Book Review: Mardi Gras by A.B. Gayle

I recently did an interview with Author A.B. Gayle, so I was a little hesitant about reading her work. The interview went well, in a way that surprised me. She asked questions as if she really “got” what I was trying to do with my books. My biggest concern about reading her work was that I might not like it.

However, the minute I began Mardi Gras I knew on page one I’d found something I was going to enjoy. I can tell by the first five pages, or less, whether or not a writer knows what he/she is doing with regard to actually crafting a novel or a short work of fiction. And nothing puts me off more than lack of knowledge and skill…said bookisms, dialogue tags with too many adverbs, no dialogue tags at all, too much dialogue that doesn’t help move the story forward. For those who know better, it’s not always easy to spot great writing. But bad writing is as transparent as low rent origin no matter how you try to dress it up.

From the first paragraph of Mardi Gras, I was drawn into the story by A.B. Gayle’s neat, clean, tight writing style. Instead of reading a mundane romance, I knew I was reading that rare combination of literature and romance combined. The next aspect that caught my attention was the setting. The entire story revolves around Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia, which is someplace I’ve always wanted to go. The romance alone, for me, with respect to Australia, was more than enough to keep me reading. And the way the setting is described, in more than one place in the book, creates a detailed explanation that made me feel as though I were actually there. This is the kind of escape I’m looking for when I’m reading anything.

It’s going to be difficult to get into the plot without giving out spoilers. But I will be careful. I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t read this book. The main theme revolves around Damien, an American writer, who travels to Sydney for Mardi Gras. He’s keeping his visit on the down low, because he’s a journalist/blogger and he recently trashed Mardi Gras on his blog. He feels the event has drifted away from its original goals, and there’s no political significance anymore. This, I believe, is something a lot of gay men can relate to these days everywhere. I’m forty years old and I’ve seen changes I’m not thrilled with when it comes to gay pride events. Damien, in the book, is fifty, and he seems to wish there was more integrity in these cultural events that used to mean so much to so many people. He’s a character I liked from the beginning. There’s nothing fake about him. He’s tough, yet vulnerable.

The first surprise in the story involves a character Damien meets at the airport. This character is twenty-five years younger and he was sent to meet Damien. At first, I thought I could predict what would happen next. But I was wrong. I can’t get into anymore now or I’ll ruin it. Just trust me on this: you’ll want to know more about this character, and his relationship with Damien, as the book progresses.

A few elements that resonated with me were things like Damien’s blog, and how he relates to his blog readers and the people who comment on his blog regularly. It’s a very current situation that a lot of people can relate to these days. And I don’t always see this in fiction in the mainstream. I also liked the little tidbits of humor, sometimes riding the thin line of cutting edge. This is a quote with regard to Australian accents that I thought was perfect:

Even Meryl Streep had difficulty impersonating an Aussie.

Even though the story isn’t too long…65…pages…I did see nice character development. Damien seems to grow warmer and more open as the story progresses. He drops a lot of his defenses. And he cares so much he’s willing to settle for nothing more than an online relationship if that’s what it takes to keep this young man in his life.

We’d only met physically for the first time less than twenty-four hours ago, but I knew, from months of interaction on the blog, just how stubborn he could be. If I crossed over the street before he saw me, he wouldn’t follow. That would be the end; he would drop out of my life forever. I couldn’t do it. No matter what had happened today . . . tonight, I hoped we could still have some degree of friendship, the ability to discuss issues that were important to both of us, even if only connected over the Internet.

Damien also seems to be planning for the future, even though he’s not quite ready to admit this to himself. And he continues to grow from there. And, once again, this excerpt is an example of how wonderfully written this book is. It was one of those passages that I read more than once.

Here’s something I think all of us can understand, men and women, gay or straight, when we become interested in someone younger.

This was too much information and too close to the bone. It was bad enough knowing I’d made an idiot of myself with a man so much younger than myself and now to find I came under the classification of ‘one of those,’ tired old men who chased boys who were barely legal.

I tried to pull my hand away, but he clasped it in both of his. “Instead, you were just so young, normal . . . .”

The author managed to pick up on all Damien’s insecurities in one neat, short paragraph…and all the things I was thinking while I was reading between the lines of this book. I was actually dying for Damien, hoping and praying he wouldn’t get shot down.

As for sex scenes and heat, there are a few. But I wouldn’t classify this as a m/m romance with tons of hot sex. The sex that is there is appropriate to the story. In this case, anything more would not have worked with the story. And if the sex scenes that are there were to be removed, the story would still stand on its own. As I said earlier, this story has a literary feel to it in more ways than one. And when I’m reading something literary, I want the sex scenes to be incorporated in a way that makes them relevant to the story. Though I don’t do this often myself, because I tend to write more sex in most books, I have done it with stories like Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza, and I know how hard it can be to make it work. A.B. Gayle did, indeed, make this work. The story didn’t need anymore sex than it had.

