ROMANTIC BUT NOT A ROMANCE

     Once again it was hard to decide which books to put into this category.  Who’s to say what is and is not romantic enough?  Despite my insistence that a romance novel has to fulfill certain requirements, there is no list of criteria that can determine what is or isn’t romantic.  In the end, it has to be purely personal opinion.  I’ll read some of these books again; others I won’t.  For the most part, these are books where the romance didn’t work out, the romance made up too little of the book, or the characters fell in love (or already were in love) at the beginning and the book was about something else.  In my opinion, these books are more gay fiction more than romance, but I have a Lambda romance winner and a finalist on this list.  

     Baldwin, James  Giovanni’s Room (1956) I can understand why this was such a ground-breaking book in 1956, but it is a tragedy rather than a romance.  The hero is afraid of who he is, wants marriage and a normal life, but he isn’t strong enough to stay away from Giovanni, isn’t strong enough to keep Giovanni from loving him.

     Beck, Timothy James  Someone Like You (2006) Derek and Hunter get together early in the book, but Hunter leaves for a job in Australia and 90% of the book is about Derek wondering if Hunter still loves him, Derek’s friends who are charming and fascinating, and the usual casts of enemies.  I felt cheated by not knowing Hunter was suffering just as much as Derek, maybe more since he was trying to let Derek find his own way and had to watch him make mistakes.

     Blue, Ally Willow Bend (2006) This book had very little plot, was mostly just a situation.  The men fell in love at first sight and starting having sex right away even though one had just lost his partner in a car wreck and the other was having to care for a dying mother.

     Boyd, Randy  Walt Loves the Bearcat (2005) This is an extremely long book (721 pages) about a gay black guy who has fantasized for twenty years about a white football quarterback he never met.  They happen to meet and the Bearcat (the black guy) tells Walt about his fantasy life he’s imagined for them over the last twenty years.  Somewhere in there the author forgets about the real people and the imaginary couple takes over. Lambda Award finalist.

     Ford, Michael Thomas  Last Summer (2003) I like all of Michael Thomas Ford’s books, especially this one, but I’m forced to put it on the “romantic but not a romance” list.  Like the rest of Ford’s books, it has a large cast, but he pulls this one off more successfully.  It was almost like a soap opera.  Just for the heck of it, I counted the pages about the romance between Joel and Reilly.  One out of ten.  Not nearly enough.  Lambda Award Winner

     Grey, Dorien  Calico (2006) This book is officially categorized as a western historical romantic suspense/GLBT, an assessment I find right on the money.   There is no sex in the book and the men don’t actually get together until the last page when they ride off  together, but we’re allowed to get a glimpse of the process of falling in love and coming out even if it’s only from Calico’s point of view.  It is a fun, easy read.  What’s not to like about gay cowboys?

     Hinton, Gregory  The Way Things Ought to Be (2003) King James falls in love with each man he sleeps with.  He does end up with one, but they’re apart for most of the book (he’s married and has to get a divorce) without any development in between.

     Jeffrey, Jon  Boyfriend Material (2002) This book is more about the mistakes guys make before they find their boyfriends.  The book is full of humor and the gay scene in New York.
 
     Lilly, Greg  Fingering the Family Jewels (2004) Coming home to confront his past was fun, but I found it hard to buy the two instances of incest.

     Mann, William J.  The Men From the Boys (1999) I didn’t care for this book because I didn’t really like the characters, but Mann is an excellent writer.  Jeff says he loves Lloyd, but he sleeps with anyone he likes.  Lloyd is confused and not much help.  The only person looking for romance was Eduardo, and Jeff makes fun of him for it.
     _____ Where the Boys Are (2003) This is a sequel to The Men from the Boys.  I liked this book much better, but the romance is just as frustrated.  Jeff and Lloyd have decided they do love each other, but Jeff gets sidetracked by a new lover (big surprise there!), and Lloyd hasn’t the guts to push the issue.  If you haven’t read Mann, you’re missing a treat.

     McCauley, Stephen The Object of My Affections (1987) This is the story of two insecure young people who share a Brooklyn apartment: a gay man and a pregnant woman who are both on the brink of financial and emotional disaster.  I thought the relationship the man was building with the guy in the country was underplayed. 

     Nolan, Nick  Strings Attached (2006) Not really a love story, not much of a coming of age tale, it’s a combination of several things in a boy’s life including the murder of both parents.  The author took great pride in making the story a parallel with the story of Pinocchio.

     O’Neill, Jamie At Swim, Two Boys (2001) I hardly know what to say about this book.  First, it was too much about the Irish rebellion, too many facts about events unfamiliar to most readers.  Secondly, it was too much about Jim’s father, about MacMurrough and his aunt, about others with little connection to Jim and Doyler.  At least MacMurrough was involved with both Jim and Doyler, but we get little of the love story, more of MacMurrough’s involvement with Doyler than of Doyler’s involvement with Jim.

     Outland, Orland  Every Man for Himself  (1999) Steroids have turned John from a weak HIV case to a pumped gym bunny.  Suddenly getting lots of attention, he is bored with his older lover and moves out.  Harrison, his lover, makes himself over and they rediscover their passion.

     Rice, Christopher A Density of Souls (2000) I’m not sure Christopher Rice would be happy that I put him on this list.  I can’t consider this book a romance, but there is a touching romance that develops in the second half in addition to the several mysteries.

     Ridout, IV, James W.  The Man Pilot (2004) Apparently the continuation of a story begun in Plantation Secrets, it’s full of sex between lots of couples, but it’s more like a soap opera.  I didn’t find the romantic endings very satisfactory.

     Rowan, Lee Walking Wounded (2007) This was hardly a romance in that the characters fell in love seven years ago.  When the book starts, they’ve just met again and are more in love than ever.  There isn’t much new until we get to the part when a mercenary is trying to kill Kevin.
     _____ Winds of Change (2007) The story line centers about two men in the British navy in 1801 when being caught with another man was a hanging offense.  As improbable as it sounds, they’re asked to act like they’re interested in each other to smoke out a traitor.

     Tyler, Ben  One Night Stand (2004) A handsome guy ends up being a private escort, meets a guy he wants to be with, but never quite settles.  He starts his own escort service but the implication is that he’s mainly with this one guy.

     Warren, Patricia Nell The Fancy Dancer (1976) One man is a priest and the other a caretaker of a mentally challenged woman and her child.  The relationship between the two men never really gets off the ground.  This is more the story of a priest struggling with homosexuality and his vows.

 

 

 

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