Saying Goodbye to a Series

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By Lynda Aicher, author of SHATTERED BONDS

The release of Shattered Bonds brings an end to the Wicked Play series and it is truly bitter-sweet for me. I spent the last two years creating this world, these characters, their stories. They are my people. Ones I’ve toiled and cried over, cheered and sighed for. I love them in a crazy way maybe only authors and readers can understand, but crazy or not, they are mine. And now it’s time to let them go.

Shattered Bonds is Noah and Liv’s story, but it is also the series end which meant involving all the previous characters, winding up plotlines while evolving the world forward. It created challenges that required me to do something I almost rebelled against, yet the story had to be told. I confess, I cried while writing the epilogue. I’m a sap, I know, but it was my last goodbye to a cast of characters who I believed earned and deserved their happy endings. They are a family by choice and I will miss them in that crazy author way.

Now maybe, okay really, one of the reasons I didn’t lament too long is that my next series, Power Play, releasing next year is a spin-off of Wicked Play. Do you remember those hunky hockey players who were friends to Holden Hauke in Bonds of Courage? Yeah? Well they get their own stories! Which means some (maybe all) of the Wicked Play characters will be sneaking into the new books. Some things work out so well. It’s almost like I planned it that way… (You can read the first chapter of Game Play, Power Play #1 in Shattered Bonds. ☺)

So as a reader, are you sad when a series ends or do you like having a clear ending to a world?

***

“For loyal fans, this is well worth a read.” - 4 stars, RT Book Reviews

  {49225590-7E3D-4CF1-A3F4-F6B0FBA0A8B8}Img100Shattered Bonds, Book Seven of Wicked Play Will the doors of The Den close forever? When the lives and friendships of The Den owners are thrown into chaos, Noah Bakker steps in to deal with the fallout. He hasn’t had a sub or participated in a Scene since tragedy changed his life four years ago. But as an investor in the exclusive BDSM club, he can’t walk away from the lifestyle completely. As he works to keep the club running, he finds himself drawn to Liv Delcour, the seemingly naïve sister of one of the other owners. Liv didn’t know about the naughty things her friends were up to behind closed doors, but when their secrets become headline news, she’s more curious than shocked. As she works with Noah to keep the media at bay, she finds that his dominant strength is more than a little arousing. Soon they’re exploring their mutual desires in the most wicked ways. Liv isn’t sure if she can completely submit to Noah the way she thinks he wants her to—and Noah isn’t sure he can withstand the pain of falling in love… New to the Den? Start at the beginning with Bonds of Trust. Start reading Shattered Bonds now!

 

 

About Lynda Aicher After years of weekly travel as a consultant implementing computer software into global companies, Lynda ended her nomadic lifestyle to raise her two children. Now, her imagination is her only limitation on where she can go and her writing lets her escape from the daily duties of being a mom, wife, chauffeur, scheduler, cook, teacher, cleaner and mediator. Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

Excerpt: Shattered Bonds by Lynda Aicher

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Lynda Aicher’s Wicked Play series is a must-read for any erotic romance fan, and the final book is certainly no exception. Shattered Bonds returns readers to The Den, the most exclusive BDSM club in town, for what could be their greatest scandal yet. Shattered Bonds is available now! Get your copy from Carina Press and your favorite ebook retailer today!

 PRE-ORDER NOW!

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About Shattered Bonds:

shatteredbonfsWill the doors of The Den close forever?

When the lives and friendships of The Den owners are thrown into chaos, Noah Bakker steps in to deal with the fallout. He hasn’t had a sub or participated in a Scene since tragedy changed his life four years ago. But as an investor in the exclusive BDSM club, he can’t walk away from the lifestyle completely. As he works to keep the club running, he finds himself drawn to Liv Delcour, the seemingly naïve sister of one of the other owners.

Liv didn’t know about the naughty things her friends were up to behind closed doors, but when their secrets become headline news, she’s more curious than shocked. As she works with Noah to keep the media at bay, she finds that his dominant strength is more than a little arousing. Soon they’re exploring their mutual desires in the most wicked ways.

