Getting Real in Romance

Happy Friday everyone!  Today’s post is reblogged from The Blog of Sid Love, where I’ll be blogging today and every 10th day of the month beginning this month.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! -Shira


Thanks, Sid, for inviting me to take over your blog! Happy Friday everyone! Shira Anthony here for my first guest post of the year (well, first guest post chez Sid ever). I’ll be your guest author/blogger every 10th day of the month. I hope you’ll join me as I rant, qvell, drool (I do that often, it seems), and share topics I hope you’ll find interesting. Yes, I’ll talk music (can’t NOT talk music). Yes, I’ll talk hot, sexy, men (that’s a given). But for today, I’ll start with something that’s on my mind as I work on the next book in my Blue Notes Series from Dreamspinner Press: writing real.

HEA starts hereLet’s face it: romances are wonderful, but they aren’t real life, by any means. I don’t know about you, but I read romance because I love to escape into that warm/fuzzy, knock my… er… socks off hotness. I won’t read anything without a happily-ever-after (HEA). Won’t write it either, to be honest. All that said, I love “real” romances. And I love to write them.

You’re probably scratching your head now and asking whether Shira has thought this through. While we could debate that, brain dead as I often am after a round of editing (I love you, DSP editors, I promise!), the answer is, yes, I have thought it through. Real romances aren’t real life, by any means. I don’t know about you, but my real life is mostly boring. Anything interesting in my real life would be a short novella, at best. But real romances do have their hallmarks.

How to describe a real romance? It’s easier to describe what you probably won’t find in one. The first? The unbelievable-string-of-events. You know these. The setup: the hero and his sexy love interest are finally getting to the main event. You’ve been waiting forever for them to kiss, have sex, say I love you, and…. wait for it… yes, hero’s mother has a stroke, his dog dies, his sister ends up preggers (and is carrying an alien baby!), the barn burns down, and the new love interest’s ex-boyfriend shows up.????????????????????????????????????????

All in the same week.

Yep. Realistic? Well, again, your life might be a lot more exciting than mine is, but I’m thinking not so much.

Next up? Insta-love. Okay, I know I’ll get flak on this one. And I have to admit I’ve read a few insta-love stories I’ve loved. Insta-hots? You bet. But love at first sight in reality? Doesn’t happen very often. (By the way, I love insta-hots!)

Then there’s the happily-ever-after. Of course, real romances have them. But I’m talking about those perfect, ride off into the sunset endings. As a kid, I remember reading Harlequin romances, watching Disney movies (yes, I love them!), and loving that moment of sweetness when the hero and heroine get married, or the hero proposes to the heroine, or… well, you know what I mean. But after the big moment, the movie would fade to black, the next page would have the author’s bio, and I would be left sitting there wondering, “What comes next?” Because, truly, if life is only about that happy moment, then what in the world are we supposed to be doing afterward?

Dream DSP CoverI didn’t set out to write real romances. In fact, my first Dreamspinner Press book was The Dream of a Thousand Nights. Check out the hot Anne Cain cover! Real? No way, no how. Did I enjoy writing it? Damn straight. A hot genie and a hot prince, a little light S&M (well, it is the closest thing to erotica I’ve ever written in the MM genre), a little angst, and it was fun. But when I wrote my first contemporary romance, I couldn’t help but think about what happened after the sunset. I wanted to write about it. I wanted to write stories for the men in my life I love, and for women like me to enjoy.

So when a trip to Paris in 2010 inspired me to write Blue Notes, I decided to get real. And what I realized while writing that novel was that it’s all about balance. Too much reality is boring. Too little, and it’s pure fantasy. And that’s not what I wanted from my contemporary books. As the series has continued, I think it’s become more real. I added a child into the mix in The Melody Thief. He isn’t perfect. He isn’t fluff. Sometimes he’s a handful, but not in that kid actor/sitcom cute and snarky way. He’s cute, but he’s a kid and he can be a royal PITA. (I’ve raised two terrific kids of my own, and I can vouch–raises hand–that they are not always cute and cuddly.)

