Jules Jones focuses on research scientist and administrative assistant, Mark who falls into an office romance with his boss Stephen, leading to lots of delicious smexin on the office desk.

Mills and Boon also have a whole line of books which contain 'Medical Romances' - ie. nurse and doctor romance.  Ooh, Matron.  Whilst there are quite a number of great m/m books about two doctors who fall in love, I can only think of one doctor/nurse m/m romance, the delightful Heart Doctor by Drew Zachary.  It tells of newbie doctor, Brady, who on his first day in his new job meets nurse Drey.  There's an instant attraction between them and the book follows the development of that attraction to love.  Great stuff.

What saddens me most though, is that many, many of the M&B conventions just haven't been taken up by m/m authors.  After all, where are the rich tycoons and their virgin mistresses?  The billionaire Greeks? The Sheikhs and their harems? The secret babies?

So I'm sending out a call to all m/m authors to take up the challenge of writing an m/m category romance using one of these sadly neglected conventions.  I mean, come on, it can't that hard to write an m/m secret baby story, can it?!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Category Romance Themes in m/m - Part 2: Westerns

Boy do I love myself a good cowboy.

Ahem, I mean a cowboy story.

Funnily enough Mills and Boon don't have a separate westerns line, like Harlequin do, they are all just lumped in with the other lines, but it was always a treat for me if my teenage eyes spied a cowboy romance on the shelves along with the other categories, despite not living remotely anywhere near Texas or Montana.  In fact the closest I ever came to a cowboy in real life was probably the farmer who kept the herd of Friesian cows for milking in the field behind my house.

This love of cowboy romance has transferred to my m/m books but it's the themes that cropped up in those long ago read western romances that I love to see in my m/m books.

One theme I love in particular is that of the 'prodigal son'.  The young man who leaves home to seek his fortune in the city and then for whatever reason has to return home and face his past - usually a past which involves revisiting the crush he had on the sexy ranch-hand.  This is a theme that has appeared in two recent cowboy romances.  In His Convenient Husband by JL Langley, Tucker is living the high city life in Dallas when he is called home and has to face, Micah, the broken hearted young man he left behind.  Also in Seeing You by Dakota Flint, Dylan left home after the death of his brother but is called back to the ranch when he discovers that it's being left to go to ruin by his brother's grieving lover, Wade, a man Dylan has loved for a long time.

Another storyline I used to love was the lady ranch owner who falls in love with the ranch hand.  In another story by JL Langley (she really is the queen of m/m westerns), Tin Star, the youngest son of a ranch owner, Jamie, is kicked out when his father discovers he's gay.  He's taken in by his brother's best friend, Ethan, another ranch owner who gives him a job as a ranch hand.  It's not long before the two are making that journey on the road to love.

One theme I used to absolutely adore in westerns was that of the woman whose husband or father had died and left her in charge of the ranch.  Unfortunately for her, the guy who owns the ranch next door is looking to expand and asks to buy her out cos obviously as a woman she can't possibly run a business like a ranch.  There's lots of arguments, stamping feet, spitting feathers and exchange of passion before the two set aside their differences and join the two pieces of land by getting married.  *sigh*  I loved those stories.  Unfortunately, there isn't a m/m book with that storyline that I've found so far.  Any takers?

Do you read category westerns?  If so have you found any similar themes in m/m cowboy books too?  Do tell.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Category Romance Themes in m/m - Part 1: Historicals

When I was a young teen I discovered Mills and Boon category romances.  To say that I fell in love with the romance genre at that point is a slight understatement.  I would go to the library every week and take out 12 M&B books (the maximum number of books you could get out at one time) and read them during the week when I should really have been doing pesky things like homework, or being sociable with my family.  This lasted for some time, until I discovered a new genre - horror - and I abandoned my beloved M&B for the likes of Stephen King and James Herbert.

When I came back to romance, I didn't really read M&B books, focusing, instead on the longer historical romances and then onto m/m.  One thing I particularly liked about m/m romance was when the author would give a bit of a sly nod to the conventions and themes found in the category romances I had loved so much as a teen.  So over the next three days, I'm going to highlight some of my favourite m/m books which have taken those themes and added a fresh new look to them by placing them in an m/m context.  Starting today with historicals.

