Where’s Holly?

Nothing says summer better than a hot novel, whether it’s on the beach with the sunburnt masses or in the break room over your sandwich and cuppa, or trying to read on the tube with an elbow in your ribs and an armpit in your face — a place where a little escapism is needed if ever there was one!

Doing laundry? On the train? In a coach? Under the duvet with your sweetie? Where do you read The Initiation of Ms Holly? Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Throughout the month of August, I want you to show me where you read Holly. Send me a photo of where your copy of The Initiation of Ms Holly is – ebook, or print, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll be entered into the contest to win a $50 gift card from Amazon (or the equivalent thereof. Worldwide entries welcome) First place winner will also receive a copy of my sexy new novel, The Pet Shop, signed by the ever-loving author herself, just as soon as it’s released in print.

And since I’m dying to spread the love, 2nd place will also get a gift card from Amazon for the equivalent of $15.

Holly, The Pet Shop, Amazon – the possibilities are endless. Enter to win. Go ahead. You know you want to.

How To Enter:
Simply snap a photo of The Initiation of Ms Holly in print or eBook form and send it to hollycompetition@gmail.com with the subject line “Where’s Holly Competition”

By sending your photo, you acknowledge that we have the right to post these photos to K D Grace’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages for promotional purposes.

Competition runs from 1st – 31st August. Winners will be drawn and notified by mid-September. Gift card winners can expect to receive their prizes in September. The lucky winner of The Pet Shop will have to hang on just a little longer until I receive my author copies in October, then while they’re still hot off the press, I’ll sign one and get it in the post to you.

Be sure and check in regularly during the month of August. My own copy of Holly will be doing a bit of traveling, and I promise pics along with all the skinny.

 

Bits n Blogs by Tabitha Rayne

Tabitha Rayne is a rising star in the world of erotic romance, and I’m very pleased to have her at A Hopeful Romantic on her blog tour to promote her yummy new book, Mia’s Books, Tabitha, welcome!

Thanks for having me. This is my first venture into blog touring… eek!

I love, love, reading blogs – I can spend many an hour set aside for actually writing my new ideas down, reading about all your lives. I love it!  It is a wonderful thing to be able to catch a glimpse of other people’s thoughts, what inspires them, what annoys them, what makes them jump for joy… so this is me attempting to join this world…

The problem is, by the time I have written this, I might have missed some exciting news you’ve shared on Twitter. What if I’ve been left behind on an unfolding story into why you’ve decided not to take the offer of three nights in Bali…? Everything is so fast paced in this virtual world and sometimes, if I fall into a daydream (which is one of my favourite things) I can take an hour just to make a coffee! So what have I missed? I never watch soap operas but I think they must have the same addictive quality.

So as I am a writer, I guess blogging is like writing and sharing mini stories about yourself – and that makes it easier for me to get to grips with.

When I was writing Mia’s Books, I switched off the internet for four weeks and went underground. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I was creating a new world, giving birth to new characters and I needed to immerse myself in it all, and I loved doing it.

However, I can’t help feeling, what did I miss?

Mia’s Books

Ghost lover or mortal—can Mia have both?

Mia has a big problem. She is in love with two people, and one of them happens to be a ghost. After a late night seduction in a deserted library, Mia brings home a haunted book. The book contains a ghost which instructs her to seduce strangers on its behalf. Mia falls in love with one of her conquests and finds herself in a romantic tangle. Can she keep both her lovers, or will she have to choose?

Mia’s Books excerpt:

The book had changed colors. It was now jet black and lay seductively by the bed. Gently lifting her sheets off, Mia slowly made her way over to it as if she were trying to capture a bird.

Her fingers were trembling. Cold air chilled her hands as she reached out and picked it up. Thick raised letters on the cover gave her instruction. Open Me. And she did.

Rows upon rows of names and numbers merged into each other. It was a phone directory. Mia was disappointed, but curiosity kept her flicking the pages, watching number after number fly by. She was about to close it and just go back to bed when she realized the numbers were all the same and the name wasn’t a name at all—it was another instruction.

Call Me.

Mia flushed with excitement. Was this her ghost lover contacting her for real? She reached for the phone and dialed before she could change her mind.

