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Brutal Game: Sexy Sunday Snippets From Cara McKenna

4 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

brutal-game

Click on image to buy!

It’s another installment of Sexy Sunday Snippets, and boy, howdy, are we pulling out the big guns today

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the mind-bogglingly, amazing erotic romance Brutal Game (now on sale), by wunderkind author Cara McKenna. Today, you can get a taste of one of the most deeply layered, complicated, emotional reads of the year.

To jog your memory: Look! A blurb!

The long-awaited sequel to Willing Victim.

Eight months ago, Laurel walked into an underground boxing gym and found herself mesmerized by a stranger named Flynn—a man who fights hard and loves harder. Since then he’s taken her places where fear and curiosity clash in exquisite pleasure, where trust is the price of ecstasy, and in time their brutal games have become her kink as much as his.

But when real life intrudes and hard decisions demand action, will these two whose bond is rooted in fantasy take shelter in each other’s arms, or discover that lust is no substitute for a lasting commitment?

The following excerpt is one of the intensely emotional, almost too-real feeling scenes from Brutal Game. It reveals a major plot point of the story, so SPOILER WARNING.

EXCERPT OF BRUTAL GAME, by Cara McKenna

At long last, a hmm, a yawn. A dozy groan and Laurel turned onto her side, eyes blinking open to find him there.

“Dinner smells good. Is it ready?”

“It is.”

“What time is it?”

Flynn looked to the microwave. “Ten twenty-one.”

“Whoa. What?”

“You were beat.”

She sat up. “Jesus. I napped for three hours?”

“Hungry?”

She looked down at her stomach as though conferring. “Very.”

“Good. Me too.”

Beyond hungry, in Flynn’s case. He’d only eaten a fistful of cheese and a few slices of sausage since before his workout. His gut was packed with butterflies, but they weren’t particularly filling.

Laurel moved to the couch and he loaded a couple bowls with dried-out casserole. He made it a whole minute before the clinking of forks drove him to blurt, “You buy a pregnancy test?”

Pausing mid-chew, she studied him with still-sleepy eyes. She swallowed. “No, I didn’t.”

“Not to sound paranoid, but when’d you get your period last?”

She frowned, thinking. “Oh—it was New Year’s morning. I remember I had a champagne hangover and that showed up on top of it.”

“That was almost two months ago.”

“I know, but like I said, sometimes they don’t come at all on the Pill, or just a mini one.”

That didn’t do much to slow his pulse. “Maybe I should go out and get one now. Just so we can rule it out.”

She nibbled her lip.

“Just ask me to. I don’t mind.” And I’m fucking dying inside. No news was not good news. Whoever’d come up with that saying was so full of shit.

“It’s after ten. And it’s snowing.”

“Someplace’ll be open. Star Market.”

“What, in Dorchester?”

“Wouldn’t you sleep better?” He would. He might sleep at all, in fact. “Seriously, it’s no big deal. I’ll get you some Nyquil while I’m at it, in case it’s the flu. I’ll go right now.”

“Maybe…”

“I’m going,” he announced, setting his bowl on the coffee table and reaching for one of his boots. “And I’ll grab tampons, in case it’s just PMS. And Kettle Chips.”

She smiled, seeming to surrender. “You know, there’s something surpassingly manly about a guy who’ll pick tampons up for you without batting an eye.”

“Your pussy doesn’t scare me, honey.”

“No, I daresay it doesn’t. I could come—”

“Nope, you couldn’t. Eat up. Stay warm. Back soon.”

She smiled and shook her head, watching him lace his boots and pull on a hat, something simultaneously soft and fierce about her expression. Or maybe that was a fever brewing.

Twenty minutes later, Flynn was unloading his basket onto the checkout conveyer belt. The young clerk passed his purchases stoically across the scanner—tampons, Nyquil, potato chips, pregnancy test, plus a bottle of red wine. It wasn’t until he handed over the plastic bag that the kid showed any sign of life, saying flatly, “Party time.”

Flynn was tempted to meet the snark with a verbal backhand, but he didn’t have it in him just now. Instead he muttered, “You know it,” and headed for the door.

Pregnant. Pregnant. The word had grown larger and larger over the course of the drive, thundering now, echoing and huge. He let it tumble around his skull as he started the trip back home, windshield wipers batting harmless fluffy flakes aside.

What if she was pregnant? He’d been preoccupied with the thought all day, but it changed now, with the test in his possession. With an actual answer at hand.

Plus that’s not really the question, is it?

The real question for Flynn was, what would she want to do about it if she was?

It wasn’t his decision, but if she asked what he wanted her to do… Shit, be honest? Or refuse to say so she wouldn’t feel pressured? But refusing to say, was that supporting her choice or was that forcing her to make it completely on her own? He thought he knew what he’d want her to do, but it felt so goddamn delicate, the question of whether or not to say.

She might not be pregnant. Probably isn’t. Some cramps and hot flashes could be anything, and feeling exhausted after waitressing all day was to be expected. The female body was like a car with no manual, a mystery designed to confound and bewitch the simple male brain. A man was lucky to get invited to dick around under the hood and go for a spin, but fuck if any of them knew how to service the thing.

He pulled up behind his building, yellow streetlight making the steadily fattening snowflakes glow like gold. The plastic bag felt monumental in his grip, as though he were lugging a bomb, not a couple pounds of snacks and feminine hygiene products.

Not a bomb, he corrected. A pregnancy was scary and profound and life-altering, but that was a metaphor too far. Still, his hand was shaking unmistakably as he unlocked the door.

“Honey, I’m home. Got you booze and chips and a stick for peeing on. You on the rag yet?”

A laugh answered that crass greeting, loosening his chest, if only by a fraction. “No, I am not.”

He flipped the deadbolt, rummaged in the bag and pitched the box toward the bed where she was lounging. “Best pee on a stick then, woman.”

She’d changed into her pajamas—or rather, her pajama bottoms and one of his tee shirts. Why was that so fucking sexy? Though he was grateful to register any reaction apart from anxiety, he set the thought aside. Answers first, then depravity. We can fuck to celebrate, if it’s negative.

Laurel knelt and picked up the box, studying it. She opened it while Flynn peeled off his layers.

“Thanks for doing this.” She unfolded the instructions. “Going out in that.”

“It was nothing. Go pee on a stick,” he repeated.

“The snow’s picking up,” she said, still reading.

“Go pee on a stick.”

She met his eyes, smiled dryly. “I guess I’ll go pee on a stick, then.”

“What a good idea. How long does it take to get the answer?”

She scanned the paper. “Three minutes. Wow, that sounds really fast and like forever at the same time.”

