Friday, September 19, 2008

There were three in the bed...

by Kate Pearce

At the end of 2005, I had written a couple of books, (four no-hopers), and one erotic historical, Eden's Pleasure, which was published by Ellora's Cave. It featured a set of identical twins, Gervase and Gideon Harcourt. Gervase was the hero of Eden's Pleasure but everyone was fascinated by his darker twin, Gideon, a man for whom sex had a whole different meaning and usually centered around men.

But how the hell was I supposed to write a book about a guy like that? Me? boring mother of four, suburban housewife, aspiring author etc etc, you know me, right? But I wanted to write about him-I love dark tortured heroes, especially ones with complex sexual hangups. And then there was the other thing-was it even okay to write about two men getting it on in a romance novel?

At that point, fate helped me out and I came across a copy of Emma Holly's 'Cheek' book Menage This book came out in 2004. As usual, Black Lace were 'way ahead' of the curve!

Not my favorite cover, but the book? It was as if a light bulb went off in my head and said this is the way to do it, this is how you make two men having sex romantic The book inspired me to try and write something myself so I wrote Antonia's Bargain And, for me, that book was a turning point in the evolution of my voice and my style.

Here's a little excerpt, which I think explains the sexual complexity of my characters quite nicely.:

The interesting thing is, I think I have found what I want.”
Peter cupped Gideon’s balls. “A man or a woman?”
Gideon reached across to slide his fingers beneath the open neck of Peter’s shirt. He tugged gently on his nipple ring. “A woman who only chooses to acknowledge me when she is dressed as a man. Take off your shirt.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised. A woman masquerading as a man would suit you perfectly. “
Gideon raised an eyebrow as Peter continued. “I know you’ve chosen to bed mostly men in the last few years, but I’ve never believed your heart was in it.”
“You haven’t?”
“Just because you’ve tried to convince yourself that you prefer men, doesn’t mean that it is the truth.”
“And how would you know this?”
Peter locked gazes with him as he removed his shirt to display his lean muscular chest and scarred skin. “Because I spent ten years of my life in a Turkish brothel and I’ve been in every sexual situation imaginable. You use men because you believe they can’t hurt you like Caroline did. If you truly preferred men, you’d let them fuck you as well and you don’t.”
“Perhaps I’m one of those men who believe that if they don’t allow themselves to be fucked, it means they aren’t a sodomite.”
“You’re not like that. “
Gideon let out his breath. How was it that Peter thought he could see things so much more clearly than he could? “Does that offend you?”
“Me?” Peter grinned. “No, because I have no preference either way. I’m happy to fuck or be fucked by either sex.”
Peter was tanned darker than Gideon, a legacy of his years in captivity. He knelt between Gideon’s outstretched legs, the crown of his long cock already showing through his unfastened breeches. He tugged at the fastenings of Gideon’s breeches. Gideon stayed his hand.
“Wait. Why are you so certain that you are right?”
“Why are you even asking me that? It’s very simple. Despite all your lovers, how many men have you fallen in love with?”
Gideon stared at him, his thoughts in turmoil. “None.”
“How many women?”
He shrugged. “Only my wife and look what came of that.”
“And now you are obsessed by another woman. I rest my case.”
Peter removed his hand from Gideon’s breeches and knelt up. “Are you worried that this woman truly prefers to be a man?”
“In the sense that she prefers her own sex? No. I think this is more of a way for her to explore her own sexuality and avoid the things that frighten her.” Gideon frowned. If Peter was right, she sounded just like him. “But that is certainly something I should investigate.”
Peter groaned as Gideon leaned forward, sucked hard on his nipple and slid one hand down the back of his breeches. “God, I’ve missed being touched.” He shuddered as Gideon gently squeezed his balls. “If she trusts you, surely you can persuade her to want you as a woman wants a man?”
Gideon’s cock swelled at Peter’s obvious pleasure. “She wants me, but I have already promised her I will not take her virginity.” He took Peter’s hand, placed it over his covered cock and waited until he began to move his fingers. “Hoist by my own petard.”
Peter grinned. “Your petard feels remarkably fine to me. Let me attend to you.”
“Let’s see who gets attended to first.”
Gideon shoved Peter onto his back and straddled him. He pressed his satin covered cock against Peter’s half-uncovered erection and enjoyed the pressure and roughness of the rocking motion. Satin against skin, smoothness against hot hard flesh. For him, touching a man could be so much simpler than touching a woman. There was no fear of being too rough or too demanding. No fear of becoming emotionally involved. A man simply used his own strength to control his lover. With a hoarse shout, Peter grabbed Gideon’s arm and rolled him onto his front. Gideon’s shirt ripped as it was pulled over his head.
Face down on the carpet, Gideon shuddered as Peter dripped warm oil on his naked back. He tried to roll over. Peter held his arm clamped to his side and brought his knee up and planted it on Gideon’s back. Gideon grunted as his hips and swollen cock were ground into the carpet.

