Tag Archives: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Sexy Sunday Snippet: “Behind the Blindfold” by Rebecca Croteau from On Fire

23 Jul

To round out On Fire Week, Lady Smut has a sexy bondage story for you: an excerpt from “Behind the Blindfold” by Rebecca Croteau in Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, edited by our own Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Sexy snippet from “Behind the Blindfold” by Rebecca Croteau:

I don’t know how long he will leave me here. My sense of time stretches and folds in on itself; it could be minutes or it could be hours. The blindfold is perfect; there’s no peeking light to ruin the darkness, and even the birds beyond the windows cooperate with him, keeping their songs quiet and calm enough that I can’t use them to mark time.

After a stretch of time, my patience wears thin; I’m dripping wet, eager to the point of soreness, and I don’t know if I’ve been here a minute or an hour. I fight the bindings at my hands and ankles, stretching and pulling, searching for an inch of freedom so that I can get one single finger down to my clit; if I could touch myself, it would be moments before I was flying. He has tied me far too carefully, though, and I’m left squeezing my thighs together to try and find enough pressure to get me off. If I could squirm my way into an orgasm, even just a tiny one, just to take the edge off, I could be so much more patient. I could wait forever for him. But my body is in league with him, and I only succeed in increasing my frustration.

Finally, patience eases back in; I relax, giving in to my bonds. He makes me wait an eternity, until my head is starting to sag with sleep. And then I feel a whisper of air as the door opens. My head comes back up, my face turning toward where I know the door is. I can hear his breath catch in his throat, and then his hand is rasping over the fly of his jeans. I can’t hide the smile; he’s gone hard this fast, just because I’m where he left me, because I’m still here, naked except for my blindfold and my bonds?

He moves so lightly that I can’t track where he is in the room. I can hear the susurrus of cloth as he sheds his clothes, and I can scent his arousal on the air, but I’m surprised when the hard head of his cock brushes against my parted lips. I open for him, eager, taking the head into my mouth, grazing my teeth over his sensitive skin and caressing with my tongue. I hear his whispered groan as he lets me have my way with him for a few more moments, but when I open my mouth wider to take more of him in, he pulls away, and I’m alone again, an island in a sea of pillows.

The next time he approaches me, it’s with a tickling touch of fabric that falls, featherlight, over my upturned face. I lean back, and the cloth softly and slowly pulls away from me, dragging over my nipples and my lips. The sound that escapes me is a prayer and a plea, and he chuckles, somewhere behind me.

And then it’s him behind me. I feel his hard length pressed along the curve of my ass, and I recognize the cold glass shape a moment before he slides it between my inner lips. I fall back into him, my thighs spreading, and he sets me back up on my knees again. “Stay,” he says, a command and a request, and lightning flashes all down my spine at the contained tension in his voice. I hold my body still as he teases my clit with the hard, icy toy—he must have had it in the freezer, for it to be so incredibly cold— and he teases me open, easing it deep inside of me before it warms. It slides home, splitting me wide open, and I’m so incredibly glad that he hasn’t told me to be quiet. I’m crying out, a wordless whimpering moan of delight and misery; my breath is sound. I hold still. I don’t thrust onto it like I want to, and he holds it perfectly still, firmly in place while he strokes my clit with the side of his roughened thumb. I want to collapse, I want to explode, but he keeps the rhythm of his touch a hair’s breath shy of what I need to fall over that particular cliff.

Read the full sexy, kinky story in On Fire, available now in print from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or as an ebook for KindleNookiBooksGoogle Play and Kobo.

About the author: Rebecca Croteau has had short stories published in anthologies from Circlet Press and has released several indie novellas. Her dark fantasy NA novel, Clearer In the Night, is available from Penner Publishing. She lives in New England with her family, and experiments with all the ways that a person can get wound up in yarn.

Is On Fire erotica or romance or just plain sexy?

21 Jul

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

My new Cleis Press anthology that we’ve been celebrating all week is called On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, but what, exactly, does that mean? Is it erotica? Is it romance? Is it a little bit of both? And does that distinction matter?

On bestselling author Sylvia Day’s website, she defines erotic romance as “Erotic Romance: stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline. Happily Ever After is a REQUIREMENT to be an erotic romance.”

Author Alice Gaines has also written a great article about the differences between erotic romance and erotica, noting, “In romance, the reader usually knows that by the end of the story, the main characters will be headed toward a lifelong love relationship.  That needn’t be true in erotica.”

So what rules did I apply to editing On Fire? Well, not many. For me, it was very much an I-know-it-when-I-see-it situation. I went by the same criteria I use to select short story for an anthology: which ones best suit the theme and will work well together. In this case, I wanted stories specifically about couples, but not necessarily the same types of couples. I wanted new couplings as well as long-term relationships. I wanted couples who pushed each other into new territory (consensually, of course), who brought out the most daring, lusty sides of each other.

Here’s a snippet of what I included in my call for submissions: “Stories can feature couples exploring new erotic territory, strangers who share a spark, lost lovers or exes reuniting, etc. Final book will contain a mix of storytelling styles, settings and heros/heroines. Kink, sex toys, exotic locations/scenarios welcome as long as there is an element of erotic romance as opposed to strictly erotica. Sensual and sexual should coexist. Stories should be strongly plotted, have engaging, unique characters and be hot and original.”

The final result is a mix of tales ranging from playful to emotionally intense, running the gamut from fetishes to kinks to exes reuniting to first dates and beyond. Here’s a little snippet from the opening story, “Sensitive to the Touch” by Donna George Storey, featuring a silk stocking fetish. You can hear Donna read some of the story and discuss its inspiration on our recent appearance on the podcast Sex Out Loud hosted by Tristan Taormino (audio starts when you open this link so you might want to have your headphones handy).

“Well,” I began, “I know how much you admire a fine pair of female legs.”

Jeremy murmured assent, not that I was expecting an argument there.

