Gaily Ever After:
Neo-Victorian M/M Genre Romance for the Twenty-First Century
Keywords:K. J. Charles, fanfiction, genre fiction, happy ending, Georgette Heyer, m/m, popular, queer, romance, Cat Sebastian
This article examines the subgenre of M/M (gay) genre romance set in the nineteenth century, focusing on a corpus of 2017 to 2018 novels as well as shorter works by authors K. J. Charles and Cat Sebastian. Their writings are rooted in the legacy of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances and the history of M/M romance, a recent genre which owes as much to digital fanfiction as it does to queer publishers in the 1960s and 1970s. I explore the idea of a queer Happily Ever After as a topos and telos that allows the narratives to re-write the past through creating a happy queer ‘archive’, while also engaging critically with the representation of marginalised gender, sexual, and racial identities. Although there are problematic aspects to these portrayals, I posit that the passionate community of romance readers and writers shows a popular, affective, and truly neo-Victorian engagement with the nineteenth century.
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