Aria is about making it work. And let’s face it, the HEA isn’t about the wedding or the first I love you. It’s about sticking together when you have real issues to face, and even when you feel like strangling your partner. The newest novel in the series, Encore, is about as real as it gets. Because coming of age as a gay man in the 1970s was no fairy tale. Yes, all my men get their HEA. They damn well deserve it by the time I get through with them!

Do I only write real all of the time? My answer? “Mermen.” So no. Stealing the Wind is full of adventure and events you won’t find in real life (although mermen would be so very cool…). But when I’m done with my slippery boys, it’s kind of nice to settle back down and write real romances. The kind of romances I wish every real man had. -Shira

PS: Scroll down to the bottom of the post to read an excerpt of my newest Blue Notes Novel, Encore.


Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

You can find Shira’s books at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and just about any ebook outlet.

Shira can be found on:
Twitter: @WriterShira


Blurb: Cool kid violinist Roger Nelson doesn’t give a damn about anything. Wannabe conductor John Fuchs is awkward, effeminate, and just figuring out he’s gay. Despite their differences, they become friends—then lovers—and after college, they try to make it work. But it’s the 1970s, and Roger can’t bring himself to admit he’s gay. Worse, after his brother is killed in Vietnam, Roger tries to live up to his memory and be the perfect son. Then after suffering one tragedy too many, he makes the biggest mistake of his life: Roger pushes John away.

Through the years, they dance around the truth and in and out of each other’s lives, never quite able to let go. Twenty years later, Roger still carries the pain of losing his dream of a brilliant career with him, while John is a superstar conductor with a wild reputation. John’s off-stage antics get him plenty of attention, good and bad, though deep down, he wants only Roger. Finally determined to hold on to what really matters, Roger asks John for another chance, and when John panics and runs, Roger has to convince him to listen to his heart.

Chapter 1

Toledo, Ohio

September 1971

JOHN WOUND his way around gaggles of girls who blocked the hallway, turning it into a twisted obstacle course. He dodged a locker door here, someone slinging a backpack full of books there, and nearly got whacked in the gut by a kid holding a trumpet case. John’s elbow connected with the hard fiberglass of the case as he pivoted to avoid the collision.

Shoot. That was going to make one big bruise. Not to mention it hurt.

He rounded the corridor and stepped inside the band room, relieved to find it empty. He leaned against the wall and took long, raspy breaths to try to calm his pounding heart. He wiped the sweat off his face, then rubbed his hands on his brown polyester pants.


“What?” John nearly jumped when he realized he wasn’t alone. His voice sounded high and girlish to his ears.

“Are you hiding?” The speaker was a kid with wild brown hair and a hint of shadow on his jaw. He sat on one of the chairs by the podium, twirling a violin bow around like a baton. John hadn’t seen the kid when he’d first come in, but it was clear the kid had seen him.

“I… n-no.” Damn. Was he stuttering now? He hadn’t stuttered this badly since elementary school.

The kid just laughed. “You new here?”

“Y-yes. Transferred last week.”

“You got a name?”

“J-John. Fuchs.” John’s face was on fire as he croaked out his name. “Wh-who are you?”

“Roger Nelson.” Roger ran a hand through his curly hair, which only served to make it stand up like horns. Roger reminded John of a devil, and it wasn’t just the hair.

“N-nice to m-meet you, Roger.” John walked over and offered Roger his hand.

Roger laughed and ignored the gesture. “Yeah.” John could see his eyes were a deep green. Luminous. “Where’d you transfer from?”

“Saint B-Barnaby’s.”

More laughter. “So you’re slumming it with us now?”

“I guess.” He sure wasn’t going to tell Roger about his parents’ divorce, or about how they’d decided they no longer had the money to send him to private school one year before graduation. “I hear you’ve got a great orchestra.” At least he wasn’t stuttering anymore. He’d spent years in speech therapy in elementary and junior high school, but when he was nervous, it sometimes came back.

