Love, Romance and Shakespeare in Summer Stock

My guests today are Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, a team of authors who put no limits or labels on love or romance. Though they do make use of labels in describing themselves, when it suits them. In today’s post, they share some of the background for their most recent novella, Midsummer, in which an unlikely pair of men find their way to one another while members of a summer stock company staging William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This new novella is part of a gay romance series called Love’s Labours, all of which are set in the world of the theatre and take their titles from Shakespearian plays.

Please let Erin and Racheline tell you a little about their new romance . . .

When writing an M/M May/December gay-for-you romance like Midsummer, one of the biggest issues the character encounters is that last one — "gay for you." Both my cowriter Racheline and I are bisexual. We both also refer to ourselves as queer, depending on the circumstances and what aspects of our respective lives we want to convey.

John, the hero of Midsummer, has never been attracted to men before he falls in love and lust with Michael, his costar at a Shakespeare summer stock company. He has no angst over his self-discovery that he’s way less straight than he, and everyone else, had previously thought. But Michael is much younger than John and considers himself part of the gay community in a way that John never has. He has expectations as to how out John should be. And while John has no intention of staying in the closet, Michael’s demands that John be completely open about their relationship to others sometimes clash with John’s still developing sense of his own self-identity.

John wishes he could get Michael to understand that just because John is really, really into Michael (which very much includes Michael’s body), he’s still attracted to women. He’s also not yet sure if he’s attracted to men who aren’t Michael. Identity is not simply a matter of gay or straight or bi or anything else. There are far more shades to human sexuality than language has words for. Michael, for his part, doesn’t get why John won’t just call himself bisexual, or why John’s more comfortable with "queer."

Midsummer is about rebuilding life after loss. It’s about characters choosing the futures they want and the people they want in their future. It’s also about characters deciding, for themselves, what — if any — labels work for them.

Cover showing a foggy forest with the silhouette of a man in the distance and in the upper left foreground a bare-chested man.

Midsummer   Blurb:

John Lyonel, a long-time theater professional and teacher, heads to Virginia to play Oberon in the Theater in the Woods’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, intending to focus on his work. John is recovering from the tragic loss of his family and needs a break. The last thing he expects is to become captivated by Michael Hilliard, the professional actor playing Puck, especially since John has never been attracted to men, let alone one so much younger.

They rush headlong into an affair which falls apart dramatically over secrets that John and Michael are keeping from each other. A steep learning curve, the gossipy cast of the show, and the sometimes sinister magic of the woods conspire to keep them apart. But stage lights and stars might work their magic and help them define a new future.

Midsummer   Excerpt:

Costume fittings and dress rehearsals means that John finally gets to see Michael costumed as Puck. The human characters are dressed contemporarily, in suits and cocktail dresses that become increasingly disheveled as the show goes on. The fairies, though, are dressed in greens and browns with crowns of strange wildness — thistles, cornsilk, and Queen Ann’s lace. Michael as Puck looks deeply inhuman, covered in leaves as if dragged in from the wooded grounds. For their first dress rehearsal, it takes all of John’s considerable experience and willpower to actually focus on the play and not Michael. As taken as Oberon is meant to be with Puck, he should actually be able to remember and deliver his lines.

"Whose idea was this?" he asks Michael afterward, catching him before he can change. Michael blinks at him with eyes done up in silver and green. John wants to devour him.

"Do you like it?" Michael asks, more distant and coy than usual, sliding his hands up John’s chest which, like his own, is bare.

All John can do is groan when Michael looks up at him from under his lashes. He stands on his tiptoes to kiss John briefly, and then vanishes. When he reappears he’s Michael again, in t-shirt and shorts, but John can’t forget the image of him transformed.

Midsummer   Buy Links:

B & N:

About the Authors

Erin McRae is a queer writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. She has a master’s degree in International Affairs from American University, and delights in applying her knowledge of international relations theory to her fiction and screen-based projects, because conflict drives narrative.

Racheline Maltese lives a big life from a small space. She flies planes, sails boats, and rides horses, but as a native New Yorker, has no idea how to drive a car. A long-time entertainment and media industry professional, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their two cats.

Together, they are co-authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry — Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves (January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015) — from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella series Love’s Labours, set in the theater world — Midsummer (May 2015), and Twelfth Night (Fall 2015), is from Dreamspinner Press. They also have a story in Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press and edited by Felice Picano. You can find them on the web at

Connect with Erin & Racheline online:
Joint Blog:
Joint Facebook Page:
Erin’s Twitter:
Racheline’s Twitter:
Erin’s Goodreads:
Racheline’s Goodreads:
Erin’s Amazon Author Page:
Racheline’s Amazon Author Page: