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Kinky F*ckery in 50 Shades: Interview with Jackie C. Horne

11 Feb

Ladies—Jackie from ROMANCE NOVELS FOR FEMINISTS is here with me today to delve deeply into the core themes of the 50 Shades phenomenon. We focussed on two questions:

Why do women love this fantasy?

Two reasons I love this fantasy--and they're big and blue.

Two reasons why I love this fantasy–they’re big and blue.

Does 50 SHADES represent a step forward in women’s sexual freedom—or a step back?

If you like 50 Shades and smart discussion – you’re in for a treat!

MADELINE IVA: I’m very interested in focusing on what it is that draws women to the 50 Shades fantasy…

JACKIE C. HORNE: To answer that, you first have to answer the question “what is the fantasy” that these books and films hold out to us? And that fantasy may be different for different readers and viewers. As a literary critic, I see three different fantasies at play in books 1 & 2. First, the fantasy that an ordinary girl (ordinary in both looks and intelligence) can catch the attention of a wealthy, handsome man (the cornerstone of much romance writing).

Second, the fantasy that said ordinary girl can rescue/save an emotionally messed-up man (again, a foundational trope in romance).

And finally, the fantasy that indulging in “kinky fuckery” is something to take pleasure in, rather than something to be ashamed of, even for an ordinary girl. The latter fantasy is the most progressive one, the most positive one as far as women’s rights and women’s sexual freedom goes. But the two former ones are what makes it safe, I think, for readers to accept the latter one. It’s the combination of all three that made the books such a phenomenon. Romance tropes as the life preserver, if you will, that allow readers to imagine themselves swimming out into the less familiar waters of sex with a touch of kink.50

MADELINE IVA: I’ve never heard it stated so well, Jackie! We’ve touched upon this topic before: I see the role of BDSM in the romance genre as representing a fundamental evolution in the role of consent.  Women are now asking for the sex they want and negotiating with their partners for sex that they want –or don’t want!–tons more than they used to.  I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts about this after watching the first movie.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I think this depends on the reader’s relationship with BDSM and the BDSM community. In the book 50 Shades Darker, when Ana is talking about Christian’s sexual needs with Christian’s psychiatrist, Dr. Flynn explains that “of course there is such a thing as sexual sadism, but it’s not a disease; it’s a lifestyle choice. And if it’s practiced in a safe, sane relationship between consenting adults, then it’s a non-issue” (412). If you are a reader who is a sexual sadist, or who is familiar with the BDSM community, then you’re probably going to find 50 Shades problematic when it comes to consent. The reason why I didn’t read these books until you asked me to participate in this discussion was because I had heard from romance writers who write erotic & BDSM romance that the books aren’t an accurate depiction of BDSM or of the BDSM community.

MADELINE IVA: True, but there’s a crap-ton of fantasy in BDSM erotic romance already. Inaccuracies abound and many fans want the fantasy—not the reality. (Esp. when it comes to sex clubs.)

JACKIE C. HORNE: If you’re not familiar with BDSM, though, if you read the consent to kinky sex not as a realistic possibility but as a metaphor, then yes, it can definitely be a metaphor for female consent.

It takes Ana a while (all the way to the end of book 1) to figure out what she wants, and doesn’t want, out of her sexual relationship with Christian. She’s up for bondage, up for spanking, up for lighter sexual pain, all things she never would have imagined she’d liked before she met Christian.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! And in the movie — what we see dominates what we hear. What we SEE is Ana enjoying lite kinky play…In the book, which is so much internal, her confusion and ambivalence take center stage.first-kiss-50

JACKIE C. HORNE: But in the book’s climactic scene, she realizes that she is not up for being punished, for being the object upon which Christian takes out his anger. Refusing to consent to the linking of love and male anger, the idea that male anger is always a part of male love—that may be the key shift from Old Skool romance novels to contemporary romances.

MADELINE IVA: This is a great interpretation, and I agree that if the fundamental message is not to accept male anger as a part of male love, that it’s a good one.  But I don’t know….(more on that later.)

What I saw as I watched that final scene in the first movie was her seeing his emotional pain and wanting to take on his pain — like a martyr.

Meanwhile, Cara McKenna is my touchstone for an author who shows consent VERY well without bogging down the plot or making us fall out of the fantasy.  50 Shades maybe does this less well, but it might be interesting to contrast how consent is carried out in the movie vs. the book.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Did you think there were major differences between book and movie in this regard? I didn’t notice any myself, but if you have specific scenes you can point to, I’d be happy to go back and re-watch the film again.

“Please, Ana, let me make love to you.”

“Yes,” I whisper, because that’s why I’m here. (50 Shades of Grey, 113) 

MADELINE IVA: I’m thinking of the contract stuff.  In the movie she was actively negotiating with him face to face and crossing out elements she vetoed. It seemed like there was energy to this exchange. To me this showed strong female agency — and have we ever seen a woman in a film before negotiating over sex so thoroughly? (Excepting scenes with sex workers–and even then not so much.)

In the book, meanwhile, the contract seemed (this is my interpretation) a packet of doom.  It seemed to make her cringe, and the details dwelt upon had to do with total control over her as well as painful sex acts.  It dragged her down into a pit of (again my take)  “No, no, no, no, OMG. Am I going to have to do this stuff? Gah!

JACKIE C. HORNE: Oh, yes, the contract scene is so great in the film! It shows Ana being far more empowered, and really enjoying the negotiating with Christian. Many film reviews cite that scene as the best thing in the movie.

In the book, the language of the contract appears not just once, but four times (at least in part). Is it just sloppy writing, that repetition? Or is there something really important in that legal language to James? The idea that this is a business relationship, rather than a personal one, to Christian? Which is an idea that Ana ultimately cannot accept.

MADELINE IVA: I’m interesting in talking about Jamie Dornan as a man/actor who was a kind of reluctant participant himself in the movie.  Yes, he did it for his career, and didn’t have long to think about his choice.  Also he is most definitely NOT a fan of the life style.

Dakota Johnson seems to have adapted a bit more (maybe because it’s the corner stone of her career?)

There are interviews where Dornan apologized profusely to Dakota Johnson before each take.  Do we care as much about male consent as we do about female consent? Is this going to be a problem? (Is it one already? Can men refuse sex without having their sexuality challenged, or facing aggressive repercussions –even if not physical violence?)