Well put. “There’s chips and wine, while you wait.”

She smiled. “Classy. If it comes back a plus sign I better spit the booze out, huh?”

There was a joke in there, but he barely heard it, caught too completely on plus sign. Plus sign. How could one shape—two fucking little perpendicular lines—possibly be so powerful?

Then he thought of the cross, that symbol that had dominated his childhood and bullied his psyche, and somehow it made perfect sense.

Fuck you, lines.

At least these lines would bring answers. The other kind had done nothing but torment and confuse and contradict.

Right. Now, to survive the longest three minutes of his entire life.

About Cara McKenna: Since she began writing in 2008, Cara McKenna has published nearly forty romances and erotic novels with a variety of publishers, sometimes under the pen names Meg Maguire and C.M. McKenna. Her stories have been acclaimed for their smart, modern voice and defiance of convention. She was a 2015 RITA Award finalist, a 2014 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award winner, a 2012 and 2011 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and a 2010 Golden Heart Award finalist. She lives with her husband and baby son in the Pacific Northwest, though she’ll always be a Boston girl at heart.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities strait is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rocksis now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

I’ve Got a Plan & It’s Just Not That Complicated

17 Nov

by Madeline Iva

Sometimes you need to retreat, huddle up, hunker down, and regroup.  For introverts like me, this is actually our natural state of being.  The thing is–you gotta have a plan.

I love the part in BOURNE LEGACY, where Jeremy Renner (yum!) needs some information from Rachel Weisz who is sputtering over her suddenly-everyone-wants-to-kill-me reality.  Jeremy Renner cuts through her confusion and says, “Now I’ve got a plan, and it’s just not that complicated.  What I’m going to do is wait for the next person to come and kill you.  Maybe they can help me.”  Well, I’ve got a plan, Lady Smut readers, and it’s just not that complicated.

  1. There’s a romance plot spinning in my brain.
  2. I’m going to binge write all weekend long and get as much of it out of my head and splatted onto the page as I can.

That’s the good kind of binge, of course.

westworld

I’m going to try HBO NOW to watch Westworld. This is their new streaming subscription. (Like Netflix only all HBO.) First month is free…

Then there are the other kinds of binging.  Hey, let’s face it, I’m a binge-y kind of woman.  If a little is good, a lot is better.  My favorite types of binges: TV, movies, food, and romance novels.  But first, I will be productive.  I will lay down five thousand words a day (eek!)  and only then will I reach out to find other forms of comfort.

TV Series to Binge:

  • Westworld
  • The Crown
  • Luke Cage

    Dr. Who? Who knew Matt Smith could play the perfect consort?

    Dr. Who? Who knew Matt Smith could play the perfect consort?

At the movie theatre:

  • DR. STRANGE
  • ARRIVAL
  • FANTASTIC BEASTS
  • MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

    Hey look--it's Jeremy Renner again!

    Hey look–it’s Jeremy Renner again!

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving is next week.  We’re making two pies: cherry and sour-cream apple pie. Well, it’s vegan sour cream apple pie, but it’s still completely awesome.

Along with the usual suspects: garlic green beans with toasted almonds, mashed potatoes, and homemade stuffing, (though my grandmother always called it ‘dressing’) we’re in the midst of deciding what the main dish will be.  You might think as vegans we’d be terribly limited for options.  Not so, my friends.  Here are the candidates:

  • chickpea crepes with cauliflower & shiitake mushroom filling
  • panko crusted sweet potato cakes with mushroom ragout
  • black bean & acorn squash empanadas
  • pumpkin gnocchi
  • three-sisters savory pie–with corn, beans, and pumpkin
Add yummy mushroom sauce and devour! I have it out for T-day dinners that are only shades of tan. Get some color on that plate, people!

Add yummy mushroom sauce and devour! I have a grudge against T-day feasts that are only shades of tan. Get some color on that plate, people!

Finally, I’ve been reading Patrick Rothfuss’s NAME OF THE WIND, (so good!) but I’m almost done.  There’s a whole world of  fantasy goodness by new authors on my kindle just waiting for me to dive on in and check them out.

I ***LOVE*** this cover!

I ***LOVE*** this cover!

And an advanced copy of Cara McKenna’s BRUTAL GAME is in there as well — Think of it as a kind of sexy, contemporary palate cleanser for all the fantasy.

Click to buy

Click to buy–.99 cents!

So that’s the plan.  This afternoon, I’m piling on the sweaters and slippers over the pj’s and sinking into the primordial stew of my creative subconscious.

When I emerge after the holiday, the anxious stew in my brain will be quiet.  I will be ready to be fed–both literally and metaphorically.  At that point, I think I’ll be fit to rejoin the world again.

See you on the other side.

–Madeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not the Romance You Were Expecting: Brutal Game by Cara McKenna

7 Nov

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s no secret that we here at Lady Smut are big–like, HUGE–fans of author Cara McKenna. Do a quick search of our site and you’ll see she practically has her own page here, if we did that sort of thing.

big-huge

There’s good reason for this. McKenna writes complex, out-of-the-box, very sexy stories about a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a man and a woman and a man, that are often deeply emotional and quite surprising. One of the things I like most about her is she seems to come up with pairings and scenarios I would never have imagined. Love in a mental hospital? Check. Love between a prisoner and a teacher? Check. And yet, none of these seems outlandish or disassociated from the real world because she invests her stories and characters with deep authenticity and realness that appears effortless but really, really is not.

Click on image to buy!

Enter Brutal Game, the sequel to McKenna’s popular Willing Victim in which a woman named Laurel enters into a sexual relationship with Flynn, a big, rough, bare-knuckle bruiser with a kink for rape role-play. By the end of Willing Victim, Laurel and Flynn realized they both want more than role-play sexy times and begin their HFN. (For the record, McKenna updated and re-released Willing Victim earlier this year. Lady Smut blogger Alexa Day prefers the original version. I couldn’t tell any real difference, but it’d been a while between readings.)

Brutal Game picks up about nine months after the end of Willing Victim. Laurel and Flynn are still together. “I love yous” have been exchanged and life moves onward apace until something unexpected happens that forces them to deep dive into the depths of their still new relationship and discover whether it can withstand the storm.

Look! A blurb!

Nine months ago Laurel walked into an underground boxing gym and found herself mesmerized by a stranger named Flynn—a man who fights hard and loves harder. Since then he’s taken her places where fear and curiosity clash in exquisite pleasure, where trust is the price of ecstasy, and in time their brutal game has become her kink as much as his.