“So I was going to make you show me just how much you do by kneeling down and kissing my legs very slowly from my ankle to the band of the stocking. Every inch of flesh would deserve at least an hour of dedicated veneration. But then if you were a very good buy, I was going to let you kiss my naked thighs, all the way up to my pussy. Is that something you’d like to do?”

Now, this same stocking fetish could have been tackled as strictly erotica, in umpteen other ways. To me, what makes it qualify as erotic romance is that it’s about a couple learning about each other and getting closer, both physically and emotionally, by exploring a new aspect of their sexuality. It takes a lot to reveal a fetish to someone else; there’s always the risk of being judged, laughed at, or rejected. To my mind, this story tackles that aspect while also being incredibly sexy. I was thrilled that one Amazon reviewer wrote that the story inspired her to go out and buy silk stockings. Another wrote, “Donna George Storey’s ‘Sensitive To The Touch’ is a fine example of what can happen when we embrace a partner’s fetish and see where it takes us.”

While sexuality and eroticism is at the core of these stories, so is the heart, love, romance and the emotion behind the sex. In other words, whether they’re exploring a fetish, femdom, sex toys, submission, swinging or anything else, there’s genuine feelings between the characters. They may want to be ordered around or blindfolded or participate in an orgy or what have you, but none of those desires take place in a vacuum. The story isn’t so much about the specific sexual fantasy, as how someone the main character loves helped them fulfill it. To me, that’s the key difference. These stories all circle back to the core of what makes the couple tick, what keeps them together, what makes them want to enjoy whatever their given turn-on is with each other. I can’t say for sure if that falls into the strict definition of “erotic romance,” and some readers have decided it’s more one than the other. All I know is that I intended this book to be focused on couples who are daring, bold and sexy, and if you ask me, I achieved that.

Want to judge for yourself which category On Fire falls into? You can buy it now for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks or Kobo, or pre-order the print edition.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Sexually Omnivorous

20 Jul

Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers. Photo: Luke Fontana

by Madeline Iva

There’s an actor named Nico Tortorella out there on a television show I’ve never seen. But what’s making headlines for Nico is that he’s joined part of brave young new Hollywood in saying he’s not a straight male.

He could also say he’s not cis-gender. But who really is cis-gender and likes this term? I don’t. Oh, I don’t mind the queer advocates claiming that everyone needs a term—not just the “other”. Sure, but why cis-gender? It doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. It sounds ugly. I don’t approve on aesthetic grounds. (Of course, it’s not like gay people picked the word ‘gay’ to describe themselves.)

How about demi-sexual? That sounds much better and describes me to a T.  It has a delicate nice sound. Demitasse, demimonde, demigod. ; >

Demi means “lesser” so if by adopting what used to be ‘normal’ I have to somehow accept a lexical smackdown, so be it – demi-sexual will do nicely. Now being demi-sexual doesn’t define exactly who it is I’m romantically in love with, but who cares!

Back to our guy Nico. He tried to describe himself as sexually fluid. No, he was told, the proper term is pan-sexual. I knew a lot of guys who were pansexual back in those ten minutes between being a teen and hitched for life to my sweetie. I did not know the term pan-sexual back then. I thought of these guys as sexually omniverrous. Just like an omnivore will eat anything, these guys would too. ; >

Pan – It means everything. The prefix is derived from the Greek πᾶν, used in English for all. It’s the same prefix for words like pandemic, panacea, Pantheon and Pangaea. A close equivalent would be the Latin prefix omni which also means everything. (Quora.com) Pan-sexual sounds rather clinical. It doesn’t sound like much of anything—except that it makes you think of pan, small, goat-like, played the pipes. Meh.

But omni–Sexually everything. Vs. Sexually all… Hmmmm. I still like my word better. It captures what I encountered in these guys—their raging appetite for sexual passion with almost everyone they encountered.

Sexually fluid, meanwhile, has a much more melodious sound.  Again, I don’t think that it’s the people who are these things who are coming up with these terms.

Nico must have been approached by the bisexuals.  The latest article in People about him shows his progression down the sexual by-ways of America.  An article just came out in which he was like: Okay, guys. Okay, people. If you really insist I will simply call myself bi-sexual.

Now, other than the Hootie and the Blowfish Song, everybody doesn’t love you if you’re bi. Nico said the Bi people have fought long and hard for recognition. They will not be overlooked. Does Nico realize how challenging it was to get that B into LBGTQ? Well it was. And Nico was like, okay, okay. I’m happy to join with you all and be bi. Third time’s a charm, right?

Also, the bi people might have pointed out – the idea of pan-sexual is that you’ll have sex with ANYONE – including trans people and cross-dressers, even someone who’s intersex. Is that what you mean Nico? And possibly Nico backed down and was like – no dude. I just meant if I like someone I have sex with them, that’s all, but no, I’ve never done it with someone who’s trans….

Photo for The Advocate by Luke Fontana

This is all conjecture of course.

Now, Nico could have said, “I’ve only had sex with cis-gender women and gay/bisexual men.” But that wouldn’t be true because….

Nico’s partner of eleven years, Bethany Meyers, identifies as a lesbian. (!) A lesbian who, until Nico came into her life, had never been sexually attracted to men, or fallen in love with a man. But she has done both with Nico. Also, she’s polyamorous. What does this mean in her case? Apparently, it means that she is in a committed relationship with him—but likes casual sex with others on the side.

[Isn’t this what we used to call cheating? Not really. We now recognize that people can be romantically attracted to one sex AND sexually attracted to another sex. Sometimes who we love is not who we want to have sex with and vice versa. It’s not cheating unless it’s with your nanny and you didn’t check in with Gwen about it first. *Cough-Gavin Rosedale-Cough*.]

How bold of Nico and Bethany to come out with all of this in Hollywood—which is chock-a-block with lesbians, gays, queers, and people of every stripe in between—but which has been notoriously conservative when it comes to actor’s sexuality and their ability to get roles.

