The experiment began when this gay couple, Scott Whittier and Scott Pomfret, decided that the rapidly growing contingent of "heterosexual homosexuals" would enjoy reading a romance novel about two men. Enter the "Romentics" books. Their intended readers: Fags who want to have true love and settle down, a new generation that seem to have escaped former shadows of oppression and mourning and opted for more socially credible lifestyles. As time-honored treatments of hardcore alienation, anonymous sex, and diseased misery grow tiresome, a new cultural salve is becoming readily available to all interested parties: Gay Lite.
So, I picked up one of their books, Nick of Time, and took a big sip. The story: Brent, a bitchy dancer and self-described slut (we all know one) from New York City returns to his mother's home in Holmstead County after a career-halting injury. While there, he meets Nick, a hulking stud who builds stone walls and is engaged to an Irish woman who needs a green card. An instant attraction erupts. The rest of the book, like any good romance, is dedicated to keeping the two separated with seemingly insurmountable obstacles: Nick thinks Brent is a shallow whore, and Brent thinks Nick is a provincial closet-case. Nick won't abandon his well-formulated plans with his wife-to-be, Una, and Brent won't stand to be some side-order fuck. Many conflicts and compromises later, the characters get together in a triumphant realization of lasting commitment and love.
The Scotts can write (well), and the true charm of their story is how tight it is (structurally). Thankfully, the Scotts take the idea seriously enough to avoid any slapdash work. The characters and the plot are well tempered. Yet my mind floods with questions as I digest the phenomenon. The Romentics books are easy to chew in terms of storytelling, but the cultural changes they reveal are haunting. Is the act of bringing homosexuality to the level of grocery store paperbacks a validation or a setback? It's a complex notion, and while I don't think the Romentics are poised to surpass the value of other genres popular to their intended audience, they're a welcome addition to the already disorienting kaleidoscope of gay culture.