Best Books of 2015

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As the last grains of sand pour through the hourglass that was 2015, every one of us, I think, is taking a few moments to reminisce about the year that was. It’s the time of year to shift around the beads on the abacus of life and, if you’re a geek like me, to remind yourself of all the indelible pop culture experiences you had this year. A tough year for me personally, but an epic one in terms of the entertainment I consumed, and the thoughts about it I shared with my social media friends. So, over the next couple of days, I’m rolling out my best of 2015 in books, TV, and film. Because who doesn’t love a good list?

Thanks to the lovely folks at GoodReads, putting together my best books of 2015 list was a breeze! I pressed a button and presto, changeo, they tallied all the stats and collected all the book covers for me. A huge help! But also surprising. The year has been a busy one, and that’s reflected in the smaller number of books I got through. Not a surprise, since as I type this there are at least a dozen on my waiting list, with at least five by major authors. I also tend to rate books quite highly, but I attribute this to the fact that I’m very good at selecting books for myself that I will enjoy. I have my stable of trusted authors, and though I do sample works by new writers (four of which made it to this list), just keeping up with my favorites eats up the largest chunk of my reading time.

So, without further ado, here are the seven best books I read in 2015 (in no particular order).

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A Death at the Dionysus Club by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold–A Victorian mystery series with occult leanings, beautifully drawn characters, a fascinating and terrifying underworld, and a complex, touching romance. What’s not to love?

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Captive Prince 1&2 by C.S. Pacat–I’ve written about them before. If you’ve read this series, you know how expertly plotted, devastatingly smart, and utterly riveting they are. Laurent is one of the best characters of all time.

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Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme–If you, like me, love old movies and are just as fascinated by the stories behind the making of those movies, you will love this book. A film buff’s romance with strong mystery element, with a lovely, complicated, silent film-loving heroine and her dashing mathematician foil. I ached when this one was over.

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Hoarfrost by Jordan L. Hawk–A new Whyborne & Griffin book is always a cause for celebration. This one’s winter setting hit close to home, and made for a particularly emotional outing. I marvel at the depth of Mrs. Hawk’s imagination, which conjures up civilizations and creatures that, like the best episodes of Doctor Who, touch the head and the heart.

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Jackdaw by K.J. Charles–What else is there to say about Mrs. Charles other than she is the best historical M/M writer working today? I could have put all of her releases on this list, but my love for the Charm of Magpies world knows no bounds, so Jonah and Ben it is.

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Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates–A pitch-black book about six Oxford University students who start a game of dares that transforms all their lives. Twisty and addictive, Mr. Yates pushes all of his characters to the brink and beyond.

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Unnatural by Joanna Chambers–An engrossing historical that had me by the heart for its entire length. I just loved James and Iain to bits. But it’s the brushstrokes of her writing that stay with me, the quiet moments and the compelling images that linger in the mind long after the last page.

What books made you stay up into the wee hours to finish them this year? Hit me up in the comments!

 

“Oh, just make out already!” Why genre cinema needs to go there, and soon, in the #Stucky era

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Four score and many moons ago, I wrote my graduate dissertation on, I kid you not, “Homosociality and the male anti-hero in A Clockwork Orange and Romper Stomper”. Inspired by the theories of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, I argued that in both of those films, the male leads were repressing their homosexual desires and/or more  stereotypically feminine aspects by exaggerating their macho behavior. That their hyper-masculinity was as much a performance as personality trait, there to mask desires and behavior that weren’t socially acceptable at the time. Both of those films are quite avant-garde, making the homosocial aspects of their lead characters’ relationships with their friend(s) explicit, but falling short of making this subtext text. Give the eras in which both films were made and the filmmakers involved, this is hardly a surprise.

But, as my new Prime Minister recently said, “It’s 2015,” and at least some of the recent/upcoming bromances need to become genuine onscreen romances.

