Disaggregating attraction: asexuality and genre critique in Alex Beecroft's Blue Steel Chain

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Here's the abstract:

Although popular romance fiction is associated with standardization and mass-market publishing (e.g., Mills and Boon), niche-marketed and independently published romance novels allow variations on the sexual and other norms of the genre to flourish. This chapter gives close, contextual readings of two such novels by the English author Alex Beecroft, each of which offers reflections of and reflections on the genre as a whole. In the historical romance False Colors (2009) Beecroft explores how the conventions and traditions of popular romance can be used to defend same-sex male love on specifically Christian terms, and at what cost to other narrative and relationship structures. Beecroft’s romantic thriller Blue Steel Chain (2015) pairs an asexual hero with an allosexual one to critique the way that sexual chemistry has come to serve as an early sign of romantic love and as its ultimate sine qua non, not least in Beecroft’s own earlier work. This critique allows other forms of what William Reddy calls “the longing for association” to be reclaimed and redeemed by the romance genre. Far from being thoughtless or artless, this chapter demonstrates, romance novels can be complex and substantive novels of ideas, making popular-romance fiction a valuable, internally various archive for students and scholars of twenty-first-century romantic love.


In their brief memoir Things Unseen: a Book of Queer Christian Witness Beecroft notes that in writing False Colors they set out not simply to represent but to redeem allosexual m/m love, “possessed with this zeal to do something to let LGBT people know that the Lord loved them just as they were” (Beecroft 2018: loc 860). Blue Steel Chain, in turn, tries not simply to represent a successful love relationship between two homoromantic men, one ace-spectrum and one allosexual, but again to redeem it: to represent their relationship as sanctified, even if this entails desacralizing and decentering the same allosexual desires that Beecroft previously hymned as “why God made us physical beings…why he gave us flesh” (Beecroft 2009: 333).