Back then, I thought I was ahead of the curve, not as far ahead as Emma Holly, but still keeping up- but now male/male subplots are becoming commonplace in erotic romance books. Note, I say sub-plots. I'm not talking about m/m love stories, I'll let Erastes cover those.

The main surge for the inclusion of m/m subplots came from the online publishers such as Ellora's Cave, Amber Quill, Loose-Id, Phaze and Samhain to name a few. And I think the initial interest flowed across from slash fan fiction, which often starts trends which gradually bleed into the general reading public's tastes. Online publishers are also more likely to take a risk and try something new, more established publishers have been slower on the uptake.

Here's what Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher from Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc, had this to say when I asked her about the rising interest in m/m:

Stories with M/M and especially M/M/F are still hot sellers for us. The ménage that includes both explicit M/M and M/F sex is the more popular of the two. From what we can tell, most purchasers are heterosexual women. What little we’ve heard from gay men is that the stories are not particularly realistic in their portrayal of the emotional aspect of a M/M relationship. The stories more reflect a woman’s fantasies about two men together.

And she makes an interesting point. This is fiction written for women, not gay men. and why are women so fascinated by what two men get up these days? I've often heard the comment that one hunky hero is good, two is better-and I can see that, I really can.

It's also interesting that the more traditional New York publishers are also expanding into this area. I also write for Kensington's ultra hot and erotic Aphrodisia line, and not one author I talked to who writes for the line has ever had an editor tell her to take out any subplot or scene including m/m, m/f/m or m/m/f. But read the back cover of any Aphrodisia and note that those subplots are generally not mentioned upfront. Getting these books into big stores still requires a certain amount of finesse and careful packaging.

Emma Holly has continued writing for Berkley Sensation. Fairyville features fairies, vortexes and lots and lots of sex, particularly m/m sex wrapped up in a unique and fascinating story. Bantam have added erotica titles such as Eden Bradley's Dark Garden Even Harlequin have got into the act with their Spice line, where upcoming author Victoria Janssen told me her eunuch on eunuch action went through without a word. (Can't wait to read that one!)

So why do we like it so much, all these men, when in real life, would we really put up with two of them?
How did a trend which started only a few years ago end up taking over the erotic romance industry and becoming almost mainstream?
And what on earth will happen next?
Kate wants to know...

Tell me and because this is the 500th post, you might win a copy of a book of mine of your choice.


Portia Da Costa said...

Phoaaaargh**, hot excerpt, Kate! Delicious stuff there... :)

I don't think I've ever written a full on sub plot of male/male romantic eroticism, but I've written plenty of m/m scenes in my time. First one back in 1994, in THE TUTOR. But it was more about a sexually omnivorous character who liked to dabble in everything though, rather than an actual relationship between two men. ;)

I'm not sure why I like to read or write about m/m interaction, but I must admit it seems a natural ingredient to include in an erotic novel for women... I mean, two hunky men together, what's not to like?

And I do think it would be interesting to explore the romantic side of two men together, and the emotions as much as the sex. To really get into that fantasy angle, Kate... It would be fun to write, and a refreshing challenge, because that's a slant I haven't really explored much as yet.

Cool post!

** that should really be 'Yaaaaargggh' today, because it's Internationl Talk Like a Pirate Day, I believe!

ps. have added the 'comment to win' button

Janine Ashbless said...