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This fact was underlined by two recent pop culture events: the releases of Victor Frankenstein and the Captain America: Civil War trailer. In the former, a gonzo steampunk reinvention of the Frankenstein story, Daniel Radcliffe plays a brilliant but innocent young Igor as a Dickensian waif with mad surgical skillz. He is rescued from near-enslavement by dashing James McAvoy in Byronic mad scientist mode. The most compelling thing about the film is the chemistry between the two, as Victor seduces–though not literally–young Igor into helping him with his experiments, then turns on him when Igor grows a conscience. The best scenes in the film are where they banter, flirt, fight, share intimate details about their lives, nerd out over science. It’s a romance in everything but name.

There is, of course, the obligatory love interest (for Igor–Victor is far too self-absorbed to notice anyone not of use to him). Since she’s the typical girlfriend character, she’s boring and pointless, there to get injured and be saved, criticize Igor when he makes poor life decisions and support him when he finally decides to do the right thing. But how much more interesting would she have been if she was not there merely to support the lead, but was a participant in their activities as a platonic friend and character of equal merit. And the dramatic stakes of the film would have increased tenfold if Igor was scared he was losing not just a friend and employer in Victor, but his lover to ambition and madness.

Kosofsky Sedgwick derived her theory of the homosocial in part from 19th century novels, where the two male rivals for a woman’s affections would be the most well-defined characters, to the point where the beloved they were fighting over became superfluous. Given how women are still marginalized in modern cinema, especially in genre cinema, couldn’t we redefine both male and female roles by freeing women from the ‘girlfriend’ part and giving them more agency, and deepening the male relationships by having them actually be in one?

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A significant portion of the audience is already clamoring for it. After the Captain America: Civil War trailer hit, highlighting Cap’s efforts to save his old friend Bucky from both friends and foes who want his head on a pike, the online response basically amount to: “Please, please, please, can they make out?” As beautifully illustrated in this sketch by @hunktears:

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And amazing articles like this:  http://comicsalliance.com/super-stucky-steve-bucky-civil-war-trailer/ In it, Andrew Wheeler argues that:

“Yet if Bucky Barnes were a woman, this would be a love story, played out with all the same narrative beats. If Peggy were the brainwashed assassin kept frozen through the decades, this movie would definitely end in a kiss. Everything about the love, pain, and intimacy of the Steve/Bucky relationship on the big screen is typical of a romance, and that’s something fans are right to respond to — something the filmmakers may even be playing into, though surely not with any formal sign-off from Disney.

The world is increasingly more free, fair and tolerant for people in same-sex relationships, especially in countries like the US. Yet imagine this; if we lived in a world that had no hang-ups about same-sex relationships, no hate, no prejudice towards the idea of two men or two women together; do you doubt for a second that this movie would actually be a romance?

If everything else about this movie were the same, but we were different, wouldn’t it make sense for Steve and Bucky to kiss?”

It does make sense, and we are ready for it. (And, for my money, the filmmakers are deliberately playing on this in the trailer.) Who is Captain America’s romantic foil if not Bucky? They are the only two people in existence who have lived yin-yang versions of the same experience, who have fought each other and have died for each other, have been friends, comrades, enemies, and saviors, have a deeper connection than any two other characters in the MCU… so explain to me why they can’t be lovers. There isn’t even a token love interest standing in their way. Cap’s entire argument in this trailer seems to be, “Bucky is my friend, so don’t you dare lay a finger on him.” [Note: the details of the disagreement between Cap and Iron Man are undoubtedly more complex than this in the actual film, but this trailer is keeping those secrety secrets hidden, and for good reason.] It’s very Captain American to go to impossible lengths for friendship. But think of how much more powerful it would be if he went to war with his friends for love.

Film after film, it’s there in the subtext. It’s time to take a risk and turn these homosocial relationships into homosexual relationships. Why can’t Bucky and Steve be lovers? Why isn’t the new twist on Frankenstein that Victor and Igor have a tryst that turns tricksy? Why can’t Batman have given Robin a home because they have similar backstories *and* he has a thing for twinks? Why can’t Trish Walker be Jessica Jones’ ex-girlfriend, creating a love triangle between the two of them and Luke Cage? (Hands up who wants to see that threesome do a love scene!) Why can’t Jessica Chastain try to seduce Mia Wasikowska away from Tom Hiddleston, or want them both, in Crimson Peak? Why can’t The Vision be a trans or intersex character in Avengers: Age of Ultron–in fact, why does The Vision have a gender at all?

