M/M Romances that Resonate Part 4

Mexican HeatThis is the fourth post in this series and in case you missed any of them here are the links to the other three

M/M Romances that Resonate Part 3
M/M Romances that Resonate Part 2

M/M Romances That Resonate

These posts are for new fans of this sub genre because you probably haven’t read many of the classics or some of the older releases dating back 3 – 5 years.

I love these books I’m recommending today and I hope you do too if you get them. Some classics are quite different to M/M romances published today and not all of them meet the definition of “romance” because authors were not allowed by their publishers to have HEA’s for gay men, so one protagonist in each love story had to die or the couple had to separate decisively.  Brokeback Mountain and The Front Runner are two wonderful stories that ended tragically for this reason. In any event, if you miss this next story you will be doing yourself a disservice if you love wonderful love stories, because this is definitely a love story.

The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren

The Blurb: First published in 1974, The Front Runner raced to international acclaim – the first novel about gay love to become popular with mainstream.

In 1975, coach Harlan Brown is hiding from his past at an obscure New York college, after he was fired from Penn State University on suspicion of being gay. A tough, lonely ex-Marine of 39, Harlan has never allowed himself to love another man. Then Billy Sive, a brilliant young runner, shows up on his doorstep. He and his two comrades, Vince Matti and Jacques LaFont, were just thrown off a major team for admitting they are gay. Harlan knows that, with proper training, Billy could go to the ’76 Olympics in Montreal.

He agrees to coach the three boys under strict conditions that thwart Billy’s growing attraction for his mature but compelling mentor. The lean, graceful frontrunner with gold-rim glasses sees directly into Harlan’s heart. Billy’s gentle and open acceptance of his sexuality makes Harlan afraid to confront either the pain of his past, or the challenges which lay in wait if their intimacy is exposed.

But when Coach Brown finds himself falling in love with his most gifted athlete, he must combat his true feelings for Billy or risk the outrage of the entire sports world – and their only chance at Olympic gold.

Maddy Cain reviewed this book for the site and here’s what she said –

The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren is one of the literary benchmarks in the legitimization of gay-themed entertainment. Published in 1974, five years after the Stonewall riots, it was one of the first novels with gay characters as the main protagonists published as a mainstream novel. I’ve talked to dozens of gay people of both genders, especially those over 50, who speak about the publication of this novel as a turning point in their lives. It’s difficult to review the book given its cultural significance, especially since any such review has to place the novel and its authorship within its historical context, but I’ll give it the old college try.The book has a lot of power. It kept me up until four o’clock in the morning when I first read it because I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The book also made me feel cautiously optimistic. I know that some people are busily trying to roll back the progress of gay rights despite the inevitability of their failure…but it only takes reading a book like this to appreciate how far we HAVE come, and how impossible it’d be to go all the way back no matter how much Mike Huckabee screams about it. Still, most of the book’s points still have relevance. The world of sports is still curiously silent about homosexuality among athletes. I mean, come on. How can you structure an entire subculture to worship at the altar of masculinity and NOT have it generously peopled with gay men?

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This next book was released 3 years ago and I still enjoy it and the characters whenever I feel the need for a ‘comfort’ read:

Crossing Borders by ZA Maxfield

Crossing Borders is ZA Maxfield’s very first novel, and what a debut! No one had ever heard of her and she took the M/M world by storm with this book. I reviewed it in 2008 and this is how I started my review

This is a love story and a coming of age – a love story between two men who made me feel that love can conquer all – and a coming of age for 19 year old Tristan. Crossing Borders is a little jewel and it was such a joy to read that when I finished the book, all 218 pages of it, I thought “that was a brilliant piece of writing”.

In Crossing Borders Z.A. Maxfield is a delightfully fresh voice among all the ‘noise’ of the M/M romance genre. She shows great sensitivity about Tristan’s first tentative steps in exploring this new (to him) territory of being gay and the mutual journey and adventure undertaken by both protags, in addition to the evolution of their romance into an adult relationship. The dialogue throughout the story is exceptional. This book is wonderfully written and the author takes great care not to minimize Tristan’s understanding of the impact on his future when he recognizes that in accepting this new way of life as a gay man he would in effect be giving up his dreams of the male equivalent of the white picket fence – marriage, having a family, grandchildren, even filing joint tax returns and everything that goes along with the stereotype.

