Friday, January 29, 2016

Why Do We Love Whom or What We Love?

Romantic hero number one, with stars in his eyes, asks romantic hero number two the age-old question, “Why do you love me?”

And romantic hero number two, who is a wise man indeed, gives a response that at first blush may seem glib, “Why not?”

This morning I am thinking about why we love what or who we love. That question, I would think, would have great resonance among readers of romance, because it’s core to most of our stories—and often a writer feels he or she needs to give credible motivation for a couple falling in love. And in fiction, I kind of agree, but is it true for real life?

At the very first Gay Rom Lit retreat in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of having lunch with reviewer and author Elisa Rolle and my dear departed friend, William Neale. At that lunch, I asked Elisa, with her reading far and wide in the genre of m/m romance, what interested her, a straight woman, about two men falling in love. She had an answer, which was, basically, that she loved romance and she found the power dynamic in hetero romance to be, finally, unsatisfying. Those books often had a lot to do with a woman being somehow rescued by the love of a big strong man. But, she said that in a romance between two men, the power dynamic between the love interests was often more equitable.

I thought that was a brilliant answer and one I have oft-repeated when people ask me why a large part of my own readership is straight women.

But then I began to wonder—why does it matter? Why does it matter why you like gay romance over straight? We like what we like. I have finally come to the conclusion that asking the question of why straight women prefer gay romance over straight is a futile exercise. For one, the answers, if they even exist, could be as varied as the respondents. But number two, and more importantly, is the fact that it doesn’t matter. Questioning why you like something can be an exercise that sets itself up for failure.

Who knows why we like gay romance? We just do. Do we need to understand the motivation to enjoy the end result? I don’t think so.

We don’t need to understand why we love chocolate ice cream over vanilla.

We don’t need to understand why we prefer T-shirts and jeans over more formal dress.

We don’t need to understand what psychological machinations cause us to choose vodka over scotch.

We just like this over that.

We simply know what we like. And I think that holds true with reading. If we think about it, we may say we like romance because we love reading about that moment when two characters find one another and fall in love. But why ‘gay romance’ someone might ask. And I grant you the freedom to say, simply and truthfully, “I just do.”

Which brings me around to the real question on my mind this up-before-it’s light Seattle morning, why do we love who we love? From my own personal experience, I can tell you that, for me, finding the person who might seem like the perfect mate on paper can often be the worst choice. My most disastrous relationship was with a man with whom I had the world in common. If we hadn’t headed down the romance road so quickly, we may have been great lifelong friends. But instead, we chased after a romance we both thought would be right, because we had so, so much in common.

But here’s the thing: we had no spark. There was no magic. And, ultimately, the romance we tried to forge withered on the vine.

Conversely, I have had relationships that have been totally wrong in almost every way for me (and that also ultimately didn’t work out), but some indefinable reason, they were a lot of fun and there was a spark. Who knows why?

Now, I am fortunate enough to have found someone with whom we had a spark and with whom I’ve found harmony and that is one life’s most cherished blessings. But I have also grown old enough and wise enough not to look this gift horse of true love in the mouth and ask, “Why?”

The only answer, really, is “why not?” Because, whether it’s books or life partners, the answer to that question isn’t really what matters. What matters is, “I just do.”

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Good Karma, Good Books: Catching Her Balance by B. Thatcher

Every Wednesday, I put on my pimp clothes (zoot suits, feathered hats, platform shoes, and the like) and introduce you to something new and wonderful in the literary world. This week, I’m excited to shine a spotlight on Catching Her Balance by B. Thatcher

"This book is special to me because I adore futuristic romance, and often I'm feeling all alone in my love of them.  For me, the entire idea of forging a connection, discovering the magic and the majesty of love, among the incalculable vistas of the skies must be a breathtaking experience. Yes, I gaze at the stars often...and dream."
Jenna Markkus's exquisite, genetically engineered face and form conceals a lifetime of pain. Beloved of her Papa? No. Tool used in pursuit of her Papa's rise to power? Yes. But enough is enough. Derrick Vittalar is her first, best hope for a life free of servitude and cruelty. All she needs to do is catch his eye.
Derrick Vittalar has no expectation that this political conference will be any different than the umpteen ones he's endured before. Speeches, conferences, and occasional sport with a comely girl can't be all there is to his life.
Indeed, no. Change arrives in the form of an intergalactic coup announced by his abduction. Thrown together by mischance and conspiracy, Derrick and Jenna find a way to thwart the rebellion, repel an invading army, and fall in love..