Liv isn’t sure if she can completely submit to Noah the way she thinks he wants her to–and Noah isn’t sure he can withstand the pain of falling in love…

New to the Den? Start at the beginning with Bonds of Trust.

***

“Over here!”

“Back up. Let ’em through!”

“Hurry!”

The piercing ring of a siren squealed through the air to join the ongoing choir, and cut off the frantic calls before it faded into the distance. An abundance of blue and red lights peppered the cold night with their universal signal for trouble under the blinding spotlights erected around the crash site.

“This way!”

“I need the clamps!”

Chaos surged around Noah as he crouched next to a semiconscious Deklan, who was laid out on a backboard on the edge of the scene. The stench of blood, gas and coolant clouded the area and rode tandem with shouts from the firemen and the medical-filled jargon of the paramedics.

“What the fuck happened?”

He leaned in to catch the slurred words that tumbled from Deklan. Blood leaked through the cloth he held to the man’s head, where a good two-inch gash ran beneath his short hair. He made another scan of the accident and swallowed. His stomach cramped and heaved in a threat to empty itself.

There was too much blood. In the car, on the pavement, covering his friends.

“Stay still.” He braced his free hand on Deklan’s shoulder when the man tried to get up. The first responders had secured Deklan’s neck in a brace, did an injury assessment, then accepted Noah’s offer to stay with Deklan so they could get to the rest of the victims.

“Fuck you,” Deklan mumbled, grimaced and dropped back down. His face was bleach white, eyes hazy with pain and worry. “I need to get to Kendra.”

The desperate edge of panic in his friend’s voice had Noah clearing his throat. “I know.” Shit. He wiped a hand over his mouth and cringed. Too much blood.

“Okay,” a paramedic said as she kneeled on the other side of Deklan. “I can take it from here.” She caught Noah’s eye for a second before her focus went to Deklan.

Noah let go of the bandage he’d been holding and started to move away before Deklan grabbed him.

“Tell me what’s going on,” the man rasped, his voice surprisingly strong, like his hold on Noah’s forearm.

“Sir,” the paramedic barked. “I need you to stay calm.”

Noah ignored the glare from the paramedic and leaned toward his friend. The daze had faded from Deklan’s eyes, and Noah understood the ex-military man needed the facts—good and bad.

“Your car was hit,” he said, his voice even and direct. “It’s bad. Kendra and Tyler are on the way to the hospital. The others are waiting transport. Seth’s the only one who walked away.”

Understanding washed over Deklan’s face in a hard inhale and press of lips. His grip tightened on Noah before he swallowed. “Dead?” The question was whispered, the fear transparent.

“No.” Noah maintained eye contact until the man relaxed back and closed his eyes. Only then did Noah release the breath he’d been holding. Not yet, at least.

“Sir.” He looked up at the nudge against his shoulder to see another paramedic standing at his side. “I need to get in there.”

Noah moved away, heart pounding on a wave of adrenaline fueled by dread that hadn’t let up since he’d watched the horrific accident happen in accelerated detail. His hands shook, the jittering movement continuing despite the tight clench of his fists.

“Let’s go!”

He jerked around to see another stretcher being lifted into the back of an ambulance. Jake. That was Jake. Shit. Where was Cali?

His gaze pinballed across the scene until he landed on the splash of blond hair between the bodies of more paramedics. Blood, shiny and dark, stood out in blaring wrongness in a mat of hair clumped around her temple.

“Sir?”

Noah spun to his right as the ambulance siren blasted through the air. Another one off. That was five victims accounted for. Where were the last two? Dread turned sour in his mouth before he found Seth kneeling next to his girlfriend. Allie was in the same position he’d left Deklan in—prone on a backboard, neck in a brace with a paramedic on her other side.

“Sir.”

“What?” he snarled, the irritation and stark panic he’d been holding back pouring out in that one clipped word. The man held still, and Noah focused in on the thick coat emblazoned with the Minneapolis Police Department logo. Shit. “Sorry,” he said to the officer.