JACKIE C. HORNE: Your questions make me think about 15-year-old Christian, at the start of his affair with Elena. Did he consent? He says he did, but Ana is consistently appalled by the mere thought of an adult woman inviting a 15-year-old boy to have (kinky) sex with her. Ana never asks Christian to tell her more about his experience; she instantly assumes that he had no agency, no ability to consent, that he was molested and abused.50-shades-shower

I was disappointed that the books, which initially reserve judgment on this issue (was Christian abused? Or was his relationship with Elena a positive, even life-saving one?) end up coming down hard on the side of abuse by the end of book 2. Rather than presenting Ana’s intense jealousy of Elena as misguided or immature, the end of book 2 reinforces the idea that Ana is right to be wary of Elena. I thought this a very sexist move, complete with bitch-slap for the erring woman (not by Ana, but by Christian’s adopted mother).

I wished we could have heard more about Christian’s experience with Elena, that Ana had been more curious rather than judgmental about it. In some ways, you could say that Ana is infantilizing Christian by refusing to grant that even as a 15-year-old, he might have been capable of making informed decisions about his sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: And this goes back to the core fantasies.  What you saw as the ordinary young woman saving/healing the wounded man I saw as a kind of mothering thing — the power of soothing.  “Let me make the hurt go away” kind of actions.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

JACKIE C. HORNE: The larger issue—about male consent in general—is an interesting one. Yes, a man who turns down a chance to have sex is still likely to have his masculinity, or his heterosexuality, called into question, even in this day and age. But a man who turns down BDSM sex, or feels squicky about it, there’s something different going on there. BDSM sex isn’t as widely accepted, as widely admired, as straight heterosexual sex; there’s a taint attached to it for many people. Wanting to dominate women is a big no-no in our purportedly post-feminist age. So not consenting to participate in Dom/sub sex, or expressing uneasiness or discomfort with having to act as if you enjoy it, can be read by many as a positive thing, an endorsement of more equal power during sex between partners. A women’s rights kind of thing, no?

MADELINE IVA: Well, I actually know men who say “whatever she wants sexually I kinda have to do” and that with one man it’s kinky stuff with his wife. He’s okay with it, because she enjoys it.  With another man it’s about his incredible discomfort playing out semi-rape fantasies with women he’s having sex with…I think part of his discomfort involves reinforcing the perception that in some way he LOOKS predatory, etc.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I haven’t heard similar stories from any of my male friends or acquaintances. But your friends’ experiences do show how men can be subject to (or even victims of) sexual stereotypes. (I’m in the midst of reading a book about a gay asexual man, and he feels quite similarly, that he is surrounded by the imperative “men always want sex”). No man, or woman, should feel like they HAVE to do anything, sex-wise, that they don’t want to do. Ever. I hope your latter friend can find women to date who won’t push him to play the semi-rape game.

MADELINE IVA: Yup, I agree. The singles world of dating, hook-ups, etc, is a jungle—the price we pay for more sexual freedom seems to be more social pressure about sex and displaying sexuality in increasingly artificial ways.

Part of the conundrum of playing up one’s sexuality is that some men I know have that bad boy vibe, but at heart they’re good guys. They draw women to them, but eventually hit an impasse when looks and who he is just doesn’t match her expectations.  In this film the bad boy is gradually revealed as a ‘good boy’ on the inside. So maybe there’s hope for my friends…fifty-shades-ball-1486048963

Moving on! Has Trump ruined billionaire romances? Or put a significant dent in them? I remember thinking: “Consent all you want young woman from a poor family. Once you’re in handcuffs in his home he could do anything he wanted to you and probably get away with it…” and I know this is a direct line of thinking from the news/publicity about Trump during the election…

Yet there’s always one side in the romance world shouting “IT”S JUST A FANTASY!” Is there a problem with saying it’s all just a fantasy? And what are we to do with the constant  demand from women for forbidden sexual fantasy? Should we be pragmatic and accept this?

OR for instance, (as one who grew up watching male fantasies of women in the media), do we understand that this has deeply impacted and harmed our culture?

JACKIE C. HORNE: I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Village Voice, who asked if I thought the billionaire romance trend had contributed to the acceptance of Trump by many women. Rather than ruining billionaire romances, Trump might be the logical outcome of this romance trend. Because billionaire romances paper over the trouble that actual billionaires present, don’t they? Unlike saintly Christian, whom we only ever see engaging in business that is meant to help the powerless (donating food to Darfur; developing solar technology; donating money to the university to develop sustainable food programs), most real-life billionaires make their money through capitalistic competition, competition that often relies on shortchanging the average Joe (or average Ana) worker. To fantasize about a powerful billionaire falling for them, women have to forget or ignore all the other women (and men) upon whom his billions were built, and upon whom his continued wealth still relies.

And they also have to keep imagining that the only path to power is an indirect one, by being in a relationship with a wealthy man, rather than imagining that they could gain power themselves. Those are both fantasies that limit, rather than empower, women.

So I don’t buy the “it’s just a fantasy” explanation/excuse. What is the fantasy, and why are we having it? That’s a far more productive question, and avenue for exploration.

MADELINE IVA: I have no problem with this, only sometimes the liberal peeps can be as judgmental and shaming as conservatives without exploring the needs, frustrations, and context of those who are very different from them in terms of race or class.  If we could explore all of these issues without a dose of shaming, it would be nice.

But you know, scientific research on sexuality seems to indicate that what sexually turns us on seems to be fixed.  Maybe the “Why” of the fantasy and the turn on go back to that slushy mix of our evolution and what we were exposed to in our youth/teens and that’s that…Which takes us right back to your point about Christian’s first sexual experiences…

Let’s turn to talking about the differences between the first book and movie.  Some things just not translate well from book to movie? I don’t recall when in the book he showed up in Savannah that it was as big a deal to me.  But in the movie I had an involuntary “Stalker!” reaction. He seemed so much creepier in the movie.  Or is this just that I’m coming off watching him in THE FALL where he played a serial killer? ; >50shadesbathrobe

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I had just the opposite reaction!

MADELINE IVA: — Okay, I hang my head and accept that I am having a post-The Fall Dornan experience.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I thought he was far creepier in the book than he was in the film. Dornan just smiled too much to feel like the controlling Christian of the books to me! (Must say I’ve never seen The Fall, though). The film cut out many of book-Christian’s more stalker-y/controlling moves—no mention of him moving her to first class on the plane without asking her, and he’s not so insistent about her eating all the time—so he didn’t come across as quite so control-freakish in the film as he does in the book.

