Readers: How Do You Like Your M/M Romances?

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Please don’t beat me up but I’m running a poll on the site about sex in M/M romances. I know, I know, you hate surveys, but this time your input is very important. We all love M/M romances for different reasons. Some readers love these books because they are wall to wall sex. (Really??? What a surprise!) :shock: I’m not sure if those readers are concerned about something like (maybe) a plot, as long as there’s the obligatory humping in every chapter.   :sex2: Others prefer a story with well rounded characters and an actual plot to go along with the hot sex. A few readers just want a good story and don’t care if there is minimal or any sex in the books.  With such varying tastes authors can’t please everyone, so a lot of them go where the money is, meaning: they write books that are off the scale hot because they know they are sure to sell. Clearly this targeting works.

Most readers think that M/M romances must be erotic, but is M/M also synonymous with erotica (PWP – Porn Without Plot)? Many digital publishers seem to think so, based on comments by their authors who claim that the editors return their manuscripts if they don’t think there’s enough sex and ask for more, more, more unnecessary sex. On the other hand, some publishers say it’s the authors who make the choice about the level of sex in their books: when they see that books with a heat level of 5 are best sellers, and those with a heat level of 1 go on the remainder pile almost immediately (if there is such a thing as a remainder pile for ebooks), it’s the writers who make the choice to write books that are sexfests. Someone is not being straight :) with us and the truth may lie somewhere in deep space. Are you proving the publishers and authors right by maxing out your credit cards on M/M romances that are burning hot and ignoring the “sweet” romances with less sex? Are you saying with your wallets that M/M is all about the sex?  :???: Based on the evidence, it seems that readers are the ones who set the bar for the heat level in these books. How else can you account for the fact that books which are are rated at the highest heat levels outsell those that are less so by a margin of 10 or more to 1, unless the author is very well known such as Josh Lanyon?

Please don’t think I’m saying there’s something wrong with books that have a high level of sex.  I just think that the sex should advance and enhance the plot. OTOH there are times when you might be looking for a short sexy read just before bedtime, not  a story that would keep you up all night where you become so interested you forget everything else.

Some genres such as BDSM, by their very nature, seem to require lots of sex. The norm in other genres such as fantasy, historical and science fiction romances is for a lot less sex. But what about the books in the middle such as contemporary gay romances, stories that are mostly about guys meeting each other and falling in love.  Do we need lots of sex in murder mysteries? Is it necessary for these books to be wall to wall sex? Is there a middle ground? Are M/M readers setting the bar low for our genre by almost always buying books that are sizzling hot, regardless whether the stories suck, or even if there is no story, as long as the humping goes on between the covers unabated? Can we raise the bar a little by not using our purchasing power to buy books that have the highest heat level? Could we encourage those authors who write plotty books that don’t have much sex by actually buying some of these books? I don’t mean to imply that all books with lots of sex aren’t wonderful stories with lots of plot and great characters – that would not be true as some of my favourites do have a lot of heat.  However, it’s a shame that we don’t acknowledge through our wallets the great job being done by authors who don’t write books with high heat levels.

If we’re trying to “sell” M/M by promoting it to our friends who don’t see this genre as a credible alternative to what they currently read, should we not raise the bar by encouraging our writers to pen books with engaging, believable characters and actual plots, rather than stories that at times seem thrown together just to hang sex scene after sex scene? Authors and publishers complain about the ghettoizing of gay romances because they are all classified as erotic, regardless whether the books are sexfests or have no sex. Perhaps if we reduce the amount of sex in some of these books and market them as “sweet” gay romances they could come in under the radar.

Two years ago I wrote a post called Do You Read Sweet Romances? which is linkedI listed quite a few M/M books that were not rated at the highest heat levels but were considered to be wonderful stories. I also included some statistics on book sales, based on information from epublishers as well as re-sellers such as ARe. Although this data is 2 years old I don’t think the ratios have changed much.  Books with heat levels 1 and 2 represented less than 3% of sales while books with heat levels of 4 and 5 together were 83% of sales, which is very revealing as well as damning in terms of our tastes and buying patterns:

Heat level 1- .73%
Heat level 2- 1.9%
Heat level 3- 10.3%
Heat level 4- 32.61%
Heat level 5- 50.57%

A couple weeks ago author Angie Benedetti wrote an essay (linked) on the much broader theme of romance called: What Does Love Look Like? Most of the readers who responded to her post seemed to be leaning on the side of more plot, more romance, better rounded characters and less sex. That’s what you said when your name was on the comment, but what about when you’re anonymous? :lol: :blush:

I hope the enclosed poll will help to clarify what heat levels you want in your M/M books, if you answer honestly. You can complete the poll in this post or on the right hand sidebar.  You can only select two answers that most closely reflect what you think. I do hope you complete this survey, and no cheating. :)

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How do you Like Your M/M Romances?

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In addition to completing the survey your comments are always appreciated. I would also ask you to submit recommendations of M/M books that you love which do not just titillate our baser senses but are really great reads, with wonderful characterizations and actual plots, similar to those books recommended in my post 2 years ago. Your recommendations would be helpful to those readers who are interested in a different fare than our usual diet.

105 thoughts on “Readers: How Do You Like Your M/M Romances?

  1. Sirius

    Well you know what I think – write the good story – put sex there , do not put sex there – I do not care. If your characters have chemistry and plot is good I will buy your books. If you write sex that advances the plot I will love it too though. But give me stories like “irregulars” or Angela Benedetti’s series over guys boinking like bunnies the whole book any time. I know I am not the only reader who reads across the genres but when I started I was always scratchingy head wondering how is it possible to evaluate the book based on how much sex the story has and nothing else. Would we say that traditional mystery is a good book based on how many murders are included in it or traditional fantasy is well done based on how many magical spells character knows? No, right? We will look at plot and characters. Why do these books should be different, beats me. But I did resign myself to being in the minority. Thank goodness there are some writers who write the books I love too.

    1. Kirsten

      I agree with you totally, Sirius. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a “heat” rating when considering if I want to buy a book or not. If I want to read porn, I’ll go find free internet porn.

      When I’m buying something though, I prefer books with good “emotional” porn– a relationship I believe in and characters I care about. Also I think M/M will always be a second-class genre as long as the amount of sex in a book is what’s driving the market and not how good the story is. :(

      As for a rec, I read Jay Bell’s Hell’s Pawn and really enjoyed it recently. There was minimal sex in it, but it was a great story.

      1. EM Lynley

        Kirsten,
        You make some really good points here! I do think you’re right about why m/m might not be getting taken seriously enough. As a genre the quality and content is really all over the place, and the “publishing industry” can’t quite figure out where to pigeonhole the books.

        As for the heat rating statistics, Wave’s data is very interesting, and I’m glad people aren’t just checking the ratings. I tend to write romantic mystery/adventure type plots, with sex as appropriate for plot and relationship sitation, but my current publishers calls them all 3 on the heat level. I’d call them 4′s, but I don’t get to make that decision.

        My old publisher called everything a 5, even if it had no sex. (I complained about that since many readers looking for 5 were disappointed and people who didn’t want 5 passed up a decent book).

        So, a lot of the heat-rating issue lies with publishers accurately rating books in the same way a reader rates them. Which is probably an entirely separate topic of labeling, another one I’ve had issues with since I started reading and writing.

        1. Angie

          EM — My old publisher called everything a 5, even if it had no sex. (I complained about that since many readers looking for 5 were disappointed and people who didn’t want 5 passed up a decent book).

          Yikes! I’d have squawked that so hard they’d have heard me three states over. :( Your second sentence there is exactly it — it’s about truth in advertising, and when you lie in your advertising you might make this sale right now, but you’re sacrificing any future sales to that customer. How stupid is that? [sigh]

          Angie

          1. EM Lynley

            Angie,
            I did talk to the pub about it, but they didn’t care enough to take more time to accurately rate their stories. They also used to estimate word counts on stories at distributors which didn’t automatically count the files, and they did stop inflating word counts, but I guess unless readers complained (which they did about the word count) the pub didn’t listen.

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Sirius

      I didn’t start out as a romance reader. The first books I read were mysteries and fantasies and most of them didn’t have any sex. I learned then what excellent writing was all about – it was the ability of a writer to keep you so engrossed that you forgot everything else, even eating.