But when real life intrudes and hard decisions demand action, will these two whose bond is rooted in fantasy take shelter in each other’s arms, or discover that lust is no substitute for a lasting commitment?

Click on image to buy!

Brutal Game is an exceptional story, an emotional tale about what comes after the HFN as a burgeoning relationship is severely tested. It’s the rare romance novel that feels rooted in real life, at times uncomfortably so, where the heroine and hero must confront a life-changing decision with care and grace while discovering whether their relatively new love can endure the outcome. It is emotional, genuine, shocking, gentle, sexy, sweet, and ultimately, truly lovely. A must read.

SPOILER ALERT:

Okay, Imma gonna spoil the holy crap outta this book from here on in because I cannot talk about why this book is so good without revealing key parts of the story. I highlighted the hell outta this story, and you’re gonna hear why. So DO NOT READ FURTHER if you don’t want a MAJOR PLOT POINT ruined for you. And I mean hacked to bloody death ruined. Really. STOP NOW.

******************************************************************************************************************************************

Continue reading

Modern Lust: A Lady Smut Guest Post With Cara McKenna

11 Jul

 by Cara McKenna

cara mckenna head shot

Today’s guest poster, erotic romance author Cara McKenna

“Nobody really dates anymore. You just fuck a load of randos you meet on the internet until eventually you wake up married to whichever one bothered to make you breakfast.”

This wisdom from the heroine’s roommate in Downtown Devil. But let’s back up a moment.

I met my husband on the internet, back in 2007.

I was twenty-eight and an online dating veteran by then, and I have nothing bad to say about the practice (nothing that couldn’t also be said for analog dating, anyhow.) I met some friends, some boyfriends, some fond flash-in-the-pan* lovers, and of course, a spouse. I had dinner or drinks or played darts with a few duds and a few flakes, but no true creepers, and nothing bad happened to me, apart from a couple squandered evenings.**

A lot’s changed in the past nine years, right alongside technology. I mean, the iPhone was released the same year I met my husband. At the time, most of us were still texting on flip-phones by hitting the 2 key three times to type a C, and any photos the technologically advanced were able to take and send were as big as a postage stamp and as blurry as a frosted shower door and probably cost the object of your affections 40¢ to receive.

I won’t lie. If my husband dematerialized tomorrow and—after an appropriate mourning period—I was to jump back into the online dating pool, I think I’d be terrified. Even me, a former varsity-level participant.

Is sexting now compulsory, I wonder? If I joined Tindr and refused to send guys pictures of my knockers, would I even be able to compete? If my greatest strength had always been my ability to craft a charming introductory email, is that skill all but obsolete, now? Are we all just a profile picture and a witty tagline these days? Is it really true that there’s a lot of dudes holding fish in their photos?

I hope I never need find out the answers to these scaly questions.

Then again, maybe this is all just internalized anxiety from some hand-wringy New York Times article I’ve forgotten I read.

downton devil

Click on image to buy!

The closest I come these days to wading out into the choppy and largely pixelated dating waters is through my characters, and most of them still meet in a fictionalized version of real life. Even in my latest book, Downtown Devil, Clare meets Mica at the coffee shop where he’s employed as the world’s hottest barista. But from there, I strapped in and joined her on a journey I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to undertake, myself—dating in 2016.

In some ways, Mica is a dream come true. He’s charismatic, sexy, fearless, exciting, and forward—helpful when you’re not the type to make the first move. But he’s also my personal worst nightmare in this make-believe reality in which I’d be dating in the present day. He’s a flake and a player, and only texts or calls poor Clare when he’s DTF (eds by Kiersten: aka “Down to Fuck”). But the sex is so bonkers, she’s powerless to say no. Plus she doesn’t think she’s after anything serious, so what’s the harm?

I’d like to think I’d be liberated enough to enjoy Mica for what he is, but I dunno. Punctuality is REALLY sexy, in my opinion.

Before you panic—Downtown Devil is a ménage, and the second man, Vaughn, is as chivalrous and reliable and considerate as Mica is self-serving. I had fun wedging Clare (often literally) between the old-school gentleman and the modern-day man-whore.

I won’t tell you what happens—whether she comes to her senses and finally cuts flaky-hot*** Mica loose, or if she manages to reform him, or if all three of them ride off into the sunset together. But it was really interesting to put myself in her shoes and navigate this modern dating landscape, where plans are made last-minute via text; where you know the guy you’re into could easily be scrolling Tindr an hour after you’ve left his place; where a date can feel so incendiary, so hot and chemical and right, and then…crickets. Nothing from the guy for days and days on end. Do you break down and text him first? If so, what do you say? How casual do you spin it? And how long do you wait before you DO break down, and…? And? AND?

God bless you kids currently finding your way in this brave new world. I’ve been off the market for nine years, and I guess I’m an old lady now, because it sounds exhausting. I mean, the excitement of all that variety in the palm of your hand would probably be a thrill for a few days or weeks, but all the same, just thinking about it makes me want to stay in with a bottle of wine and a Silicon Valley marathon.

Nonetheless, I’ll continue to giddily explore it all from my lofty author perch. In fact, in the final Sins in the City series installment, Midtown Masters, the three lovers do indeed meet online. In FACT, the second man solicits the other two protagonists to do web-camming for him. So never let it be said that I’m afraid to play tourist in the land of digital debauchery. Not from the safety of my keyboard, anyhow.

*As a public service I Googled the origin of the term “flash in the pan,” realizing I had no clue what its literal meaning is. It doesn’t even have to do with gold glinting in a prospector’s pan, which apparently many people assume it does—people more clever than me, even if they’re wrong. Turns out, “Flintlock muskets used to have small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder flared up without a bullet being fired was a ‘flash in the pan’.” You’re welcome!

**My least enjoyable entanglement involved a nymphomaniac with a glass eye. How this has not made it into an erotic romance is a mystery for the ages.

crosstown crush

Click on image to buy!

*** like a biscuit, only with a wang.

Don’t miss the first book in the Sins in the City series, Crosstown Crush!

Cara McKenna writes award-winning contemporary romance and smart erotica, sometimes under the name Meg Maguire, and has sold more than thirty-five novels and novellas to Penguin, Harlequin, Samhain, and Signet Eclipse. She’s known for writing no-nonsense, working-class heroes with capable hands and lousy grammar. She is a 2015 RITA Award finalist, a 2014 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award winner, a 2013 and 2011 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and a 2010 Golden Heart finalist. Cara writes full-time and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her own bearded hero.

