Thursday, February 24, 2011

M/M Guest Post: Janna from E Romance Reader

Please join me in a warm welcome to one sexy blogger: E-Romance Reader Janna! I love her blog and always find good recommendations there. I've followed her blog as her reviews started leaning towards mostly M/M Romance, so when I decided to do a whole month devoted to M/M Romance, I knew I had to invite Janna!

High 5, Low 5 in m/m romance themes & tropes

When Patti invited me to write a guest post for her M/M Romance Month I was very honored and excited! I love this genre and nowadays I hardly read any romance books other than those of the m/m kind. I haven’t been reading this genre (or even romance in general) for that long, but over the past period of one and a half years I’ve come to like and dislike some romance themes more than others. So, for this guest post I like to talk about my ‘High 5, Low 5’ of favorite and not so favorite themes and tropes in m/m romance.

~High 5~

1. Old Friends, New Loves
This first theme is actually one that also works for me in m/f romance. I just love the Friends to Lovers theme! In m/m books it’s often accompanied by an additional tension because one or both friends are wondering if the other friend is even gay or not. But even if this aspect isn’t playing a role, I’m a big fan of the relationship based on friendship.

2. The One That Got Away
Like the previous theme, this one gives the main characters a history together. So, they already have an emotional bond. Reunited lovers usually have to work out some issues from the past while they can also focus on their present attraction and feelings of love. Important is that I can believe in these because they’re not instantly sprouted but usually based on a shared history and on knowing each other’s personalities. One of the best things about both this and the first theme is therefore that the story doesn’t suffer from insta-love between the protags.

3. Gay For You
This is a typical m/m theme: a straight man falls in love/lust with a person, who happens to be a man. He’s never been in love with another man before and most likely won’t fall for other men in the future. It’s just this particular man, who rocks his boat. I like this theme because it’s the superlative of Love with a capital L. Furthermore, this theme usually brings some struggle into the story and (in the end at least) we can be sure to be in the company of an open-minded hero. I love that!
This theme should not be confused with the ‘gay hero in the closet’ by the way. That’s another theme that I can appreciate once in a while. But more often than not it also makes me want to smack that said hero (which is not necessarily a bad thing). ;)

4. Disabilities
I’m a sucker for men with a disability, especially when learning to deal with it within a (blooming) relationship plays an important role in the book. Damaged heroes, emotionally or physically, usually have this wounded pride thing going on and while gradually growing towards acceptance they have the tendency to push important people away. All the sweeter the happiness in the end when realization of love dawns.

5. Yes Sir!
The D/s relationship is a theme that I like better in m/m than in m/f romance. Don’t get me wrong, I do kinda like it in both genres, but the author of a BDSM romance with m/f protagonists, has to be very skilled to not make me feel awkward. Emotional depth is essential for me in any romance but especially in the BDSM themed ones. In m/m romance I can deal much better with less emotional layers than in m/f books, probably because of the more natural balance in equality between two men. That makes it sexier when one takes control over the other guy.

~Low 5~

1. May-December Love
I can’t help it but I’m just not a fan of a big age gap between the heroes. Especially when the gap is bigger than 13 to 15 years I start to feel icky, because I can’t let go of the thought that the younger guy must have daddy issues. Maybe it has also something to do with my dislike of heroes that are much older than 40. I like them best in their thirties or even in their twenties.

2. M-Preg
I actually have never read a romance which had a male-pregnancy in it, but that’s because I’m shying away from the topic as much as I can. Pregnancy or wanting to get pregnant is something I don’t want to read about in romances in general. Period. I just don’t think it’s sexy, and even less so when it’s a male getting knocked up. Funny thing though is that I don’t mind ‘men with children’ being the heroes of a story. As long as the kids aren’t just props, but well-developed characters, I can enjoy them being part of the story.