MADELINE IVA: The eating thing.  Ugh!  It also made Ana seem SO PASSIVE and waify/victim-y.50-touching-lips

JACKIE C. HORNE: On the other hand, in book 1, when Ana teases Christian in an email “Have you sought therapy for your stalker tendencies?” he tells her (and us) that “I pay the eminent Dr. Flynn a small fortune with regard to my stalker and other tendencies” (290). This reassured me; I had thought from what people had told me about the books that they normalized stalkery/über-controlling male behavior. That Christian is actively seeing a psychiatrist about his issues sends the opposite message: that stalkery/über-controlling behavior is psychologically problematic. I was disappointed that Christian’s shrink did not make it into the film.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! Anastasia seemed to enjoy most of what they did a whole lot more in the movie than her internals showed in the book.  And did that tilt the scales of problems some people had with the book?

ana-shirt-2JACKIE C. HORNE: For all that we get so much of her internal thoughts in the books, Anastasia of the novels is a pretty empty character. That’s not a good or a bad thing; it’s just a way of telling a story, a way that allows the reader more easily to project herself into the novel than if Ana’s character had more individuality, had been more fully developed. Ironically, though we get little of her internal thoughts in the film, seeing Dakota Johnson up on the screen made her more of a person to me, an individual with thoughts and emotions different from mine, rather than just an empty placeholder for me to project myself onto.

The lack of access to Ana’s thoughts makes her wishy-washy-ness re: the kinky sex less apparent. I agree that in the film, she seems to enjoy the kinky sex more than she does in the books. And that made the story more interesting to me—the story of a woman exploring the boundaries of her own sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: I agree that Dakota Johnson did a great job of seeming vulnerable and kinda raw in her own skin, but also very fluid and interesting in the kinky scenes.  She also just seemed older, which I found reassuring…

Going back to how this series explores typical/conservative romance values side by side with the more progressive idea of a young woman exploring kinky sex—Ultimately, Ana rejects kinky sex.  Do you think that this is on par with the other more conservative values of the book’s romantic tropes and again, makes it more safe for more conservative romance readers to accept it?  (Noting that this move seems to enrage many BDSM erotic romance authors more than anything else.)

Are we back to the “forced seduction” sexual tropes of the 80’s? In those romance novels it was okay for the woman to have sex in those situations because she didn’t ask for it… In the 50 Shades franchise, is it okay for Ana to explore BDSM-lite because ultimately she rejects it and therefore is still ‘a good girl’?

Meanwhile, what are we in the audience doing throughout the movie if not enjoying Ana’s engaging in forbidden kink?

weredoingwhat

We’re doing WHAT? Everyone seems to agree that both actors are much more comfortable filming together now. Not surprising, given the success of the franchise, and the boost to their respective careers.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I was thinking about what title I would give this discussion and came up with “Having your kink and condemning it too”!

I agree with you that Ana’s disgust with and rejection of the punishment aspect of Dom/sub play does dovetail with the more conservative values of the book’s romance tropes. Her rejection gives readers an “out,” a having your cake and eating it too safety valve. Which does undercut the progressive message to a large degree.

But on the other hand, Ana doesn’t rejects ALL kink (at least by the end of book 2). As I noted above, she enjoys being tied up, being restrained, being spanked. And in DARKER the book, she’s bugging Christian all the time to go back to the Red Room of Pain. Which doesn’t seem to me to be just about serving Christian’s needs; it seems to be a deep curiosity of her own about kinky sex.

Ana’s rejection of Christian’s sadism (and the book’s rejection of that label for him) enrages many BDSM erotic romance authors because Ana’s decision at the end of book 1 has a larger ideological weight: it tells the reader that the power dynamics in ALL Dom/sub relationships are both shameful AND are signs of psychological damage that needs to be repaired. Which is exactly the opposite message of current psychological thinking, as Dr. Flynn explains. Someone is a sadist just because he (or she) is one, not because he or she was traumatized as a child.

Perhaps Ana should pay Dr. Flynn (or another qualified psychologist) a visit to talk about her own ambivalences about BDSM?

MADELINE IVA: Perhaps!

Thank you Jackie SO MUCH for chatting with me! And readers, don’t forget our KAMA SUTRA giveaway.  All you have to do is hit our pink subscribe button above and to the right.

kama-sutra-giveaway

This giveaway includes massage oil, candle, soap, and lip balm.  (Continental US only!)

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

 

 

Bikers for Christmas

25 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Wouldn’t *that* be something to find under your tree on Christmas morning? Alas, there was no bearded, growly, alpha yet somehow feminist-supportive, muscled, steaming hot biker stud awaiting me this Christmas morn. (Next year, Santa!)

Thank God for biker romance! Let me help you end your holiday of joyous over-eating and being nice to people you only see a few times a year with a taste of Megan Crane’s upcoming biker romance Devil’s Mark.

Look! A blurb!

Holly Chambless is tired of being the squeaky clean daughter of Lagrange’s holier-than-thou mayor. When her father is charged with corruption, she realizes that her whole life’s been a lie. Now’s her chance to do all the things she never dared, like scoring a job at a bar where reputations go to die, or reconnecting with the biker who sparked a secret hunger in her all those years ago. Holly isn’t a wide-eyed girl anymore—and this time she wants a taste of what has always been denied.

Killian “Uptown” Chenier has no time for stuck-up princesses. He likes fast bikes and wild sex. Sure, he remembers Holly. He sent her running with a wicked smile and a lesson about prying eyes. And sure, she’s grown up smoking-hot, with a body he’d like to personally desecrate. But Devil’s Keepers business is real and intense. Her daddy stole from the club, leaving his pretty blonde daughter a walking target. And when Uptown takes aim at what he wants, he never misses.

You can start your new year in the Lagrange bayou with the Devil’s Keepers motorcycle club when Devil’s Mark releases on January 3rd. Meanwhile, get started with this teasing excerpt and be sure to check out the first book in the series, Devil’s Honor, reviewed earlier this year here on Lady Smut.

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

Hope you had a happy and healthy Christmas day and start of Chanukkah celebrations! Be sure to check back with Lady Smut for a wild and sexy 2017!

“Here’s how this works,” Uptown said, very calmly, but being this close to him again made her a little bit dizzy.  She could see the way his dark chocolate eyes gleamed.  It did not exactly make her think of candy.  “You’re under my protection.  That’s what you tell anyone who comes at you or tries to cop a feel, okay?”

Holly bristled.  “I don’t need to be protected.”

“Baby, please.  They’ll eat you alive.”