Hey Folks, don’t forget to follow Lady Smut, and if you lurv Cara McKenna like we do, you might want to check out these other LadySmut links that are all about her books and our mad girl crush over them — Madeline Iva

Cara McKenna, Rocking My World

Why This Short Read by Cara McKenna Is So Awesome

Cara McKenna has written one of those Books We Can’t Stop Thinking About

Talking About Watching People Do It & Cara McKenna’s Book Crosstown Crush

Cara McKenna’s No Holds Barred Sexy Fighter

Stuff Your Holiday Stocking With This Read by Cara McKenna

More on Cara McKenna’s Crosstown Crush & The Problem of Cheaters Cheating

Talking about Cara McKenna’s book Hard Time & Love Letters

 

Why Short, Hot Reads are Awesome

4 Mar

by G.G. Andrew

story

A novella with an erotica writer/bookstore owner, a billionaire, & lots of sexytimes.

I’ve noticed this past year that several book bargain and review sites expressly state that they don’t feature novellas, those 20,000-40,000-word stories that fall under novel length.

I understand that some readers like to sink into a long, involved novel, but I feel like the novella is underappreciated. Of course, I’m biased; several of us here at Lady Smut, myself included, have published novellas. But in addition to liking to write novellas, I also love to read them. (It’s one of the reasons “a short, hot novella you read in one sitting” is one of the items on our #ReadHotter book challenge.)

Want to know why you should be reading these short, hot reads, if you aren’t already? Read on for the ways they’re awesome, with recommendations of novellas that I’ve read or are sitting at the tip-top of my TBR.

I read Cara McKenna's Brazen in just an hour. Okay, I read it twice. (It's really hot.)

I once read Brazen in an hour. Okay, I read it twice.

*You can read novellas in one sitting.
After a long, hard day at the salt mines (or wherever your place of work or earthly toil), there’s just something great about coming home, pouring a glass of wine, and reading an entire story in one sitting. Of course, some of you speed-readers can read an entire novel at once, too–but I can’t, and I’m willing to bet there are many others like me. Reading a whole story in a night feels complete, and productive, and allows you to tell someone the next morning, “I read a book last night.” Because you totally did.
Recommendations: The hot reads Brazen by Cara McKenna or Craving Flight by Tamsen Parker

 

*They’re a quick way to sample new authors or genres.
If you’re like us, you probably have a staggering pile of books you want to read, but it’s hard to know where to start–which authors or genres are really going to be your thing. Reading a novella gives you a chance to sample an author you’ve been wanting to try, or see if science fiction romance is right for you, without the commitment of a big book. Of course, you can sample the first few pages from a longer novel, but that’s not like reading a story to, er, completion. It’s helpful to know if an author not only begins a story well, but ends well, or if a subgenre delivers what you expect.
Recommendations: The paranormal romances Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai or Three Wishes by Paula Millhouse

*You can read more subgenres, historical time periods, and authors over time.

Sweet, sexy, geeky--and short!

Sweet, sexy, geeky–and short!

Similar to above, if you insert more novellas into your reading life now, you’ll probably be exposed to more writers and types of stories by the year’s end. Paranormal romance, early twentieth-century love stories, m/m–if you haven’t tried them out by now, read some shorter stories and see what you think.
Recommendations: Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert (m/m), or the 1960s romance Strawberry and Sage by Amanda Gale

*You can get introduced to a story world or characters.
In addition to short reads allowing you to sample authors and genres, they also allow you to meet characters and decide if you want to spend another novella or even a whole novel with them. It’s like that first, brief date over coffee to decide whether you like someone enough to have dinner with them.
Recommendations: The bookstore owner and the billionaire in Tamara Lush’s Tell Me a Story or the workaholic and forest ranger in Tina Ellery’s White Pine

 

And last but certainly not least:

Intro to a series about astronauts.

Intro to a 20th century astronaut romance series.

*Novellas are cheap, and often free.
Since novellas are shorter, and often used to introduce readers to a world or cast of characters, they’re often .99 or under, and increasingly are free. (Check your favorite authors; some may have free reads, too.) And, really, right up there with free coffee and free love, free books are really the best thing ever.
Recommendations: Cath Yardley’s Level Up or A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner are both free now. (Craving Flight and Waiting for Clark from above are currently free on Amazon, too.)

 

Want more recommendations? Check out the novellas and short stories the Lady Smut authors have written. They’re short and hot, we promise. And follow us here for more on books, the short and long and everything in-between.

 

G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy–stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and stumble through some awkward conversations, mistaken identities, and ill-advised kisses along the way. Her latest book is GRAFFITI IN LOVE, a romance between an infamous British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him.

Back in Business. Ain’t it Grand?

16 Nov

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Hello Lady Smuters! I have returned and am again all up in your bidness.

Didja miss me?

Getting back into “real life” after a month’s recovery from surgery is…well, it’s weird, I won’t lie. Mostly because nothing’s changed and everything you’ve step (briefly) away from has pretty much carried on without you. No harm. No foul. After a lot of sleeping (and, let’s face it, a lot of reading and re-reading Kristen Ashley novels because my glom is strong and cannot, WILL NOT, be denied) life basically went, “oh, you’re back” and flowed on accordingly.

Sux when that happens, amirite?

One of the books I read either before or after (dem drugs, dey make da days blend) was Cara McKenna’s Crosstown Crush, which our own Madeline Iva touched on a bit last week in her post Bring Horns: Watching, Cuckolding, & Other Things Couples Do on Dirty Dates. Here at Lady Smut, we’re big fans of Cara McKenna–like, HUGE–which you can see in my review of her book Hard Time along with Liz Everly’s look at After Hours (another great), and Madam Iva’s interview with Ms. McKenna.

51lHgVvIboL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Click on image to buy!

 

I won’t go over the plot of Crosstown Crush as Madam Iva has that well covered. (Yes, that’s a ploy to click on her link above. Go with it.) Outside of the author being pretty much an auto read, I picked up Crosstown Crush due of the advertised MFM threesome, which, believe it or not, is a hard trope to find (*rim shot*).

I choose my erotic romance reads carefully because not all kinks pleasure all readers and frankly, there’s a lot out there that doesn’t ring my reading happy place. That’s okay–to each their own and all that–but it means I read between the cover copy lines before hitting my (1-click) button.

So I went carefully in to Crosstown Crush, because I love Cara McKenna’s books…but I do not do cheaters. Cheating, to me, is the ultimate betrayal of intimacy with and respect for one’s partner. It’s an automatic DNF when a hero cheats (within the relationship) and it’s one of the few real-life scenarios I will not abide in my reading choices. (The exception is historical romance due to the prevalent trope of the heroes being more sexually experienced than the [usually virginal] heroines and often having a mistress up until they’ve realized their love for the heroine.) Several excellent writers have made a number of successful novels wherein the hero (or, though more rarely, the heroine) cheats, that carefully explore the parameters of relationships and the concept of forgiveness as the characters work to move cautiously forward into a new place together. Or so I’ve been told. I haven’t read them myself because, no. No cheating. Full stop. Hard line.

