Divine Magazine Summer Blog Hop Stop is the post below this one!
Move along! No moonlight and roses here…
You might think this is a little late in the game to raise this, now I’ve reached the pivotal book in the series, but I’ve been thinking about how I should classify the Taking Shield books.
Bear with me here while I remark that the romance genre generally is huge. It stands to reason the m/m element is huge too. When I’m reading romance I have certain expectations. I want to see two men attracted to each other, overcoming some obstacle to being together, having sizzling sex, being faithful and loving. And at the very least, the book must close with a Happy-For-Now ending even if the story can’t quite make it Happy Ever After. En route they can have all sorts of things happen: murders, mystery, magic, mayhem. Doesn’t matter. What matters is they’re together and I can put the book down feeling good about the outcome, uplifted and satisfied by seeing two people coming together. In reading, I’ve experienced the love, drama, and fulfilment that characterise a romance story. Happy sighs.
Truly, you don’t get anyone more pleased than I am that the genre is strong, vibrant and growing. But its very vibrancy means every book with gay protagonists tends to be seen through a romance lens. And that’s definitely a problem for the Shield series.
If you’re looking for romance, none of the Taking Shield series will give you it. Shield is a love story—a very deep and, at times, intense love story—that covers six years of interstellar war and billions of miles of space travel. All the staples of old school sci-fi space sagas are here: big spaceships, infiltrations of Maess bases, cool Shield suits, and people running around shooting their lasers. The only difference is the heroes are two men who love each other.
Across the whole of the series, there are two main story themes, intertwining with each other: the war against the Maess and Shield Captain Bennet’s efforts to prevent the destruction of humanity, and, set against that, the way his life is turned upside down by that intoxicating temptation aka Fleet Lieutenant Flynn. The Maess war and everything Bennet has to do there gets equal billing with the slow unfolding of his relationship with Flynn.
That relationship plays out against the big space opera background and it fits very little of the established m/m requirement. For starters, to have his few incandescent days with Flynn in book one (Gyrfalcon), Bennet is unfaithful to his long term partner, Joss (who is a serial adulterer if that makes you feel better about it). Bennet and Flynn part at the end of book one, never expecting to meet again… and ditto they part at the end of book two (Heart Scarab)… In Makepeace, the third book, they don’t meet at all until the end, and Flynn’s barely in the book at all. No one gets any sex in that one. Bennet and Flynn meet and part, meet and part, until you think they’re like a couple of rubber balls bouncing at each other and away again. And throughout there are relationships with other people, some of those het. They do pine for each other, you understand, but they get on with things: life, jobs, fighting the war, saving the planet, and sex (if not love). Only at the very end of the saga will there be some hope they’ll have their chance together. But it’s not assured. There’s no real happy ever after. There’s only the promise that there might be.
I want readers to care about Bennet and Flynn the way I care about and love them, and want them to eventually be happy. I want readers to enjoy the sci-fi adventure, to shudder over the Maess and what they’re doing to human prisoners, to feel it when the humans suffer reverses in the long war. I don’t want mainstream sci-fi readers to be happily reading about the raid on T18, only to act like an old maiden aunt with a mouse running up her petticoat when they get to the sex bit. And I don’t want those readers who love m/m romance to pick it up and think they’re going to get romantic love and hot sex, with a laser and a space rocket thrown in as a sort of background decorative effect.
Maybe it’s predominantly science fiction with m/m relationships. And m/f ones for that matter… damn it.
You see my dilemma?
A clean definition is hard.
Taking Shield is science fiction. It’s science fiction with people in it. People with all their warts and faults, all their brilliance and intelligence, all their courage and loyalty and great hearts, all their beauty and all their ugliness. People who love other people, not necessarily loving by gender. People who don’t want to be neatly labelled and defined. People who can’t be neatly labelled and defined.
People like you and me, in fact.
Sighs. And I still don’t know how to classify it.
About the Taking Shield series
Earth’s a dead planet, dark for thousands of years; lost for so long no one even knows where the solar system is. Her last known colony, Albion, has grown to be regional galactic power in its own right. But its drive to expand and found colonies of its own has threatened an alien race, the Maess, against whom Albion is now fighting a last-ditch battle for survival in a war that’s dragged on for generations.
Taking Shield charts the missions and adventures of Shield Captain Bennet, scion of a prominent military family. Against the demands of his family’s ‘triple goddess’ of Duty, Honour and Service, is set Bennet’s relationships with lovers and family. When the series opens, Bennet is at odds with his long term partner, Joss, who wants him out of the military and back in an academic, archaeological career. He’s estranged from his father, Caeden, who is the commander of Fleet’s First Flotilla. Events of the first book, in which he is sent to his father’s ship to carry out an infiltration mission behind Maess lines, improve his relationship with Caeden, but bring with them the catalyst that will destroy the one with Joss: one Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, who, over the course of the series, develops into Bennet’s main love interest.
Over the Taking Shield story arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.
Returning to duty following his long recovery from the injuries he sustained during the events recounted in Heart Scarab, Shield Captain Bennet accepts a tour of duty in Fleet as flight captain on a dreadnought. The one saving grace is that it isn’t his father’s ship—bad enough that he can’t yet return to the Shield Regiment, at least he doesn’t have the added stress of commanding former lover Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, knowing the fraternisation regulations will keep them apart.
Working on the material he collected himself on T18 three years before, Bennet decodes enough Maess data to send him behind the lines to Makepeace, once a human colony but under Maess control for more than a century. The mission goes belly up, costing Albion one of her precious, irreplaceable dreadnoughts and bringing political upheaval, acrimony and the threat of public unrest in its wake. But for Bennet, the real nightmare is discovering what the Maess have in store for humanity.
It’s not good. It’s not good at all.
Book Title: Makepeace
Series: Taking Shield
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Wordcount: c 94,500
Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream
Joss gulped at the wine, staring at Bennet over the rim of the glass. “Do you still have it?”
Bennet blinked. “Have what?”
“The heart scarab.”
The heart scarab he’d given Bennet when they’d split up? Why in hell was he bringing that up? “Yes. Of course. I have it safe. I always loved it.”
“You know what it means.”
I have come in order that I may be thy protection. I gather together for thee thy bones, I draw together for thee thy members, I have brought for thee thy heart.
Regret flamed for everything they’d had. Bennet had loved Joss once, so much. And now… well, however fond he was of Joss, he had finally outgrown him. Joss could be right about him not having it all forever. No one could. Or should. It wasn’t good for them. It hadn’t been good for him, and he’d hurt Joss as a result.
“You were reminding me of what it was all about,” he said. He felt dull, heavy. He should try harder not to hurt Joss. “Reminding me of what we had.”
“And setting you free, to choose. You chose him. Flynn.”
“Yes. I’m sorry.” He was, too. He had never wanted to hurt Joss. But regret had to be ignored and stamped down and strangled unborn.
“Are you? Well, there it is. Done with. You know, you can’t play with being free, Bennet. You have to make a real choice and stick with it. And I guess I’m not the choice you’ll stick with. So take the scarab with you and keep it safe until you give it to someone else. Are you happy with Rosie?”
“Yes. Of course I am!”
“Really. Without him?”
Shit. Joss knew him too well. Bennet grimaced, but said nothing.
“No.” Joss’s smile was a thin, wintry thing. “I don’t believe you. You aren’t, really. Nobody’s happy. Not me, not you, not Rosie, and not him.” Joss didn’t appear to expect Bennet to reply. “That’s all right then. I couldn’t bear it if I was on my own in everything. It looks like nobody gets what they want. Nobody gets it all. You know, I can live with that.”
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About the author
Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.