Recommended By: Lexxie (Un)Conventional Book Reviews
Genre: Contemporary Romance - M/M
Carlos O’Shea is stuck. He knocked up a girl in college after a night of too much drinking and then married her to be honorable. With little money, fewer options, and no degree, he winds up cleaning the floors in a small town gentlemen’s club and thinking desperate thoughts about the handsome owner that’ll lead to nothing but trouble.
Greg Moorehouse only invested in a nudie bar to help his best buddy out of a financial crisis. Now his drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, his reverend father, and a parade of surgically-enhanced DDs are driving him insane. But what’s really stripped him of all good sense is his growing obsession with his married employee, Carlos.
They circle each other in a push-pull of misunderstandings and growing attraction. Carlos needs to get his boss out of his head, and Greg can’t abide cheaters and married men. So what are a strip club owner and the guy who cleans going to do with their undeniable desires?
Be advised: Contains angsty dark moments, explicit love-making between two hot-blooded men, and cupcake-baking exotic dancers.
STRIPPED CLEAN is my first M/M romance read, I was more scared than excited to read this novel because it's outside my comfort zone. Ellis Carrington really did a good job in helping me gain perspective about M/M romance so I'd like to share this article with M/M virgins out there. Hopefully Ellis can convince you to try this sub-genre with curiosity if not eagerness.
This is How We Do It – My Approach to Man on Man Love Scenes
by Ellis Carrington
I combined this perspective with a discussion about love scenes with one of my favorite gay romance authors, K.A. Mitchell. She brought up the idea that when two people get it on in a book, those are two unique (albeit fictional) individuals coming together at a particular point in time, with their unique personalities, their backgrounds, their baggage, and whatever else is going to contribute to them being who they are to each other at that moment.
I was asked once, while speaking at a panel about gay romance and erotica, how one keeps a sex scene from turning into porn. Now, nothing against porn; porn can be great. Still, when it comes to romance, I pointed to Ms. Mitchell’s answer: it’s about the characters. Porn is a fantasy acted out on film – and the orgasms are the final goal. A love scene in a romance novel is there to move the story forward between those two characters, whether there’s an orgasm on the page or the bump and grind happens behind a fade-to-black.
All this is doubly true when we’re talking about a love story involving two (or more) men. Men, generally speaking, are not so much with the emotional talky-talky. They tend to communicate much better with their bodies. So, while I do not profess to be any kind of expert, I find the best way to show a romantic connection is often when those two characters are physically intimate.
For me, this means my love scenes have evolved a little into being sometimes a little less explicit, a little less focused on the in-and-out mechanics (although there is some of that) and a little more of the touching, the eye contact, and the dialogue that happens. Not simply the moaning and groaning and “Oh my what a huge purple-headed warrior you have, Stan!” but giving them the chance to say things they might not say otherwise, during that time when their defenses are down.
Personal opinion? A book can be a little or a lot erotic, but it’s the tension and the dialogue that makes all the difference in the heat level of a love scene. Tere Michaels has a gorgeous book called Faith and Fidelity that is still one of my favorites. Not explicit at all, but the tension between the two men is so palpable that by the end of it I swear you’ll be sweating. Conversely, I’m also a huge fan of Sloan Parker, who writes love scenes so erotic my eyeballs nearly burst into flames. But they’re gorgeous—artful, even, so well-done and always perfectly fitting for the particular characters she is writing that I drink in every word. So again, it’s about the characters, and the author’s writing style. Those two components make all the difference.
So again, my opinion – and like assholes, we all have them – is that it really is the motion of the ocean, fictionally speaking. Once upon a time all gay romance was labeled “erotica” by default. As the genre explodes we are learning otherwise. I call what I write romance. Adult romance, erotic romance, but romance. I’ve seen “sweet” gay romance with hardly any sex. We’ve got everything from tech-y Sci-fi to cozy mysteries and young adult fiction in the genre, and the heat/intimacy levels bend and flex accordingly. There’s even a very sweet romance novel out there about a gay book. No sex (not between the books, anyway) but there is intimacy, and it’s super cute.
Worth dipping your toe in, if you haven’t already.
I've shied away from M/M romances because I feel intimidated by its cozier parts. For some reason the idea of two men locked in a heated embrace makes me blush. Even when I read Lover At Last (BDB 11), I was skimming most of Qhuay's love scenes because it was stressing me out! When I read Lexxie's [(Un)Conventional Book Reviews] review, it got me interested in reading STRIPPED CLEAN because it gave me the impression that this is more emotional and less physical, the perfect novel to ease me into this sub-genre in a pleasant manner.
STRIPPED CLEAN is an emotional story about two people who are not necessarily at the best times of their lives. Greg Moorehouse is still dealing with the aftermath of his break-up even if it's been a year ago plus his relationship with his hypocrite of a father is strained. Carlos O'Shea still hasn't come out of the closet and is locked in a loveless marriage with his wife who knows his secret. Greg's storyline is full of angst and his relationship with his father ended unresolved which is tragic because despite whatever anger he felt, he still loved his dad for what it's worth and to leave that thread in his life untied is heartbreaking to say the least.
Carlos' is more complicated and emotional. His relationship with Greg straddles the fine line of cheating because he's still married but given the circumstances, I understand his reasons even if I don't necessarily condone it. The most powerful part for me in this whole story was when Carlos finally came clean to his mom and explained to her that he's gay and how that doesn't define him as a person. It was a short scene but it pierced my heart fiercely I want to reach out and give Carlos a hug!
As for the sex scenes, it was intimate but not overly graphic which is why STRIPPED CLEAN is such a great M/M cherry popper. Men in romance novels are rough and raw with all their Alphaness coming out in the bedroom and that insatiable need to mark and claim. Outside looking in, I imagined M/M to be testosterone charged and that's too much for me to handle. STRIPPED CLEAN wasn't like that at all. Color me ignorant because men can be soft and vulnerable if they want to and I saw all of those glorious loving emotions exchanged between Greg and Carlos. The intimate scenes are so emotionally honest I can't help but feel the glow of their love for each other.
So my M/M cherry's been popped and I thank Ellis Carrington for taking such good care of me! It was painless and no blood was drawn so obviously I'll be coming back for more. I'm still out of my element here and I'm content to stick to the more timid ones before I go exploring the more adventurous types. ECarrington's works will be my go-to because I know I'm in good hands and I really love her writing voice. Now if you're an M/M virgin and are thinking of getting your feet wet, check out STRIPPED CLEAN, it's lubricated with lots of heart so you won't have a problem sliding in to the story (bad pun, I know).
Purchase Stripped Clean
Romance requires a hopeful ending and that is why Ellis Carrington is driven to write it. She loves to create original stories that are gritty, witty, and a little unexpected, just like the heroes who inhabit them. Her guys come in both human and non-human form because spirit guides and vampires deserve love too. Her favorite things are great friends, great music, and books that make her sob like there’s no tomorrow.
Due to it's strong sexual content, this snippet is rated R-18