      When I started reading M/M romances at first I enjoyed the stories because I guess I lucked out – my first real M/M book was Bareback by Chris Owen which I read in 2003, 9 years ago. Although there was lots of sex in the book the characters were memorable and the plot was to die for. the sex wasn’t force fed, it was integral to the plot.

      Now so many of the stories I read are just written for the purpose of shoving as much sex into the book as possible. I read a book recently that was a novella and it was 80% sex. How could there be even a plot with that much boinking?

      I get that many readers love the sex in these books, but don’t they want a plot and wonderful characters to go along with all the heat, or do they even care?

    3. jeayci

      “Well you know what I think – write the good story – put sex there , do not put sex there – I do not care. If your characters have chemistry and plot is good I will buy your books. If you write sex that advances the plot I will love it too though. [...] Would we say that traditional mystery is a good book based on how many murders are included in it or traditional fantasy is well done based on how many magical spells character knows? No, right? We will look at plot and characters. Why do these books should be different, beats me. But I did resign myself to being in the minority. Thank goodness there are some writers who write the books I love too.”

      QFT :bravo:

  2. Sirius

    I will think of more recommendations later besides my usual suspects – Tamara Allen, Ann Sommerville,Sarah Black, Nicole Kimberling, Ginn Hale, Jordan Castillo Price. I will think of newer authors but right now I want to recommend the book which may have higher sex amount than what I usually read but to me was a perfect example of sex advancing the plot and hot too – Square Peg by Jane Davis and Alex Snow. Oy loved it.

  3. Tali Spencer

    I happen to love sexual tension between my M/M characters, just as I love sexual tension between M/F characters. If a book is positioning itself as a romance, a story where the gender of the couple is a focal point, I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t at least some sexual pull going on. If they have sex, it should make sense and advance the story. If it’s hot sex, I like that. :D As much as I like sex, though, I crave stories with brilliant writing, deeply integrated settings, and rich plots. Not all M/M stories are romances, and I read and love those also, but my expectations for those books are different. I like my romances to involve the genitals as well as the heartstrings. I want to see passion and desire not just vocalized but acted out. That’s just me. I’m actually quite easy to please. :D

    1. Sirius

      Right, I love mysteries and fantasy and scifi, which may have minimal romantic subplot or more stronger romance subplot and to see the protagonists having sex there too often for me just downright distracting from the plot. Why are authors often so fond of let them boink when they think they are going to die for example? AM Riley IMO achieves perfect balance there.

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Tali

      As much as I like sex, though, I crave stories with brilliant writing, deeply integrated settings, and rich plots

      I hope some M/M writers read your comment because it might make them realize that there are readers like you out there and they don’t always have to focus on the sex. Some M/M readers want actual stories.

      My biggest beef is that many of our writers treat gay protagonists as if they were sex fiends. I know these stories are fantasies but I need a bit of realism, and I’m sorry but two guys fleeing from gunmen would not be stopping for a quickie while on the run because they would most likely be dead before the end of the book. Believability is something I need in the books I read and I’m not getting much of that in M/M romances.

      I don’t mind books with no actual on page sex if I believe in the romance and I have read and recommended many books that had little or no sex that were wonderful reads. For me, the ability of the writer to convey the emotions of the characters had nothing to do with what the MCs did in bed or how compatible they were with each other sexually – it was about the heart. I do love many books with high heat levels but I don’t buy them because of the sex. Sometimes a heat level of 5 would put me off buying a book because I just couldn’t bring myself to read another sexfest.

      A book that I adored when I first read it and still do is Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger which probably had minimal, if any sex, but the writing was extraordinary. I could name many more books that focused on the characters and plot and the writing won me over e.g. Faith & fidelity by Tere Michaels, The One that Got Away by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile and Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy to name just a few.

  4. Cris

    I was torn between “I don’t care, I just want a good story” and “sex should advance the plot.” To me those two are the same. I love well written sex scenes, but I can’t get enough of Andrea Speed’s Infected series which is somehow sexy with no on page sex at all.

    I will say that when I was clueless about how to find good books (pre-Goodreads) and was just scanning the DSP website for books that sounded good, I went for the higher heat levels. Maybe because I was new to the genre and it didn’t take much plot to make me happy, I honestly don’t know. But now that I know how good the genre can be, I want a quality story whether there’s sex or not.

    I also wonder if the higher heat level sales aren’t because we’re kind of trained that 2 stars is bad, 5 stars is good (or chili peppers or whatever). It might be an an unintended effect of rating books that way.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Cris

      But now that I know how good the genre can be, I want a quality story whether there’s sex or not.

      I also wonder if the higher heat level sales aren’t because we’re kind of trained that 2 stars is bad, 5 stars is good (or chili peppers or whatever). It might be an an unintended effect of rating books that way.

      I think that many readers believe that a heat level of 5 is synonymous with 5 rating stars in a review. I guess the publishers use their heat rating as a marketing strategy, and it definitely works, going by the sales numbers.

  5. eva

    Can I be a copycat and go with “What Sirius said.”?
    Honestly though, I find my preferences shifting the more romance (both m/m and m/f) I read. When I first started reading romance a few years back I had a much lower expectation of what I wanted from the book plot and characterization wise. Lately though I find myself irritated when instead of continuing with the interesting plot line and developing it more, the author throws in sex scene after sex scene in entirely unbelievable situations. So yeah, I don’t mind the sex and don’t care how much of it there is (none or a lot), as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Eva

      Lately though I find myself irritated when instead of continuing with the interesting plot line and developing it more, the author throws in sex scene after sex scene in entirely unbelievable situations. So yeah, I don’t mind the sex and don’t care how much of it there is (none or a lot), as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

      This is a theme that bothers me all the time — I’m reading an interesting story and all of a sudden I’m reading a different book because the author switches from a good plot and characterization to porn. Do they think this is excellent writing? Do they feel that I, the reader, am not worthy of their best efforts to develop the story to its logical conclusion with lots of high points in between? Sex that replaces plot in a story is not good writing — it’s a sign of disrespect for the reader.

      I think readers need to tell our writers through our wallets that sex is not a substitute for a good plot, great characterization and a believable conclusion. I no longer read het romances (haven’t for years) so I have no idea whether those books have a similar problem. If so that’s a sad commentary on the state of romance writing today that it’s compared to porn. I know where to find porn on the internet and it’s free – I don’t need to pay $6.99 – $10.99 for a story that I can get free.

  6. Ethan Stone

    This is an interesting question for me based on thoughts that have been going through my head for awhile now. In my own books I’ve gone way overboard trying to use sex as the plot but I’ve also tried to find a balance. I had readers tell me there was too much sex in my books so I wrote Bartender, PI where my main characters didn’t have sex on page. And I had complaints about that!

    1. Angie

      Ethan — it’s possible that the people who didn’t like sexfests stopped buying your books, so when you experimented with the sexless book, the only readers who were left were the ones who were there for the sex. [wry smile]

      Angie

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Ethan

      I absolutely LOVED Bartender PI as you know (and what great writing). I didn’t even notice the lack of sex until you brought it up. When I rate a book sex doesn’t enter into the equation, only the writing.

      The question I asked in the beginning of this post was: Are all MM romances supposed to be erotic? Also, is M/M romance synonymous with erotica (PWP)? In my book the answer is “no.” If that’s what these books are I wouldn’t read them. Many writers can’t write good sex scenes and I’m bored with their pitiful attempts to put tab A into tab B, and three fingers. How many times can I read this repeated in a book without gagging? It takes skill to write a great sex scene and few authors have mastered it – Jordan Castillo Price is one of them. She told me once that the sex should always be about something else, in other words, it should advance the plot; this way the reader is engaged and is not tempted to skim.

      In my own books I’ve gone way overboard trying to use sex as the plot but I’ve also tried to find a balance

      Finding a balance. I have said that over and over, but it’s as f no one is listening. I love books that show sex as an emotional output of the attraction between the guys, or even as a fun element in the story. However when the sex is removed the reader shouldn’t be left with about 20% of the book. If I want to pay for a book about sex I would buy erotica, not an M/M book, because at least those authors know how to write sex.

      Maybe those readers who complained about Bartender PI are the ones who only buy these books for the sex, or they were going on your past reputation. How damning it is for our genre when I hear that readers only read these books for the sex. We deserve excellent writing just like any fiction book that’s on the best seller list and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short by lowering our standards. Sex is great in M/M books but it should advance the plot not be the plot.