“Well, so what if they do?” she demanded, glaring at him, that odd thing in her stomach that shouldn’t have been shame—because what did it matter what a biker thought of her—pulling into a taut, hard knot.  “What do you care?  And besides, Katelyn seems perfectly happy being consumed by the biker world.”

“You don’t want to be Katelyn.”

“I love Katelyn,” Holly snapped, because weirdness between them didn’t mean Holly should be disloyal.  “She’s been my best friend since we shared a coloring book in kindergarten.”

“This isn’t fucking kindergarten, babe.  Christ.”

“I’m sure that whatever makes Katelyn happy is good enough for me.”  She might have been talking from between her teeth, but she meant it.

“You know how your girl got her job here?” Uptown reached over then and took the end of her ponytail in his fist, tugging gently on it.  It should have been annoying, like a mosquito buzzing around her.  It wasn’t.  Instead, she could feel that faint pulling sensation… everywhere. “She blew Bart, right here in this office.  That was her warm up, but you know, nothing new for her since she’d been hanging around the clubhouse for a while.  Then she banged a couple of brothers on the couch to show her appreciation for being considered.  But we doubted her commitment because she always seemed more about the party than getting any work done, so the next night she came back and blew a line of brothers, then let Bart fuck her in the ass over the desk while anyone who wanted to watch hung out.  She started later that night.  Big tips all around.”  His head tilted to one side and she couldn’t have described that gleam in his gaze if her life had depended on it.  But she could feel it like a punch to her belly.  “That about what you had in mind tonight?  Because I should tell you, we already knew and liked Katelyn.  That was why we kept it mellow.  Some of the other girls who work here had a lot more to prove when they came in.”

Holly thought it was lucky that she couldn’t really process a single thing he’d said.  Because it was too much.  She remembered hunching over that coloring book with Katelyn when they were little, sharing their crayons even though they’d both wanted the green.  She remembered all their sleepovers over the years, lying huddled up in the same bed whispering secrets and dreams into the dark.  She didn’t want to think about her friend dispensing blow jobs or anything else.  Because if she did, she might have to pay attention to the things her body was doing, as if it was imagining her in all the positions Uptown had described so nonchalantly.  She felt… weird.  But she couldn’t let herself think about that.

“I thought Katelyn belonged to the club,” she said instead.

“Sure,” Uptown agreed, lazily.  Or maybe he was just amused at how little Holly knew about his world and Katelyn’s place in it, despite how close she’d claimed she and Katelyn were.  Worse, she was sure he could see exactly how red her cheeks were.  She could feel the crisp heat in them and had to force herself not to put her hands there and make it worse.  “She takes care of us, we take care of her.”

“And I notice that you left yourself out of that story.”  She ignored the flare of heat in her cheeks, particularly when his gaze seemed to sharpen.  “Is that a sudden fit of modesty?”

He tugged on the end of her ponytail, making her chin rise against her will.  But when he eased off the pressure, she didn’t lower it.

“Nothing modest about me.  You want to hear who I fuck and how?  I’m not shy, princess.  But I think you are.”

1st-3-covers-dkmc

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: Kit Rocha’s Beyond Surrender

5 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

This is it. Beyond Surrender is the ninth and final installment in the erotic romance, dystopian Beyond series from Kit Rocha. The end of the world as they know it.

And everyone does not feel fine.

(For all of the Lady Smut reviews on Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, click here.)

Look! A blurb!

The final book in the bestselling, award-winning series…

She’s the heart of O’Kane liquor.

He’s the brains of the revolution.

They’re facing a war that could end their world. Again.

On December 13th, the Beyond series comes to its climactic conclusion with Nessa and Ryder’s story–and the final battle between the sectors and Eden.

Well, that didn’t say much, did it?

Beyond Surrender is structured around the final romantic match up of Ryder and Nessa. Nessa is the O’Kane princess, the one who brews the liquor that the O’Kanes bootleg out to other sectors and Eden–the booze that keeps the money coming in. Since he was a young man, Ryder has been raised by Jim Jernigan, the once-mighty, now dead leader of Sector Eight, with the sole purpose of someday being the blunt instrument of the inevitable revolution.

That day has come.

beyond-surrender

Click on image to buy!

After the rash of assassinations in game-changing Beyond Ruin (Book #7) that wiped out whole sectors and their leaders, Ryder is the heir to Sector Eight and the leader of Sector Five after years spent undercover for Jernigan as a lieutenant to the execrable Mac Fleming. Now that war has come to the sectors, he’s teaming up with Dallas O’Kane, leader of the revolution, to marry years of Jernigan’s precise preparation with Dallas’ ruthless ambition for freedom. Ryder has spent his entire life in the service of someone else’s ambition. As the conclusion to his life’s work finally plays out, he realizes he has no idea what life to lead when it’s over–providing he survives.

Nessa has known Dallas O’Kane her entire life. She arrived in Sector Four barely a girl and has been the kid sister of the O’Kane gang ever since. She’s been sheltered in Sector Four; though not ignorant, she’s spends most of her time with her casks, brewing and stewing about the next batch. She’s removed from the day-to-day struggles of life in Sector Four, removed and protected, rarely even needing to leave the safety of the compound, especially when the apocalypse is knocking. Although, when you have a gang full of growling, grouchy older brothers and murderously protective older sisters, getting laid becomes can be more than problematic, but finding a real relationship in the slums of paradise is near impossible. Nessa’s watched from the sidelines as members of her extended family have found their mates of the soul and body, sure she’ll never find a man with whom to share that deep connection. Enter Ryder, who never looks at her or treats her as anything less than who she is–a complicated, intriguing, sexy woman.

But this is Sector Four, so of course, it’s not that easy. Nessa keenly feels the responsibility that’s been on her shoulders all her life, that of keeping the O’Kanes in business and money. One mistake could wipe out their livelihood and plunge them back into the madness and need that heralded the early years after the solar flares. To make matters worse, everyone she’s ever known and loved is now in acute danger. She fears seeing who will and who won’t survive The War now that it is upon them. Drawn to Ryder for a number of complex reasons, she decides to cling to the pleasure and comfort he offers for as long as they have it–and the time in which to enjoy it. If it’s the end of the world as they know it, best go out with a spectacular bang. It’s the O’Kane way.

