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STAR CROSSED LOVERS

Today's guest is author Josephine Myles, another British resident, and enthusiastically so! She is running an entertaining and fond series on her blog of topical romance tropes, and today she examines one that many romance readers may view with caution :).



Bio: English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotic romance because she has a particular fondness for British slang, and claims there aren’t enough m/m books out there catering to her tastes. She desperately wants to be able to paste a little row of cover artwork here, but to date has only had short stories published. She is currently working on the final draft of her first novel and getting stuck into writing a quirky little novella.

Vist Jo's website and blog to find out more.

Sez Clare: and here's a rather glorious row of covers that Jo's been involved in, looking rather fine, in my opinion...





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When I originally picked today to blog over at Clare's it was because I wanted to do something to celebrate the release of Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates (YouTube clip below) - a song I fell in love with the very first time I heard it. I didn't know what I'd write but wanted it to be in some way connected with the song, and how it's a great example of a gay romance.

Then it hit me: Sebastian and Cosmo Pirate are a perfect example of a classic romance trope: the Star Crossed Lovers. I've been making weekly blog posts poking affectionate fun at some m/m romance tropes, so here is a continuation of my Trope Tuesday, but on a Monday...

The Star Crossed Lovers

You know the "Star Crossed Lovers" when you see them: they're the ones who fall in love at first shag, the ones who would do anything for each other and are so sweet together it makes your teeth hurt. You might find yourself wondering what the rest of the plot will be if the two heroes have already confessed their undying love and you're only three chapters in. You probably won't, though, because you've read the blurb and you've seen the warning signs: our heroes may be perfect for each other, but the sadistic author is about to throw a whole load of trouble their way.



Authors are spoilt for choice when it comes to setting the world against those lovely boys. An evil, homophobic father is a frequent choice of villain, or failing that, an evil, homophobic pirate Captain. All the old heterosexual romance obstacles and barriers can be called out: differences in class, race, religion, wealth, age - you name it, if society doesn't approve of their union, it will feel like the whole world is against our plucky lovers. What's more, when the lovers are both male, there's a whole extra set of prejudices and even laws that can get in the way of their path to happiness. War is a frequent device to separate those two "Star Crossed Lovers", particularly if a civil war tests their loyalties and the two end up fighting against each other.



Yes, it will seem like the whole world is out to separate the perfect pair. Even the weather will be against them. Volcanoes will erupt, earthquakes carve up the ground between them, tidal waves carry them apart. There may be kidnappings, torture and death threats. We're not talking about a little bit of internal angst driving the conflict - fretting about their sexuality or whether people will accept them together - we're talking conflict on a biblical scale. This is not something a well-reasoned argument or even a quick bout of fisticuffs will sort out. This is two, tiny beings set against Fate and Destiny. They don't stand a chance. Handkerchiefs on standby, dear reader...



Of course, this being M/M romance, happy endings are in great demand. That's why we often end up with a rather bizarre twist of fate that somehow allows these two men to find a little desert island paradise where they can be together. The reader will cheer, but there will probably be that nagging feeling of "hmmm, that seemed a bit too easy" and they might be asked to turn a blind eye to numerous, gaping plot holes.



I think it's a shame that the "Star Crossed Lover" trope is rarely taken to it's Shakespearean conclusion, when the two end up like Romeo and, er, Julian, and pay the ultimate price for their doomed love. True tragedies tear at the heartstrings and can linger in the mind long after the final page is turned (or these days, clicked). We can imagine the "Star Crossed Lovers" together in some kind of gay heaven, like those gay pirates in the video, where they will no longer be persecuted for their love.


However, it takes a brave author to write a tragic ending these days. I wonder if some of the resistance to it is more than simply a concern about reader reaction, and perhaps a response to the longstanding trope across all mainstream media where gay relationships have always been doomed. M/M romance as a genre seems to be a reaction against the "bury your gays" trope that has held sway for so many years.



I usually end these trope posts by listing a few examples of stories I've read where I think the trope has been handled particularly well, but I need to ask for your help with this one. I'm not very brave at picking up stories with tragic endings these days, so perhaps those of you with more emotional resiliance can recommend your favourite "star crossed lovers"? Also, if you have any ideas for tropes you'd like me to look at in future posts, then do let me know - I'd be most grateful!




Movie stills from: West Side Story, Wuthering Heights, Romeo & Juliet, Brokeback Mountain, Were the World Mine.



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AND JUST FOR FUN, A FICTION PROMPT CALL...!!

Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Take the prompt "A NEW RESOLUTION" and write something for the visitors this month. It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.

I'm holding a FREE FICTION DAY on the 28th, so send me new fiction - links to your existing work also welcome! - to clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll post it all then :).