It all comes down to the same question, the one more and more people are demanding of their genre cinema: why aren’t there more queer characters, queer stories, queer superheroes and aliens and vampires and witches and shape-shifters and zombies and Gothic heroes/heroines?

Why isn’t there more queer representation in genre cinema?

Because, filmmakers, you subtext is showing.

 

[Note: Artist’s name for the top image of Steve and Bucky in bed is in the bottom of the frame. This is not my drawing, and I take no credit for it. If you know who the artist is, please contact me.]

Spotlight on Humbug and Author Interview with Joanna Chambers!

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Dear Friends,

I have an extra-special pre-Christmas treat for you all today, an interview with none other than the extraordinary Joanna Chambers, author of one of my favorite M/M historical trilogies, the Enlightenment series. She’s here to promote not one, not two, but three new projects, with a spotlight on her first venture into self-publishing, Humbug! So join me in welcoming her, and read on to find out more about her sparkly Christmas story…

Welcome, Joanna! To start off, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing. Unlike a lot of M/M authors, you’ve also written M/F before. How did that transition come about?
It’s a cliché, but I always wanted to write. As soon as I could read, really. It took me a while to figure out what to write (romance), and then a little longer how to write it (sincerely). I’d had a brief but intense love affair with romance as a teenager, then read none at all for years and years. I rediscovered it in my early 30s as a new mother after years of reading miserable literary fiction that left me vaguely unsatisfied. 😉
My writing passion tends to follow the cycle of my reading passion plus approx. 2 years. So, when I was publishing M/F historicals, I was reading M/M historicals. I’m a massive glommer. When I love something, I tend to devour it to the exclusion of everything else (once went a whole year listening to nothing but Bob Dylan), and I’ve read pretty much exclusively queer romance for the last 5 years–this year mainly contemporary. I don’t honestly see that changing anytime soon, but it could do. I’d never rule out a return to M/F at some point, but I have to feel some degree of passion for whatever I’m working on.
So I guess the logical question is: What were you reading two years ago? And will we be seeing any contemporary books from you after this set of releases (I’d love to see what you’d do with an M/M romance legal thriller, since that’s your background)?
I kind of started on my (current) contemporary queer romance kick two years ago, and, yes, there is a contemporary novel planned–part of something bigger (and currently under wraps)… I don’t see any legal thrillers in my future though. I’m not a fan of those really. Never say never though.
You’re spoiling us with not one, but three releases in the space of a month, and all just before Christmas. You must feel a bit like Santa  Claus. Tell us about Humbug. (Exceptional cover, BTW.) What about A Christmas Carol made you think it was ripe for an M/M twist, and how did you go about re-interpreting the classic?
I totally love the cover. It’s a contemporary retelling of A Christmas Carol, and I feel like Natasha Snow’s design captures a feel of the original as well as the contemporary vibe.
My Scrooge character is Quin Flint (aka Skinflint), a workaholic management consultant who specialises in downsizing. I had a lot of fun writing this story, figuring out equivalent characters for Marley’s ghost, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and a few other, more minor characters that aficionados of the original will recognise. Plus, on top of that, I’ve added a romance component. I love this story a lot actually–I really hope readers will too.
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You also have a Christmas story in a charity anthology this year. How did that come about?