Ryder’s entire life has been planned for him, by his mother and by Jim Jernigan who made Ryder the tip of the paranoia sword for the war Jernigan saw coming decades ago. He aligns himself with Sector Four and the notorious Dallas O’Kane to keep on the front lines of the war; leading a sector was never his goal nor his training. Nessa is an unexpected if welcomed surprise, but as they cling together in the days before the final battle, living whatever moments they have left to the fullest, Ryder finds himself worrying what happens next. Any future he sees after the war is hazy: a cabin in the woods far from the complications of whatever is left over when the battle haze clears. Slowly he begins to realize this too was never his dream, merely a fixation to honor his dead father’s dreams. But when all his lifelong plans and strategies are no longer required, when the world he knows is no longer the world he lives in, how will he live in a future he never expected to see–and where might Nessa fit there?

For a while now, for me, the Beyond books have been less about the romantic relationships and more about the exceptionally drawn and deeply believable world in which they’re taking place. Rocha’s Eden and sectors with its complicated loyalties, interwoven alliances, and fierce allegiances has offered more layered and complex intrigue for me than who’s banging whom. Interestingly, in a series that’s featured enthusiastic orgies and polyamorous relationships, this final couple seems to be the sweetest–the most innocent of the O’Kanes (not an easy thing to find in Sector Four) falling for the most noble of spies. Ryder’s shown up in a number of previous books, most notably in Beyond Addiction (one of my faves) and the question of his true purpose and loyalties has been teased for a while. Nessa has floated on the fringes since the beginning, with her wild nail polish and multi-colored hair, and it’s fitting that this last book should be hers.

Beyond Surrender is a deeply satisfying conclusion to this series. I have great respect for an author who can put an end date on a popular series rather than drawing it out ad infinitum to keep the credits rolling. It’s hard to let go of something this all-encompassing and, even though there is more on the horizon for this world, leaving Sector Four and all its denizens can be no easy task and no easy decision to make. Which is why it’s extra sweet to see all the favorites return, some more briefly than others, in Beyond Surrender to take their curtain calls while two people, whose lives were planned for them one way or another, decide to fall for one another literally as the end of their world approaches, and it’s that hope, that gentle push of burgeoning love, that gives them the courage to plan for a future.

I *highly* recommend re-reading the Beyond books and novellas from the beginning as a refresher course in who’s who, who’s where, and who’s doing what to whom. It’d do a body good to refresh yourself before diving into Beyond Surrender. This series has a lot of players and they all show up for the final reckoning. And there is loss; seems like an apocalyptic requirement. Plus, Gideon’s Riders, the heroes of the upcoming eponymous series, make an appearance, including the couple of the first book of that series as Ashwin, that twisted, superior killing machine takes another step toward possessing or destroying Doctor Kora.

With Beyond Surrender, Kit Rocha ends this best-selling series with all the fucked up madness and fun and sexy times that define the world of the O’Kanes. It may be the end of the series as we know it, but you’ll feel more than fine.

O’Kane for life.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll mark you for life.

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.

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.

A Wicked Little Excerpt: Our Simply Sinful Giveaway Event Continues

25 Nov

by Madeline Iva

Like booze, books, and bath bombs? Then you’re in luck!  This weekend is our Lady Smut Simply Sinful Black Friday Event. Here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure. (Don’t forget to comment on this or any other post from today to be entered in our giveaway. See details below.)

This snippet is from Wicked Apprentice. (Book one in the Wicked Magic Series).

BLURB: Zephyr, apprentice of magical arts, is having a really bad day. Under orders to capture an uncanny creature for her mistress’s latest spell, she chains up a tall, gorgeous elf in a decaying castle only to find out he’s really a wizard with potent powers over human women. Uh-oh.

Theo has suffered heartbreak and betrayal more than once. He’s got a plan to escape, and when he does, he’s taking the curvy little apprentice with him. He’s vowed never to unleash his powers of enchantment upon a human woman—yet while she kisses and teases him, longing for an elf romance, his fae side is slipping out of control.

Got sexy elves?