Silence.

Mia flopped back onto the bed and let the phone fall by her ear. She began to ponder the fear that she might actually be going mad when a voice startled her.

“Hello?” She thrust the handset to her ear and strained to hear. “Hello?” she repeated, barely able to breathe in her excitement.

“Mia?” came a breathy whisper that set her nerve endings alight.

“Yes?” she whispered back.

“I need to s…” The voice faded, and Mia started to panic.

“What? You need to what? Please…don’t go.”

“…see you.” The sound was so faint that Mia had to strain to catch it. “Meet me at the park at dusk.” The line went dead.

Mia was exhilarated. It hadn’t been a dream. She was going to meet her ghost lover once more! She hadn’t been on a date in ages. Not since the insomnia had made her feel like a grumpy old hag. She suddenly felt young again—young and ready for anything…

Where to Buy Mia’s Books:

Buy from publisher http://www.beachwalkpress.com/mia%E2%80%99s-books/

Also available from all good eBook retailers, including Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes & Noble and many more!

About Tabitha, and where to find her:

Tabitha Rayne loves her romance with the heat turned up. She lives in the country with her partner who has the difficult job of having to listen to new ideas and help her to focus on one project at a time.

Blog http://aneroticadventure.blogspot.com/

Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/TabithaErotica

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit about Mia’s Books with us, Tabitha. This hot little number sounds just too good to resist.

 

A Cast From the Past with Bianca Sommerland

I’m very excited to welcome the amazing Bianca Sommerland, who will be telling us about her ‘cast from the past’ in the Story Behind the Story of  Deadly Captive. Welcome, Bianca!

KD Grace is one of the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my journey as a published author, but she’s the first to ask me a question that really stopped me short. She asked me whether there were personal experiences that inspired part, if not all of my novels. My automatic thought was no, of course not. I’ve been inspired by dreams, by pictures, by music…but my own life? Which of my novels could I actually say was inspired by my own life? Rosemary Entwined, about the descendant of a succubus and her nest of seven men? Deadly Captive, with the woman who’s lost her past and has no one but her fellow prisoner, Joe, to count on while she tries to survive degradation and torture?

Yeah, my life’s just not that interesting.

But when I thought about the question, I took another look at my stories and found certain personalities sticking out, certain qualities that reminded me of people I’ve known. Family, friends, lovers. The characters are all familiar to me because they are the best and worst of real people. Joe, for example, is the grown up version of a boy I had a crush on in high school. He could be so mean, but then he’d suddenly show a bit of kindness and that’s all I would see. My imagination painted him as a tough hero who would be tender with the woman he loved. Of course, in reality he was a player and a jerk and I’m kinda happy he saw me as one of the guys (even though I wished otherwise at the time). Years later, my muse took all I dreamed the boy could be and paired him up with one of my strongest heroines.

I believe many authors find the casts for their stories from their pasts. Only, some of the best memories aren’t Polaroids, or even portraits. They’re like abstract paintings, evoking only emotions. Kinda cool, because you can interpret them however you’d like 😉

And yes, my interpretations are a little twisted.

Deadly Captive Blurb:
Lydia awakes, bound and blind, to the whispered urgings of a man who has his hands on her. His words confuse her at first, but she soon understands they are both in the middle of a performance that will determine whether she remains in captivity or dies. The crowd must be entertained, and her cellmate makes sure it is.

Forced submission is not the only horror Lydia endures. She has no memories of life before her imprisonment, and Joe, her cellmate, is her only comfort as the powerful creatures that hold them captive torture and debase her. Together, she and Joe cling to the will to survive long enough to break free and seek revenge. Their desire to sustain one another triumphs over their wardens’ efforts to destroy them. There is no pain, no suffering, that can tear them apart.

Beyond their cell, their love is tested. Can they hold strong in the face of the challenge of the new powers they have gained along with their freedom?

Excerpt from Deadly Captive:

My eyes teared, but my gaze never wavered. “Right back at you. I didn’t sign up for your games.”

He eased his grip on my hair. “Neither of us signed up for any of this, Lydia. I wanted to make sure I could trust my cell mate.”