I’m really pleased to be doing another charity antho with Susan (Lee of Boys in Our Books) this year, particularly since I love Christmas stories–I literally can’t get enough of them. My contribution is a (pretty heavily) revised version of a story I published under another name a few years ago, “Mr Perfect’s Christmas.” The rights reverted to me a few months ago, so the timing was great.
I loved Another Place in Time, so I can’t wait to dive into the new anthology. Can you tell us a little bit more about it, and what charity the proceeds go to?
It’s called Wish Come True and it’s the lovely Susan Lee’s baby (as was Another Place in Time). However, whereas APIT was historical stories, WCT is contemporary NA. My fellow authors are fab: Kaje Harper, Megan Erickson, Anyta Sunday, Amy Jo Cousins, Keira Andrews, and Suki Fleet. All proceeds go to Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta-based non-profit corporation whose mission is to take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths to age 26 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing. So, a very worthwhile cause.
I personally love Christmas anthologies–there’s something about the holidays that just lends itself to shorter tales, kind of like a box of chocolates or presents under the tree. Do you prefer writing these shorter stories, or the breadth and depth of a novel?
I like both. I like the palate cleansing you get from writing a shorter story after working on a longer piece for months and months–it’s energising. But I like the challenge of the longer form, too. My first novel was over 90k and my second 75k ,but since then, most of my novels have clocked in at about 60k. That feels like quite  natural length for me to write. And about 20k for a novella.

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Speaking of novels, I cannot wait to dive into Unnatural, which is sort of a companion book to your Enlightenment series. I certainly understand the impulse to stay in that world–the trilogy is easily one of my favorite M/Ms of all time. What about Iain’s story drew you back, and is this a start of a new trilogy? Can we expect more companion books?

There’s an origin story that I’ll be blogging about separately; however, in a nutshell, Iain started off as one of those characters that I think of as human furniture–he was initially created literally just to stand next to Murdo in a scene in book 2, but once I’d described him in his scarlet uniform with his moustache and his glinting smile, I found myself writing him into another scene, then another. Then he got a small but significant role in my freebie short, “Seasons Pass” (set between books 1 and 2), which is where James gets his first appearance. After that, writing their story was inevitable…

I’ve not got any more Enlightenment books planned at this point. I could see myself possibly writing a short about Kit Redford (the owner of the club in “Seasons Pass”) at some point though. 🙂

Just a couple of fun questions to finish things off. So if you were visited by a ghostly presence in the middle of the night, would you prefer it to be the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future, and why? (I’ve just noticed that that aspect of Humbug ties in nicely with your Somnus series, actually.)

Probably the Ghost of Christmas Past. Christmas is a time of nostalgia after all. I wouldn’t mind revisiting some of those exciting childhood Christmases. 🙂 And yes, I do seem to write about sleeping–and Christmas–a lot!

Finally, let’s play a romance version of a game we’ll call “One Night Stand, Long-Term Relationship, or HEA”. Of all of your characters, which one would you want to a) have a one-night stand with, b) have a long-term relationship (that ends in a breakup) with, or c) live happily ever after with?

Great question! My one night stand would be probably be Iain Sinclair from Unnatural because–hello, moustache! (My love of facial hair significantly pre-dates the rise of the hipster. I used to have a regular piece at my old reader blog called “Tash or Slap” in which I posted a picture of man with a tash and another wearing make up and invited my readers to vote on their favourite. Example here).
My long term relationship might be… Cam McMorrow from “Rest and Be Thankful” because we’re very alike and I think we’d have a lot in common. But ultimately (sob) we’d break up because we’re too alike.
My happily ever after is easy–Murdo Balfour. He seems all high-handed and arrogant, but really he’s a nurturer. So he’d be fabulously alpha in bed then bring you a cuppa tea after.

And that’s a wrap! Huge thanks to Joanna for stopping by and treating us to some time with her! Readers, who would your choices be for a ONS/LTR/HEA from among Joanna’s characters? Hit us up in the comments, and enjoy her holiday releases.

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Bio
Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna’s muse likes red wine, coffee and won’t let Joanna clean the house or watch television.

 

Blurb

Quin Flint is unimpressed when his gorgeous colleague, Rob Paget, asks for extra time off at Christmas. As far as Quin is concerned, Christmas is a giant waste of time. Quin’s on the fast track to partnership, and the season of goodwill is just getting in the way of his next big project. But when Quin’s boss, Marley, confiscates his phone and makes him take an unscheduled day off, Quin finds himself being forced to confront his regrets, past and present, and think about the sort of future he really wants…and who he wants it with.