Got sexy elves?

~~~~~Excerpt~~~~~

He whispered. “Will you help me?”

“Yes,” she whispered back. There. She had said it. She had committed herself. The walls of her loyalty to Hulgetta toppled. All that was left was a healthy fear of her mistress and a strong sense of self-preservation. But she was obsessed with the elf man before her.  It didn’t feel right. To promise him anything.  To be two-faced with her mistress. In some measure she felt she owed the sorceress. The woman had taught her magic, given her room and board. It was a debt.

A thought suddenly occurred to her.  What if to get the elf-man free from that manacle she had to cut off his hand? Her stomach turned over and her fingers turned to ice. She pressed them into his.

His eyes changed. He looked down into her face and down at her mouth. Those eyes were black. She could see her own face in them. Oh, what was this? A thick syrup of languorousness poured over her head. Her skin and lips wanted to whisper to him.  Her mind was strangely hushed.

“The book. Bring it to me.” His voice held a compelling tone.

“Yes.”

His eyes. They could suck in galaxies. Under their gaze all her worry leached away, like a puddle dried up in the sun. At the same time her loins were licked by that mouth and the steady hammer of his gaze bent towards hers.

Like dark, slow treacle dumped upon her head, a sense of bonding with him enfolded her. Thick and full, it poured down her throat, trickled across her breasts, and down the center of her core. She stood under his gaze, but really she was swallowed whole in it.

He bent to kiss her, their mouths opening slowly, eyes closing, his chain clanking as she yielded softly and fully to him. He pulled her up by her bodice, his hands high around her waist, one hand coming round to pull her hair aside, letting his lips rove across her neck. She felt an involuntary clenching deep down and pulled his hands lower, towards her hips.

He pulled her up against him. She was falling into a thick featherbed of need. His long fingers held her face upwards, as she basked in his touch. Yet there was a touch of despair in his desire. She drank it in, ready to defy it, her soul suddenly brave. She’d die saving him if that’s what it took.

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His head hanging above her own, he watched her clear eyes grow heavy. He watched as her irises shot wide, becoming vulnerable, her expression filling with a delicious resignation. He held her arms, letting one slender inch between his body and hers.

“Bring the book to me. You’ll return it quickly. Hulgetta will never know,” he said, the gold cuff rattling against the bar, holding it to the wall.

“She’ll know if you escape.” She spoke like a woman asleep, like someone resigned to her fate.

He let her go. In theory, her will was not entirely her own. He had never deliberately tried to enthrall anyone before. Was it working? He had no idea.

Among his mother’s people he’d be put to death for even trying. The mindless instinct to survive had acted before he could stop it. Now it was done.

She was staring at his naked chest, and the elf in him wanted it that way. Crave me. He relished the challenge she presented. She was under his thrall. He loved the feel of their agony mixing with desire. He wanted to feel his powers wrapped about around her, protecting her. He wanted her to struggle, try to resist, and discover all her will to resist was gone.

Stop. He forced himself to look away. He held onto her shoulders and, with a hard inner twist on himself, gave up the thrall. His eyes ceased to throb. He was back, the world hollow and dim, a pale shadow of what he felt in his elfin state.

“If she discovers I’ve taken a book from her lair—”

“She won’t. You’re too clever.” His eyes dragged across hers. He felt the slender skein of magical connection. “You’ll be careful.” She left the cell.

He fought the urge to call her back. He was the one she should fear the most. He was cursed, unlucky—a betrayer with dark secrets she couldn’t even guess. Then she was gone.

He let his vision darken, felt the fae-half pulsing inside and this time he did not fight it.

He stalked back and forth the short three paces his leash allowed. Every bit of the elf inside him wanted to fight. If it could not fight Hulgetta, then his fae side wanted to take that pretty little maid apart inch by inch until she died from the tormented pleasure he’d give her.

Want to read more? Find Wicked Apprentice at major, online retailers for just 99 cents. Includes one hot elf, one magic geek heroine, and a lot of sexy magical mayhem.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 
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Here’s how you win the giveaway: Leave a comment below–or on any post published today, November 25 and you’re entered for the Simply Sinful basket of book goodness.

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Giveaway closes at midnight (Eastern), November 25, 2016.

Next up in the LadySmut Simply Sinful Reader Event is Alexa Day at 3 p.m.

 

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.

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Continue reading

How to be Wicked: A Lesson in Three Parts

1 Nov
Anyone want to guess what Lesson One is?

Anyone want to guess what Lesson One is?

The Wicked Theme Week continues as we celebrate release day for Madeline Iva’s Wicked Apprentice! Did you already preorder yours? Is it time for you to order right now, before you read another word? Go handle your business.

By Alexa Day

I often feel like the representative for the wicked lifestyle in my circle of friends and colleagues. It’s a great job, but it’s not without its challenges.

I do think people want to be wicked. They’re a little timid about it, which is kind of cute. I think they wish they could engage in recreational wickedness with a close circle of carefully chosen associates, all the while avoiding guilt and other unpleasant side effects.

But I don’t think people know how to ask about becoming wicked. Instead, they’re over on the sidelines, watching all the wonderful, wicked fun.

Well, I’m here to serve you. Let’s begin with a word about what wickedness is.

Wickedness is fun. It’s flirty. It’s mischievous. It’s kind of edgy. Unpredictable. It’s sexy, but sex itself is not required. I think of it as a hard-core whimsy.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Let’s go there together with a hypothetical.

Let’s say that I’m enjoying this prelude to the holidays with a bottle of wine and two very good friends, Mark and Jason. You’d recognize Mark and Jason if you saw them. I mentioned them briefly in an old post.

So the three of us, Mark, Jason and I, are coming to the end of a bottle of wine, and Mark says he has a new car. Nice, luxuriant Jaguar F Coupe. It’s black, he says, and it has a surprisingly large trunk. Large enough that a person with an abduction fantasy could be swept away in it and driven to an alternate location for fun and games.

How does that sound?

Well, here’s how the wicked would approach such an invitation.

1. Stop caring about what Other People think. This is hard. A lot of people have spent a lifetime caring about Other People’s thoughts, and to some extent, participation in society demands that. This summer, I had a devil of a time evaluating my performance on a job interview because I’d gotten so used to not caring about Other People’s thoughts and feelings. I’m not asking you to abandon Other People altogether. I’m asking you to put them into perspective.

We can safely presume that Other People are going to get all pinched up about you volunteering to be manhandled into the trunk of the Jaguar, even it is by two hot, sexy male friends who know that’s what you want. It isn’t Other People’s business, to be sure. But here they are anyway. Are you sure that’s safe? Are you sure it’s what you want? Is it sending the Right Message?

If that doesn’t seem to be working, they will invoke still more Other People. I will never forget that on my last trip to Vegas, a friend of mine vetoed a return trip to see the Chippendales because “Certain People might think one is obsessed.” Unless Certain People can offer me some reason that a real lifeform is being harmed by my watching the Chippendales as often as I want, I don’t have half a f*ck to spare for their opinions. I don’t. I have so few f*cks to give. I can’t offer them to strangers at this point in my life.

Here’s the bottom line. If you want to be wicked, begin by distancing yourself from Other People who are not affected in any way by your wicked behavior. Let them get pinched up. Not your problem.