He squeezed his eyes closed to gain some focus, only to picture the horrific sight he’d found when he’d first peered through the cracked windows of the SUV. His eyes flew open and he shook his head to clear away the image.

The officer held out a rag, and Noah stared at it for a moment before his gaze traveled to his own hands. More blood. He flexed his fingers, the stickiness registering in his brain in disconnected understanding. “Thank you.” His voice was hollow in his ears as he accepted the cloth.

Damn it. He swiped at the blood and blew out a few long breaths. There wasn’t time for him to freak out.

His gaze went to the sheet that was now thrown over what was left of the front window of the pickup. With the truck’s nose crumpled almost clear to the cab, it’d only taken one glance at the crushed chest cavity and mangled face to guess the driver’s outcome. Rock had stepped up to the gruesome task of confirming that assumption before the first responders had arrived.

At least none of his friends had been pronounced dead at the scene.

“Sir,” the officer prompted again.

Noah snapped his chin up, control in place before he met the man’s eyes. “What can I do for you?”

The officer pulled out a notepad and pencil, his expression of concern flattening into a professional shield across his broad face. “Did you witness the accident?”

“Yes. I did.” Unfortunately.

“Then I have some questions.”

Noah made one more scan of the scene, noting the location of everyone he knew. Rock was walking next to Deklan’s stretcher as he was wheeled toward another ambulance. Rock’s partner, Carter, was on the side, talking to a police officer. Cali, Seth and Allie were in the same spots, which left Liv unaccounted for.

“Can we do this at the hospital?” he asked the officer, not waiting for an answer. He stepped away, spine straightening to gain the extra height to scan the crowd. The worry he’d tried to bank was back, gnawing at his reserves.

Where in the hell did Liv go? His throat was so dry that swallowing hurt. He didn’t have room to stress about another person. Yet his pulse sped to the thundering pace it’d been at when he’d sprinted to the accident.

He weaved through the crush of people to a man shouting orders, radio in one hand, the other gesturing at the crowd of gawkers that continued to press closer. “Get them back.” His loud bellow cut through the air with a tone of authority and people jumped to do his bidding.

Noah needed information and he had to find Liv. Damn it. He patted down his pockets as he approached the incident commander. Where was his phone? Everything since the crash had bled into a run of reaction-based events. He’d called 911, then Rock needed help opening Seth’s door, then…

“Excuse me,” Noah interjected as soon as the commander ended his discussion on the two-way radio.

“Who are you?” the man barked. He gave Noah a quick assessment before his focus swung back to the accident scene. “You should be behind the barriers.”

Noah choked back his frustration and settled into the stony demeanor that projected his confidence. “I’m their lawyer and friend. I need to know which hospital they’re at so I can let their families know.”

That got the man’s attention. He gave Noah a narrow-eyed appraisal that he met head-on. He might be without his business suit, his clothes smudged with blood, but that didn’t undermine his own authority or determination.

“Right,” the commander finally consented. He looked away, a flash of compassion lining his gruff face before he picked up a clipboard from the hood of the fire truck. He glanced down a document. “The first three went to HCMC. The rest are slotted for U of M, West Bank.”

Of course. There were too many to send to one ER. Noah nodded his thanks and, still tracking the crowd for any sight of Liv, headed over to Rock. The shriek of another ambulance siren sent a shiver through Noah as he watched it pull away. Deklan. That was four. Four out, seven still alive.

As far as he knew.

The cold air swooped in to chill the sweat on his nape but did nothing to cool his heated flesh. He caught Rock by the arm as the man swung away from the retreating ambulance. His features were set hard, like his name. The man’s military experience had never been more glaring to Noah. Rock’s calm composure and fast reactions had kept the panic from overtaking everyone before the emergency crews had arrived.

“Hey,” he said, his voice cracking for the first time that night. He cleared his throat and dug even deeper for the control he had to have. “We need a plan.”

Rock gave one nod, a twitch of the old scar that cut from his brow to his cheek his only show of emotion. “Agreed.”

When nothing else followed, Noah sighed. Every muscle in his body felt like leaded weights pulling him down. What time was it anyway?

