GS vs. STA: BDSM Romance

Cecilia Tan (no relation to Candy that I know of!) tweeted at me, asking in the midst of Yet More 50 Shades of Grey BrouHaHa if there were any BDSM romances that weren't 50 Shades that I might recommend: 

She later emailed me: 

“Shit to Avoid” is very useful to know, too! Well-written and well-known is probably where I should start[.]

So I just read “The Story of L” by Debra Hyde ( A | BN | K | S ), and loved it. It's a lesbian “Story of O” but done as a romance. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite of the original, in which the female submissive is dehumanized. Hot though that might be in a fantasy, it's obviously antithetical to romance! (Actually, tell me if I'm wrong and there are a lot of BDSM romances where the submissive is dehumanized…?) I liked Exit to Eden ( A | BN | K | S )though I thought it needed editing. 

Now I'm trying to get an idea of what's out there. I'm not picky about sexuality, I'll read het, m/m, or lesbian.

The first BDSM romance I read was so long ago, you can tell by the technology. On a Handspring Visor I read a pile of erotic romances sent to me by an Ellora's Cave editor. The one that blew the top of my cranium off was Joey W. Hill's Natural Law ( A | BN | K | S ), which was just freaking amazing. I'd never read anything like it, and it's still one of the best I've ever read.

I've since read Emma Holly, specifically Strange Attractions ( A | BN | K | S ), which I believe had strong BDSM elements, though it wasn't as much of a focus of the plot as the Hill book. Jane's primer on 50 Shades also lists several BDSM recommendations

However, I am sure you have suggestions of BDSM romances that rocked your world: which ones do you recommend, or caution against? 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Anon says:

    Rachel Randall’s “Playing with Prudence” was a very sweet m/m/f BDSM Victorian novella! I would recommend it to anyone. I have thrust it on my like-minded friends. The submission/domination is really depicted as an act of love; I’ve been meaning to pick up more of the author’s works, based on that one alone.

  2. 2
    Ron Hogan says:

    The best BDSM romance I’ve ever read was Carol Queen’s “The Leather Daddy and the Femme.” It’s exactly as queer and transgressive as the title sounds (and then some!), but still, in my 15-some-years memory at least, a fairly sweet story of genuine love and affection.

  3. 3
    Anna says:

    Victoria Dahl did a novella, The Wicked West.  It’s a quick and sexy read with a closeted dom trying to control his urges until the English widow who’s just come to town shows him it’s ok to let his freak flag fly.

  4. 4
    DelDryden says:

    I recently glommed Tiffany Reisz’s stuff and enjoyed it very much. Not so much of the BDSM accoutrement, more of the psychology of the D/s relationship which is really what it’s all about (and she gets it very, very right).

  5. 5
    Becky says:

    Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Dart” is an amazing book that I would recommend to anyone looking for books with BDSM. It is such an epic book that I have never read any of the other books in the series for fear of ruining it.

  6. 6

    “Uneven” by Anah Crow is one of the most world-rocking BDSM stories I’ve ever read. It’s edgy, it’s emotionally draining, and it’s wonderfully written. But if you only like vanilla BDSM, this one won’t be for you.

  7. 7
    Mirandaflynn says:

    OT, but psst, Becky…I’ve read all the Kushiel books. They’re all good.

    Miranda

  8. 8
    Rhian says:

    They’re mostly vanilla, but I love Anne Calhoun’s books. She has two short stories in the Agony/Ecstasy anthology (you can read the whole of one of them in the Kindle sample) which are by far the best things in there. There are also a handful of Spice briefs – very enjoyable – with D/s undertones. (My favourite, her novel-length work Liberating Lacey, has some D/s roleplay but isn’t a BDSM work. Still worth a read.)

    Joey Hill writes a lot of BDSM (Nature of Desire series, Knights of the Board Room series, Vampire Queen series). Natural Law, from the Nature of Desire series, is probably my favourite – the characters are pretty well-adjusted, it’s femdom, and I really liked the hero and heroine. In her other books the characters tend to use BDSM to work through their (fairly hefty) issues, which isn’t quite my thing.

  9. 9
    Cara says:

    I absolutely adore Cherise Sinclair’s stuff. But a word of warning – you have to suspend your own disbelief at times. The pacing of relationship development is usually super-fast (yet somehow manages to work?), and the Doms have what seems to be a preternatural sense of, well, everything about their subs. But then, Sinclair doesn’t claim to be realistic and pretty much states this as a warning in the beginning of every book – that this is a fantasy scenario, yadda yadda. One would think all that would turn a reader away, but what I love about Sinclair is that she really seems to capture the psychology of what makes submission and domination so hot. And in capturing that psychology, it somehow becomes hotter? I dunno, but she’s absolutely my go-to for D/s stuff, and I wish I could write it like she does. :/

  10. 10
    Virginia E says:

    Emma Holly wrote her best BDSM stories for Black Lace. Look for Velvet Glove (m/m, f/f, m/f/f, m/m/f, m/f), Top of Her Game (m/f, f/f), or Menage (assorted permutations involving 2 men and 1 woman). Also look for The Switch by Diane Whiteside. It was originally released by Ellora’s Cave, but was revised and explanded before being reissued by Berkley (femdom with an alpha male switch). Morgan Hawke’s Interstellar Discipline series (usually menage adding a female to an established m/m relationship).

