By Keith Orr
We associate two times of the year with love: Valentine’s Day and spring. Usually we are in the midst of a deep freeze on Valentine’s Day. Yet as I write this in Ann Arbor, the daffodils are considering pushing their shoots through the ground, geese are heading north, and Valentine’s Day just may be balmy.
Whether spring is around the corner, or Michigan weather is pulling another trick on us, our hearts turn to love, and the bookshelves are full of romances.
Almost Like Being In Love
By Steve Kluger
Some books enthrall. Some mystify. Some make you think. Some are fun diversions. And some just charm the pants off of you. “Almost Like Being In Love” is a charmer. I come back to it over and over again and it never disappoints. In high school, Craig is a nerd and Travis is a jock. Charmingly and improbably they fall in love. After a magical summer in New York after their senior year, they attend schools on opposite coasts and slowly drift apart. Twenty years later they both risk all in order to find the other.
Travis writes in his journal, “But he still has my heart – and if he’s not using it, I want it back. Otherwise I’m going to go on loving him for the rest of my life.”
It seems like a traditional enough love story. What makes this novel different is the entire book is non-narrative fiction. The story is told through lists, journals, newspaper articles and even a menu. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to that first love, this book is for you. Actually, all you have to do is believe in love, and the charms of “Almost Like Being In Love” will enchant you, as they have me.
The Biggest Lover: Big-Boned Men’s Erotica for Chubs and Chasers
Edited by Ron Suresha
Several years ago Ron Suresha formed a new press, Bear Bones Books. He is a pioneer in advocating for the bear community and bi men. He has put together a collection of love and lust which has a large heart and large men. Authors in the anthology run the gamut from erotica legends like Jack Fritscher to novelists Hank Edwards and Jeff Mann. There is a great variety of men and stories to entice the reader.
The opening story by Hank Edwards, “Furball,” is a delicious mix of lust which blossoms into love. The title creature is a cat who acts as the go-between, the cupid as it were, for the lusty protaganists.
“Moby Dick” by William Holden is by turns an amusing play on the Melville opus and a love story on the high seas. “Call me Abram” begins the story. Our seafaring captain spies the man of his dreams as his ship sails forth out of Sag Harbor. And so begins his obsession with finding the great white beast he has seen but once. Bear Bones Books is releasing “The Biggest Lover” on Valentine’s Day.
The Giddy Death of the Gays and the Strange Demise of Straights
By Redfern Jon Barrett
As I was planning this column, I realized I should include a trans and bi romance. Let me say here to any authors reading this, “There is a niche out there waiting for you.” Most writing in both categories is nonfiction, with many memoirs. Great reading, but not great choices for fans of romance lit. And then I stumbled across “The Giddy Death of the Gays and the Strange Demise of Straights” by Redfern Jon Barrett and published by Lethe Press.
Can a romance also be a comedy?
Apparently in the world of Redfern Jon Barret, the answer is an unequivocal yes. This is one of the quirkiest novels I’ve read in a while, and that great rarity, a bi romance. The setting is post-industrial Swansea, Wales. The cast of characters includes:
– Richard and his new roommate Dom, who are both straight and improbably fall in love with each other.
– Caroline, Dom’s girlfriend who must figure out how to navigate these waters.
– Rutti, a bitchy waif of a gay boy whom Richard had kicked out as his previous roommate.
– Nomi, Caroline’s tough gal pal.
These main characters provide the narrative voices through the novel. Though Rutti and Nomi are not part of the triangle, it is their voices which really bring the novel alive. Swansea is pictured as a rundown locale whose only redeeming quality is its relative affordability. Otherwise it is a backdrop of treadmill jobs, shabby clubs and beaches with needles. Barrett tells us that while there is no place like home, there is also no reason you have to stay there.
Prescription for Love
No one can write romance novels like lesbians. Nora Roberts and Jackie Collins are dwarf stars in a universe which includes a supernova like Radclyffe. Radclyffe has written 45 romances (and dozens of other novels). Her fans’ only complaint is that they can read faster than Radclyffe can write.
Her newest novel is published by her long-time publisher, Bold Strokes Books. Bold Strokes specializes in the genre, publishing authors Kim Baldwin, VK Powell, Ali Vali, Gun Brooke and more. “Prescription for Love” is a sequel to “Against Doctor’s Orders.” Flannery Rivers is content to let her sister run the family dynasty at rural Rivers Hospital. She is ready for her next romance, and thinks she knows her target: city-gal Abigail Remy who has been brought in to run the ER. Abigail is looking for a community to raise her trans son in safety. Intrigue and jealousy, personal and professional, fan the fires of passion.