Hola and a big smushy WELCOME to our LGBTQ event which is here for the month of May. We have reviews, Guest Posts, Top Ten List and lots and lots of prizes all with a LGBT theme. The posts will be indexed on the side and I do hope you hop through … I have been so lucky this year!
Today, we have the awesome Laura Kaye speaking about her experiences with including a MM romance within an otherwise heterosexual series. I have to say, some of the things in the post I expected but I can’t say I’m not saddened by others. She is giving away one signed copy of Hard to Be Good and Hard Ink swag to one commenter.
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Just over a month ago, I celebrated the release of Hard to Be Good, the fifth book in my Hard Ink romantic suspense series, and my first gay romance! The Hard Ink series follows the surviving members of an Army Special Forces team as they investigate the conspiracy that got them discharged from the military and seek to clear their names. Hard to Be Good is a friends-to-lovers and opposites-attract story about Jeremy Rixey, a sexy, outgoing, playful tattoo shop owner, and Charlie Merritt, a shy computer consultant who was recently rescued from a kidnapping.
I didn’t set out to write a gay romance in the otherwise heterosexual Hard Ink series – that is, I didn’t plan it that way from the beginning. Jeremy and Charlie are important secondary characters who meet in book one of the series, when the SF team brings an injured Charlie to the Hard Ink tattoo building they’re operating their mission from and Jeremy assists in nursing him back to health. From there, the two men’s friendship grows over the following books in the series. As the two non-military men in the group, they often work together on operational tasks that don’t take them out in the field, and they share both a frustration that they can’t do more and concerns for their siblings (Jeremy’s brother is the co-owner of the tattoo shop and the hero from book one, and Charlie’s sister is the heroine from the same). Because Charlie is essentially hiding out from his kidnappers, he has few belongings with him, and so he’s forced to borrow shirts from Jeremy’s infamous dirty T-shirt collection. Their friendship is sweet and funny and tight.
I knew Jeremy was bi-sexual before I wrote the first word of the series. Charlie was a murkier character for me at first. But once I realized he was gay – and that one of his conflicts was that his Army Colonel father – also the SF team’s commander – didn’t accept his homosexuality, I knew Jeremy and Charlie would end up together. So their relationship was just what was right for their characters and came as a natural outgrowth of the deep friendship that develops between them. What I didn’t know was whether these characters would get a book or, if they did, how my editors and readers would react.
Over the past month, here’s what I’ve learned about those things I didn’t know:
–My editor/publisher was fully supportive of the story I wanted to tell. My editor had no hesitation at all about my plans for this book despite the fact that Jeremy Rixey emerged immediately as a reader favorite in the series. She acquired the book without hesitation and the publisher supported it with all the same marketing and promotion, including featuring a banner with two intimately positioned men (from the book cover) as their Facebook cover image during release week. Having that support was an amazing experience.
–Most readers who communicated with me were willing to follow the characters and story wherever it was going to lead them. Many had picked up on the closeness and flirtation between Jeremy and Charlie and suspected their relationship was heading in a romantic direction, and others who perhaps hadn’t picked up on those clues were game to go there anyway.
–A lot of my readers indicated that they hadn’t before read or usually didn’t read M/M romance, but because they enjoyed the series and the characters, they were willing to give it a try. This was a very common reaction and it was encouraging as well, because it gave me the confidence to be able to tell the story the characters demanded be told no matter where it might lead. I often feel that I write what comes through me or what the characters tell me to do more than I “make up” a story, and it’s hard to force a story to do something it doesn’t want to do. So I was glad that the most common reactions were a willingness to go along for the ride and enjoyment of the book despite it not being many readers’ usual read.
–Some readers expressed discomfort at the idea of reading M/M romance. Some of those said they’d try it anyway, perhaps skipping the sex scenes, whereas others said they would have to skip this book altogether expressly because it was gay romance. About a dozen people wrote me directly to essentially ask if it was okay to skip this book – okay in the sense of either 1) would they be able to understand what happened in following books if they skipped this one, or 2) would I understand if they did so. I knew going into this that a gay romance was not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and I had/have no problem with that. My general response to those questions was that I try to write every book in a way that readers can understand it even if they haven’t read the earlier books in a series, so they would probably be fine.
