The day after I last posted, writing about reviews, I found a new review for Necessary Madness. Matthew at Rainbow Reviews wrote:
The villain in this tale is deliciously drawn. I think a story is only as strong as it's hero and villain, and this villain is top rate! His seductive manner and twisted mind combine to equally attract and repel.
Obviously that comment made me very happy, especially since I worked extra hard to make Stefan a complex, believable character with plausible motives for his evil behavior. On the other hand, I was disappointed that the reviewer only gave me three and a half out of five stars. Now maybe I'm just conceited, but I thought the book deserved better. I was really grateful to Matthew for taking the time to review the novel, of course. But I wondered why he didn't like it more.
Then I noted the following caveat:
One note of caution for the gay readers who are less interested in bisexuality ~ there is a vividly described scene of female masturbation as well as some male/female S&M action in this story.
Was this the reason that Rainbow Reviews, which dedicates itself GLBT fiction, dropped me a star or so? Because I failed the "genre purity" test?
The scenes that the reviewer describes are about one page each and do not involve the main (male) characters. The interludes exist primarily to establish the nature of Stefan's character (manipulative, charismatic, sadistic) rather than to arouse. It never occurred to me that they might bother some readers.
This isn't the first time I've encountered this perspective. Another review site refused to review the book at all because of the minimal M/F interaction. I was annoyed, I must admit, though obviously this was the site owner's prerogative.
It really makes me wonder, though. Are readers so particular that they will reject a book that has some variety in its sexual pairings? Are they so sensitive that they're going to be turned off by a little bit of something they might not have expected from the genre label?
Perhaps I'm the one being overly sensitive. My first three novels all contain pretty much every variety of pairing: M/F, M/M, F/F, plus threesomes and foursomes. I enjoy mixing things up, partly because I'm convinced that most humans fall somewhere on a continuum between homosexual and heterosexual and might well get involved with a partner of either gender under certain circumstances. These books did fairly well, especially the first, Raw Silk. Maybe there's a big readership out there that enjoys the kind of no-holds-barred pairings that come naturally to me. Maybe the readers who like M/M are unusually picky. Or maybe I'm getting all riled up about nothing--a few comments by a few individuals who don't represent the majority.
So what do you think? If you like M/M fiction, will you get upset if you discover that a book you've chosen isn't "pure"? And what about the other way around? If you're a fan of heterosexual romance, will a bit of gay or lesbian activity turn you off?
I'd really love to know.