Series Review

Review: Will & Patrick Wake Up Married by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths (2015-2016)

Heat Factor: After a very sexy night in Vegas, it takes a couple episodes before they get busy again, but when they do, it gets kinky

Character Chemistry: I’m a sucker for “the grumpy jerk is secretly soft for the vulnerable sweetheart”

Plot: Will and Patrick wake up married, and they can’t just be unmarried because Will’s charitable trust is financed by his mob family who requires that the scions marry for love and forever

Overall: It’s a long ‘un, but I didn’t want to stop reading.

Continue reading “Review: Will & Patrick Wake Up Married by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths (2015-2016)”
Between the Sheets

Penetration isn’t necessary, they say…and then it always happens

I started this piece thinking of all of the M/M romance I’ve read (a not insignificant amount), and so often (every time that penetrative sex isn’t simply presumed, in fact) one of the protagonists assures the other that penetrative sex isn’t necessary for their happiness, lots of people don’t do it, and it’ll be fine just as long as they’re happy together. This is great! Talking about comfort levels? Acknowledging that there are ways to have sex that don’t involve penetration? All great. 


The ultimate expression of physical love and intimacy in romance novels is still—you guessed it—penetrative sex. I don’t think I’ve ever read a M/F romance that was open-door and also did not include penis-in-vagina sex, though I think Holly has read one or two. (Before posting, Holly reminded me that I’ve read The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan, which doesn’t include PiV sex, so I guess I’ve read one.) And when vaginas are involved in any romance novel coupling, in my experience there’s always penetration, be it with fingers or toys or penises. If we consider that there’s less taboo for vaginal penetration than for anal penetration, this makes sense. But back to all those M/M romances in which protagonists are falling over themselves to reassure each other that anal penetration is totally unnecessary… 

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Recommended Read, Review

Review: Solomon’s Crown by Natasha Siegel (2023)

Heat Factor: Much is implied, little is on the page

Character Chemistry: Falling at first conversation

Plot: Romeo & Juliet, Medieval Kings Edition

Overall: Somehow I couldn’t put this book down, even though it’s not presented in a particularly suspenseful way

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Smut Reporting

Facebook fan pages are kind of the worst

I am late to the party, I know, but the bookish world on Facebook (FB) is really something else. Social media and I are not friends, but I still have my FB account specifically for my book clubs (and theoretically to manage this blog’s account). Because I’m periodically on there for bookish reasons, I follow a couple of authors there, one specifically who isn’t active anywhere else and likes to surprise-release new titles. I’m not going to identify which author because (as with most reader groups) it’s a closed group, and I’m sure this isn’t the only place it’s happening, so I don’t want to be the seagull at this author’s picnic.

Anyway, I like this author, I binged all his backlist probably way too fast…and I am completely squicked out by this FB group. For the record, I am happy that this author is successful. He deserves for people to be excited about his work and to earn money writing books. People who love books deserve to be excited about these books and find other people who are also excited about these books. 

Here’s the thing, though…

Like other social media sites but unlike newsletters (in which communication only goes one way), FB allows for users to engage in dialogue about…everything. Unlike other social media sites, FB is insular, and the groups have a tendency to become echo chambers, because outsiders can’t see or call out insiders when they’re egging each other on. 

So imagine, if you please, a FB group in which mostly women (by a large margin) are talking about how their book boyfriends are queer men written by a gay man. And this is not low key book boyfriend happiness. It is like, “let’s expand on this universe like these characters are real people, but they live in my personal fantasy world of what’s cute and sexy and are not self-actualized at all.” 

For example:

Mod: Post your book inspiration pics for the latest book! 

One: Romantic scene of wintery outdoors

Two: Athlete in gear

Three: Athlete thirst trap gif of tree trunk thighs and bubble butt 

Four: Athlete thirst trap with no shirt

Five: Two men in a low-key clinch

Six: Pic of me [a woman] with [gay character] on our wedding day!

Two thru Five: 🤣🤣🤣

Or how about:

OP: This book (and its main character) belong to me!