Women were the first to break out of this box, because no one on the face of planet earth has ever really minded the idea of two hot women having sex. As long as a woman identified as bi–not queer or lesbian. The L-word—despite the TV show—is not cool. I mean, look at how long it took Jodi Foster to come out of the closet! But in the last year or so a few young leading women have jumped on the bi-wagon.  Then some men started to join them on the bi-bandwagon.

In doing so—and in finding acceptance with their audiences—they have come to create a line in Hollywood. If you’re on one side you’re old. If you’re on the other side where all the gender fluidity is, you’re au currant, young, hip and fresh. You’re connected with younger folk who are choosing their sexuality the way people used to chose their Jimmy Choo’s.

Pick which side of the line you’re on stars! On one hand everyone desperately wants to appear young and in the know. On the other hand, these people making headlines are new to the industry and this is getting them attention…will they be cut off in the casting room on the quiet by studios? We don’t know yet.

Nico, meanwhile, told The Advocate he’d rather wait until he feels love for the other person. Nico, my friends–like myself–is a demi-sexual.  Ahhhhhh! Feels so good, doesn’t it Nico?

The thing I like about this couple is that he’s for sexual fluidity—and that makes sense given that she seems pretty sexually fluid herself. Yet I tremble for them a little. There’s a segment of the gender wars that doesn’t like sexual fluidity. Sexual fluidity implies that one can move from having sexual attraction for one sex to another sex. And if that’s possible, well, then, you can ‘train’ gay people not to be gay. And we don’t want that, do we? No, we do not. Meanwhile, lesbians are never thrilled with anyone who likes women but then ends up liking a guy. No, queer folk don’t like that kind of narrative at all.

I see the problems here, but ultimately, I back the side most willing to admit life is gloriously messy. What’s so wrong with taking things on a case by case basis? Isn’t sexual freedom ultimately about not having to fit into any particular sexual shoebox?

Yes, we all are grateful to those people who devoted their lives to saying there’s more than one shoebox out there. But isn’t it okay to expand upon that philosophy and keep broadening our sexual horizons?

In the end, I like Bethany and Nico’s story. I like that they are young, and brave, and honest about who they are—knowing that they could get it on all sides.  I like that they explored and wandered outside the lines when it came to their love. There’s a kind of vulnerability at the core of their complicated love story – and ultimately, I back Nico and Bethany because there story is about love.

We’re ON FIRE this week over Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology. (See what I did there?)  Couples exploring their sexual needs together — just like Nico and Bethany!  Just like YOU! Click to buy it now —

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

How to have a kinky date night inspired by On Fire

19 Jul

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

It’s On Fire week here at Lady Smut, so I wanted to talk about what you can learn about having a kinky or otherwise naughty date night from the characters in the book.

While I never intend my erotic fiction anthologies to be in any way how to books and they’ll never be marketed as nonfiction, nonetheless, I believe that those who want to gain inspiration for their own bedroom sexytime fun can do so. You don’t have to follow the action of a fictional story to the letter, but rather you can use it to spark your imagination and perhaps a discussion.
As I recently wrote about for Brides, erotica can improve your relationship, whether you’re reading it together as a couple, or if each partner is reading it separately, then joining forces to dish on their favorite parts. beI keep that in mind while editing, and make sure to include scenarios that, for the most part, could plausibly happen, while leaving room for sexual fantasy and creative flourishes.
So what can you learn about having a sexy and kinky date night from my latest release, On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories? A few of the authors provide some very arousing clues. One is just how much fun adding sex toys into your love life can be. As wonderful as they are for solo pleasure, they aren’t just for masturbation. A rabbit vibrator brings some major heat in “The Sweetest Thing” by Giselle Renarde.
 
One of my favorite stories in the book is the BDSM tale “Behind the Blindfold” by Rebecca Croteau (come back Sunday for an excerpt), not only because it’s deliciously kinky, but also because the dominant/submissive relationship is ritualized and relished. The couple have a play room in their home, where the narrator goes and kneels. For them, it’s silk cords and a blindfold that signal the tone their evening will take. It’s not that these kinky sex toys are taking the place of their human connection, but rather that they’re amplifying them. They are both signals and tools that help each person get into the right headspace.
In the story “My Wife, My Sub, My Love” by Victoria Blisse, told from the point of view of the narrator, a dominant male, about his wife, referenced in the title, they enjoy some very risqué outdoor sex. Theirs isn’t the ultra planned ritual of “Behind the Blindfold,” and one thing I appreciated about it is that it shows that couples can negotiate between family time and sexy time as needed. During a walk in a public garden, they steal away to enjoy some furtive oral sex. He’s made her skip wearing underwear, and she’s obeying his commands, even though she’s nervous about possibly being found out.
“As soon as we entered the clearing I pushed her down over that trunk. She had looked wonderful suspended over the rough wood, her hands in the soil, her ass in the air. The old trunk was so wide her toes didn’t touch the ground. I pulled up her dress and exposed her ass. WheN I finished spanking her, her buttocks were reddened damask; she looked like the perfect rose, like she’d grown there.”
While a fictional tale can’t give you precise tips on how to get away with public sex, this one does show how a couple engages in oral sex and erotic spanking surreptitiously.
If you read On Fire, I hope you’ll come away utterly entertained and perhaps even inspired! Follow Lady Smut, and stay tuned for much more during On Fire week.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

On Fire Week Continues with a Femdom Twofer Tuesday

18 Jul

Click and get your copy right now — today!

By Alexa Day

We’re celebrating the release of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology, On Fire, all week long, but today is extra special. This is the release date for the electronic edition of On Fire, so if you’ve got a Kindle, you could be reading right now. While you’re clicking, On Fire Week continues with a glimpse of one of my favorite subgenres: femdom.