The consensual cuckolding in Crosstown Crush begins as mere role-play between Mike and Samira. They both get off on it and McKenna takes some pains to illustrate how this works for them both. Without question, they are deeply in love with one another and Samira has no problem giving Mike the kink he needs to address his uber-alpha issues, whether it’s creating ever more lurid and elaborate scenarios of her fictional dates or being the one to suggest the “let’s bring this cuckold thing into real life” option in the first place, an elevation of his kink Mike desires but was not going to ask of his wife.

“The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write ‘Here is good horse to hire’ let them signify under my sign ‘Here you may see Benedick, the married man.’”
(Much Ado About Nothing, I.i.215–219)

Here’s the thing–the cuckolding deal is not for me. This seems obvious given my hard line on cheating, but it’s not really that which makes me uncomfortable about this book. It’s the humiliation. I don’t find it sexy or titillating for one partner to humiliate the other, regardless of the consensual aspect. And that’s what cranks Mike’s pump–he needs to be humiliated by another man “claiming” his woman and then “reclaim” her at the end of the scenario in order to assert his manhood. Now again, McKenna takes pains to detail how Mike and Samira both enjoy their roles in this kink and how Samira, in particular, willingly plays her role out of love and desire. But there’s so much explanation–first to the reader and then to Bern–that it begins to feel less informative and more like justification.

Bern enjoys being watched, a somewhat more common kink, and after meeting Samira and a lot of careful communication, he becomes the horns of the cuckold. Not for nothing, but I much prefer Bern to Mike. He’s hot, charming, affable, self-aware, a phenomenal lover, and terribly sexy. His first “date” with Samira is nearly perfect and made me wonder why she wouldn’t just keep on keeping on with Bern. Samira and Bern have great chemistry, in person and in bed, and it’s not a surprise that their physical intimacy within the bounds of the agreed upon scenarios deepens their emotional intimacy. They like each other on top of being attracted to each other and Samira is upfront about that with Mike (it helps to be sexually attracted to the man who’s going to play in your kink with you and your husband. I guess.)

While the sex is outstanding for everyone, the emotional conflicts build as intimacy between Samira and Bern grows. Samira has more involvement with him than Mike as her and Bern’s emails are the communication chain by which their engagements are arranged, which serves to preserve the parameters of Mike’s kink, keeping Bern an approved near stranger who Mike’s allowing to have sex with his wife. Samira and Bern are left alone together to set up the cuckold scenes in which Mike “discovers” them at which point Samira and Bern proceed to make him watch as they play on through and verbally humiliate Mike. Once Bern finishes and leaves, Mike almost violently “reclaims” Samira. But soon Samira and Bern are filming their assignations for Mike when he travels for business. Alone, their intimacy begins to break past the agreed upon kink play and become something very real.

It’s here that Samira finally claims her own. Up till now she’s been engaging and enjoying Mike’s kink–seeing to his needs out of her deep love for him and happily getting her own back in the process. In excess. But as her relationship with Bern grows beyond the boundaries of Mike’s kink, she realizes her own “kink”–her ability to love two men very differently at the same time. Her love for her husband is unchanged; it’s even become stronger by their open discussion of trust as they’ve invited Bern into their bed. Now she knows any forward movement of her relationship with Mike will need to address the desires she’s discovered thanks to their/her relationship with Bern. In the skilled hands of Cara McKenna’s emotional writing of vulnerable characters, Crosstown Crush goes beyond the humiliation of Mike’s kink and into an exploration of the many wrinkles and layers of love and trust and need, which exist in every relationship, regardless of kink.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll give you the bull’s horns, but only if you ask nicely.

 

Bring Horns: Watching, Cuckholding, & Other Things Couples Do on Dirty Dates

12 Nov
51lHgVvIboL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Click to buy.

by Madeline Iva

Curious about cuckholding—a kind of couples kink? (Say that three times fast!)

Then you wanna check out CROSSTOWN CRUSH.  Samira is married to Mike.  So Samira comes home from girl’s night out covered in men’s cologne so Mike can get jealous. (Cause it turns him on.)  Then he confronts her on it, and she humiliates him with a shrugging confession of his inadequacy. (Cause it makes him hot.) She spells out her need to get a good dicking by someone other than him. Which–you guessed it–gets him horny as hell. Then he goes all cave man on her, and ‘reclaims’ her, i.e. boinks her with a fierce roughness which she really likes, so they both get off.

This was a weird book for Cara McKenna. A careful book. Samira is going along with her husband’s kink and it’s with raised eyebrows that we readers follow her on that journey.

It’s like as she wrote it Cara was thinking “This could go so wrong in several hundred ways.” And then she just grabbed her readers by the hand, saying “I’m gonna explain this, and then, trust me, it’s gonna be hot.”

And that’s what she does. Explains and explains. Then it gets pretty hot.

Pink Bow

Click to buy — .99 cents!

Because what happens is, Mike and Samira decide to up the ante and get a real guy to play the role of the man shagging Samira in their fantasy life.  Enter Bern stage left. (Bern is short for Bernard) Bern is hotness on a stick.

I think this is a book aimed squarely at me as a reader. I’m like: cuckholding? Hunh? Whaaaa? I needed that intro with all it’s careful Reasons. McKenna presents Mike savoring the kink which works.  But when Bern comes on stage things heat up and get mighty interesting.

If you’re a Cara McK addict, this book delivers. She has that talent for being oh-so-dirty, yet still classy as hell.

Random aside: What struck me most was the emphasis on generosity in this book. (Note to self—include more of it in my romances.)

Moving on. Mike’s kink was cuckholding, while Bern liked to be watched.

Watching

Click to buy. Only .99 cents!

WATCHING by Bethany James is out.  You may remember that I talked about her great dirty book recs HERE. Read her story, cause WATCHING is also about–you guessed it–exhibitionism. It’s a twenty-something’s gentle journey to the land of forbidden hot dirty sex with randy grown-ups.

What I liked best? Those little frissons she has during experiences that touch upon lines of naughty shame and transgression. I’d say both of these books are at their hottest when they put their finger right there and keep it there. Ooh yeah.  Just like that. Don’t stop.