Five Things I’m Loving Right Now — Summer Edition

Friends,

In belated celebration of the solstice and the lovely summer weather, here’s another round of the five things I’m loving right now. Be sure to hit me up in the comments about the stuff you’re grooving on!

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1. All the new releases in M/M romance

Some heavy hitters have new releases out this month, perfect for those easy days at the beach or lazing on the balcony drinking your bevvy of choice. The only real concern is in which order to read them in. The one I’ve chosen is Josh Lanyon’s Winter Kill, Amy Lane’s The Deep of the Sound, followed by K.J. Charles’ The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, then Jordan L. Hawk’s Mocker of Ravens, Harper Fox’s Last Line 2, J.L. Merrow’s Played, and Kaje Harper’s Life, Some Assembly Required. The only downside is it will take me less than a month to get through them all, and what am I going to do with the rest of July and August?

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2. Acupressure mats

I don’t usually go in for what my friend J. describes as “that woo-woo stuff,” and the various web sites for this product claim it does everything from help you lose weight to cure major ailments. But I am here to tell you that after a long, stressful day, especially at the end of your workout, lying on this bad boy is like an evil massage that works your muscles but feels so good afterwards. My friend A. is the fairy godmother who gave me this “torture device” for my last birthday, and I have been singing her praises ever since. Especially good on feet swollen from long walks in the hot sun, or those hard to reach places on the back of your neck. And way cheaper than paying for regular massages, as well.

3. Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect

A buoyant ’80s-influenced pop extravaganza that combines Flowers’ playful, evocative lyrics with one of the best male voices out there right now. If you grew up loving the New Romantics, like I did, this album will bring you back. Favorite tracks include Can’t Deny My Love, I Can Change, Untangled Love, and Lonely Town.

4.  The 100

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on or binge shows that you missed during the year, and this one has been on my list for a while. While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it was definitely worth the wait. I call it “Lost and Battlestar Galactica’s teenage love child,” because you will recognize a good deal of those shows’ ideas, themes, and actors (I swear half of BSG’s Canadian cast has appeared on this show at least once–just waiting for you to show up, Tamoh!), but that doesn’t make its dystopian space opera narrative any less riveting. The premise is simple: 100 delinquent teens from a space station orbiting Earth are sent back down 100 years after nuclear war to see if the planet is inhabitable (spoiler alert: it is, because duh). We keep track of the teens as they try to survive in this new, brutal environment (think Lord of the Flies on crack), but also follow their parents and elders stuck on the dying space station.

One of the best parts of the show is the amazing gender equality and diversity of the cast. Among the main actors, it’s a 50-50 split between men and women, with two women as the show’s lead characters. I’d actually say white men are in the minority on the show, and they are most often portrayed as evil, or at least misguided, characters. Though everyone has flaws, and the character arcs progress beautifully, and the action is pretty non-stop. But the writers aren’t precious about squeezing all the life out of a situation to maintain the status quo. Things are constantly changing on the show, and they aren’t afraid to reward the viewer with major, long-awaited events when the time is right. You’ve seen a lot of it done before, and most of the teens are unreasonably good-looking (if perpetually muddy), but for summer viewing? The 100 definitely hits the spot.

5. My dog’s fur

This is on the more personal side. My little poochie turned eight this year, which is more or less senior age for a dog, and I’ve become more aware of the ticking clock. She’s never been the cuddliest dog–too independent, like her person–but as she’s gotten older, she’s mellowed a bit about the whole “curling up” thing, and I’m stupidly grateful. There’s nothing like mushing my bare feet into her fur when she sits on the far end of the couch while I write, or feeling her silkiness on my cheek as we snuggle while watching TV. I’ve shaved her down for the season, so it’s a bit pricklier than normal, but that just makes her all the more huggable. I never want to take that feeling for granted, and I’m so grateful that she’s in my life.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Selina

Top 5 Most Cinematic M/M Romances

One of the great tragedies of the modern cinematic era, IMHO, is the fact that Brokeback Mountain was followed up by… absolutely nothing. There hasn’t been one mainstream film about a gay couple since, nor is there likely to be one in the near future. A few on the indie scene have managed to make something of a splash among critics and diehards—Love Is Strange, Mysterious Skin, and The Kids Are All Right come to mind—but nothing on par with the visibility and the success of Brokeback.

