I’m involved in three m/m romances at the moment: one I’ve read, one I’m reading, and one I’ve written. They are: Gay Paris by Robie Madison, Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark, and my own, Gym Dandy. (Links at the bottom of this post.)
Interesting juxtapositioning, as all three feature one character who is comfortable with their sexuality, and one who is not. In Gay Paris and Whistling, both partners are actively gay, although one partner is less willing to be open about it. In Gym Dandy, the love interest is actively in denial, sending out waves of mixed messages to confound the protagonist and secondary characters alike.
All three stories feature complex, fascinating plots comprised of conflicts both from within the characters themselves, and forced on them by the world around them.
But the similarity stops there. The books are otherwise completely different. (Well, okay. They’re all third person, past tense, but that’s it!) Whistling is an historical set just as WWI comes to a close, while Gay Paris and Gym Dandy are contemporaries. Gym Dandy is a romantic comedy, although touching on difficult subjects as well, while the other two are more serious in tone.
Since I haven’t finished Whistling yet, and it truly deserves its own post, and I’ve talked your ear off about Gym Dandy for years now, let me tell you about Gay Paris.
I know Robie Madison from my RWA group, otherwise I might not have discovered her works. I’ve been reading a lot more mainstream books lately, trying to catch up after a decade of fanfiction. But after my recent binge of urban fantasy/sci-fi and absurdist fiction, I missed m/m and erotica and decided to give Robie’s books a try. I’m glad I did.
Gay Paris is the third book of Robie’s I’ve read, although Good Enough For You, the first of the Heartbreak Anonymous series, I have yet to read. Heartbreak Anonymous is a series of stories about connected characters rather than a chronological progression, so you don’t have to read them in order. Here’s a complete listing of her books: http://www.jasminejade.com/m-110-robie-madison.aspx
The official blurb for Gay Paris from the Ellora’s Cave website reads: Six years ago, Zach Richards let himself experience the impossible—a hot affair with a hotter man in the world’s hottest city. To his everlasting regret, he walked away, too afraid to take that kind of risk.
But now he’s back—older and definitely wiser. And Wyatt is definitely as mouth-watering as ever. As they pick up where they left off—tearing off their clothes in a Parisian hotel room—both men relish the reunion. But there’s no ignoring the bittersweet undertones—the scars each of them is clearly hiding and the unspoken words driving a gap between them.
To me, Gay Paris is two things: it’s an erotic romance, meaning a large chunk of the word count is devoted to sensual scenes, and it’s an onion. Onion? Huh? Because you have to peel it to get to the best part.
Gay Paris unfolds in layers. It’s told both in the present, and with flashbacks to six years before. The backstory unfolds in both timelines, with the characters revealing bits of themselves just when you, the reader, needs them. There are important events that happened before they met, making them who they are when they first meet, and even more important events that happen in the six years they’re apart.
Each man has changed in the intervening years. They meet again, wondering if they’ve changed too much to ever be together again. The reader worries and wonders right along with them.
The structure is interesting. It reminds me of one of the better Highlander episodes in which two parallel stories are told in two different times, each timeline revealing different things about the characters. It also reminds me of Memento, although Gay Paris is not a straight-line backwards progression, but it is never confusing. You never need a “You are here” map, either for Paris (of which Robie paints a glorious picture) or for the lives of our guys.
Robie has a terrific grasp of deep POV. It’s especially effective the way she works deep POV during the erotic scenes. It’s never tab A-slot B. It’s about feelings and past baggage and also? Hot! Hot! Hot!
The ending isn’t what I expected. Sure, since it’s a romance, so by definition, it has a HEA (happily ever after), but it’s just not set up the way I thought it would be. I like a good twist. How ‘bout you?
So something a little different from an established author who’s new to m/m. Give Gay Paris and Robie Madison a try.
Gay Paris: http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-6856-110-gay-paris.aspx
Whistling in the Dark: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm
Gym Dandy: http://www.mlrpress.com/books.php