There comes a time in every mother's life when she will have
to face a very delicate test of patience, composure, and understanding.
That moment came for me when I discovered Fifty Shades of Grey on the Kindle account
I share with my daughter.
"Did you buy this book?" I asked when I had
recovered from the surprise.
She gave me one of those suspicious teenage glances.
"OK," I said, holding onto my calm, cool state.
"What did you think of it?"
"What made you buy it?" This, I really wanted to
She was quiet for a minute and then burst out,
"Everyone was talking about it! Every single person in the world has read
it but me, and I just wanted to know what they were talking about!"
Put that way…who wouldn't want it?
I was just getting started on a new book about a young woman
beginning to despair of ever being married. In Regency England, sex ed was
pretty limited, and I could easily imagine my heroine, Joan, being desperately
curious to know what really went on between the sheets, while at the same time
worrying that she'd never actually find out herself. And if everyone in town
was whispering about some racy stories, that laid bare all the details of one
woman's racy affairs, I was pretty sure Joan and her friends would be absolutely
wild to read them. They would probably sneak around to get them and discuss
them in detail behind their fans on the next ball. And those stories would
provide quite an education to sheltered young ladies.
Erotica was hardly new in the nineteenth century—and it made
Fifty Shades of Grey look tame. The School of Venus (1680) is written as
a lesson from a woman to her young friend, instructing the young girl (in
explicit detail) how to lose her bothersome virginity to a friendly neighbor. Stories
featured sex toys, including one that could spurt warm milk at the press of a
spring. Fanny Hill (1748) may be the most well-known bawdy book of the
time, with Fanny's exploits in prostitution described in such extravagant
detail, the publisher was arrested and the novel banned. Naturally, it sold
like hotcakes underground.
This was the model I used for the erotic stories in Love and Other Scandals, called 50 Ways to Sin. Lady Constance, a woman
of London, describes her amorous adventures in a serial publication that is at
once the most talked-about and taboo topic in town. Joan goes to great lengths
to get copies, and then to hide them from her mother (obviously she would have
wanted her own Kindle account). She debates their authenticity with her
friends. When she starts falling in love with the hero, Tristan, she's even
more curious to know how accurately the stories depict love and sex.
Although I write historical romance, where the heroines are
often less sexually experienced than modern young women, I've always disliked making
the heroine far more ignorant than the hero. Erotica helps level that playing
field a bit, by giving some very frank depictions of the ways people can find
pleasure together, knowledge that would have been unavailable to—though
desperately desired by—young women of the 1820s. Thanks to 50 Ways to Sin, Joan knows what to expect on her wedding night—in fact,
she has high expectations.
By the way, I managed to keep cool about my daughter's
purchase. She finally told me she started it but didn't finish it.
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