The only question that matters is this one: Is that what I want?

2. Cultivate the Right Relationships. It’s possible to be wicked by yourself, but it isn’t easy, and it’s not nearly as much fun. You’ll want to be with someone who will appreciate, facilitate, and expand your wickedness. How do you find those people, while avoiding Other People?

It’s not hard, once you stop caring so much about Other People. You can throw something like robot sex or abduction fantasy out into casual conversation if you don’t care about the objections of Other People. Try this icebreaker:

Hey, you know, Alexa is down with being manhandled into the back of a car for sexy fun and games.

Go ahead and use my name. I don’t mind.

Other People will respond with shock and resistance. No problem. Just let that go. That’s the price of wickedness.

There are some more people who think that means you want to get into their trunk right the hell now. Let those people go, too. First of all, they need to remember that you are talking about you and not offering to fulfill a fantasy for them. More importantly, it takes time to determine if you’re with people who will support your wickedness, and it takes confidence, too. The person who wants to go right to the car is afraid he’s going to lose his chance — and fear isn’t wicked at all.

Somewhere in the middle is the person who can have a long, intelligent conversation about the abduction fantasy, without judging anyone or putting pressure on you. Wicked people find the idea as interesting as they find you. By the time those people lead you into the trunk, it’ll feel like the best idea in the world.

Quick word to the wicked: If you are the wickedest person in the room, you just might be in the wrong room. Think it over.

3. Keep an open mind. An open mind separates the genuinely wicked from the poseurs. I hate to admit it, but it’s become necessary to test the wicked wannabe. We need to know if you’re Other People in disguise. We need to know if you’re really up for anything, within reasonable limits. Are you actually wicked, or are you just curious?

More importantly, though, your open mind grants you access to new dimensions of wickedness. That kind of growth is what makes life worthwhile.

Let’s go back to Mark and Jason and the bottle of wine. We’ve agreed to the Jaguar joyride, and now we’re moving to next steps.

What would I say to a little rope bondage? I say yes.

Wax play? I say yes.

A spirited game of I Never? I say yes. Don’t laugh. Have you ever played I Never while tied to a chair? Ever played with another person who was tied to the chair? Okay, then.

From time to time, we all have to say no. That’s just how the world works. Everyone’s got a hard limit somewhere, and I don’t care how often it shows up in books, I’m not down with someone pushing me beyond my hard limits because they know better. Hell, even the softer limits warrant the occasional no. Wicked people respect no; that’s what differentiates wickedness from evil.

But if you’re only saying no because of the perceptions of Other People, it might be time to try a little wickedness on for size.

There’s a wonderful, wicked world in Madeline Iva’s Wicked Apprentice! Of course you’re curious. Check this out.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Zephyr, apprentice of magical arts, is having a really bad day. Under orders to capture an uncanny creature for her mistress’s latest spell, she chains up a tall, gorgeous elf in a decaying castle, only to find out he’s really a wizard with potent powers over human women.  Uh-oh. 

Theo has suffered heartbreak and betrayal more than once.  He’s got a plan to escape, and when he does, he’s taking the curvy little apprentice with him.  Her seductive curiosity about all things elvish makes his heart race, driving him into a sexual frenzy. He’s vowed never to unleash his powers of enchantment upon a human woman—yet while she kisses and teases him, longing for an elf romance, his fae side is slipping out of control.

Their world overturns when Zephyr unleashes a curse involving two magic rings.  Under its spell, she becomes a mighty sorceress while the elf-wizard who loves her becomes her apprentice. As Zephyr works to turn the brooding, mistrustful elf into the hero the people need, Theo must find a way to contain Zephyr’s new powers before her wild magic destroys them all.

Are your buttons pushed? Good! Mission accomplished. Go get yourself a copy right now.

And follow Lady Smut.

WICKED APPRENTICE: Cover Reveal

7 Oct

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750by Madeline Iva

It’s here! The WICKED APPRENTICE cover is going out into the world today.  I’m so excited. I’ll be flitting about to the various blogs that are posting the cover all day.  I’ve included the blurb and an excerpt below. Enjoy!

Genre: Fantasy Magic Romance

Zephyr, apprentice of magical arts, is having a really bad day. Under orders to capture an uncanny creature for her mistress’s latest spell, she chains up a tall, gorgeous elf in a decaying castle only to find out he’s really a wizard with potent powers over human women. Uh-oh.
 
Theo has suffered heartbreak and betrayal more than once. He’s got a plan to escape, and when he does, he’s taking the curvy little apprentice with him. Her seductive curiosity about all things elvish makes his heart race, driving him into a sexual frenzy. He’s vowed never to unleash his powers of enchantment upon a human woman—yet while she kisses and teases him, longing for an elf romance, his fae side is slipping out of control.
 
Their world overturns when Zephyr unleashes a curse involving two magic rings. Under its spell, she becomes a mighty sorceress while the elf-wizard who loves her becomes her apprentice. As Zephyr works to turn the brooding, mistrustful elf into the hero the people need, Theo must find a way to contain Zephyr’s new powers before her wild magic destroys them all.
This book is chock full of wizards and sorcerers. If you love castle romances, all things elvish, and can-do heroines, then you’ll relish this novel.Pre-order a copy of WICKED APPRENTICE today!Excerpt:

“They all called you Prin,” he said at last.

“Yes.” He wasn’t going to mention how they behaved. Thank you. She took a bigger breath.

“That’s… an odd name.” His Berbainwick was strangely accented, his words all stretched out instead of clipped off. He kind of gargled them sometimes at the back of the throat. To her ears the language had never sounded half so charming before.

“It’s a nickname,” she explained, and then stopped, not willing to explain more. Touchy ground here.

“What does it stand for?” he asked. His voice was lilting and gentle, another tone entirely from before. “Princess?”

“Bet you say that to all the girls,” Prin replied. In fact, it was an abbreviation for ‘apprentice’ and a way of making fun of Hulgetta’s speech. She wasn’t going to tell him that, of course. Everything about him was gentle and refined. She kinda wanted to muss him up a little bit.

“I said nothing to them at all.” He looked puzzled.

She wrinkled her nose. “Never mind.”

“You are a princess then?” he said. He asked her a question in a language she didn’t understand. She looked down at her calloused fingertips and didn’t reply. Let him think what he liked. The silence stretched on. She looked up and his attractiveness hit her again like a physical blow.

His eyes had gone dark again, and he was a vision of sensitive torment. She felt herself involuntarily reaching towards him. Then, alas, the eyes changed back, and she regained a modicum of self-control. She stood up and paced around the cell, her heart still thudding about inside her chest.

“Who has imprisoned me?” he asked. “A murderous wizard? An evil enchantress?”

I did. “Technically speaking, she’s a sorceress,” Prin replied. “You don’t remember?”

He sniffed at the water in the tumbler.

“It’s not poisoned or tainted,” she said. “I freshened it with herbs myself. See?” She drank from the cup and then held it out to him to show him the sage leaves and borage blossoms. “Perfectly safe.” He took a tentative sip on his own, letting her hold the cup for him. The feel of his fingers sliding over hers. Her eyes widened, but he moved abruptly, pulling the cup away. As if he didn’t want to touch her.

“Thank you,” he said, not looking at her. Then he must have changed his mind about something. He looked up at her again, his eyes flickering black. “I thank you,” he said, this time with a tone of grave respect.

“You’re welcome,” she said, using the same formal tone. And did you know you’re smoking hot?

