For all the fuss about m/m romance (the last time I’ll type that label here) and straight women writing gay men, Dale Chase keeps on doing what she’s been doing for the last twenty years–writing healthy, real, gay men. And, boy, do they have a lot of sex. Although neither Dale nor her publisher would like to hear it, The Great Man should be a primer for those women seeking to write men’s romance. In addition to having a lot of sex, the affection, the love, the relationship is right here. And it proves that the men don’t have to be…well, cover models. Or ape any sort of heteronormality. The Great Man, though billed as gay erotica, is far more than that. It’s a great romance.
Literary giant Lucian Sperring is having a life crisis at fifty-eight years old. His partner, Andy, has just died. Enter Scott Beach, thirty years younger, who has his cap set for his hero of letters. Scott wins his beau, but Lucian proves to be more of a challenge to keep than he was to win. So follows Lucian’s downward spiral. Scott could and would save him, but Lucian finds putting out his hand to be the most painful act he can imagine.
Where many of those other romances (and I’m generalizing, here – I have read some top notch ones) fail is that they’re way too concerned with form–peaks go here, valleys go there, and you have to have that main obstacle right here to be overcome. Life ain’t like that, chillun. And their characters are pallid, substituting pyrotechnic sex for passion. Neither is true here. The obstacle, Lucian’s inability to cope with Andy’s death, suffuses the entire book and is not relegated to the “right plot moment.” A shade over two hundred pages, three parts (one for Scott, one for Lucian, then back to Scott), and two points of view, it shatters all those romance tropes and delivers an absorbing and–goddammit, yes–real story about gay men.
Scott’s pursuit of Lucian through sex and writing is perfectly portrayed in the first part, as is Lucian’s reaction in the middle. Lucian is facing mortality and a mid-career slump and reacts just the way I’ve seen so many gay men do–an orgy of excess. Liquor, boys, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. Our denial mechanism. If we can just keep fucking, everything will be okay. By the time Scott comes back to pick up the pieces in the last section, Lucian knows his excesses haven’t worked. And he knew they wouldn’t. He realizes what Scott is offering and can finally accept.
Oh yeah, and it has a HEA, too. Gets there without artifice. By being real.
The Great Man reminds Chase’s audience what she can do when she leaves the Old West and the Victorian era (but I liked those books as well) and applies her skills to a contemporary setting. If the romance publishers put out books half this good, they might be worth the money and attention the industry generates. Highly, highly recommended.
© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler