From Inside the Reviewer’s Studio

mm blogOne of the things I like best about reviewing for AAR is the fact that I’m encouraged to select books to review rather than being assigned what to read. Of course, this freedom promotes good, rather than bad reviews most of the time.

The other freedom I enjoy at AAR is that if I find an under-represented romance review category, I’m encouraged to review in that subgenre.

This is particularly true of m/m or gay romance fiction, which I’ve been reviewing since December 2012. When I realized how few m/m books had been reviewed before then and how many m/m books were being published, I decided I could help shore up the database with reviews.

In order to do so, however, I wanted to read books which interested me—contemporary gay romances, not historicals or Westerns. I used the same method of selecting what I’d review as I did when I chose heterosexual romances to read.

Since I didn’t have any favorite gay romance authors in 2012, I read the blurbs associated with new releases, and if I was interested, I read the sample chapters on Amazon or the publishers’ websites.

Because AAR wasn’t being sent any m/m romance to be reviewed, I decided after exchanging emails with my editor, that for the first year (2013) I would buy all the books I reviewed. Consequently, almost everything I read I liked and gave a good review.

Understandably, readers have asked if I love all m/m romances. The honest answer is no, I don’t. The m/m subgenre, like all romance fiction, runs the gamut from poorly written, almost unreadable to absolutely wonderful books—at least according to my subjective evaluation.

By limiting my choices to contemporary gay romances of which I’ve read at least a chapter or two, I’ve increased the chances of reviewing books that have a higher than average chance that I will love them.

I realize this doesn’t help the reader who wants to know which books to avoid, but it helps them identify more good books. Having reviewed over 85 m/m books, I must admit I’d rather have read so many good books than mediocre or unreadable ones.

Do you really blame me? Wouldn’t you rather read a review of a book you think will be a DIK than one which might be a chore to get through?

Pat Henshaw

7 Responses to “From Inside the Reviewer’s Studio”

  1. CarolineAAR says:

    Pat – I have the same reason for a high DIK rate on graphic novels, especially manga. Maybe I’ll write about it when I have a few more published.

  2. amers says:

    Thanks for the explanation. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten rather cynical from all the social policing I’ve seen on other sites and even in books themselves. I couldn’t believe the predominant number of m/m books were high B/A quality. It made me somewhat dismissive of your reviews *because* they didn’t seem objective. I don’t like to be preached at regarding religion or homosexuality, so your m/m focus and constantly high grade reviews fed a concern that AAR had jumped on the social police bandwagon. Glad the reason is a bit more “mundane” than that… ;)

  3. Bona says:

    I’m going to answer your questions from a very personal POV, it could be different for more adventurous readers.

    As I’m one of those readers that try new authors only if they are recommended somewhere, I prefer to read about the good books I could enjoy and not about the bad ones that I should avoid, b/c I wouldn’t try the latter spontaneously.

    There’s only one moment when I find DNF reviews useful. It’s when there’s a book that everybody is talking about so there’s a risk I could buy it. I thank those independent reviewers that say – be careful, there are serious flaws in that novel.

    Your reviews are always very helpful. And this is the only place I’ve found where that subgenre is reviewed from the romantic POV. So you’re my one and only guide to the m/m romance.

  4. pgreader says:

    I was very happy to see m/m reviews on AAR. It’s one of my favorites among the romance categories. I’ve purchased several books based on your reviews and have never been disappointed. I’m not particularly interested in reading a long review about a book I’ll never buy so I always enjoy reading what you write.

    • pgreader says:

      I was very happy to see m/m reviews on AAR. It’s one of my favorites among the romance categories. I’ve purchased several books based on your reviews and have never been disappointed. I’m not particularly interested in reading a long review about a book I’ll never buy so I always enjoy reading what you write.

  5. TLA says:

    I am very appreciative of your m/m reviews on AAR. They opened my eyes to a new sub-genre, which I really enjoy. I don’t know that I would have tried it without your recommendations. Since this genre is not heavily reviewed in the romance field, but of interest to romance readers, I think it has been very helpful to have you point readers to some of the best stories and authors out there. There are a lot of really good m/m writers and romances that deserve attention.

  6. Ducky says:

    I am very happy to see your m/m romance reviews here on AAR.