–A handful of readers were very uncomfortable, offended, or angry with me for including a gay romance and writing explicit gay sex in the series. I received a few emails accusing me of pushing my liberal agenda, letting me know that I would go to hell, and saying they’d never read my books again. One reviewer said she was angry because she felt forced to read a gay romance when she didn’t want to (although in the end her review was mostly positive) and another said the explicit sex was just too much for her despite the fact that all my books have explicit sex (it’s worth noting that even with that negative reaction, the tone and wording of the post was professional/not offensive). There were homophobic comments and expressions of anger on my Facebook page, and my posts about the book in the weeks leading up to and after its release lost more me more page likes than anything else I’ve ever posted. Interestingly, the posts that lost me the second most number of FB page likes were those related to my interracial romance, Hard to Hold On To (also part of the Hard Ink series). However, these more negative reactions were very much a minority in my overall experience of Hard to Be Good.
For me, the big takeaway about including a gay romance in an otherwise heterosexual series is that the vast majority of readers are game for a good story, no matter what it’s about, and that even those readers not interested in one particular book in a series will not abandon the entire series itself. After all, it was the readers who made Hard to Be Good hit #49 on the USA Today Bestseller List. I think it was important that I built Jeremy and Charlie’s relationship across multiple books so that readers were familiar with and sympathetic to and even eager for those characters before their book released. J.R. Ward did this very successfully with the characters Blay and Qhuinn, whose book Lover at Last was a also gay romance in an otherwise heterosexual series that hit #1 on all the bestseller lists.
To me, love is love, and I want to be a part of celebrating it in all its forms. And I’m super excited that readers are willing to help me do it!
Thanks for reading!
“You know,” Jeremy said with a smirk, “if you find yourself feeling the urge to kiss me, that’s good, too.”
Charlie gave a small laugh, all of his tension draining away. “I might be feeling that urge right now.”
Jeremy’s thumb stroked over the side of Charlie’s neck and his gaze narrowed. “Are you, now?”
Nodding, Charlie decided to put his tattoo into practice. He leaned in, flicked his tongue against Jeremy’s lip piercings, and kissed him. Threading his hands into Jeremy’s hair, he pushed his tongue deep in the other man’s mouth, tasting, exploring, stroking.
Jeremy gave as good as he got, and soon they were breathing hard, and clutching tight, and grinding against one another until Charlie had to gasp for air.
“Lay down with me?” Jeremy whispered.
“Yes,” Charlie said, letting Jeremy lead him to the big queen-sized bed. They stretched out on the soft flannel plaid comforter.
Jeremy pushed Charlie onto his back and climbed up over him. The other man’s weight felt phenomenal as it pressed him into the soft bedding. “I like the look of you here. In my bed,” Jeremy said.
“Yeah?” Heat filled Charlie’s cheeks at the comment, but only because he loved it so much.
Jeremy nodded. “Me on top of you—is that hurting your side?” Charlie had taken the bandage off at Jer’s instructions hours before, but the tattoo would take upwards of two weeks to heal, apparently.
“No,” Charlie said, quickly sliding his hands up to Jeremy’s back to encourage him to stay right where he was. Because Charlie would’ve endured just about anything to keep him there forever. “Kiss me, Jeremy.”
“Gladly,” Jeremy said, sucking Charlie’s lower lip into his mouth. Slow, deep kisses quickly escalated to fast and frantic. Their bodies shifted and pressed. Their hands grasped and tugged. Their hard cocks rubbed together through their jeans until Charlie was suddenly sure of one thing.
“I don’t want to come like this,” he rasped, his brain scrambling to figure out exactly what he did want. And how to find the courage to voice it.
Jeremy pulled back, that pale green gaze absolutely on fire. “Then how?”
Charlie swallowed hard and his pulse raced even faster. Because his body, heart, and head were all in agreement, and he knew what he wanted—from Jeremy, with Jeremy.
Hard Ink Tattoo owner Jeremy Rixey has taken on his brother’s stateside fight against the forces that nearly killed Nick and his Special Forces team a year before. Now, Jeremy’s whole world has been turned upside down–not the least of which by a brilliant, quiet blond man who tempts Jeremy to settle down for the first time ever.
Recent kidnapping victim Charlie Merritt has always been better with computers than people, so when he’s drawn into the SF team’s investigation of his army colonel father’s corruption, he’s surprised to find acceptance and friendship–especially since his father never accepted who Charlie was. Even more surprising is the heated tension Charlie feels with sexy, tattooed Jeremy, Charlie’s opposite in almost every way.
With tragedy and chaos all around them, temptation flashes hot, and Jeremy and Charlie can’t help but wonder why they’re trying so hard to be good…
Paperback Release: May 26, 2015
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About Laura Kaye:
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.