      When is your next book being released Ethan? :grin:

  7. Angie

    What Sirius Said about characters who are on the run with assassins after them and bullets incipiently flying, but who come to a sudden screeching halt to boink under a table or something. They really think that’s even vaguely safe? Heck, whoever’s after them would be able to kill both of them with one bullet. :P

    This is from an f/f book I read, but still, same idea. The two protags are private investigators and they’re following some guy. He’s gone home, to this big estate with a wall around it, so they park to one side near the gate, staking the place out so they can watch for when he leaves and follow him again. Except while they’re sitting there in their car, they get all hot for one another (because that’s what happens in a spicy romance) and are all over each other, boinking like minks for some period of time. I suspect a brass band could’ve marched out that gate playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” much less one guy driven out, and they’d never have noticed. That’s not sexy, it’s incompetent. I’m pretty sure that’s not the impression the writer wanted to give, but it’s the one I got anyway. [sigh]

    Sex is fine, just make it pull its weight. It needs to have a function in the story, not just be stuck on with duct tape.

    Angie

    1. Sirius

      I still remember a book I have read several years ago which did exactly that – it was a pretty good yaoish fantasy with actual plot till like 75% in the story but then I don’t know what happened – did writer decide that she needed more sex ASAP? Had editor tell her that more sex is urgently needed or else? I kid you not – they are running from the evil guys and then there is a house on their way and for some reason ( which reason I do not remember) they can’t move any further and must wait ?! What for I wonder ? To be killed??!. So they do wait and have a long boink fest. Long and so pointless. Never looked at anything this writer wrote ever again .

      1. Angie

        It’s commonly believed that danger jumpstarts the sex drive, and it might even be true. But what I’ve seen/heard/read suggests that the sex kicks in after the danger is over. And that makes a lot of sense. Figure, people who stopped to boink while a tiger was tracking them wouldn’t have survived to breed — evolution in action, yes? :P

        I think some writers only heard the first part and not the second. So we get:

        danger -> boinking

        instead of the more logical

        danger -> safe -> boinking

        :grin:

        Angie

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Angie

      Did I tell you how much I enjoyed your essay (the one I referred to in the post? :grin: :cool: )

      I have so many examples like the ones quoted by you and Sirius. I’m so sick of reading these types of silly stories because they insult my intelligence and these scenarios are not the least bit exciting, if that was the author’s intention.

      I love your writing because you offer your readers a balance. I have said time and again that the sex should advance the plot and not be the plot. I think it’s our own fault because we (readers) are the ones buying these books so of course the writers think that’s what all of us want. They don’t consider that there are many readers who avoid their books after trying a couple of them and finding them all about the sex.

      There are many writers on my “no buy” list and when readers email me asking for recommendations their names are never on the “recommended” list, unless the reader is looking for a sexfest.

      1. Angie

        You posted it, so I figured you liked it. :D

        I’m so sick of reading these stories because they insult my intelligence

        This, exactly. [sigh/nod] Unless it’s being played for laughs, and the tone of the book is pretty clearly humorous, then this sort of thing just doesn’t work for me. I have a hard time empathizing with a character who’s behaving like an idiot, and “OMG Dirk is just SO HOT!” doesn’t change that. :grumble:

        Angie

        PS — the bit you quoted there was from Ethan. :)

        1. Wave Post author

          Angie:

          Sorry. I had the quote in my reply to Ethan’s comment and didn’t realize that I copied his statement in my response to you. :eek: I deleted the quote.

          Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of our authors – I just wish that some of them would give readers respect by writing stories that didn’t depend so much on the sex to sell them.

          With great characterizations most readers will forgive almost anything. I hope our writers understand that.

          I love sex in M/M books but it should be integral to and advance the plot.

          PS I should meet Dirk. :lol:

          1. Angie

            No prob about the quote; I figured it was just a glitch. :)

            I love sex in M/M books but it should be integral to and advance the plot.

            Exactly. Like I said in my essay, the amount of boinking in a book really isn’t the problem. The problem is pointless boinking. One scene can be pointless, or ten can be perfectly functional, and integral to the story.

            That’s why I ignore heat ratings, as a reader. I don’t mind a lot of boinking if it all has a purpose, and the number of flames or whatever tells me nothing about that.

            And does the heat rating indicate amount ofboinking or intensity of boinking? There can be plain vanilla boinking in every chapter, and by amount that’d be five flames, even if it’s pretty bland. Or a book might have only one boinking scene in it, but if it’s a triple-penetration scene with a shibari tie and a fifty-pin play piercing, and a twelve-inch frozen steel dildo, that sounds like five flames to me, even though it’s only one boinking scene. :) We’re using one rating to measure two different things (or three if you count pointless vs. purposeful); no wonder people are annoyed and confused.

            About heat selling, yeah, that’s always going to be a huge incentive for writers and publishers both to keep writing and selling four- and five-flame books. I’m not sorry that people who love boinkfests have books that they can read and enjoy; there should be books for everyone. I just wish there were some way of labelling things so that you and I and others who dislike pointless boinking didn’t have to waste our money on books we won’t enjoy.

            Angie

            PS — I’ll send Dirk over to play with the Friday guys :D

            PPS — edited to sneak around the spam filter :P

            1. Wave Post author

              Or a book might have only one boinking scene in it, but if it’s a triple-penetration scene with a shibari tie and a fifty-pin play piercing, and a twelve-inch frozen steel dildo, that sounds like five flames to me, even though it’s only one boinking scene

              I have NEVER read a book with THAT and I thought I had read just about every kink there was. :shock: Did you just dream that up or actually read it somewhere Angie?

              As I said earlier, we should have a range of book types or a balance so that there’s something for everyone. However if we (readers) get more and more sexfests without relief some of us will give up and go elsewhere for our reading material. I did for a few months earlier in the year and just read general fiction, which was quite uplifting.

              PS Dirk is quite cute. I had no idea you knew about the Friday Guys Angie. :grin:

              PPS The spam filter likes me – it lets me use whatever words I want. I should try the f bomb to see what happens. :) Maybe Christian give me special dispensation – like a religious thingy. :lol:

              1. Angie

                I just made it up as an example. :whistle: If I ever use it in a story, I’ll let you know. ;)

                I read in other genres as a matter of course, and always have. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m so aware of how a story can be good/interesting/awesome without any sex in it? That might well make a difference. I know a lot of people only read one genre, though, or only read outside their favorite genre very rarely, so I don’t know that the effect, if it exists, is significant to this issue.

                Angie

  8. Jane Davitt

    Thanks, Sirius! Glad you liked ‘The Square Peg’.

    Coming at it from a different angle (heh), I find my tastes have changed as my stack of read m/m books threatens to tip over, it’s so tall. I used to feel like turning the book upside down and shaking it if there was no sex; now I’m more likely to skim the sex scenes if they start popping up every chapter unless they’re really grabbing me.

    I certainly don’t think the story needs copious amounts of sex, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want some; I’m reading romances and I like some sizzle and sweetness in them.

    I guess I’m saying that I want sex that’s there naturally or for a reason (plot-based, advancing the romance, etc), not forced into the story or filler.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Jane

      I guess I’m saying that I want sex that’s there naturally or for a reason (plot-based, advancing the romance, etc), not forced into the story or filler.

      Like you, I look for books that don’t insult my intelligence by making the stories all about sex. I don’t buy M/M books because of the sex – if I want to read about sex I would buy erotica which at least is honest about what it is. M/M books are supposed to be romances which should include great characterizations, an actual plot that makes me sit up and take notice and become engrossed sometimes to the exclusion of anything else, and a credible ending.

      There are very few new books on my DIK list because I can’t find many that deserve to be there.

      Readers tastes differ as they should, and a lot of M/M readers want books that are full of sex and they don’t care about plots or characterizations. Gay men are portrayed as mindless sex machines in these books and I don’t know a lot of them in RL who even come close to that portrayal. I know that this is fantasy but there should be an element of believability too. I know that there are many readers like me who love to read books that tell an actual story where the sex is not the story.

      I think we have enough excellent writers who could give authors on NYT best seller lists a run for their money if only some of them realize how talented they are and use their writing talent to tell a story that’s not so much like dirty bed sheets that deserve to be thrown out. :)

      I love your writing Jane!

