I’m also going to remind the viewing audience at this time that this is an over-18 blog. There’s a very adult excerpt at the end!
Every genre has its rules, its convention, and breaking them is risky. Romance has more than many other genres, and some are so unbreakable that if you violate them your story ceases to be romance, and becomes something else in most people’s eyes. The ending is one of these – if you don’t provide a happily ever after, a happy for now, or at least the promise of one, you should call your story something else.
Heterosexual romance in its most traditional form has even more iron-clad conventions. The dashing, roguish alpha hero is virtually a requirement, as is the heroine whose life he completes. In the romances of thirty years ago (and even today in some subgenres) your heroine must be a virgin, and stay that way until just after you type “The end”. Personally I always thought it was appropriate that one of my grandmother’s insomniac friends used those as sleep aids, but that’s a matter of taste. I mean no offense to any readers who like that genre.
A lot of those rules are bending or being broken now. Erotic romance is probably outselling the old sweet romances which had no sex in them. And then there are the ménage romances. But they tend to cling to the active hero – passive heroine model in many cases. That one is harder to shake than the virginity trope.
One of the things that I enjoy about writing M/M romance is the fact that a lot of these rules and conventions just don’t apply. Readers in this genre are open to a romance where the people involved are partners, not an alpha and a supporter. You can certainly write a story with a dominant partner and one who falls into the more passive, supportive role, which roughly maps to the traditional alpha male and heroine model, but you don’t have to. Or you can have them swap roles – perhaps one is more dominant in public matters like managing the household and submissive when they get into the bedroom. The key point is that you can move outside the box and people don’t throw the book down in horror. That leaves a lot more territory to play with.
There are still some conventions though. If you’re writing romance, there needs to be a relationship, and as a general rule, people tend to assume that means monogamy, or possibly a threesome. The notion of a committed relationship in which you stop having relationships with others besides the other people in the relationship with you is the default in modern American society.
But just because something is the default shouldn’t make other options out of the question. It merely makes them a bit exotic. I submit that it’s quite possible to have multiple romantic relationships as long as two fundamental requirements are met:
- You have to be absolutely honest about what’s going on with anyone you’re in a relationship with.
- A new relationship you undertake can’t be something which hurts the person or persons you’ve already made commitments with
These kinds of relationships are tricky, particularly in our culture where they’re looked at oddly, and have no standards to model themselves on. You have to work out the mechanics among the involved parties. That involves more talking than most couple do about their relationships. By which I mean being honest about needs and desires, not just saying “I love you”, although saying that early and often is a good idea too, as long as it’s true.
I’ve seen these kinds of relationships in real life fail spectacularly, but I’ve also seen them succeed. Two friends of mine became even more sappily romantic with each other after they decided to be poly, and she got another boyfriend. It was a revelation to watch.
It’s more likely to work in a culture where it’s considered normal. My new novel, Embracing the Dragon, involves just such a culture. Both Elves and Tengri are very long lived, and have astonishingly high sex drives. Trying to limit yourself to a single partner for a lifetime that spans thousands of years would try the fidelity and patience of a saint. They don’t even consider it. They do marry, but it’s as much about property and politics as about love and sex.
Despite that, the interpersonal issues come up. How do you deal with it when you love two people who can’t stand each other? Even in a culture where it’s expected that you’ll have romantic relationships with multiple people, often overlapping in time, that’s a hard question to answer. And hard questions lead to interesting stories. This one led eventually to Embracing the Dragon.
Embracing the Dragon is available in various electronic formats from Torquere Press:
Danny O’Riordan’s life was complicated before he had the vision of a past life that forced him to admit to himself that he was bisexual. There’s a war going on, and being Liegeman to Aran, the Elven King of Avalon puts Danny squarely in the middle of the politics of two worlds, Earth and Avalon. Adding a romantic relationship to the mix could be explosive.
His lover from that previous life has been reborn as Mordellir, the ruler of the Tengri Empire. The Dragon of Heaven is the most powerful person in his world. Will he want Danny back once he knows he’s been reborn? If he does, how far will he go to get his way?
Danny knows it isn’t smart to get involved with the Dragon of Heaven. Aran hates the Tengri. Following his heart and renewing that old relationship with Mordellir will leave him torn between his commitment to Aran and those old feelings which are still frighteningly strong. If he yields to tempation, can he balance his love for both men?
In this excerpt from Embracing the Dragon, Danny O’Riordan is attempting to come to terms with the possibility that he may be interested in men as well as women. He’s approached his good friend and liege lord, Aran, to help him explore the issue. Danny is an empath, which adds an extra level of interaction to the scene.