“Of all the . . . .” I shook my head. “Please, I need to know. Some kind of morbid curiosity, I guess. Why in the world would I fake memory loss? What purpose would it serve?”

With a shrug, he rested his arm on my shoulder, still loosely holding my hair. “It would be a clever sympathy card.”

Damn it, he’s right. I felt the tension ease from my body, no longer feeling very combative. “How do you know I’m not faking it? If I was, it would be pretty stupid to acknowledge my name.”

“No. Actually, it wouldn’t have proven much. It might have made me suspicious, more than I already was. It would be strange that you’d remember your name, but not your own face. I was hoping your reaction would be revealing.” He closed his eyes and dropped his head. “It was, but not in the way I’d hoped. The loss is worse than I thought. There wasn’t even a glimmer of recognition.”

Grazing my teeth back and forth along my bottom lip, I glared at his chest. “It could be an act.”

Fingers under my chin, he tilted my head up. “No, Lydia. You couldn’t have faked the fear I saw. You thought it was one of them.”

I jerked away from him and clenched my fists at my sides. “I’m not afraid of them.”

“Yes, you are. You’re not a stupid woman, Lydia.”

The way he said my name sent a chill down my spine. I dug my nails into my palms.

“Stop.”

He frowned. “Stop what?”

“Saying my name like that.”

With a wicked smile, he hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and rocked on his heels. “Lydia.” I swung my fist at his face. He knocked it aside and caught my wrist when I tried again.

“Lydia.” He backed me into the table. My hip knocked the empty plate and it clattered on the floor. Sitting me on the edge of the table, he trapped my face between his hands. My breath caught, and I pressed my eyes shut, expecting him to slam his mouth on mine. It could hurt; my lips were still sore.

His tongue gently traced the crease of my lips. He combed his fingers into my hair and tugged until I tipped my head back. Then, he kissed me so tenderly I opened my eyes and stared at him.

He kissed the tip of my nose. “Why do you look so surprised?”

Why? I licked my bottom lip and tasted the saltiness of his sweat. Delicious. My eyes dropped to the moisture beaded on his chest. I leaned forward. He tightened his grip.

“Well?”

I groaned. “I thought you’d be rough.”

“You keep looking at me like that, and I will be.”

Deadly Captive Buy Link: https://www.nobleromance.com/Books/269
Blog: http://imnoangelauthorsblog.wordpress.com/

Thanks for being my guest on The Story Behind the Story, Bianca, and thanks for the hot excerpt from Deadly Captive. Sounds like a must read to me.

 

Mitzi Szereto Uncovers Hidden Lust

I’m very excited to have the fabulous Mitzi Szereto as my guest on A Hopeful Romantic.  I met Mitzi five years ago at one of her erotic writing courses on the Isle of Wight. That course and Mitzi’s enthusiasm for good erotica inspired me to put my work out there, so I feel especially honoured to talk with her about all things erotic, and especially her new novel, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts.

KD: Even when I first met you, five years ago, you were all about improving the quality and respectability of erotica, bringing it down from the top shelf, as it were. Do you think quality has improved? In what ways? And if so, why do you think that is?

Mitzi: A lot of publishers have been jumping on the bandwagon, starting up erotic imprints, particularly in the area of romance, so this has definitely pushed the genre more into the mainstream. Having said that, although erotica per se has mostly come off the top shelf, a lot of it is still rather top shelf in spirit and still being geared toward the one-handed reader. It’s always been my view that this is very limiting to writers as well as to readers. When you are writing only in this way, you aren’t going to have a lot of substance in the work. The writing should engage a reader on many levels, not just one. You can write something erotic, yet still offer a satisfying and fully developed reading experience. The way I see it, if you’re going to the trouble to write, then write something that has some value to it, not some fluffy piece of nonsense that the reader won’t remember five seconds after they’ve finished reading it.

KD: You say that you don’t write ero­tica just for women, but that you write for both sexes. Is erotica becoming less gender-specific? Would you consciously write differently if you were writing erotica just for women, or just for men?

Mitzi: I don’t ever want to be labelled as writing for a single gender. I hate labels of any sort, as most people know. To answer your question, erotica is becoming more gender specific, not less. The women’s erotica market is and has been getting a big push from publishers, especially with the whole romance thing happening now. I guess they figure men aren’t interested in romance. As for my changing how I write, be it consciously or unconsciously, I very much doubt it would be any different. Besides, I don’t write in the same way all the time anyway. If I did, I’d bore myself, and probably my readers!

