May and December – writing an m/m romance with an age gap.
I’ve just had my first May and December romance published—or should I call it a May and September romance? You see, the age gap between Ben and Ollie is only thirteen years, which I don’t see as all that big. Twenty year old Ollie isn’t bothered at having a thirty-three year old boyfriend either. No, the only one who seems to have a problem with it is Ben.
While Ben might only be thirty-three (pretty young in my book, seeing as how I’ve passed that age myself), he feels much older. His parents died when he was eighteen, so he raised his much younger sister himself. Taking on that parental responsibility along with managing his diabetes, building up a steady career in computer programming and holding down a mortgage, meant Ben didn’t find much time to enjoy being young. His brief period of hedonism when Zoe left home was cut short by kidney failure, and since then he’s led a half-life as a virtual recluse.
Ben is disgusted with himself for being attracted to someone so very young, yet he can’t get his cute parcel delivery boy out of his mind. One early scene I really enjoyed writing was when Ben can’t cope without his daily Ollie fix over the weekend, so stakes out the local park where Ollie has told him he skates:
What the hell was I doing here? It was no use trying to pretend to myself that I’d just stopped by while in the neighbourhood, because I’d taken a ten-minute detour through Reading traffic to swing by here on my way back from Zoe’s place. No, I had in fact hit a new low: predatory older man stalking nubile twink at the bloody playground. I was a fucking chickenhawk.
Compared to Ben, Ollie does sometimes seem very young indeed. I enjoyed emphasizing this with his skateboard and purple hair, and patterns of speech and phrases to suit his generation. Along with his boundless energy and enthusiasm, Ollie’s youth means he hasn’t yet had time to get established in the world. Not only is he holding down two poorly paid jobs, but he’s vulnerably housed. It would be very easy for the outside world looking on to label him as a gold-digger, out to find a sugar daddy.
Using the difference in their ages to generate conflict was a real gift to me as a writer. Not only was I able to use Zoe’s profound unease at her older brother having a boyfriend younger than her, but Ben’s self-doubts came into play. He finds it very hard to understand why a young thing like Ollie would be attracted to him for himself rather than his material wealth. I’ve always been fascinated by the way material success makes people doubt the motives of others—perhaps because I’ve never had much money myself so I’ve always known my friends love me for who I am, not what I have. I feel deeply sorry for people like Ben, who have allowed their possessions to make them suspicious of others—especially when those others are younger and poorer than themselves.
Of course, being someone who’s always had an attraction to silver foxes, I can perfectly understand what Ollie sees in Ben. Not only does he fancy the pants off Ben, but he admires his maturity and the way he took responsibility for his sister. For Ollie, Ben’s flash car and swanky pad are incidental, and he’d still be just as interested in him without them. Ollie is no vacuous twink, out to get what he can—he just needs a man he can look up to and some stability in his life. He’s keen to point out he’s not after a daddy figure, though:
“Don’t you go stressing about age gaps again. We’re fine.”
“So long as you don’t start calling me Daddy,” I grumbled.
Ollie snorted. “Believe me, one dad and one stepfather is plenty for me. I’m not after another.”
I really enjoyed playing with the age gap between my two heroes in Handle with Care, and letting Ollie gently lead Ben to realise that it really isn’t an issue. Thirteen years might seem like a big gap when the younger partner is twenty, but give them another ten years and it’s not going to raise any eyebrows. Well, perhaps that depends on whether Ollie’s still dying his hair outlandish colours…
So what about you? Do you enjoy reading May and December romances, or do you prefer your romantic heroes to be closer in age? And which is more attractive to you: the smooth skin and boundless energy of youth, or the laughter lines and wisdom of age?
Handle with Care by Josephine Myles – the blog tour
To celebrate the release of my second novel, Handle with Care, I’m on a two week blog tour. A grand prize will be awarded to a randomly chosen commenter during the tour: an exclusive Handle with Care mug (which I’m happy to post worldwide), and a $25 voucher to spend at All Romance eBooks (or alternative ebook retailer of your choice). I’ll make the prize draw on Wednesday 9th May at 9am (GMT), and will announce the winner on my blog. Visit the tour itinerary for a list of all the stops, and comment on each to increase your chances of winning!
The best things in life aren’t free…they’re freely given.
Ben Lethbridge doesn’t have many vices left. After raising his little sister to adulthood, he wasted no time making up for the youth he lost to responsible parenting. Two years of partying it up—and ignoring his diabetes—has left him tethered to a home dialysis regimen.
He can do his job from his flat, fortunately, but most of his favourite things are forbidden. Except for DVD porn…and fantasizing over Ollie, the gorgeous, purple-haired skateboarder who delivers it.
Their banter is the highlight of Ben’s lonely day, but his illness-ravaged body is the cruel reality that prevents him from believing they’ll do anything more than flirt. Not to mention the age gap. Still, Ben figures there’s no harm in sprucing himself up a bit.
Then one day, a package accidentally splits open, revealing Ben’s dirty little secret…and an unexpected connection that leaves him wondering if he’s been reading Ollie wrong all this time. There’s only one way to find out: risk showing Ollie every last scar. And hope “far from perfect” is good enough for a chance at love.
Warning: Contains superhero porn comics and a cute, accident-prone delivery guy with colour-changing hair. Readers may experience coffee cravings, an unexpected liking for bad mullets, and the urge to wrap Ollie up and take him home.
Kindle US: http://www.amazon.com/Handle-with-Care-ebook/dp/B0073WI0ZU/
Kindle UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Handle-with-Care-ebook/dp/B0073WI0ZU/
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.