men_holding_hands_istockphotoI was a teenager in the 80’s. With influences like Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Erasure (who, IMHO, give the BEST concerts) and the public outing of a few celebrities, I was certainly aware of gay people. Not to trivialize how courageous it is to come out (and it saddens me that it should ever be an ordeal) but I think it’s probably easier to do so now than it was 15, 20, 30 years ago. So, to the best of my knowledge at the time, I did not know any gay people personally – I have since found out that I was wrong.

[openbook booknumber=”9780886773526″ templatenumber=”2″]What I did know, was that in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I fell in love with a fictional character who happened to be gay. Vanyel Ashkevron from Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald Mage of Valdemar series is still one of my favourite characters, and I’ve reread the series dozens of times. His sexual orientation is a great source of conflict for him and he’s so easy to relate to. He’s a good person, but he’s got his bad habits and a tendency to react in very human, albeit not always admirable, ways. What he does have is enormous strength of character and it doesn’t take long before you’re rooting for him, one-hundred percent.

[openbook booknumber=”9780886774264″ templatenumber=”2″]Throughout the series, he ends up loving two different men (completely PG), and the relationships are heartwarming, heartbreaking and so beautiful. Totally gave me the warm fuzzies inside. When he meets the second love of his life, Vanyel is skittish from years of disappointment and sorrow, and has decided celibacy is the best course of action. Stef melts his resolve (he would melt anyone, I’m sure). The scene where the two of them finally get together is one of the sweetest, most heartwarming scenes I can recall. The ending is beautiful and made me cry happy tears — and I HATE crying for any reason!

The books are considered fantasy, not romance, and of course, the fantasy elements are spectacular, but I have to say, it was the romance and characterization that stuck with me.

I like to think I’d be open and accepting of all races, religions and sexual orientation, regardless – after all, I did grow up in a very diverse city — but I’m betting that reading about Vanyel at such an impressionable age probably had a huge impact on my worldview. And I’m extremely glad of it – and grateful to Mercedes Lackey.