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Friday, August 8, 2014

The waistcoat rippers: Historical gay man fiction written by women

Dear Ladies & gentelmen,

For me it all started with Lord John William Gray, a fictional character created by Diana Gabaldon. He is a recurring secondary character in the author's Outlander series and the protagonist of his own series of historical mystery novels and shorter works. 
Lord John is secretly homosexual "in a time when that particular predilection could get one hanged," the character has been called "one of the most complex and interesting" of the hundreds of characters in Gabaldon's Outlander novels. Here Lord John in in a scene from the fantastic book "Brotherhood of the blade" as imagined by "Sylvia" a fellow reader with great talent 
(original source:  Lord John )

I avidly devoured all things Lord-John and went as far as to buy several more "gay historical fiction" novels. To my surprise apparently all were written by women (even the ones that have a male name) in fact some people say that much of the best gay romance was written by women. My source webpage "speaks its name" a literary review webpage that only reviews the few books available in this genre and interviews the authors. I joined a large gay-lesbian community on Google+ asking their opinion about gay fiction, but I got no answer, just some encouragement to write about the subject (or I think that is what they meant by "+" my question).

That is to say I can not comment on the gay audience of this books. I can comment on "straight" women reactions to Lord John's character, having read a lot of comments in forums I participate. And Diana Gabaldon herself has it right when she says (in her own better words) that this  character is a "trap" in a way: he is a gay man but straight women react to him as to a straight man. He is the stuff of dreams, but unattainable, which is part of his attractiveness. I tested my "straight woman" consequence by reading the only "lesbian historical romance" I could find "The caretaker's daughter", not my cup of tea.

Changing to the more general genre; the sampling I did from ebooks available in Amazon gave me an idea of the challenges of the gendre: I was first looking for the most problematic take: the Historical ROMANCE gay novel. Here the challenge is the happy ending, which is precisely what I craved after following Lord John. In a time were, as I mentioned before, there was no possible happy ending, I have seen authors struggling to concoct truculent possibilities (the Hero's sister marries his lover as a cover up, so that she can also live with her lesbian love who is the cousin of the other Hero...aggg) to historical implausible (they get away with it because of their nobility rank, or hiding in the country estate with loyal servants), to the more open ending that sees them happy together, but the future is an open question. This last ending is the better done, but defies the romance novel genre.  

I also read "as meat loves salt" a haunting tale of love and madness that obsessed me for a while. I did a pin board accumulating images from the historical events mentioned Pins: as meat loves salt .This is one of the best gay historicals out there according to several sources. I personally think that the sexual orientation of the main characters is the least of the drama. (disclaimer: This is not a romance novel). 

I finally downloaded a graphic novel (I love graphic novels) called "the lily and the Rose", mostly because it was available. This was a manga (Japanese style) and was as truculent as truculent goes...may I say that one of the two Heroes is a priest. I should have guessed that with that name something cheesy was going to present itself.  Well, my research ended there, with a somewhat guilty voyeurism.

My TOP recommendations: 

1. Lord John and the brotherhood of the blade by Diana Gabaldon 
2. False colors by Alex Beecroft  for a review click here



Update from March 2016: 

1.The New York Times (really?!) just reviewed the gay romance novel BLUEBERRY BOYS By Vanessa North in a very favorable way. Apparently it is a not to miss. It is not historical, but I think I will read it!  review link

2. One of my readers suggested these two novels. Classic romance formula. For a start the reviews on are already an amusing read and then the covers! oh my THE COVERS. I read the price of temptation (with new insipid digital cover) and would recommend it. 

*******Explicit (sort of)***************************************************************************

The Price of temptation by MJ Pearson

Discreet Young Gentelman by MJ Pearson

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