Finally, if you’re like: why aren’t there more cuckholding stories out there? Why? Why? Why? Then check out our very own Isabelle Drake’s cuckholding short story THE PINK BOW. It’s a short little f–kfest with a charm all its own.

And if you’re looking for the perfect dirty date for your own couple-dom, look no further.  Rachel Kramer Bussel edited this great little DIRTY DATES anthology just for you.  Buy it HERE.

Click to Buy

Click to Buy

Th-th-th-that’s all folks! See you next week. In the meantime follow us at Lady Smut. We’ll never lead you astray. (Only because you want us to.)

Cara McKenna—Rockin’ My World!

9 Jun

By Liz Everly

images Okay, so by now you know how I am about my reading. I tend to be hard to please. But when I find a writer I love, I simply must sing praises. It helps when you have a friend who has very similar reading tastes. (I’m looking at you Adriana Anders.) She posted on Facebook that this book, AFTER HOURS, was reduced in price. She also mentioned that, in her opinion, this book is everything an erotic romance should be.

Adriana did me good. Yes, indeed. This book is indeed everything an ER should be, but also, it’s everything a good book should be–McKenna is a masterful writer.  Her character are finely drawn, setting is fascinating and realistic, and the romance, lovely. But the sex??? It sizzles, baby.

So many times, I can’t get through a whole sex scene. We’ve discussed this here, right? How some of us will skip right over the sex scenes. Sometimes I like the first few, then get bored. Sometimes I hate the sex scenes from the get go. Not every writer can write sex scenes. Not even every GOOD writer can write them. It’s an extra gene some writers are born with. Or they have worked extra hard at sex scenes. Maybe it’s a little of both.

This book offers up one of the best sex scenes I’ve ever read. One sex scene is two chapters long–about 40-50 pages. This maneuver would usually bore me. But, I was riveted. I wanted more.

I read it during two very busy days in my life, where things would have gone much more smoothly for me–if I could have put the damn book down. But I couldn’t. No way. That’s how much I loved this book.

This book is a lesson the the best form for erotic romance writers everywhere—and a sheer pleasure for erotic romance readers. It’s on sale still, for .99. Grab it while you can.

Here is the blurb about the book:

A dangerous infatuation with a rough and ready man… 

Erin Coffey has been a nurse for years, but nothing’s prepared her for the physical and emotional demands of her new position. Needing to move closer to her dysfunctional family, she takes a dangerous job at Larkhaven Psychiatric Hospital, where she quickly learns that she needs protection—and she meets the strong, over-confident coworker who’s more than willing to provide it.

Kelly Robak is the type of guy that Erin has sworn she’d never get involved with. She’s seen firsthand, via her mess of a sister, what chaos guys like him can bring into a woman’s life. But she finds herself drawn to him anyway, even when he shows up at her door, not eager to take no for an answer.

What Erin finds even more shocking than Kelly’s indecent proposal is how much she enjoys submitting to his every command. But he can’t play the tough guy indefinitely. If they want to have more than just an affair, both will have to open up and reveal what they truly need.

Check it out–I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also, don’t forget to enter our Goodreads giveaway for the Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires.

DarkDesires

Click on the cover to hop on over to Goodreads to enter the contest.

Hero for Hire: Male Prostitutes as Romance Heroes

5 Jan hire me

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Happy New Year! And what better way to start the new year off than by hiring some male prostitutes!

Now that I have your attention…

We’ve talked about professional escorts on Lady Smut before in various ways. Elizabeth Shore has written two posts about Showtime’s “reality” series Gigolos and I’ve touch upon the issue somewhat when discussing Manservants among others.

A few weeks ago, there was a Twitter convo between several romance authors that spurred a series of recommendations of books where the hero is or was a prostitute. I’d read an erotic romance some time ago, called Escorted by Claire Kent, about a woman who hires a male escort and the two fall in love. I decided to chose two other books from the Twitter hive mind to see how this trope played out elsewhere.

Escorted by Clare Kent.

The Couple Who Fooled the World by Maisey Yates.

Curio by Cara McKenna.

As you might suspect, I have some thoughts.

Let me say at the outset that I enjoyed all three books and would recommend them without equivocation as good romance reads. This post isn’t meant to review the quality of these books so much as use them as examples as to how they implement the male whore hero.

The scenario of the woman prostitute who falls in love with her male client and is “rescued” from The Life by him when he, in turn, falls in love with her (and not only because of her particular sexual skills), aka the hooker with a heart of gold trope, is a familiar cliché whose shining moment was Pretty Woman. It is, arguably, the modern-day equivalent of a historical romance novel featuring the down on her luck, honorable-at-heart but poor, unappreciated for her true worth governess/seamstress/overworked companion who just needs a crabby, lonely, rich man to see her worth and save her from her unhappy life. It’s not a commonly used trope in Romancelandia because a hooker heroine is a hard sell given that so many people, yes, even awesome women who read romance, continue to judge a woman’s (or a heroine’s) character by her sexual behavior. A heroine with a history of selling her body and, perhaps, not apologizing for it, would not be sympathetic or identifiable for many readers.

Men, traditionally, are portrayed as being experienced and “using” prostitutes either to scratch an itch or to get some without having to invest in caring about the woman for the privilege. Often they’re portrayed as wanting something sexually their wives won’t give them because they’re cold or prudish or consider it deviant behavior. Men in such scenarios are almost always already sexually experienced and are using a prostitute for the simple need of sexual pleasure. It’s the whole “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” idea. At the same time, uber-male alphas (and betas), are often portrayed as being insulted by the mere suggestion that they’ve ever had to pay for sex, as though getting a willing female partner is a proof of masculinity and paying for one a sign of weakness. To be fair, this aversion has also been used to show the good nature of the guy whose objection is because he would never contribute to the possible victimization of the woman he’d be using.

In contrast, in the books mentioned above, all three heroines were virgins. I wonder if that’s because we as a reading society still can’t accept a heroine having sexual experience from the get go of the story or that the idea that she might contract with a male prostitute merely because she wants a sexual experience where it’s all about pleasing her and getting an orgasm she doesn’t have to earn or for which she needn’t apologize if she dares to come first? Traditionally in Romancelandia, and specifically in some subgenres, the only lover the heroine is allowed to have or acknowledge having on the page is the hero of the story. That seems to still apply even when the heroine is hiring a professional to do the deed.

In Escorted and Curio, the two erotic romances is the group, both heroines have hired their respective prostitutes due to sexual issues they want to resolve. Both are “women of the world” and neither of them are shy, retiring, stereotypical virgins, but each woman is sexually inexperienced and is self-conscious enough about her status at her age as to not want to change that status with a man she might date or with whom she might want to have a relationship. The subtext is that, while not shameful, being a virgin at their age and experience is…embarrassing.

escorted

Click on image to order.

