Two Kinds of M/M Love: Buyer Beware! William Maltese Tells Us Why

William Maltese has posted an opinion piece about writing M/M romance for different audiences – male and female. In my opinion some M/M books that are written by women and those written by men are different, with female writers including more emotional content in their books. However, I have read books by female M/M writers who got down and dirty and took me through backrooms, public restrooms, and parks in their one hand reads®  which are no different to similar stories written by male writers for a mostly male audience. William does have a point about the majority of  M/M books being tailored to meet the expectations of female readers, after all, they represent the main target group of publishers and writers of these books.  Here’s William’s take on the whole writing for women and writing for men business.

I have been noticing something, over the last few years, which causes me, at this time, to make comment upon an aberration of gay fiction which has occurred since Iwilliam photo first began writing it. (See Drewey Wayne Gunn’s THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAY FICTION

or my web-site at
for insight into my literary beginnings).

Namely, many new writers and readers of the genre — namely of the female persuasion — seem to have entered the market place with the preconceived notion, incorrect, that real m/m love and romance and real m/f love and romance proceed basically along the same lines, and that any m/m book that portrays otherwise is somehow lacking, off the mark, and has an author who has somehow gotten “it” all wrong — when, actually, quite the opposite is probably closer to the truth.

A quick aside here by way of assurance that this isn’t a tirade delivered by me to bemoan the entry of women into the m/m marketplace, as readers, as writers, and as reviewers. I have many close friends in the m/m publishing business who are women and whom I love dearly and who I’ve come to appreciate as being stellar contributors to the genre. I’m of the belief that anything that expands a genre’s popularity and its fan base is a good thing, not a bad, for all involved; and, I’ve always been a true believer that, if only given the chance, and/or if only giving themselves the chance, women would be just as turned on by man-on-man sex as men have for so long been turned on by gals going at it.

BeachboyWhat I merely want to point out, here, is that women writing m/m for the enjoyment of women readers … in fact, men writing m/m for the enjoyment of women readers … will likely be required to write differently than those same authors would write m/m for the enjoyment of male readers. This is not a bad thing, any more than it’s necessarily a good thing; it just is what it is. The truth of the matter is that the female libido is wired differently than that of the male; what turns a woman on, by way of love and romance, isn’t necessarily the equivalent of what does it for a man. We would all, writers and readers and reviewers, alike, be far more content,  happy, and understanding if we recognized that fact from the get-go and didn’t try to pretend, wish, or actually believe that it’s otherwise.

Frankly, I’m getting rather weary of just how many women reviewers (and there does seem to be a plethora of them popping up, these days), are criticizing and bemoaning some male authors of m/m books for not providing them with “m/m romances” but, rather with just “plain old fashioned m/m sex-for-sex’s sake” — as if many a male reader’s ideal of m/m romance and love isn’t sex-for-sex’s sake rather than the romance and love loaded down with all of the accumulated emotional baggage that women are more apt to attach to it.

Ladies, most guys, although there are exceptions to any rule, do not need a long lead-in, let alone emotional attachment, to think themselves in love, or believe themselves actually romantically involved, especially if it’s just for a brief moment in the back room of some bar, or hurried sex with some stranger in a dark park. All of the early m/m books, written entirely for an initially total male audience, were wham-bam-thank-you-man dissertations, and not long-and-lengthy courtships a la Harlequin that only saw sexual consummation realized at book’s end. So, the next time you find yourself with a book in hand that takes that seemingly sex- for-sex’s sake viewpoint, as regards m/m love and romance, do, please, try to remember that while it might not be playing to your specific interpretation of m/m love and romance, it is likely playing to the interpretation of some guy. So rather than you moaning and groaning and complaining that the author, rather than you, doesn’t know about what he’s talking, you should really just move on to a book more geared to your own way of thinking — of which there are more and more out there — and quit trying to label only your interpretation of m/m romance and love as the only interpretation of m/m love and romance.

I mean, if my book CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS is sub-titled, “A One-Hand Read®”, what is there about one-hand read® that would have some reader convinced that Iconspiracy of ravens should be providing her with something other than the male-desired short-on-emotional-involvement m/m love and romance that I’ve blatantly advertised?

I’m thoroughly convinced that more readers and reviewers would be satisfied with what they’ve read if there wasn’t a tendency in the market place for women writers of m/m love and romance books to have pseudonyms that are masculine in nature and, thereby, confuse the reader; guys who think they’re getting a wham-bam-thank-you-man book, written by a real man, for a man, end up with an m/m Harlequin-type romance written by a woman; women readers, who would best appreciate an m/m Harlequin-type romance, pick up a book by a real man, for a man, and find themselves dragged through back rooms, parks, truck stops, and funky alleys, for seemingly quick and meaningless sex which is actually sufficiently loving and meaningful mainly only for the men for whom the book was really intended.

I could understand this penchant for female authors assuming male pseudonyms, if this was a time wherein women were seeking to enter a genre entirely dominated by male readers and, thereby risked being shunned by readers for not being male-specific.  Willingly, I was  published as Anna Lambert and Willa Lambert in my halcyon days of writing m/f romances for the likes of Harlequin, because, it was genuinely believed, even advertised, that such books were for women written by women. Even today, most m/f romance readers being women, a man might feel himself at a disadvantage in trying to write a book appealing to that audience. But in m/m love and romance fiction, wherein the majority of readers have become women, not gay men, not being gender-specific, by way of authorship of a book, is downright confusing to the reader, and actually often disallows readers the ability to find the kind of novel that best appeals to his or her interpretation of m/m love and romance. As a man, I would likely be more drawn to LOVING BROTHERS written by Chad Stuart than to LOVING STUDS written by Suzy Cue, if what I wanted was just to read a quick sexual romp. Likewise, a woman reader,  less appreciative of random sex, would likely be more drawn to the latter. However, if Suzy Cue is writing LOVING BROTHERS as Chad 6a00d83451cc7469e2011168ce1935970c-500wiStuart, I’d possibly be as disappointed, in my reading of that book, as any woman reader wanting a Harlequin-type m/m romance would find herself if she ended up reading a book written by a real man for a man.