“This sucks,” Rock grumbled.

“Agreed.” Noah mimicked Rock’s earlier reply out of a sheer inability to say more. The fallout from one careless driver was going to impact dozens of lives. “We need to split up and call the others. Family, too.”

Rock scrubbed a hand over his face. “Fuck.”

The small break in the man’s composure was somewhat rewarding to see. At least Noah wasn’t alone on barely holding it together. It was an irrational response, but he didn’t have the energy to admonish himself at the moment.

Rock dropped his hand and leaned in, speaking low. “I can’t confirm, but I believe the driver of the truck was that bastard Harcourt.”

Noah flinched, the implications too tangled to comprehend. He shook his head, lips pursed. “No.” He leveled a glare at Rock to ensure the man understood exactly what he was saying. “We can’t deal in hypotheticals. Not now.”

Rock glared right back, his eyes narrowed to slits. “We need to be prepared if it is.”

With the way the pickup had plowed through the intersection without braking, if the once-esteemed but now-disgraced city council member was the driver, they were in for a whole lot of shit none of them needed. He had to listen to Rock, even if his mind rejected the thought. Denial only delayed the inevitable.

“Jake, Kendra and Tyler went to HCMC.” Noah fisted his shaking hands, noticing for the first time that his fingers were freezing. “The others are slotted for U of M, West Bank.”

Rock blew out a breath, and the solid wall of control fell back into place on his features. He drew his shoulders back and lifted his chin, nostrils flaring on his inhale. “Go. Get to HCMC. Carter and I will go to U of M.”

Noah sucked in a gush of cold air and mentally clicked through the details that needed to be taken care of as he scanned the crowd for the still-unaccounted-for Liv. That missing thread was unraveling the tight weave he held on his emotions. He checked his pockets for his phone, once again coming up empty. “Damn it. I can’t find my phone or Liv.”

“Liv’s got your phone,” Rock said. “She called V and Marcus and is moving our cars now.”

Noah stared at Rock, both relieved and annoyed the other man knew that and he didn’t. “And?”

“V’s waiting on hospital info. Marcus is heading to the club to let the staff know and grab emergency contact numbers for everyone.”

Smart. That was smart. He should’ve thought of that. “Right.”

Are you asking for it?

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No matter what you may think about New Year’s Resolutions, it’s hard to avoid the hubbub this time of year. Personally, I could happily survive without another commercial selling a “new me” in the “new year,” but I still enjoy the nuggets of life advice that seem to flourish in January. One piece of advice has been invaluable to me over the years: Ask for what you want.

More than a credo, it’s also a theme that comes up frequently in my writing. I like to write kink, where communication is absolutely essential. Participants need to be able to share their boundaries and curiosities, their soft and hard limits. Ideally, all relationships would have these open, honest conversations, but it’s especially important when the ropes come out.

Beyond kink, though, I enjoy writing characters who learn to trust their own desires. In Purely Professional, my BDSM erotic romance, Bridget has to re-evaluate her preconceived notions about sexuality in the face of her own submissive awakening.

About Purely Professional:
Columnist Bridget Hartwell agrees to write about BDSM to impress her new executive editor at Sultry, the “sex-positive magazine for sex-positive women.” Unfortunately, it’s a topic she knows absolutely nothing about…but if she ever wants that promotion, she’ll need to learn the ropes, fast.

English professor Max Harlow is active in the Dom/sub scene, but only for casual play—he’s never found his ideal partner: a woman who is his equal, but sexually submissive. When he’s asked to explain the lifestyle to his cute but obviously inexperienced neighbor, Max is certain it’s best to approach it academically—to keep things purely professional.

Until Bridget’s first article is a huge hit, giving her the perfect excuse to delve deeper into the naturally submissive side of her sexuality. But as their encounters intensify and each of her boundaries is skillfully pushed, Bridget must decide what this all means… for her identity, her career, and, most importantly, her future with Max.

You can order Purely Professional here and read an excerpt on my website.

