A DIK for me is a novel that captures me to the detriment of real life events. It will have characters I am intrigued by and like. The romance will be at the centre, but there will a fascinating storyline too. I like sex in my romances, but it should not be gratuitous. I want to sigh or gulp at the emotion, and thrill at the beauty of the writing. This book will leave me with a ‘hangover’, and have me looking for further titles by the author, or hanging on for their next release. For me DIKs this year include –

A Fashionable Indulgence – KJ Charles

I had a simply delicious time reading A Fashionable Indulgence. This title managed to be the first in a series without the usual inherent difficulties. There are many characters to introduce, but all were interesting, played integral parts in the main storyline, and had well developed personalities.

I empathised with the nervous, jittery emotions of men who loved men during the Regency period in England. I loved the romance and emotions of Harry and Julius discovering love. I felt the outrage of those hurt by the class system, and the awfulness of ‘Peterloo’ massacre. In short, I immersed myself in a different age and enjoyed every moment there. A classy historical romance. 

I have now read #2 in this series, Seditious Affair and it is every bit as good!

Waiting for the Flood – Alexis Hall

This beautifully crafted novella is calmly reflective, and feels very personal and authentic. The breakdown of Edwin Tully’s relationship with Marcus has left him both stuttering in his speech, and his inability to move on with his life. The flood of the title is both literal and metaphorical – bringing hope of salvation to Edwin in the gentle form of Adam Dacre. The paranoias of Edwin are, I suspect, representative of those fears and thoughts that many of us keep hidden away. Along with some lovely humorous moments, this novella sensitively covers; loneliness, break up, low self-esteem, moving on, kindness of strangers, love and fear of loss. It ripples over the hard issues of a lived life, in a short, gentle, highly satisfying work.

The Other Country #4 The Bruise Black Sky #5 Death’s Ink-Black Shadow #6 and Enduring Night #7 – series More Heat Than The Sun John Wiltshire

These titles are from a series of books, concerning two complex characters, Nikolas and Ben. Nikolas a super intelligent surviving twin, also Danish/Russian spy, who has memories and regrets in his head that no one would wish for – and Ben, English ex-soldier, ex SAS – straightforward army and adorable. On paper it is the antithesis of anything I normally read, BUT the series is extremely well written, never bores and has more twists than you could shake a stick at… John Wiltshire knows how to write in a way that requires you to keep reading no matter what. He can make you laugh and grin in one line then near to tears in the next. Considering that this series is the story of two men – whose passion for each other is ‘epic’ – each plotline remains intriguing and builds up layer upon layer over the series. There are secondary characters you really care for, but they never overshadow the main protagonists, except for their adorable dog, Radulf.  

The four I have mentioned here all came out in 2015 and I could not favour one over the others. I have read the whole series and I would drop everything to get my hands on #8. To me John Wiltshire’s books are unique, in that I have never before remained wholly invested in a series for this long.

Focus on Me – Megan Erickson 

Colin feels he is a failure at life until, one day, he gives the stunning and stranded Riley a lift. From this point on, the lives of these young men change, forever. This is a road trip with heart and soul. The characterisations in Focus on Me are superb, Riley is not just an illness, Colin not just a worried new lover – they are three-dimensional human beings. A story of love, mental illness and its wider effects, the author writes this tale with delicacy and sensitivity for the subject. Even the secondary characters, with little page time, are constructed will care. Focus on Me is a romance set around difficult issues, but it is never maudlin or miserable. Colin is an empathic, loveable character and his commitment to Riley, is full of heart and joy. What elevates this novel from the norm is the final chapter. It is both HEA and HFN. If the author had made it a pat happy ever after – the novel would have been ruined. However, Megan Erickson carries her understanding of her characters and their situation through to the lovely end.

For Real  – Alexis Hall

I love this story of a May to December relationship. For Real revolves around two characters Laurence Dalziel, a thirty seven year old trauma consultant, and Oxford man through and through, and Toby. Toby is nineteen, intelligent, neglected by artist parents, and adored by his ‘Granddad’. Their route to each other initially, is the need /desire in one to submit through BDSM and the desire in the other to Dominate through BDSM. In both, this desire is restricted mainly to sex.

Because he is Alexis Hall, he reverses the obvious dynamic, and gives us an adorable, fearless teenage Dom with acne and a self-possessed, wealthy older submissive. The writing, is exquisite and the author includes pithy, perceptive observations on life, which almost had me gasping at the truth behind them. The romance is real and the BDSM elements are an integral part of it. This D/s couple don’t need the artifice of ‘equipment’ – life provides all that is required to satisfy this couples’ desires. There is a scene involving a lemon meringue pie that invokes both the enjoyment of a very sexy scene, and a need for the recipe. For Real created such strong emotion in me that I couldn’t cry, until I reached one particular passage near the end – then I sobbed. Beautiful, sexy, funny and romantic.

Last Line 2 – Harper Fox

Last Line 2 definitely makes my list. This novel is the long awaited sequel to (of course) Last Line, but these novels are in effect, two parts of a much bigger story. This is such a very beautiful, complex novel; I don’t really want to say too much about the plotline (if I could!) as it needs to unwind with a particular order to the exposition. The writing is extraordinary, and wraps you in a narrative that holds you in its thrall until the end. Plot and character drive Fox’s novels, but she never fails to enrich her prose with almost casual bits of linguistic beauty.

Despite the fact that this novel involves espionage and cold war politics, it astounded me with its message and metaphorical essence. Much of the story is set in and around Glastonbury Tor, with such a setting, the magic of pagan beliefs, and the cycle of life and the elements –feel visceral and real. Whilst romance seems to be a side issue at first, when the novel gets into its stride, romance shines through the entire plot.

Sutphin Boulevard – Santino Hassell

If I had written a precis straight after reading Sutphin Boulevard – it wouldn’t have made much sense, just ‘omg’, ‘drool’ and ‘rawr’ etc. – very un-British.

Santino Hassell writes gritty, modern drama, which makes for intense romances.  His believable, fluid writing style tends to make what you read immediately after, pale by comparison. I had felt a little jaded about the sex scenes in some m/m romances, but Sutphin Boulevard has definitely been the read to re-light my fire!  Early in the book is one of the hottest menage sex scenes I have read, and this one night sets events in motion that change the lives of all the participants. 

The MCs are two friends forever, Michael (Mikey) Rodriguez, and Nunzio (Zio) Medici – two very real, urban and adorable male leads. Michael is from a dysfunctional family and Nunzio’s family ceased to function for him completely, a long time ago. They have grown up together and been everything to each other – except lovers. Both have physically ‘escaped’ the area where they grew up, through education and now teach at the same school. However, they haven’t mentally escaped the past, and scars left by their early lives in Queens continue to blight their lives. Their childhood home is served by the subway train stopping at Sutphin Boulevard

BJ Jansen