Hah! I was so ahead of the damn curve with Burning Bright that I got ordered to take all my m/m subplot out. I'm glad those days are over - or so we've been told.

Thanks for this Kate - a really useful and informative post. I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of link-clicking!

Aaarh! Hoist the Jolly Roger!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Hmm... You know, I don't think of the m/m relationships in my books as side plots, they're absolutely central to the plot. That said I do mostly focus on the character dynamics of how threesomes work.

I suspect the m/m subplot in romance is there because it makes it safe. The reader is still involved in a typical heterosexual romance, but they can get their fix of taboo naughtiness on the side, without having to explain to the neighbours/children/grandchildren why they have a book with two guys hugging each other on the cover.

Personally, unless the m/m elements are fully integrated with the main plot I often find them frustrating. But that's because I don't want a glimpse of something, I want to watch the whole show. And I absolutely hate it when the author chickens out and shoehorns in a woman where there really shouldn't be one. Sure, do it for dramatic effect and to create conflict, but don't have one of them suddenly go gooey eyed and forget his former love of his life just cause some minx walked by.

Oh, god! I'm going to shut up now, before this turns into a rant.

Madelynne = chip = shoulder.

Portia Da Costa said...

"Sure, do it for dramatic effect and to create conflict, but don't have one of them suddenly go gooey eyed and forget his former love of his life just cause some minx walked by."

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

Olivia Knight said...

Roger the Cabin Boy! Some m/m happened in The Dragon Lord and I found it exquisite to write. The woman was there because she needed to be for it to happen - but because the two male characters needed her to be there. The first m/m I ever read was that snippet from Interview with a Vampire where Lestat makes him a vampire, and I nearly died. I spent the next year urgently and fruitlessly wanting to be a gay man. And I do love its inclusion, I would very happily read an entire m/m book - but I don't ferret around the gay erotica, because I don't know if I'd find what I wanted there. As you say, it's gay porn for women. But Erastes - you're the expert - is "real" gay porn, the kind written by actual gay men, so different? Can one glance at a passage and go, "Aha, female fantasy" or "Yup, real McCoy"?

As for why I like it... I'll wait for the answers at the bottom of the second cup of coffee.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I rather enjoy lurking in the gay section of the bookshop, mostly because I love watching other peoples reactions.

There is a difference between gay fiction and m/m romance and yaoi, but it's not as simple as obviously written by man/woman for male/female audience. In general, and I do mean this as a generalization not a hard and fast rule. Gay fiction tends to be more blunt and far less flowery. There's poignant emotion, but it's not overwrought. m/m romance is the same genre as hetero romance, there just happens to be two cocks involved.

Janine Ashbless said...

What little we’ve heard from gay men is that the stories are not particularly realistic in their portrayal of the emotional aspect of a M/M relationship

I'm sure that's true. And from all I've read, erotic romance books are not particularly realistic in their portrayal of het relationships either. They are ROMANCE, not cutting-edge realism.

Portia Da Costa said...

"I'm sure that's true. And from all I've read, erotic romance books are not particularly realistic in their portrayal of het relationships either. They are ROMANCE, not cutting-edge realism."

Works for me! LOL

Escapism+romance+entertainment = me happy.

But that's just me, and everybody wants different things from their reading... Which is good! :)

Olivia Knight said...

What are you saying, Janine? Our lives don't work like this?

Here's some cutting edge realism: "Olivia spent seven hours at her desk glued to the keyboard. Although she was wearing a very pretty dress, as befits a heroine, the effect was slightly spoiled by a blanket wrapped around her waist. From time to time she noticed she had needed the loo quite badly for a while, and went, or made more coffee. At lunch time she ate lunch, washed up, and went back to her desk. Occasionally she glanced happily at the sunshine and then turned back to the screen."

Um - yeah. Bring on the romance & fantasy! Because what's going on inside my head is a lot more exciting than any webcam would ever convey...

Erastes said...

Thanks for this post, Kate - even subplots are a step forward in getting m/m recognised in the mainstream.

Now, you see I'll have to disagree with people - even Elloras' Cave who think that it's all for women. Granted there are men (and women!) who find it strange that women write about this but I'll gloss over that.