As my colleague Rachel Kramer Bussel promised yesterday, the On Fire anthology contains a femdom story, entitled “Dreams Made Flesh.” The couple featured in the story is just starting to explore the world of female domination together. The protagonist must overcome his fear of revealing his particular submissive inclinations. He revels in competition with other men for his lover’s attention — my favorite analogy pairs the male submissive with the knight riding in the queen’s service, and author Lawrence Westerman does the same here. But the story’s sensual core lies with the protagonist’s willingness to own his submission, with his lover and with others, until he finds the pleasure he most desires with the dominant woman of his fantasies.

“Dreams Made Flesh” is an enchanting story about two people learning to acknowledge their own needs and meet their partners on their journey to pleasure. A great story to leave on your partner’s pillow if you’re struggling with that tricky conversation in real life. I love stories like that, don’t you?

Click here and get your very own copy of On Fire right this second. When you’re done, I’ve got another surprise for you all.

Ready?

No shirt? Mo’ service! Stay tuned to hear more about this hot military femdom story!

That’s the cover for my own, newly expanded femdom story, Passing Through, which first appeared in last year’s Hero to Obey box set. The novella pairs bar owner Gigi Dean with former Army Ranger Noah Monroe. As Gigi’s best employee, Noah should be off limits. She should do the right thing and refuse to act on the immense attraction between them.

But that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? Seriously, does that sound like the sort of thing I’m going to advocate in the fabulous world of erotic fiction?

I’ll have more to share about Passing Through next week, just in time for its release. Right now, build on the summer heat with your own copy of On Fire.

And follow Lady Smut.

Welcome to On Fire Week at Lady Smut!

17 Jul

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Welcome to On Fire week, where we’re celebrating the release of my new Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, which comes out as an ebook tomorrow, and a print book on August 8th. And stay tuned for the audiobook, which will be narrated by the fabulous author and podcaster Rose Caraway.

I’ll be sharing more later in the week, including a very sexy excerpt from the book, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse into this sexy book, which features couples having all sorts of erotic adventures, from exploring a stocking fetish to planning an orgy to diving into cherished BDSM rituals.

This is the official blurb:

In On Fire, today’s top erotic authors take us inside the passions of couples who go above and beyond in pursuit of sexual and romantic satisfaction, from kink to fantasies to outrageous, stimulating adventures. You’ll treasure the stocking fetish in “Sensitive to the Touch” and travel to “A Place as Beautiful as This.” You’ll go “Beyond the Blindfold,” find out what lurks in the “Art of Darkness,” delight in discovering “The Sweetest Thing,” and observe a feisty femdom couple in “Dreams Made Flesh.” These steamy stories by Kristina Wright, Delilah Devlin, Giselle Renarde, Kay Jaybee, Victoria Blisse, Jade A. Waters and others are perfect bedtime reads for your lover or for your own pleasure.

Here’s my introduction to the book, and keep reading Lady Smut all week for all our fiery posts!

Introduction: Fired Up

What does it mean to be On Fire? The characters in these stories know! It means to burn with need for your partner, to be willing to do anything for them, to take risks because you know they’ll be there to catch you. In this collection of erotic romance stories, you’ll read about all kinds of ways that desire plays out between couples. They know each other inside and out, know what makes the other tick, and use that to their advantage. When the narrator of Jacqueline Applebee’s “Approaching Hardcore” reveals, “I’m a filthy girl. My husband, Dan, always says so,” we know that we’re in for a treat as we find out just how filthy she can be.

Yet these stories are both tender and dirty, sometimes within the span of the same page. That is the beauty of these erotic storytellers—they don’t skimp on love or lust, instead entwining them in tales that will make your pulse pound, your heart race and your breath sigh. Some of these are about new lovers, like the one who helps Deb get over her ex in “Just Knowing.” Some are about long-term relationships where a new revelation leads to the type of intimacy neither partner had imagined, such as in “Every Second of It,” by Lynn Townsend, in which she writes, “Twenty-three years of marriage, and if he knew that she masturbated, he had never mentioned it. Until now. ”On the opposite end of the spectrum are couples who know each other so well, they know exactly how a command like “No underwear” will go over when given from a Dom to his submissive in “My Wife, My Sub, My Love,” by Victoria Blisse.

The couples here also learn how to understand and embrace each other over time, using the power of love and trust to further their sexual and emotional closeness, as is the case in the fun “Sensitive to the Touch,” by Donna George Storey, about a stocking fetish fulfilled. These are transformative, powerful moments that I hope will move you as much as they did me.

Sometimes the most wondrous thing is for lovers to watch their partners with someone else, with their full approval and consent—the couple made all the stronger for their extracurricular passions. This is the case in the paranormal “Masquerade,” by Angela R. Sargenti, and with the swingers in my own “The Dance.”

However these couplings happen, whatever fire warms them from the inside out, transferring from one person to another, all of these tales are ones that are daring, taking risks of the body and soul, in order to reach a new height of pleasure.

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Intrigued? You can buy On Fire for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks or Kobo.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Booked author Leandra Vane on BDSM romance, writing male/male sex scenes and #ownvoices

16 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

As soon as I heard about the new BDSM romance novel Booked by Leandra Vane, I knew I wanted to read it. Actually, as soon as I saw the sexy cover with a man’s wrists handcuffed and the words “Detectives Were His Ultimate Fantasy” at the top, I knew. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? I don’t know if there’s a specific word for it besides “anticipation,” but I get tingly when I see a book and immediately know: You’re going to be mine.

Isn’t this a HOT cover?

I’m pleased to report that Booked was every bit as sexy and fascinating as my initial inkling indicated it would be. Vane, a prominent sexuality blogger and author, has spun a small town romance that’s kinky, smart and edgy, with a fast pace that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could (it’s for sale in print and ebook, but I’m a sucker for print). There are many layers to this romance novel, which features a kinky bisexual male protagonist, Nate, a writer who volunteers at the local library and also suffers from nerve damage. He has a BDSM mistress, Charlotte, who’s just started dating the also kinky Ian, but then Nate also falls for his town’s hunky new librarian, James. All that, and there’s even a happily ever after!

