The Rec League: Enthusiastic Consent

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookWe have a request from Jennifer. Thanks, Jennifer!

I’m looking for recommendations for romances that contain positive consent. For context, I am a therapist, and I work with some people who have never seen or been in a relationship where positive consent has occurred. Subgenre doesn’t matter—I’d like to build a lending library of a variety of books. Any books that include sexual trauma (even as background for the characters) would need to be excluded. Thank you!

We’ve come up with some great suggestions, though we definitely noticed that the books we thought of at first didn’t meet the “no sexual trauma” rule and why the two often go hand-in-hand at times.

One True Pairing
A | BN | K | AB
Shana: Well, SBTB saved my sanity by recommending Talia Hibbert when I was looking for this same thing. So I guess I’ll pay it forward and recommend her to someone else. The Princess Trap and Get A Life, Chloe Brown are two of my faves. In The Princess Trap a woman’s one-night stand with a hot stranger turns into a fake engagement with a Scandinavian prince. There’s some light power play with lots of consent checks.

One True Pairing by Cathy Yardley does a great job with enthusiastic consent too. The heroine is a barista and part-time bookstore owner who rescues an Supernatural-esque actor besieged by fans at a con. A fake relationship ensues. Yardley’s whole fandom hearts series has great consent rep.

Aarya: Just remembered Mina V. Esguerra’s Kiss and Cry and double-checked the sex scenes to confirm.

Absolutely no abuse backstory, excellent condom usage, negotiation of a relationship contract which includes sexual activities, discussion of safe words/what exactly is permitted, and frequent verbal check-ins during foreplay/sex to make sure the other person is okay. If that’s not enthusiastic consent, then I don’t know what is.

Kiss and Cry
A | BN | K | AB
My second rec is Teach Me by Olivia Dade, which I reviewed for SBTB. There is enthusiastic consent and no abuse backstory (the MCs are divorced but their marriages didn’t end because of physical abuse). In addition to the below passage, they also discuss their sexual preferences and exactly what (hair-pulling, nail scratches, etc) is okay. I think it meets the request requirements perfectly.

By the bedside, he let go of her hand to cup her face and turn her molten eyes to his. “I brought condoms, but if you want to use your own, no problem. Anytime you want me to stop, I will. Anything that doesn’t feel good, tell me.” Despite his nervousness, he had to grin. “Anything that does feel good, tell me. I may be too preoccupied with not coming to notice.”

Her swollen lips curved. “Same goes. Tell me what works for you and what doesn’t, so I can make this good for both of us.”

Sarah: I have been away from my computer all afternoon and evening but Kiss and Cry would be my rec, too, for all the reasons Aarya mentioned.

Tara: Meghan O’Brien writes fabulous f/f romances that have explicit and enthusiastic consent. Her Best Friend’s Sister and Camp Rewind ( A | BN ) especially stand out. In both books, the couples regularly check in to make sure they’re on the same page and they do it in a way that amps the sexual tension between them.

Chasing His Bunny
A | BN | K | AB
Sneezy: I think The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang both fit the bill and the first four books in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series clear the bar.

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston. ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) Morgana, the main character, took charge by making the first move the first time she had sex. Since she can’t speak, her hubby checks in by staying in tune with her responses and going slow. Their sexual connection stays positive, pleasurable for both of them, and Morgana’s inability to speak was never a barrier in this regard.

Golden Angel writes a lot of fun erotica – actually, that’s all she writes. Her super sex positive attitude and cute nerdy humour is loud and bright in her Big Bad Bunnies series. Minus the novella Night of the Wild Stags, because the ex is abusive as all fuck.

Her Stronghold Doms series ( A | BN | K | G | AB ), sans Stripping the Sub  and Tempting the Domme (which doesn’t contain sexual trauma, but has a character who threatens violence, stalks, and other shitty behaviour that is likely triggering), is much the same but with a focus on bdsm smexyness.

Radiance
A | BN | K | AB
Radiance by Grace Draven is also a good one. Ildiko and Brishen are direct and good communicators. They’re married because of politics, and when Ildiko said she wanted to hold off consummating their marriage, Brishen said sure. They didn’t take that step until their mutual respect and affection grew into love and desire.