So, in summation … if you are a man or a woman and want to read a plot-lead m/m novel, wherein emotional interaction takes precedence … if you are a man or a woman and want to read a sex-lead m/m novel, wherein emotional interaction is at a minimum … do a little research on whom (man or woman) wrote the book you’re tempted to buy and what the available blurbs have to say about the book in question. You might still end up disappointed, on occasion, but I guarantee you’ll be less so, as an informed reader, than you’ll ever be if you pay less attention.


  • @pir wrote:
    “because even among PWPs there’s fabulous writing and execrable writing”
    In certain literary communities I’ve never seen a PWP *without* a plot. It was simply that the plot centered on a sexual encounter. That seems to me to be as legitimate a topic for literary consideration as any other aspect of human life.
    “you’re on my ‘to read’ list”
    Oh, how nice. :) In that case, I should clarify that most of what I write doesn’t fall into the porn category. I mainly write friendship fiction, gay fiction, and gay erotic love stories, with an occasional heterosexual love story. But honestly, I find the dividing line between all those genres to be extremely thin. My porn stories are also friendship stories.
    @Wave wrote:
    “There is no specific type of book for females or men, especially today with the internet playing such a huge part in book purchases.”
    This is a good point – Internet access has changed the way many people read. I know that I wouldn’t be writing gay historical fantasy today if I hadn’t run across a bunch of slash authors writing SF/F and historical fiction. Until then, I’d assumed (despite the example of Mary Renault) that gay fiction = contemporary fiction, so I’d kept all my gay fantasy stories in my head, thinking that they wouldn’t find an audience.

  • So basically you are saying please ladies, don’t call my books unromantic, they are–for men although not for you.

    And ‘oh, don’t moan that my romantic stories aren’t romantic, I didn’t write them for you anyway’.


    I’m no where near rich and only buy M/M stories from few authors whose previous works I’ve already read (what are friends for if not for lending us books) and loved, whose stories I regard as romantic (which details is really a personal concept), and I don’t bother moaning at authors, I just don’t buy their works if I think they suck (and, in this case, unromantic). My fav M/M author happens to be a man but I’d still love his works if he were a woman or a hermaphrodite or a werewolf.

    So probably that’s why you didn’t get many complaints from men who read your works expecting romance, it might not be because they can very much appreciate you label of for-men-only-romance, perhaps they just didn’t bother, like me. Just a thought.

    This ‘article’ is somewhat unpleasant, to be honest. Gender generalisation ahoy. However there’s still a point to it, can’t be denied there are differences between women and men in taste of ‘romance’ (though I don’t think it to be that many or that huge, outside from social stigma), and I agree readers should be more careful when buying, and shouldn’t expect what was not offered in the first place. However, I do find some ‘warnings’ or blurps to be carrying too much information, I rarely read them because for me they’re spoilers which spoil the story.

  • Nice one! If I could write like this I would be well happpy. The more I see articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Net. Keep it up, as it were.

  • FINALLY This is what I have been harping at for the longest time re: males writing m/m books. I like that there is not a long lead in I never believed that men needed(most men) a deep emotional attachment to begin relations. That’s why I tired of m/f books. I hated the pretense of a long lead in.Now that being said,I still like romance,that’s why I read historicals.

  • Well, here it is, a year after I first wrote this article, and, little did I realize that it would cause quite the stir that it did. As a matter of fact, I figured that it would be of interest for only a few days in December 2009, after I wrote it, so I only really checked in to comment on comments for that minimum amount of time I incorrectly assumed it would be of any interest to anyone. Seems I should have stuck around a little while longer and kept the conversation going.

    As it is, I’m back only now, to revisit my piece, although I’ve been to the JesseWave site on and off (as I’m sure have all of you). I needed to get the article’s specific URL for my files, and, in case, I ever figure out out how to get an entry on Wikipedia. While I was here, I decided to check in again, and found all sorts of wonderful comments that I hadn’t seen before. Slap me in the face with a wet noodle…or, considering the subject matter, with a…

    Anyway, folks, while I’m here, I want to apologize to all of you who took the bother to comment and whom it would seem, albeit unintentionally, I ignored. It wasn’t because I didn’t find all of what you said as valid, it’s just that I didn’t dream, as I said, that my little piece, would cause quite the reaction that it did.

    And, of course, I want to thank all of you who did take the time and make the effort to check in and comment.

    Next time, of course, I do something, here, I’ll pay particular attention to the entire potential life-span of a particular piece. Although as soon as I do that, you can bet that no one will even bother reading it, let alone comment on it.

    Do hope you all had a great holiday season. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Borgo Press reference book just out, DRAQUALIAN SILK: A COLLECTOR’S AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE BOOKS OF WILLIAM MALTESE 1969-2010, which should leave no doubts to anyone as to what any of MY 180-books are all about, as regards who’s fucking whom, with what, when and where (plus the first three paragraphs from all of my so-far books).

    William Maltese
    26 December 2010

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