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It’s said revenge is a dish best served cold, but what if it could be served hot? Really hot? Steamy, sweaty, decadent and deliciously hot? Because “hot” is exactly what flawless young aristocrat Lord Arthur Godwick is . . . and revenge against his family is precisely what Regan Ferry, a glamorous young widow with an icy edge, is after. Her revenge involves Arthur, stripped of his privilege and pretention, in her bed and at her mercy for 10 unforgettable nights. If he refuses, the priceless painting his reckless brother traded away will be lost forever. If he agrees—when he agrees—he’ll get the painting back, but what will he lose in its place?

Author Tiffany Reisz has a lot of fun playing with, inverting and interrogating positions of power in her latest erotic romance, The Pearl. Arthur—nicknamed King Arthur—seems to be a man who has everything: youth, beauty, wealth, influence, a flawless reputation, a bright future and a storied heritage, descended from generations of men who kept the reins of power firmly in hand. The hotel that Regan inherited from her late husband, the Pearl, was a favorite haunt of Arthur’s great-grandfather Malcolm back in the day when it was a brothel, and any woman there was Malcolm’s for the asking. Regan descends from one of the Pearl’s whores and has her own bitter experience of a man buying her, via a wedding ring, and relishing his authority over her. Little wonder that she revels in turning the tables on Arthur: having him kneel before her and service her in the hotel that her late husband owned, in the very rooms where Arthur’s ancestor once held sway.

In a subtler exploration of power, the rooms are decorated with a series of paintings (real, beautiful paintings—look them up!) by female artists with their own dark stories—not dissimilar to Regan’s—of cruel and careless men who tried to break their spirits. Paintings of fear, imprisonment, objectification, entrapment or desperation in which the artist, bloody but unbowed, gets the last word. And mingled among them—watching over them—is the one Arthur is bargaining for, the irreplaceable painting his family can’t be without. It’s a portrait of Lord Malcolm himself that might, it seems, have mysterious powers and an agenda all its own.

Reisz never fails to deliver a sizzlingly hot read, and there’s plenty of erotic pleasure to be found here as Regan and Arthur explore their desires and give rein to their passions. But The Pearl is also a deeper, darker meditation on love and trust, and what it means to give yourself willingly, freely to another, to let yourself be vulnerable enough to love and forgive in exchange for love and acceptance in return.

It’s said revenge is a dish best served cold, but what if it could be served hot? Really hot?

Most of Romancelandia knows where they were when they first encountered Tiffany Reisz’s  The Red. I was a fairly recent convert to romance, dipping my toe into the wild and wonderful world of self-published eBooks, when I stumbled across Reisz’s incredible erotic novel which takes place at an art gallery with love scenes that are all inspired by classic paintings. The fearless, all-in exploration of desire and fantasy of The Red, especially when conveyed in Reisz’s elegant prose, made it a sensation in the romance community.

Two years later, Reisz has returned to that world with The Rose, an erotic novel starring the daughter of The Red’s eventual pairing, which takes its inspiration from the myths of Greek mythology. I talked to Reisz about reinterpreting ancient myths for a modern audience, the surprising inspiration of David Mitchell (the actor, not the writer) and which love scene was the hardest to get right.

When you first wrote The Red, did you have any notion that you would eventually write a sequel?
When I first wrote The Red, I didn’t think anyone would read it. We’d self-published only 100 hardcover copies as a special edition for a conference I was the guest of honor at, and . . . I really thought that 100 would be it. The Red is slightly deranged erotica and I had no expectations for it. But when it went up on NetGalley, we started getting a lot of effusive reviews from readers and then somehow it got a starred Library Journal review and was named an NPR Best Book of 2017 and then hit the USA Today bestseller list. A book I genuinely thought we’d sell 100 copies of just went sort of viral. I think it shocked the hell out of people and whether they loved it or hated it, readers were talking about it. Made sense to write a sequel. The Red was self-published but the sequel, The Rose, is published by MIRA.

What spurred the shift from erotic fantasies based on art in The Red to ones based on Greek myths in The Rose?
The Red was set in an art gallery called The Red Gallery so it made sense all the sex scenes were based on paintings. I didn’t want to simply redo The Red in a different art gallery. And I didn’t want to have the same main characters. The Red was set in the mid-1990s in New York, so I knew my heroine could have a daughter old enough to star in her own book by now. I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology. It’s twisted, it’s funny, it’s weird, it’s wonderful. It was an easy leap from writing sex scenes based on paintings to love scenes based on Greek mythology.

