Sometimes it seems the world and his wife reads m/m these days. Certainly, the genre is becoming increasingly popular with a not-so-gay demographic. M/M has its roots in slash fanfiction (think Kirk/Spock or Holmes/Watson), but authors have been writing gay (if that’s not an anachronistic term) romances for centuries. As a latecomer to fandoms, it was in novels that I first saw real representations of same-sex couples, and some of those stories have stuck with me for years. These are the best of them.
Past ~ the best of traditional literature
My desert island book. Set during WWII in the aftermath of Dunkirk, Laurie “Spud” Odell struggles to reconcile his sexuality — and attraction to two very different men — with the social mores of 1940s England.
An absolutely haunting, lyrical novel set in Argentina during the Falkland war and the advent of AIDS.
A novella but I don’t care, it’s making this list. Set in Paris in the 1950s, Giovanni’s Room tells the story of an American ex-patriot who leads a dull and conventional life until he falls for a beautiful Italian man.
A true Southern Gothic masterpiece, the coming-of-age story of Joel Knox. It contains a character named Jesus Fever – what more do you need to know?
Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize, this wonderfully evocative novel is set in 1980s England as the shadow of AIDS looms large over Thatcher’s London.
Written in 1913 and dedicated “to a happier year”, did you know this story was the inspiration for Lady Chatterley’s Lover?
The story of a cross-class love affair between two Englishmen separated by more than just money, set during the 1930s as Spain dissolves into ideological conflict and Europe prepares for a second World War.
After a close brush with death, a Parisian scholar resolves to live his life free of the constraints of society’s moral imperative.
Yes, it’s porn. Victorian porn, to be exact. But I love this book not only for the striking similarity of vocabulary to today’s erotica (and the differences!); and not only for the insight it gives to mid-Victorian society (spot the cameo from Fanny and Stella!); but also because it’s so much fun. I giggle like a teenager every time I read this book.
If you don’t believe Bond fell in love with Scaramanga, you haven’t read it right.
Present ~ the best of m/m romance
Haunting, lyrical, exquisite… I cannot praise this novel enough. Set in the aftermath of WWI, a damaged young man returns from war to face a very personal conflict.
Not only a compelling police procedural, this book digs under the skin of BDSM – so wronged in literature since that 50 Shades nonsense – and reminds us that people are most perfect when they acknowledge their flaws.
A love song to New York City, the emotional impact of this book floored me when I first read it.
A paranormal historical geek-meets-hot-detective story with hell of a lot of difference, and just about the most adorable MC ever written, with the heartbreaking name Whyborne.
The title says it all. A happily married man meets a rent boy and his world turns upside down.
Am I nominating a free online fanfic? Yes I am, but this book is so much more than J2 Supernatural fantasy. It’s a beautifully realised, meticulously accurate Regency novel with only the barest nod to the fandom from which it emerged (just enough for those in the know to snigger and smile indulgently). It will suck you in and break your heart if you let it.
Something else entirely different. Set in a small Scottish village, a group of madcap gangsters go on a mission. The characters a rough, dangerous, and brutal men, but they’ll still make your heart melt. Bad boys at their best!
The story of Derrick, a young man with his whole life before him but he lives like it’s already over, trapped in a cycle of not feeling to stop himself getting hurt. When he finally meets someone he wants to care about, he has to learn to love all over again.
Set in 1960s England, Edward lives a cookie-cutter suburban life in his cookie-cutter suburban street. Except, behind the picture perfect facade, things aren’t always what they seem.
Another book that I think truly sums up what m/m is all about. Set in an alternate universe where demons walk the earth and want to attend school with the human kids, it’s a fun and easy read that suddenly gets you right in the feels and makes you care far more than you should.