3. No Means Yes
I’m ambiguous about non-consensual sex scenes or even when the consent is dubious. Some m/m romances are based on yaoi (m/m manga) in which dub-con or non-con is a fairly common theme. And only that knowledge can make me stomach the dub-con sex scenes in some of those yaoi-based books. Otherwise, this type of sex scenes, for example in BDSM novels, is a big no-no for me.

4. Twincest
Twincest or brothercest is another topic I’ve avoided so far. I don’t know, an author must really know what he/she is doing to make me want to read about incest between brothers. Like m-preg it’s very far outside my comfort zone.

5. Stalk Me, Save Me
This theme, where one of the protags has a stalker on his tail and the other protag is there to save his ass, can bore me to death when it isn’t done exceptionally well. I’m not at all against plots where the heroes are being put in danger or find external obstacles on their way, I actually enjoy those action packed stories very much every now and then. It’s the ‘victim meets rescuer’ trope that doesn’t appeal to me. Especially when the ‘victim’ is the princess-in-the-tower type; that is, being very passive until his hero rescues him after which he rewards him with love. Bleh. Furthermore, the conflict in a romance story shouldn’t only be external (like danger coming from a stalker). I need an internal struggle too. In fact, an author can skip the external conflict any time in favor of the internal conflict if it was up to me. :)

Aside from these tropes there are a few character types I avoid more or less if I can. First there’s the drag queen; heroes that are into cross-dressing don’t rock my boat. Second there’s the bear type; big, hairy, muscular types don’t attract me very much. Then there’s the virginal character; it’s not that I dislike this type, but he’s just not doing it for me in a romance (maybe it reminds me too much of the female virgins in historicals). And then there’s the princess-in-the-tower type that I really dislike; I’m just not a big fan of the very passive protagonists in general (see my fifth low too). Lastly, I shy away from romances about established couples; it’s the budding and blooming of a relationship I’m more interested in.

On the other hand, any hero who wears a uniform (law enforcement, fireman, military, medic) easily finds his way into my shopping cart. Alphas make me feel tingly. I can’t help myself. :)

So, which themes, tropes or character types make your ‘High 5, Low 5’ list?


  1. I have to agree with the M-pregnant low 5. I've never read one, and have want to pick one up anytime soon. Pregnancy is not really something I care to read about.

    Great post

  2. Great post Janna. I have never tried m-preg either but I think I have one in my TBR. Not sure when I'll get to it. It's definitely on the low 5. However twincest? Mmmmm. (In fiction)

    I am NOT a fan of anything with a strong religious story-line, as in religious zealots cause one of the heroes to question his relationship and even though eventually he comes around I am just so furious with him for giving into it by then that I don't care. I think the other guy deserves a better man. Yes, I can hold a fictional grudge. LOL

    I don't get the whole master slave thing either so I tend to avoid it because the whole time I'm thinking "That's just weird not sexy" which kind of takes away from my enjoyment of the book.

    Oh and closets. LOL I hate when the whole book revolves around hiding and sneaking around and keeping secrets. There's no focus on whether the two guys actually like each other because every minute they are together they are looking over their shoulder to see if anyone will catch them. It gets tiring and boring. So usually military stories are out for that reason (although now maybe with DADT repealed it will be less popular), however other uniforms, firemen, policemen, oh yeah. :-D

  3. @Chris: I just don't think pregnancy in a romance book is sexy either. And often it makes me wonder what's more important for the character (male or female) wanting to get pregnant, the man or his seed. ;)

    @Tam: I think I have both m-preg and twincest on my tbr too. The first I bought without knowing and the second is there because someone persuaded me to try it. :)
    The strong religious story-line is not my favorite either, mainly because religious zealots annoy me in real life too much. Lol, holding a fictional grudge sounds just like you. ;D
    Closets like that don't have much appeal, I agree. But fortunately there are good ones too. I'm thinking of the Tere Michael books, the Nicki and Brandon books and the last book of Wren Boudreau that I recently read. I really enjoyed that one, although one of the guys didn't come out until the end of the book.