I love the idea of women embracing what they want, especially around sex, and it’s definitely part of Bridget’s journey. So tell me, readers: are you “asking for it?” What does that mean in your own life?

About the Author:
Elia Winters has always been a New England girl, despite having spent much of her childhood in Florida. She holds a degree in English Literature and teaches at a small rural high school.  She dabbles in many genres, but erotic romance has been one of her favorites since she first began sneaking her mother’s romance novels. Elia currently lives in New England with her loving husband and their odd assortment of pets, where she balances her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness. Her virtual life is almost as busy as her real one, and you can find her on her website, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Most Fun Research Ever

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When my editor, the fabulous and insightful Deb Nemeth, emailed to tell me the good news that Carina was excited to be publishing Platinum, she also mentioned a few “little fixes.” Most were very easy, but one sent me for a whirl.

I’d set the story in Charleston, S.C., a lovely, historic city by sea, and she wanted more ambience. More details, more specifics of how it feels to be there.

Now, Deb is always right. (She claims that she isn’t, but she is.) And I knew what was bothering her. I’d been to Charleston, but it was years and years ago. My memories had gone stale. When I mentioned this to my friends, they all said “Great excuse for weekend trip to Charleston!”

Yeah, right.

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is *not* close to South Carolina. So, instead, I did what I do best – I fretted. I looked up stuff online. I played with maps and photos, but none of it felt write. I tried to revise, but I just couldn’t FEEL it.  So I fretted some more.

Finally, my husband got tired of listening to the fretting and said, “Why don’t you just go already?”

I gave him my same lines about time and money and he just shook his head at me and said, “You have to do what you have to do.”

So I went.

I managed to tack a weekend by myself in Charleston onto a day job trip – and it was amazing. Everything fell into place.

An art gallery owner referred me to a friend who lives above her gallery – and that became Althea’s apartment. I found her neighborhood and a shop that could be her neighbor.

 

 

 
The side paths and courtyards, the stately old mansions by the sea all reminded me.

 

 


 

 

 

 

I saw the window boxes of flowers.

 

 


Had dinner where Althea and Abby meet up, under the old magnolia tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 
And found the house that could belong to Brandon’s mother out on Sullivan’s Island.

All in all, it was money and time well spent. I hope I managed to work in just a bit of how this city looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels. Althea and Steel’s story is very much about the landscape and the different faces of the culture that shaped them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Platinum
Althea Grant is doing fine. Sure, her Charleston gallery is suffering from the bad economy, and her artistic aspirations have gone nowhere. But she’s happy enough. When rugged metal sculptor Steel rides up on his motorcycle looking to rent studio space, his infusion of cash is more than welcome. But his art is raw, visceral, sexual-and completely inappropriate for her pastel world of watercolor landscapes. Steel, fascinated by Althea’s rare albino coloring, sees in her the key to his next piece: a metal satyr that can be used for bondage games. Moving into her gallery basement is the first step; seducing the coolly polite lady into modeling for him is the second. As Steel peels away her careful manners and tasteful outfits, Althea begins to realize her life isn’t just fine at all-it’s as pale and washed-out as the watercolor paintings she’s failing to sell. Can she transform her life and accept her most secret desires?

You can buy Platinum on the Carina Press Website, on Amazon (including an Audible version!) and on Barnes & Noble.

About Jeffe
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. A BDSM novella, Petals and Thorns, came out in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, erotic shorts in the Blood Currency series—Feeding the Vampire and Hunting the Siren—have come out from Ellora’s Cave. Carina Press is publishing the Facet of Desire series, which includes Sapphire, Platinum and soon, Ruby. Her fantasy romance novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, came out in July, 2012, and will soon be followed by two more. An e-serial—an erotic modernization of The Phantom of the Opera—will release from Kensington Press soon, followed by a new three-book adult fantasy series.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for a professional acupuncturist.
Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@jeffekennedy) or visit her at her website.

Better BDSM

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You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’ve been watching this phenomenon with great interest.  It seems to appeal to a group of women who are perhaps new to erotica, and BDSM in particular. And boy, are they atwitter!

