History Shouldn’t Be a Mystery: Historical Gay Romance
Gay men have been around everywhere since forever. So why should we only tell stories set in the contemporary United States?
My new series, Love Against The Odds, is something adventurous and something of a risk. It explores love between gay men in times and places where it wasn’t so easy. Literally speaking, I will be writing historical romance in this series, but usually when people say historical romance, they mean 19th century Britain, and that’s not what I’ll be writing.
The first book in the series, Civil Wars, begins in 1970s wartime Vietnam, and explores the love between two young Vietnamese guys who meet each other through their war-related jobs, and then believe that there’s no way they can ever be together as the end of the war tears them apart (somewhat ironically, it was the war that had kept them together).
I’ve had this series in my head for a few years now, but the reason I haven’t done it until now is that I was wary of how I could produce happy endings when writing about deeply homophobic societies. Well, don’t worry. There are happy endings, and nothing even strains credibility.
Sure, there’s already gay romance set outside the US and UK, but almost always, at least one of the men in the romance is an American or Briton. I’ve decided to take a different tack and tell a completely “localized” story.
There are lots of Americans in Civil Wars, and the US does figure prominently, but the substance of the story, as well as the way the characters think and live, seeks to show a time and place different from the contemporary first world. I plan on continuing that with the other books in the series.
Actually, there’s a mistaken assumption out there that either 1) society has been constantly becoming more and more open about sexuality and specifically homosexuality, or that 2) society was open about homosexuality before the Victorian age, then became closed, and now is becoming open again. Both of those are popular but pretty much dead wrong.
If you’ll excuse me while I dive back into my previous academic career: two historians in this field are Michel Foucault and George Chauncey (perhaps not coincidentally, both gay men). Foucault’s 1976 tome History of Sexuality (confession: I’ve only read excerpts, not the whole thing) argued against what he called “the repressive hypothesis,” that sexuality was always repressed until now, and showed that openness toward sexuality (especially homosexuality) has always gone in waves and cycles and not in a straight (ha ha) line. And George Chauncey is a contemporary historian whose 1994 book Gay New York showed that male homosexuality was pretty much completely accepted in New York City about one hundred years ago—contrary to the popular belief that homosexuality wasn’t accepted anywhere in the United States before the 1960s.
Today we can see a bit of the wave and cycle trend in the United States, can’t we? The Obama administration, and the legislature and courts, did more for gay people during eight years than perhaps during any other eight years in American history. The pace of change was surprising even for me. But now we’re most likely set for some setbacks—Mike Pence is probably the most anti-gay person to ever hold the Vice Presidency, and he will be President if and when Trump is impeached.
But so it goes. Up and down. It’s life, isn’t it? Civil Wars explores all the ironies of life, love, war, and history. The subsequent book in the series, which I won’t reveal too much about right now, will be set in Africa: modern, urban Africa, not the starving-village Africa that you may be used to seeing on TV. After that, I’ve thought about doing a romance about James Buchanan, our first gay president, but I haven’t decided yet.
Tell me what you think. Is it interesting to you to read about gay romance in faraway times and places? Do you enjoy learning about, say, contemporary urban life in Nigeria (uh oh, spoiler for the following book) while reading about gay love? I hope it’s as interesting for you as it is for me.
About Civil Wars
“The war keeps us together.”
Toan is an American general’s translator, and Minh is the general’s driver. Toan spends long drives staring at Minh: he’s never seen another Vietnamese guy with such a stylish haircut and chiseled face. That and Minh returns his interest, sometimes. Even if a polished, good-looking guy like Minh is way out of plain-faced Toan’s reach.
“I wish I could be myself.”
Minh has a secret. His father kicked him out of the house when he found him with another boy. And he has a nother secret. He’s a communist agent, counting down the days until the attack on Toan and the American general. But until then, Minh can enjoy himself with Toan a bit, can’t he?
“Rock and roll and civil wars”
To the tune of Creedence Clearwater, Buffalo Springfield, and Jefferson Airplane, Minh and Toan discover the ridiculousness of war and the logic of love — against all odds.
Civil Wars is a Vietnam War 1970s historical gay romance with sweet love, conflicted identity, a guaranteed HEA, and no violence.
About the Author
Steve Milton writes gay romances with sweet love, good humor, and hot sex. His stories tend toward the sweet and sexy, with not much angst and definitely no downers. Steve crafts feel-good stories with complex characters and interesting settings. He is a South Florida native, and when he’s not writing, he likes cats, cars, music, and coffee.
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