From what I've seen from the feedback to my stories is, yes - there are a lot of women reading them. That seems to be the crossover from women who knew fanfiction in the main, others are authors, reviewers and the like. But nearly every email I get from readers these days are from men and that's what really spurs me on. It's so great to hear them talk about a romance novel in the same way as a woman would "Oh I had my heart in my mouth - I really wanted so and so to get together with..." etc etc.

Men DO like romance; not all of them - obviously - some people say "God - men don't act like that" but it's not always true. Everyone is so different - I know hugely soppy and romantic gay men, and men who hook up just for anonymous sex (and sometimes, you know? they are the same people) Also men in San Fran might act hugely different from men in Norwich!

I'm hugely encouraged by the news about Harlequin's Spice line - I've been bashing on their door for several years now attempting to get them to try a gay arm. One day, perhaps, one day!

I also agree with Madelynne Ellis - I've read her "Wager" and "Phantasmagoria" and the m/m "subplot" isn't that at all - it's vital to the main theme and I blush to say that I was cheering for Vaughn all the way through "Wager" and hoping that Lucerne would come to his senses and bugger off (no pun intended) with him and leave Bella behind. (Sorry, Madelynne...) :D - The m/m story really made the spice of the book for me, and I wouldn't have read or enjoyed it half as much as I did if it hadn't been there.

Great post and lovely hot excerpt!

Madelynne Ellis said...

and I blush to say that I was cheering for Vaughn all the way through "Wager" and hoping that Lucerne would come to his senses and bugger off (no pun intended) with him and leave Bella behind. (Sorry, Madelynne...) :D

Apology unnecessary. That's how I hope a fair number of readers feel at the end of both AGW and Phantasmagoria. Vaughan is forced to compromise. He doesn't get what he wants. This is because I'm evil and enjoy torturing him, not because I think things should end on a heterosexual note.

Mathilde Madden said...

Torturing Vaughan....

My comment, I forget.

Ah yes. I wrote about something on my blog last week that could be considered m/m erotica just for Olivia.

(Be sure and click through to read the whole thing. I am just sending you via my blog for ruthless kicks.)

Mathilde Madden said...

Oh yes, also, great post. I love this subject. I was asked to take some m/m out of my werewolf books - with the line 'could you take that oral sex scene out: it just seems gratuitous' - but luckily it blew over (ahem) and I ended up putting it all back in and sneaking it through.

However I do still think the trilogy isn't finished without a scene where Alfie and Blake finally get it on. (You do know that is what the books are really about, right.)

Still there maybe enough Alfie/Leon in the books to be going on with for now.

Also, 'scuse me but while we're on the subject: Women? a lot of them like men? Really?

Even Dirty Girls?

Madelynne Ellis said...

I know you really put all that Leon/Alfie stuff in there just for me, Mat. ;-)

Only slightly off topic, but I swear my current WIP is not supposed to be a m/m slut fest, so why are they the only scenes I'm interested in writing?

Someone explain to me exactly what is so damn erotic about one guy licking another's stomach? All I know is that it reroutes my brain.

Madeline Moore said...

There's m/m as a subplot in 'Amanda's Young Men' and it was fun to write. Not a whole sex scene tho, sorry. Maybe in the new one...

I was very surprised to find out (here) that women are so turned on by m/m. It must be my concrete mind - these 2 guys like each other so they're no good to me. I should really try to get over that, I guess.

Lovely excerpt Kate. Thanks for the thoughtful piece. Makin' me think.

Kate Pearce said...

Wow guys, what a great discussion and I've just got up! Back after my second cup of tea to read all the posts and get chatting :)

Kate Pearce said...

Portia-I love that; "Sexually omnivorous character who liked to dabble in everything"
I write these men too!

Thank you for adding the button!

Kate Pearce said...

Janine-BL are okay with the m/m stuff now, right?

Kate Pearce said...

Madelynne-I think your books are different to the ones in the US market-different in a good way I mean :) Most print US publishers haven't gone the whole hog and allowed a real m/m relationship to dominate the story-they'd probably not consider that as coming under the romance banner, although I'm not so sure those old rules are holding up these days, because your books are incredibly romantic.

