BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Boys Just Wanna Have Fun, Too: On Pagan-Friendly M/M Paranormal Romance

While my reading is eclectic, I probably read more paranormal romance and urban fantasy than any other genres. I love the mix of adventure, magic, menace, heroism, and romance. For a long time, I focused on books with female protagonists or heterosexual couples, preferably of an alternative religious persuasion; give me a badass witch with a sword and I'm happy. Only recently have I discovered the literary subculture that is M/M paranormal romance.

I totally blame KJ Charles.

As I noted in my "On Freebies and Cheapies" column a few weeks back, I discovered Charles while hunting for free ebooks. I downloaded her short story, "A Case of Spirits," and loved it so much that I went back and paid real money for the rest of the books in the A Charm of Magpies series.

How to describe these books? One commenter on FaceBook compared them to Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell -- but with sex and romance and true love. I haven't read JS&MN yet, but that seems an apt description. Magic may be out in the open in the "uncivilized" parts of the world, but in early Victorian England it has been firmly driven underground by Christianity and the Enlightenment. Practitioners such as Stephen Day must police their own. And when Lucien Vaudrey, the new Earl Crane and fresh off the boat from twenty years in Shanghai, asks Day to help him deal with a death curse that is killing off his family one by one, Day feels ethically obligated to help -- never mind that Vaudrey's father destroyed Day's own family. Over the course of the story, what begins as a reluctant business relationship slowly evolves into a friendship and from there into a soul-deep, romantic love. And, of course, along with all the lovey-dovey stuff are curses, sword fights, narrow escapes, blood sacrifices, lost ancient artifacts, hungry ghosts, magical paintings, sorcerous duels, animated tattoos, and did I mention sex-augmented magic? Oh, and of course, the ever-present threat of being thrown in prison, or worse, because homosexuality is illegal.

(Vaudrey complains more than once that he misses China, a truly civilized land where no one cares who shares your bed and magic is part of everyday life. England, by comparison, is barbaric.)

The fact that homosexuality was illegal in the Western world for so many centuries adds a definite touch of danger to these historical paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels. Even a rumor of "improper relations" could ruin a man's life: stiff financial penalties, imprisonment, commitment to a sanatorium, exile, mutilation, execution, loss of employment, social ostracism and denunciation by family and friends, the list goes on. Which is sadly ironic considering that Our Heroes are running around trying to save the very people who would likely run them out of town, or worse, if they knew the truth.

The protagonists in Jordan L Hawk's Restless Spirits and the Whyborne and Griffin series have the same problem, even though these books are set in the United States near the end of the 19th century. I discovered the latter when I downloaded another freebie: "Remnant," which was co-written by Charles and Hawk.* I thoroughly enjoyed it, and added all of Hawk's books to my wish list. Restless Spirits focuses on Vincent Night, a medium who might be Native American by birth (although he's not sure), and Henry Strauss, an inventor whose family was ruined by a fake medium. The two men are at complete odds, at first, but slowly come to realize that they are actually each other's best allies. Henry gives Vincent the strength to face his fear after the death of his mentor, while Vincent's skills complement Henry's Electro-Seance Machine. Did I mention that Henry is single-handedly raising his mixed-race niece, for which he has been ostracized by the rest of their family? And that Vincent's business partner is transgender?

The Whyborne and Griffin books might best be described as Lovecraft meets "Warehouse 13" meets Sherlock Holmes. Set in the fictional northeastern city of Widdershins, the books center around Percival Endicott Whyborne, a socially-awkward, sexually-repressed philologist; and Griffin Flaherty, a handsome, extroverted ex-Pinkerton agent turned private detective. Whyborne is unaware magic exists until Griffin brings him a copy of the Liber Arcanorum to translate, which leads them both to all sorts of unpleasant discoveries and wild adventures: extra-dimensional monsters, secret societies, mad science, evil sorcerers, and even more. My favorite bit? Whyborne was inspired as a child by the classics to build shrines to Pan and Bacchus -- an impulse fully supported by his mother.

Oh, my other favorite bit: Christine. Doctor Christine Putnam, Egyptologist, is Whyborne's only friend before Griffin sweeps into his life. She is a force of nature: blunt, but not cruel, and heartily sick of the misogynist and patronizing attitudes of the men around her. She accepts Whyborne as he is because he is the only one to accept her as she is; he was the only man at their first meeting to properly address her as "doctor."

Which is another reason to enjoy M/M paranormal romance novels: the strong female characters. Since the focus is on two men, the women in the story are free to be something other than romantic entanglements, sexual objects or playthings. They can be themselves without having to worry about whether or not the hero/es will still findk them sexy while covered in extra-dimensional monster goop. So, yay Christine, and yay Jenny Saint and Esther Gold, and yay for Jo and Lizzie! 

While I personally favor historical paranormal novels (it's the history geek in me), there are also plenty of stand-alone books and whole series set in the modern world and even the distant future. Lou Harper's Dead Man series, for example, follows the adventures of the necromancer Denton and his herbalist/brujo boyfriend, Bran. Start with the freebie Dead Man and the Lustful Spirit, and then go back and read the rest of the series. Also look for the Kai Gracen books by Rhys Ford, set in the years following the violent collision of Earth and Underhill. Start with Black Dog Blues, which follows the elfin Kai on a "simple" retrieval run into dragon territory. Yes, "simple" is in quotation marks for a very bad reason.    

If you like your magic with a bit of science fiction, try Amber Kell's space fantasy series, Planetary Submissives [note: yes, this is a BDSM series]. Start with Chalice, which centers around the eponymous protagonist, a rare four-elemental mage whose powers are running out of control. The only way for Chalice to gain control is to find the one Dominant strong enough to balance out his magic.

So, there you have them: a few of the M/M paranormal romance and fantasy series which I have found to be particularly Pagan-friendly. They are filled with romance, adventure, magic, mayhem, and monsters. Go have a look. And if you find any great books that I missed, let me know! 


* "Remnant" features Hawk's characters Whyborne and Griffin, and Charles' characters Simon Feximal and Robert Caldwell. The latter also appear in Charles' free short story "Butterflies" and in the forthcoming The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal.    

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Thursday, 30 April 2015

    Urban fantasy stuff, I have some favorites I can recommend. If you don't mind anime I recommend Kyo Kara Maoh on and Natsume Yujin-cho on
    Natsume Yujin-cho is based on the manga Natsume's Book of Friends which is up to volume 17 with volume 18 coming out in June. If you haven't come across them already I suggest the webcomics: A Redtail's Dream at; Wilde Life at and Girl Genius at I hope you give these a try and find them as enjoyable as I do.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Saturday, 02 May 2015

    Cool, thanks! :)

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