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Follow this month with Clare - and the goodies so far:

JAN 22: Sexy or sweet, men in fiction? dontkickmycane.
JAN 23: The release of my short story THREADBARE at JMS books.


JAN 15: Favourite worldwide travel with cdn_tam.
JAN 16: 10 cautionary tales from ZA Maxfield! zamaxfield.
JAN 17: The business/pleasure balance of writing from libby_drew.
JAN 18: Why M/M? And who wants to know? from jordan_c_price.
JAN 19: What makes fiction short and sweet for jenre.
JAN 20: The pursuit of beautiful things by wrenboo.
JAN 21: Bawdy and brazen humor in the new release from Rick R. Reed.



JAN 08: A great new novel and sequel from mickieashling.
JAN 09: Fiction and beautiful illustrations from essayel.
JAN 10: Forthcoming menage release from lc_chase.
JAN 11: Fabulous mix of SF and erotic romance from Sloane Taylor and Robert Appleton.
JAN 12: Follow the bizarre photographic history of Wind in Hair Guy with egret17.
JAN 13: When only your family understands the joke, with charliecochrane.
JAN 14: A top 10 of gay books you should read from erastes.



JAN 01: A FREE short from me, revisiting Nic and Aidan from Sparks Fly.
JAN 01: Delicious m/m icons from luscious_words.
JAN 02: Why I want to be a Bond villain! by chrissymunder.
JAN 03: The world of inspiration between 'historical' and 'contemporary' with stevie_carroll.
JAN 04: Some fascinating Swedish proverbs from 1more_sickpuppy.
JAN 05: A round-up of a great year just gone from angelasstone.
JAN 06: The countryside and history that inspires author sandra_lindsey.
JAN 07: The challenge of trying to balance edits, with diannefox and anahcrow.


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Check up on the original post and the Guest Schedule for January HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

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Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
jl_merrow
Jan. 24th, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
Great post, Jo!

Hmmm, I'm struggling to think of star-crossed lovers stories to recommend. I think part of the problem is that I prefer stories to be character-driven - if all of the conflict is external, it's not so much my thing.

GS Wiley's The Hummingbird Summer is probably the best I can think of - it's a mini-anthology of two extremely well-written, non-HEA stories set in 1960s New York: http://www.gswiley.com/the-hummingbird-summer
The guys in these stories possibly don't quite qualify as star-crossed lovers, but they definitely lingered in my mind.
josephine_myles
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about preferring character driven conflict. Maybe that's another reason I don't tend to read this trope if I can avoid it.

Those stories you've recced look interesting, but I notice the disclaimer: *Please note these stories are not romances, and do not have traditionally happy endings.

Intriguing that they feel they have to warn for this! It's like the new Dreamspinner line of "Bittersweet" stories.

Looking at the pictures Clare put in, I suppose there's always "Brokeback Mountain"...
charliecochrane
Jan. 24th, 2011 09:46 am (UTC)
Do Alexander/Hephaistion or Alexander/Bagoas count? And what about Spud Odell and Andrew?

Great post, gals. Am all of a swoon over the young Oliver as Heathcliff... (Ask your granny what I'm taking about, Jo.)
clarelondon
Jan. 24th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
Heh, I put that pic in especially for those who'd appreciate the definitive Heathcliff. Even if we are *way* too young to remember the film... :)
josephine_myles
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
You've lost me there, Charlie, going all Classical and literary XD

I suppose they might count. Not really part of the m/m romance genre, but they sound like classic examples of the star crossed lover trope.
charliecochrane
Jan. 24th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
Classical and Literary? Nah, I went all Mary Renault (Fire from heaven, Persian Boy, Charioteer - all classics of the gay genre!)
josephine_myles
Jan. 25th, 2011 09:42 am (UTC)
Ah! I still haven't read Mary Renault *slaps wrist* - like I said, I get a bit nervous about reading things without happy endings these days. I've turned into a real wuss!
essayel
Jan. 26th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
The Charioteer has a HFN, sort of. At least they are both alive at the end of it, which was BIG for the 1950s!
stevie_carroll
Jan. 24th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
I have to admit to being a little cynical about the star-crossed lovers. Lust at first sight is fine, as is acknowledging a connection early on then being terribly sensible and British about the whole thing and going off to have an awfully big adventure before any of the soppy stuff.

Someone needs to convince me better about this trope.
lil_1337
Jan. 24th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree with you where real life is concerned. I don't mind a little of the star crossed lovers in fiction, but there still needs to be something to show me chemistry and there has to be a realization that this is not just happily ever after.
josephine_myles
Jan. 25th, 2011 09:45 am (UTC)
I thought of one sort of star crossed lovers book that ended with an ambiguous, HFN-style ending that still had a lot of doubt in it: "Transgressions" by Erastes. Then again, the two heroes had copious character faults, so it wasn't purely external events keeping them apart.
lil_1337
Jan. 25th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
That's not one I've read. Do you recommend it?
josephine_myles
Jan. 26th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
Definitely! It's a historical, with heaps of angst, and it had me gripped all the way through.
josephine_myles
Jan. 25th, 2011 09:43 am (UTC)
Someone needs to convince me better about this trope.