“Well, then, let’s focus on more immediate issues,” Aran grinned. “I have a handsome young human here, waiting to be introduced to the wonders of ancient Elven sex secrets. That’s much more fun.”
“Ancient Elven sex secrets?” Danny choked on his drink. “Where did you get that line?”
“Gareth assures me it works quite well on the ladies,” Aran replied cheerfully. “Well, if you’re not going to buy it, we’ll just have to settle for doing things the ordinary way.” Aran leaned forward and brushed his lips with a kiss, so quickly that Danny hardly registered it before it was done.
“You’ve never had a chance to explore a man’s body, have you?” Aran asked gently.
Danny shook his head. His feelings were very mixed. He was enjoying Aran’s nearness, but his fear of what he might discover held him still.
“Let’s start with that. I have too many clothes on for you to do it properly. I could use some help with that.” Aran prodded him gently. “If you want this to happen you have to take a little of the initiative. I want it, but you have to contribute, too.”
“All right,” Danny said a little shakily. He reached out and began unbuttoning Aran’s tunic. Some of the old memories surfaced again. He’d done this with Demeth, and he’d enjoyed it. Danny paused in his unbuttoning to slide a hand inside the half open tunic and stroke the bare chest beneath, passing gently over the sensitive nipples. He felt Aran’s pleasure in it, and smiled. “You’re right. I do need to take some initiative.” He finished unbuttoning the silk tunic and let it slide off. He ran his hands over Aran’s bare chest and shoulders, giving Aran little shivers of delight.
As he did, he let himself look at Aran from this new perspective. Aran was lightly built, but his muscles were clearly defined, the product of years of practical exercise riding, fencing, and shooting a bow. Danny’s hands, tanned by wind and sun, and callused from knife and sword hilts, were dark by comparison as he ran them over Aran’s chest. Aran’s skin felt like silk. Like most Elves he had little body hair. They rarely even grew beards or moustaches until they were well past adulthood. Aran had no hint of one yet. He looked young, not a teenager any longer, but not far past it. Danny knew better though. Elves lived a long time, and grew up slowly. Aran was more than 1500 years old. Still he looked and often acted eighteen, and it was easy to forget how much older he was, until he referred casually to having seen some event that Danny knew only from history books.
Aran reached out and slid the dressing gown off Danny’s shoulders. Danny slid his arms out of the sleeves, then turned his attention back to his own explorations. After a few minutes, Aran drew him into an embrace. Danny stroked Aran’s back, hands moving slowly down toward the waist of his pants. Aran looked down to gaze into Danny’s eyes, and Danny felt Aran’s desire. His own stirred in response. Aran leaned down to begin a kiss. It might have been meant to be another quick brush, but this time Danny was ready, and responded. It grew deeper, and Danny slid his tongue into Aran’s mouth, exploring it. Aran’s own tongue met his, and they moved together in a sort of dance. Danny’s cock swelled, as he felt Aran’s interest rising. They were lost in each other for long moments, until Danny finally broke off to breathe.
The dressing gown had fallen entirely unheeded onto the couch, leaving Danny naked. He let his hands continue traveling down Aran, exploring. After a moment he found the waist of Aran’s pants, and unbuttoned them. Aran rose gracefully from the couch to let the pants slip off, kicking off his soft indoor shoes as he did so. Danny slid to his knees in front of Aran, continuing to explore Aran’s body with his hands. Aran moaned softly in pleasure as Danny ran his hands down Aran’s bare ass, then forward to converge on his erect cock. Danny stared at it in fascination. He’d never really looked at one before. He knew his own well, but that was from the inside, or by touch. He stroked it, feeling it quiver in response. Gently he slid the foreskin back, watching the shaft swell as he touched it. He wasn’t really thinking about what he was doing anymore. Aran’s pleasure and arousal wrapped around him like a fog, and his own rose to match it.
As it did, Aran grasped his shoulder to steady himself, and moaned again. Then his back arched as he came, releasing a jet of semen which Danny barely dodged. He collapsed back onto the couch, panting.
“Oh, Danny. I wasn’t expecting that yet,” Aran grinned broadly. “Come back up here with me. I want to enjoy you, too.”
Danny joined him on the couch. Now that the moment had passed he felt awkward again. Had the interest and pleasure Aran was broadcasting carried him along, or did he have instincts that he’d never let himself see? He still wasn’t sure.