When I first started devouring m/m romances, I was perplexed by the sheer number of stories involving other-worldy creatures. I did a lot of shopping at Bookstrand and it seemed every other book in my search results had some fantasy element. And that’s where I drew the line. Humans only. Not that I had anything against the other books being out there, I just wasn’t interested.
And yet, so many of the descriptions were intriguing and hit all my other buttons. But I was steadfast. For about 8 months. It was getting harder to find books I really wanted to read and I hadn’t yet discovered Goodreads with their tons of recommendations. So I gave in. Just one, I thought, to see what it’s like and why there are so many of them.
I picked up the first in Lynn Hagan’s Brac Pack series. And I think I lost some sanity points and about a month of my time by the time I looked around and found that I’d consumed 52 of that and the related series. (Yes I did go to work and do things that had to be done, but pretty much read every spare second, and many that should have been otherwise spent.) The reason I know the number is because I created a spreadsheet to keep track of the characters and their books, so I could look back if I needed to. For proof of my insanity, you can see the spreadsheet.
Now you might expect me to gush about how wonderful these books were and how everyone should read them, but I won’t. These weren’t amazing works of literature that touched me deeply or anything, but I found them somehow addictive. Like junk food or popcorn without the calories. You know there are better choices out there, but they are easy and comfortable and you know what to expect. Yes, they’re formulaic and not likely to cause any major surprises, but sometimes that’s what you want, or at least that’s sometimes what I want- fun crazy stuff, decent dialogue and a guaranteed happy ending.
I’ve read other popcorn series since then and not all of them involve supernatural elements, but for some reason a lot of them do. I’ve thought about why and I think there are some good reasons for that.
- It’s easier to have a bunch of related romances if you have a well-defined set of characters who all need to get matched up with someone, and having defined groups of clustered supernaturals fits this need nicely.
- You need ready sources of external conflict to keep the interest going over a long series. Conflicts between human groups can make the book heavier than one really wants in this type of read. The supernatural elements remove everything a step to keep the angst removed from more real-world concerns.
- Similarly, you can deal with weighty issues like discrimination and prejudice without adding the extra baggage that comes with very real human experiences with that. (i.e. most people aren’t going to complain to you that you’re portrayals of werewolves are racist or demeaning.)
- A lot of these stories have a concept of a mate- a person or persons you are destined to be with. It’s a compelling concept for a romance novel and it’s interesting how different authors implement it.
While I still read mostly realistic contemporary, sometimes I find another series like this and devour them all until my vision starts to blur and I feel a little loopy. Then I go back to reading the literary equivalent of balanced meals until the mood strikes again.