Alison DeLuca has written what I’m going to call a “non-traditional romance” (that means the romantic partners are gay*) and I hope she’ll forgive me, but when I figured out what was going on I have to admit I rolled my eyes a bit.  You see, on my Facebook I have as friends a great number of other writers. Among those writers, the great majority (of the regular posters, anyway) seem to write romance, and of the romance writers it seems to be split about half and half between very muscular Scotsmen and very muscular gay men (with a small fraction of very muscular, gay Scotsmen). It seems like gay romance is the flavor of the month (or year, I suppose) and I tend to resist that sort of thing as a knee-jerk reaction.

This, though, is a well written romance story about a couple of interesting people. The plot is well paced and suspenseful, and there is nothing formulaic about it. I should have known this from the beginning:

Hum thinks about infinity a lot. Dirt and stone surround Pandora Alliance that lies underground. No one knows what lies above their buried city. Thanks to his enhanced neural wiring, Hum can call up an exact picture of the entire facility, rotate, flip the image, and figure the fastest way to get from one port to another, including airshafts and what Ash calls ‘smuggler tunnels’ – passages known only in Alliance legends.
These mental images come to Hum as music, a strange symphony of bytes and constant input. No one quite understands the constant tune in his head, although Ash comes closest to hearing the crackles and whines of Pandora’s song. The melody uses zeroes and ones instead of notes, wires and hardware for instruments.
Ash stands and twists his back. When he doesn’t move for long he becomes restless. His enhancements are all physical: strengthened bones, perfect eyesight, the balance and poise of a dancer. HUMAN 272 is tatted under his long hair, but only Hum gets to see it.
They are bred to perform perfectly together. Ash is all hard muscle and sinew, ready to spring to action when Hum makes the call. One theorizes, the other acts.

It did get me thinking about why I see so many writers going the route of the gay romance. From a writer’s standpoint I asked myself, “What would I get out of making my characters gay?” Well, first off, I would get to drop the bullshit gender roles that seem to go with that particular territory and focus on writing about a couple of interesting, three-dimensional people. That’s always nice… and that’s when I realized. I’ve more or less already done that. To Ride the Wind Dancing is basically a romance story between a guy and a spaceship. Similar idea from a gender roles standpoint.

At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Ash, Hum, and Bhari are all well defined and compelling characters. They speak with their own voices, which is harder to do than you might think, and they have interesting things to say. Also, the bad guy is a right dick.

That’s also a good thing.

The book is available at in paperback and e-book formats. It is also available at Barnes and Noble as paperback and for the Nook, and at  Amazon (paperback) and Amazon (kindle). All proceeds go to Water is Life.