  9. Reggie

    Tigers and Devils is one of my favorite/standout books. It has no actual sex but lots of passion and sexual tension. The slot a and b rendition wasn’t necessary. I definitely want passion and sexual tension in my romance (unless it is a historical) but the details aren’t necessary if the stories carry it.
    Knight Errant also had fade to black sex but LOTS of passion between the MCs. It work very well. :grin:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Reggie
      Tigers & Devils is also one of my all time favourites and it has nothing to do with the lack of sex. I just loved the writing and the characters. It’s an ensemble cast with great characters, the plot was fantastic, and for once the female in the book was not portrayed as a witch. There’s so much in this book that made it so rich!! There are many T & D’s out there, I just have to find them. :)

      I too love passion in my romance and that doesn’t mean sex in every chapter.

      I’ll have to check out Knight Errant – thanks for the rec.

  10. EM Lynley

    I did a poll like this a couple of years ago, only I asked authors what they liked to read and what they actually wrote.

    The result was that on average writers wrote 1-2 notches hotter than they actually preferred as readers.

    I used a 1-10 scale, and while everyone had their own idea of how to rate their preferences, it balanced out since it was the comparison of the two rankings that mattered.

    So, yes, writers are writing hotter for the audience, but when they read, they’re looking more for story and characterization than the sex scenes.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi EM

      …. on average writers wrote 1-2 notches hotter than they actually preferred as readers.

      So, yes, writers are writing hotter for the audience, but when they read, they’re looking more for story and characterization than the sex scenes.

      I wonder why authors do that? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that their readers were just like them? Why are they treating us like the red headed stepchild? :eek: I know that there are more readers who probably prefer lots of sex in these books, but at the same time authors complain about M/M being ghettoized and yet they are part of the problem. I know that re-sale sites and publishers sites say that these books are erotic, but not all of them are.

      1. EM Lynley

        I don’t believe I asked why, but my thoughts are that if readers seem to be buying stories with more sex, then writers are trying to please the readers.

        There certainly are some publishers that specifically request specific amounts of sex in the books they will accept. This also drives how writers are writing. I had a story rejected a few years ago from a publisher because it didn’t have enough sex in it. I have heard that particular house doesn’t expect as much sex as they used to, but I still don’t think what I write really fits them, so I’ll stick with publishers that don’t have rules about it. I’d rather write what works for my stories.

        I have noticed that as I write more, I have fewer sex scenes, since especially with established couples, sex doesn’t really drive the plot forward. It might be part of an exploration of a relationship, so there definitely still are sex scenes in my books. But the content of new couple vs. established couple might have a big effect as well.

      2. Angelia Sparrow

        Sometimes it’s not our choice. Sometimes our editor says “Good, but give me 5,000 more words of sexy times. And make the title sexier too!” (IOW, add 10% more, and make it all smut)

        I write the level I would like to read.
        Sometimes, most times, it gets published at about that level.

  11. Kate McMurray

    I pretty much exactly agree with Jane Davitt. I like sexy times in the books I read, but I find myself skimming those scenes more often than not lately. (I mean, there’s a time and a place. If I’m at home, whatever, but if I’m reading in public? Or just not in the mood? That scene is getting skimmed.) I only take issue with a book if, when you remove all the hot scenes, there’s no story left.

    But I’m a firm believer that sex in a novel can be an integral part of and should advance plot/character development. The scenes shouldn’t be gratuitous, or not completely so; they should show how the characters relate to each other, they should advance the relationship, they should tell us something about who these people are and why they are drawn to each other. (I apply this to my writing. I don’t cater to reader demands, I just write what feels right for the story. Honestly!)

    That said, I never look at heat scale when deciding what to read. If there are compelling characters and a good story, I’m good whether there are steamy scenes or not.

    All that said, I think m/m romance has a somewhat unfair reputation for being all porn all the time, to the point where books in which the characters don’t do more on the page than kiss still get tagged as erotica solely because the protagonists are both of the same gender. And that’s an issue that I think is preventing some readers from trying out books in the genre.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kate

      I think m/m romance has a somewhat unfair reputation for being all porn all the time, to the point where books in which the characters don’t do more on the page than kiss still get tagged as erotica solely because the protagonists are both of the same gender. And that’s an issue that I think is preventing some readers from trying out books in the genre.

      I agree that a few of our books get the unfair label of being erotica when they aren’t. However, if you pick up M/M books today I would say thata large percentage of these depend on sex, and the sex becomes the plot rather than advancing the plot. We complain about M/M being ghettoized yet a lot of our authors are perpetuating the problem by increasing the amount of sex in these books as well as the kink. I wonder sometimes how much further they will go. Is fisting the next big thing?

      Many of our authors can’t even write an interesting sex scene and some of them are so boring that I skip them altogether after reading the first couple. It takes talent to write sex – it’s not just fitting tab A into tab B.

      If the characterizations and the plots aren’t there then I’m not interested in reading a book.

      As you know I love your writing because you balance the sex with the characterization with the plot, and the sex is never allowed to become the story nor does it become boring. This is one of the reasons I love to review your books. :)

    2. jeayci

      I agree with Kate’s entire comment, but it’s too long to QFT. I also want to add that I’ve noticed the sex scenes are often when I set the book down to take a break. I get to them and it’s like, “ho hum, nothing much happening here, good time to go [insert activity here]“.

      That’s not always true, of course. But it seems to be true more often than not. :sad: I’ll have to start paying attention to whether that happens with sex scenes that advance the plot or only with gratuitous ones. My suspicion is the latter.

  12. Majken

    I want lots of well written plot and nicely fleshed out characters, romance and erotica aren’t actually needed, just as long as there’s no HET in my books I’m good, m/m or gen is the only way for me ;)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hey Majken

      I’m with you on all the points you made. No het sex for me. It’s been a while since I read a menage with women or a het romance. :eek:

  13. Cryselle

    I don’t purposely read 5 flame books, because they often contain kink that doesn’t entertain me, and generally have a sex to plot ratio that’s too skewed. Four flame books, maybe, but my preferred reading range is 2-3. When picking books to review just off blurbs, I might get more flames than I would normally choose, because I don’t usually check that out before picking. I could, but I’m trying to widen the field.

    I do notice that my review list contains few stories from publishers known to request more heat, and a lot more from pubs who let the authors decide what the story requires.

    Fade to black is fine for at least part of the sex scenes for me, a few well chosen words to symbolize a whole lot of interaction can get my imagination revved up to where I have to stop reading for a while. That often works better than pages of grunt and thrust, especially if some formal anatomical term gets thrown into a hot and sweaty section like a brick through a window.

    And the sex always has to further the plot or the relationship.

    What, me picky? :cool:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hey Crys

      Fade to black is fine for at least part of the sex scenes for me, a few well chosen words to symbolize a whole lot of interaction can get my imagination revved up to where I have to stop reading for a while. That often works better than pages of grunt and thrust,

      Isn’t amazing what the readers’ imagination can do if it’s allowed to take flight rather than have everything on the page? I love it when an author’s writing is so arresting that I break out in goose bumps. :grin:

      Of course many readers love the grunt and thrust and so they should, because if we were all the same our authors’ writing would become stagnant, catering to one taste for the genre.

      No, you’re not being picky. If you are, I love that kind of picky. :cool:

  14. Hannah E.

    Is this a poll, or an editorial? :-P The lead-in to the poll definitely makes it clear what you’d like the poll results to look like, and so does the structure and language of the poll itself. Not that I don’t agree with a lot of your sentiments. I’m just not sure your results are going to be terribly useful after the participants have been abashed by your plea to “raise the bar a little by not using our purchasing power to buy books that have the highest heat level.”

    Personally, I don’t tend to read any romances, m/m or m/f, that have no sex in them (although I’m willing to make exceptions for some historicals). I find fade-to-black scenes frustrating, because it shuts me out of an important aspect of the MCs’ relationship. However, I prefer a balance between plot, dialog, and sexual content.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Hannah

      I expressed my opinion in the post as I always do, but this is not an editorial, it is a poll and it’s anonymous, so readers can vote however they choose. You may have noticed that in addition to the quote in your comment I also said:

      Could we encourage those authors who write plotty books that don’t have much sex by actually buying some of these books?

