Greetings! I’m so happy to visit one of my favorite blogs as I celebrate the upcoming release of FEEL THE FIRE. This is book 3 in my hotshot series which centers around smoke jumpers and wildfire fighters, but the series can be read out of order! When people hear firefighters, they often immediately think big rugged alpha type heroes. And I do love writing those characters too, but what I wanted to do here was to explore a wide range of first responders beyond the alpha male stereotype—different ages, different career paths, different life experiences, and different personalities. I also wanted to represent a wide range of sexualities too, and the series has gay, bi, pan, and demisexual characters, among other identities. FEEL THE FIRE features a hero who absolutely fits that alpha mold—he’s rugged, tough, a take-charge leader, and has enviable muscles. He’s also demisexual, which is something we don’t see as often in the romance world, especially from alpha hero types.
When I wrote a character on the asexual spectrum in SQUARED AWAY, I was unprepared for the amount of reader mail I received telling me how much the book meant to them to see a “gray ace” character on the page. I resolved to be open to more ace spectrum representation because visibility matters and also because there are so many different types of asexuality—no one character is going to represent the whole spectrum. Mark in SQUARED AWAY is more gray ace with some characteristics of demisexuality too. Even when happily partnered, his desire for sex is more muted, a product of the closeness he feels with his partner, and he can go long stretches of time without it.
In FEEL THE FIRE, I was able to show a different angle on demisexuality. In addition to even more research, I also recruited multiple sensitivity readers who identify as demisexual. The reason why I always use multiple sensitivity readers for things like ace spectrum identities is because no one person can represent all the possible lived experiences and opinions of a group. With FEEL THE FIRE, I worked on multiple rounds of revisions, running sentences by my sensitivity readers more than once as I tried to get the rep “right.”
And honestly, I’m sure I still didn’t get it “right.” I know even with identities I hold—neurodiverse, mental illness, chronic illness, bisexual—that I can’t speak for all people with those things. Also, I’m a product of the intersection of those identities too. My mood disorder colors my neurodiversity which in turn colors my bisexuality and the way I experience gender. Character is a unique and individual thing, both in the real world and in the fictional one as well. I try hard to write three-dimensional robust characters who are the product of all their identities, not simply one. And even when an author tries super hard, uses sensitivity readers, does research, works with skilled editors, there is still ample room to slip up, to be less than respectful, and I acknowledge that.
Even within those limitations, I still think representation is important. I want the romance world to reflect the world at large with all its beautiful variations on ways to be human and to share love. And also, we have to write the characters as they come to us. I didn’t set out to write a demisexual character—I set out to write Tucker, a great dad, a first responder, a fabulous leader, and when he revealed he was also demisexual, I was more than up for the challenge, because I wanted to write him the way he wanted to be written.
As writers that’s our calling—to write the characters as they need to be written. At the end of the day, all I can hope for is that I did that well, that I did it respectfully, and in a way that doesn’t cause harm. And Tucker is far from the only demisexual hero roaming around romancelandia. I wanted to close with some of my favorite romances that feature heroes on the ace spectrum, and I welcome your recs in the comments as well.
- AM Arthur’s UNIQUELY US is an ace/demisexual pairing that’s high on my keeper shelf rankings. I adored this book and it stands alone from the rest of the series just fine.
- NR Walker’s UPSIDE DOWN is an ace/ace pairing that’s one of the cutest, sweetest, most lovely romances I’ve ever read.
- Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea’s ONE SMALL THING is one of my top ten books of all time. Gray ace. Neurodiversity. Adorable baby plot.
- Nora Phoenix and KM Neubold’s DADDY. I loved this book’s representation of demisexuality and its intersection with a kink identity.
- Avon Gale’s EMPTY NET. Another of my all-time favorite books. I really loved seeing a professional athlete who was also demisexual. Would love to see more heroes like this one!
- Cass Lennox’s BLANK SPACES was the first book I read with an ace hero. It remains extremely high on my list of favorites, and it is one I often recommend.
My list is in no way complete, and there are several others I’ve read and loved as well. Also, my list is all LGBTQ+ pairings. I would love to see more demisexual/ace heroes in m/f pairings in all genres of romance but have not come across many. I welcome all your recs in the comments! Thank you so much for having me today, and I do hope you check out FEEL THE FIRE.
Title: Feel the Fire
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Hotshots, #3
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Imprint: Carina Press
eBook On-Sale: October 26, 2020
eBook ISBN & Price: 9781488076855, $4.99 U.S.
MMP On-Sale: October 27, 2020
MMP ISBN & Price: 9781335459527, $8.99 U.S.
Book Description: The third installment of Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.
When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…
Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.
Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.
Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.
Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: Burn Zone, High Heat and Feel the Fire.
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About Annabeth Albert
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.
Connect with Annabeth Albert
Thank you for your thoughtful post, Annabeth, and best wishes for the success of Feel the Fire!
Loved this post and Feel the Fire was such a delight to read. I’ll definitely be checking out your recommendations.