May 10, 2016

To Have AND to Hold: Bad Marriage Turned Very Good

The end of an awful marriage might be the beginning of something smoking hot. Click to buy.
The end of an awful marriage might be the beginning of something smoking hot. Click to buy.

By Alexa Day

I can still remember the time I discovered my first book boyfriend was married.

His name was Edward Rochester. I was in seventh grade.

Jane Eyre‘s Edward was not perfect. He had a mean streak a mile wide. He flirted with other women where he knew I — Jane, I mean Jane — would see it. His child was kind of obnoxious. But I was willing to live with that. He wasn’t any worse than my movie boyfriend — Max Zorin from A View To A Kill. Max wasn’t married, but he was really bad news.

I was willing to overlook Edward’s faults until I found out he was married. I couldn’t decide which was worse. The timing of this particular revelation or the fact that he was willing to marry me — Jane, I mean Jane — without mentioning that he was already married.

By the time Edward and Jane found their way back to each other, I guess I thought he’d been sufficiently punished for his behavior. I found I was happy for Jane. Still, the whole episode made me wonder.

No, I will not calm down! Married?! You're married?!
No, I will not calm down! Married?! You’re married?!

A few years later, my confusion was compounded by two more books. Wifey by Judy Blume and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence teamed up to convince me that a woman could either be happy or be married. To read the back cover blurb from my late 1970s edition of Wifey, a girl might think that the story’s heroine, Sandy, is about to make a grand escape from her tedious marriage. “Mysterious motorcycle flasher”! “Her wildest fantasies taking flight”! That sounds like a lovely idea, right?

But that’s not how it goes. And Lady Chatterley, whose ideas about class, intellect, and sex are turned upside down by an affair with her groundskeeper? Yeah, that doesn’t end so well for her, either.

Marriage started to look like an obstacle, designed to keep people from being happy.

Thankfully, modern hot fiction is a little more generous with marriage. It’s just as complicated, but today’s fictional marrieds often face two different but familiar problems: disclosure and consent. With disclosure and consent, the unsatisfying marriage need not be a trap. It can be a gateway.

So how does Grace turn this problem into a choice? Click to get Satisfaction on DVD.
So how does Grace turn this problem into a choice? Click to get Satisfaction on DVD.

You’ve heard me talking about Satisfaction, the now cancelled (sob) TV series in which a man discovers that his wife is seeing a male escort and responds by becoming an escort himself. By discovering more about himself, learning more about women and their desires, and picking up the ins and outs (ha ha, heyo!) of the escort business, Neil reunites with his wife, Grace, and together, they start their own escort service. This was such a beautiful story, wonderfully complicated and unabashedly sexual. Its loss makes me fear for television’s future, but thank the stars, you can get it on DVD.

Consider Tempted by Megan Hart. In fairness, these two are not really in an unsatisfying marriage. James’s friend, Alex, comes to stay with the happy couple for a while, and something about him intrigues her. That way lies dissatisfaction. James, for his part, encourages his wife’s flirtation with Alex. He opens his marriage enough to make room for Alex, but he does so in a way that’s … well … not altogether open.

Sound complicated? That’s pure Megan Hart gold.

Consent and disclosure transform adultery into cuckolding, a marital kink we’ve discussed a few times on Lady Smut. Isabelle Drake talks about her Cuckold Beach series here, and we go super deep with Cara McKenna’s Crosstown Crush. If you want to know about what makes a man want to see his wife with another man, and just how hot that can get, you’ll want to investigate all that.

But sometimes the solution for a woman living with a horrendous marriage is just the refusal to let it define her, even after it’s over.

This is what happens to Catherine Sheffield, the heroine formerly known as Lucy Underhill. In Elizabeth Shore’s Desire Rising, Catherine hits the 18th century equivalent of the reset button when her horrendous marriage ends, and she transforms herself into a completely different woman, one determined to seek pleasure and avoid attachment. Then she meets Miles, who seems to be on the same wavelength. When her past catches up, will it push them together or apart?

And how hot will things get before they make a decision? That’s where the carriage wheels meet the road, right?

Go score your copy right now, and then follow Lady Smut. We know how to make you happy.

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  • Post authormadeline iva

    If Charlotte Bronte were writing today, she’d be writing BDSM erotic romance. There I said it. I’ve read everything–and I mean EVERYTHING–she’s ever written, and man, she likes a D/s relationship. It’s as clear as the nose on your face. So it’s not exactly Rochester being mean, it’s him getting her dander up with jealousy so she can say to things to him she’d otherwise never, ever say. Yay!

    Great post!

    Reply to madeline iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I guess I think that’s mean. Manipulative, at best. Insecure. Not that it mattered. I still loved him, despite his tendency toward jackassedness.

      Jane. I mean Jane.

      This does explain Heathcliff, though. One of my teachers told me once that when I was older, my feelings toward Heathcliff would change. I keep trying to reread Wuthering Heights, so that I’ll know if she’s right, but I think I need a better edition of it. I keep getting lost in the awful dialect.

      Reply to Alexa Day
      • Post authorMadeline Iva

        Well, but would you call a dominant manipulative, if he wants to pull out the honest desires from his sub? Have her SAY what it is she really wants so that they can then consummate the relationship? Is that mean? What if she has these emotional (insecurities, society telling her she’s homely–whatever) that block her from simply expressing what she wants? I mean, if that’s the case, wouldn’t he be helping her to get her to the point where she can put it out there–even if he has to use strategy to get there?

        But yeah, I kinda agree with you, it’s mean.

        Reply to Madeline Iva
        • Post authorAlexa Day

          I tend to think the dominant who wants his sub to tell him what she wants is going to tell her to tell him what she wants. Then he’ll wait until she does that before moving forward. I don’t see the dominant thinking, “Well, I know she won’t do it if I tell her to. I’ll just test the living bejesus out of her until she tells me off. And then she’ll know this was all for her in the first place.” That feels skeezy to me. I wouldn’t read that dominant. I only forgave Rochester because karma handed him a beating first.

          Reply to Alexa Day

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