    Pay attention to ratings and warnings on BDSM books. Not all kinks are created equal or are for the curious novice. Things like safe words change a situation from dubious consent to taking back control. For some folks, it’s healing while it brings back nightmares for others. Holly’s Velvet Glove has a female sub who has quite literally escaped from an abusive Dom. Think of her as a BDSM Goldilocks. Her first Dom was too soft, the second too hard, and oh the fun she has finding Master Right.

  11. 11
    Sarah L. says:

    I really enjoyed Dear Sir, I’m Yours and Hurt Me So Good by Joely Sue Burkhart. Dear Sir, I’m Yours, is more of a B/D story, where Hurt Me So Good delves much more into the S/M aspect, but I really appreciated the respectful, realistic way the author treats the idea of family members communicating about their needs and preferences, without crossing over into creepiness. I’m sure there are others I’ll think of later, but those were the first two that immediately popped into my mind.

  12. 12
    Angela says:

    I totally agree. Cerise Sinclair is my go to read for BDSM romance.

  13. 13
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Personally, while I enjoyed the Holly books, they suffer from the Cure of the One Twu Wuv, in which the kinky characters discover at the very very end that they don’t need to be kinky anymore now that they’ve found their One Twu Wuv.

    Joey Hill, obviously, is brilliant. Her NATURAL LAW (F/m) is amazing and her ROUGH CANVAS (M/m) is actually my favorite of hers. I haven’t read her Knights of the Boardroom series of shorts, but they’re kinky too. Her Vampire books (Berkley) are kinky too, but obviously paranormal.

    Anah Crow’s unparelleled UNEVEN is sublime, IMO. It’s heavy on the SM. Yes, the characters are dominant and submissive, but they’re more sadist and masochist, and the book is very violent and 100% consensual. I adore that book. She plays with the romance tropes. The young office worker is the dominant, the “leonine captain of industry” in his 40s is the submissive.

    Victoria Dahl’s short THE WICKED WEST is amazing, as is Matthew Haldeman-Time’s AFFAIR IN PARADISE. Both of them have experienced submissives and uncertain dominants, which is unusual and fun.

    Anything by James Buchanan is brilliant, but hir BDSM books are the Taking the Odds series (starting with CHEATING CHANCE) and the Deputy Joe series (starting with HARD FALL).

    L.A. Witt (for m/m books) and Lauren Gallagher (for m/f books) writes great, realistic BDSM. I loved RECONSTRUCTING MEREDITH (Gallagher) and OUT OF FOCUS (Witt).

    Can’t NOT mention Heidi Cullinan. Her SPECIAL DELIVERY is a favorite of mine (*brilliant* opening, IMO, and the rest of the book is just as good), as is NOWHERE RANCH. K.A. Mitchell’s COLLISION COURSE has BDSM elements and a great spanking scene.

    I’ve got a review pending at Dear Author for Anneke Jacob’s OWNED AND OWNER, which is a complete dehumanize-the-sub book, but it’s science fiction set on a different planet and is 150% consensual and it’s brilliant and hot.

    Ava March’s Regency m/m historicals have D/s elements to them, especially her BOUND… series.

    I’m in love with Kim Dare’s books, although the editing sucks horribly.

    Rachel Haimowitz’s amazing MASTER CLASS and SUBLIME are also brilliant SM romance. Well, SUBLIME is short stroke fiction. MASTER CLASS is amazingly intense SM.

    Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow has some amazing co-written BDSM books that I’ve reviewed at Dear Author.

    For a bonus free story that’s actually really long and is amazingly brilliant: “Songs You Know By Heart” by Dr. Noh, Part One & Part Two. Fucking brilliant.

    I’ve also got some Shit to Avoid posts at Dear Author, here and here, but I know some of the books I mentioned there are other people’s favorites. YMMV.

  14. 14
    Qualisign says:

    I picked up Joey Hill’s “Holding the Cards” on my Kindle for free a month ago and was amazed to find it an incredibly well written and thoughtful book. Two of the three characters had been quite damaged by earlier (BDSM) relationships, but Hill managed to show that it was the (other) people who had perverted the relationships and the psychological rebuilding needed by the victims (both ostensibly originally in dom roles) came through BDSM. One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the mentoring and careful oversight of one dom as the two primary characters very tentatively worked to build a new dom (female)/sub (male) relationship. Being introduced to the beauty—as well as potential perversion—of BDSM was what made this book stand out from others in its genre. Despite the contrived gathering of characters on an idyllic island complete with a BSDM chamber, it was an excellent book. Hill is an outstanding writer, and based on the original discussion here, I will definitely purchase “Natural Law” immediately.

