Book Review · Escape Trilogy

I’m thankful for gay romance novels

I’ve been reading a lot of gay romance lately, partially because of my three-novella contract with NineStar Press: an LGBTQ publisher who bought my Escape trilogy. As far as my trilogy goes, the words are flying, and I have to think all the smexy gay romance I’ve been reading has certainly aided in the process.

This isn’t a new thing, not really. It all started with BBC Sherlock and my sudden and surprising attraction to Johnlock fan fiction. (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would just make a really cute couple, okay?)

Introducing John Not Even Subtle Watson.

Maybe I just got really tired of the same old tropes in girl-meets-boy romance and wanted something fresh and new. I’ve seen all the permutations of Princess and Prince Charming, but I’ve stumbled upon something wholly new (to me) in LGBTQ romance: Prince Charming and Prince Not-So-Sure-of-Things-At-All.

My list of favorite authors feels endless, but I’m gonna try to narrow it down …

Dessa Lux/Dira Lewis
Same person, different names, same kind of books. My obsession with Dessa/Dira began with Gun to my Head: a twisted vampire romance that is gritty as hell but hotter than a sun-scorched beach. Dessa further enamored me with the entirety of her Protection of the Pack Series (some pretty graphic sex but heartfelt, loving stuff) and the oddity of Surrendered to the Sea in which a sea god falls in love with a werewolf. Ah-hem, yeah, if you want weird pairings with amazing writing, Dessa/Dira is your girl.

Jordan L. Hawk
Jordan’s characters are more down to earth … sort of? Her Whyborne & Griffin Series features two human men, at least, although they fight otherworldly menaces all the time. There are nine of these books. NINE! Do I care? Nope, I’m in the process of reading them all. Whyborne is of the brilliant, closeted nerd variety while Griffin is the super sexy bad ass Pinkerton who seduces our adorable nerd. Together (and with the help of a snarky female friend), they solve crimes, battle their own demons, and hide their illicit love from society.

KJ Charles
Speaking of hiding things, magician Stephen Day has to fight his feelings for his family nemesis in book one of KJ’s brilliant Charm of Magpies trilogy. Stephen might hate Lucian or he might not. I mean, Lucian is super hot and wild and brave and … mmmm, I really like Lucian. Spoilers: so does Stephen. I adore the chemistry between these two tough-as-nails characters and how love can make them ever so sweet and soft together. With humor and heat, KJ weaves more magic even than Stephen himself, and, as you’ll read, that little guy is one powerful dude.

CS Pacat
A friend of mine suggested I buy CS’s first book, Captive Prince. Halfway through book one, I bought books two and three of the trilogy, and I devoured them all. There is nothing better than two princes dueling for power while trying desperately not to fall in love with each other. I rarely see character development quite this good … or slow-burn sexual tension this hot. Once you meet Damen and Laurent, you’ll love them as much as I do … and get comfortable, because there’s no turning your back on this insanely exciting game of royal intrigue and lust.

Eleanor Kos
Sort of like Dessa/Dira, Eleanor weaves stories that some might find a little extreme, but I fell hard for her Wine & Song Series. What might make this hard to swallow for some? Well, the lead character falls utterly in lust with the romantic interest while he’s being mugged by said romantic interest, and their BDSM relationship develops from there. For five novellas, we follow David and Jazz as they navigate each other as well as try to move beyond the past. They’re both super stubborn and adorable, and I wish there were more in this series. (Can I get more in this series, please?)

I can’t forget the honorable mentions. The only reason these authors are only “honorable” is because, whereas I’ve read a million books by the above authors, I’m fairly new to these gals, but they’re brilliant so far!

Lyssa Dering proves guys who eat brains can be sexy in How to Love a Monster. Rose Maefair’s debut, Desert Ice, forces a mage and his soldier slave into a romantic relationship neither are ready for.  Nicky James broke my freaking heart and put it back together in the highly emotional Until the End of Time. Brianna Kienitz weaves soccer, music, cultural conflict, and lesbian love in Off Pitch. Selina Kray creates one of my favorite male leads of all time (Hiero) in the sexy and, at times, hilarious suspense novel The Fangs of Scavo. Finally, Claire Cray takes me back to my vampire roots with her two-book series Merrick.

If you’re a romance reader looking for something new, I would seriously suggest trying one of these authors. They are each fantastic in their own way! And, hey, keep an eye out for my Escape trilogy, book one coming in June 2018 from NineStar Press.

Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

Bittersweet teen love story featured in Lunch Ticket

I don’t know how he figured it was me who told the school he had AIDS, but he found out—and finds me under the bleachers, smoking a cigarette. He even throws the first punch, which I think is out of character for the rich bitch star of our high school track team, headed to Yale come fall. I’ve been in a couple fights, but Jason Kemp can hit hard, and as I eat dirt, I wonder how many fights he’s been in.