KD:  As erotica becomes more mainstream, have you noticed any major changes?

Mitzi: It’s sort of twofold really. At one point I thought we were finally moving toward a more literary direction, but that seems to have reversed itself. Having said that, the genre itself is, as you say, definitely going more mainstream. This is being helped by the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of romance publishers have started up erotic romance imprints. But the literary element seems to have become lost in the fray. The trend in a lot of erotica seems to be fluff rather than substance. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with light reading, but if it gets any lighter these books will float away on the slightest breeze.

KD: In our correspondence leading to this interview you said what you really wanted to emphasise is that your new novel Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is not just some “sexed-up Austen.” That’s been done. You said the book is really a historical parody with lots of sex, and probably has more in common with the Zombies book. How could I not be totally intrigued by that statement? Tell us more.

Mitzi:  Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory really. I took the characters in all sorts of random and crazy directions, and created all manner of scenarios for them. There’s a lot of humour in the book, much as there is in the Zombies versions. I doubt you’ll find much humour in a straightforward sexed-up version of P&P or one of the romance versions. What I loved about the Zombies books is that they really take the Mick and have fun with the story, and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to go way over the top. But rather than do so with zombies, I’ve done it with sex. Jane Austen was a satirist, and I wanted to take her sense of satire and run with it. My naysayers (none of whom appear to have actually read my book) want to dismiss Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts as just some porn version of the Austen classic. Well, I dispute this criticism and find it laughable. For one thing, these people have never read any real porn, because if they had, they’d know my book is definitely not porn. Secondly, there are just so many other things going on that you get a far broader reading experience. Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is pure entertainment: it’s outrageous. it’s funny, it’s quirky, and it’s got a lot of sex in it. What more can I say? I had a blast writing it, and I hope readers will have a blast reading it!

KD: Why Pride and Prejudice? What inspired you to choose that story over others?

Mitzi: It’s Jane Austen’s most popular novel, and the one that just about everyone is familiar with, even if they’ve never read it. There have been many film adaptations made of it, and the recent mashups featuring zombies have really put the book back on the map. It seemed like the most obvious way to go. Taking the familiar and reworking it into something new is good fun for a writer.

KD: Archetypal stories, fairy tales and myths lend themselves to sexy retellings, and you’ve definitely proved that in your book, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. Why do you think that is? Why do we want to sex up fairy tales and myths, and indeed, Jane Austen?

Mitzi: Well, as I just said, it’s great fun for a writer to take a work that everyone knows and create something new with it. That’s what I did with the fairy tales. And Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is a continuation of this. Whether it’s adding a sexual element or any other kind of element – I don’t think it really matters. Many authors have taken pre-existing works and made something new out of them. However, if you want to focus specifically on the sexual element, then we should bear in mind that many fairy tales were morality tales used as a means to warn young girls away from sex. “Little Red Riding Hood” is the most obvious example. Sex was often a back story, albeit discreetly hidden. Same too, for myths (although the sexual element was less hidden). So writers who retell these pre-existing tales by incorporating sex into them are not necessarily corrupting them at all. I found that out when I researched and wrote the introductions for the tales I selected for In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed. You’d be surprised what was in the originals, not to mention just how far back these “originals” go. As for Jane Austen, hey, why not?

KD:  You discussed in an interview the fact that erotica is much more highly regulated than other genres. You went on to say that while there are warnings at the beginnings of erotic novels that readers should practice safe sex, no one would think of putting warnings inside an Ed McBain novel telling readers they shouldn’t murder anyone. Could you discuss how you see the relationship between the stringent regulation of erotica and its ‘dumbing down?’