      One of things that authors constantly complain about is that M/M romance is being ghettoized by being lumped with porn. If we get a balance of different heat levels in M/M romances, hopefully that may help to change the reputation that these books seem to have. That’s the reason for me using the term “raising the bar.” If most of the writers who don’t write books with a heat level of 5 were to stop writing, all we would be left with are the authors who write books with wall to wall sex.

      The other complaint I often hear is that readers can’t get their friends to try M/M romances because of the belief that all of these books are wall to wall sex. This comment was meant to address that concern:

      If we’re trying to ”sell” M/M by promoting it to our friends who don’t see this genre as a credible alternative to what they currently read, should we not raise the bar by encouraging our writers to pen books with engaging, believable characters and actual plots, rather than stories that at times seem thrown together just to hang sex scene after sex scene?

      I read M/M romances with all heat levels and review them, and I do enjoy stories rated at heat level 5 as I stated in the post:

      I don’t mean to imply that all books with lots of sex aren’t wonderful stories with lots of plot and great characters – that would not be true as some of my favourites do have a lot of heat. However, it’s a shame that we don’t acknowledge through our wallets the great job being done by authors who don’t write books with high heat levels.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Hannah. :)

  15. Karin

    I think it’s also a matter of how long you’ve M/M. I’ve found over time, that people new to the genre generally fall into one of two groups: Either they want all sex all the time, or they want none or “lite” because they’re still getting used to the idea of reading about men having sex. The ones in the first group tend to devour their stories for a good while before it tapers off and they get more interested in a good story, no matter the sex.

    Personally, I want a good story. I want there to be a connection (both between myself as a reader and the characters, and between the protagonist and his love interest. If it contains a lot of sex, it had better be there to move the story along. If there is little to no sex, but it suits the story, then that’s perfectly fine with me, too.

    That said, there are those times where I do enjoy a PWP, but those are more the exception than the rule, for me.

    As for examples… The Little Boy Lost series by J.P. Barnaby, for one. I also know she’s working on another book that is absolutely amazing. You can catch snippits now and then if you follow her on Facebook ;-)

    1. EM Lynley

      Great points, Karin!
      I know when I first started reading and writing I liked a higher sex-to-plot ratio than I do now. I find it much more enjoyable to explore other aspects of the relationship, and to see how the MCs change or grow throughout a book.

      As a writer, it’s fun getting any couple together the first time, but since I started writing series, with established couples, I almost feel like we don’t need to be in the bedroom with them all the time. They need some privacy! :) It’s usually the other aspects of the relationship that are in question once they’ve done the deed that very first time, unless the book is BDSM, which can have a continuous highly sexualized relationship.

      But, writers do want to please their readers, and if the readers are proving with their wallets that they want higher sex levels, then some writers will add in more than they might think necessary.

      1. Karin

        I write, too (not published, nor am I looking to be), and yes it can be fun to get them together at first. But it can be equally fun to have established couples. In both cases, the fun doesn’t have equate to showing sex, in my opinion. ;-)

        I’ve actually had the girl that goes through my stories beg me for sex (for the MC! I mean, please! Out of the gutter ;-)) and I’ve flat out refused. She loves reading sex (and I do, too), but I’m not going to put it in “just because it’s wanted” when it’s not what the story needs. Hell, I’ve had readers (fanfiction, sorry, I know it’s not a popular word lol) beg, too, and they get the same answer.

        1. EM Lynley

          I did say “some writers.” Personally, I don’t put in more than the plot needs and maybe I don’t sell as many books as I could. I won’t add sex for the sake of selling books. But the sex scenes I write should sizzle and tell the reader something about the characters that they wouldn’t otherwise know or discover.

          However, for authors who want to be published or to sell more, they may choose to consider other issues and they may also like writing more sex. I won’t judge what other writers do. As I writer I make my own decisions about my stories. I’ve never had another publisher tell me to put in more (or less) sex.

          As a reader, I choose the books which interest me, regardless of heat ratings. I often skim or even skip extraneous or badly written sex scenes, just to get to what’s really happening in the story. Then I’ll decide if I want to read more by the same author.

  16. Wave Post author

    Guys
    I have to go out for a few hours but I’ll be back to see how the poll is coming along as well as to answer your comments. :)

  17. Issa

    I’ll admit when I started in on m/m, it was all about the sex. It was new and different and fascinating to me. Now that I’ve seen just about every where tab A can go I want more plot. So it’s been a progression. for me, the first time I read any m/m stories without sex were the free stories at Goodreads like the LiAW event. Before then I didn’t realize such things existed.

    But I imagine if someone only reads erotica and comes over to m/m for a different type of the same, then non sex books will never appeal.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Issa

      You made some excellent points. I have been reading these books since 2003 so the sex is not new to me, but I’m guessing for a new reader it would be like WOW – guys actually do that? As for erotica readers I admit that books with a lower level of heat would never appeal. However, for the regular readers, switching things around for books with more plot and better characterization might be the way to go. :) At least I hope they give it a try.

  18. Ilona

    I like m/m romance because it is romance and, just like in f/m romance, the sex is a nice addition to the story and when well used it helps the story along. If I wanted sex for sex sake I would borrow porn mags from hubby!!

  19. Allie2

    I choose books by author, plot and excerpt, and rarely look at the heat rating.

    One point I’d like to make is that using the description “sweet” for a romance that doesn’t have a lot of on-screen sex can be doing it a disservice. “Sweet” to me carries the connotation that the story might be lacking in strong plot and emotional tension, rather than sex. I’m happy not to have detailed sex scenes, but a book without a serious (to the characters) issue to be resolved in the plot, or which doesn’t deal with strong emotions, is always going to disappoint.

    1. Angie

      I see where you’re coming from, but sexless romances have been called “sweet” for at least thirty years, and I doubt it’s going to change any time soon. [wry smile] Easier just to remember that a sweet romance doesn’t have any sex, and that “sweet” has no connotations of lacking in plot or tension.

      Angie

  20. Ariss

    To be brutally honest, I have a low opinion of most m/m published works. They seem to cater to a certain reader that needs large amounts of sex and characters who act like they’re teens without regards to plot or real life situations. This is why I’m always happy to find the rare gem whose writer has obviously worked on making the characters believable and including things like plot/story progression/realistic ending.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ariss

      It might surprise you to know that there are many M/M authors who write books with a coherent plot, strong, believable characters and a believable ending. In addition the heat level is usually pretty low. These are among my favourite authors and I can’t wait for each new book they release. However a large percentage of our authors seem to think that page after page of sex is what readers want, and unfortunately a lot of readers make believers out of them.

  21. Josie

    It’s the plot that matters, and how the characters interact. The first m/m/m book I ever read had almost no sex in it, I loved it and still do, plus it was novel length as well. I actually find myself skimming past the sex in most books now, although I do read BDSM and in those books sex is important, but in all other types of stories no we don’t need tons of sex.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Anne

      I can’t tell if the counter is working or not because I voted and it’s stuck on my vote. I’ll email Christian and ask him if that’s how it’s supposed to work but he lives in Germany and he may already be in bed.

  22. Rhys Ford

    As a writer, I want to write something that has a plot. Yeah, I’m going to toss sex in there because let’s face it… they’re guys. They’re going to have sex. But I don’t want to write a wall-to-wall.

    As a reader (and man do I read a lot), I want a plot. I do. Sometimes I find myself skipping over long sex scenes because I’m looking for the story. Other times, the sex scene is seamless and makes sense to have in the plot.

    There are some tropes I’m getting tired of. The counting off of fingers during a stretch scene is worn out. Someone once read a scene like that out loud to me using the Count’s voice from Sesame Street and now, I can’t NOT hear it. :::grins:: :XD:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Rhys

      The counting off of fingers during a stretch scene is worn out. Someone once read a scene like that out loud to me using the Count’s voice from Sesame Street and now, I can’t NOT hear it. :::grins:

      Now that is really funny.

      You said that as a reader you want a plot. I hope that other authors really hear you, because many of them don’t seem to understand that the only writing that doesn’t need a plot is porn.

      1. Rhys Ford

        Seriously, once you hear it… you are ruined.

