by Tara Stevens, Carina Press acquisitions team
Contrary to popular belief, BDSM does not stand for Big Dumb Stupid Men. Up until recently, I was pretty much a BDSM virgin. I mean, I knew what it stood for (unlike some of my more innocent colleagues here at Sexy Central), but I’d never actually sat down and read a full-blown BDSM book in all its blindfolded, leather-bound glory.
It all started with a Carina Press submission I was assigned to read and a Spice Brief ebook that needed retitling. All in a day’s work, eh? Suddenly BDSM went from being some vague erotic niche I idly wondered about to something I had to get up to speed with – fast.
Although it sounds a bit dangerous and intimidating to sheltered vanilla types, I’ve discovered that BDSM books can actually be both fun and emotionally substantial, as well as super-sexy. It’s not all just whips and chains and paddles (although they can certainly play a prominent part in a character’s sexual expression).
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would feel immersing myself in a world filled with bondage, domination and submission, but I happily discovered that similar to male/male books, I could understand the appeal and popularity of the niche once I gave it a try. The Carina submission was certainly an eye-opening introduction to BDSM erotic romance, but at the end of the day, it was just one element in a story that engaged me on several different levels.
I think the fantasy role-play and power exchange elements found in BDSM books may be key to their success, since they allow readers to live out their secret desires in a safe space without getting judged as “weird” or into so-called “deviant” things. For me, it also helped knowing I was reading a story about a couple who only performed sexual acts that were completely consensual and that they had a “safe word” they could say if they felt things were getting too out of control. I also enjoyed the twist that it was the heroine who was mostly the “dom” or “top” in the relationship instead of the hero, although they did enjoy taking turns and being “switches” as the book progressed.
Of course, there are different degrees when it comes to BDSM books, and some are definitely darker and more hardcore than others. I think in those cases, it’s really important to let readers know exactly what they’re getting by giving them niche-appropriate titles and covers. Setting the right tone in the cover copy is also essential, and this is no time to be subtle or shy. Including key words like claim, surrender, obey, possess, dominate, control and command will give readers a strong idea of what the book is going to be about.
Now that I’ve experienced my first BDSM book, I’m curious to read more. I’ve already pegged some of our Carina titles like Consent to the Cowboy and Intimate Exposure, but I’m interested in any other recommendations you may have for someone still relatively new to the niche. What are your favourite BDSM books? What do you like about them?
Curious? Explore Harlequin’s “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”