B. Thatcher (Brenda) began reading romance novels in middle school. Her passion for that genre has continued to this day. Her passion for that genre has continued to this day. Love among the stars has always been a glorious fantasy. It started early, with Kirk and the Green Girls of Trek, Han and Leah, and even her of dreams finding her own star-struck lover among those unlimited vistas.

Blessed to live among the glory and grandeur of the USA’s Pacific Northwest, she shares her home with three cats, a tank of fish, her dreams and many, many daily critter visitors.

B. Thatcher also writes erotic romance under the penname of Michelle Robbins.

Come play among her imaginings. She promises that it won’t hurt.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New and Notable: The Hitchhiker Murders by Edward Kendrick

When I saw the blurb and cover for this one, I couldn't help but think how up my alley this was. I'm ready to dangerously stick my thumb out and hitch a ride with this one!

"There were two inspirations for writing this story.

One, I wanted to write a mystery based in Denver and the mountains outside the city. More importantly, I wanted the mystery to be the primary focus. That meant finding main characters who weren't dancing around each other in a 'Getting to know him—can this become more than working together?' situation. Who better to fulfill that stricture than a pair of married private detectives? And so Brent and Quinn Collins came into being. There is romance, born of their love for each other. But the mystery itself is the main focus of the story."

When married private investigators Brent and Quinn Collins are hired to find Andrew, a young man who has disappeared after heading to Idaho Springs, little do they know that they will become embroiled in murder. Two other young men have gone missing under similar circumstances, their bodies found buried in the mountains outside of Denver. After Andrew's body is discovered, Brent and Quinn think they may know who is responsible for the hitchhiker killings. All they have to do is prove it, without ending up dead themselves.


"First stop, Andrew's apartment?" Quinn asked after Mrs Taylor left.

"Yep, but not for a couple of hours. Presuming his roommates hold normal jobs, they probably won't be home until sometime after five."

"Or they'll have left by then, if, like Andrew, they're restaurant workers."

Brent snorted. "With our luck…"

"So grab your jacket and let's move."

"Yes, bossman." Brent ducked when Quinn took a swipe at him, only to find himself being hugged by his husband.

"You know this is a democracy. You can always say no," Quinn said, giving him a fast kiss.

"I never say no to you," Brent responded.

"Well, almost never, after the first couple of weeks."

The two men had met when they'd been students at UCD, working on their bachelor degrees in criminal justice. Brent was a year ahead of Quinn and had taken the younger man under his wing—and into his bed two weeks later when they discovered there was an undeniable attraction between them. Right after graduation, Brent had applied for and received his private investigator's license—as had Quinn a year later. They moved in together and set up their business. At first it had been called Collins and Brannon Investigations. Then, late one evening after celebrating the successful conclusion of their first truly difficult case, Brent had gotten down on one knee and asked Quinn to marry him. Quinn gleefully accepted. In twenty-ten, there were only a few states where gay marriage was legal. Luckily, New Hampshire, where Quinn had grown up, was one of them. They flew out, after 'warning' Quinn's family why they were coming. The wedding was all they hoped it would be, thanks to Quinn's parents. The party afterward was a rousing celebration lasting until early the next morning. When it was over and they had recovered, Quinn and Brent returned to Denver—married men and ecstatically so.

Brent paused at Milly's desk to tell her where they were going, asked her to send Mrs Taylor the form she needed to fill out, and then he and Quinn headed to the garage where they parked their car. Quinn wondered, as they pulled up in front of Andrew's residence, if Mrs Taylor considered the place a big step down from her home. It wasn't actually in an apartment building. The address was a small house in a less the classy neighborhood at the edge of the downtown area. While the lawn was mowed, the bushes in front of the front porch were in definite need of trimming, and the paint on the porch uprights was beginning to fade. There were four mailboxes by the front door. Two were for the ground floor, the others for the second floor—one of which listed three names, Brown, Wilcox and Taylor.

"Best bet, the house is broken into units," Quinn commented with a smirk.

"No bet."