I wanted to learn more about the process of writing Booked, which seemed extra fitting for Pride month, so I emailed Leandra Vane and here’s what she had to say about writing male/male romance, #ownvoices, the mental side of kink and BDSM, self-publishing and much more. You can follow her on @Leandra_Vane on Twitter to find out what she’s up to next, and she also has an original tale, “A Stolen Story,” forthcoming in my November anthology Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3.

Booked author Leandra Vane

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How long have you been writing erotica and how did you get involved with it? How is writing erotic fiction different for you than writing nonfiction about sex and kink?

LEANDRA VANE: I’ve been a reader of erotic fiction since I was a teenager. It has been a constant and important aspect of my sexuality for my entire sexual life. But I didn’t start writing erotica until I was 25 years old. I had been surrounded by a lot of sex negative attitudes growing up and had the basic impression that romance and erotica wasn’t “Real Writing.” But in 2013 I launched my sexuality blog The Unlaced Librarian where I reviewed non-fiction sexuality books that had been really helpful in my life. This bolstered some confidence so I started writing erotic stories and submitting them to anthologies. At first I just wanted to experiment and see how it felt to write in the genre. What I discovered was the kind of writing that suited me so well I could grow and thrive as a writer. June marks my four year anniversary as a sex writer and I’ve genuinely never been happier.

I think writing erotic fiction is interesting because it lets me explore certain topics from the perspective of different characters as well as exploring how the setting is infused into the sexual aspects of the story. For example, a lot of my stories take place in small Midwestern towns and that flavor certainly impacts how my characters work through their relationships and kinks. Writing non-fiction is more focused. I tend to take one viewpoint and keep it as concise as I can. It’s more structured in order to be effective as sex education and help people work through aspects of their sexualities without becoming overwhelmed.

Both types of writing are rewarding. But I love the ability to see different perspectives around a topic and explore the harsh and painful aspects in a creative way. There are some aspects of sex, disability, and embodiment that are difficult for me to write in non-fiction. But I dive right in with these themes in fiction because I’m more emotionally connected and my characters can serve as an outlet for all the different ways I feel about things, even when these feelings conflict.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You’ve written that while the idea for Nate and James came to you easily, you almost didn’t write Booked because you weren’t sure you could do justice to a male/male plotline. What made you push past that initial resistance?

LEANDRA VANE: Ultimately I just loved my characters so much I couldn’t not write them. At first I felt like I was somehow “stealing” an experience that was not mine – being a gay man. But when I looked at certain characteristics and qualities of my characters, I saw that I was bringing a lot of my own experiences into the story and the characters. I asked friends and readers of an array of sexual orientations and body identities if they would like to read a story about a librarian and a tattooed novelist exploring kinky role play together and the answer was a resounding yes. I’m now open to writing a lot of different pairings I haven’t been in the past. I’m a romantic erotica writer and readers need and want interesting characters in a variety of pairings. So I’m going to write the ones that interest me. I’m easily seduced by my characters so this breakthrough has been really freeing.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since this was your first time writing a male/male romance, I’m curious about how the experience was similar and different from the pairings you’ve written in the past. Were there aspects of it that you struggled with more than when writing female characters?

LEANDRA VANE: At first I was a little caught up on trying to do things the “right” way and doing justice to my masculine characters. I asked both gay and straight guys in my life how they felt during and about sex. I learned a lot, but I was mostly struck with how their experiences with sex and romance were not so different from mine. I certainly kept some things in mind but ultimately I focused on making unique and complete characters. Once I got rolling, I was led by their unique pasts, motivations, and desires. Confronting this challenge has made me more aware and able to write well-rounded characters no matter what body or sexual orientation they possess, which is invaluable for me as a writer and an experience I’m so grateful to have had.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: There’s a gradual education about BDSM that unfolds for James, who’s had kinky fantasies but has never acted upon them until he gets together with Nate. Nate and Charlotte recommend books for James to read and they have plenty of detailed discussions before they actually try anything kinky together. Why was this important to both the story and to you as an author to have this slow buildup?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally think it’s important to bring a more varied level of sexual experience to erotic stories. One of the reasons I didn’t try to write erotica myself for so long was because I felt I was sexually inexperienced or not kinky enough. But there are way more people I know who are curious about or just beginning to explore aspects of sexuality than people who have had loads of hardcore, creative, kinky sex. I started wondering, why can’t I have characters who haven’t been sexual with a lot of partners? Why can’t I have a main character in a BDSM story who had fantasized about BDSM but had not tried anything yet? These were more interesting stories to me and ones I connected to.

Also, I feel like talking about sex and desires is intimate and vulnerable. I’ve read a lot of erotic stories where the action happens so fast and the characters go into the sexual situation nervous and sort of looking at each other from the corner of their eye and then things just happen. It’s exciting and all, but I don’t think the tension or excitement is lost when characters talk about things first. In a way, some of the dialogue scenes in Booked felt very erotic to me.

Communication and understanding yourself as well as your partner is a high value for me as a sex educator so I try to infuse this into my fiction when I can.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Something that stood out to me is how much attention is paid in the book to making sure there’s both consent and participation from both tops and bottoms in the BDSM scenes. At a play party, Charlotte asks Nate, “What is it you want out of this scene before you’re at the mercy of my hand and mood?” This struck me as different than a lot of the dominants I’ve read about. What does this level of care toward the submissives from dominants in the book signify about their relationships?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally find it erotic and enticing when the top is fully engaged with the bottom and the scene. It’s a personal preference but I often get turned off if there’s not at least a hint in an erotic story that all partners are consenting. When I play in kink scenes with my current top, I still always ask things like if I can touch him or if it’s okay that we do certain things in a scene and he does the same for me. We’ve been playing together for over a year.

