Today, author Marie Sexton is guesting at my blog to talk about her latest release The Heretic Doms Club series, a M/M BDSM romance. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Hello, everybody. My name is Marie Sexton, and I write gay romance. I’ve been writing for a little over ten years now and have published thirty-some stories in that time.
Every few months, there’s some big online kerfuffle that boils down to people saying women shouldn’t write gay romance. Now, there are a lot of arguments that get thrown around. I’m not going to tackle them all today. I’m only going to address one particular one that comes up every time. It goes something like this:
“The relationships in gay romance novels are nothing like real gay relationships, therefore the books are worthless.”
I’m going to call bullshit on this, while also agreeing with it. Because they’re right. The relationships in gay romance novels probably aren’t anything like the lives of most gay men. But the same thing could be said of straight romance. The relationships in those books are nothing like the relationships most of us have. The truth is, real-life romances are generally kind of boring to everybody except the two people involved. Hell, after 25+ years, even those of us in the relationship might call it boring! That’s why romance novels exist – so we can focus on the fun parts and ignore the rest.
But I think that’s a trait of ALL romance novels, not just gay romance. Regardless of the gender or sexuality of the characters involved, romance is always part fantasy, part fact. I’d actually argue the same is true of all fiction, not just romance. Do you think the average detective’s life looks anything like Alex Cross’s life? Or that the average cop’s life is anything like Detective Jane Rizzoli’s? Is anybody’s life like Stephanie Plum’s? Of course not. Real life is boring. That’s why we crank up the fantasy factor.
In romance, that means we cut out all the really un-romantic bits. It doesn’t matter if the characters are gay, straight, or otherwise, there are a few things that are almost universally true in romance: nobody ever poops or has sudden onset diarrhea. Nobody has a terrible breath or stinky feet. Men never suffer from male pattern baldness and women are never menstruating at an inopportune time.
Likewise, as romance novelists, we get to deal only with the fun, exciting, passionate part of a relationship. In my mind, the couples in my books will always be as happy and passionate about each other as they were the last time we saw them. Romance novelists don’t have to check in twenty years later, when one of them is balding and the other has a beer belly. We don’t have to check in forty years later, when one is suffering from prostate issues or varicose veins. In novels where one character is significantly older than the other, we never have to talk about what happens down the road when the older one can’t keep up with the younger one and the younger one feels more like a caretaker than a spouse.
Yes, that part is fantasy. And I’m sure it’s absolutely true that no couple out there is exactly like Matt and Jared, or Warren and Taylor, or any of my other couples. Likewise, there probably isn’t a romance novel out there that looks exactly like my marriage. (Nobody would want to read that. At this point, we mostly just sit around watching hockey.)
Some genres will obviously be more “real” than others. My novel Blind Space, which is about space pirates, is obviously less realistic than the books set in contemporary Colorado. But even the far-fetched novels can be “real.” Think of Stephen King’s Carrie. The fantasy aspect – a girl with telekinesis – is what makes it unique and interesting. But the reason we relate to it is because we see ourselves in Carrie.
And that’s why I think that even though romance is largely fantasy, it’s still real. Because people see themselves in the characters.
I’ve received countless letters over the years from men who’ve been touched by one of my books. I heard from multiple men who related to Jared’s struggles at the end of Promises, when he realizes being “out” and truly being himself in a small town aren’t the same thing. (Ironically, this is the part of the novel that some romance “experts” told me should have been cut, because it didn’t fit the standard romance rules. And yet when I hear from male readers about this book, this is always the part they relate to.)
I’ve heard from children of addicts who related to Trey in Family Man. I’ve heard from gay men who are also Christians who said Levi made them realize they didn’t have to choose one over the other. Just last week, I received a message from another man who’d read Between Sinners and Saints. This is what he said to me:
“I’m a sexual abuse survivor, and I don’t know how you did it, but you perfectly captured the experience of trying to navigate that experience, while also loving someone and wanting to be able to let go of the past, so you can experience the beauty of love in the present. I’ve never cried reading a novel like I cried reading this one.”
I don’t care what anybody else says – THAT is real life. Whether you agree with him that I captured it correctly or not isn’t the point. The point is that for him, it was one-hundred percent REAL.