What was the hardest love scene to get right?
The first time August and Lia have sex as August and Lia and not in the guise of mythological characters was definitely the hardest for me and for Lia. She was horribly wounded by a romantic betrayal when she was very young and has enormous trust issues. But she’s also sick of feeling wounded, feeling left out and she’s finally met this unusual man, August Bowman, who seems to be able to touch a heart that she was certain was dead. I wanted their first time together to be tender but also to show how hard it was for her to get there. It’s a very playful scene, lots of teasing. August is doing his best to take the pressure off of her while not letting her run away from something he knows she wants and needs but still scares her.

I thought the first love scene, where Lia and August take the form of Perseus and Andromeda, was particularly delightful. It really drove home to me the importance of humor and laughter in sex. Why did you choose to start the book with this scene, and why do you think love scenes, even in romance, are often so serious?
Thank you! The story of Andromeda and Perseus is also the story of Andromeda and her mother and her mother’s betrayal that leads to Andromeda nearly being put to death. It was a perfect fit for the plot of the book—the mother’s accidental betrayal of her daughter. Plus Andromeda and Perseus were mostly strangers like Lia and August. Perseus was Andromeda’s rescuer, again like August and Lia. Thematically it was the entire story of The Rose in one single myth.

And I’m absolutely certain Perseus was exactly like I portrayed him—young and brash but also doting and silly and besotted with Andromeda. Again, the teasing and playfulness help calm and comfort Lia/Andromeda, who’s just been through hell. I mean . . . Hades.

It makes perfect sense that love scenes in romance novels are usually very tense and serious. Humor is a tension breaker and great sex relies on tension. You break the tension with humor and you risk pulling someone out of the scene. But I wanted to bring myths to life, make them feel real and modern and relatable to the reader. Every generation thinks it invents kinky sex and humor although both have been around since the beginning of humanity. The ancient Greeks were hilarious. If you don’t believe me, read Lysistrata by Aristophanes. We read that in college, and my class laughed so hard we nearly hurt ourselves. Realizing that people 3,000 years ago made the same dirty jokes we do today made the past come alive to me.

There are a few Greek myths in The Rose that are reinterpreted to be less sexist or violent than they usually are. Do you think these myths had those characteristics from the beginning, or did they develop these negative traits as time went on?
The myths are so ancient that I don’t think we can know anything for certain about what they were like in their original form. They might have been more sexist and violent. They might have been children’s bedtime stories for all we know. The fun thing about myths is that they’re so open to interpretation and reinterpretation. And Goddess bless the Greeks for being so generous with these stories that are the foundation of the Western literary canon.

I love Greek mythology and I’m a woman who hates violence, so if I can find a way to read the myths as sex-positive and joyful with plenty of room in them for women to have fun, anyone can. It just takes some imagination. Who knows? Maybe Leda had a swan fetish and Zeus knew about it and that’s why he turned himself into a swan. (For the record, I do not explore the Leda and the Swan myth in The Rose. I gave that one a pass.)

You thank David Mitchell in your acknowledgments for being the inspiration for “a posh and whimsical (and adorably stuffy) English person.” Am I correct in assuming that he inspired, at least in part, Lia?
Since there are two famous David Mitchells in England, I have to be clear we’re talking about David Mitchell, the actor (“Peep Show,” “That Mitchell and Webb Look”) and not David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas.

David Mitchell (the actor) has this wonderfully prickly stuffy posh persona and yet, if you read his memoir, Backstory, he turns into an absolute marshmallow when talking about falling in love with his wife, Victoria, and getting his heart broken. Lia was absolutely inspired by David’s posh and prickly, yet secretly marshmallowy, personality. I could hear so many of her lines in his voice. That’s what I get for watching British comedy panel shows while I’m supposed to be writing.

In an essay for The Huffington Post you wrote in 2012, you talked about how you felt God’s pleasure most strongly while writing. Without going into too much detail, The Rose beautifully unifies the ideas of divine worship and sexual pleasure in really compelling contrast to how sex-negative many modern religions can be. Do you think that that sort of easy union has been lost to us in the modern age? Or are there movements or traditions that are bringing that back?
I’m not enough of a religious historian to say if there ever was the easy union of sex and religion that we imagine there was in ancient Greece or practiced among the ancient Celts and Druids. I’d like to think we had it figured out once and therefore we can figure it out again, but I wasn’t there. Being a prostitute in the temple of Aphrodite might have been a blast. It might have been a nightmare. No firsthand accounts survive as far as I know. But if/when a new movement or religious tradition shows up in my neighborhood that has the soul/body dichotomy all figured out, I’ll be the first to join that clergy.