The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) is another good one. Lindsey is very clear on what she wants in a partner and in sex, communicates that, and wouldn’t budge on it. I like it better than the first book in the series it’s in.

Charlotte B: Delphine Dryden in general is a good choice for this, I think.

Sarah: Oh yes.

Catherine: Late to the party, but I love all the suggestions above, especially Talia Hibbert. Courtney Milan’s contemporary New Adult story, Hold Me, might fit the bill – there is a very clearly negotiated sex scene there, and I like it that both the hero and the heroine ask each other up front if there is anywhere they don’t want to be touched.

What books would you add to Jennifer’s helpful lending library?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Katie says:

    Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole. Their physical relationship advances with her telling him what she wants to do, then they do that. There isn’t sexual trauma, but the heroine’s father was controlling and abusive (as in made her physically ill with poison to keep her dependent on him). So I don’t know if this would work in terms of avoiding triggers. The father is in prison for the whole book due to something he did in an earlier book that I haven’t read, so he isn’t a physical threat. Dealing with her childhood is part of her story, though. Will think more about this and see if anything else comes to me.

  2. 2
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I’d recommend two books by Kate Canterbary, a writer I just “discovered” this year and have been eagerly glomming her back list: FAR CRY and HARD PRESSED. In FAR CRY, the hero asks the heroine what he is permitted to do (at that point, they are in bed together for the first time), and these “check in” questions continue as their relationship moves forward. HARD PRESSED is even more focused on consent because the heroine isn’t sure how far she wants to go in this new relationship—which I thought was very realistic. The hero understands the heroine’s desire to take things slowly and waits for her consent for every step they take things physically. Here’s his key quote: “To my mind, a real man waited for his woman to be ready and willing. There was nothing sexy about cajoling a woman into something, even if she enjoyed it in the end…I wanted my woman how and when she was ready for me, and nothing less.” Le sigh.

  3. 3
    Wendy says:

    The Gossip, by Jenny Holiday.

  4. 4
    Rebecca says:

    Anything written by Jackie Lau. She writes contemporary romance and her books and novellas are full of positive consent. Also characters with healthy relationships with their families and friends. Her HEAs and cameo couples rarely involve engagement or babies, which I appreciate.

    Bonus: her women openly text their friends their plans on their first dates on their first dates, and her men treat that as normal/basic safety precautions. Also, sometimes one/both people in the couple doesn’t drink or rarely drinks and it’s communicated without being given the “not like my other dates” treatment. Like, the individual just orders fancy juice-based cocktails instead.

  5. 5
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    If it’s ok to link to another site, here is a recent post at All About Romance asking this same question about consent. Perhaps you’ll find some good recommendations here:

    https://allaboutromance.com/the-askaar-who-writes-consent-in-romance-beautifully/

  6. 6
    HeatherS says:

    “Stocking Stuffers” by Erin McLellan is an erotic novella about a bisexual sex toy saleswoman/sex educator who gets snowed in at a B&B with the owner’s brother, and they agree to a no-strings-attached fling because the heroine doesn’t want a relationship. No abuse backstory.

    I had the clear thought while reading it that consent was explicit and enthusiastic in a number of places, from both the hero and the heroine. Lots of fun side characters, too.

  7. 7
    Gisela says:

    Not a book, I was watching Frozen with my daughter (for the millionth time), and at the end when Anna gives Kristoff the sled he says: “I’m so happy I could kiss you! Can I kiss you?” What stands out is that he asked rather than just grabbing and kissing her. So much better than princes kissing sleeping princesses.

  8. 8
    Jolie says:

    I second Alyssa Cole’s, “A Prince on Paper” (in fact, it was the first book that came to my mind!).

    I also recommend Rebekah Weatherspoon’s “Sated”, which is the third book in her FIT trilogy. It can be read as a standalone.

    And Tessa Date’s “Do You Want to Start A Scandal” and “A Week to Be Wicked” would also be great additions!

  9. 9
    Scifigirl1986 says:

    I just reread Infamous by Jenny Holiday (live that book!), and there is a scene where one of the men asks the other if he is sure he wants to have sex and the other was shocked by this because he assumed that as the top he should have been making sure his partner was the one who was certain. There’s a paragraph on how he’d assumed that being the one doing the penetrating that it should be him asking for consent and not the other way around, and he realizes that this is a very dick-centric view of things. I loved that whole section.

