Today I am so pleased to welcome Matthew J. Metzger to Joyfully Jay. Matthew has come to talk to us about his latest release, The Divorce. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Today is release day for my latest book, The Divorce. First in a five-part series following the evolving relationship between Aled Evans and Gabriel Lazarri, this book—and this series—is an exercise in subverting expectations.
I’m not ashamed to say the plot isn’t anything groundbreaking. Aled is struggling to get over the breakdown of his marriage, and seeks a bit of temporary relief in a hookup from Grindr. This turns out to be Gabriel, and Aled’s temporary solution rapidly becomes more long-term. So, it’s like a million other romances that have come before it.
Even the tags aren’t exactly unique. The series involves BDSM and RACK, but so do lots of other romances. Aled is bisexual; Gabriel is trans. That combination has been written before too—hell, I’ve written that combination before. British romance isn’t as prevalent as its American cousin, but it’s still pretty well populated, so the West Yorkshire setting isn’t unique either.
This is just another run-of-the-mill erotic romance.
Except for one thing. What I wanted to do with The Divorce, and indeed the whole series, was to shift or subvert expectations a little. Take some predictable part of the plot and move it elsewhere, or twist it so it wasn’t quite the same.
Mainly this was about identity. In the fourth book, Gabriel has an operation, but it’s nothing to do with being transgender. Throughout the series, they’re in a polyamorous relationship, but it’s gay submissive Gabriel who has multiple partners, not dominant bisexual Aled. Aled has a high-paying office job, but doesn’t look that good in a suit and definitely isn’t tall, dark and handsome with washboard abs. In one of the few times a safeword is required, it comes from the dominant partner rather than the submissive. Gabriel’s asexual boyfriend is a former soldier.
Occasionally, I played with the plot in a similar way. I don’t want to spoil it, but at least two of the five books don’t quite have the resolution one would usually expect. (Don’t worry! They’re still happy endings. Promise.) Possibly three, depending how many clues you take from the characters themselves. So while everyone gets their happily ever after—except any villains, naturally—they don’t quite take the same path as I’ve walked them down before, and nor do the elements that create the story belong to quite the same cast as they usually would.
For me, this is the most fun part of writing romance—but I’d argue it’s also one of the most important. Because with a romance, you know how this turns out. You know the protagonist gets their happy ending. You know the roadblocks are temporary. You know it’ll all work out in the end. If it doesn’t, it’s literally not a romance anymore.
But what you don’t know is how they’re going to get there. Who wins in the love triangle? How does he gain forgiveness? What will it take to redeem her? Points A and B are set in stone, start and finish, but getting from one to the other doesn’t hold any similar promises.
And this is where I think romance is one of the most fun genres to tackle. One of my favourite things to do as an author is map out the expected route, then veer off into the bushes somewhere along the line. That can either be a huge detour, or just a slight angle to go between some different trees. It can make the story just a little different, or wildly experimental. But as long as they still end up riding off into the metaphorical sunset together, you didn’t break the rules.
The Divorce isn’t particularly groundbreaking. It’s not a crazy experiment, or a cute mystery. It’s just two guys—then three—figuring out how this all works. And they all live happily ever after.
But I might have veered off the beaten path a couple of times along the way.
Sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together.
Aled is in a rut. Thirty-three, separated from his wife and avoiding his best friend so he doesn’t have to see how well her love life is going doesn’t make for a good time. So, when a friend suggests a one-night stand to shake off the dust, Aled decides to play along. Maybe some no-strings-attached sex is exactly what he needs to get himself going again and give him the energy to get his life back on track.
But when Aled’s dominant streak meets Gabriel’s flirtatious submission, the one-night stand rapidly spills over into the following days and weeks. And what started out as just sex doesn’t stay that way for long, from the flour fight in Aled’s kitchen to the homemade curry in Gabriel’s flat.
Happiness is right in front of him—but Aled has to stop looking back if he wants to reach it.