If you were responsible for casting Lia and August in a film adaptation of The Rose, who would you pick?
Sophie Turner from “Game of Thrones” would do a marvelous job with Lia, her prickly side and her secret sweet side. For August? Maybe Panos Vlahos from “Days of Our Lives.”

As handsome as Greek men are, really any of them would do. Literally any of them . . .

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of The Rose.

Author photo credit Andrew Shaffer.

Tiffany Reisz creates an erotic masterpiece based on Greek mythology in The Rose.

Without a doubt, Jasinda Wilder’s Madame X, the first book in a new series, is unlike anything else I’ve read. In this compelling and dark novel, one woman will question everything she knows—everything she can remember, at least—as she slowly realizes her savior might not be the hero she imagines him to be.

Madame X can’t remember her life before Caleb. He discovers her bloodied and beaten, takes her to a hospital and oversees her care. After she heals, he employs X and helps her rebuild her identity—keeping her housed, clothed, loved. Caleb is all she knows, and he keeps her locked away like a bird in a cage. And while X wishes for a taste of something more, sometimes the comfort of familiarity is easier to accept than the lure of the new.

Though X is an adult, there are still things she hasn’t experienced, or at least remembers experiencing—first kisses, celebrating birthdays or the taste of wine, to name a few. When her job teaching etiquette to the protégés of the wealthy forces her to step foot outside of her plush apartment, it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful to see the way she adjusts to the outside world. X wants more, especially from Caleb, though it quickly becomes clear that what she’s asking for is something he isn’t capable of giving.

Wilder does a wonderful job of creating something unique with Madame X. The assumed hero isn’t much of a hero at all, despite how much X wishes him to be. However, a knight in shining armor waits in the wings, though Caleb isn’t keen on letting his prized possession go. It’s complicated, and Wilder fully intends to make readers work for X’s happy ending. X is still growing and learning about herself, and she builds strength and confidence as the novel progresses. It’s a delicate metamorphosis that Wilder handles well, writing from X’s insightful and alluring point of view. 

Readers will anxiously await the continuation of X’s story. It’s one of those books that you will want your friends to read, just so you have someone with whom to discuss it. X reaches a point where she must decide between the devil she knows or the devil she doesn’t, and her story isn’t one you’ll soon forget.

Without a doubt, Jasinda Wilder’s new series, beginning with Madame X, is unlike anything else I’ve read. In the compelling and dark first novel, one woman will question everything she knows—everything she can remember at least—as she slowly realizes her savior might not be the hero she imagines him to be.

Award-winning author Molly O’Keefe, writing as M. O’Keefe, steps into the world of erotic romance in Everything I Left Unsaid, the first in an edgy, steamy two-book romance between two people whose paths ordinarily wouldn’t intersect.

On the run from an abusive husband, Annie McKay lands in a Carolina trailer park. She’s barely through the door of her temporary digs when she hears a phone ring. Tracking the sound to a cell phone in a drawer, she answers it. And her life is irrevocably changed.

Dylan Daniels has always paid the occupants of Annie’s RV to keep an eye on the man next door. However, he can tell within seconds of talking to her that Annie is nothing like her predecessors. They were willing to spy for the money, but it’s immediately apparent that Annie is both decent and probably too innocent for her own good. Then there’s the unexpected chemistry that turns what should be a straightforward business transaction into a seductive game played over the telephone.

Annie can’t believe the things the deep, dark voice on the other end of the line compels her to do. She feels things and tries things she has never even dreamed of. Yet something about Dylan’s genuine interest, his unthreatening voice, makes her feel safe. She discovers following his commands imbue her with heretofore unknown confidence.

Everything I Left Unsaid follows a dangerous game of secrets and seduction that’s intense and sometimes uncomfortable. But ultimately O’Keefe has deftly penned a story of hope, growth and courage peopled with complex protagonists. It’s a smorgasbord of visceral emotions for the reader, and I for one can hardly wait for November so that I can belly up to that buffet once again and discover the rest of the story in the second book.

Susan Andersen is a New York Times best-selling author of 23 romance and romantic-suspense novels.

Award-winning author Molly O’Keefe, writing as M. O’Keefe, steps into the world of erotic romance in Everything I Left Unsaid, the first in an edgy, steamy two-book romance between two people whose paths ordinarily wouldn’t intersect.