To sum it up, this is a story where two people meet for the first time, one twenty-five years older than the other. They come from different backgrounds and cultures, and yet they have a great deal in common. But then they already know each other fairly well through an online experience, where they’ve already exposed many of their true feelings. It’s also a story about confusion, and how online interaction can often mislead people into believing things that may or may not be accurate. As the story progresses, we feel hints of sorrow at certain points. We also feel the frustration and we want things to work out for Damien. I can’t go into any more detail because I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. But if I did have a rating system, I would give this book five stars. And I will recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading m/m fiction without thinking twice.

About the author:

Unlike many authors, A.B. Gayle has not been writing stories all her life. Instead, she’s been living life.

Do the Women Who Read M/M Fiction Care About Political Implications?

I’m really just throwing this question out there because I don’t have a clue.

And being that this post will be up for a long time, I’d like to think that a few people will comment. If they don’t comment, that just might be the answer I was looking for.

But I am curious about whether or not the many women who read m/m romance and fiction (or write it) actually care about the political implications the LGBTQ community experiences. Or is it just about happy endings and reading sexy scenes?

I was recently told that the women who read m/m don’t care about political implications. I personally don’t agree with this, but it was one of those situations where I wasn’t in a position to offer my opinion. I think the women who read and write m/m do care. I’ve been in touch with them and I’ve listened to them closely. But I could be wrong. So I’m hoping to gain some insight.

And I know it’s a discreet sub-genre. So feel free to comment anonymously. I’ll never know who you are.

Some of My Favorite M/M Authors…

I don’t like to review other books on this blog. But once in a while I like to mention a few M/M authors I like to read.

One of them is GA Hauser. Here’s a link to Amazon. I think she nails it in every respect. And though her style and content is very different from what I do, I love the fact that she takes me away from my own world. Isn’t that what fiction is all about anyway?

I also like Michele Montgomery. Here’s her link. Michele has a unique voice and a unique approach when it comes to m/m fiction-romance, and I find her characters to be extremely emotional and deep. I also think she takes chances a lot of authors might not take. And I’ve never been disappointed when I’m finished reading one of her stories.

Another is Jeff Erno. I think he writes from the heart. And that should be enough for anyone to like his books. Here’s his link.

There are a lot of others I’ll mention in the future. But last and certainly not least is Rebecca Leigh. She writes everything, from m/m to f/f. I think she has a bold style and she knows how to draw the reader into the story. I’ve been in a couple of anothologies with her and I’ve enjoyed her work so much I’ve checked out other things she’s written. Here’s her link.

The Bachelor: Release Day

If you recall, we weren’t sure whether or not this would be The Gay Bachelor, or The Bachelor. We (the publisher and I) decided on The Bachelor in the end mainly because it worked so well with the cover. And the two guys almost kissing should be a clear indication this isn’t about a straight bachelor.

It’s also a play on words in a sense. For years, many gay men all over the world have been referred to as bachelors because being openly gay has always been so taboo. And for those who don’t realize it, this is still happening today as I write this blog post. And I wanted to make a small statement about it in this book.

It’s a full length novel, about 75,000 words. You can find it here and in most places where e-books are sold, including amazon, kobo, and google. And if anyone has any questions about it before I post more next week, please feel free to e-mail me.

Release Day: Jolly Roger

Today’s the release day for another short story e-book titled, JOLLY ROGER. Here’s a link where it can be purchased at the publisher’s web site. And I’m sure it either is, or will be within days, available on most major web sites where e-books are sold.

Another version of this story was originally published in a print book by a large lgbt publisher. This was years ago and I own the rights so I decided to release it as a stand alone e-book now, with more than a few editorial changes. Though I loved the print book this story was in and I never thought I’d release it anywhere else after it was published, there have been a lot of changes since that time and I think readers who are getting into m/m erotic romance would rather purchase individual short stories that cost less than purchase entire anthologies at higher prices not knowing whether or not they are going to love each author. The cost to print short stories as individual print books would have been unrealistic until recently, and publishers rarely ever did this. With regard to m/m fiction the only short story I can think of that was published this way was “Brokeback Mountain.” But with the advent of digital books, it’s become reality and both readers and authors are enjoying individual short stories now. In other words, readers have more choices now.

I know I was disappointed in the anthology I edited for Ravenous Romance, titled, LASTING LUST. Not because I don’t like the book. It’s actually one of my favorites. I’m going to do a post about this soon and explain things. I think readers will be surprised to learn a few facts about this book I’ve never discussed before.
Anyway, back to Jolly Roger…

The tag line reads:

The Untold Story of Jolly Roger, a Pirate Who Either Left Them Guessing or Begging for More…

And the cover copy says:

From the origin of his name to the ways he spent his free time, Jolly Roger had always been able to fool them all, including the best historians. And though there were indeed rumors about Jolly’s favorite way to pass the time, only the strongest and the best men ever knew for sure whether or not those decadent rumors were true. Captain Hargrove was one of those men. On a warm night on an exotic island, Hargrove discovered what all the rumors were about, when Jolly Roger dropped his pants and pulled off his shirt. As Jolly’s handsome young crew members stood watching, Hargrove found something he’d needed for a very long time, something the women in his life had never been able to offer. Left with no defenses and no way to turn back, his only choice was to grab Jolly by the back of the head, yank him to the ground, and plunge into the most memorable night of his life, with his fists braced for battle, his chest heaving, and his pants around his ankles.