Is Crossing Borders perfect? Of course not. I have yet to read a book that could not be improved by a little tweaking but this one hits all the right notes and then some. I believe that this is Z.A. Maxfield’s first published book and if so, it is a great introduction to an author who I’m positive will be around for a long, long time. I can’t say enough good things about Crossing Borders but I can highly recommend that you buy this book. It’s a keeper.

ZAM is still here and she continues to write wonderful romances.

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And now for something completely different

The Tin Star by JL Langley

According to Teddy Pig who is an authority on gay romances, this book was the #1 bestseller at A Different Light bookstore in San Francisco on Castro Street. He went on to say “that means the gayest fucking bookstore on this god damned planet sold this paperback (of what people say is just M/M Romance) to real “gay men” who loved it. That says to me one thing of note… it’s all just Gay Romance between the covers people.”

I reviewed this book in 2008 as well and here’s the blurb:

When James Killian comes out to his father, he finds himself banished from his home and fired from his job as ranch foreman. His savior comes in the unlikely form of Ethan Whitehall, his older brother’s best friend. Ethan has always had a soft spot where Jamie Killian was concerned, and he will do whatever it takes to keep his new lover safe.

This is part of my review  There’s an 11 year difference between these two characters so the May/December flavour is very much in evidence in the story, but it is well done because even though Ethan is indulgent and protective of Jamie the love is definitely hot man love. Gay cowboys have always been one of my favourite story lines in this genre and The Tin Star is an exceptional story. It had everything – well drawn protagonists, danger, attempted murder, terrific secondary characters including non human characters like Jamie’s dog Fred who was so cute she pulled at my heart strings.

The main characters are engaging, the sex is hot, the plot is complex, the secondary characters are three dimensional and the story was a lot of fun. What more can a reader want? I have read this book countless times and it always puts me in a “feel good” mood. I think that most readers look for escape when they pick up a book and the The Tin Star provides this in spades.

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Mexican Heat by Josh Lanyon and Laura Baumbach

This book, another one released in 2008, merged the high powered talents of two of the best writers in the genre and they delivered a wonderful adventure and romance that is incredibly hot three years after it was published. I wasn’t sure if this partnership would be a success because Josh’s and Laura’s writing styles are so different, but they sure took me by storm. Here’s the blurb

Tough, street-smart SFPD Detective Gabriel Sandalini is willing to do whatever it takes to bring down West Coast crime boss Ricco Botelli — including a dangerous, deep undercover gig as one of Botelli’s hired guns. But Gabriel’s best laid plans may come crashing down around him when he falls hard for the sexy, suave lieutenant of a rival Mexican drug lord. Turns out his new love interest may have a few secrets of his own: secrets that could destroy both men and the fragile bond between them.

and this is part of my review

Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon have written a powerful, multifaceted story that illustrates their skill as writers and demonstrates why their books are so highly regarded. Their blended “voice” is unique and new and although there are elements of their individual writing style, highlighted by the wonderful prose in this book, Mexican Heat is completely different from anything either author has published before.

What impressed me most about the story were the two exquisitely crafted, very complex characters, Gabriel Sandalini and Miguel Ortega, those tough hombres whose secrets could get them killed but who were only vulnerable to each other.

This book has everything – excitement from the first page which grabs you by the throat and never lets up, outstanding characterizations, action sequences that would satisfy any aficionado of the crime and action-adventure genre, enormous conflict and tension, emotional trauma and some of the best sex scenes I have read in a while. The sex was exceptional; it did not overpower the story but without a doubt this book had some of the longest, most erotic, sensuous and hottest lovemaking sequences that I ever had the pleasure of reading. If you don’t buy another book this year, Mexican Heat must be on your “to buy” list – you will kick yourself if you don’t get it. It’s an amazing and thrilling ride with an ending that blew me away.