I just can't write pure m/m romances, I'm far more interested in the reactions between the different sexes to give up the woman in the middle, or on the side :) I think some readers won't like the ending of Simply Sinful for that reason, but I don't want to write about any trite happy endings when the supposedly bisexual man ends up HEA with a woman or a man-I want him to have a bit of both :)

Kate Pearce said...

Erastes. that's interesting-I haven't read enough straight gay m/m romance fiction (that sounds wrong somehow but you know what I mean) to know what the differences are, but I was pleased to see that my first Aphrodisia book "Simply Sexual" which has some very sexually ambivalent male characters in it did show up on the amazon gay bestseller list and I've also had emails from guys.

Perhaps this is another example of that blending, that men can now see their love affairs in terms of romance and not be ashamed/afraid of that?

Kate Pearce said...

'could you take that oral sex scene out: it just seems gratuitous'
A gratuitous sex scene?
No! How can that be? And imo, no oral sex scene is ever unnecessary, particularly in your books :)

Kate Pearce said...

Madeline, for a while there, back in the day I thought I was the only woman who was fascinated by the thought of what 2 guys got up to in bed-I'm so glad I'm not alone :)

Inez Kelley said...

Kate is my hero!

Kate Pearce said...

Thanks Inez, the check is in the mail :)

Gwen Hayes said...

I'm one of "those" women who just don't get the appeal. I keep trying because so many of my friends enjoy reading it or writing it.

I'm such a prude. I don't want to be either. I just can't connect. I think it's because I like to live vicariously through the heroine and when there is no heroine I feel unnecessary. lol.

Ava March said...

Fantastic post, Kate!

I love sex and angst, and there is so much angst to pull out of a m/m relationship, especially in a historical book. Just totally feeds my inner drama queen. And it's one of the reasons why those books have become my favorite to read and write. I do hope that some day NY takes the plunge and publishes m/m ER, but I doubt that day will come soon. As Madelynne mentioned, there's a 'safe' element to m/f books with m/m subplots. m/m is popular with the e-publishers, but there's the whole anonymity thing with buying a book online versus going to the bookstore to buy a m/m romance.

"Someone explain to me exactly what is so damn erotic about one guy licking another's stomach? All I know is that it reroutes my brain." :-) Totally agree! Even the simplest of gestures can become so very erotic when done between 2 men.

Kate Pearce said...

Gwen-I still love you anyway-When I write it, or read it, I just pretend I'm one of the guys :)
obviously I'm a pervert :)

Kate Pearce said...

Ava, I agree, I'm not sure that NY is ready to jump on that particular bandwagon either-although I'm glad to see it at least showing up.

And there is Suzanne Brockmann, an NY Times best selling contemporary romance writer who wrote a whole m/m romance in her Troubleshooters/Navy Seals/FBI series. Ground breaking indeed...

Madeline Moore said...

I really should try that thing, Kate - pretending I'm one of the guys.
I have a very vivid imagination...although I write contemporary stuff, so while I love historicals, I can't imagine writing one. Anyway, it's not like I HAVE to love m/m, reading or writing, there's room for everyone. It may be that I imagine men who like men, even the ones who like women as well, might be effeminate? But the opposite, women who like women as well as men, I don't imagine as butch.

Something sexist going on there, perhaps... avarst! I'm a simple pirate girl who knows what she likes. Arrrrgh. Shiver me timbers. (Not much of a pirate talker either, but I'm tryin'...)

I think polyamory is really interesting and may be the way of the future. Perhaps someone can clarify something for me: is polyamory when one person (male or female) has more than one lover, but the lovers don't have each other? That's my understanding but I'm not sure it's correct.

Gotta go, Polly wants a cracker...

Erastes said...

Kate - you are not at all a pervert as you well know!

Since I discovered m/m I've always put myself in the place of the man - even when... um...

pleasing myself when reading?! Strangely I'm a top, which I don't know what that says about me. I've considered a sex change, honestly - but then I'd only want to sleep with men - which is daft, as I can already do that...