In Escorted, Lori is a successful romance novelist who’s self-conscious about the fact that she’s never actually had sex. She feels as though it’s become a barrier to her being able to get involved with a man in a relationship given she’s called the Goddess of Romance but has no personal sexual experience. She’s gotten so into her head about it, she hires Ander, a highly recommended male prostitute, to “take care of this inconvenient detail.” Ander is super qualified and indeed almost clinical about the whole thing, calmly giving advice in situ, like telling Lori not to tense up so much on the cusp of orgasm because it dilutes the ultimate sensation. He’s far from disconnected, but everything is very polite and matter-of-fact. This works for nervous Lori because it gives her control of what’s happening and removes the romantic façade from the experience. Ander is also well-researched. He even reads romance novels to learn what turns woman on and be familiar with women’s fantasies. I’ve often wondered why more men don’t read romance novels as a training guide for what women are looking for in a partner (not the ripped abs so much as the emotional stuff and sexual attention, though the abs work too). Ander also uses female-oriented erotica and toys and practices safe sex to a startling degree.

Similarly, in Curio, Caroly, a successful art curator in a Paris museum, hires Didier to be her first sexual partner. She too has gotten far too much in her head about her lack of sexual experience. In social interactions, she presents herself as haughtily above the mouth-watering gorgeous men she so desires so as not to reveal a desire she never expects to have reciprocated. Didier is European, loves women, and is, of course, mouth-watering gorgeous. He suavely creates any fantasy his client desires with typical European aplomb. A check is discretely left afterwards in his mailbox. I confess, after the first description of him, I supplanted David Gandy is his place in my mind’s eye. Look, if I was going to hire a male prostitute for any reason, he’d look like David Gandy. Hell, he’d be David Gandy if that could be arranged. Not that David Gandy is for sale in that way. Please don’t sue me, David Gandy. Ta.

Curio

Click on image to order.

Needless to say both women find their sessions with Ander and Didier vastly satisfying. Enough for repeat performances. And both professional relationships evolve into emotional connections that lead to love in unique ways. They are, after all, romance novels and thus guarantee some shade of a happy ending. I find it interesting that in one book, the hero leaves his profession for another once he falls in love with the heroine while in the other, the hero conversationally relates how he openly continued his profession while also being involved in relationships. It can be concluded he continued to do so after the book’s happy conclusion. I’ll leave you to read them both and find out which one does which.

The power dynamics are very different when the prostitute in the romance is a man. The concept of the prostitute being “rescued” from The Life doesn’t even get a play. Can’t have a woman rescuing the man from anything, of course, as it would undermine his masculinity. She can (and often does) influence him to change his profession for various organic reasons, but the rescue element does not exist.

Rather than sordid and shameful as when the woman is the professional, in these novels, the whole profession is reshaped as something somewhat honorable, a man who takes “clients” who are struggling with their sexuality and need a professional partner to ease them into this new level of intimacy without judgment or the mess of relationships. The onus is thus again passed onto the woman–she’s the one with the issues. He’s just trying to help her resolve her problems, a therapist there to help her overcome her sexual hangups with some hands on demonstration.

tumblr_lwvjlruarg1qbtfb6o1_500

Um…yeah.

Don’t get me wrong, the stories are good and the emotional journeys believable and complex. It interests me though that both women are excused, for lack of a better word, for paying for sex because they each have serious reasons for doing so and not just because they want to have some no-strings, only for her pleasure sex. But both heroines are also more liberated after their experiences with their respective inamorato as both admit to feeling as though they’ve finally been admitted to a special club. How could you not feel liberated after a night of sexual hijinks with a David Gandy lookalike? Hey, he’s my fantasy. No judging.

Maybe that’s it. These stories are, essentially, fantasies for the reader and arguably a fantasy fulfilled for the heroine. Yet even within the fantasy, the dynamics change because of the gender inversion and the woman can’t be in it just for pleasure, no issues attached. A similar scenario of an adult man wanting to relieve his lingering virginity with a professional would be portrayed much, much differently. No romantic trappings required. And I have to wonder about glossing over the negative aspects of prostitution. Do we want to just ignore those issues because it detracts from the fantasy? Would we do so were it the heroine who was the professional?

The Couple Who Fooled the World is a very different story from Escorted and Curio. Ferro, the Italian tech billionaire hero, is no longer a working prostitute. He did not take on the profession as an adult either nor with the intent to be the solution to women looking to get past their personal sexual roadblocks. Ferro, while gorgeous, charming, and suave, was a street kind in Rome plucked off the corner one day by a wealthy woman. Shades of Pretty Woman. While not a hooker at the time, he was starving and without options when he first caught his patroness’ eye. He took on prostitution solely as a means of survival as a hot young stud for bored, wealthy Ladies Who Lunch.

couple who fooled the world

Click on image to buy.

Ferro’s past has greatly scarred him and, in fact, has left him with huge baggage that prevents him for various reasons from having a healthy relationship. Julia, the heroine, is not a client. A self-proclaimed geek girl who has herself built a tech empire from scratch, she comes with her own social challenges and painful sexual baggage that has kept her from being able to trust a man enough to form a relationship. When business machinations bring them together, their sexual relationship becomes part of the deal. But I’ll leave you to read it and find how just how.

The Couple Who Fooled the World is the only book of these three to treat prostitution as a demeaning, emotionally painful, potentially dangerous, often illegal profession undertaken for only the most desperate of reasons. Ferro’s scars go deep and Julia’s increasing ability to make him feel emotions he thought long supressed in order to perform is a painful awakening he does not handle well.

It’s also this book that has the biggest contribution from the hero’s POV. Curio is written in the first-person and Escorted is almost entirely from the heroine’s perspective. Both Ander and Didier discuss their profession with their curious client, but there’s little to no shame or overall regret displayed. They are both in the job by choice, not circumstance, unlike Ferro who is still paying emotionally for what he was forced to do to survive.

What do you think? Does the male whore hero require the oldest profession in the world to be re-framed as sexual therapy for the heroine to be excused for buying one and accepted by the reader? Or does the power dynamic not matter among willing parties even in fiction? Could you, as a reader, invest in a book where the heroine bought her hero simply for pleasure’s sake? Or do we still require women to have some greater emotional need to explain why they would purchase sexual favors? Do women, even fictional ones, still require the trappings of fantasy to enjoy shame-free sex?

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Stuff that Stocking With Wild Holiday Nights: Q&A Cara McKenna

4 Dec
Perfect for your Xmas stocking.

Perfect for your Xmas stocking.

