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Buchanan, who has been known to write 8,000-word rope-bondage scenes, threw up her hands in frustration. “I’m, like, Where?”
This year, Running Press made waves by becoming the first mainstream print house to publish gay romances. The publisher has a novel by Erastes about two handsome iron forgers who fall in love during the witch trials of 1642 England, and another by Alex Beecroft about a sea captain’s desire for his first mate. Erastes and Beecroft are pen names of two female authors living in the U.K. Lee Rowan’s Tangled Web, about closeted young men in Regency London high society, comes out this month. Running Press is keeping the sex soft-core as it tests the waters.
“Our research indicates that M/M is the fastest-growing trend in the romance genre,” says Running Press Associate Publisher Craig Herman. “We recognized an opportunity in the marketplace.”
Harlequin, the oldest of the romance houses, won’t commit to gay romances on paper, but just last month it welcomed LGBT submissions to its digital-publishing line. From a house that doesn’t allow its writers use the words buttocks or panties because it might offend Christian readers, this is nothing short of revolutionary.
Tamara McNeill is a fan of Buchanan’s books. At the Hustler store reading, she said that she believes formulaic straight romances of the Harlequin type work only when you’re a kid. McNeill is 37. “By then you’ve had life experiences,” she says, pulling her shawl closer around her shoulders. She likes the roughness and complications of Buchanan’s romances.
Happy endings are great, she means, but only if the characters suffer before they get it. In the same way that a porn video always ends with a money shot, a gay-romance novel always ends with a couple in love, which is possibly the real reason these novels appeal. They speak, however cheesily, to the deepest desires of both body and mind.
It is no surprise then that explicit sex is a must for McNeill. “Whenever they close the bedroom door, I always wonder what’s going on,” she says. “Are they as happy in there as they are out here?”