Erastes said...

erotic romance books are not particularly realistic in their portrayal of het relationships either. They are ROMANCE, not cutting-edge realism.

Janine- that's such a truth and I'd never thought about it. And not just erotica either - any sort of romance - it's not supposed to be realistic. I shall certainly use that for an argument when someone says to me "that gay romance is unrealistic" - I shall point out LORD OF THE HISSY FIT and others like it and say "oh yeah? And those are?"

Sweet Samantha said...
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Sweet Samantha said...
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Sweet Samantha said...

It's dirty and it's wrong.

I think that’s why so many love it.

It's like the good girl who always falls in over her knickers in love with the resident bad boy. We all know he's bad, but we just can't seem to help ourselves.

It's sinful but damn exciting.

You have the entire world bearing down on your love. More than just the normal objections heterosexual couples would face.

It’s not 'just' right or wrong in relation to the two of you being 'perfect' for each other. Those are people's opinions about the couple as personalities. With m/m you have God and Nature. It’s questionable. It's against the whole theory of love for the sake of procreation.

And as a genre it's relatively new. There are thousands upon thousands of novels with princes and their princesses. This is a new reading experience for adult bookworms.

I like reading about a man stripping or touching himself. Two just makes the whole thing more sexy. A forbidden pleasure. I feel like a voyeur peeking into the private lives of these men. I have a front row seat. I even imagine being in that room. I think They're here for me. To please and pleasure me. This is my show. My spine tingles. I'm watching something that could send my soul to burn in Hell(if I really believed like that). And that’s part of the draw. Everyone wants to be different. Reading about gay men is certainly different. You don't talk about this over the dinner table unless you write it lol.

Reality is a bit different of course. These books could be anyone’s dirty little secret. They can be hidden away behind other books on the shelf away from the eyes of guests. A relationship with 2 men is a bit harder to hide. When mom drops by on a surprise visit, squeezing even one into the broom closet might not be the easiest thing. Who do you bring to your sister’s wedding? Jack or Ryan? Who gets to put his name on the child’s birth certificate? Keith or Nick? It’s a lot more complicated than can be solved in a novel. A novel you can do this or that and the reader can accept it because they don’t need details. In reality we have systems and regulations that are all about details. Strict definitions that could decide whether your family will get this or that or be included at all. Especially since for most of the world, heritage/bloodlines are patrilineal.

It’s a lot easier if your family and friends support you and it doesn’t matter which man you marry. But I don’t think many have yet the courage to come out so to speak. Homosexuality is only just beginning to be accepted. Add something that could even remotely lead to polygamy will be rejected by society on site.

m/m novels are just one way of easing the way into accepting homosexual relationships. Like any other media, the more we’re exposed to it, the less we’ll be shocked by it. Though hopefully not any less excited :)

Oh and I totally loved the excerpt Kate!

magdalune said...

I've always liked them for the opposite reason some of the other people don't - because I don't put myself in the place of either of the male characters. It's a "safe" way to enjoy men without ever having to go near one. :D

I think other reasons why women enjoy m/m sex scenes is because of the taboo - it's like another kink, another forbidden pleasure. And menage scenes with two men usually make it about the woman's pleasure, including visual stimulation from two sexually interacting men - sort of like how men enjoy "lesbian" porn created for the titillation of men. This is gay porn for the titillation of women. And since it's erotica or erotic romance, there's suspension of disbelief for the purpose of fantasy without exploitation.

Sarah said...

I love reading m/m romance and to be honest I am not sure what it is exactly. I just like it. A lot. It is hot, sexy and yes there is that whole I like men and two is better than one but its more than that.

I am beginning to think that it is more about the development of women's sexuality as a cultural phenomenon and tech like internet, blogs... The internet has been a way I guess to check out stuff and not feel inhibited to do so.

Me, I like gay comics too and am a total lush for photography and this is something that has totally been net based.

And, I even like the stuff where there is no romance and just sex. James Lear's books The Back Passage and The Secret Tunnel are excellent in that respect. (there is a smattering of romance in the end!)

So. I am not sure that makes any sense, but it is just my random collection of thoughts I am having at the moment! heh.