“We’re pretty good,” Roger said. John knew this was an understatement. His mother had done her homework—Marysville Senior High School’s orchestra had won the state Division A championship the year before. “You play?”

“Piano. But I also play viola, trumpet, and flute.” When Roger’s eyes widened, John quickly added, “Not very well, though.” John looked down at his feet and studied them intently. “I’m going to be a conductor.”

When Roger didn’t respond, John asked, “How about you?” He realized how stupid a question it was the instant he’d asked it. Of course the guy played violin.

“Concertmaster.” In spite of the casual response, John thought he saw a hint of pride flash in Roger’s eyes. “But I’m going to be the guy who hangs off the back of the garbage truck.”

“Oh.” What do you say to that? He had no idea if Roger was joking, but he sure wasn’t going to embarrass himself by finding out.

Roger stood up and began to put his violin away. He was a little taller than John—who was now nearly six feet—with a lanky body and surprisingly broad shoulders. Good-looking too. John’s face warmed once more.

“Is Mr. Constantino in his office?” he asked, mostly because he was having a really hard time not staring at Roger. He didn’t really need to speak to the orchestra director.

Roger shrugged. “He was there a little while ago.”

“Thanks.” John waited for Roger to say something, but when he didn’t, John made his way over to the office at the far end of the room.


BY THE time John had finished talking to Mr. Constantino, grabbed his books from his locker, and headed outside to the main courtyard, the sun was beginning to set. The air was cool, not surprising for late October in northern Ohio, so John set down his pack and zipped up his poplin jacket. The smell of fallen leaves mingled with a more pungent odor. Marijuana. He looked around and saw Roger seated on the low brick wall at the edge of the courtyard, smoking a joint.

“Hey.” Roger inhaled and held his breath.

John swallowed hard, unsure of how to respond. “Hey.” Oh, that was great! “Uh, h-how are you?”

Roger laughed and exhaled as John walked over. He held out the joint to John. “Want some?”

“No, thanks.” He’d never even come this close to the real thing. “I’ve got to get going. Bus leaves in about five minutes.”

A girl with hair down to her waist walked over to them. John was sure Roger was going to hide the pot, but instead he held it out to her and she took a long toke. Roger put his arm around the girl’s shoulders and shot John a knowing look.

“Who’s he?” the girl asked as she blew smoke in John’s face.

John coughed and blinked.

“New kid. Orchestra.”

“I’m John.” John offered the girl a smile. He’d decided shaking hands was not public school etiquette after meeting Roger earlier.

The girl just stared at him, then turned to Roger and proceeded to kiss him. Not just any kiss. A french kiss. John felt sick to his stomach watching. He’d always thought kissing girls was gross. Now he was sure of it.

Roger kissed the girl back, then pushed her away before turning to John and asking, “Need a ride?”

The girl glared at Roger, who ignored her.

“I… ah… s-sure.” John wasn’t sure at all, but Roger was the only kid who’d acknowledged his existence since he’d arrived at Marysville and he figured it’d be rude to turn down the offer.

He and Roger walked in silence to the parking lot, where Roger led him to an enormous brown Buick. Small blue-and-pink spots dotted the exterior where someone had, he guessed, sanded off patches of rust in preparation for a paint job that never materialized. The windows were rolled down and the doors unlocked.

Roger grinned. “V-8.” When John didn’t respond, Roger continued, “This baby can outgun just about any car on the market.”


Roger’s laughter echoed off the nearby building. “Jeez, what the hell did they teach you at St. Something?”

“St. Barnaby’s,” John corrected, feeling keenly awkward.

“Yeah. That place. Nobody says ‘groovy’ anymore.”

“Oh.” John’s cheeks burned and he stared down at the blacktop, focusing on a weed that had forced its way through a crack and pushing it with his shoe.

“Get in.”