Beside the mailboxes was a row of buzzers, with names below each one. Brent pressed the one for Taylor and company.

"Yo," a disembodied voice answered after a short wait. Quinn gave Brent a thumb's-up before saying,

"I'm looking for Andrew Taylor."

"Not here," the voice replied.

"I'm here on behalf of his mother. May I talk to you about him?"

"You are."

"I mean face to face."

There was a long pause, then he was told to take the stairs at the end of the hallway up to the second floor, and the buzzer sounded to unlatch the front door. When they got inside, a light smell of pot greeted them. It got heavier as they walked up the stairs. A young man—Quinn guesstimated he was barely out of his teens—waited for them in the upper hallway.

"You didn't say there were two of you," the guy said.

"You didn't ask. Which one are you? Brown or Wilcox?"

"Wilcox. Mike Wilcox. Who are you?"

"Quinn and Brent Collins," Quinn replied. "We're private detectives, hired by Mrs Taylor."

"Just like on TV, huh? You might as well come in, since you're here." Mike opened the door right behind him. If asked, Quinn would have admitted he was surprised when they entered the apartment. The living area was neat, with decent if not fancy furniture. Three doors led off it, to—Mike showed them—the kitchen and two bedrooms. "This one's mine and Vick's," Mike said about the bigger one. It had two beds with a dresser between them. Andrew's bedroom was sizably smaller, and not nearly as neat. Clothes were piled on the only chair, and the bed had obviously been 'made' by pulling the spread over tumbled sheets. A bong stood on the small dresser along one wall. No real shock in Quinn's opinion, since Mrs Taylor said Andrew was open about indulging.

"Do you mind answering a few questions about Andrew?" Brent asked Mike when they returned to the living room.

"Ask away."

From the publisher, JMS Press

Born and bred Cleveland, I earned a degree in technical theater, later switched to costuming, and headed to NYC. Finally seeing the futility of trying to become rich and famous in the Big Apple, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), ending up in Chicago for three years. Then it was on to Denver where I put down roots and worked as a costume designer until just recently.

I began writing a few years ago after joining an on-line fanfic group. Two friends and I then started a group for writers, where they could post any story they wished no matter the genre or content. Since then, for the last four years, I've been writing for publication—my first book came out in February of 2011. Most, but not all, of my work is m/m, either mildly erotic or purely 'romantic'. More often than not it involves a mystery or action/adventure, and is sometimes paranormal to boot.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New & Notable: First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

Realism in Classic Romance A Guest Post by Shira Anthony

Thank you Rick, for hosting the First Comes Marriage book tour! Word has it that you may have your own Dreamspun Desires offering coming soon—I can’t wait to read it. [Note: My collarboration with Vivien Dean, STRANDED WITH DESIRE will be out in August!]

For those readers who may not already know, First Comes Marriage is the second book in the brand new Dreamspun Desires line of gay category romances from Dreamspinner Press.

Be sure to read to the bottom of the post for an excerpt from the book, as well as the Rafflecopter giveaway for the book tour. You could win a dozen red roses for your sweetheart or yourself!

First Comes Marriage is an honest to goodness “category romance,” reworked for a 21st Century audience, and of course with two male main characters. The term “category romance” comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. I bet you remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription. I’m sure you also remember the tropes: Cinderellas (rich/poor), arranged marriages, mistaken identity, enemies to lovers, and so many more I couldn’t possibly list them all. These tropes are all based in some part on something real that we, as readers, can relate to.

First Comes Marriage is a combination of a few of these tried and true tropes: marriage of convenience (will provision, anyone?) and rich man/poor man (Cinderfella, in this case). Now contrary to popular belief, writers are hardly rich (I know you’re shocked to hear that!). So I can’t claim to have a lot of experience living like billionaire Jesse Donovan does, with an apartment in Manhattan and a huge estate on the ocean in Connecticut. But I visited those kinds of places when I used to sing opera professionally.

The people who own houses like Jesse’s often sponsored the local opera companies in the Northeast, and we performed at fundraisers at these estates. We’re talking enormous Tudor and colonial style mansions with coach houses larger than any home I’ve ever owned. Gorgeous, perfectly furnished interiors. Glass enclosed conservatories filled with amazing flowering trees and plants.