Now I’ve been reading erotica with BDSM elements for a long time, and I’m puzzled by all the buzz. I’m not going criticize the quality of the writing, or the fact that the book originated as fan fic (a lot has been said already on those subjects). What troubles me is how the book treats BDSM as a pathology (it’s suggested the Dominant’s inclinations stem from his abuse as a child). It seems to miss the point that BDSM can be an incredibly erotic, empowering, consensual part of a relationship. It’s something that some women enjoy and, I suspect, many fantasize about. You can be a feminist and still enjoy a little spanking, really!

One of our recent Carina Press titles treats this subject in a very healthy, sexy way: Jodie Griffin’s Forbidden Fantasies. The heroine is a married woman who can’t stop thinking about the hot new world she’s recently discovered in the pages of erotic romance novels. When she musters up the courage to share her fantasies with her husband, she’s pleasantly surprised by his reaction. This is a book that manages to be hot and sweet at the same time, and in no way offends the feminist in me.

If you’re looking for more “better BDSM” may I also suggest these titles:

A Shot in the Dark by Christine d’Abo

Sapphire by Jeffe Kennedy

Touch Me by Callie Croix

Enjoy. That’s an order!

Do you read BDSM? Please share your favorite titles in the comments.

Curious? Explore Harlequin’s  “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”

Crush Angst and a Giveaway!

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We’ve all had crushes, right? That one (or more) unattainable guy who you just couldn’t get off your mind? Mine was Kelly Something-or-other. Weird the things I remember. I can picture his face, his floppy hair and his ever present retainer, but for the life of me I can’t remember his last name. Anyhow that crush lasted about six months…right up until the moment he started dating my very best friend. *sigh* I tried to put on my brave face and be happy for her—for them—but I can’t deny that I was a wee bit jealous. What can I say? Being a high school freshman was hard.

Fast forward a year to another unattainable guy—this one Doug Something-or-other, a six foot tall Greek god with blond hair and a shy smile, another painful crush and yet another happy friend who winds up with my crush. And you can see a pattern beginning to form…

What’s a writer to do? Exercise that ghost of course. I put all that remembered anguish into my new book Wicked Weekend.

Why did Lauren Vaughn introduce her sister to the man she herself was crazy about? Now Lauren is watching the happy couple at their combined bachelor/bachelorette party—while Lauren sits all alone at the bar. Until she spots a hot stranger with the telltale black handkerchief in his pocket: the signal for “seeks no-strings affair with sexy submissive.” Lauren can’t take her eyes off him. So when he comes over, she kicks her inner good girl to the curb and follows Jamie Forman to his room, where he makes her scream with pleasure all night long.

But Jamie is a complicated man. He can’t handle how desperately he wants her in his bed—and his life. It’s up to Lauren to teach him how to make all night last forever.

Obviously I had to write it with a naughty twist ;) And my heroine finds a much better way to get over her crush angst.

Wicked Weekend is now available from Carina Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Do you have some crush angst to get off your chest? Let me know in the comments or just say hi and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of Wicked Weekend. I’ll pick a winner on Monday the 19th.

Gillian Archer lives in Northern Nevada with her amazing husband and two goofy dogs. When she’s not writing (but probably should be) Gillian is usually reading, baking or walking her very spoiled dogs.

You can find her at her website, on Twitter or Facebook .

BDSM for Beginners

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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”

A Little Bit of Glamor*

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Intimate ExposureEveryone needs a smidgen of glamor in their lives, and we authors are no exception. I sometimes fantasize about lying around all day on a brocade chaise longue, wearing designer clothing and dictating my stories to a handsome male personal assistant. Occasionally we’d take a break for him to bring me a cocktail or a sumptuous snack, or give me a foot massage… or something. From time to time, I’d jet off to some exotic locale, with my personal assistant, for a deluxe research trip.

Alas though, the reality is very different. There’s no chaise, no personal assistant and no foot massages. No trips, deluxe or otherwise. And although I’ve been known to scrub up quite nicely for rare public sightings, most of the time I’m the original dressing gown wearing slob, occasionally shambling around the house in search of coffee or a sandwich, but mainly hunched alone over my laptop, either writing or tweeting or generally web surfing. Heck, I even get so involved in my stories and/or the online world that I often forget to comb my hair in the morning!

