Posted in Reviews
May 13, 2015

Dudes Writing Romance

Portrait of handsome young man with laptop computer, looking at camera.

By Elizabeth Shore

A few weeks ago we at Lady Smut were contacted by a perfectly nice book publicist who wanted to know if we’d be interested in reviewing a newly released romantic comedy, Close of Play by PJ Whiteley. As our regular readers know, we don’t do a lot of reviews on this blog, but this book caught my eye ’cause it was written by a guy. Interesting. So I took the plunge and read it.

This isn’t, of course, the first romance written by a man. There’ve been a smattering of them over the years, most notably and successfully Leigh Greenwood and Jennifer Wilde. But it’s still an unusual genre for a man and and this one that I’ve just read is a romantic comedy, more unusual still. Let me give you the lowdown:

Brian “Colin” Clarke is a 44-year-old ultra conservative, rather religious attorney and cricket player. He meets Elizabeth Giles, a progressive former nun. Intriguing premise! Different as their backgrounds may be, sparks fly and the relationship begins. Kinda.

As we’ve maintained over the years, we Lady Smut writers are fully supportive of other writers and it’s just not our schtick to be overly critical. Leave it for someone else cause writing is too damn hard. Anyone who wants to trash writers ought to try their hand at it first themselves. But I’ll be honest – there were some challenges with Close of Play, the primary one being that I couldn’t figure out who the audience is.

To begin with, the POV is first person and entirely the hero’s. There isn’t a single chapter or scene devoted to the heroine’s perspective. OK, well, that’s not ideal but it would still be doable if we could at least get to know her. Yet after reading the entire book I never came to care about her because I honestly felt I didn’t know her. Being a fallen nun is a draw, but I wanted to know more. Why did she feel she’d gotten the ol phone call from God to serve in the first place only to abandon the calling later? Does she wrestle with guilt over her decision? Does she ever think she was wrong? And mainly, as the relationship develops, what kinds of emotions is she experiencing? Unfortunately we never get to learn any of this.

For a “romantic comedy,” there honestly isn’t a lot of romance in Close of Play. Nor much comedy. What we get instead areClose-of-Play-Cover tremendous amounts of pages, whole chapters, even, devoted to cricket. To be fair, the story takes place in England. Yet I no more want to read that much about cricket than I do about golf. Or baseball. Not if I’m reading a romance. In the story we learn all about the guys on the hero’s team, their nicknames, how they got them, their positions in the game, how they perform, the hero’s batting stats, their after-game celebrations at the pub. Sounds as if the readership might be guys, right? But I’ll be honest, the hero isn’t really a “man’s man.” He’s fussy about his dress (on his first date with the heroine he even frets over what to wear), and mentions that he trims his nasal hairs. Um, PJ? We don’t actually need to know this. Some secrets should remain just that.

The hero is also only 44-years-old but acts as if he’s 75. He’s goes off on tangents about young people’s lack of manners and lack of morals. Can guys relate? Some of them, maybe. Retirees in Florida, perhaps. But as I mentioned earlier, the focus of this “romance” isn’t romance. The hero spends quite a bit of introspective time reflecting on life’s purpose and his own feelings of melancholy (not exactly what I’d label laugh-out-loud comedy), but we never really get to know why. As the hero notes toward the beginning of the book, “Chaps don’t talk about feelings; at least, not innermost feelings – only those that don’t matter.”And that may be Close of Play’s biggest problem of all.

I applaud Mr. Whiteley for taking a crack at writing romance. And, to be fair, there were parts of the book that were enjoyable. But we women read romance for the romance. For the initial rush of physical attraction, for the development of feelings, for the heady adventure of falling in love. Romances aimed at women are primarily in the heroine’s POV because we readers inserts ourselves in her place. Yet unlike real life, romances also give us the inside scoop on the guy’s perspective. We want chapters from his POV as well because we want to know what he’s thinking about us just as much as we’re thinking about him. I’d love to see more romances written by guys and get an upclose peek at the male mind. Just not when he’s thinking about cricket.









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  • Post authorKemberlee

    Wayne Jordan also writes romance for Harlequin, and under his own name.

    Reply to Kemberlee
    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      Good call on Wayne. There’s also Eric Jerome Dickey.

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
      • Post authorKemberlee

        I tagged Wayne earlier on FB. Maybe he’ll join in 🙂

        Reply to Kemberlee
  • Post authorKel

    I have read and enjoyed erotica written by men, and the romances in these have been really stunning, so I know that men can write relationships with as much emotional intensity as women. The book you describe sounds like it was written for the athletic-romance crowd, but I don’t know how much of that is written from the man’s point of view. It’s not a (sub?)genre I’m particularly interested in, so I’m not sure how big a readership it draws… but I know it’s out there.

    I also don’t know how much cricket I could read through.

    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      I’ve read erotica written by men and have thought it very good. But I haven’t ever read erotic romance written by men.

      As for “athletic romance,” you’re right, it’s around (NASCAR, football, hockey, etc.), but it’s still written by women for women with jocks as the hero. As for cricket … let’s just say that a little goes a looooong way.

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    It sounds sorta cute in a chaste ‘sweet’ romance way.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorKemberlee

    I should add that our very own Troy Lambert wrote an erotic thriller that’s quite good. It’s the first book in the City Nights series — One Night in Boise. Don’t let the title fool you. Apparently, folks get up to all sorts in Boise! 😉

    Reply to Kemberlee
  • Post authorCara Bristol

    I suspect that many male readers would say that women who write action/thriller books often miss the boat. LOL.

    Reply to Cara Bristol
    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      Interesting comment, Cara. You’ve got me thinking. There are successful female thriller writers, like Megan Abbott, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs. It would be interesting to know the makeup of their readers.

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorMegan Michaels

    I think we’ve all had our moments of wondering if a guy can write romance and passing up on books because of that reason if we see it’s written by a dude. But, I have to say there is an Erotic Romance author that changed my thinking on this. Many, many of us agree that he does romance beautifully. If you can, pick up What She’s Looking For by Trent Evans. You won’t be sorry.

    Reply to Megan Michaels
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Trent Evans — the name sounds familiar. 🙂

      Reply to Madeline Iva

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