I feel this reiterates the underlying friendship that the characters have for each other outside the dungeon. Sometimes I feel sexual or kink relationships somehow fall outside of parameters of being supportive friends toward each other and I wanted my characters to have a foundation beneath their power dynamics.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Another aspect of BDSM that I really liked was that you explore the psychological aspect of kink as much as (if not more) than the physical side of it, which is often the main image vanilla people have of BDSM. During their first time playing together, Nate tells James that he likes being blindfolded even though it’s “its own special kind of torture” because “It forces me to really give up control.” For Nate, what makes that giving up of control so arousing?

LEANDRA VANE: The psychological aspect of BDSM was really important for me in the book. I wanted it to be just as prominent as the physical aspects in the story.

For Nate specifically, giving up control is a complete matter of trust. Since he can’t feel half of his body, being blindfolded means he will not know if he accidentally gets hurt or even where the top is touching him. As a disabled person with nerve damage, I can say giving your partner complete control over your body like this takes an astounding amount of trust. Call me a vulnerability slut, but when you trust your partner that much, I find it really hot. Considering Nate had a very bad relationship based on lies and mistrust in his past, this is a personal development aspect of his character that shows he is moving on, investing in healthy aspects of his new relationship, and growing as a person.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Nate also compares the physical pain he suffers because of his nerve damage to the kind he craves in kink as a submissive, the main difference being he has control over the latter and can stop it at any point. Can you elaborate on that connection between unwanted and wanted pain?

LEANDRA VANE: Unwanted pain is terrible and for many people is a non-negotiable part of life. Not having a choice is perhaps one of the most difficult things to cope with in life. BDSM is all about choice, negotiation, and consent. When elements of pain feel good, it can be empowering to play with it and help you cope with the times in your life that you have no choice but to endure the pain.

I also know that certain aspects of pain can be very pleasurable but physical pain from sickness, chronic conditions, or illnesses can frighten people away from harnessing pain for pleasure. Having a character that goes through both experiences was important to me to include in the ongoing conversation about BDSM, which I feel I can contribute to through fiction.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: While the heart of Booked is the romance between Nate and James, Nate is also bisexual and a submissive to Charlotte, something that James takes very much in stride and is even interested in learning more about. Was it tricky to navigate the various relationships among the three of them as well as Charlotte’s other partners?

LEANDRA VANE: This aspect was not tricky in the sense that this is how I see things and how I experience sexual attraction. I get into a bad habit of thinking everyone is a bisexual polyamorous person and my friends have to remind me that isn’t how it works. (I can still dream!) Early feedback I received warned me that perhaps the aspect with Charlotte would not be believable or that James wouldn’t be okay with Nate having a Domme. I took a chance and developed this aspect of my characters anyway. I hope that in exploring the motivations and attitudes of my characters that the relationships feel natural and genuine. I’m toying with writing a sequel in which Nate, James, Charlotte, and her partner Ian have formed a loose BDSM-based Polycule. We shall see.

But, just like writing sexually inexperienced characters, I decided there was nothing wrong with writing sexually fluid characters too. It reflects my own experience of my sexuality and of some of my friends so I feel the representation in fiction is important.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since the library where James and Charlotte work, and Nate volunteers, plays such a central role in Booked, I’m curious about the connection between books (and reading and writing) and romance in the novel. Clearly, all three are huge book lovers, and books play a central role in both entertaining and educating them, so I’m curious what you see as the role of books in Booked.

LEANDRA VANE: In the story both Charlotte and James first stumble upon their kinks in books: Charlotte in history books and James in a book about detectives and crime. Nate is also a novelist who uses his writing to explore some themes in BDSM. All three are indeed book lovers and though each character possesses their kinks for different reasons, it is the element of books that binds all three of them together.

My idea initially was to have the library serve as a metaphorical symbol for a church. It’s an historical building that becomes a sanctuary for my characters. Through the stories and information in books my characters transcend the mundane aspects of their sexuality to engage with their bodies and their fantasies in a deeper, more textural (and enjoyable) way.

It’s also a blatant relay of some of my experiences working at a library in the past. Whether it was the cute white haired lady who checked out mountains of “bodice-rippers” or stories of romance, sex, and violence that I read in the microfilm reels of my local newspaper, the library was and is a well of human experience. Sexuality is part of that experience I wanted to bring forth.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Booked is an #ownvoices novel, meaning that you, like your protagonist, Nate, share certain elements in common, such as having nerve damage. Can you share how your experiences with nerve damage relate to Nate’s, and why the ownvoices element is important to you, and to readers?

LEANDRA VANE: I used to think I shouldn’t write about disability in my fiction because people would call me a self-absorbed “Mary Sue.” But I learned that most of us carry around shame and never grow because we guard our secrets and experiences from each other. I believe by sharing our stories we can all learn and grow together. So I started mining the experiences living with a disability has given me and putting them into some of my stories. All my life I’ve turned to books to have the conversations with me that people in the real world were unwilling or unable to have. So I encourage all writers to share their experiences. You don’t have to be disabled to learn things from disabled characters. And if you do share the experience of disability, there might be pieces of your own puzzle you find in the story. So now I don’t shy away from writing about disability in my fiction.

As for Nate and I, one of the most amazing things I’ve found in experimenting and playing with BDSM scenes is how I experience sensation play and pain when I literally cannot feel over half my body. Exploring this through another character was not only fun but nurturing to me in validating my experience of sex.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Along the same lines, James has to overcome some of his preconceived ideas about BDSM as he learns what it’s like in real life for Nate and Charlotte. Did you have any stereotypes or misconceptions about BDSM that you had to unpack when you started getting involved with it?

LEANDRA VANE: I had always viewed my kinks as a “dirty little secret.” This bit of my soul I kept wrapped up in a shoe box in a dark corner that I only took out every once in a while. I thought if I let it out my whole identity would be dictated by the fact that I was a fetishist who had kinky thoughts.

