Motorcycle Monday

MC Romance: Oh, Brother!

If there’s one thing that’s universal about MC Smut, it’s that The Brotherhood is the most important aspect of the club. What that means for romance is that the hero has a readily available cortege of badass bikers to get fierce when the action goes down. How they all know how to handle themselves like commandos, I have no idea…but a lot of them do have military backgrounds, so maybe that’s it.

Perhaps the best way to think about The Brotherhood is in terms of the old familial double standard: I can say whatever I want about my sister (etc.), but if anybody else says shit, I will fight to the death to defend her. In the books, this translates as: it doesn’t matter what kind of disagreements or infighting is going on in the club, every single brother will drop everything to defend…the club’s property. As it were.

For examples of this, I’d refer you to Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley or Reaper’s Property by Joanna Wylde, as both of those books involve direct conversations between the hero and heroine about how The Brotherhood is involved in the protagonists’ lives. (Primarily because both heroines are citizens, which we’ll discuss further when we get to the post about the women of MC smut.)

In Motorcycle Man, Tyra is kidnapped, and after she’s retrieved by the entire club roaring down the highway, Tack lays it out for her that everyone who belongs to Chaos is *safe*, because if they’re not, the club will rain down retribution the likes of which will make baddies think twice. In this instance, “rivers of blood” is the promise Tack makes. And it doesn’t matter that, at this point in the story, Tyra only belongs to Tack and barely knows the rest of the members of the club. She’s Tack’s woman, so every man in the club has Tack’s back to protect and avenge her.

Reaper’s Property goes in a slightly different direction, because Marie becomes Horse’s woman when her brother steals from the club, and Horse manages to negotiate that Marie become collateral instead of the club outright murdering her brother. (Because Horse wants Marie, not because he’s altruistic.) So the explanation about The Brotherhood comes more in the form of Horse trying to explain club culture to Marie when she’s horrified by the property patch, the relevant aspect of that conversation here being: no one will dare to mess with the club’s property, or – again – vengeance will be swift and brutal. It doesn’t matter that everybody in the club doesn’t agree with the approach the club has taken in dealing with Marie’s brother – they voted, the decision was made, and Marie was absorbed into the fold.

So, to sum up, The Brotherhood acts as an extended family, with the brothers in the club standing in for the hero when he’s not available to protect (or care for, but most specifically protect) the heroine. Buuuuuuut not for the other club women, necessarily (about whom more anon). When the brothers of the club talk amongst themselves about women, that’s usually the time that a whole lot of misogyny comes out. Which brings us to…

That’s one aspect of The Brotherhood. The other aspect is the male friendships/relationships that exist on page. In theory, this is really cool, because it’s not always easy to find romance with good male friendships. The connections between these men of the club can be really important and meaningful, and it’s nice to see men having friendships and support systems in books! Especially macho men who would rather be eaten by fire ants than admit that they have feelings. 

In practice, I find that The Brotherhood is an odd juxtaposition of a family in which everybody understands and supports everybody else and a loose association of individuals without deep emotional connections. We’ll probably get into this a little bit more when we talk about the men of MC smut, but toxic masculinity is basically an absolute must in these books. There is absolutely no room here for men who enjoy pink or tea or who talk about their feelings with anything other than revulsion. Ergo, I have a hard time believing that we’re achieving that really deep male friendship connection if men are running around telling their *best* friends that expressing feelings means that a man is “growing a vagina.”

Like I said, the toxic masculinity is REAL. 

So, to wind this down, I’d summarize all this by saying that The Brotherhood is essential to MC smut as both a cultural foundation generally and as a social foundation for the hero. There is nothing for the hero more sacrosanct than The Brotherhood. So, its existence is self-reinforcing, and it’s for the heroine to conform to the culture, not for the hero to break out of. Not that the hero wants to break out, but we’ll talk about heroes next week. 


Previous Posts in this series:

Motorcycle Monday

MC Romance: Setting the Stage and Setting the Mood

If I go to the trouble of remembering my grade school English lessons, I recall that setting does many things for a story. Sometimes setting acts as its own character, but most often it sets a scene and a tone that evokes certain thoughts or feelings in the reader. It is no surprise, then, that most MC smut is set in a world where it’s not so difficult to envision cowboys riding wild and free, because riding and living free is a central aspect of most (literary) MC culture. 

Most of the books I’ve evaluated were set in the United States, but those that weren’t were set in Western Australia, which has a very similar vibe to large swaths of the US west of the Mississippi river (an east-west divide, for those not so familiar with US geography). There are several different ways to geographically divide the US, but I decided to go with a simplistic version because MC setting didn’t really need to get refined to the point of distinguishing between the Pacific Northwest and Southwest as distinct from the rest of the West. We’re not talking microbrews vs. Kokopellis here. 