Lying there pliant, helpless, and half naked, he was so scrumptious her body itched to crawl on top of him. Moreover, all her fairy dust was up and screaming for him, and that just never happened to her with a guy. Ever.

She put the tumbler back on the wooden tray with the pitcher and stood there twisting her fingers up in her skirt. Nervous. Her mind strained for something to say. Her body looked for another excuse to bend over near him and reveal her cleavage. Get a grip, woman.

“And what are you called?” she asked, forbidding her fingers to play with her braids. The traitorous fingers took to the lacings on her corset instead, and she bit her lips a little to make them red. Where was her apprentice side? The scholarly side that wanted to learn? Pathetic.

“Princess, help me,” he whispered.

How was she ever going to refuse him anything when his eyes were all big and noble, yet softly luminous? She had felt loyal to Hulgetta. ‘Had’ being the operative word. Her loyalty was wobbling, big time. This was so wrong.

“Are you okay?” she said, filled with dread and concern. She leaned over the bed and put her hand on his brow again. Yes. It was warm now. She felt his cheek. It was hot. Spell all gone. Reluctantly, she took her hand away.

“Can you move your legs?”

He took her hand again and placed it back on his cheek, his lips parting a little. She went a little gooey and just stared at him, unable to think or move. He took that hand and kissed it.

“Help me escape.”

She stood up straight, breathless. Whoa. There it was. Bright needle-thin fear suddenly pierced the bubble.

“It would mean my life,” she said, simply.

Hope you check out my novel, and thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following us at Lady Smut!  

Meet The Author:

zz-madelineMadeline Iva writes paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary erotic romance. Bitten by romance as a teen, she quit her day job in 2009 to start writing full time. She started Love Fest, a day of romance panels at Virginia Festival of the Book and co-founded LadySmut.com. Her work “Sexsomnia” is included in THE LADY SMUT BOOK OF DARK DESIRES published by Harper Impulse.

Friend Madeline on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/madeline.iva
Follow Madeline on Twitter: @madelineiva — https://twitter.com/madelineiva
Madeline obsesses over Pinterest here: https://www.pinterest.com/madelineiva/
Madeline Blogs every Thur & Sat: http://www.madelineiva.comhttp://www.ladysmut.com

Insta-Attraction in Romance … and Life: Guest Post by Rebecca Brooks

4 Oct
Rebecca says her heroines *always* get what they want. Click if you're down with that!

Rebecca says her heroines *always* get what they want. Click if you’re down with that!

By Rebecca Brooks

I still remember the moment I laid eyes on my now-husband over eight years ago.

It was in a meeting that was totally unremarkable except for the man sitting across from me. I can picture what he was wearing, the bag he was carrying, the way he held his pen. Most of all, I remember his smile, bright and genuine, the way he lit up when he talked about teaching, research, and writing—the things he cares about most.

If my life were a romance novel, he’d be a billionaire vampire fated to protect clumsy, unassuming little me and we’d have immediately left the meeting to bang against the glass window of a penthouse conference room—as soon as he had me sign a contract dictating when and where I was allowed to come per his commands.

Alas, dear reader, we met for tea. Then beers. Falafel. Shared our favorite chocolate shops. At some point six months later it dawned on me that our marathon hang-out sessions at bookstores and bars were different than the time I spent with friends. I never wanted them to end.

But when I’m reading a romance novel, I don’t want to read about those first six months between spark and follow-through, months in which everyone is busy with work and life and sometimes forgets to text back and who has time for dating, anyway?

I want to read about the moment when the heroine locks eyes with the hero and her mouth goes dry. Her pulse kicks up. She can feel her heart racing, feel the world around her slow. It may not be a good idea. Scratch that—it’s definitely a bad one. But she knows what she wants. And my heroines always get what they want.

I want the hero to think, This is the one. Not the one for forever—it’s way too soon in the story for that. But the one for a night. And then another. As these improbable instances string together, we start to see a relationship grow.

I know some readers don’t like insta-attraction because they think it’s unrealistic. But people meet at clubs, find each other on Tinder, hook up in all sorts of situations that start with a glance, a touch, a moment that can’t be explained. Note that I’m not talking about insta-love, but the sizzling hot attraction characters experience right off the bat. Love, as romance novels teach us, is something different altogether.

Think of Lacey and Hunter in Liberating Lacey (Anne Calhoun). Olivia and Jamie in Bad Boys Do (Victoria Dahl). Katie and Cameron in Instant Attraction (Jill Shalvis). I just watched episode 1 of Luke Cage on Netflix last night and he and Misty Knight make all the eye contact at a bar—and then go home to have all. the. sex. And this is after Luke has turned down another woman, making clear he doesn’t want to take just anyone home. Was I complaining about the unrealistic timeline as Massive Hot Man unzipped her slinky blue dress? No, I most certainly was not.

Austin, the hero in MAKE ME STAY, is an Olympic skier and racing coach. Have you seen those ass-tight racing skins that skiers wear? As the heroine Sam says of herself when she first spies him on the slopes, she’s a red-blooded woman. She’s not falling in love with him on sight alone. But she’s definitely checking him out.

Sam doesn’t expect anything to happen. In fact, it would be a whole lot better for her billion-dollar company if it didn’t. Only that initial attraction leads to more. Flirting. Banter. A kiss in the falling snow. A surprise detour to a shelter on the mountain where things get hot and heavy. The realization that one very delightful afternoon together isn’t going to be enough, and everything both Sam and Austin thought they knew is changing.

That build-up from first glance to full-on romance never fails to make me giddy. It’s why I’m a sucker for insta-attraction, the catalyst that sets the whole story in motion. It sets up a promise I get to spend the whole book looking forward to: when the hero and heroine get their hard-earned HEA.

But first, they have to feel the spark.

Hey, it’s Alexa. Ready to hit the slopes? Me too. Check out the details and grab your copy!

Blurb:

She’s his…for now.

Samantha Kane is about to solidify her father’s legacy by developing sleepy Gold Mountain into the most profitable ski resort in the country. There’s one man standing in her way though. One very sexy, rugged man. When she shows up to convince Austin Reede to sell, she has no intention of hiding her identity. But with a body like his, she’ll take a few risks to get closer.

Austin was the fastest skier on the U.S. Olympic team, until he shattered his knee. Gold Mountain became his refuge—and now Kane Enterprises is threatening that home. When he meets Sam, he has no idea she’s the one to blame, he just knows the attraction between them is one he hasn’t felt in years. A scorching hot one-night stand is just what he needs. Little does he guess that it will change everything…

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Make-Stay-Men-Gold-Mountain-ebook/dp/B01LWI5U6W

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/make-me-stay-rebecca-brooks/1124588844

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/make-me-stay-5

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/make-me-stay/id1153572279

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30169610-make-me-stay

Read the first chapter: http://entangledpublishing.com/make-me-stay/

Rebecca Brooks lives in New York City in an apartment filled with books. She received a PhD in English but decided it was more fun to write books than write about them. She has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma, but she always likes coming home to a cold beer and her hot husband in the Bronx. Her books are about independent women who leave their old lives behind in order to try something new—and find the passion, excitement, and purpose they didn’t even know they’d been missing.

Find out more at rebeccabrooksromance.com.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rebeccabrooksromance

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/beccabooks

 

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