I read M/M romance for a hundred reasons. For the love. For the angst. For the stories that are still new and fresh in a genre that can sometimes feel jaded. For the blow your socks off smexy. (Who am I kidding? This should be #1 on the list!)
But there are a handful of authors I read because they transport me. Their words bring me the sights, the sounds, the smells even, of the worlds they create with such precision and care that settings of their books become characters in their own rights. When I finish reading one of these marvelous books, I want to hop online, book a ticket on the next plane out, and just go there.
Ok, maybe not so much with the zombie apocalypse one.
These authors create living, breathing worlds that burst with life or stink with rot. Whether their books are based on actual places, post-apocalyptic futures, or imaginary planets, I remember the “Where” almost as much as the “Who” when I think of these stories. Here are some of my favorites…
Harper Fox ~ Scrap Metal
Harper Fox is the Queen of Atmosphere. Whether she takes you to an oil rig in the North Sea or the Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, you can taste the air in your mouth. Her Scrap Metal is a love letter to the Isle of Arran, as much as to Nichol and Cameron, the heroes of this terrific book. I am quite confident that I’d make a decent hand on a sheep farm, based solely on my dozen rereads of this story that is so frigging uplifting it is my go-to book when I’m feeling blue.
Z.A. Maxfield ~ Lost and Found
I had to reread almost everything Z.A. Maxfield wrote this past weekend (had to…it was torture…) before I could pick a book for this list. Her series set in Santa Ignacio (St. Nacho, to the locals) was my first instinct. But in the end, I chose Lost and Found because if you had told me a romance set in an RV trailer park would be one of my favorite holiday stories of last year, I’d have laughed out loud. But love battles through in all sorts of strange and magical places, giving heroes with anger management issues and the men who love their cranky asses a chance.
Amelia Gormley ~ Strain
Amelia Gormley’s post-apocalyptic novel is dark. Dark, dark, you’re gonna walk into the wall and break your nose and you’ll be grateful there aren’t zombies who come to eat your face when they smell the blood, dark. This dub con book is not for when you’re in the mood for something light and fun. But when you want gritty and desperate and dirty, it’ll take you to a wasteland of the Western United States after the world has been swept by a virus that turns people into Revenants: mindless, flesh-eating, walking corpses. This world is brutal and often feels hopeless, but I was completely mesmerized by this story.
Cara McKenna ~ Backwoods
Oh, Cara McKenna just rocks my world. I don’t care if she’s writing m/f, m/m/f, m/f/m, or m/m, there is nothing she releases that I don’t buy. In Backwoods, she sets a book at the Shivaree, an old plantation house turned live music bar in rural Louisiana. Whether it’s the heat and humidity, the wedding veil lace curtains and canopy of colored Christmas lights, or just the moody Spanish music of the new musician who’s turning owner Shane’s head, I wanna head to the outskirts of Baton Rouge immediately whenever I read this dirty, sexy book.
Amy Lane ~ Clear Water
Ok, yes, the Promise Rock series would have been a no-brainer for Amy Lane. But Clear Water is one of my favorite stories of all time. Whiskey and his lab partner are living on a battered houseboat and doing field biology research when Whiskey pulls Patrick from the water after a car crash. Complicated personalities in close quarters, the smell of the marshes, anomalous frogs, sweating in the sun…Amy Lane anchors you smack in the middle of a charming love story. I promise, you will love the frogs.
Julio-Alexi Genao ~ When You Were Pixels
Julio-Alexi Genao’s free short story was written as part of the M/M Romance Group’s story prompt event last year on GoodReads. It’s basically one long love letter and my weakness at the knees for epistolary ANYTHING makes this a huge draw. Setting details in this story are minimal, because the narrator’s entire world is minimalist. When You Were Pixels is brutally spare and it hurts, just like the futuristic world that isolates and uses the men of this haunting tale.
Heidi Cullinan ~ Special Delivery/Double Blind/Tough Love
Heidi Cullinan’s series set in Vegas slays me. Lays me out on a butcher block and just filets me. Lots of romances use a tourist’s vision of Vegas for the glitz and glam, for the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” vibe. But Heidi’s books give you the desert city as a place where people live. Her heroes grab the glamour of the casinos and the Strip with both hands sometimes, but they also go home to do laundry and make breakfast omelets for their lovers. They ride motorcycles through the desert when they need to get away and never, ever forget that love is the biggest gamble in town.
Ok, lay it on me. What books am I missing? Where do you want to go after you put down one of your favorite romances with that glorious sense of place? Comment below and I’ll randomly select a winner who will receive their most wanted selection from my list of favorites! (Don’t forget that Julio-Alexi Genao’s short story is a free read!)
About the Author
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance of all kinds and can usually be found spending way too much time on the internet (amyjocousins.com). Her first m/m romance, Off Campus, will be released by Samhain Publishing on December 30th, 2014.
For the Grand Prize Giveaway, I (Nix) will be giving away ten of my top LGBT books. These books will be gifted via All Romance as the books are available to readers on all the types of eReaders (you just need to sign up for a free account to access the books and you can send them directly). If you have any of the books and you win the prize, speak to me and I’ll see what else I can do.
The books are (and there are substitutions available for people who have copies)…
- With a Kiss by Kim Dare (MM)
- Hot Head by Damien Suede (MM)
- By the Book by Scarlett Parrish (MM)
- The Dom With a Safeword by Cari Silverwood (FFM)
- Starfish and Coffee by Kele Moon (MM)
- How Sweet it is – Melissa Brayden (FF)
- Fatal Shadows – Josh Lanyon (MM)
- Faith and Fidelity – Tere Michaels (MM)
- How to Love – Kelly Jamieson (FMM)
- Cut and Run – Abigail Roux (MM)
- Paperback Tread Marks & Trademarks by SA McAuley