The slippery fabric of John’s pants propelled him over the vinyl bench seat as if someone had greased it. He stopped sliding about a foot away from where Roger was, key already in the ignition, his left hand releasing the parking brake. John looked around for a seatbelt. There was none.

“Always buckle up!” His mother’s voice resonated in his brain, and for once, he ignored it.

“Where to?” Roger had started the engine, which roared to life, backfired once, then settled down to a noisy rumble. “This baby purrs, doesn’t she?”

“I… er… yes.” Then, realizing he hadn’t answered Roger’s first question, he added, “2430 Covington Drive.”

“Fancy part of town, huh?”

Not for long. The Realtor had come by the other day, and John thought he’d seen her drool when his mother told her they needed to sell quickly. He wondered where they’d end up. Probably one of the duplexes closer to downtown—the places people moved in and out of on a regular basis.

He often walked the dog by the duplexes on garbage night, curious as to what ended up on the tree lawn after the latest renters left. He’d found an entire stack of LPs one night, including a boxed set of Tchaikovsky’s greatest hits and a recording of the Singing Nun. He’d hidden them in his closet—God forbid his mother find out he’d been going through other people’s garbage. She’d have a fit.

He hummed a bit of “Dominique” and smiled. He’d always liked that song. Dominique, neekah, neekah….

“What’s that?”

Roger’s voice brought John back to the here and now. “Nothing. Just a song.”

Roger reached for the radio as they stopped at the light. The radio blared, and John winced inwardly. He didn’t like loud rock music—it gave him a headache.

We’re not gonna take it!

“We’re not gonna take it,” Roger sang along. “Gonna break it, gonna shake it, let’s forget it better still.” Roger looked over at John and grinned.

“Who’s that?”

“The Who. That’s who.” Roger snorted, a look of smug satisfaction spreading across his face.

“Oh.” John had heard of them, although he’d never heard their music.

“Cool, huh?”

“Uh-huh. Cool.” John made a mental note not to mention the Singing Nun and to use the word “cool” instead of “groovy.”

As they drove, John watched Roger. He wore a pair of off-white painter’s pants with a half-dozen pockets and a hammer loop. John noticed how the pants pulled at Roger’s crotch when he sat. Roger’s shirt was a blue plaid flannel, unbuttoned to reveal a dusting of curly hair on his chest. John’s mouth was dry, so he chewed on the inside of his bottom lip. He felt a pulsing sensation in his groin and shifted to accommodate his embarrassing erection. He prayed Roger wouldn’t notice.

Disgusted with himself, he thought of his first and only discussion of homosexuality with his father.

They’d been sitting in the living room, watching yet another report about the war in Vietnam. It was pretty much the same thing every night—a daily tally of the number of American troops killed and the growing protest marches at home in the US. But this night, there was a story about a riot in New York City at a place called Stonewall.

“Fucking fluters,” John’s father said. “They should have shot them all.”

John, who was about fourteen years old, just stared at the images on the TV. “What’s a fluter?” he asked.

Jerome Fuchs looked down at his son and snorted. “Homosexuals. Fags. Deviants who prefer to spend time with their own.”

When John just blinked in response, his father continued, “They don’t like women.”

“Why not?” John was genuinely curious.

“How the hell should I know?”

Six months later, after Raymond Lessor kissed him in the coatroom, John figured out what his father had meant. He was exactly the kind of man his father had been talking about.

“You okay?” Roger turned down the radio and looked at him.

“Yes. I’m great.” He forced a smile and realized they’d just turned onto his street. “Oh, that’s my house, about halfway down.” He pointed.

Roger pulled into the driveway a minute later and John, backpack held in front of him like a shield, climbed out of the car. Slid, really.

“Thanks, Roger.” John waved tentatively, feeling like a complete idiot.

“It’s cool.” Roger cranked up the radio and pulled back out of the driveway. He waved, then gunned the engine and took off down the street, leaving a cloud of white smoke in his wake.

John waved the smoke away and watched the car disappear around the corner. “Cool,” he repeated as he swung his backpack over his shoulder and headed into the house.

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