Another in my occasional series of recommendations for books/series. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.
I started reading in the gay romance genre about four and a half years ago, after I became aware that it even existed through fanfic friends. I waded in slowly, picking my reads with care, but it wasn’t long before I found the first one that stuck with me. That book was Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. (This was the first edition, of course.)
Special Delivery had so many elements that stood out. The older man/younger man pairing. The road trip. The dirty, dirty sex. Vegas. And, of course, Randy Jansen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read that book, and it hits me in the gut every time. I fell in love with Sam, and Mitch, and yeah, Randy too, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. They say you never forget your first? Well, Special Delivery wasn’t the first book I read in the genre, but it was the first one I never forgot.
(The sequels are great, too. Double Blind, Randy’s love story, had a bit too much poker-ese for me, but I loved it anyway. Especially that limo scene. Tough Love almost, but not quite, landed as high on my list as SD. Oh, and don’t miss the freebies, too! Links to all on Heidi’s website.)
A little farther into my time in the genre, I came upon Marie Sexton’s Strawberries for Dessert. I can’t remember what made me pick the book up. I had read the first book in the series, Promises, but I didn’t realize that until after I read SfD. (How I missed that, I don’t know. I suppose it was just that I was cramming so many books into my brain at once that some aspects didn’t stick.)
SfD was probably the first book in the genre that actually made me cry. You may not know what a huge thing that is, but I am not a crier. At all. Even tearing up is rare. And when I am that affected by a scene, it will nearly always be a happy or bittersweet moment, rarely something truly sad. What got me in SfD? The moment at the end of the book when Cole finally lets Jonathan all the way in. I’d fallen in love with Cole right along with Jonathan, and seeing him laid bare just broke me open. Still does whenever I re-read.
(Again, this is part of a great series, the Coda series. I like Promises next-best, I think, though the direct sequel, Fear and Bread Pudding, is pretty close. Marie has a series reading order on her website, and I’d recommend following that, although as I showed with SfD, some of them do work as standalones. Oh! And there’s another Coda story, Shotgun, coming in 2015! Squeee!)
Last weekend at GayRomLit, I discovered that both SD and SfD were available for purchase in paperback from the publishers. I snatched them up and got Heidi and Marie—who are both fabulous women I adore—to sign them for me. It doesn’t matter that I own both in ebook format. I wanted those hard copies on my bookshelf, so that every time I glance over, the memories make me smile.
Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net