Working as an Author Advocate

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve built an editorial client base with a few select authors I love. One of these authors is Curtis H. von Dornheim, an author who works predominantly in non-fiction and can be found here.

I like editing and reading his work. If I didn’t, I would not be doing it. And when he told me he’d written a m/m romance novella, THE WINGS OF FATE, and wanted me to edit it, I jumped at the chance.

I fell in love with the story, and I just submitted it to one of my favorite e-publishers. I’m working as his author advocate, but I’m just as excited about getting this story published as I am about getting my own fiction published. Though the concept of author advocate is new, it’s slightly different from acting as a literary agent. I don’t take queries and I don’t read unsolicited work. I go after my clients and ask them for permission to act as their advocate because I love their work. I’ve been doing this quietly for a while. But I wanted to go public with this one because I love the story so much.

So here’s hoping my instincts and my contacts prove me well. I’d love to see Curt break into fiction. And I think m/m romance readers will love THE WINGS OF FATE.

The Lambda Finalists Have Been Announced

Each year around this time the finalists for the Lambda Awards are posted on their web site. This is the 22nd year for these awards and I, of course, have my own favorites that are listed as finalists.

I was thrilled to see that two of my favorite books are finalists, and I’m hoping the best for both of these authors I like and respect.

One book is an anthology, written by Cecelia Tan, titled WOMEN OF THE BITE. This is an anthology of lesbian themed vampire stories. The storylines are great, the quality of the writing is great, and everything about the book keeps the reader wanting more.

The other book is titled, TRANSGRESSIONS, by Erastes. It’s a well written m/m historical, set in 1642, England, about two young men struggling to survive in a war-torn atmosphere. I don’t read many historicals, but I’m glad I read this one. It was wonderful and I couldn’t recommend it more. I’ve been in a few anthologies with this author, and I’ve always been happy with what I’ve read.

American Idol: It’s That Time of Year Again

Now that American Idol is going into full swing again, I thought I’d post about my novel, AMERICAN STAR. If you haven’t read the novel, I think this is an important post. And if you have read the novel, I think it’s even more important to read this post.

This book, so there is no confusion, is not a warm, tender romance like most of my other books. I just didn’t think the plot warranted being a warm, typical romance. AMERICAN STAR is, and was always supposed to be, an adult, satirical look at what might go on behind the scenes of a TV reality show like American Idol. It’s very erotic, in the true sense of gay erotic fiction, and there is romance. But not the kind of romance that will leave you with wet eyes. This is more of a modern romance, between very strong men, who do not apologize for their needs and the way they live their lives.

If anything, I hope AMERICAN STAR leaves you laughing, the same way I laughed while I wrote the book. Even the sexy scenes are satirical, campy and totally unreal compared to other books I’ve written, like TAKE ME ALWAYS and THE GHOST AND MR. MOORE.

And, I’d also like to explain, that while formatting this book as an e-book, there was a problem with the main character’s name. This happens all the time in e-publishing (so they tell me), and from what I hear it has something to do with the process of going from Word to digital format. It wasn’t a problem with editing. The book was edited very carefully, just like all my other novels and stand alones, by me and two other good editors at So if you notice that the main character’s name is spelled differently in sections, there is a reason that went beyond my own personal control. But it’s only one letter, and it’s not hard to figure out. When the book was submitted, the names were all spelled correctly.

If you are still curious about the book and not sure about whether or not it’s for you, read one of my stand alones that was published by, like DOWN THE BASEMENT or VANCE’S FLAMES. AMERICAN STAR is more along the lines of these stories.

VANCE’S FLAMES is Now a Stand Alone E-Book

VANCE’S FLAMES is a short story that was originally published in a collection of short stories by Cleis Press, which was edited by Shane Allison. And now VANCE’S FLAMES is being released as a stand alone e-book, by, and I wanted to post some background information that I think will interest readers.

This new e-book release isn’t an exact edition of the originally published short story. I think this one is far better; I’m much happier with it. It’s longer, there’s more depth of emotion, and there’s a quiet, happy, romantic ending. I also had full editorial control with this version, thanks to the wonderful e-publisher, Claudia Regenos, at, and I was able to turn a naughty little story into a sharp lgbt romance that’s socially responsible, with two very unlikely male characters who find each other, in spite of their differences.
The editor I worked with on this is Janet Schelke, from Loveyoudivine, and Dawne Dominique did the cover art. Both Janet and Dawne worked with me on DOWN THE BASEMENT, and it’s always a great experience working with both of them. I can’t find a link for Janet (I will look, though) but here’s one for Dawne Dominique……if you’d like to check out her web site.

VANCE’S FLAMES will be released on January 8, 2010. Here’s a review about the story, by Rainbow Reviews, that was published when the story appeared in the original print collection:
“Vance’s Flames” by Ryan Field ~ Vance has loved fire since he was little and when he gets assigned community service at a volunteer fire station he shows fireman Bucky just how good he is at starting fires.

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