Today I'd like to welcome one of my favorite bloggers: Danielle from ALPHA Reader. I asked Danielle if she would like to do a guest post for M/M Romance month, and she e-mailed back that she'd love to talk about Josh Lanyon's Adrian English series:
Falling in Love Again
Hello Gentle Reader.
I'm going to tell you a story about a story. This is the story of how I popped my cherry with Adrien English. And when I say ‘popped my cherry’ I mean ‘read my first Male on Male homocentric romance’ and by Adrien English I mean the fictional character of Josh Lanyon’s immensely popular crime fiction series.
It was a momentous occasion for me, and one that changed the tides of my reading habits forever. . .
Let’s Call a Heart a Heart
Adrien English is a part-time novelist and bookshop owner of ‘Cloak and Dagger Books’, which is reputed to have the largest collection of gay and gothic whodunnits around. Adrien is thrust into the role of reluctant sleuth in first book, ‘Fatal Shadows’, when an employee and friend dies, leaving Adrien the main suspect. The death throws LAPD detective, Jake Riordan, into Adrien’s path and kick-starts his dubious crime-solving career that spans five books.
Adrien and Jake form an uneasy friendship, which grows into an unhealthy relationship. You see, Jake is a closeted homosexual, and reluctantly attracted to openly gay Adrien. Over the course of five books, from ‘Fatal Shadows’ through to ‘The Dark Tide’, Adrien’s association with Jake throws him unwittingly into the middle of murder investigations and real-life ‘whodunnits’. . . while Adrien and Jake’s love life also throws both men into a tail-spin. Adrien knows that Jake will never be comfortable with his sexuality, and for as long as he stays in the closet, Jake will hate himself for loving Adrien. . .
Josh Lanyon writes brutal love and callous murder in this epically noir murder-mystery series. A cross between Dashiell Hammett and ‘Queer as Folk’.
I Must Have that Man
I read vicariously. That is, I like to imagine myself as the heroine. Most people read thusly, even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it. If you’re frustrated with the believability of a character’s actions, chances are your problem is more that *you* can’t see *yourself* reacting that way. When I read books that have a male narrator (which is quite rare in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre I frequent) I’ll ‘take on’ the role of whatever female the hero associates with.
So I never knew how I'd take to reading M/M. It’s hard for me to imagine myself a man, let alone a gay man. I went into ‘Adrien English’ with much (virginal) trepidation, but was quickly swept away by Josh Lanyon’s characterization and the infectious likability of his title character.
Adrien English is a fantastic leading man. He’s witty, a little bit goofy and utterly charming. He’s also not your typical gay lead. In fact, as a writer he pokes fun at the gay stereotype prevalent in current fiction. Adrien is not particularly suave – he eats cereal in his underwear while watching old Errol Flynn movies. The only stereotype Adrien maintains (much to his chagrin) is that of mama’s boy – but only because his eccentric society mother, Lisa, is still reluctant to cut the apron strings. Adrien is also unlucky in love, still nursing a broken heart after his ex, Mel, walked out on him years ago and he’s been celibate ever since. To top it all off, Adrien has had a heart murmur since he was sixteen years old – a condition which will most likely mean Adrien won’t live to see 50.
I connected with Adrien English on so many levels. On the one hand, I saw a lot of myself in him. This geeky bookworm who eats cereal in his underwear while watching old Errol Flynn movies. . . there’s something endearing about Adrien’s geekishness, coupled with Lanyon’s description of him as a Montgomery Clift look-alike. Adrien is at once totally inept and unknowingly charming. I loved him.
I also saw Adrien English as the gay best friend I always wanted. The (fictional) Will to my Grace. . . he has a very biting wit and self-deprecating humour that I found completely addictive and endearing.
But as well as connecting with Adrien’s book-nerd personality and wanting to be besties with him (fictional character or not) I was surprised by how viscerally I connected with Adrien’s romantic dilemmas.
His relationship with Jake Riordan is heartbreakingly and frustratingly relatable, regardless of them being two men. Everyone, at some point in their life and to varying degrees, has fallen for the wrong person. Someone who you know is wrong for you, who will break your heart and leave you irrevocably changed (and not necessarily for the better). That’s what Jake is to Adrien. . . and it takes a long time for readers (and Adrien) to realize that he has the same transforming impact on Jake.
I'm a Fool to Want You
Adrien and Jake’s relationship is the sticking point of the entire series. Adrien’s association with Jake is often the catalyst that throws him (reluctantly) into the middle of murder investigations. But Adrien’s love for the closeted Jake is also the catalyst for much of his heart’s discontent. Readers do have to slog through books in which Adrien is clearly hurting from his love for Jake – a man who cannot commit because he cannot admit to himself who he is.
Adrien and Jake have a seemingly ‘doomed’ relationship. But Adrien, and readers, do read those moments in between the chaos and complexity. Those moments, however fleeting, when you realize that Jake and Adrien are meant to be. They are each other’s ‘happily ever after’;
For those who haven’t had the joy of reading ‘Adrien English’, I won’t tell you whether or not Jake and Adrien do get their ‘happily ever after’. . . save to say, it’s a rocky ride.
The Masquerade is Over
I've always maintained that the ‘Adrien English’ series is not M/M erotica. . . it is, first and foremost, a mystery series (with a gay lead). And I think the reason it was so easy for me to fall into these books, and become comfortable in the M/M genre via Lanyon’s writing, is because I consider myself a mystery aficionado.
If I had popped by M/M cherry with a strictly and explicitly homoerotic novel I may have shied away from the entire sub-genre. But mystery I understand. . . and mystery, is Josh Lanyon’s forte. I was able to lose myself in his cloak and dagger writing; his prose that sounds gravelly and like it should be voiced-over by Humphrey Bogart. It was especially easy to lose myself in this series with an unknowingly dashing leading man like Adrien, and his complicated romance that left me vicariously heartbroken.
Too Marvelous for Words
Josh Lanyon’s ‘Adrien English’ series is noir perfection of Raymond Chandler proportions.
Words fail when I try to explain how much I love this series. I have gone back and re-read and cried again in all the same places and cheered Adrien on despite knowing the outcomes. I don’t even think of this as one of my favourite M/M series – it is simply one of my favourite series, ever.