For reference, this is the US geographical division I’m looking at:

Image credit: WorldAtlas

With this in mind, the breakdown of these books by setting goes like this:

Notes on this distribution: 

  1. The book with multiple settings was set for about ⅔ in New York and ⅓ in Montana, but the club where the protagonists belonged was in Montana, so I didn’t choose to pick one or the other for this chart. 
  2. I did read a few series in full or nearly in full, and of course most of those had the same setting. Had I opted to read more of the Lost Kings MC series by Autumn Jones Lake, for example, the number of books set in the American Northeast would have been greater. HOWEVER, I did read about thirteen (13) different authors and over forty books (not accounting for books I DNFed), and the books that I DNFed and still have in my TBR queue would reinforce the distribution above, so I feel comfortable arguing that these books are primarily set in a space where we can readily envision wide expanses of land and sky, long and clear highways, and a general culture welcoming fierce independence. 

The setting in MC smut is even more important when we evaluate where outlaw MCs actually originated. I found a list of outlaw MCs on the interwebs when I was trying to understand what the reality vs. fiction that I’m dealing with actually is, so I’m not going to act like I’m some expert in outlaw MCs, but it is interesting to note that in real life, if this list was even remotely on target, most outlaw MCs originated not in some Wild West scrubland, but in urban centers:

I didn’t drill down this far in the chart, but the locations become more interesting when we consider that about 25% of the American West settings in MC smut were set in California (so I didn’t bother to separate it out up there), while 80% of real outlaw MCs sourced from the American West originated there. And in cities like LA and San Francisco, not in the more rural northern or western parts of California. Likewise, the Midwest has a much greater representation in real outlaw MC location, but even there, we’re talking about places like Chicago, Detroit, and cities in Ohio, not South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, which have more of a Great Plains western vibe. (Nobody in the Great Plains is going to think that they’re living in the same sort of place as Ohio, even if they’re both technically in the Midwest.) Similarly, Eastern Australia (or really just New South Wales) has much greater representation than Western Australia. 

In MC smut, we absolutely do not get a sense that MC culture is urban, or even that it resonates with the culture of the American south, because the primary sense of setting in these books evokes feelings of isolation, independence, wildness, and freedom. The promise of the American West in a nutshell, I would say.

Even in series or books in which the setting is actually in a city, as with all of the Chaos MC books by Kristen Ashley, or the Wind Dragons MC books by Chantal Fernando, we’re still looking at a city set in the broader space of an oasis of city surrounded by empty land. You don’t have to drive very far out of Denver before there is legit nothing around you. So even with a city like Portland or Denver coming into play in the book, we are aware of a bigger setting informing our understanding of where the MC is. 

We also have to acknowledge the world building that goes into most of these series. The primary physical setting in most MC books is the MC’s clubhouse, whatever that looks like. Typically that looks like some kind of isolated compound or large building that is either physically removed from other buildings, like in a wilderness space, or is surrounded by gates and fences. The clubhouse tends to reinforce the feeling that the MC is an island within a bigger world, but that bigger world isn’t necessarily populated. Even if the author only describes the clubhouse itself and does not describe any fencing or surrounding buildings, the feeling that the clubhouse is an island is impossible to miss. 

So as we’re moving into this discussion of MC smut, keep in mind that the setting provides a pretty solid baseline for where these characters exist and what the mood of the story is supposed to be.

Next time, we’ll talk about that essential component of MC smut culture: The Brotherhood


Previous Posts in this series:

Motorcycle Monday

Erin Explores the World of Motorcycle Club Romance, Or, “What am I even reading right now?”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: branching out in the world of Romancelandia has been eye-opening in many, many ways. I’ve read books I never thought I’d ever read. I’ve seen opinions, hot takes, and rants I probably could have lived without. I’ve seen some lovely things, too, of course! 

Ergo, much of the time when something new comes across my “desk”, my interest is piqued. Case in point: Dragon shifters.

Which is to say that I had several influences that piqued my interest and guided me over time to biker smut: A little bit of exploration of alpha-holes when I was working on a project last year. The book Under Locke when I was listening to Mariana Zapata’s backlist, which was absolutely one of those “He is so bad, and I should feel like this is so not okay, but I really don’t hate it” situations. And one or ten Twitter hot takes that I struggle with, because I frankly agree with the sentiments or the underlying arguments, but also I am not looking for any kind of perfect reading materials, aside from the perfect thrill. 

I was curious. What is this MC smut all about? What about it makes people talk about it like it’s a trope? Why is it a dirty secret pleasure? Why is it bad news? WHAT IS GOING ON?

So I read one and I was like, “Okay, so that was a thing that I just read.”

And then I read another one and I was like, “This is pretty messed up, and I am scandalized and also delighted by the fact that I am scandalized.”

And then I just started binging books because, once I started, I had to know why some of these books and authors were so popular. (Pro tip: Kristen Ashley comes up quite a bit. Don’t start with Wild Like the Wind like I did.)