But, though my own life is grungy, I still relish mystique and glamor vicariously… through the sexy adventures of the characters in my books. They can be everything I’m not: beautiful, high achieving, confident, compelling. Young! I love to write escapist fiction; real “take you out of yourself” tales that whisk me away into a world of larger than life story people who are mostly fairly gorgeous and charismatic, even though they also have their fair share of quirks and foibles that stop them from being *too* perfect.

In Intimate Exposure, Vicki Renard is a smart, accomplished woman, and even though she has her doubts and insecurities, she’s an achiever in her chosen profession. She has her own degree of glamor, but she gets swept away by a veritable typhoon of the stuff when she meets the gorgeous, raffish, teasing hero, Red Webster. At first sight a sort of itinerant, freelance photographer, Red doesn’t wear designer suits and thousand dollar shoes… but he’s still got glamor in spades. He’s got ‘it’, that certain je ne sai quoi, and a dark, dangerous ultra-masculine quality that speaks to Vicki’s deepest, most intimate desires. Without her knowing quite how or why, she can tell that he knows exactly what she wants – sexually – and that he’s also supremely qualified to supply it. He’s a dominant master who can punish her in the way her body and her psyche both crave, and then give her the kind of pleasure that exceeds her wildest fantasies.

Even though she knows he’s a peril to all woman-kind, Vicki succumbs to Red’s dark allure, and pretty soon she’s swept away with him to an impossibly glamorous hotel for a hot weekend. I’ve always been fascinated by the Art Deco style, and the decadence of the golden age of the Thirties… so I took my sexy couple to an exclusive retro hotel, one based on a very real venue. I called my hotel the Ivory Pavilion, but the inspiration for it is a beautiful Deco hideaway off the Devon coast in England, The Burgh Island Hotel, also known sometimes as the Great White Palace.

Burgh Island Hotel

It was here that the beautiful people partied and drank cocktails in the Thirties, and film stars and other luminaries stayed to get away from it all. Famous guests include Josephine Baker, Gertrude Lawrence, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Amy Johnson and Nancy Cunard. Noel Coward stayed at the hotel, and even, reputedly, King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson. Agatha Christie wrote parts of her Poirot novel EVIL UNDER THE SUN at Burgh Island, and also used it as a setting for the book and for another bestseller, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

But while Vickie and Red play out their luscious punishment games and their ever-deepening love affair at the Ivory Pavilion, I doubt I’ll ever get to sample the exclusive Art Deco mystique of Burgh Island myself. With my hand on my heart, I must admit I love my grungy routine at home, and I’m happy just to dream about the high life… while weaving the glitz and glamor for my characters.

But, you know what… I might just splurge and buy myself a brand new dressing gown! ;)

Intimate Exposure is available  from Kindle USKindle UKAll Romance eBooks and Barnes and Noble Nook

Read an excerpt

* N.B. we Brits usually spell it ‘glamour’.

Portia Da Costa lives in West Yorkshire, in the UK, with her husband and her adorable cat Alice. When she’s not writing or reading, Portia mostly spends her time watching the television, and she’s an avid devotee of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Poirot, both on the screen and in print.

Follow Portia on her websiteher blog, on Twitter, and her Facebook Page.

Photograph of the Burgh Island Hotel courtesy of Simon Greig

A Golden Obsession

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Sometimes a story just won’t. Let. Me. Go.

I’d already stayed up too late — it was almost midnight and I had to start the Evil Day Job at 6:45 AM the next morning. (Not to mention getting Princess Monster up early enough to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m.) Waiting on my laptop to shut down, I flipped through the TV channels for no particular reason, and stumbled across a movie I’d never heard of before: Curse of the Golden Flower, staring Chow Yun Fat and Li Gong.

I started watching it.

I didn’t get to bed until after 2 AM as a result.