        I’ve always advocated a more delineated structure for m/m books. I think the genre has grown to the point where we no longer fit under the “erotica umbrella”. But at what point do we say, this is just a regency romance or mystery? Will we reach that point in the genre where an urban fantasy is written and not have a de facto sex scene to hit all the checkboxes on the list. We’re just at a growing point… an inflection point if you will. It’ll be interesting to see where we all are in a couple of years. :crystalball2:

    2. Angie

      Someone once read a scene like that out loud to me using the Count’s voice from Sesame Street and now, I can’t NOT hear it.

      ROFLMAO!!

      Angie

    3. jeayci

      The counting off of fingers during a stretch scene is worn out. Someone once read a scene like that out loud to me using the Count’s voice from Sesame Street and now, I can’t NOT hear it. :::grins::

      OMG I’m seriously LMAO!! :hysterics: I was already inclined to roll my eyes, but now I suspect I’m going to burst out LMAO every time I see that from now on.

  23. Karen

    I have no problem with, or even may very much enjoy, wall-to-wall sex if it’s well-written, the characters are engaging, and it advances the plot. I don’t mind if wall-to-wall sex is (underline) the plot if the author is telling a story in a clever, distinctive, and literate way.

    I care about intelligent writing, and in several instances books I include in that category have long and/or detailed sex scenes.

    I also enjoy stories with fade-to-black or less graphic focus; it’s all about the story.

    Josh Lanyon and J.C. Price are among a number of authors I love who write very hot sex scenes that always advance the plot. (In their case, sex is not the plot.) I recently read a wonderful Tamara Allen book (Downtime) that was fade-to-black and still very sensual.

    I actually don’t believe that most of our best m/m romance writers feel pressured to include graphic or “excessive” sex by readers. I think they do so because it works for their stories and they like it. At least that’s the way it feels to me as a reader.

    1. Sirius

      Hi Karen, I think we speculate about the writers feeling pressured to write excessive sex in the books where sex to some of us feels, well excessive :).

      I would never in the million years for example think that JCP felt pressured to write the sex scenes in Psycop, you know?

      Advances the story, hot, lets me get to know Vic and Jacob more, I think sex fits very well in those stories, but I can cite quite a few where for me, and of course we all have different tastes, sex felt as unnecessary extras.

      Totally agree about “Downtime” – sensual with no on screen sex whatsoever, but I am just a touch biased where this writer is concerned, I will read anything done by her :)

      1. Karen

        I wouldn’t exactly describe it as “no on screen sex whatsoever.” There’s lots of kissing, foreplay, touching, stroking, and of course emotion — but never a play-by-play of slot-to-slot. Quite lovely.

        Not to say that I don’t enjoy well-written slot-to-slot.

        But yes, I’ve picked up very weakly written scene-to-scene slot-to-slot “plots,” enough to trust my gut instincts after an excerpt reading no matter the rating or positive reviews. Most of these seemed like new/inexperienced writers trying to write based only on what they had read (and having read only the sex scenes), and without any actual experience of any of the acts, even from a f/m POV. ;-)

        1. Sirius

          Right. Sorry. There are kisses and touches and emotion – not sure if I agree about a lot of foreplay, but I think we are pretty much describing same interpretation of intimacy in Downtime . When I say ” no on screen sex” I mean no explicit sex. Have you read her Whistling in the Dark? That one has couple of kisses and some touches and I am actually wondering if you will see it as sensual because that one IMO has even less description of intimacy. Now to me her “The only gold” is the most sexually descriptive book of hers but I would still say that it does not count as very explicit at all – she just allows us to see more intimacy. Sorry can never pass the chance to talk about Tamara Allen’s books. And yeah what you said about unexperienced writers.

          1. Karen

            Yes, Sirius, I think we’re on the same page here. I was specifically thinking of a bathtub scene — not explicit, but clearly implied. I have “Only the Gold” near the top of my TBR queue, and will begin to read through her other titles. I definitely look for “Whistling in the Dark.” Thanks for the mention.

  24. Finn Marlowe

    Once in a while I want a really sexy book, but most of the time I look for a good story, I want it to take me away, make me forget I’m reading because I’m so deep in my imagination. Hard to get to that point with non-stop crappy sex scenes. But there’s room for both on my Kindle!

    I can’t imagine any editor asking for more sex scenes, that sounds bizarre. Do some really do that? But then, I didn’t get asked to tone down A Thread of Deepest Black either, and I think it has one of, if not THE longest sex scene…so maybe there’s something to that (not that I did it on purpose). But I have tried to balance out the sex with more world building, now I’m more aware of it.

    1. Karen

      Finn, I adored A Thread of Deepest Black and the sex scenes were stellar! I just fell in love with your HMs, and this was a case where the reader got to know the characters best during sex. Hmmm, I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say here.

  25. Madde

    I’d recommend J.P. Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series; great characters and plot, and the sex is meaningful and there’s not to much of it.

  26. Karin

    I came to m/m books because I heard about Josh Lanyon. And he is the best!
    Since then I read many m/m books. The last one was “Bareback” because I heard a lot of praise on this site – even now.
    Is it a difference in education? Don`t I understand it? I can`t believe it. That is a book that cries SEX SELLS! After reading half of the book I asked myself: When will the story begin? Every problem that occured had just one solution: Sex.
    If this were my first m/m book it would have been the last. Dont`t get me wrong, I love sex scenes. But I need a plot.
    For Ethan Stone: I bought Bartender PI and I loved it.

    1. Wave Post author

      Karin
      Bareback was the first M/M book I read 9 years ago where there was actually a HEA. In all of the other so-called gay romances written 20 years or more ago one of the heroes always died. I loved it because I found it refreshing, even though there was a lot of sex in the book, and I also loved the characters. They went through hell together and eventually had a HEA after a lot of heartache, something unheard of for gay romances (the HEA not the heartache). :)

      I think it’s a matter of different tastes because I do believe the book had a plot: One man was trying to overcome his past and another who was forced out of the closet by the boss’s daughter who had a crush on him and the consequences. Of course there were many other issues in the book – Jake managing the ranch, having a lover (Tor) who worked for himand how that impacted their relationship, a fun foursome, death, and everything in between.

      I love books that have high heat levels as well as those with none. What I’m asking in this post is if there could ever be a balance in M/M romances where we seem to ignore well written books with minimal heat levels in favour of those that are off the scale hot.

      I, too, loved Bartender and as a matter of fact I reviewed it on the site. I thought it was one of the most fun books I had read in a long time. :) I didn’t even notice that there was no sex because I enjoyed the writing so much.

  27. jeayci

    I would also ask you to submit recommendations of M/M books that you love which do not just titillate our baser senses…

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I want to address this before I forget. I (rarely) remember how much or how little sex occurred in a story. If it was a good story, I remember how much I loved the characters and plot.

    If it’s not a good story, I may not remember it at all. But sex or lack thereof is rarely what stands out in my mind after I’ve finished a story (with the exception of something like Sean Michael, which is impossible to remember without thinking of sex). So that makes it difficult to specifically recommend good books without much sex. But if you want recs for good books, in general? I can so do that! :grin:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Jess

      I was actually looking recs of books that have less sex than the norm, like the ones in the post I did a couple of years ago. In addition to mine, many other recommendations came from the reviewers.

      Obviously any recommendations would be books that really impressed you because they had all the elements we all look for in any genre.

      1. jeayci

        Oh, I was clear what you’re looking for, Wave. The problem is that I rarely remember if books have less sex than the norm, I just remember if they were good or not. That’s just not a way I can break down books. Which isn’t surprising, considering my answers to the poll:

        I don’t care either way – I just want a good story. Which, frankly, said it all as far as I was concerned. I only chose a second because you said to pick two. :lol:

        I think the sex in M/M romances should advance the plot, otherwise it’s just porn by another name. I picked that because it was the next closest thing to my first choice. :grin:

    2. Sirius

      You know, I am kind of like you in this one Jeayci, although not quite :). I usually *do* remember when the book contains a lot of sex or no explicit sex at all. Now, what I can almost never remember is how many sex scenes the book contains exactly :), you know? Three, four, five? Always becomes a blurr to me :)

      Oh recommendations. Definitely Carole Cummings’ books – story and characters takes precedent, and she can write sexual tension as nobody’s business and often *very* little explicitness. I wish more writers could do that. I have had other issues with her Wolf’s -own books, but love story was superb IMO and it was a *story*. I just finished drafting review for the last book in the series, so these books are kind of on the front of my mind :)

  28. K. Z. Snow

    Honestly, my eyes glaze over when there’s humpity-humpity-humpity throughout a story (although I’ll give a pass to James Lear, who makes sex entertaining. :cool:) If those scenes turn up with every other flip of the page, and then go on for pages upon pages, I turn into a skimming fiend . . . and a none-too-happy one. (Just got my hands on a book like that, and I abandoned it less than halfway through.)

