Friend Aldo recently commented that he should be coming to me for gay erotica/romance recommendations. Having no blog for today, I decided to share my (short) list of (relatively) decent titles with the world. It’s important to remember that the majority of these were picked because they were under $4 in the Kindle app store. The top three are all actual books that I actually bought. The quality of porn on the internet, even porn that you pay for is wildly, insanely variable.
To be honest, I’ve lately found myself drawn to the most poorly written swill I can find. I won’t mention any of them here, but let’s just say that some of these books probably started life as My Summer Break essays by extremely horny West Hollywood ESL students. There’s something about really terrible books that makes me so happy. As an aspiring writer of fiction, it’s just a damn good feeling to know in your heart of hearts that you have to be better than this guy. Everything boils down to who is cocky (heh) and ballsy (hehe) enough to go forward and grab (my head’s gonna explode [ahahahaha]) what they want.
Moving forward! I want you to know that I am no expert, just your friendly neighborhood horn dog. But I do have some standards. Barring a part where I was totally not paying attention, the following books have absolutely none of the three most terrible romance/erotica cliches that make me want to bite my own eyes out:
The chin raiser – Why do all these romancers keep grabbing people’s chins? If this dude wanted to look you in the eye, he would raise his own fucking head! Moving another person’s head is only okay in the instance that you need a better angle for your dick, or when they have palsy or something and need a little help. Help they’ve explicitly asked for.
The stalker – What’s sexier than telling a stranger that you’re meant to be together every time you see them? Broccoli. Broccoli is sexier.
The out and out rapist – Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to resist setting my phone on fire just to purge the fucking rape scene some crazy calls a romantic gesture. Like, if I was reading something specifically for a rape scene, I’d welcome that shit. But half the time there’s this weird “I love you so much, I have to do this/can’t help myself/you were asking for it by telling me no and/or being unconscious” bullshit and it makes me very unhappy.
Sadly, Cut and Run does have otherwise practical and unsentimental dudes immediately calling each other “baby” as soon as their dicks have touched. This is the cheapest, most terrible way to denote intimacy and I hate it. But it’s even more pervasive than the chin raiser, the stalker and the rapist in the kindle romance department, so a little bit got through.
Anyway, on to the list.
1. The Back Passage by James Lear: I came across James Lear through Rupert Smith’s A Man’s World, a funny and fast-paced romance set in WWII and modern-day London showing the intersecting lives and loves of two men; one a pre-stonewall soldier and the other an a-political party boy. Its not erotica, but you should pick it up. I liked its snappy Britishness paired with a heavy dose of accurately depicted super-bad old times. But it’s not erotica, which is why it’s not on this list.
Rupert Smith and James Lear are the same person, Smith uses the pen name of Lear for his racier stuff, for example: The Back Passage, which is the first in a series that follows amateur detective Mitch Mitchell on his debauched adventures where just about every available dude is completely DTF. Although it’s set in 1925, this is definitely not the bad old days. The story takes place in a fantasy world where the threat of anti-gay legislation is mostly lip service because all the dudes in this mother be fucking. The thing that makes The Back Passage number one is that the story is actually fun and interesting beyond the rampant sex. Mitch is totally somebody I want to be my friend. He’s just the right amount of noble and immoral that makes the best partner in crime.
2. The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: This is a comic book in the Japanese bara style, which means that the dudes are huge in all the best and most fun ways. As cuddly as these tall, chunk, and handsome bears are, this shit is not for the faint of heart. Those of you who do not have an appreciation for creative uses for BBQ skewers may want to check out another bara master, Seizoh Ebisubashi, who has similarly shaped guys but, as far as I can tell, no violence.
3. Below the Belt by Phil Andros: Most of the original Andros stories came out in underground gay magazines between 1950 and 1980. In the 80s and 90s they were bound into books. Today I learned that this book of porn I had beside my bed is worth between $50 and $750. So if you can find it, you better snatch that shit up.
The sex is good, generally vanilla with some light power play and one extremely small, incidental cutting scene, but nothing outrageous. The reason Phil Andros is a must-have for any penis enthusiast is because of the historical significance of the work. Andros is one of the first pornographers to infuse joy into his gay sexcapades. He’s no Mitch Mitchell, but the first-person narrative of happy-go-lucky street hustler Andros is entertaining, interesting, and educational. Come for the manly hustler action, stay for the antiquated spelling of “gyzym.”
Editor’s note: I re-read some of the later chapters over lunch, and the sex is very not vanilla. Bondage, dominance, and piss drinking all in attendance.
4. Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux: I actually feel kind of bad making this book my number four, especially after Phil. This is when we get into the Kindle books, and to be honest, they are miles behind the top three. There’s a lot of writing problems that a publishing house will weed out. But this book is $5.79 on Kindle and you don’t have to wait for shipping. So, you get what you pay for.
Cut and Run is only the first in a series that is currently six books into a planned nine book run, and they do get better. They also lose co-author Madeleine Urban at some point, and the passive-aggressive dedication page to that regard is pretty much worth the price of admission. In fact, Roux’s enigmatic dedication pages have become integral to my book reading experience at this point. As much as character development isn’t a strong suit in this series, Roux does action extremely well; both the sexy kind and the gun-shootey kind in a steady supply. And after six books, I really love the protagonist rivals turned secret lovers Ty and Zane. They may not have been drawn with a steady hand, but they’ve got heart and I just can’t say no to that.
5. Plan B by SJD Peterson: This book is more of a romance. It seemed like trite college drama at first, but I really liked the fierce and femmy main character Danny Marshal. Anybody who is into costuming will appreciate descriptions of his elaborate make-up and wardrobe magic. As far as plot or character development of anybody other than Danny is concerned, it’s not what I would call amazing, but whatever. Danny is the shining star. There are some hot sex scenes, even if they are rather few and far between.
6. Captive Prince by S.U. Pacat: Welcome to the book that sex forgot. The reason it’s on here is because good writing did not forget. The fact that there’s altogether two sex scenes in the two book (so far) run of the series is the only reason it even qualifies for the last place on this list. There are some patches that a professional editor would probably have been able to shape, but this is at least as good as half the books I read in college, despite being self-published (although the title has recently been acquired by Penguin).
Violence, secrets, political intrigue and an absolutely maddening amount of mystery, as well as manly anticipation boiling at the very edge of control make this book a joy to read. I honestly wish it weren’t stuck in the romance section because, while there is a love story at the heart of it all, there’s so much more than that.
What about you guys? You have anything to add to the list? Anything I might want to come out of the shame-spiral of truly bad erotica for? Seriously, some of the positions these guys write about doing it in are actually physically impossible. It’s like these books are populated by Alice in Wonderland dudes who just change shape in whatever way is convenient at the moment. That’s actually why Amber is wearing heels in The Annihilator. Ben and I blocked that scene out. If she’s the same height or slightly taller than Jake and wearing high heels, the blocking works.