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Are Mainstream Romance Readers Ready For Gay Relationships?
By Allison Cassatta
Most authors and publishers of LGBT Romance will admit to seeing a new, phenomenal rise in readership over the last few years. Some will attribute that rise in the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in modern day society, as we have seen by the reformation of laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, the reformation or institution of anti-discrimination laws and the open support of the president in standing behind LGBT rights. Some attribute the rise in the growing pool of talent, careful editing and the wonderful publishers who are delivering a variety of enjoyable stories. But are mainstream readers truly ready to read romantic erotic with two male or two female leads?
I chose this topic because New York Times Bestselling author J.R. Ward (author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series) is about to release the long anticipated story of Qhuinn and Blay; vampires, warriors, childhood friends and hopeful lovers. For over half the series, we’ve watched the tension between these two characters grow and we’ve waited for them to get their happily ever after, which has been promised in the upcoming release “Lover At Last”. But will she deliver the heated, sexually-driven romances the hetero couples have had in the past releases? How will this impact the gay romance genre?
The question has been raised, will Ward go full steam ahead, no holds barred in “Lover At Last”, or will this be a watered-down portrayal of two men realizing their love for each other. My personal hope is that Ward will stick to her guns and show the mainstream world a wonderfully written romance between two men can be just as beautiful as a relationship between a man and a woman. I am worried she’ll go easy on her readers as far as the sex is concerned. I’m worried she will stray away from her normal style and give us frilly, out of the bedroom confessions and interactions. But what if she doesn’t?
If Ward sticks to her laurels and writes in her true style, this could end up being one of the books that genuinely pulls readers in the direction of being more open-minded to gay romance. I, personally, have had readers of my hetero romances read the gay romance I have written, and love them just the same. Last year, we saw, in a Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award, that gay romance has a place in the mainstream, with the advancement of Damon Suede’s “Hot Head” being voted into the final round for best romance. I believe we can all take it all as a sign that romance readers are ready for more. They’re ready for the excitement of finding that “taboo” love and how the characters handle their relationships and society.
It is my hope that Ward will do the genre justice in the portrayal of Blay and Qhuinn’s relationship, and we as authors and publishers of the genre will see an influx of readership. I hope the talented authors of the gay romance genre start seeing the recognition they deserve.