So, instead of writing a bunch of reviews, I decided to prepare this series of pieces that discusses biker smut and explores my experience of reading it. Over the course of the next weeks, we’ll look at the settings, characterizations, romance, sex, and politics of MC romance. 

This smut is not for everyone, in no small part due to some of its extremely problematic content. But since we’re about matching readers to books, a conversation about what exactly this content includes might be useful to someone somewhere. Or just useful in that I’ve done all the reading for you, and you can enjoy the rubbernecking. In which case, you’re very welcome.

Next up, we’re starting off easy with a discussion of setting. But fear not, gentle readers. There will be charts.

Listicle, Motorcycle Monday

Saturday Smutty Six: Motorcycle Club Romance

If you’ve been following us, you might recall that Erin has been reading Motorcycle Club (MC) romance. It started with a sort of gleeful horror over Under Locke and someone else’s tweet about MC romance being a bad thing (to paraphrase). So she got curious about this corner of the world of romance and got to reading. 

BUT we haven’t actually reviewed that much MC smut on the blog, so as we get ready to launch Erin’s series on MC smut, we’ve decided to prepare a biker-related Saturday Smutty Six so that we can refer back to some MC romance heavy hitters. 

Please note that this list isn’t really a recommendation list as such, because there is probably too much problematic content in MC romance for Erin to do an outright recommended read tag on any MC smut book. 

Without further ado, Biker smut in the order that Erin read it:


Incandescent by River Savage 

If we’re going to ease in, this isn’t a bad place to start. The Knights Rebels MC used to do illegal stuff, but now they’re clean, and they’ve taken steps to ensure that their city stays clean as well. Ergo, this book is primarily about Nix Knight’s boots, jeans, and tats being too much yum for Kadence, his son’s teacher, to resist. And since bikers are almost always in the camp of, “I see it. I want it. It’s mine.” with their heroines, well, Kadence won’t resist Nix for long.

Reaper’s Property by Joanna Wylde

This book is often recommended as the place to start for MC romance and, um, I don’t think that’s good advice. I believe my text to Ingrid and Holly read something like: “This MC book is pretty effed up. I both hate it and am enthralled. She’s going to be his sex slave, but it’s okay because she agreed (under duress), and he wants to be a family man. I’m dying.” Don’t get me wrong, I read most of the series, but yowza, there is some seriously yikes content in this book. 

Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan

All things considered, I think this book takes the biggest, most-tiered cake for WTF content. I both understand and do not at all understand how so many people are in alt about it. I understand because it is extremely dramatic and emotional. I do not understand because it includes underage sexual activity, abuse, and on-page rape and murder. Like. WUT. My head was not in a great place after this book. 

Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley

While the two books immediately preceding this might be more prominent among the dark MC romance reading crowd, this book has broader appeal. Motorcycle Man is the fourth Dream Man book, so it’s wrapping up a series instead of starting one, but when Tack finally gets his story, it is something else. Tack is the president of the MC, he’s bossy, he works on hot cars, he wears his boots and jeans and biker goatee with DGAF attitude, and Tyra thinks she’s found her dream man, only to realize that she was horribly wrong when he slam bam thank-you-ma’ams her. But when she still shows up for her new job and starts arguing with her new boss – Tack, of course – he realizes she’s got the special sauce he wants, and he doesn’t stop until he gets it. 

Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley

I didn’t necessarily want to include two books from the same author/about the same club in this list, but in Biker romance lists Own the Wind and Motorcycle Man often rank close together, and they’re technically different series. Tabby is the daughter of Chaos’s president, and Shy has known her since he joined the club, often getting her out of scrapes in her teens. They have a terrible falling out, and Tabby leaves the club for years, eventually getting engaged to a citizen. Then her fiance suddenly and unexpectedly dies, and Shy is there, apologizing for his past mistake and befriending her when she needs a little bit of normal. Also, if I’m recalling correctly, this is the only book in this list that does not include a kidnapped heroine.

Hell’s Knights by Bella Jewel

If you thought we were going to end on a light note, I am sorry to disappoint you. Hell’s Knights is the first in a series and features some more depressing and WTF content. To wit: Addison has found her father, whom she knows to belong to an MC, because she watched her mother die of an overdose after living under the abuse of her junkie mother’s pimp since she was a young child. Practically the minute she walks into the club, the VP, Cade, decides she’s going to be his old lady. But of course Addison’s past catches up with her, so there’s plenty of vigilante action on the part of this outlaw MC.


Perhaps you can understand why this isn’t a recommended reading list. That said, Erin did rather enjoy exploring what all these books are made up of and possible reasons why the content exists. We hope you enjoy her series for Motorcycle Mondays, as she explores various aspects of MC romance. 

Have you read any MC romance? Did you enjoy it? Let us know your thoughts or tell us about books you’ve read in the comments!