 

by Madeline Iva

Today we’re dishing on bikers, booty, and being bad to the bone with Cara McKenna.  Cara’s other romance persona, Meg Maguire, has a cute ole anthology out called WILD HOLIDAY NIGHTS.  Meanwhile, I’ve gotten sucked into the world of her Desert Dog Series starting with LAY IT DOWN.  

Lucky ducks–I’m giving away one print copy of each book—LAY IT DOWN and WILD HOLIDAY NIGHTS to a few happy elves who leave a comment for Cara below.

Cara McKenna writes contemporary romance with the explicit feisty sex we’ve come to associate with erotic romance—but her intricate plot does not depend on the sexual relationship.  Because I love sex AND a lotta plot together, to me Cara’s the whole package.  Let’s jump to the nitty-gritty.

MADELINE IVA: Cara, is a bad boy really bad, or is he just misunderstood?

CARA McKENNA: These days, the biker subgenre is really pushing the envelope when it comes to how bad a bad boy can be, and other authors push it further than I do—my bikers are less Sons of Anarchy and more blue-collar roughnecks. As a general rule, I think most readers expect even the roughest heroes to be redeemable.  I think some readers can handle a man who’s committed murder, but since we’re talking romance, he better treat his woman right, at the very least. I know there are some heroes out there who are seriously dangerous—there’s a line between “alpha” and “stalker” for example, and you can find guys who blur it in the darker corners of romance.

MADELINE IVA: Wait wait wait! – how much do you make your readers wait for some action in your books? Is it a better to start the sexual dial low and move it up gradually? Or vice versa?

Lay it down

The Cara McKenna move: scorching second-base sex.

CARA McKENNA: I’ve gone both ways. On the one hand, you want the chemistry to be off-the-charts right away, to show the reader, wow, there’s something special about these two together. But you don’t want to burn all the fuel up in the first couple sex scenes, and wind up with the later ones feeling repetitive or boring—or just bonkers, cranked up to fifteen. There’s a sort of cynical joke among some erotica authors that lazy writers follow the oral-vaginal-anal recipe, just poking the cock into increasingly racy holes with each subsequent scene then tossing in some BDSM for the finale, but I clearly don’t go in for that method. My sex scenes typically start out super-sexy and intense but not over-the-top—I’ll kick things off with some explicit, hot-as-hell second-base action.

MADELINE IVA: A totally signature Cara McKenna move.  That scene was smokin’!

CARA McKENNA: I save the more intense or kinky encounters for mid-book. In my books, the kink or intensity tends to pique around the two-thirds mark, I’d say. Later sex scenes typically go down when it’s the emotions that are getting more dynamic, so while the initial encounters are all about the physical intensity, by the later ones there’s less mention of body parts and friction, and more emphasis on what everyone is feeling. By the end, that’s usually where the stakes are highest.

MADELINE IVA: Gah! I need to go take a shower thinking back on the smoking second base scene.  Your heroine in LAY IT DOWN finds out her bad boy has been in jail – more than once. How bad can the bad boys be in a romance?

CARA McKENNA: I’ve written a few heroes who’ve done time, and Vince in Lay It Down is certainly not the worst of them. He’s been put away for illegal bookmaking and recreational bar fights, crimes which compared to Eric’s from Hard Time are child’s play. But Vince is a man with fairly minimal baggage, for a bad boy. I couldn’t give him a fraught, super-dark past and crazy-heavy demons and soul-scarring regret, because the most alluring thing about him is his shamelessness. He’ll never pass up a fight, and he might find occasion to boost a car (to provide for his mom, most likely) but he’d never kill anyone, I don’t think, not unless they hurt his family or friends in some unforgivable way. His brother Casey, on the other hand, has committed some crimes that, in my opinion, are far tougher to parse and forgive, though I can’t say what those things are at this point in the series.

Hard Time

Want to give yourself a Hard Time? Click to buy.

MADELINE IVA: One thing I am frustrated with is when an author creates a real bad boy and then over the course of the book takes it all back until he’s no longer bad at all. (!!!)  Do you think that if an author spells out a bad boy character, she ought to stick to it?

CARA McKENNA: It’s hard to say… I think it depends on reader expectations. When I wrote Hard Time, a book whose entire premise is “convicted felon hero,” I was determined to not take what seemed like the easy way out, and let Eric have been wrongfully convicted, or convicted of something that most people could easily forgive. He’s doing time for a serious, ugly, violent crime, one he tells the heroine he’d commit again, if he had to do it over. But I think many readers—maybe even most—could see why he did what he did, and give him a chance, as the heroine eventually does (after much, much soul-searching.) But others would say that that kind of impulsive violence is never forgivable, and I can respect that, too.

On the other hand, with most of the biker stories out there being of the Sons of Anarchy variety, I’m sure reader expectations could have a few folks throwing the Desert Dogs books across the room, because they really aren’t a motorcycle club or a gang—they’re a group of friends who favor bikes for getting around the badlands, and some are shady, and some are less so, but they don’t run a criminal syndicate and there’s no iron-clad patriarchy ruling over it all. I enjoyed the three or four seasons of Sons of Anarchy that I watched, but I wanted to write my own sort of biker stories.

MADELINE IVA: Do you think that part of the appeal of bad boy biker characters is that we want to see them redeemed or tamed?

CARA McKENNA: I can only speak for myself, and when I pick up a book whose back cover copy promises a really edgy, bad-boy hero, it’s usually because a) I want to see how the author pulls it off, and how far she pushes the label of “bad boy,” and b) I want to see how the heroine handles him. Personally, I don’t need to see the guy tamed, but I wouldn’t necessarily be disappointed or angry if he was, I don’t think (I mean, look at Zsadist, for God’s sake—redemption can be hot as fuck and enrich one hero, as much as it might diminish another) unless it seemed like his edge got ground off or his personality goes flat. The heroine can soften him in all the right places, but love shouldn’t make anyone boring.

MADELINE IVA: Very true! It’s such a pleasure to have you here with us today, Cara!

CARA McKENNA: Thanks so much for having me! I’m wishing all your readers a happy, healthy holiday season, full of cold nights and hot books.

Folks, you can find Cara at her delicious website HERE or on Twitter @caramckenna.  Go HERE to get your own copy of LAY IT DOWN if you haven’t already and HERE for WILD HOLIDAY NIGHTS.  And don’t forget to comment below and win something for your Xmas stocking.

Meanwhile, follow our scrumptious blog so sugar-plum dreams of bad boys can dance about in *your* head.

 

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