One: How does the other MC feel about this?

OP: I pretend in my head they’re just good friends.

One: 🤣🤣🤣

Two: OP CLASSIC! 🤣🤣🤣

OP: 🤣🤣🤣

Or there’s the meme stuff:

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain the first two examples. It is totally cool to be soft for characters that evoke heart-eye emojis. It is wildly inappropriate for a woman to express this by saying she’s going to marry a gay man and/or that his love interest in the book is just his “good friend.” YIKES ON BIKES. That’s erasing his queerness and agency (yes, he’s fictional, but presumably we’re excited about a well-rounded character who makes his own decisions). For other posters to laugh at, condone, or one-up this type of talk is part of the echo chamber problem, too. 

The meme snipped from Romantically Inclined was non-specific, and she likes to laugh about common Romance Reader Things, but the tongue-in-cheek tone of her post shifts to voyeuristic fetishizing when it’s repurposed to be refocused on a specific moment for a specific queer couple. This is not, in fact, being a good ally. This is fetishizing queer men, and it’s the reason that parts of the romance community get tetchy about who is reading and writing these M/M romance stories. 

Plus, you know, there’s also the general online behavior that seems to presume an author is one’s personal friend and/or one is entitled to their time and energy (parasocial relationships). There is apparently a fine line between appreciating that an author created a book and demanding more of the same from that author. Who knew? We see that elsewhere, but hoo momma is it leveled up in this group page echo chamber. 

For example:

OP: This story was the most beautiful story I have ever read! @Author, was it autobiographical? It was just so deep! 

Author: Ah, no. 

Or perhaps:

OP: Okay @author, you’ve done this sport, and this sport. What’s next?! One of each sport?! 

One: Ooo, I really want another suspense book

Two: Sorry, he’s going to write about military dudes for me


Or how about demanding stuff that’s not even books?


Mod: He said he’s in the writing cave but he’s planning on it…

In the first place, the reader is demanding personal information about the author, which probably feels terribly complimentary to the OP but feels pretty invasive to me considering that the comment is about the emotional depth of the writing, presuming that the author’s personal experience must be the reason he’s able to do that. Beyond that…is she gonna ask the same question of a woman writing deeply emotional MM? Women being overly-invested in the personal lives of queer men, treating them like things instead of people, is also an indicator of fetishization. 

In the second example, the posters might feel like they’re all being enthusiastic supporters of the author’s work, but when the ask is for something that will require significant new research or tie the author to stories that are already finished, it’s actually putting pressure on the author not to follow his creative muse. Also, see above re: overly invested. Not wanting to let go of a story that brings joy is one thing, but it is possible to take it too far. 

And finally, everybody loves some merch that makes them feel like they’re closer to their beloved characters, but commissioning merch and running a shop on top of a full-time writing job is…a whole-ass other job. Demanding that an author do more work is not, in fact, the enthusiastic support that some readers seem to think it is.

Yes, there are plenty of “Thank you for writing this book! It made me so happy!” posts. The requisite author giveaways. And, of course, the reason I’m still there (though for how long…?): news that a book is going to be published a week before it just surprise drops. There’s lots of joy, and maybe that—plus plenty of personal boundaries—is why this author is okay with this particular forum for engaging with his audience. 

But, ugh, please stop fetishizing gay men. It’s gross.

Update: I stuck it out maybe two more weeks and left the group.

Recommended Read, Review

Review: Liar City by Allie Therin (2023)

Sugar & Vice, Book #1

Heat Factor: Yeah, so, we barely even know they like each other at the end of this one

Character Chemistry: I don’t know how Therin managed it, but I wanted them to touch SO BADLY even though 1) it’s dangerous and 2) they mostly snip at each other

Plot: Empaths are a persecuted group, feared for their abilities even though they have to be pacifists (and vegans) by virtue of their extreme empathy, except that there’s a triple homicide that looks suspiciously like Reece’s nightmares, and the man rumored to keep empaths in check suddenly arrives in town.

Overall: It is not actually a romance (yet), but it is SO FREAKING GOOD

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