The emphasis of the stories isn't necessarily with the "issue," for instance, a recent Maisey Yates novel featuring a caucasian heroine and African hero wasn't about that issue, but something else. I welcome it, and I'd be interested to know if you found any examples in more recent books. There's an article in New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction that deals with precisely this issue.
I'm not doing it nearly enough justice, but it's a fabulous article that covers this issue. You'll just have to wait three more months to read it. I've come across gay characters in some Regency romances. Obviously, the setting means that they can't be out and proud, and there are often blackmail plots built round them which is certainly authentic historically but in the books I've read they seem to be sympathetic characters and not made effeminate or 'other'. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are in some of Mary Balogh's books.
In 'Indiscreet', we learn that the widowed heroine's former husband married her for convenience, and had a male lover. Alhough his rejection of her caused her to have a complex about her own sexuality, he's still treated in a nuanced way and not demonised. Similarly, the heroine's much-loved former husband in 'Seducing an Angel' 'was not that way inclined' and they had a companionable marriage.
One of the Bedwyn novels features a woman who goes to extreme lengths to avoid marriage so won't be parted from her 'friend'. There's also a Julia Quinn book where the heroine is supposed to marry someone who is secretly gay and he stands aside. I can't remember which book that is, though, sorry! So although there's no evidence of the homoerotic, there are examples of homosexuality and of homosexual men and women forming lasting attachments and being treated as sympathetic characters.
Sarah - thanks for mentioning the 'New Approaches' article - I must admit, I was surprised that there isn't more critical work around on this, aside from brief mentions I've come across in other critical work about the heteronormativity of popular romances. After all, popular romance is ultimately about a love story between two people, be they gay, bisexual or straight. I have often puzzled as to the predominance of heterosexuality in most popular especially category romances, particularly as other popular genres are working to become more inclusive and representative.
Do you think there will always be separate categories of heterosexual and homosexual romance? And has anyone ever come across a bisexual romance?
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There was some discussion just recently about the sexual orientation of the hero of Megan Chance's The Portrait. Maili felt he was bisexual. Re While I'm not saying that you won't find it, certainly there has been a big shift in authors and in approach to these stories. At least, I wrote a post in in which I mentioned that it seemed to me that Ebooks seem to be the place where the dominance of heterosexuality seems most likely to be challenged at the moment, but I also wonder if there's been a trend towards including more secondary couples who are not heterosexual and not merely the "gay best friend" in paper-published romances.
The most well-known recent romance of this kind is probably Suzanne Brockmann's Force of Nature [ Laura, thanks for those mentions, especially the bisexual ones. I know there have been more secondary non-heterosexual couples in mainstream romance, but I was wondering when we might start to see non-heterosexual primary couples?
However, I am very happy to be proven wrong! Harlequin could be making moves in that direction via Carina. An interesting thing about that quote in that particular context is that 'the East' in prototypical Orientalist fantasies is often understood as a location of queer sexuality so, the women in Turkish Bath paintings or the homoeroticism in Lawrence of Arabia, for example. Jessica - that's a really interesting point, and one of the reasons why I think the context of the hypermasculinisation of the sheikh is so important.
It also might indicate how much those Orientalist readings of the east as 'queer' persist in modern sheikh romances. Late to the discussion as always, but thanks for the thought-provoking post! I admit, I read that extract quite differently than you did. I haven't read the book, so I don't have the same context you do, so it may be that I'm missing some cues.
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But I don't see how saying he is uncomfortable with the idea that his subordinates adore him makes him homophobic. It's not presented as a generalized attitude, but rather as a very specific attraction that would be problematic for a number of reasons. In addition, Porter might be using "adore" as a synonym for worship, which would be appropriate if the "men" described here are the Sheikh's subjects, soldiers, etc.
As for LGBT in mainstream genre romance, the only way I can see it emerging any time soon is as a new category line or through single titles in mainstream publishers which is what Carina is doing. Genre is at least partly about predictability, and changing up the genders of the partners doesn't fall within that category.
Thanks for your comment Sunita - your take on the extract from Porter is really interesting! Although I personally still read Tair's words as homophobic whether generalised or specifically your reading touches on the cultural context of the sheikh romance which, I've been discovering in my research, presents all kinds of interesting and conflicting masculine identities, and these are certainly playing out in this passage. My take on it is undoubtedly influenced by my experiences with the different ways that masculinity and homosexuality are conceptualized and socially manifested in Middle Eastern and especially South Asian societies.
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But given that Porter is a British author writing Western sheikh-fantasy romances pitched at a Western reader, your reading makes a lot of sense. I was trying to think of another way to convey what the passage seems to be about, and I couldn't come up with one. Presumably the heroine is trying to reassure the hero that he is more emotionally open than he thinks. I feel bad for authors sometimes. But if she makes him authentically uncomfortable, never mind outright homophobic, she is open to criticism there as well. Fascinating discussion, though.
Thanks for raising the topic! Porter might be using "adore" as a synonym for worship, which would be appropriate if the "men" described here are the Sheikh's subjects, soldiers, etc. The theological connotations of "adore" did cross my mind too. As for respect, what he says is that You're confusing affection and respect.
My men don't care about me. They fear me. Two significantly different things.
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That made me think of Machiavelli's The Prince and the question about whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.
Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you successed [sic] they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by nobility or greatness of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserved you by a dread of punishment which never fails.
Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. It also Read full review.
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