A new sub genre has emerged in the escapist realm of romance novels: stories where you have two strapping, broad chests instead of one. It’s gay tales of love and lust, but written by women for women. False Colors by Alex Beecroft and Transgressions by Erastes are two offerings from Running Press. There’s no doubt that Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain played a part in this emerging trend. It also should be noted that the cover art for Transgressions has two guys that look a lot like the gay couple on the daytime soap opera As the World Turns.
We gave False Colors to avid reader Shelby Tamres for the woman’s perspective and Transgressions to the better half of this reporter, Shane Sears, for the gay man’s point of view.
Greg Hambrick: How about some synopsis.
Shelby Tamres: False Colors is a tale about two guys in the English Navy who are finding love and fighting the gay stigma in the 1800s. It’s about finding your partner and being okay with your own sexuality.
Shane Sears: (On Transgressions) I think we read the same book. Instead of a boat, it was in a horse stall. It was about a rich land owner’s son and a servant.
Greg: What was your expectation going in?
Shane: I thought I was hearing things when you explained it was women writing gay romances. I was like, is this you, (fag hag we know with a knack for falling for gay guys)?
Greg: As romance novels, I figured it would be a smutfest. But, in False Colors, there’s a lot of innuendo, but not much sex.
Shelby: Most historical romance novels don’t have a lot of sex. In those stories the conflict is the whole sex-before-marriage thing, but the woman finally says, ‘OK.’ And then they worry about getting pregnant.
Shane: No storks, birds, or bees were harmed in the making of these stories.
Shelby: There were three sex scenes in False Colors and they were between different partners, which you almost never see in female/male romance novels. The details and language are a bit different. The “taut buttocks” definitely takes on a different meaning.
Greg: Much like it does in an Abercrombie and Fitch poster.
Shelby: I’ve never watched gay porn, but I can guess how sex works between a man and a man. They’d talk about some things and then they’d gloss over about how you get from point A and point B.
Editors note: The conversation detours to a somewhat awkward, blush-filled exploration of gay sex (special thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal and Brokeback), before returning to the books.
Shelby: For the most part, the sex in False Colors is kind of sad and dirty. Not romantic.
Greg: Particularly in the first two sex scenes in False Colors. In the first one, there’s a controlling older man.
Shelby: Then there’s the scene where the guy walks into the bar and gets on the random big guy’s lap.
Greg: Followed by a really long scene with the character trying to cleanse himself. Now, Transgressions had a bit more action.
Shane: It had a lot more sex, but it was also all wrapped up in religion and guilt. There was one character who was trying to get “cured” by having this guy cut him and beat him and starve him.
Greg: It almost seems like they weren’t romance novels, but more like stories about the struggle between religion and sexuality in olden days.
Shane: It was almost like a very special episode of Blossom.
Greg: What would you have wanted to see in these stories?
Shelby: More romance would help. You see them become friends, but you don’t really see the relationship build.
Shane: I’d like to see the characters like each other and like themselves. In Transgressions, they’re together for the first quarter of the book, then they’re apart until the last few pages.
Greg: That’s almost exactly what happened in False Colors.
Shelby: I just don’t think most women would be interested in these books.
Greg: But Shane had a friend once who was curious about gay porn.
Shane: Actually, I think her “boyfriend” was a little too interested in it. He might like these books.