It’s not like Hollywood is lacking in source material, either. They could adapt Mary Renault, Christopher Isherwood, or Gore Vidal if they want some highbrow Oscar-bait. But wouldn’t it be more interesting if, hot on the heels of *that movie* and the supposed renaissance of sexy adult films (I’ll believe it when I see it), they looked to the M/M romance genre and the hundreds of authors whose works are both high-quality and highly filmable? Seriously, indie producers, what are you waiting for?

But, as a community, we don’t really have to wait for those producers anymore, do we? Surely there are enough M/M readers worldwide to fund a serious Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. Enough readers with a background in film or television (like me) to shepherd the project to completion. Maybe one day my dream of having a production company that exclusively adapts M/M books will be a reality. In the meantime, a girl can dream… about which books she would tackle first, and who should star in those theoretical films.

Whether this is a pie-in-the-sky ambition, a dream that could be a reality with enough elbow grease, or a fun party game, I offer up for debate my (very subjective) list of the Five Most Cinematic M/M Books! After you’ve perused the list, hit up the comments with your suggestions, alternatives, or casting revisions!

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

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If that IndieKickGogoStarter campaign ever does see the light of day, one of the big issues is going to be which book to tackle first. Any producer worth their salt would do enough research to know that Josh Lanyon is probably the most read author in the genre, with an extensive backlist and several movie-ready series (because the name of the game is always sequels). The two obvious choices would be to start with the first Adrien English novel, Fatal Shadows, or, if they have more of a budget to work with, the Dangerous Ground series. Both would be excellent choices and would make great films.

But I would look to one of his more recent works, Stranger on the Shore. I mean, just look at what he did with the trailer! The book has everything great movies are made of: a compelling mystery, a Kennedy-esque family with dark secrets that suffered a major tragedy, a leading man with a personal connection to the family and the crime, a nosy reporter with secrets of his own, a gorgeous Hamptons backdrop. With its many allusions to The Great Gatsby, Stranger on the Shore positions itself as a modern-day twist on that classic: romantic, mysterious, luxurious, and entrancing. Throw in a picturesque moonlit lake view with a green light across the water, and I’m sold.

Casting: As Griff, the pesky reporter writing a book about the Arlington family tragedy, I can’t think of anyone more dogged yet charming than Grant Gustin. He also suffers quite prettily, too, and that baby face doesn’t hurt. As Pierce, the stone-cold lawyer and Arlington family bulldog, Alexander Skarsgaard’s Scandinavian chill and grace would seduce pretty much everyone watching. Still, even though the character in the book is Caucasian, I like to practice color-blind casting, and think Jesse Williams or Mike Coulter would also be great—and super hot!

The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

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Victorian London. A cursed lord with a booby-trapped mansion and a merciless sorcerer out to exploit the very blood coursing through his veins. A secret organization of magic police who hunt down anyone who abuses their powers. A book crammed with more imagination, thrilling events, sexual smoulder, and cataclysmic climaxes than a reader deserves… Not to mention stripping. Both the kind you think and… not. The stuff of fantasies, both sexual and adventurous. The stuff of nightmares, but, you know, the fun kind that go bump in the night. This is the real Harry Potter for grownups.

Casting: The obvious choice for Lord Crane based on physical description alone is Lawrence Fox, but I find he has a sleepy quality that doesn’t suit Lucian. Someone who has the strength, the stillness, the wryness, and the imperiousness required is Richard Armitage. He doesn’t look exactly right, but that’s an easy fix. For Stephen Day, the tiny ginger with the adamantium sense of morality and the fearsome powers, I would look no further than the lovely Luke Treadaway. Although…. something about James McAvoy speaks to me as well. I think he would nail Stephen’s weariness and intractability.