The Back Passage by James Lear

This book is not exactly a romance but a historical mystery written in 2006. However if you think it’s the usual type of book in the historical genre, you could not be more mistaken. Here’s some of the blurb

Agatha Christie, move over! Hard-core sex and scandal meet in this brilliantly funny whodunit.
A seaside village, an English country house, a family of wealthy eccentrics and their equally peculiar servants, a determined detective — all the ingredients are here for a cozy Agatha Christie-style whodunit. But wait — Edward “Mitch” Mitchell is no Hercule Poirot, and The Back Passage is no Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

This is part of my review

The book is told in the first person POV – Mitch’s, and his “voice” contributed a great deal to my enjoyment of the story because his humour, tongue in cheek delivery and personality give the story a unique perspective that would have been very difficult for the author to achieve in any other narrative mode. The British sense of humour is alive and well in this book but you don’t have to be British to enjoy it. Two thumbs up for The Back Passage which, despite Mitch’s activities, is not what you think. 🙂 I can’t remember the last time I had such a rollicking good time in the pages of a book. There are the below stairs/upstairs antics, danger and intrigue, sex around every corner, closeted gays, likeable characters, great villains who work very hard to earn your hate, wonderful prose and dialogue, an entertaining storyline, a “cock whore” beyond compare, and there’s even a surprise ending. What else does a lover of murder mysteries want?

The Back Passage is a delightful historical romp with a wonderfully complex plot and terrific characters, some of whom I found incredibly funny. This is a murder mystery with a difference. I don’t believe I have ever read a mystery like this where the lead “detective” uses his penis as his major investigative tool, almost in the same way a divining rod is used to find water, except in this case he’s using his rod to sniff out the clues, on the way to solving the murder. No one is safe from Edward “Mitch” Mitchell, and he is tempted everywhere he goes unless you’re female, and since most of the suspects are male, his special apparatus got such a workout I was exhausted.

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With the release of PsyCop 6 GhosTV it’s appropriate that I bring to your attention the rest of the series if you haven’t read any of these wonderful scary stories

 PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price 


I reviewed PsyCop: Partners, which contains books 1 and 2, Among the Living & Criss Cross; PsyCop: Property, which contains books 3 and 4, Body and Soul & Secrets and the last book, Camp Hell was reviewed by Jenre

This series is the standard bearer for Jordan Castillo Price’s trademark of excellence. I read and reviewed book 3, Body and Soul first, 3 years ago and knew that I had to get my hands on the previous 2 books — it was that good. This writer has the most books on my list of top books and part of the reason is she’s damn good and I can’t get enough of her characters and plots.

If you have never read this series and you like paranormal stories then you have no excuse for not getting into bed with Jacob and Victor. I won’t describe either the characters or the plots here since this is something you should discover for yourself. I will only say that this writer is one of the best fiction writers today and when you start one of her books you become addicted and so immersed in her world that everything else seems irrelevant.

I will be reviewing Ghos TV next week and I’m positive that it will be as unforgettable as the other 5 books. Do yourself a favour and get PsyCop. All of these books can be purchased through www.JCP Books

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Jenre reviewed James Buchanan’s Taking the Odds can’t miss series with  Nevada Agent Nick O’Malley and Riverside Detective Brandon Carr. There are three books in the series :

All or Nothing
Cheating Chance
Inland Empire

This is the summary of the first book, Cheating Chance which is my favourite and gives you a sense of  the issues in the relationship between Nick O’Malley, an agent for the Nevada Gaming Commission and Brandon Carr, a cop with the Riverside PD which is complicated by Brandon being in the closet.

Nick is also a Goth with a hearse he’s restoring, and an ex lover he’s only just getting over.  Lucky for him, he’s in Vice where his tattoos and biker boy looks serve him well.

The two meet at a Goth convention in San Diego and the sparks fly immediately. So much so that a weekend fling turns into more and Brandon spends his four day weekend visiting Nick. Things aren’t all sparks and roses though: the two do live a nine hour drive apart, and Brandon’s not out. Add to that a murder right in front of them, a company trying to cheat the system and the Mexican Mafia, and Brandon’s and Nick’s relationship will need to overcome a whole slew of obstacles in order to work.

Although each story has a mystery to be solved, the crux of the series is the relationship between Nicky and Brandon:

Jenre said in the review: “Nick had recently come out of a bad relationship and his self-esteem is pretty low. Brandon helps him to become more confident in himself, even if Nick does make some bad errors of judgement along the way. Nick is very likable and I found his attitude about being a goth and how that impacted on how people viewed him rather wry and amusing, as was Brandon’s reaction when he sees Nick in his work clothes. Brandon is the most complicated out of the pair. His job means that he has to keep his sexuality under wraps and so he tries to give off a ‘heterosexual vibe’ whilst out and about with Nick. This involves flirting openly with women, distancing himself physically from Nick and denying anything other than friendship. For the out and proud Nick this is difficult and puts a strain on the relationship.”  Right here you get a sense of the complex issues in the relationship between these two men.