Mitzi: I’ve only seen this kind of dumbing down from UK publishers. Not sure if any US ones do it as well (not to my knowledge anyway). The now-defunct Black Lace had a “practice safe sex” disclaimer in all their books, as have other UK imprints. It’s insulting to the reader, not to mention ridiculous and unnecessary. The problem lies in this whole ghetto-isation of “erotica,” in that it’s made to seem as if it somehow lies outside of literature, the genre from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. I suppose the problem also lies in the assumption that anything labelled “erotica” or “erotic fiction” is nothing but a sex aid and/or a masturbatory tool. (Okay, so perhaps some of it is, but some of it actually has some substance and intelligence to it, and is not aimed at one-handed readers.) Considering the explicitness of the sex scenes in a lot of so-called mainstream fiction, this is literary hypocrisy, indeed. You can get away with a slew of things in mainstream fiction, but any kind of suspect content is unlikely to see the light of day in anything labelled “erotica.” I guess readers of erotica are considered so brainless that they’re going to go out and commit all sorts of terrible sexual deeds or spread terrible sexual diseases because they read an “erotica” book. If that’s the case, then we need to label every book being published with a disclaimer, ie violence, crime, humour, romance, etc. I mean, too much romance reading might not be good for you and could cause you to go out and fall in love. And who knows where that might lead? Perhaps stalking, and then murder.

KD: From a literary point of view, and as a teacher of writing courses, in your opinion, how much does a well-written sex scene enhance a story? Does it enhance a story? If so, in what ways?

Mitzi: It enhances a story if it’s a necessary part of the story or an integral scene; it’s a way of bringing the human experience home to the reader. However, if there’s no rhyme or reason to have a sex scene, then there probably shouldn’t be one. The scene should be seamless with the other writing; it should not stick out or be out of place. And yes, it should be well written and written in the same style as the rest of the work. I mean, if you’re writing something highly literary, then for god’s sake, don’t write a sex scene that reads like cheap porn. Unfortunately, a lot of writers just can’t seem to manage this, which is why the Guardian has the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

KD: Marketing and PR now play as much a part in my writing career as writing. I’m sure most of us struggling to get as much attention for our babies as possible would probably say that. As one of the goddesses of social media with Mitzi TV and with a huge online presence I’m sure we’d all love to hear any advice you have.

Mitzi: Well, be prepared to give up your life and put in a lot of hours. There are no shortcuts. Oh, you can always hire some publicity person to do the job (if you can afford it), but I bet you anything they aren’t going to put in all the effort and hard work that you would put in. After all, who cares more about your work than you do? Paying someone good money doesn’t mean you’ll get great results. You need to really work at this. And it’s not an overnight thing. You have to develop your following as well as develop your contacts – and keep at it every day. You need to live on the Internet 24/7. If you’re the sort of person who always needs to have others around or has to be out and about a lot, then you’d probably better forget it. And if you have a “day job,” your time will be even more limited. So you have to decide to spend those hours you’re not spending working for someone else working for you.

KD: With marketing and PR playing such a major role in your life, along with teaching, lecturing and doing readings, the obvious question becomes, when do you find time to write? Any suggestions for the rest of us on making the best of our writing time?

Mitzi: That’s the hard part, you got that right. It is quite difficult, but if I’m working to a deadline, I somehow manage to find the time. Unfortunately, when you’ve got several viable ideas that you’re trying to develop, it becomes quite difficult. I doubt I can offer much advice to others who are being pulled in a dozen different directions. I keep saying I need to clone myself. I think that’s the only option, at this point.

KD: What inspires you?

Mitzi: That’s hard to say. If you’re talking about my writing, there is no single thing that inspires me. My inspiration comes randomly and there’s no pattern to it.

KD:  What has been your most exciting moment in the history of Mitzi Szereto?

Mitzi: I honestly don’t know. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet.

KD: As one transplant from the US to another, do you think the general view of erotica is different in the UK than the US? If so how?

Mitzi: I think it is, yes. There still seems to be this wink wink, nudge nudge thing going on in the UK. I guess it’s because the majority of erotica published in the UK has traditionally been of the top-shelf mass-market variety, with those really over the top rude covers. They aren’t even trying to attract a more mainstream audience, ergo there’s more of a perception that anything labelled “erotica” is pretty much going to be porn. The US mentality is slightly different, which is probably due to the fact that many US publishers package their books with more mainstream appeal. And now with all the romance imprints jumping into the market (again, mostly US publishers), it’s moving more so away from that top-shelf mentality.

