Each year I await the announcement of the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.
When I began writing this post I had the intention of listing ten of my favourite books in gay fiction for 2010. But it quickly became apparent that it would be impossible to restrict the list to only ten. Despite the fact that my reading time was more limited over 2010 due to the demands of real life and work and I read much less than in previous years, there were too many reading gems that I did read and could not omit from the year’s best.
Over the course of the year I made several wonderful discoveries in new-to-me authors, finally got around to reading books that had been sitting on my shelves for years, I received some great recommendations from online friends, some of my favourite authors released incredible stories and I gave myself permission to re-read some past favourites without guilt.
In the end, twenty books (novels, novellas, anthologies and short stories) made the final cut of my best in gay fiction for 2010 across several genres – contemporary, erotica, horror, historical, mystery, romance and young adult. Some were weighty stories, others lighter fare with happy endings, and several had unforgettable characters that continued to haunt me long after I was done reading their stories. But all the books listed as my best of 2010 in their own way dealt with the stuff of life and fed my mind, heart and soul.
September and October were steady reading months with some very good to excellent reads. Early in September I revisited (and reviewed for the first time) two of my favourite books by gay romance/erotica author Sean Michael – The Center of Earth and Sky and its sequel Painting the Desert now available only in a compilation entitled, Center (Torquere Press), and made a small dent in my reading pile with Tere Michael’s third book in the Faith, Love and Devotion series and the eagerly awaited sequel to Faith & Fidelity – Duty and Devotion (Loose Id). I also had the opportunity to review for Rainbow Reviews The Guardian Angel of South Beach by Neil Plakcy (Loosed Id) an author I’ve been wanting to read for a while, as well as reviewed for Three Dollar Bill Reviews Test of Faith by Aleksndr Voinov and Raev Gray (eXcessica Publishing). Finally, I had the pleasure of reading George Seaton’s Big Diehl: The Road Home (MLR Press) which I reviewed for Three Dillar Bill Reviews and his short story entitled Continuum (Untreed Read) for Rainbow Reviews, both of which I absolutely loved.
July, 1187: Saladin has defeated the Crusader army at The Horns of Hattin. While hundreds of his comrades have perished in the battle, Thierry de la Tour Rouge, a Frank and Templar Knight, has survived only to be taken prisoner by the Saracens. Thierry is living hell on earth, but he is alive and sure to stay that way if his ransom can be secured. The only thing those bloodthirsty heathens like more than spilling Christian blood is good Christian silver.
Parched, stripped of his armor and tied like an animal in a tent, Thierry fears torture in the attempt to break him and his faith. While he suspects that he has been bought and paid for, he doesn’t know why.
Abdul Basir is French by birth and a convert to Islam. As an advisor to Saladin, Abdul has been accepted by the Saracens and regarded with respect, but he will never be one of them. Thierry has been bought for him and while Abdul owns him, he cannot guarantee that Saladin will spare Thierry’s life.
In the spirit of acceptance and forgiveness and in the hopes of dying without torture, Thierry chastely kisses Abdul, hurtling them both into a clash of faiths and a contest of wills, one man motivated by the fulfillment of a fantasy and the other by the need to survive and keep his faith intact. In the process, they come to show each other mercy, kindness, mutual respect and trust – enough to reveal their desire for one another.
As Saladin holds the fate of Thierry’s life in his hands, can Abdul ensure the safety of this honorable crusader? Or will he have to find the strength and courage to let Thierry go in peace?
Virtually all the books I read this year are in the area of gay fiction (erotica, romance, horror, suspense, urban fantasy, western/cowboy, young adult, etc.), and as the year draws to an end I thought I’d put together a list of my favourite books and stories for 2009.
The two books that standout the most and I consider my #1 reads for 2009 are Amnesic Nostalgia by Zea Miller and Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane. These two gems rightfully take their place as part of the list of some of my most favourite books.
My Outlaw by Stormy Glenn
After getting injured and losing his horse during a cattle drive, Daniel Branson is ordered to ride the stagecoach back to his home ranch just outside of Brownsville, Texas. Little does he realize that it will put him in the hands of notorious outlaw Black Bart and his posse who take Daniel for ransom. While Daniel should be afraid for his life, all he can think about is getting naked with this handsome outlaw and Black Bart has plans for Daniel that don’t involve holding him for ransom!
Forbidden by H.C. Brown
It is England in the year 1075 and Sir Renoir Danier finds himself in an intolerable situation when he is ordered by King William to marry an elderly Spanish countess Lady Isabella d’Coutier. Five years earlier, he met the great love of his life, Sir Sebastian. This deeply sensual dark angel taught him all that a man could give to another. Renoir became a slave to his erotic punishment. After a month of bliss, Sebastian sailed to Spain leaving Renoir with a shattered heart. A wedding gift from El Cid sees the return of Sebastian to England and the possibility for a second chance for Renoir and his dark angel.
Poisoned Heart by Anna O’Neill
In Edo-period Japan, a prominent family might choose to foster a son from another clan in order to encourage peaceful political relations. When Raiden’s family invites twenty-three year old Masashi into their lives, their gesture has the opposite effect: Masashi kills Raiden’s parents. Now years later Raiden is studying with a master of magic who allows Raiden the chance to go back in time to kill Masashi before Masashi can lift a finger against his family. But when Raiden is faced with his guest-brother once again, much to his horror he finds that his old feelings for Masashi return. With the weight of the future bearing down on Raiden’s shoulders, can he overcome these troublesome emotions, or will his new weakness destroy everything?
Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov
Deliverance takes us on a journey to Jerusalem during the time of the Crusades. Former professional tournament fighter and mercenary William Raven of Kent has joined the Knights Templar to do penance for his sins. He has pledged his life to God and to the defense of the Christian heartlands. One evening during prayers, the Templars are summonsed to battle in defense of Christian pilgrims who are under attack. As the fighting ensues, William takes notice of a pilgrim who is fighting along side displaying “knightly” skills. It is Guy de Metz his former lover and one true love. Their unexpected reunion brings William face-to-face with a past he thought he’d escaped and one that now threatens to shatter the life he has vowed to God.
It took me a little over a month to read Cycle I of Special Forces entitled Soldiers (1980-1989), by co-authors Marquesate and Aleksandr Voinov (writing as Vashtan), all nineteen chapters and almost five hundred pages. I read Soldiers very slowly. It is anything but a light read so I managed a couple of chapters at a time and then had to stop reading and think about things.
Special Forces: Soldiers (1980-1989) is not gay romance or erotica, but it is a story of love, hate, violence, revenge, devotion, friendship and loyalty between Dan McFadyen an officer in the British Special Forces (SAS) and Vadim Krasnorada a Spetsnaz (Special Forces) officer of the Soviet Red Army. The backdrop of this story is the Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, the USSR’s eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan and events beyond.