A well-written story can make me enjoy (almost) anything. Still, like every reader, I have certain things I tend to particularly love in my m/m romance reading. I don’t mean specific themes or tropes, but general, underlying factors in the way the characters are portrayed and the dynamics of the relationship.
Please note: These are my personal preferences only, and I in no way intend to set them up as rules, or indicators of literary quality, or anything of the kind. Tastes differ; other readers and writers have other preferences, which is exactly as it should be. The world would be a sad and boring place if everyone liked the same things.
So if you have different preferences (or if you share mine), tell me! I love to talk about these things.
I am not a fan of hierarchical relationships or other types of power imbalances in romantic relationships (I do love power reversals, though, provided the end result is a balance of some kind).
An Advantage of Same-Gender Romance
For me, one of the great things about m/m romance is that there is no inescapable social inequality tied into the main characters’ genders. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any existing society that has true gender equality, meaning that there are always a stack of societal expectations, pressures and gender roles involved in a relationship between a man and a woman. Regardless of whether the characters buy into them or not, they are still always present.
Unlike a heterosexual couple, two men – or two women – start out on an equal footing in the eyes of society and each other. Any existing power imbalances or assumed roles cannot be based in gender.
(Heterosexual romance frequently handles this very well, by the way, negating the power imbalance in the case of the particular couple in question – or even reversing it and making the woman the more powerful partner. But in a homosexual romance, this kind of equality is the default, and I find that an advantage.)
Gender isn’t the only arena where I like the lovers to hold equal power within the relationship. I often have a hard time with romances between a superior and a subordinate, or a professor and a student, because of the direct dependency inherent in this kind of relationship.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t want there to be any differences in social status, age, fortune, what have you – but in the relationship itself, I prefer a level playing field.
If there are large differences in status outside the relationship, I need there to be some kind of equalizing factor. For example, you could say that there are large status differences between Pat and Nick in “Love for the Cold-Blooded” – Pat is a university student, and Nick is a famous billionaire genius superhero. The thing is, though, that Pat is completely and genuinely unimpressed by Nick’s fame, money and status, and makes this entirely clear from the get-go. In their interactions, Nick is the one who’s left scrambling to find and keep his feet.
So, what do you think?