KD:After Pride and Prejudice, Hidden Lusts, What next?

Mitzi: I have another book coming out practically on the heels of PPHL — Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance. It’s an anthology inspired by the Gothic literary tradition. It features short stories from a number of authors, myself included. Think paranormal with a ton of atmosphere, sensuality and a bit of romance to add additional flavour. I also have several other projects in various stages of development. Other than that, I keep my blog going (Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog), along with my Web TV channel Mitzi TV, which covers the quirky side of London. I still do appearances at literature festivals, with the next one being at Warwick Words in October, where I’ll be teaching one of my erotic writing workshops.

Links:

Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website: http://mitziszereto.com/prideandprejudicehiddenlusts/

Excerpt:http://mitziszereto.com/prideandprejudicehiddenlusts/excerpt/

Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog: http://mitziszereto.com/blog

Mitzi TV: http://mitziszereto.com/tv

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mitzi-Szereto/24537936152

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mitziszereto

Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance: http://mitziszereto.com/redvelvetandabsinthe/

 

Thank you, Mitzi! It was fantastic to have you as my guest on A Hopeful Romantic. Best of luck with Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts and with Red Velvet and Absinthe.

 

Lisabet Sarai Shares the Story Behind Her Novella, The Understudy

It’s my pleasure to welcome the fabulous Lisabet Sarai to share with us the very personal story behind the story of her novella, The Understudy. Welcome Lisabet!

All authors use personal experience in their stories. How could we not? Any writer who claims that her characters and their conflicts are one hundred percent fictional is not being honest with herself.

On the other hand, it’s dangerous to make one’s work too autobiographical. There’s the very real risk of legal action by people who recognize themselves in your so-called fiction. A more subtle problem is the tendency for an author to write the same story over and over again- her own story. (I recognize that many authors are male. However, since I need to choose one pronoun, I prefer to use the female.)

I’ve incorporated bits and pieces of my life into my own work, of course. I’ve borrowed settings, character traits, and occasionally, specific erotic scenes. Normally, though, I mix everything up. A bit of this, a bit of that, all seasoned with plenty of fantasy, and no one’s the wiser.

My BDSM erotic romance novella The Understudy is an exception. Although the characters and the setting are fictional, the primary conflict in the book is based on my personal history.

Back when I was young, single and hormone-ridden, I had a D/s relationship with a fellow graduate student. I was totally new to the paradoxical delights of BDSM; I didn’t realize that I was submissive until my reactions revealed this truth – to him and to me. In contrast, he had done a great deal of research and also had some actual experience as a dominant.

Our explorations of power dynamics affected me profoundly. I’d never felt such passion, or such freedom, as I did when I surrendered myself to his will. We seemed to share a bond that went far beyond the physical. More than once I felt certain we were reading each other’s thoughts. I think we both believed in magic, that intense desire could create reality. Somehow I was able to trust my master completely, from the very beginning, though we really didn’t know each other well. He never betrayed that trust.

I fell deeply in love with this man. However, I believed that I was nothing more than a plaything for him. I knew that before he and I connected sexually, he’d had another lover who had also been submissive. I’d even met this woman at parties. She was gorgeous, confident, flamboyant – a sophisticated and elegant woman of the world. When she broke off their relationship, my master sank into a profound depression that lasted nearly a year.

He didn’t hesitate to tell me about what he and A. used to do together. I think he understood that I found it exciting as well as enlightening. However, our discussions led me to conclude that he was still in love with her. I figured that he and I had no future. I was happy enough to act the part of his slave in the present moment – indeed, I couldn’t resist him – but I always had the nagging worry that he was comparing me to her.

When I began working on The Understudy, I realized I wanted to transplant this situation into the story. The details and the setting are different, but the fundamental conflict is the same. Sarah Gladstone, pretty in a girl-next-door sort of way, gets her first real acting job at the Berks Summer Playhouse and discovers that she’ll be working with theater legend Geoffrey Hart. The charismatic actor initiates her into the dark delights of BDSM and she’s soon experiencing a level of intimacy and trust beyond anything she could have imagined.

