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
Anything Josh Lanyon writes always transports me, but the Adrien English series is my favorite.
I *love* Josh Lanyon & the Adrien English books in particular. 🙂 I think Lanyon’s short story, Sort of Stranger Thank Fiction, describes life in a small town in the middle of nowhere exquisitely too. Love it.
There are only 3 here I haven’t read! *happy dances* And I like most of those. CLEAR WATER is fantastic and wonderful. LOVE LESSONS by Heidi Cullinan is a fave. And I want to roll around in all the words from Rowan Speedwell.
I go on Rowan Speedwell binges where I reread everything she writes in a weekend. She’s absolutely fabulous. 🙂 And I *loved* Love Lessons too. #TeamWalter
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes are 2 of my all time favorites. I also like Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes, Try by Ella Frank and I am starting on Heidi Cullinan’s backlist.(Love Lessons rocked).
Thanks for the recs! I haven’t heard of Try. *runs to Amazon* I love all of Heidi stuff & recently reread Dance With Me. People don’t mention it a lot, but I just love it. 🙂
Amy R., you are the winner of my random-number-generator-selected lottery! Email me at amyjocousins at gmail dot com and let me know which book you choose! Thanks for commenting. 🙂
Thank you, email sent.
I haven’t read all of the books on your list but I completely agree with you about Scrap Metal! Josh Lanyon’s books always make me really feel the setting. JL Merrow’s Fall Hard has an amazing depiction of Iceland that makes me want to go there. And Jordan L Hawk has created a wonderful historic fantasy world in her Whyborne and Griffin series that I love visiting in each book.
You’ve listed a whole bunch of my favorite books! 🙂 They’re so good! If you haven’t read KJ Charles/ Magpie Lord series yet, I love it for many of the same reasons I enjoyed the Hawk books. She’s fabulous.
If you like romance and suspense give Taylor V Donovan’s Six Degrees series a try. Also anything by Amy Lane, Abigail Roux, ML Rhodes & SJ Frost. They are auto buys for me. Thanks for the giveaway!
Ooh, Taylor Donovan & SJ Frost are new to me! Thanks for the rec. 🙂 And yes, ANYTHING by “Angst, Pain, Amy Lane”. Love her!
I’ve read Clear Water multiple times and I’m sure I’ll read it again. 🙂 I’ve had Scrap Metal for quite a while but haven’t read it yet, not sure why, but I NEED to give it a try. Josh Lanyon has MULTIPLE books that I re-read constantly. I think I’ve read all of Lanyon’s books at least twice and several of them 5-10 times. They never get old.
I think you will *love* Scrap Metal. Harper Fox is amazing. I like her for many of the same reasons I like Lanyon: lyrical language, atmosphere, not hardcore w/the smexy (which I enjoy in other books, but appreciate the restraint in these!). And yes to the Lanyon rereading! I do the exact same thing. 🙂
Two that I’ve loved-
Covet Thy Neighbor LA Witt/Gallagher
Glitterland – Alexis Hall
I apologize if the author names are misquoted but typing on phone after very brief sleep.
You are right on. 🙂 I love those books too! All of the Tucker Springs books have been fun & Alexis Hall? FABULOUS.
I absolutely adore Hayley Walsh, her Skyler Foxe series is one of my all time favorite re-reads. They just make me happy and there’s nothing I don’t love about them, they have the best main characters and I adore all the secondary characters (which you can’t often say).
I also fifth or sixth Josh Lanyon, but also Jordan Castillo Price. I absolutely LOVE the PSY cop series and will always be waiting for more of it.
I have multiple friends telling me to read the PsyCop series, so obviously i need to do that ASAP. 🙂 I don’t know Hayley Walsh but I’m off to Amazon to check her out! Thanks!
Josephine Myles’ books are all great for that–you get to see a side of England that’s totally different than what’s hyped in the US, but just as distinctive. Edmond Manning’s Lost and Founds series uses setting so beautifully–San Francisco (in KING PERRY) and De Kalb, IA (in KING MAI) are so integral to their stories!
Oh, man. I should’ve put Barging In on this list! Yes, Jo Myles’ books are great at delivering you to places you’d never find on your own. I don’t know Edward Manning, but obviously I need to go read him right away. 🙂
It’s an awesome series…I can honestly say it’s impossible to describe, and like nothing I’ve ever read. The wordplay and structure are really amazing, too…
I don’t have that great a memory for book titles or character names so I can’t really recommend anything to you. As to my favorite places in stories, they usually take place in the UK.
Megan Derr (Dance with the Devil series), Kaje Harper (LIfe Lessons series), Jordan L. Hawks (Whyborne & Griffin series) are some of my favorite authors that I don’t see listed above on your list or in the comments.
i haven’t read the Megan Derr books, so I’ll have to check them out! I *love* Harper and Hawks. They are both auto-buys for me!
Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments! And for increasing my TBR even further! The random number generator selected Amy R. as the winner of the giveaway, so please email me, Amy, at amyjocousins at gmail dot com. Happy reading all! 🙂