5 in 15 - All Tied Up

So, my second 5 in 15 Reader's Advisory video I went a little scandelous... and even with an attempt to restrain the word play, I had way too much fun with the puns.  Video recorded in February, and released on June 15th.  I'm both proud of and incredibly self-conscious about this one because I went with a touchy subject.

Please excuse my over-enunciation of acronyms, I figured it was better to over- rather than under-enunciate.  I also butcher the pronunciation of at least one author's name.  :/

I probably should also invest in a slightly better microphone...

All Tied Up: Alternatives to 50 Shades of Grey


Slide 1

Welcome to this Massachusetts Library System 5-in-15: Member Edition!

Slide 2

Hello, my name is Tegan.  I'm a librarian, reviewer, and technology consultant, and am most often found these days at the Monson Free Library.

I'm always in the middle of far too many books, but to name two, I'm reading Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and listening to The Human Division by John Scalzi.

Slide 3

This month we're "All Tied Up" and taking a look at alternatives to 50 Shades of Grey.

Love it or hate it, 50 Shades has left a distinct mark on erotic romance publishing and among readers.  It opened up a doorway for mainstream erotic romance and got our patrons more openly seeking steamy reads, including stories playing with kinks.  With the movies still rolling out the series has stayed something of a reference point, be it for readers seeking suggestions because they loved the books, or for readers looking for alternatives because they want the bondage but can't stand 50 Shades.

And let's be honest, doing Reader's Advisory for erotic romance can be a bit of a delicate subject, especially when determining if the "similar" factor is eplicit sex or the type of explicit sex.  Then when we get to add in that these requests come from all different types of readers, be it someone who likes Amish Romance, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Crime Thrillers, or something else altogether.

The books in this 5-in-15 are targeted to meet the interests of multiple types of readers, letting them try out the ropes in these stories full of romance, power-dynamics, and abundant sexy times.

Slide 4

A quick note and definition.

BDSM is a portmanteau acronym variously denoting Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism.

It is used as an umbrella term for classification of alternative sexual practices that may include use of restraints, granting and relinquishing of control, inflicting or receiving of pain, as well as a number of related practices.  It's also an area of sexuality where consent and communication are incredibly important (not that it is ever unimportant) due to the inherent risks in the practices... and, of course, we're talking about books within the Romance and Erotic Romance genres, which are known for selling a specific type of fantasy and not for good concepts of consent or even particularly realistic sex.

However, this is a 5-in-15 on Erotic Romance with kink, not on BDSM non-fiction, so please check out the Reference Guide by the Librarians at Librarian Shipwreck in the video description for further reading if interested.

Slide 5

Up first, Slow Surrender by Cecelia Tan, the first book in the Struck by Lightning trilogy.

Karina meets James when she waits on his table, and there's a charge between the two of them from the very start.  When James introduces an erotic game to the  night Karina takes his offered challenge, both intrigued and turned on.  The story arc is one where the two of them discover each other and their interests, with James making sure to respect Karina's desires as he introduces her to an area of sexuality she had not previously explored, and with Karina examining and owning her desires as things heat up.

James' secret isn't a dark past, but rather a need to keep his very public and private lives separate.  He's into BDSM because he enjoys it, rather than due to a "tortured soul,"and in Karina he finds a woman who challenges him and with whom he deeply desires to explore BDSM with.  The full arc of their relationship takes three books, so I want to avoid spoilers, but together they must navigate secrets, misunderstandings, and find ways to express their desires for each other as individuals.

If we're looking just at a basic check list of Romance troupes we can tick quite a few boxes.  First book in a trilogy (with some sort of relationship upset at the end, setting the stage for book two), a woman living an ordinary life, an extraordinarily rich and secretive man, a whirlwind erotic adventure, guarded secrets, etc.  But this is no story of a rich alpha male introducing a blushing ingenue to her sexual awakening.  RAther we get healthy expressions of sexuality and characters that own their desires.  It's a fun, creative, and very steamy read.

Slow Surrender won the 2013 Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Erotic Romance, and the Struck by Lightning trilogy is completed by Slow Seduction and Slow Satisfaction, both equally strong reads.  If readers like the setting, Cecelia Tan has been working on a sister series called Secrets of a Rock Star, each book following a different member of a rock band known for their raw sexuality on stage and their wild indulgences off.  Much of Tan's other erotic fiction falls into the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, including her Magical University series, which has been described as "erotic Harry Potter."

Slide 6

Next up, The Professional by Kresley Cole (not to be confused with the film by Luc Besson).  Book One in the Game Maker series.

Kresley Cole is a great author to be aware of if you have romance fans, with highly popular Paranormal, Historical, and even Young Adult Romance series.  Her Immortals After Dark series in particular has an established reputation as a scorching read.  With her Game Maker series she went and turned the heat up to 11.

Natalie Porter is an intelligent and lovely woman, juggling thre part time jobs while working on her PhD in history.  Men, dating, and drama?  She does not have time for that (and besides, she can take care of that itch on her own).  She works hard, and while occasionally lonely, she's largely happy with her life.  Except for a nagging curiosity concerning her biological parents.  Little does she know that her inquiries have born fruit... and raised some flags.