According to the rumors, though, Geoff’s heart is taken. Renowned actress Anne Merrill, his long time partner and submissive lover, has severed their relationship and Hart has escaped to the Berkshires to lick his emotional wounds. Sarah knows that she can’t compete with the glamorous theater veteran and fears that she’s just a substitute for the real object of Geoff’s affections.

Writing Sarah was like revisiting my own insecurities in my relationship with my master. A number of reviewers have commented on the intensity of the tale. More than most of my work, the story reflects my own emotions. I stripped myself bare writing this book. I guess it shows.

Of course, one advantage of fiction is that I can give my characters a happy ending. The real world resolution of my relationship with my master was far more ambiguous. We drifted apart. I met and married my husband. Still, my master and I keep in touch and share a wistful fantasy life. (My husband is aware of this.) Only years later did I learn the depth of my master’s love for me, or understand that he had wanted a commitment but was too insecure to ask.

I sometimes wonder what my life had been like if he and I had been as skilled in communicating outside the bedroom as we were inside. I have no regrets. I love my husband and my current life and wouldn’t take back any of my choices. Writing The Understudy, though, gave me the chance to play with some seductive notions of what might have been.

I’ll end with a quick excerpt from the book.

EXCERPT:

The door to the Shays suite was half-open. I knocked anyway, swallowing my nervousness. Stop this silliness, Sarah, I lectured myself. Just be professional.

“Come in.” That voice, so full of music and power, sent chills through my sweaty body. Squaring my shoulders, I pushed the door wide and entered the sitting room, dragging the noisy bag after me.

Hart stood by the window with his back to me, appraising Mr. Higgin’s view. “Took you long enough,” he commented without turning around.

I should have been annoyed, but instead I felt embarrassed and guilty. “Sorry―the stairs―and it’s so hot today…”

“Never mind. Just put the suitcase on the bench next to the other bag.”

I hoisted the case up onto the luggage rack to the right of the door. He still didn’t turn around. I took the opportunity to get a good look at him.

He was tall―over six feet, I guessed―and the low ceilings typical of colonial buildings made him look even taller. Although he was relaxed and still, his lean, athletic body suggested unlimited energy. He had removed his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. The tailored garment looked crisp and fresh despite the fact that the temperature must have been pushing ninety.

One hand clasped the other at the small of his back. His bare forearms were lightly furred with black hair, a touch of the animal that clashed with his aura of culture and sophistication. His trousers fit as perfectly as his shirt. I couldn’t stop myself from appreciating the swell of his muscular buttocks under the fabric. My nipples were swollen and painful. My jeans felt hot and tight.

The awkward silence lengthened. I took a deep breath and thought I caught a whiff of his cologne, something brisk and nautical, overwhelmingly male. My heart was a jackhammer in my chest. I looked around the room, trying to distract myself from the physical reactions Hart seemed provoke simply by being present.

It appeared he had already had time to do some unpacking. A stack of neatly folded shirts, all black, white or grey, lay on the sofa. Several pairs of shoes were lined up near the bedroom door. On the table near the window there was a fifth of Glenlivet, which I knew hadn’t been supplied by the inn, along with a pack of Gitanes, some books and a fancy-looking camera. A framed 8×10 colour photograph sat on the end table beside the couch, not far from where I stood.

I peered more closely at the photo. A pale, raven-haired beauty stared back at me. Her sultry dark eyes and enigmatic half-smile spoke of a passionate nature just barely held in check by convention. Luxurious curls tumbled over her shoulders but did not hide the ripe breasts swelling out of her burgundy velvet décolletage. Her delicate chin rested on the back of one hand. The graceful fingers were tipped with crimson enamel that exactly matched her lipstick.

I didn’t need to read the autograph to know who she was. Anne Merrill, Geoffrey’s long-time partner, the woman who, if I could believe Adele, had broken his heart.

My spirits sank even lower. It was easy to see how such a woman could captivate a man, even someone as bold and self-confident as Geoffrey Hart. When I compared myself to her―well, there was no comparison really. I was a short, unimpressive woman―a girl, Hart had called me―with plain brown hair too fine to curl and a B cup figure. I had no drama, no flair, nothing like this vivid, exotic creature who oozed sex appeal. So what if I had an MFA in acting from Columbia? I’d had almost no real world experience. I dreamed about Broadway and London’s West End, but this gig at Berks Hill was my first professional job as an actress. And what was I? Nothing more than a bit player, an understudy to the stars.