Driftwood by Harper Fox

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When comes to the fantastic Ms. Fox, there isn’t a book in her cannon that isn’t outrageously cinematic. This author paints on a epic canvas, and her settings are often secondary characters in her books. Any one of them would make a riveting film, but Driftwood has touchstones and elements that I still remember vividly some three years after reading it. The statue shaped like a wave. The many rescues/dangerous encounters at sea. The protagonists’ military backgrounds and personal tragedies. Meet cutes at standing stones. And, of course, the decaying lighthouse where the MC lives, which at one point topples over the side of a cliff. The dangerous beauty of Cornwall, where it is set. There is so much meat here; it would be a cinematic feast.

Casting: Ever since I read the book, I have a theory that a crude version of its genesis went a little something like this: Benedict Cumberbatch shags Michael Fassbender. Now, this doesn’t do anything like justice to Ms. Fox’s subtle character shadings and riveting storyline, and it could be me imposing my own obsessions on the books, but, well. That’s the movie I see in my head. Cumby would be the doctor, Tom, of course, and Fassy the helicopter pilot, Flynn.

Captive Prince Volumes I and II by C.S. Pacat

 

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Two rival countries, both alike in… well, deceptions, double-crosses, overthrows, assassinations, warmongering, and manipulations. Romeo & Romeo, this ain’t. The captive prince of the title is forced into slavery after his father’s murder by his bastard brother. He’s sent to their most vicious enemy, a kingdom with a maniacal regent and a ruthless king-to-be, who is first in line for the throne because the slave-prince killed the older brother he worshipped in order to win a war. The political machinations alone make the Game of Thrones look like a round of Scrabble, and the enemies to lovers saga is one of the most gripping and infuriating I’ve ever read. Did I mention the kidnappings, wild hunts, sneaking into enemy territory at night, stormings of castles, and breath-stopping escape attempts? Possibly the best love scene I’ve ever read? One of the most complicated and inscrutable characters in all of creation? Forget a movie—this book needs its own 10-part HBO series.

Casting: Jason Momoa would be interesting for Damen. For Laurent, I can’t think of anyone better than Freddie Fox. If you’ve seen Cucumber, the Russell T. Davies series, you’ll understand.

Provoked by Joanna Chambers

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Righteous young lawyer David Lauriston is eager to make his mark on the legal profession in 1822 Scotland, but also to help people and serve the common good. He is tormented by his sexuality and longs for the one that got away, a boyhood love he was forced apart from years before. Enter Lord Murdo Balfour, tall, dark, and unapologetic about his need for other men. Of course, it helps to have the bank account and the social connections that can pay for discretion. Part legal thriller and part opposites-attract romance, all set against a rarely seen historical backdrop—not to mention an inordinate amount of men in kilts—this book is begging to be made into a film. Though book three, set at Murdo’s highland estate, would be the most picturesque.

Casting: As ambitious but morally conflicted David, the Australian actor Sam Reid, so good in a similar part in last year’s Belle. As Murdo… I’m conflicted. So many of the actors I think would be amazing in the role are too old now to play it—Matthew Macfadyen, Viggo Mortensen, Manu Bennett. But then I remembered that Henry Cavill—before he chose to go the leading man route—has the height, the range, the manliness, and the sense of mischievous superiority, as evidenced by his work on The Tudors. BBC Films, make this happen!

Over to you, gentle readers. What M/M romance would make your list must-see films? Who would you cast and why? Feel free to use and abuse the comments as your very own casting couch.

Like Stars Print Release Party & Guest Post!

Friends,

I am so thrilled to be able to announce that my first novel, the historical M/M romance Like Stars, is now out in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble (just in time for Valentine’s Day). In order to celebrate this release, the kind folks at M/M Good Book Reviews allowed me to do a guest post at their site. The topic? My long and twisty road to finding the title for Like Stars.

I will also be giving away one copy of Like Stars (eBook or print, winner’s choice). So please join us!