  15. 15
    Jill Sorenson says:

    My favorite is Pleasure’s Edge by Eve Berlin. Very romantic, passionate, classy, positive psychological exploration, hero not an alphole.

  16. 16

    Another vote for Emma Holly, Joey Hill and The Leather Daddy and the Femme.  Does anyone read Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy anymore?  I think it was the first BDSM I read but it may be kind of old school for today’s crowd.  And I still like Exit to Eden too, even though it was made into a screamingly awful movie.

  17. 17
    Debra Hyde says:

    Wow, Ron. It’s cool to hear you read Carol Queen’s novel. It was a memorable read – very 1990s sex radical but with love story at its core.

  18. 18
    Debra Hyde says:

    Enough people read Rice’s Beauty series to keep it in print. I’m always coming across people relatively new into BDSM who have just discovered the books.

  19. 19
    Donna says:

    For those who are looking for something on the vanilla side of the topic (and I admit, I’m a vanilla kind of girl), I enjoyed the Megan Hart/Lauren Dane books “Taking Care of Business” and “No Reservations”. BDSM is not my thing, but I still found these to have an interesting take on the subject. Lauren Dane usually includes at least one relationship with BD lite in her various series.
    And I’ll 3rd or 4th the Emma Holly recs.

  20. 20
    CarrieS says:

    Help me out – in BDSM context, what does “vanilla” mean?  I live a sheltered life.

  21. 21

    I second (third?) the recommendation for the Kushiel books—the first trilogy especially.

    I’m amused that Cecilia is asking for recommendations when one of the first I would say would be her own “The Velderet.”

    Jennifer Dunne is also another author I like.

  22. 22
    Kate P. says:

    @CarrieS: Vanilla is non-BDSM (a person, lifestyle, etc).

    I third the Cherise Sinclair books. I plowed through her Masters of the Shadowlands series like no other. And yeah, you have to suspend disbelief a bit, but when reading romances, when do you not?

  23. 23
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Vanilla means not kinky. It means “normal” sex without any BDSM embellishments. It means you like your pleasure with pleasure, not with pain or bondage or…any of the other letters in the acronym.

  24. 24
    Donna says:

    Hmmm…. Spanking and nipple clamps for fun & entertainment vs. a deeper exploration of the motivations and submerision into a life style along with the more intense behaviors that submersion allows. Or say Barbara Cartland vs. Joanna Bourne. Although that’s not a particularily fair comparison for Lauren Dane, whom I like A LOT.

  25. 25
    Leah S. says:

    I third (or 4th) the recommendation for Joey W. Hill (Rough Canvas (m/m) is one of my favorite romances of any sub-genre). Her Nature of Desire and Knights of the Boardroom series are excellent. If you like kinky erotica BDSM (more sex, less romance), Fredrica Alleyn’s “Cassandra’s Conflict” and sequel “Cassandra’s Chateau” are good, but on the more hard-core side (humiliation, bondage, pain). If you want an excellent exploration of the power-shift/control aspect, try Dakota Lynn’s “Protegee”. Annabel Joseph is also a good mix of sex and romance; some are darker than others.

  26. 26
    Jenny Lyn says:

    Though it’s not heavy D/s, one of the hottest couples I’ve ever read was Brandon and Leah in the books Taking Care of Business and No Reservations, co-written by Lauren Dane and Megan Hart. I *think* Brandon and Leah are Dane’s creation. leah is the Dominant, Brandon the sub, and it features a leather belt. Yowza, it is hot, hot, HOT!

    The one area I have a problem with in BDSM books is the scenes where the subs are put on display. For some reason, and I’m sure there is one, this makes me uncomfortable and I have a hard time reading them. I think there’s a scene in Natural Law where she takes him to a party and makes him strip naked outside before taking him inside. I can’t read humiliation but I’m not knocking the books or the lifestyle at all, it just pushes a button for me personally.

    And I agree with Sarah on the recommendation for the Ava March “Bound” books…so, so good. She’s got a new series coming soon and I can’t wait!

  27. 27
    Jill Sorenson says:

    I agree about Brandon and Leah from Taking Care of Business. I thought they were Hart’s couple? Very Hot.

  28. 28
    Jenny Lyn says:

    It could’ve been. I was guessing, thinking I’d read that somewhere. Both books were very good and both couples extremely well done. It was just that belt and his reaction to it…damn.

  29. 29
    Donna says:

    I’m pretty sure you’re right and they’re Dane’s characters.

  30. 30
    henofthewoods says:

    Jennifer Leeland’s space opera BDSM books – Taking Command, Resisting Command and Regaining Command are fun. There are some scenes that were really original although the plot can get really confusing. She has a second series of these that follows the kids of the first characters, which I didn’t like as much. (I lost interest and didn’t keep going.) The dialogue is reasonable, the characters are fond of each other besides being in love and/or heat, the WTF quotient hits when you reach the aliens’ plots so it is OK (compared to having the characters suddenly react in some bizarre way.)
    I have read some Cecilia Tan and liked her, so I am guessing this recommendation will work.

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