One of my favourite theme for a historical is the young virginal miss who through the magic of her hoo ha is able to convert the most jaded rogue to abandon his rakish ways and settle down to blissful monogamy.  This theme has been taken up by the m/m historical authors too.  In Standish by Erastes, fragile and virginal Ambrose steals the heart of Rafe the rake, although their road to love is full of potholes and wrong turnings.

Also in The Price of Temptation by MJ Pearson, a mix up and a family death leads poor and innocent Jamie into the house and arms of experienced Stephen, the Earl of St Joseph, who teaches him all the way of love between men before finally losing his heart to the naive young man.

Sometimes this theme can be subverted, for example in Seducing Stephen by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon, Stephen accidentally ends up in bed with man-whore and aristocrat Peter.  However, before Peter can excuse himself and leave Stephen to his virginal state, Stephen makes it clear that Peter's advances would be welcome, making the virgin the one to seduce the rogue.

Another theme I love in category historicals was that of the 'tart with a heart' who is picked up by the aristocrat for a night of passion and ends up stealing his heart instead.  This is used also in m/m historicals.  For example in another book by MJ Pearson, Discreet Young Gentleman, the hero Dean, is tricked into being caught with male prostitute, Rob.  During a breathless dash to Bath to clear his name, Dean discovers that there's more to Rob than his profession and the two fall in love.  Similarly in The Gentleman and the Rogue by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon, the tart, Jem, is instrumental to the hero, Alan's, recovery from depression and suicidal feelings, leading to them falling in love with each other.

So what about you, dear DIK readership?  Are there some historical romantic conventions that you have discovered in m/m books?  Are yours the same as mine? Do you wish sometimes that other of your well loved m/f historical themes appeared in m/m books too?

Meanwhile, I'll be back tomorrow with another category romance genre which has transferred quite delightfully to m/m books - the western or cowboy romance.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unlikely Heroes - The Short(er) Hero

To ask the question - Why aren't there more short heroes? - seems kind of redundant. The answer seems obvious, there aren't more short heroes because there's a perception that readers don't want to read them. But is that just a 'trap' that publishers and authors have fallen into? If there are no books which feature short heroes how can we read about them anyway? Hopefully I'll convince you to take the plunge with at least one short hero.

Okay, if we're talking short heroes there's one that you can't get away without mentioning - Miles Vorkosigan. Actually, if you've never read the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold it's one that I recommend highly, (whether or not you like short heroes or science fiction) I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the 188 books chosen for the island are from the series.

As Ekaterine Vorsoisson says of Miles:-

“He’s not so short,” said Ekaterin defensively. “He’s just… concentrated.”
Which is an excellent way to describe him. Before Sam Adama (Caprica) lectured William on the virtues of sticking with a decision once made, Miles had already learnt the method of forward momentum - once you start in a direction you keep going. Everything may be going to hell around you but you keep going. Of course this method is far from foolproof as disastrous consequences were to show in Memory.

Before I get too carried away I better first explain why Miles is short - for those who don't know. Whilst Miles's mother was pregnant she was the victim of a poison gas attack, Miles is born with brittle bones and his growth is stunted. However, what he lacks in stature he makes up for with a personality so huge and a charisma so magnetic that he is (usually) able to get himself out of whatever catastrophe he's landed himself in.

One of the things I love about him is that his mouth is often five minutes ahead of his brain, and perhaps gets him into as much trouble as it gets him out of. I think if he hadn't had his personal obstacles to overcome he would have been a different character - either content to rest on his laurels because he wouldn't have felt the need to push himself so hard, or hated by everyone because he was so good at everything.

The series follows his whole life from birth to marriage. And my favourite sequence in the series is - Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaign - which I think of as Miles's life going to hell and coming out again the other side. What's interesting about Brothers in Arms is that we meet Mark - another short hero who I always envisage as being played by Oliver Platt in any screen version. I'm sure there are other Vorkosigan fans out there.

Is Miles the only short hero I can come up with? No, though he is the most memorable. I'd also recommend Valentin Jaus the Darkyn hero of Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl - though he is introduced in an earlier book - Private Demon. In Private Demon he didn't get the girl and we had to wait another four books before he'd have a story of his own.
And I'll just mention that unlike the film version the Wolverine in the X-Men comic books is 5 foot 3, three inches shorter than Jean Grey.

I feel like I'm missing someone, so are there any other short(er) heroes out there that are worth reading? Or do you prefer your heroes to be over six foot. Does it matter? I think it's easy to say - no it doesn't but when faced with the choice in the bookshop which story do you buy?
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