The next day I tracked down the movie on Amazon and ordered it with next-day delivery (thank you Amazon Prime!), and over the next week, I probably watched Curse a dozen times. I adored the sweeping political intrigue, the opulence, and the convoluted, twisted relationships. If you haven’t seen the movie, the Emperor’s son was having an affair with his father’s wife, the Empress, until he fell in love with…

I can’t spoil it for you! It was wonderfully wicked and the ending was gloriously tragic, but I still loved it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I dreamed about it. I heard the music in my head during the day. I bought as many Tang Dynasty books as my wallet could afford.

And somewhere in that obsession, Jin arrived and insisted that the entire premise of Curse was wrong.

Not everything gold and jade on the outside was rotten on the inside.

But you don’t have to take my word for how wonderful this movie is. Simply comment on this post through midnight CST, Sept. 2nd and tell me a movie or book that became your obsession. On Friday, I’ll draw a name out of the hat and the winner can choose a DVD, Blue-ray, Amazon’s Instant Video, or iTunes download. Note: I’ll ship internationally, but the region will be A/1.

Of course, I’ll also offer the winner a copy of Golden, my take on Imperial China! Also, if you’d like Romance Trading Cards for Golden, simply drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) with your snail mail addy.

~ * ~

Joely always has her nose buried in a book, especially one with mythology, fairy tales, and romance. Find her on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.. Be sure to check out her free reads!

As part of the release celebration, she’s also giving away a gorgeous HautTote bag! Details

Kinky for You

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managecover Years ago, an author friend advised me to read erotic fiction to write better romance. I took her suggestion. What could I lose? The first book I studied was The Best American Erotica, an anthology series. I was unexpectedly moved by a short story by Anne Tourney. The story was titled Full Metal Corset. It wasn’t erotic steampunk; Full Metal Corset was BDSM erotica. Fiercely stylized and allegorical, the story still held some fundamental truths. First among these truths? The importance of consent. The heroine in Full Metal Corset doesn’t just agree to a BDSM dynamic; she is outright eager to explore her kink side. It influenced me big time.

I absolutely adore reading a story where the heroine strides out into the big, bad world, determined to get what she needs. I’d like to think Mrs. Giggles, one of my favorite online romance reviewers, would agree. The irreverent and pithy Mrs. Giggles had this to say about MaryJanice Davidson’s Under Cover, an erotic romance:

“Now this is how it should be done! … The heroines have sex because they want to, and best of all, they know they want to have sex and how to go around doing it. If you are tired of all those contrived “erotic” brainwaste books that have the heroines either stripping for martyrhood purposes or worse, MaryJanice Davidson is here to guide you back to the fold.”

According to Mrs. Giggles, such zeal is rare in erotic romance. It’s even harder to find in BDSM fiction. To create drama, BDSM heroines are often innocents who have to be lured into the BDSM “lifestyle” by an experienced Dominant. The heroine is oblivious to her true nature. But the Dominant knows. In some supernatural way, he is certain the heroine is a sub, and the sub is meant for him. He can tell just by looking at her.

I call this the “Kinky for You” plot. Sure, the heroine ultimately gets a Happily Ever After, but where’s her self-awareness? Why doesn’t she know what she wants? The Kinky for You trope can veer into distasteful territory when the Dominant uses trickery, or blackmail, or even kidnapping, to get his mate.

Portraying a BDSM romantic hero as a predator, and his partner as TSTL (no matter how happy they all end up) just doesn’t do it for me. Such BDSM tropes may be titillating, but they are also exploitative and disrespectful. Respect matters because, unlike cougar shifters or time-traveling hunks, kinky people and kinky relationships are real.

Carina Press is doing the BDSM niche proud. One Real Thing by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox, for example, subtly and sensitively explores a long-term Dom/sub relationship. And then there’s Coin Operated by Ginny Glass, a charming story of a new couple experimenting with BDSM in a fun and positive way.

So what do you think? Have you ever read a BDSM romance? A BDSM erotica? Were you squicked out or engaged? Please do tell!

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Management Skills, my latest BDSM story, is now available.

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