Lucky I have my pals with me to pull him back, so by the time I stand up, Vince and Timmy are thrashing on Jason like they want to break his ribs one at a time. I taste blood in my mouth as I wipe my lip and watch. Jason barely makes a noise, just calls me a “son of a bitch” over Vince’s shoulder. Vince punches him again, and this time Jason lands on his knees in his perfectly pressed school uniform.

Timmy shoves him over and joins him in the dirt. He thumps Jason in the side of the face. I think I should tell them to stop—scream it even. Instead, coward that I am, my boys keep going until they see blood. Then, they fall back. They yell about catching Jason’s “gay disease,” named by some mad scientists a couple years back in ‘82. My best friends drag me away.

Jason rolls onto his side in the dirt and wipes at the split skin below his right eye. He doesn’t look up at me, but I keep watching as we hurry from the scene of the crime. I keep watching Jason and think I’d like to wipe his blood all over me.

***

He showed up earlier this year, a senior at a new school. Nobody wants to change schools their senior year, so I could have felt bad for the guy. Instead, I hated him the moment he walked into Mr. Harvey’s trigonometry class.

Harvey was one of my favorite teachers. He was this big bald guy who told everyone, first day, “Nobody gets above a C in my class,” which just made kids want to bust their asses even harder to prove him wrong. I had a solid A- when Jason Kemp walked in the first week of class. My grades started dropping soon after.

prepJason was the pretty boy hero in every John Hughes romance. He had curly, blond hair and blue eyes like some Nazi recruit. He was tall, basketball tall. His school uniform—navy blue slacks, white dress shirt, blue blazer, and red and yellow striped tie—all of it looked perfect. He introduced himself and didn’t sound nervous. A girl behind me giggled.

When Harvey said, “Take the empty desk next to Shawn,” I hid behind my hand and sneered like Billy Idol.

Jason wasn’t discouraged, because when he sat, he greeted me and even introduced himself as if he hadn’t just told the whole class his name. I ignored him, but it was hard not to notice he wore cologne. None of the guys I knew wore cologne.

Word traveled fast that day at Hinckley High. Even though Vince, Timmy, and me tended to sit alone at lunch, it was hard to miss the high-pitched whispers when Jason Kemp walked in. One of the football cheerleaders a table over said he was some kind of track star, won state at his last school. Another girl called him “a dream.”

After school, I met up with the other punk kids under the bleachers. We wore combat boots under our slacks and liked to talk music. We bummed cigarettes off whoever had the fullest pack.

Then, Vince said, “Hey, Shawn. Check out the new stooge.”

I squinted between silver bleachers toward the track field, and even though it wasn’t track season yet, there was one guy running like he was being chased—and there was Mr. Harvey, math teacher and also track coach, with a stopwatch.

Out of school uniform, in shorts and a t-shirt, Jason looked even taller, and man, the dude could move. I’d never seen a guy run that fast, and after he did a couple loops, Harvey looked like he wanted to build a golden idol. Even the football cheerleaders crowded around Jason with their pom-poms. Beatrix Waters, the hottest girl in school, squeezed his upper arm.

***

I can’t taste blood anymore, but I’m still wiping dirt off my clothes when I break away from Timmy and Vince and tell them to buzz off. They always listen when I give orders.

I go back behind the bleachers, but Jason isn’t there anymore. I head to the next best place: the locker room, where I find him. He has both hands planted on either side of an open locker. His head is tilted down, and he’s breathing hard. There’s dust all over his trousers. His tie is gone, and his shirt is unbuttoned. There’s a cut under his eye that’ll end up a bruise.

I stand there until he notices me, and when he does, I swear to God, his eyes glow red. He slams his locker. “Want another round? Won’t be so easy one on one.”

In my head, I want to apologize, but the words taste like my pop’s moonshine in the back of my throat. I let him grab me by the lapels. He slams my back against the lockers so hard, my teeth rattle.

“What did I ever do to you, huh?” he screams.

I’ve never heard him cuss, and I’ve been listening, close, for the past year.

“Is it because I’m gay? Is that it?”

I want to shake my head, say no, but his mouth has never been this close to me before. I can’t think.

He rattles my skull with another pounding against the cold, metal locker at my back and looks like he’s prepping to punch, so I move. I take hurried steps forward, which seems to catch Jason off guard. I keep him from falling by holding onto his suit coat and finally smash him into the lockers on the opposite wall.

Before he can scream at me again, I kiss him.

(To read the rest of “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” head over to Lunch Ticket by clicking HERE. Be warned: angst ahead.)