    I need some substance and uniqueness — engaging, well-developed characters caught up in a situation that holds my interest. Good writing is essential, too. Far as I’m concerned, sex is entirely optional if a story is well crafted.

    1. Wave Post author

      James Lear is one of the few authors who manages to make sex fun and I love his books because they are so raunchy, but he doesn’t pretend they are romances. :grin:

      Far as I’m concerned, sex is entirely optional if a story is well crafted.

      I’m totally on side with your statement KZ. Right now I’m reading a lot of general fiction because I’m suffering from an overload of sex in M/M books.

  29. Angelia Sparrow

    As a writer, I find that keeping the sex between 15 and 25% of the word count feels right. I can go as high as 30, but then it starts to feel like all sex all the time. Of course, sometimes one just wants a sexy romp, with minimal plot, and that’s fine too.

    As a reader, I tend to read very little m/m. Of the 32 I’ve read this year, 3 have been m/m, and one of those was because I was beta-ing the sequel. I’m more into horror and space opera, with no sex at all right now. (I just finished a really rough editing tour on a 100K het cyberpunk novel and quite frankly, I’m not interested in men or their penises for a while, thanks)

    There are authors I know will give me a solid story. There are authors I know will just string sex scenes together. I buy the former.

    1. Wave Post author

      Angel

      I find that keeping the sex between 15 and 25% of the word count feels right. I can go as high as 30, but then it starts to feel like all sex all the time.

      That sounds like a reasonable balance. At least then we get a story and not a sexual romp. If I want to read porn I shouldn’t be looking for it in M/M romances.

      There are authors I know will give me a solid story. There are authors I know will just string sex scenes together. I buy the former.

      Exactly what I do.

  30. Z.A. Maxfield

    Weighing in late on this, but I’ve been thinking the same thing lately because I’ve participated in several panel discussions about it lately. It seems to me there are three necessary arcs in a romance novel: plot, emotional intimacy, and physical intimacy. I read for the emotional arc, and the books that get my vote and the authors who get my money, are those that lean heavily on the falling in love part of the equation.

    If I’m not in the mood to read a sex scene, I still read sweet romance, or I read a different kind of book than the type of m/m I usually buy. I still skip a LOT of sex scenes when I’m reading.

    I’m not saying I ever achieve a good balance when I write, but I have in my mind this idea that a good romance novel is a triangle, and the plot has to support the emotional side and physical intimacy side. I believe when you enter a sex scene, for the most part it has to show the development of physical and emotional intimacy within the context of plot.

    I remember reading a number of regency romance novels that began with a really erotic scene in which our rake is in bed with his mistress. Of course we see what a magnificent lover he is, but he’s jaded and he’s bored, and she’s irritated so she throws a hairbrush or a vase at him, and on the way back to his London townhouse he decides to make arrangements to buy her something pretty and set her aside.

    I used to ask myself what that scene was there for? This chick will never show up in the rest of the book and I didn’t need those intimate details.

    I think as writers sometimes we take that “show don’t tell” thing a little too far, and I wonder why a writer couldn’t just say, “Our hero was bored. Bored, bored, bored,” and leave it at that.

    On the other hand, I enjoy well written erotica if I’m in the mood for it. It’s pleasurable and can act as a sort of mood setter.

    As usual, I couldn’t be more indecisive. I know what I like to read, and all the writers mentioned here (and those who have written in) are generally auto-buys for me.

    One funny story. I wrote a fan letter to Josh Lanyon at two in the morning after I read Fatal Shadows, and I hope he didn’t mind that i was a little facetious. I gushed, of course because that’s a terrific, terrific book, and went on to say “Thank you for including a plot in your novel. Readers love that.”

    :grin:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi ZAM

      “Thank you for including a plot in your novel. Readers love that.”

      That was so funny. I wonder what Josh thought. :???: Did he ever reply? :)

      I agree with a lot of what you said. I love the emotional intimacy – these books are supposed to be romances after all. Empty sex scenes turn me off unless I’m reading a book I know is PWP, then I don’t mind. However when a book is marketed as a romance that’s what I expect to get, but more and more M/M romances resemble erotica or PWP, which is not what I think I should be getting when I buy M/M romances. Hell, I know where to get porn and it’s free.

      The heroes in most of these books hardly talk to each other before jumping into bed or sucking each other off so I never get to know them, and if I can’t relate to the characters then I can’t love the book.

      There is room for everyone’s tastes to be met in this genre. However, it seems to me that readers who are looking for a romance, with protagonists with whom they can fall in love and go on a journey of discovery, are being ignored in favour of those readers who don’t care about anything but the amount of sex in these books.

      Sex is wonderful in the hands of an experienced and skillful writer, but most of the new writers are playing follow the leader, and it’s just tab A into slot B. I love well written sex scenes that move the plot along which express the physical intimacy between the heroes, but I can’t stand those sex scenes that are thrown together to extend the length of the book or give it 5 flames instead of 3. Most of the readers and even authors are saying that they skip the sex in these books (I find most of it boring) so why are we getting so much badly written sex?

      I’m hoping that a lot of the concerns expressed by others will make a few authors rethink their strategies. If not, the ghettoizing that we complain about will be hardwired into this genre and there will be no turning back.

  31. Tamara

    I like to read m/m romances on the sweet side. Those aren’t easy to find.

    As far as writing them, I’ve felt pressure to write more frequent and definitely more graphic scenes. I lost out on one publisher because they asked that I include more sex and I couldn’t bring myself to do that. It never felt right for the story.

    I don’t think I’d feel comfortable, writing more explicitly, whether in m/m or m/f. It does hurt my sales. Even with good reviews, I sell very poorly, compared with others writing m/m. Some months I may sell as many as twenty copies, but usually the number is lower.

    I do realize that could just as likely be because plot, characters, or my writing doesn’t appeal. I also really suck at promotion. :) But I do have a number of reviews bemoaning the lack of sex scenes. I have to assume that’s a big part of the reason I don’t sell.

    It’s discouraging, but readers like what they like–so, yes, if you want to sell well in m/m, you are better off including frequent sex (whether or not you include plot. It’s been my impression that even without plot, books that are explicit and considered hot are bestsellers.)

    Makes me kind of sad sometimes, because I really do love writing m/m. I’d probably find greater success with m/f, though. That’s just simply how it is.

    1. Wave Post author

      Mara

      Makes me kind of sad sometimes, because I really do love writing m/m. I’d probably find greater success with m/f, though. That’s just simply how it is.

      What you’re saying makes me sad if we lose a writer of your caliber. So many readers love your books and have indicated this in the comments. If you were to quit because your books don’t have enough sex for the majority of M/M readers, then that would prove what I predicted all along would happen. The writers who refuse to write PWP are being forced out of the genre because of economics. After all, there’s no point writing for a small fraction of readers who love your work. If we don’t buy books by authors whose writing we appreciate we will lose them.

      I can’t imagine not being able to buy new quality books like Downtime and The Only Gold. If you stop writing for this genre we would all be the losers.

      I like to read m/m romances on the sweet side. Those aren’t easy to find.

      As far as writing them, I’ve felt pressure to write more frequent and definitely more graphic scenes. I lost out on one publisher because they asked that I include more sex and I couldn’t bring myself to do that. It never felt right for the story.

      This is exactly what shouldn’t happen and I feel badly for you. You write exceptional books and yet you’re not appreciated.

      1. Tamara

        I think (and hope) that as m/m readership continues to expand, there will be more readers willing to give less explicit stories a try. Writers who produce a more low key type of book just need to keep hanging in there (if they can afford to,) on the chance we’ll find more of an audience later on.