Becoming involved with the BDSM community and the fantastically supportive world of erotica writers has changed all of that. Imagine, well-rounded, kind, creative people who are also kinky as fuck. Amazing!

I believed in a stereotype that if you’re kinky, it infiltrates every part of your life until you’re just a sex-crazed drone intent on only one thing no matter who you hurt to get it. (Did I mention earlier I was surrounded by a lot of sex negativity growing up? Yeaaahhh.) But now I know the complexity and deeply human aspects of kink and BDSM and I’ve brought it into my life in a healthy way, embracing my kinks and unleashing my creativity as an erotica writer.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You self-published Booked, as well as several other books, such as your memoir Trophy Wife and fiction A Bloom in Cursive and Cast From the Earth. Why did you choose self-publishing, and do you have any advice for new authors looking into self-publishing?

LEANDRA VANE: I honestly chose self-publishing because of the combination of things I write about. BDSM/Multiple pairing and disability? Yeah, that’s probably a Venn Diagram not many publishers want to see in a pitch. But just because there aren’t oodles of people wanting to read what I write, they are out there. I’m more interested in getting my work to the readers that need to read it or appreciate it the most rather than going the traditional route right now. And I’ve found the small or independent publishers that publish really unique erotica anthologies are a great fit for my work and are the stories I want to consume as a reader. I’ve found a wonderful home for my work this way and I love it.

Of course this did not happen overnight. Before I became a sex writer, I published books under two different pen names, submitted work to lots and lots of lit journals, and launched and folded two blogs. My books and stories were half-baked and my platform was unorganized. I made mistakes. But I learned from them.

As far as advice, I would say work on becoming a better writer first and foremost. Don’t focus on things like awards or accolades. Read, read, read then write, write, write. Find a book that makes you think “how can I make readers feel the same way as I did when I read that last word?” Practice.

Also, even if you self-publish some work, do submit stories to outside publishers. It helps you network, keeps you writing, and builds your CV. It also gives you practice for coping with the business of writing when your work is declined (and it will be declined). But write new things. Try again. Listen to feedback.

Finally, I say this as a joke, but really, you might also want to convert to Buddhism. Your ego is your worst enemy once you start putting work out there. Managing it well will help along the way.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: This week we’re celebrating luck here at Lady Smut in honor of the release of Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur. Does luck play a role in Booked for any of the characters?

LEANDRA VANE: Every time I pick up an erotica book or write a sex scene, I truly feel lucky to be living in a time and place where we can read and write about sex and relationships. A little over 100 years ago things like the Comstock laws prohibited the sending and receiving of “obscene” materials including books and sex education writing. So I feel lucky to be living in a time and place where technology allows me to not just write but also self-publish my work.

My characters comment in places how lucky they feel to have met each other. Also, there is an historical undertone of the small town they live in with buildings from the 1800’s and the tragic stories of people that lived before them. My characters definitely feel lucky that they were able to work through their kinks in time to still have plenty of life left to enjoy them.

Booked by Leandra Vane is available now in print and as an ebook.

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This post is part of our Lucky week at Lady Smut, celebrating the release of the latest Elite Doms of Washington erotic romance novel, Lucky, by Elizabeth SaFleur! If you like hot , hunky dominant heroes, you don’t want to miss this book.

Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur

Billionaire, entertainment investor and resolute bachelor Derek Damon Wright and dance studio owner Samantha Rose are unprepared for their mutual attraction to one another. She desperately wants to have a baby, and family doesn’t match Derek’s sophisticated life of private jets, vacations in the Caribbean and his BDSM activities. Yet a magnetic passion draws them closer—at least until their past mistakes arise and threaten all hope of a real future.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Sign up for a free copy of On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories

5 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Who’s excited for summer? Hopefully, all of us! I am looking forward to vacations by the beach, attending my first bachelorette party and, of course, beach reads, including my July Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories.

If the title and/or steamy cover (isn’t it HOT?) sound intriguing, I’ve got a great deal for you: Through June 18, 2017, one month before the ebook release (the print version pubs on August 8), I’m offering a free e-copy to interested readers in exchange for an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. To sign up, fill out this form with your name and email address by June 18th. Your contact information will only be seen by me, and only used to send you the review copy. I’ll send you a copy, then you can post your review any time on Goodreads, and starting July 18th on Amazon. I just ask that you include the phrase “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review” with your review when you post it. It’s that easy!

Here’s the book’s blurb:

In On Fire, today’s top erotic romance authors don’t skimp on love or lust—they are entwined in tales that will make pulses pound and hearts race. Bestselling editor Rachel Kramer Bussel takes us inside the passions of couples who go above and beyond in their pursuit of sexual and romantic satisfaction, exploring the racy to the outrageous during their many arousing adventures. You’ll treasure the sex toy exploration in “Every Second of It,” find paranormal pleasure in “Masquerade,” and be transported to “A Place As Beautiful As This.” You’ll go “Beyond the Blindfold,” find out what lurks in the “Art of Darkness,” and delight in discovering “The Sweetest Thing.” These steamy stories by Kristina Wright, Delilah Devlin, Giselle Renarde, Kay Jaybee, Victoria Blisse, Jade A. Waters and others are perfect intimate reads to enjoy with your lover or for your own pleasure.

Want to know more On Fire? Visit the official Tumblr to read my introduction and the table of contents. And if you want to get a free copy for review, use this form by June 18, 2017 and check your inbox!

And stay tuned for our Lady Smut week celebrating all things On Fire and Fiery starting July 17th!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

The Master of None “First Date” episode made me glad I’m not on Tinder

19 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m writing this post while binge watching Season 2 of Master of None, the Netflix comedy created (and often written and directed) by and starring Aziz Ansari as actor and newly single Dev Shah.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2:

It took me a little while to warm up to the show; I started Season 1 soon after it debuted, but didn’t get far. But over the last week I’ve been making my way through Season 1, then went right into Season 2.