Enter Aleksei Sevastyan, sexy, dangerous, and who's descriptions bring to mind Vinnie Jones crossed with an underwear model.  He catches Natalie's eye, and unlike most men, she can't get a good (or scathing) read on him.  All she knows is this man who makes her panties melt with a look seems disgusted with her interest.  Confused and frustrated she makes her way home, only to encounter Sevastyan again, learning he has shadowed her as a bodyguard for a month, and that he's there to take her to Russia to meet her father immediately.  And no, Natalie doesn't have any say in this.

Their chemistry is scorching, with Natalie eager to experience what Sevastyan has to offer, challenging him at every turn and owning her attraction and enjoyment.  Unfortunately things aren't that simple, her father is a powerful man and Sevastyan is uncomfortable with his past and inflicting his desires on the daughter of his boss and on a woman he respects.  On top of that, Natalie's new status means her affections may be interpreted as part of a power play... and dangerous games are afoot.

The series is billed as erotica, but rest assured it has a solid plot, complex characters, and a developing relationship.  The Professional is the first book in a trilogy where each book follows a different one of the Sevastyan brothers, all power-players in their own right.  The books make light references to each other, but are largely standalone stories.

Slide 7

Now we're going to mix things up a little, first taking a step way from the more standard erotic romance and looking at a police procedural set in a kink convention.

The Killer Wore Leather by Laura Antoniou.

Someone has murdered last year's Mr. Global Leather... and Cormac "Mack" Steel certainly left enough enemies behind to make this investigation a tangle, even if it wasn't taking place at an annual BDSM convention with several thousand attendees.

Detective Rebecca Feldblum gets the case because as one of NYC's only out lesbian detectives, her Lieutenant seems to believe that these are "her people,"...  And on top of that joy, she needs to make significant progress on the case before the weekend ends and everyone goes home!

The Killer Wore Leather is a spirited police procedural that manages to not take itself or the setting too seriously, but at the same time avoids becoming a farce.  The story contains well-balanced sub-plots, following key attendees and staff as they swirl around and through the murder investigation, bringing additional empathy, hilarity, and creative sex to the proceedings.

Antoniou is known for her erotic fiction and work within the kink community, something that comes through as Detective Feldblum discovers and navigates the leather and latex filled gathering she's dropped in the middle of.  The Killer Wore Leather wears the "erotica" label more due to its eager delving into the BDSM community, rather than explicit sex, but it's just so much fun to read that it won't disappoint.

Slide 8

Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic.

The stories Lisa writes and posts online are fantasies, one she's thought about but never had an opportunity to explore.  Ally has had a chance to explore, but only with a fellow Dom, never with an actual Sub.  The two meet through Lisa's fiction, discussions leading to flirting, and eventually to an in-person meeting to explore their shared interests.  They start out as friends who play together, but feelings grow and neither are really sure how to transition from friends-with-benefits to the relationship they are afraid to admit they want.  Along the way we meet new and old friends, learn about skeletons in the closet, and get to know Ally and Lisa beyond the faces they present to the world and each other.

Sunstone is a beautiful graphic novel about two women who fall in love with each other, as well as some of the misunderstandings that get in the way.  The story itself is incredibly human in its emotions and development, and the little awkward details of life.  the artwork itself is stunning and sexy, and for all of its erotic content, holds on to visual aesthetics of exotic pin-up rather than pornography, and complements the story well.

Stjepan originally wrote and published the comic via DeviantArt, so interested readers can go check out his work there, including a look at Mercy, the next story arc that follows a relationship tangential to Sunstone.

Slide 9

Our last contender is an epic historical fantasy/political thriller starring a god-touched courtesan for whom pain is identical to pleasure, and predates 50 Shades of Grey by a decade.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

The land of Terre d'Ange is governed by one law above all others, Love as thou wilt.  Within this land is born Phedre, a young woman raised as a courtesan and spy, and marked by the hand of Kushiel, punishing angel and avatar of justice.  When her mentor is brutally murdered as part of a plot against the crown, Phedre is left accused of treachery... and is perhaps the only person with the tools and pieces to save her Queen and her country.

Think of this one as Outlander meets 50 Shades of Grey.  You can't go into it expecting just one genre, if you go in for the political thriller you'll be caught off guard by the sex, and if you go in for the romance you'll get bogged down by the politicking.  The setting even carefully incorporates recognizable details from our world history.  At over 900 pages, Kushiel's Dart is an epic read full of intrigue, sensuality, friendship, love, and betrayal.  If this book is a hit, it's the first in a trilogy focusing on Phedre, with two additional trilogies within the setting.  Carey's other work ranges from Tolkienesque High Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, and beyond.

Slide 10

So that was five titles for your consideration.  I hope you find some inspiration from them.

Please feel free to check out the link in the video description for the Reference Guide by Librarian Shipwreck for BDSM non-fiction resources.

And don't forget, you too can do a 5-in-15.  Contact Anna Popp or Kristi Chadwick for more information.


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