        Sometimes I do feel it’s not fair to come down so hard on the m/m genre, since books in every market (except Christian inspirationals) sell better with explicit scenes (or at least that’s my understanding.) M/f has had the advantage of being around for ages and so possesses the widest range of romance, from sweet to eye-openingly explicit. M/m (as opposed to gay romance) got going in an era where explicit scenes were the norm, so why wouldn’t the majority of it be explicit? (Not the most obvious reason, but it makes me feel better. :))

        I’ve heard from a few m/m readers who’ve been willing to give sweet romance a shot and they generally say they’re surprised they enjoyed it. I think your post may encourage a few more to give it a chance (I hope!) so thank you.

  32. Kaje Harper

    So many of my favorites are low on the sex – not just some by Josh Lanyon, but Andrea Speed’s Infected series, anything by Tamara Allen (wonderful one and all), Jim Grimsley’s Comfort and Joy, and some books that have hotter sex but as a very small percentage of the pages like King Perry or After Ben or Scrap Metal.

    The more I read in this field the more I appreciate plot, characters and books that have sex only when it really advances the story and with an emphasis on the emotional rather than the physical side.

    In the brief time I’ve been publishing, I haven’t ever had a publisher ask me to put in more sex. Either I’m working for good publishers or I’m writing more sex than I realize :)

  33. Ione

    Well, I’m over my snit about the spam filter rejecting me the first time, so I’ll try again. Oddly enough, my first post specifically mentioned Tamara Allen — and I see she picked up on my brain waves, since she posted right after my first try!

    Please forgive me for the long posting below. I do get awfully windy at times!

    What I was trying to say before was that I read romances — ANY romances, mm or mf or whatever — mostly for the emotion and character. S* scenes are also fun, but for me they are by no means necessary. Ms. Allen came into the picture because I’m in the middle of Whistling in the Dark right now — which has no explicit s* at all.

    Make no mistake, I do enjoy s* scenes — but I get awfully tired of mechanical s* (insert tab A into slot B). What I really want, if there are going to be s* scenes, is s* that expands upon the characters and their emotions. I want emotional passion, not just physical passion. If I just wanted the physical act of s*, I could watch free internet porn instead of paying good money for books.

    As for favorites — I think I got caught by the spam filter the first time around because I mentioned a certain web site that starts with G and ends with Reads. I was trying to say that, of the 300 mm books I’ve rated on that site so far, I’ve only given 5 star ratings to 7 books. They are:

    Life After Joe by Harper Fox — my favorite of all shorter mm stories, it does a wonderfully efficient job of painting an emotional canvas. I would still love this story if you removed all the explicitly s*l descriptions.

    Scrap Metal by Harper Fox — does the same thing as Life After Joe, plus it does a great job of using s* scenes to show intimacy rather than simple lust.

    Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon — I don’t even remember how many actual s* scenes are in this. It’s my favorite of the Adrien English books, which are all great, because of the depth of Adrien’s emotional struggles in this one. Josh is great with character in most of his stories.

    Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane — a great example of the overwrought hyperemotional style of romance writing. This style can make me want to roll my eyes and tear my hair out at times, but she is so GOOD at it that I really enjoy it. Lots of sex.

    Bonds of Earth by GN Chevalier — more people need to read this one. There are not many s* scenes, and it takes a long time to get to them. This is a more literary style, and a historical. I am looking forward to more books by her.

    Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander — this is on my list because it’s so outrageous in so many ways, it had me laughing and gasping by turn. A real surprise for a first time author to do this well.

    Between Sinners and Saint by Marie Sexton — I put this on the list because of the delicate and balanced treatment she gave to both religion and abuse.

    This is all my long-winded way of saying that none of my favorites are chosen for the amount of s* they contain, or for the “hotness” of their sex scenes. I’m looking for other things in those books.

    And btw, the books that I do reread for s* scenes may surprise you. Specifically, the Cut & Run series. Lousy stupid ridiculous plots at times, but the emotional and physical passion between the MCs is — IMNSHO — just out of this world. But note that, even in these books, there IS a plot! LOL!

  34. Karen

    OK, so on a lighter note, where is all the free porn everyone is mentioning? Sorry, just kidding. Really. Kidding. (I’ll Google.) :grin:

    1. Wave Post author

      No need to google. :grin: There’s a post on this site that has thousands of hits called Do you Watch Gay Porn? Here’s a link:

      http://tinyurl.com/48ekbzp

      Even though the post is 3 years old I’ve been told that a lot of the links are still live. :blush:

      1. Ione

        And none of the sites I had in mind were on that list! LOL! There is a veritable treasure trove of free porn out there these days. Overall, though, I’d rather give up free porn than paid-for romance books.

        1. Wave Post author

          Ione

          Overall, though, I’d rather give up free porn than paid-for romance books.

          As long as you get what you pay for. :eek:

  35. Jules Jones

    I’ve had complaints from readers about my less steamy titles being not steamy enough. How much of this was simply being disappointed because I had somewhat of a reputation for writing 6 flame stuff on a 5 flame scale I don’t know, but apparently 1 short sex scene at the end of a 10 kiloword short was Not Enough.

    So I can understand why authors stuff in extra sex scenes (ooh er missus), and why their editors ask them to. Sex sells. It’s a bit hard on readers and writers who like the sweeter stuff instead or as well, but I know from my own sales figures that if I want to maximise my income I should be writing only the steamier end of my range.

    Of course, the upcoming release is a short with a 1 page sex scene, and the wip doesn’t have actual sex until 20 kilowords in. So I will be very glad if the campaign for showing the sweet stuff some love gets some traction. :-)

    1. Angie

      You know, in all seriousness, if you’re known for your ultra-sexfest books, then it’d probably be a good idea to start a new pseud if you want to write less sexy stuff. It works both ways — people who buy you because they want the ultra-boinkage would be disappointed not to get it, and people who prefer less boinkage have probably heard that you’re the boinkfest writer and avoid you, so the people who’d like a sweeter book won’t buy it. :/ That’s lose-lose. Starting a new name for the new chunk of audience would be the way to go.

      Angie

      1. Jules Jones

        I’ve considered it. But given the value of name recognition and my slow output, it may be counter-productive – particularly when you factor in that some of my high smut rating stuff doesn’t actually have a massive porn to plot page count ratio, it’s just that the sex tends to be, shall we say, memorable. A different pseud would not stop the complaints about Dolphin Dreams of all books having too much not-sex page count. :-) Yes, seriously. There are reviews complaining about the amount of wordage devoted to what the dolphin boys are doing when they’re not bonking, and I suspect that it’s a reflection of what you’ve suggested. The book has a reputation for being a bonkfest with heavy duty kink, and some people bought it expecting wall to wall sex.

        The issue that made me seriously consider a different pseud is an entirely different problem. My current readership is mostly people who know me for my romance writing, but I didn’t start in romance. The shorts that aren’t romance but are happy fun time porn aren’t really an issue, but the ones that have an anti-HEA could cause me problems with readers who assumed that because it has my name on the cover it must be romance. I spent a lot of time writing the blurb for the short that’s being re-issued by Musa next week, because I need to minimise the risk that people will read the blurb and not realise that they’re not getting an HEA.

        1. Angie

          Right, I’ve had a bit of that, where books in this genre are just assumed to be romances. [wry smile] Figuring out where the boundaries are can be tricky, especially if you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that they’re So Far Out There compared with the boundaries around het romance.

          Angie

        2. Wave Post author

          Jules

          I spent a lot of time writing the blurb for the short that’s being re-issued by Musa next week, because I need to minimise the risk that people will read the blurb and not realise that they’re not getting an HEA.

          Can’t you just say in the blurb that there is no HEA? Dreamspinner has a whole line of stories with no HEAs and from what I heard it’s pretty successful. I’ve read hundreds of love stories with no HEAs because of the policy that publishers established years ago that books with gays in love should not have a happy ending or they wouldn’t publish them. Yet books like Brokeback Mountain and The Front Runner are still hugely popular. OTOH there’s a writer that I refuse to read anymore because she wrote an epilogue to a book just to kill off one of the MCs. :( It’s all in the writing.

          1. Jules Jones

            There’s a limit to what you can say in a blurb about a 5500 word story without spoilering it to death, and I was asked to pull back a little for that reason. It’s not being advertised as a romance, and it’s not from my usual publisher, so I’m hoping there won’t be too many problems with readers assuming that it’s a fairy tale therefore it must have a HEA ending. (No, fairy tales do not always have a fairy tale ending. Especially the Irish ones, which is what this is.)

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