There have been moments of recognition, but episode four of the new season, titled “First Date,” was one that made me grateful that I’m not using dating apps. I almost wrote, “grateful that I’m not single,” but that’s not totally accurate. While I’m happy to be in a five-year long-term relationship, even back when I was single, I could barely handle online dating, let alone dating apps.

I think the reason they never did the trick is that, unlike the woman Dev goes out with who, mid-date, starts using the app where they met, Love at First Sight, because she’s both just not that into him and truly enjoys swiping, I was never “into dating,” I was into meeting someone I could connect with. I hated the awkwardness of first dates, the way they could very easily feel like job interviews in more casual settings.

Back in 2010, I went on what’s still my worst date ever, in which a guy seemed to be deliberately trying to make our date agonizing. The thing is, on a dating site or app, it’s relatively easy to make yourself seem more interesting than you are in real life. The converse, for me, was also true: the few times I did using dating sites, I always felt torn between being honest about who I am and trying to upsell myself. If I painted too rosy a picture, I worried I wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. But when would the right time have been to tell someone I was a hoarder who couldn’t open the door to her apartment without slamming her body weight against it? That’s just not something that would ever work in the context of an “about me” blurb.

But Tinder, which I’ve only observed on a friend’s phone, seems to take all the pressure of summarizing yourself and presenting a pretty image to a whole new level. I imagine that if I were on it, I would also become obsessed with not the quality of my matches, but the quantity. My mood would swoop up or down depending on how popular I found myself with the people there. And while there are exceptions, I have trouble imagining I’d have met someone who I could actually settle down with via a dating app.

I’ve always preferred to meet people I date more organically, either through a shared activity (like playing Boggle or trivia, both of which have yielded me dates), via a mutual friend or simply by chance. As my sex column and erotica writing career developed, I also faced a clash between my public, online persona and the “real me.” That’s not to say that I wasn’t myself in my writing—I always was (and am), to a fault—but it’s awkward when someone can Google you and find out you like giving blowjobs or have posed nude or an endless stream of other details I’ve shared with the world. There is a tension between the me who sits around in sweats and binges TV shows, who’s super dorky and romantic and cries easily, and the more readily available version that comes up via Google. They’re all parts of me, but ones that are hard to convey in an hour or two, especially when there’s all the pressure of a first date.

I know there are some people who simply enjoy the act of dating, of going out and meeting multiple people, no matter the outcome. But I was never one of them. I was more about the destination than the journey. That’s not to say I didn’t like when a date went perfectly, the kind where I lost track of time and wound up getting home in the wee hours when I’d planned to be back early. But watching Dev go on so many dates on Master of None, I didn’t feel a shred of envy. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything, and while I don’t plan to ever be single again, if that should ever happen, I won’t be using technology to help me bond with anyone. I’ll fumble through the madness that is dating all by myself. At least I don’t have a Tinder worst date story, right?

What do you think? Are dating apps a modern blessing or curse? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

KFC Colonel Sanders romance novel Tender Wings of Desire is a real love story

8 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

What does mom want for Mother’s Day (and dinner)? If you guessed fried chicken and romance, then KFC has just the thing for you: a free novella on Amazon called Tender Wings of Desire, starring (and written by) Colonel Sanders (aka Harland) as the hero (which they’re calling their “first romance novella”). They even made an ad for it, which you can watch to get a sense of the hilarity:

According to a press release, the fast food chain was inspired by the fact that Mother’s Day is their bestselling day of the year. “The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself. So this Mother’s Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novella. Dinner is taken care of and she’ll have the time to escape her busy schedule,” George Felix, director of advertising for KFC U.S, said.

While the ad is totally over the top, I wanted to read Tender Wings of Desire, described by The Daily Mail as a “steamy, greasy fantasy,” for myself to see whether it was super cheesy, full of product placement or whether it actually worked as a romance. The work is described in part in its official blurb like so: “When she finds herself swept into the arms of Harland, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past, Madeline realizes she must choose between a life of order and a man of passion.” Yes, it’s true: whoever actually wrote this novella has read a romance novel or two, because I was rooting for Lady Madeline, with her family part of the ton in Victorian England, bemoaning her fate of being married off to lackluster Reginald.

Madeline runs away on her horse, escaping a life of luxury that felt stifling to her. She reaches a tavern two hours away and quickly finds herself a job and friend, becoming immersed in a new way of life. Soon, she meets “the most handsome man she had ever seen,” Harland, a dashing sailor. The attraction is mutual, even though, of course, it takes them a little while to figure that out.

Soon she winds up giving in to her urges and kissing him. “This was the closest she had ever been to a man, and she would not want it any other way. She felt as if she were a woman on fire, feverish in the best way possible, and something seems dot take her over when he deepened the kiss.”

Though the book isn’t actually all that “steamy,” with more of a fade to black approach to sex, it does manage to get in some plugs for independence and against slut-shaming. “Kissing a man who wasn’t her betrothed was supposed to imply that she was tainted in some way, as though she had been spoiled for her future husband. Perhaps that might have been true, but as she drifted off to sleep, the only thing she could think was that she felt free. She felt in charge. She felt as though she were finally coming face to face with the wonder of her destiny.”

Now, is Tender Wings of Desire the best historical romance I’ve ever read? No. But I can’t dismiss it simply as a corporate stunt (even though I would strongly urge you to try a home-cooked meal for mom rather than fast food) because it completely conforms to the romance genre, with a happily ever after that never once mentions fried chicken. It manages to play on the character of Colonel Sanders (who Harland is revealed to be) in a way that actually made me smile at the end, rather than the slightly smarmy guy hawking deals in their recent commercials. In truth, the novella is as much about Madeline discovering who she really is when not under so many rules about what she can and can’t do as it is about her falling in love. When she falls fast and hard, Harland really is tender and patient and sweet with Madeline. She really does end the book far happier than she was when it started. And you don’t even have to be a mom to appreciate that!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

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