  4. Great post, Janna! Those low 5 especially got a reaction out of me. I'm not fond of any of those and the m-preg in particular is such an unappealing idea, ha, ha!

  5. I just have to chime in on the m-preg thing. It sounds icky, I know, but I have to say that Eresse did a great job with it in the fantasy Sacred Fate. I may have read another one or two books with it, but this is the one that stands out head and shoulders. I doubt very much that anyone could make m-preg work in a contemporary or historical or such, but it can be done right in an author created world!

  6. High 4 is always a plus in a romance. I love seeing them overcome those obstacles. For me no means yes is a no-no for me at all times. Good post!

  7. I have heard about m-preg but that is still very wtf for me, and that bottom of the list, euww

  8. Loved reading your post Janna! I never say no to a Gay For You and the Yes Sir trope ;) What I recently discovered in my own reading habbits is that YA can't appeal to me in any other genre but put two YA men together and I say; yes please! I've got no idea why it works for me in M/M but so far I've had some good/great YA M/M books to my e-shelves.

    And Janna..M-Preg? WTF? Uhm, that's kinda new for me *blush* Don't think I need or want to know anything more then that the trope is "out there". Twinsest is another trope that holds no appeal to me. Perhaps it is because I've got such a great bond with my own bro & sis which makes it hard for me to imagine anything else between us other then bro/sis love..the non sexual kind!

  9. @Val: Thanks Val! :) I see that m-preg draws a lot of attention. *g*

    @Wren: Oh yes, I remember Lis reviewing Sacred Fate over at my place. I admit that I thought that if I was ever going to give m-preg a try then maybe with this book. One of these days, when I feel wildly adventurous, I just might jump in. :)

    @Melissa: Yep, I'm a big fan of obstacles of the physical kind. There are a couple of books with this theme that are reckoned among my absolute favorites. Thanks. :D

  10. @Blodeuedd: LOL, I think you should at least read a couple of 'normal' m/m romances before you even start thinking about an m-preg themed one. ;D

    @Leontine: We do have quite some favorites and not-so-favorites in common, as usual, Leontine! But I have yet to 'discover' the appeal of m/m YA like you have discovered it. :)
    Yeah, big ewww, on the incest with your own brother/sister part! But, like Tam said, it is fictional. And I'm not thinking of my brother or sister when I'm reading romance with other themes either. It's just best to never think of your siblings when reading romance or erotica, don't you agree? ;)

  11. Great lists! I could especially relate to your you low 5s - I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing me fuss about no more stalkers, PLEASE. And I'd have to add Tam's dislike of stories with strong religious themes. Religion has never made any sense to me. (I was raised Catholic, but refused to get confirmed because the whole thing just seemed so silly to me.)

  12. Hi Janna -thanks for coming over to play! In your top 5 I like Gay for You and D/s. I also like a good love triangle, although I know some people hate it :)

    Don't think I could do the m-preg, I've only read one twincest that didn't squick me out, and I don't like May/Dec in m/m or m/f.

    And I think we all know how much I love a good hockey story :)

  13. @Janna - when reading(GLBT)erotica my bro/sis are the last peeps on my mind and I'd like to keep it that way *smiles* But when you have the trope of (tw)incest it makes me think about why one would engage in such a relationship and then I would automatically think about the sibbling relationship I have and *shivers* I have a blegh look on face right now. Still, at one hand I don't want to say I'll never read it but on the other hand *still shivering* Safe to say I'm on the fence!

  14. @Chris: *g* I'm not tired of your fussing about stalkers, but you did make me more aware of them being everywhere. In m/m romance, that is. ;)

    @Patti: I love your playground, Patti! :) I'm a fan of a good love triangle too, the keyword being 'good' here... too many not so good menages are out there as well, I'm afraid.
    Oh yes, I like a good sport themed story too! Definitely. :D

    @Leontine: *grin* It's difficult to keep real life and fiction apart in this particular case, I know. Heck, I'm jumping on that fence with you. Who knows, we might take the jump together and read a twincest story one of these days. :)