Dispatches from the Book Log: My Favorite Reads
By Sarah Fuller
I've always kept a book log about the books I read, but when I found romance, my book log doubled in size. It's now filled with all of my favorite romance reads and why I love them.
I never thought I’d be addicted to male/male (aka MM) romance, but after reading Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, my world has changed. Let me try to explain why MM captivates me so much, and why I adore this book.
Here is how it began.
In college, I went to Blockbuster Video, back when people did that, and rented the first season of the American version of Queer As Folk. It was a show about a group of friends, all gay, who worked during the day and danced at a club called Babylon at night. I realized quite quickly that, for me, watching two men kiss was a whole lot more hot than watching the opposite sex do it. I obsessively watched the series from beginning to end, and loved it. It would be years later that I was handed my first MM romance, but it was solidified, watching this show, I liked male couples.
A few years ago, I walked into The Ripped Bodice, the only brick and mortar, and glorious, all-romance bookstore in Culver City, CA. I’d always been a reader, but after that day, my reading took on a much more romantic quality to it, mainly, I began devouring romance. Specifically, MM romance. The first time I visited The Ripped Bodice, I asked if they had any LGBTQ books.
Great, any suggestions?
I was handed Him with the affirmation that it was a great read. And OMG it is, it really, really is!
Much like watching Queer As Folk brought me the knowledge that I enjoyed watching men kiss, and rooted for their happily ever after, Him brought me this in written form.
The book is perfect for anyone who hasn’t read MM romance before, but is willing to try. It’s sweet, low-angst, funny and super sexy. It became my gateway drug, in the best possible way.
MM romance is undoubtedly appealing to me, but it’s more than just the physicality between the characters. It challenges straight bias as the main characters never choose homosexuality, rather, they choose love. It also plays with masculinity and femininity, how gender roles are manipulated to reflect real life. A man is capable of strength, virility and, aggression and still relish being “the bottom.” A man is also capable of having compassion, emotion and empathy, yet, still prefer being “the top.” Him plays with all these elements, with believable characters and situations.
Him is a sports romance between two up-and-coming hockey players, who spend one last summer at hockey camp together at Lake Placid. Wes and Jamie have been best friends since childhood. One summer, before the two head off to college, Wes makes Jamie a bet. The result was estrangement, for four years.
Now, four years after the night of that fateful bet, they’re back at hockey camp. Only this year, the two are coaching. Wes is gay and pretty much in love with Jamie. Jamie is straight, or at least, believes he’s straight. Wes’s bet was of the sexual variety and while Jamie never once said no, Wes felt terrible for even putting him in a sexual situation through a bet. Their reunion is slightly awkward, mainly because Jamie is totally baffled by Wes’s need to hold back on their friendship.
However, that strained reunion is short-lived because their chemistry as best friends, much less lovers, is off the charts. Once Jamie realizes he’s not entirely straight, and quite possibly very bi, he goes for it. There is this wonderfully funny moment when Jamie begins to question his sexuality and realizes he’s attracted to Wes. He then decides to test his sexuality by watching straight porn and comparing it to gay porn. The result is, he really enjoys both. The book is predominately about their friendship and how that will play into their future. This is very much a friends-to-lovers’ romance, my favorite. Without really giving the ending away, their future involves the two of them. For their sex is intimate, emotional and graphic, but their friendship is what sustains their connection.
Him won multiple awards, including the 2016 RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance. That the romance community embraced this book and new readers to the genre, like myself, fell in love with it, feels wonderful. I love romance novels, I adore MM romance novels. And the beauty is, I’ve barely scratched the surface. With so many MM romances to read, I’m here to stay.