Yeah, me too! I find it a bit odd to have the characters fall for each other early on. Shakespeare made it work, but then again, he was a master...
clarelondon
Jan. 25th, 2011 10:10 am (UTC)
Personally, I think it's the perfect definition of a trope - something that's woven into fiction as provoking emotion and reaction, but not necessarily realistic :). We love Shakespeare's melodrama but we know it's fiction; we know it's truncated into a 2-hour play (or 80k-word book); we know there are plenty of coincidences and WTF moments to make it work. In some ways, that's the attraction in itself. Does that make sense?

It's just up to the author to help us suspend our disbelief!

(and look at me, blithely using my semi-colons, after reading Alex B's great post at Wave's this week *heh*).

My new release Threadbare (blatant self-promotion) is an example of star-crossed lovers. And Branded was too, when it was in 2 novels and the first one had the lovers parted at the end. Then Dreamspinner kindly offered to publish a sequel and therefore nudged me towards redressing that :). There's great scope for an author in writing star-cxrossed lovers - the angst is heady.

Wonder if anyone ever wrote to Shakespeare and asked him to write a sequel to Romeo and Juliet? LOL

Sorry, rambled enough now :).
josephine_myles
Jan. 25th, 2011 12:27 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about the fictional moments being part of the beauty of novels - and yes, we recognise tropes at work and we love them because they speak to us on a very deep level. They are reworkings of all those classical themes that have haunted mythology throughout human history.

A sequel to Romeo and Juliet? Involving CPR and a stomach pump, perhaps? Maybe they could be rescued by a time-traveller and resusitated in the future *considers selling idea to BBC for the Doctor Who Christmas special 2011* XD
stevie_carroll
Jan. 25th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
I'm having to work hard enough on the background to everyone wanting to mother my protagonist! Admittedly she gives the impression of being in serious need of a good feed and a hug, and there are a fair few motherly types with time on their hands...
essayel
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
I think you're right about avoiding the trope. I certainly do after quite recently being given a furious dressing down by an online acquaintance for even considering it as an option. It would have fitted the story but his insistence that it was the most horrible and insensitive thing to do made me think again and drop the tale completely.
The first book I ever read with a gay couple in it [I think I was about 10]killed them both. On the other hand it made me sit up and think "Oh wow - that was beautiful. That was sad. How I wish they could have been happy!" Up until then I was completely unaware that there were any options other than the m/f one.

The book was The Sword At Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff, about 'King' Arthur. The 2 men were valued and respected members of his warband. Thinking back on it, it was a very positive portrayal, so a good one to see as a 'first ever' even if their part of the story followed the trope.
clarelondon
Jan. 26th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
Arrgh, you've reminded me! I read a David Gemmell book once (possibly Ravenheart? but not sure) and there was a pair of warriors who lived apart from the others and were obviously a couple (at least to me *heh*), though totally discreet. And yes, guess what... they died in heroic and tragic circumstances, where the surviving one stayed with his mortally wounded partner to face the final battle etc etc.
essayel
Jan. 27th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)
I like David Gemmell. I'll have to look that one out. Thanks for the rec.
josephine_myles
Jan. 27th, 2011 09:36 am (UTC)
That's a shame to be told off for even thinking about it... but I can understand why. There have been too many years of gay fictional characters being denied their happy ending.

Thanks for the rec - sounds like interesting reading for a ten year old!
essayel
Jan. 27th, 2011 11:35 am (UTC)
I understood why and apologised abjectly. It will be great when all the tropes can be transcended but I guess it will be a long time before that happens.

Sword At Sunset is part of the story cycle begun with Eagle of the Ninth and continuing with The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers. Those are definitely fantastic for children. I'd peg Sword at Sunset as more YA really. Then the story continues with The Wind from the Sea and The Shield Ring. A lot of them have close and intense male friendships that today would attract slash ficcers if they were more well known. I'm dreading the new movie The Eagle, because it's a loose adaptation of Eagle of the Ninth and I'm scared what they will have done with it. Reading Rosemary Sutcliff, and Mary Renault, as a kid made me want to write longer stories so their works are a little bit [too?] sacred to me.
chrissymunder
Jan. 26th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
Fun post and link, Josephine. I can remember being surprised when I first heard the word "trope" and understood the definition.
josephine_myles
Jan. 27th, 2011 09:37 am (UTC)
Thanks Chrissy! I prefer the term "trope" to "cliche", as it seems more positive. Genre fiction thrives on tropes, and the best writers do really interesting things with them.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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