No billionaire would be complete without fancy cars and a boat or two, right? And while I don’t own a classic car, or even a motorcycle like Jesse does, I’ve taken a ride or two in them. Growing up, my parents had friends who owned a Bentley and an old MG Midget (red and totally drool-worthy).

As for boats, Jesse’s family business builds them. So he has the use of a huge yacht. But instead of having Jesse and Chris spend a romantic weekend on a yacht, they instead sail to a nearby island in a catamaran sailboat I named, Land’s Zen (named after my own, slightly less fancy catamaran). This one is straight out of my own fantasy: it’s a 44 foot long Leopard. Gorgeous and incredibly expensive. A boat I hope to own someday (albeit a used model!), when I retire.

Dreamspun Desires are all about romantic fantasy, from the setting to the tropey, feel good story. I’ll leave you with a taste of First Comes Marriage from when Jesse takes Chris to the docks before they sail. Can you smell the ocean breeze? I sure can. 

Their marriage was supposed to be all business....

When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!

Jesse’s in a pinch. To keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal: in exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million-dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?

“These are the company’s private docks,” Jesse said as he wrapped an arm around Chris’s waist and pulled him in for a kiss. “Like what you see?”

“Whoa.” Chris pointed at the enormous boat docked in front of them, a sleek yacht that looked like something from a James Bond movie, with its tinted windows, hot tub aft, and a large dinghy hoist on the upper deck. “That’s yours?”

“It belongs to the company,” Jesse said. “But I’ve sailed on her a few times.”

“Is that seventy-five feet?”

“It’s a Windview100. Our flagship model, although we do some special orders for larger cruisers.”

“Whoa,” Chris repeated. “One hundred feet? So we’re sailing on our mini honeymoon?”

Jesse nodded. “Do you trust me?”

“To sail that thing, you mean?”

Jesse laughed and shook his head. “I wouldn’t attempt it. We have a crew, including a captain for the yacht. I mean, do you trust me with our honeymoon.”

Chris frowned. “What are you up to, Donovan?”

Jesse barely repressed a smirk. “Why would you think I’m up to something?”

“I’ve seen that expression before,” Chris replied, unconvinced. “So what do you have planned? A trip to Antarctica? Australia? Because telling me to pack for a long weekend won’t cut it, and you’re not buying me a completely new wardrobe.”



“Okay, okay.” Jesse grinned. “But it’s fun to tease you.” He put his arm around Chris’s shoulder and turned him so they faced a smaller piece that jutted out from the dock where the yacht was tied. “I wanted to take you somewhere exotic. I admit it. But with Wenda challenging the will, exotic isn’t feasible. So, this is my boat.” Jesse pointed to the sailboat directly in front of them, a gorgeous catamaran Chris guessed was at least forty feet long.

“Another Windview?”

“I haven’t found a design I like enough yet to consider making cats,” Jesse said. “This one’s a Leopard 44.” He walked over to a cleat to release tension on the ropes. The boat floated up against the dock, and Jesse stepped on board. “Join me?” he asked as he offered Chris his hand.

Chris climbed aboard and followed Jesse around as he opened up the hatches to let the air inside. “She’s a beauty. What’s her name?”

“Land’s Zen. She was a gift from my grandfather when I turned twenty-five.” Jesse ran his fingers lovingly over the hull. “Three cabins and a fourth I converted into an office. I don’t get to take her out as much as I’d like.”

“Where are we headed?”

“Fishers Island. My parents owned a cottage there years ago. My grandfather sold it after they died, but we used to sail there together when I was little.” Jesse’s entire demeanor changed when he spoke, his shoulders relaxing and the tension in his jaw abating. He looked… happy.

All about Shira
Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. Never a fan of instalove, Shira likes to write stories about real men with real issues making real relationships work.

In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. Her Blue Notes Series is loosely based upon her own experiences as a professional musician.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Interested in hearing Shira sing? Here's a link to a live performance of Shira singing an aria from Puccini's "Tosca":

You can subscribe to Shira's monthly newsletter for updates, free fiction, and subscriber-only contests here:
Where you can find Shira

First Comes Marriage is all above love and romance, and Shira’s grand prize is a dozen red roses for your sweetheart (or whoever you think deserves it!). First prize is a $10 Dreamspinner Gift Certificate.