And it’s not just if the author happens to tackle a deep issue correctly. Sometimes it’s the small, everyday moments that make something “real.” Years ago, I received an email from a man who told me how he got through an embarrassing incident by channeling my character Cole. He said it was one of the most empowering moments of his life.
There’s an older gay couple here in my hometown who read my stories. I think they’re in their seventies, but I’ve certainly never asked their ages. They make a point of coming to Pride every year to buy more of my books. They don’t care that the books are fantasy. These two men, who have literally been together for decades, told me how they lie in bed at night and read my books to each other. It doesn’t matter to them that their relationship doesn’t look exactly like Zach and Angelo’s, or Jon and Cole’s.
All that matters is that my books offer a fun and romantic way to reconnect with each other.
And I guess that’s real enough for me.
Title: One Man’s Trash
Series: The Heretic Doms Club Book 1
Author: Marie Sexton
Genre: M/M BDSM Romance
Blurb: After four tours in Afghanistan, Warren Groves couldn’t settle into civilian life. For the last twelve years, he’s survived by working odd and often illegal jobs for some of Denver’s less fortunate. His personal life is equally unsatisfactory. He can barely remember the last time he had sex, let alone the last time he got to use somebody hard and rough, the way he likes. Fate intervenes when a favor for a friend leads him to a pretty young rentboy named Taylor Reynolds.
Taylor’s spent the last few years on his own, working as a hustler, going home with anybody who’ll give him a warm meal and a place to sleep. He enjoys having a bit of force used against him, and he makes Warren an offer he can’t refuse — all the sex he wants, as rough and dirty as he likes, in exchange for room and board.
At first, Warren thinks he’s struck gold. Taylor’s the perfect roommate — he cooks, he cleans, and he’s dynamite in the sack. But Taylor has some dark demons in his head and some even darker cravings. Falling for somebody as volatile as Taylor is dangerous enough, but when Taylor’s urges turn truly self-destructive, it’ll be up to Warren to decide just how far to let things go.
Title: Terms of Service
Series: The Heretic Doms Club Book 2
Author: Marie Sexton
Genre: M/M BDSM Romance
Blurb: Dr. River McKay moved to Denver with his husband, Terrence, hoping to give their failing marriage a new start. A year later, Terrence is gone and River’s left brokenhearted. Now, he’s decided it’s time to get back in the game. A chance encounter at the hospital introduces him to Phil, a strong-willed pharmacist who isn’t impressed by River’s degree.
Phil can’t deny his attraction to River, but dating is out of the question. Phil only does one kind of relationship — domestic servitude, where he gives the orders and his partner obeys. To his surprise, River agrees — not because he likes the idea, but because anything’s better than being alone.
They know the arrangement won’t last. Phil’s set in his ways and incapable of showing affection outside the bedroom. River’s unused to obedience and still in love with his ex. But their time together will change them, making them question everything they thought they knew about love, control, and relationships. When the unexpected threatens to tear them apart, they’ll have to choose between the comforts of the past and a future they can only find together.
Title: Spare the Rod
Series: The Heretic Doms Club Book 3
Author: Marie Sexton
Genre: M/M BDSM Romance
Gray Andino is a Denver cop with a pain kink and a history of falling in love with the wrong people. He’s jealous of his friends’ newfound happiness, but with a brain that won’t shut up and a need to argue everything, finding his own soul mate seems impossible, so he settles for meaningless sex and doling out pain with willing subs.
Subs like Avery Barron.
When Avery asks to stay with Gray for a few weeks, Gray reluctantly agrees. Avery may be the perfect sub, but as an accidental roommate, he sucks. The younger child of rich, indulgent parents, Avery is an entitled slob with a disdain for rules, a lack of ambition, and an obsession with social media. Gray tolerates his presence, but when Avery breaks one of Gray’s ground rules, he punishes him and takes away his phone.
Deprived of his usual echo chamber, Avery feels lost until he discovers a local Tap House, a piano, and his buried love of music. The more Avery plays, the more the community around him blossoms. For the first time in his life, Avery has a purpose and goals for the future. But the thing he longs for most—Gray’s love and respect—may be forever out of reach.
Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.
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