“You’re still here, Sarah.” Hart wheeled to face me, breaking into my bitter internal monologue. “Good. After all, I didn’t tell you that you could go.”

Amusement lit up his handsome features. He towered over me, close enough that I could feel the heat emanating from his body. Embarrassment washed over me but didn’t quite submerge the undercurrent of arousal. “May I leave?” I asked, my voice a weak quaver that disgusted me. Why was I asking, anyway? Who was he to tell me what to do?

“Not yet. I need your help unpacking. Go open the bag you carried up. It’s not locked.”

No, I wanted to scream. But I obeyed him anyway, pressing the chrome-plated catch on the sleek grey Samsonite case and flipping up the lid.

I gasped when I saw the contents. “It’s true!” I blurted out.

Hart came up behind me and looked over my shoulder. He didn’t touch me, but his mere presence was overpowering. “What’s true?” I heard laughter in his voice.

I pointed at the leather restraints and the rubber paddles, my hand shaking. “That―that you’re kinky. Into S and M, just like Adele said.”

“I prefer the term ‘D and S’. Dominance and submission. My focus is on the exchange of power, not the administration of pain. Though I’m not averse to using pain if that’s the right thing to do.”

“The right thing to do?” I turned to face him, hiding behind my indignation. “Are you joking?” He was close, too close for comfort, deliberately invading my personal space. I tried to step backward. I succeeded only in banging my shin against the luggage rack. “Ow!”

His eyes drilled into me. “I’m completely serious. D and S is not a game, despite the way it’s portrayed in popular culture. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s much, much more, a new way of being in the world. A doorway into a new kind of relationship, deeper and more intimate than anything you can imagine.”

“Right,” I muttered. I couldn’t bear to look at him. I stared down at my sandals, feeling the blush crawling up my cheeks and across my chest. “I’m sure that’s what all the perverts say.”

He caught my chin under his forefinger and raised my eyes to his. I trembled when his skin met mine. “I can’t pretend it’s not exciting, of course―trying new implements, pushing the sub’s limits, testing her devotion. But that’s not the main point.”

I burned in the heat of his stare. I felt myself begin to melt, the crotch of my jeans growing damper with every beat of my pulse. I didn’t want to listen but I couldn’t hide my fascination.

He stroked his thumb across my cheek. I held my breath, wanting him to stop, dying for him to go further. “Aren’t you curious, Sarah? Wouldn’t you like to drop your diligent, high-achieving, good little girl persona and find out what’s underneath?”

I couldn’t answer. How did he know these things about me, this man I’d met less than a half hour ago? Did he really understand the way I’d pushed myself in college and grad school, working for the top grades, following the rules, determined to succeed in my chosen path despite the odds? Did he know that I hadn’t had a lover for nearly four years? I hadn’t had time. Anyway, I’d been all too aware of the fact that everyone around me was both a colleague and a competitor.

I saw compassion in his chiseled face, mingled with lust. “I know you, little one. I know what you really crave. What you really need. Open yourself to me and I will fulfil the desires you don’t yet dare to admit, even to yourself.

The Understudy is available from Total-E-Bound (http://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?P_ID=1175) as well as Amazon and other third party vendors.

More About Lisabet Sarai

A dozen years ago LISABET SARAI experienced a serendipitous fusion of her love of writing and her fascination with sex. Since then she has published three single author short story collections and six erotic novels, including the BDSM classic Raw Silk. Dozens of her shorter works have been released as ebooks and in print anthologies. She has also edited several acclaimed anthologies and is currently responsible for the altruistic erotica series COMING TOGETHER PRESENTS.

Lisabet holds more degrees than anyone needs from prestigious universities who would no doubt be embarrassed by her chosen genre. She loves to travel and currently lives in Southeast Asia with her highly tolerant husband and two over-indulged felines. For more information on Lisabet and her writing visit Lisabet Sarai’s Fantasy Factory (http://www.lisabetsarai.com) or her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com).

Thanks for stopping by, Lisabet, and sharing with us a bit about The Understudy. Definitely a must read!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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