Without Restraint is an explosively erotic start to Angela Knight’s Southern Shields series. When a killer out for revenge starts targeting local South Carolina police, deputy Alexis Rogers turns to Navy SEAL and new addition to the department, Frank Murphy, a man with a dominant streak and the only one attuned to Alex’s deepest desires. Crackling with chemistry, Without Restraint is a sensual and suspenseful romance, where passion and possession become two sides of the same coin.

Alex Rogers is still coming to terms with her unconventional (think Fifty Shades of Grey) proclivities in the bedroom. Thankfully, several of her colleagues at the police department are there to help introduce her to a welcoming community of like-minded individuals, guidance she especially needs after leaving her abusive former partner. When Frank, who is new to the area, attends a nightclub that caters to patrons with dark desires, Alex’s friends can’t help but play matchmaker. Unfortunately, their night of exploration and passion makes for an interesting icebreaker when Alex’s new coworker is none other than the man who spurred her into submission.

But when someone close to Alex discovers her preference for a mixture of pain and pleasure, he’ll stop at nothing to expose her deviance to the public. Intermittently, the story is told through the chilling perspective of the individual stalking Alex. As he begins targeting her friends and family and brazenly murdering police, Alex and Frank find comfort in one another as danger mounts.

Knight’s portrayal of an emotionally complex woman trying to reconcile the role of submissive in her sex life with being a strong protector of the community exemplifies the fact that people are multifaceted. With the town being terrorized by an unknown killer and the stakes rising in the erotic games Alex and Frank play, Without Restraint is sure to produce a rush of adrenaline. As the killer grows bolder, Frank and Alex must decide if their intimate relationship is worth defending. 

It should be noted, however, that Without Restraint deals with a bevy of difficult topics that are currently at the forefront of the nation’s concerns, including police violence, racism, mental illness, homophobia and violence against women. Although Knight handles some of these topics with sensitivity, she hits some sour notes. 

 

Without Restraint is an explosively erotic start to Angela Knight’s Southern Shields series. When a killer out for revenge starts targeting local South Carolina police, deputy Alexis Rogers turns to Navy SEAL and new addition to the department, Frank Murphy, a man with a dominant streak and the only one attuned to Alex’s deepest desires. With their personal needs mixing into their professional lives, and Alex and Frank’s private moments only fueling the killer’s aggression, Without Restraint is a steamy, white-knuckle-intense read.

Some Like It Wild is the second book in M. Leighton’s best-selling Wild Ones erotic (read: explicit) romance series, in which good girls encounter wild men who introduce them to the pleasures that have been missing from their straight-laced lives.

In Some Like It Wild, Laney Holt is forced to detour from her clear-cut path—find a good Christian man and start the perfect family—after her fiancé and best friend betray her. Shaken up, she returns to her small hometown in the South, where everyone knows her as the good-girl daughter of the preacher, which suits her just fine at first. Her excuse for being home is to survey the peach orchard owned by Jake Theopolis, a local boy with a bad reputation. No one would ever think they could possibly have anything in common.

Soon, however, Laney’s deeply ingrained sense of self is threatened by her undeniable attraction to this fire-fighting man with rippling muscles and honey-toned eyes. After all that’s happened to her, she’s willing to let that good girl go just a little. Then a little more, and a little more, until she can no longer deny that she’s adopted Jake’s charming devil-may-care attitude. There are other men who care quite a bit, though. Laney’s father and her ex-fiancé are not about to let her go so easily.

As Laney struggles to figure out what she really wants in life and Jake fights his own inner demons telling him all he does is hurt the ones he loves, the one bright spot is the physical pleasure that they find in each other. Whether they’re at a party in the woods or on top of a waterfall, Jake shows Laney the joy that can be found in the rush of living on the edge. And Laney shows Jake he’s worth caring about.

Thrilling, serious, funny and sexy, Some Like It Wild is a fast-paced, completely realistic and oh-so-erotic story. Leighton’s writing is skilled, and everything flows naturally. The main characters are richly fleshed out and easily likable, despite their propensities for being either too good or too wild. Though some of the secondary characters are a bit one-dimensional, they're still believable. 

With such solid storytelling and relatable characters, readers will enjoy going along on Laney’s steamy—explicit, at times—journey from prim and proper to free and feisty. 

Some Like It Wild is the second book in M. Leighton’s best-selling Wild Ones erotic (read: explicit) romance series, in which good girls encounter wild men who introduce them to the pleasures that have been missing from their straight-laced lives.

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