I want to thank Kaje Harper for appearing on my blog today. I can’t say how happy I am to have Kaje here with us. This guest post is part of my plan to give more exposure to MM Romance, especially on this blog. Kaje Harper is one of my favourite authors in this genre, and it’s a real dream to have her here with us.
When Two Men Are Better Than One… by Kaje Harper
Hi, my name is Kaje Harper, and I’m addicted to writing romance. Especially gay romance, about two men finding a home in each other’s arms.
I started writing gay M/M stories forty years ago. I didn’t actually know anyone who was gay and out when I was growing up. And yet, by the time I was fourteen, most of the writing I was doing, in notebooks and on a portable typewriter balanced on my knees, involved a love story between two men.
I’m dating myself when I say this was before the Internet, and before there were e-books. In fact, it began in 1974, just a few years after the Stonewall riots, when suburban good girls were supposed to be reading Harlequin my-prince-will-come stories. Not putting Starsky in bed with Hutch.
In my teens, those stories I wrote were pretty much fade-to-black, but only because I didn’t know the mechanics, not because I thought there was anything wrong with what two men who wanted each other would do in bed. I was brought up to believe that love was valuable and real, wherever and however you found it. Out of bed, I gave my heroes lives of stress and joy, of pain and comfort, of growth and misunderstandings and prejudice and sharing, friends and enemies, loss and love. In other words, real lives.
People sometimes ask why I got into gay romance, why I still write it, what the appeal is. To me, first and foremost, it’s about emotions. I read romance to feel. To share with the characters all the intensity of a heart-bonded connection. I love going from the first wisp of hope that this person is special, to the final deep content of knowing the person you love has your back, without doubt, without conditions.
Some heterosexual M/F romance gives me that. But even as a teen, there were things about gay M/M relationships that intensified the emotional connections.
In 1974, a gay relationship was even more fraught with risks and difficulties than it is today. Back then, gay marriage was a pipe-dream, civil rights laws were still working to get racial discrimination under control and weren’t close to addressing LGBT discrimination. And because so much of society expressed open disdain, revulsion and even hate, being gay and finding a lover carried both external risks and internal pain. It was hard. And brave. And required a personal truth that was admirable. It still does.
Love and pain are always two sides to a coin. Real lives are deepened by both. In the stories I write, and the ones I love to read, gay relationships have more external forces arrayed against them. Someone once said, that of all minorities, only LGBT individuals are born into families who cannot understand and may not accept what they face. Gay kids, for the most part, have straight parents. Coming out as LGBT often means facing anger and hurt from the very people you love most. Family cannot be trusted to have your back. This deepens the sweetness of finding someone who loves you as you are. It will sometimes pit the two men I write together against the world.
Gay relationships also have a potential balance and flexibility between the main characters. That equality is less common in hetero relationships, especially in romances. When both MCs are men, either one can be more powerful, stronger, bigger, more wealthy, more dominant, more skilled, and their strength in one area can be offset by weakness in another. There are no pre-set roles that have to be either accommodated or deliberately overturned. Every aspect of the relationship is on the table, and can shift back and forth over time and by situation. I love the flexibility this gives to working out how the main characters live, love and work together.
Men are also stereotypically more stoic and less willing to show emotion. That means that when they do so, it can have more intensity. A strong, tough man facing heartbreak, or tears, or finally saying, “I love you,” makes the emotion deeper. A man willing to seek comfort in someone else’s arms finds a sweetness that much of hetero romance, with its Alpha heroes, does not allow the men MCs to have.
And then, since I’m not fourteen anymore, let’s admit there is also gorgeous heat in M/M romance. Not just the heat of having two men, who both embody what I find sexy in a person, but also with sex that is less stereotypical. The guys in gay romance come together in ways that are often less inhibited, more inventive, more flexible and less serious than in hetro romance.
There is no slut-shaming of a character who happens to just like sex, something generally not acceptable in a romance heroine. There are also scenes of desire and satisfaction that don’t involve penetration. Through the wide range of gay romance, you’ll sometimes find two virgins who come together for a lifetime, but you’re equally likely to find men who’ve had a hundred previous partners and are still perfect romance heroes. You’ll find guys who wait, and guys who dive into sex before exchanging names. Scenes go from frotting to BDSM, from solo wanking (love the British slang) to threesomes, or foursomes, or more. And yet all of those can happen not just in pure erotica, but in true romance with a plot, and real love, and a permanent happy ending.
And then there is that last pleasure, especially for a writer of gay romance, of being on the side of the angels—the real angels, for whom every person has equal worth, no matter who they love or want in bed. Someone called the readers of M/M romance the silent army for gay rights, and I believe it’s true. I get reviews and emails about my books that say, “Now I understand why gay marriage rights are important,” or “I see that two men can love each other just the same as me and my husband do.” Love conquers hate, in the end. Gay romance, at its heart, is about love, between any consenting adults who want to share their lives.
So if you haven’t tried it, why not give us a look? I have a bunch of free stories available, that can give a new-to-M/M reader a risk-free look at my personal version of gay romance. My story Like the Taste of Summer is a 15,000 word short, with low sex content, about two young men finding each other in 1981 Iowa. Into Deep Waters follows two gay men from their teens in the US Navy in WWII through a lifetime to 2011. Nor Iron Bars a Cage is a fantasy about a traumatized man healing with the growing love of a friend, as they pursue a magic-tinged quest. Show Me Yours is a novella about the price exacted by homophobia and staying closeted, and the healing brought by truth with the right man. Lies and Consequences is a sexy thriller-romp that brings together a habitual liar and a survival-trained honest man.
And there are a thousand other great M/M stories out there, from hundreds of skilled authors. Some of my favorite writers include Amy Lane, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon, Heidi Cullinan, Jordan Castillo Price, K.D. Sarge, Lyn Gala, Sarah Black, Tamara Allen, Aleksandr Voinov, Kate Sherwood, Andrea Speed, Eli Easton, and many, many more. Check it out, try samples. Read the Love is Always Write and Love Has No Boundaries free anthologies from the M/M Romance Group, that are available on All Romance ebooks. You can sample short stories from over a hundred authors that way. If your mind and heart are open to two men together, there will be something out there for you to love. Welcome to the M/M side.
Where to Find Kaje Harper:
Kaje Harper’s FREE Books:
Tomorrow I’ll be posting some FREE M/M Romances.