Some reflections on M/M romance books and the straight women who write them

So… a while ago I saw a post on Reddit expressing some frustration that “all m/m romance books are written by women!” The poster wanted to find more male authors in the genre. It is a surprise to most folks when they discover how much the genre caters to a straight female readership. Often the books are clearly designed more for women than for gay men.

It brings up some complicated feelings for me. On one hand, the only way to get rid of prejudice is education. Familiarity can be one step away from sympathy! So that’s great! Allies are wonderful! But on the flip side, a great many authors slip into tired gay tropes as they pump out these formulaic titles. As a gay male reader it gets tiresome when so many authors reduce gay relationships to a thinly veiled hetero relationship – with one fellow big and dominant, often tattooed and muscular and of course a top, while the other is shorter and willowy and a committed bottom who is prone to bizarre emotional outbursts. When something happens… even new information, this expressive soul has to run away because their weak mind cannot handle the enormity of the … whatever. Completely throws me out of the story. But apparently the female audience of m/m romance love this predictable formula and like being able to see themselves in this all-but-in-pronouns female character. These books are one step away from asking any random gay couple, “Who is the wife?”

Writing is a business. I get it. If audience requires your books to fit a certain mold, you write to please them. You sell more books that way. You make money. The Indy business model is to put out a lot of books so they cross sell each other. Those straight female readers are probably not going to notice that the sex scenes are not written by someone familiar with gay sexual dynamics and mechanics. There have been times where I’m reading a scene and, WTF? That is not remotely what sex between men is like! Not unlike the issue of straight men writing lesbian romance novels. Not saying they can’t do the job, but sometimes the writing doesn’t quite get it right.

But this issue has less to do with the gender of the author and more simply an issue of bad writing. It is a cop-out to say female authors can’t write gay romance. Some of my favorite authors of m/m books are women (as you can see in my book recommendations… probably more women than men in those lists). The issue is when some authors are so focused on pumping out a lot of books (so they can make a living) that they lean heavily into their formula and slip into bad writing and shallow characters.

This issue is one reason why I created this website. It got frustrating to be a few chapters into a book and discover the leading man is a simpering bottom who never develops a personality beyond being a neurotic hole in need of heavy pounding. So I created a website of books that I have enjoyed. Books with characters I cared about. Ideas that were interesting. Language that was witty and/or wise. They do vary in quality… some are deeper than others. But these books all had something that clicked for me.

There are some wonderful reads listed on this site. I hope that you find some books that click for you.

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