If you’re interested in cop stories with many layers I strongly recommend this series by James Buchanan which I think is his best work.

I hope you enjoy these stories and I’ll see you next time.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

37 comments

  • Hey, Wave – An interesting list. It makes me giggle and feel VERY old to see books published in 2008 listed as ancient classics. lol It’s great that you’re pointing people to good books other than just what’s new.

    Of course, your post makes me think of the even more ancient m/m romances that continue to resonate with me. Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy was my intro to m/m, way before there was m/m, and also fed into my adolescent fascination with ancient history. It remains vivid in my mind. And two romances that were published as gay lit that I’ve mentioned here before and remain my go to rereads are Jim Grimsley’s Comfort and Joy and Jay Quinn’s Back Where He Started. Both are beautifully written and emotionally satisfying. The Front Runner and its sequels are also old friends.

    I’ll have to check out The Tin Star and Crossing Borders. I’ve read other books by those authors, but not those particular books. So many books and only so much time.

    Reply
    • Hi Cary

      Hey, Wave – An interesting list. It makes me giggle and feel VERY old to see books published in 2008 listed as ancient classics. lol It’s great that you’re pointing people to good books other than just what’s new.

      Very funny. lol This just shows how very young this sub genre is because frequently I hear from readers who have never heard of some of the older books mentioned on the site. I started these posts because of something an author (Josephine Myles) said when I referred her to a book that was released only a couple of years ago by Dreamspinner – A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan. She had never heard of it. So I did the first post and everyone loved it so much I’m doing them occasionally to update new readers of M/M about older books.

      I too love Comfort and Joy and Mary Renault’s trilogy (one of them is reveiwed on the site) as well as all the classics, even though most of them didn’t end well. 🙁

      I have a list on the site of about 100 Top gay lit books – if I find it soon I’ll add the link to this comment.
      I just found it
      http://www.gaybook.reviews/?p=6374

      I hope you enjoy The Tin Star and Crossing Borders – I think they are both gems.

      I haven’t read Back Where He Started – I’ll check it out.

      Reply
      • Yeah, I can never quite figure out if it’s the subgenre that’s new or just the broadening of interested readership. All that what is “m/m” and its specific history versus the long semi-underground and/or niche tradition of gay-themed books published since I don’t even known when. Well, since Plato, maybe, but that’s a very different subgenre and fairly mainstream. 🙂 It would be a shame if nobody intersted in m/m went back to read anything published before 2009, so good on you for encouraging folks to read from the back catalog. A few years back I had a lot of fun tracking down and reading all the gay-themed mystery writers’ work that I could find. Let’s hear it for the ancient literature, i.e., books that even predate the ebook!

        Reply
  • I’ve read all of those except the first one and loved them all. Excellent choices.

    To be honest I was quite surprised at how small the Different Light bookstore was in SF. I expected something more maybe. They had a lot more regular fiction than I expected although lots of picture books. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Tam
      I, too was surprised that ADL wasn’t more imposing and larger. I guess they don’t keep too much stock on hand and SF used to be a very high end real estate market, but maybe things have changed. Anyway I did check out some of their books that I hadn’t heard of before.

      You should give The Front Runner a chance. I know you don’t like sad stories, but this one is inspiring and I think the writing is incredibly moving and timely.

      Reply
  • You know that Tin Star and the other cowboy book are the stories I like the least from JL??
    Every time I see Shaun White on TV I have to think of Tristan. Must be something to do with the hair

    Reply
    • Ingrid

      You know that Tin Star and the other cowboy book are the stories I like the least from JL??

      If you don’t like cowboys then I guess it would be difficult to like a story about them. No worries – everyone has different tastes which is a great thing, because writers have different stories to tell. 🙂 I must admit that her Sci Regency series is one of my personal favourites but I have already recommended My Fair Captain in a previous post. I love Nate. lol

      Reply

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