Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
Edge Of Your Seat Love
After years of writing thrillers, I was first asked to write a romance by my friend, author and marketing guru, M.J. Rose. Together with Liz Berry, the executive director of Thrillerfest and a self-described romance “super fan”, M.J was getting ready to launch an exciting new project called, 1,001 Dark Nights, a series of cross marketed novellas, each by a New York Times bestselling author. (Spoiler Alert. Three years later, the project is a big success. They now put out two new works every month.)
If I’d received this invite a year before, I might have turned it down flat. But something happened just a few months prior, something that changed my relationship to the genre. After years of hearing murmurs, most of them disapproving, about romance novels featuring gay male couples but written by cisgendered women, I’d finally broken down and decided to read some of them. Until then, I’d had a dismissive (and uninformed) attitude towards the very idea of someone who was not a gay man writing a love story about two gay men. But I’ve got no patience for contempt prior to investigation when it’s leveled at something I like, so I didn’t want to be guilty of it when it came to a type of novel that seemed to be gaining popularity.
Thanks to Amazon’s algorithms, I came across two titles, DRIFTWOOD by Harper Fox and SPECIAL DELIVERY by Heidi Culinan. As I began to read, I wasn’t angered. I wasn’t disappointed. I was consumed. DRIFTWOOD is a soulful depiction of battle-scarred British men with military backgrounds finding love for each other amidst a starkly beautiful coastal landscape. SPECIAL DELIVERY, on the other hand, took a blast of youthful gay sex fantasy and evolved it into a passionate romance. Set in the Midwest, it begins when a handsome trucker crooks his finger at a young grocery checker, inspiring a hot coupling in the back of his eighteen-wheeler that begins a cross-country romantic odyssey.
I read both books almost simultaneously, a chapter of one followed by a chapter of another. Each new sentence satisfied a thirst, a hunger, I hadn’t been aware of before then. Unlike the gay literature I’d read in college, there was no pervasive gloom, no sense of mandatory loss enforced by an always hostile society. No suicide or murder or mental institution waited on the story’s horizon to consume the hopes, dreams and loves of the gay characters involved.
These weren’t just hopeful novels. Like the best romances, they were aspirational novels, depicting how the authors thought relationships should unfold for the benefit of both parties. Critics of romance novels, I would soon learn, call them delusional at worst, shallow at best. But people who have actually read extensively in the genre know the best romance novels provide road maps to the type of intimacy and selflessness that’s required to make relationships endure. That said, I don’t imagine road maps such as these are all that important to those willing to summarily dismiss an entire genre without having ready any of it.
It’s no small thing that gay romance novels are rising in popularity right at a time when LGBT people are being more included in our public institutions, institutions that include marriage. Now, having been freed from many discriminatory policies and practices that rendered them invisible, an ever increasing number of LGBT people are plotting the course for their intimate relationships and defining their personal romantic needs in the public square. Far from just being some fetishized corner of the romance market intended for women who get turned on by two men kissing, LGBT romances have begun to document this cultural change, this new public exploration of romantic possibilities.
But my reaction to the first ones I read wasn’t just political, but also deeply personal.
They made me feel included. Recognized. One of the most successful genres in publishing – a genre I had always assumed was for “other people”, straight people – was now addressing and depicting my fantasies and emotional needs. And so, a few months later, when I was asked to try my hand at romance for the first time, I was primed.
That said, I had a desire to write more than gay couplings when I finally took the romance plunge. I felt dizzy with possibilities a new genre offered, so in the projects I did for 1,001 Dark Nights, I strolled the letters of the alphabet (MMF, FM, FM with a side of MM, and so on.) While I love a good gay romance – Tere Michaels, Damon Suede, please write faster! – and plan to write plenty in the future, the gender pairing involved is not my sole criteria for selecting a new reading experience. Personally, I’m a sucker for romantic suspense with a heavy plot; the type of mystery or thriller where the lovers involved support each other without fail even as they both face seemingly insurmountable, often life-threatening odds outside the relationship.
I love crime scenes and explosions and action sequences. But there’s a comforting message to romantic suspense that goes deeper for me; it says we’re allowed to have our lives, in all their messy, and sometimes dangerous complexity, and be ourselves and still be loved in the process.
We can have love and solve a murder. We can have love even as we try to save the world from disaster. And yes, we’re worthy of rescue even when our circumstances come with seriously heavy, even dangerous baggage. For the perpetually single among us – raises hand! – who are constantly being told to alter or amend ourselves to better suit an imaginary partner who has yet to show up, this is a soothing message, to say the least.
And it’s what I get from big Nora Robert suspense novels like ANGELS FALL and BLACK HILLS, or Kendra Elliot’s Callahan & McLane series. Or, the novel that became my new gold standard for romantic suspense, BREAKING POINT by Pamela Clare. When a novel that meets these standards has two male heroes, that’s awesome. But if it doesn’t, I still find myself taken in by the message that those of us in peril are worthy of love too.