The gory details:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Like-Stars-Selina-Kray/dp/1608209571/ref=sr_1_4_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423692628&sr=1-4&keywords=like+stars

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/like-stars-selina-kray/1120747407?ean=9781608209576

What the reviewers are saying:

GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23561956-like-stars

Literary Nymphs http://literarynymphsreviewsonly.blogspot.ca/2014/12/like-stars.html?zx=1031c847ef282851

Hearts on Fire http://heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=31802

Bisous!

Selina

What Was Your M/M Gateway Book?

It is my hope, it is my dearest wish, it is my belief that 50 years from now, people from all walks of life will grow up considering books about queer characters the norm. That there might still be an LGBTQ subcategory in bookstores and libraries, but only to direct customers to what they want, the same as ‘mystery’ or ‘cooking’ or ‘historical non-fiction’. That there will be no queer books because being queer or writing about queer characters won’t be not considered ‘other’, but everyday. Regular. Same old, same old, even. (I am struggling mightily not to type the word ‘normal’, as you can see, because I don’t believe there is such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity. ‘Normal’ is the real enemy!)

Alas, we did not grow up in such a society. At least I didn’t—and if you did, please tell me where it is so I can move there. So those of us enthralled by the M/M romance world, or the world of queer authors and characters, each had the equivalent of the cherry pop. Maybe you learned about M/M, F/F, M/M/F, bi, trans, et al, romances through fan-fiction, as I did (Lindsay/Angel, hi!). Maybe a trusted friend of yours recced a book that you read against your better judgment, and then you found your craic. Maybe you read them for political reasons—who knows?

However you got there, I want to hear about it! Tell me about the first book that made you weak-kneed; made you rethink your reading choices; made you stay up until all hours of the night, frothing at the mouth like some were-thing until you’d consumed the whole book and collapsed on your bed, satisfied but devastated that it had to end. Hit me up in the comments—I want to hear your stories!

As for my own… I did start with fan-fiction, but in terms of original fiction there are two books specifically that shaped my tastes in the M/M genre and are the standard against which I measure greatness. I really wish I could include Brokeback Mountain in this list, but unfortunately I read it much, much later. But you won’t go wrong if you read either of these exceptional—if perhaps unsurprising—books.

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The Charioteer by Mary Renault

I know I’m not the only M/M reader to cite this book as their first or their favorite (ahem, Josh Lanyon), and there’s good reason for that. Though technically I first read The Last of the Wine, that book was much more about life as an ancient Greek, while in The Charioteer the romance aspect is much more prominent.

It’s the story of Laurie, a wounded British WWII soldier who is battling his own discomfort with being gay and all that means in the repressive society he lives in. Romantically, he is torn between Andrew, a Quaker and conscientious objector, and Ralph, a old friend and hard-partying naval officer who is involved in the gay subculture of the time.

Renault is a master of setting, indelibly recreating the time period that she herself lived through, and imbuing her characters with complexity, passion, and authenticity. If the storyline seems rudimentary to someone who has by now read a lot of these books, that’s because it’s the blueprint that so many ‘coming out’ and ‘coming to terms with your sexuality’ books used as inspiration. It is in every way a classic of the genre, and a deeply moving read.

And if the BBC had any balls, they would adapt this gem into an award-winner.

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Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Richard St. Vier is everything you could want in a romantic hero: noble, dashing, down-on-his-luck, loyal, stoic, and true. He is a sword for hire in a vicious caste society that puts the schemers of Westeros to shame. Alec Campion, a student of the strident and relentless variety, falls into his life and his bed at the worst possible time, and chaos ensues from there. Come for the compelling push-pull of their relationship as they learn exactly what they’ll have to sacrifice to protect each other; stay for the machinations and dirty dealings of a society that magic has abandoned, where the two-faced aristocrats of the Hill will do everything in their power to crush the people of Riverside and each other. This one will break your heart while making you believe again, it’s that good.

I feel a major re-read coming on…

Your turn. What M/M (or F/F, or M/M/F, etc.) was ‘the one’ for you? Can’t wait to put it on my own ‘to read’ list!

Happy reading,

Selina