For romantic suspense, PAMELA CLARE has become my gold standard. BREAKING POINT, the fifth book in her I-Team series, was riveting and wonderful and hot. I hadn’t read any of the preceding books in the series, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it immensely.
For beautifully written gay romance, I can’t recommend TERE MICHAELS highly enough. Her dystopian take on Batman, WHO KNOWS THE STORM (THE VIGILANTE #1), is my personal favorite, and the first in a planned trilogy. But if contemporary is more your style, check out her novel, FAITH & FIDELITY.
Also on the gay romance front, ERIC SHAW QUINN’S new novel THE PRINCE’S PSALM is a brave and beautiful take on the romantic relationship between Jonathan and David from the Book of Samuel.
Also writing wonderful gay romance, HARPER FOX. I was a particular fan of THE SALISBURY KEY, an angsty, beautiful book about archeologists and explosive experts working together on the Salisbury Plain in Britain. It deals with some heavy themes, but the writing is beautiful and the romance passionate and uplifting.
And back in the FM romantic suspense world, probably my favorite go-to books are the Callahan and McLane series by KENDRA ELLIOT. The suspense level is always high, and FBI Special Agent Ava McLane and police detective Mason Callahan are a smart and resourceful duo. Gritty, determined loners by nature who find passion, comfort and respect in each other’s arms while navigating high stress cases. I can’t get enough.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
Alright, maybe this is too blunt, and too stereotypically male, but for me, there’s nothing more romantic than make up sex. That first blush of intimacy after you’ve had a real scary, this-might-be-the-end moment with the one you love. It’s happened a few times for me, typically after a fight or a misunderstanding, something that’s required me and the other person to really lay our cards on the table and work through some stuff. The physical intimacy that follows is usually made stronger by the fact that you’ve just spoken the truth in your heart, but with each kiss you’re also incredibly grateful that you’ve both managed to pull your relationship back from the brink. The combination of all those feelings has made for some of the most romantic and passionate moments in my life.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
My best friend Eric Shaw Quinn. We talk about everything. He gets to (has to!) listen to every post-date download. He helps me through every break up. In fact, I was so stumped on the first question I actually had to ask him about it before answering. I’ve seen friends neglect their platonic relationships in pursuit of the perfect romance. This is a mistake. I try to remember that non-sexual relationships aren’t second rate or less meaningful than our romantic ones. Sometime they’ll be there for us when all the rest have faded.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
For some reason, it’s the Santa Monica Pier. I’m not sure why. It’s usually the place I take a guy on the second or third date. It involves lots of walking which means lots of revealing conversation. I was also there recently when a friend texted to say she thought her boyfriend was about to propose. (He was.) And I’ve always wanted to get married in one of the hotels nearby that has a view of the pier and Santa Monica Bay. So many Angelenos I know find the place hopelessly touristy, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever visited.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Nox and Cade from WHO KNOWS THE STORM by Tere Michaels. A mysterious vigilante and a high end sex worker whose paths cross in a dystopian Manhattan hobbled by climate change. They’re a perfect, scorching match who free each other from the maw of a dark criminal conspiracy.
Tell us about your dream date.
I’m a huge commercial aviation nerd. I get unnaturally excited in airports, if I’m not late for my flight. I know all the restaurants in and around LAX that have the best views of the runways. So for me, the perfect date would involve the guy showing some appreciation for this hopelessly geeky side of me. I love light adventure dates, as I call them. They’re less about fancy restaurants, and more about driving to various spots around town that are surrounded by tranquil scenery or have beautiful views. Traversing the town together. Walking along boardwalks. Visiting places both touristy and local in feel. Leisurely drives from place to place with the sunroof open and the windows down. A day spent doing this, that’s my idea of the perfect date.
Christopher is generously giving away five copies of his erotic romance, The Surrender Gate, one to an international reader and four to US readers.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Sep 2, 2016. Good luck!
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
By the age of 30, Christopher Rice had published four New York Times bestselling thrillers, received a Lambda Literary Award and been declared one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive. His two novels of dark supernatural suspense, THE HEAVENS RISE and THE VINES, were both finalists for the Bram Stoker Award. He recently entered the erotic romance genre with his new series, The Desire Exchange. His debut novel, A DENSITY OF SOULS, was published when the author was just 22 years old. A controversial and overnight bestseller, it was greeted with a landslide of media attention, much of it devoted to the fact that Christopher is the son of famed vampire chronicler, Anne Rice. Together with his best friend, New York Times bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Quinn, Christopher launched his own Internet radio show. THE DINNER PARTY SHOW WITH CHRISTOPHER RICE & ERIC SHAW QUINN. Every episode of the show is available for download from TheDinnerPartyShow.com and from iTunes. Subscribe to The Dinner Party Show’s You Tube channel to receive the newest content in 2016. He’s currently at work on a top secret project with a top secret collaborator #mumstheword.
Buy Christopher’s books:
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