  10. 10
    MaryK says:

    As an FYI, the hero in The Princess Trap has physical abuse in his past and members of his family are abused in the background of the story. It made an impact on me so I expect it could be triggering even though it wasn’t sexual abuse.

  11. 11
    flchen1 says:

    One I’m currently reading is Kimberly Kincaid’s Better Than Me. The whole series has been excellent, but this in particular I noted having very clear and positive consent 🙂

  12. 12
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @MaryK: I was just thinking that one of the situations the requester might encounter as she looks for books with examples of excellent consent is that often a scene featuring consent done right is contrasted with a situation from (generally) the heroine’s past experience when consent was not done right or may not have been used at all. I’m sure the requester will review all books before she recommends them to her clients, but in a number of them I’m sure appropriate consent is a marker for a decent, caring hero and some of the heroine’s prior relationships have been with men who weren’t so thoughtful and careful.

  13. 13
    Sarah Drew says:

    K.J. Charles in “Band Sinister” shows her Regency m/m MCs getting consent absolutely right. It’s front and centre but also feels character and period appropriate.

  14. 14
    Laura says:

    While I love the Kiss Quotient to pieces and it has oodles of positive consent – the reason the heroine is there in the first place is because she has been subject to sexual trauma and does struggle with being touched

    I would totally recommened Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert but maybe not the Princess Trap for reasons already mentioned. However from memory, Wanna Bet and A Girl Like Her both have great consent scenes.

    Marriage of Inconvenience by Penny Reid has positive consent, the heroine doesn’t exactly have sexual trauma though she does have some issues that result from her past behaviour so I’d double check and be a bit cautious.

    The first two books in Sarah Maclean’s Bareknuckle bastards have positive consent from memory and I would 100% second Courtney Milan’s Hold Me

  15. 15
    Juliana says:

    The last Tessa Dare series is very sex positive and has very enthusiastic consent and discussions about sex. The Duchess Deal and The Governess Game are perfect in that sense, but the last one, The Wallflower Wagner, while having an even more careful portray of consent, has a plot of past sexual abuse, so it doesn’t fit the request.

  16. 16
    Michelle says:

    Dan from Marriage of Inconvenience IS pretty wonderful. Kat has Issues with sex though. Not assault, but it’s distressing for her. There’s therapy!

  17. 17
    Dreamingintrees says:

    I would absolutely avoid the Princess Trap for this request. I loved the book, but the abuse is a major plot point.

    For beautifully done consent with a queer couple I highly recommend A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde. Not only does the couple demonstrate enthusiastic consent, they also focus a lot on sexual logistics and consent specifically directed to both what body parts to touch and how, but also what types of words to use to refer to those parts.

  18. 18
    Judith says:

    Not to toot my own horn but I make it a point to write books free of sexual trauma and full of enthusiastic consent, and I think it must be working because several of my advance readers mentioned it without my prompting. This involves a heroine who very much wants to have sex and a hero who thinks he’s being gallant by refusing, but wants to have sex too. They eventually arrive at a compromise, because Talking. This would be “Not Like a Lady” out now, and “The Countess Invention” out soon; I can promise the rest of this series and the second planned series will be the same. ‘Cause that’s my jam. I love how consent is represented in books I’ve read with m/m and f/f relationships and I don’t see why m/f relationships can’t do the same. (Even in a historical. I NEVER liked the bodice-ripping part of supposed bodice-rippers, though I know a lot of people do.)

  19. 19
    Judith says:

    PS If Jennifer would like to contact me at this email address I’d be glad to donate a copy to her lending library; happy to let her judge it for herself.

  20. 20
    Zoe says:

    Sorry, no new positive suggestions, but I happen to be rereading Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, which is mentioned in the initial post. And much as I like these books, I’d sound a warning that they may not all fit the bill.

    In the first, the heroine suffers a (fortunately interrupted) sexual assault and I’m not sure there’s much explicit asking for/receiving consent either. The second may be a better fit, but the heroine is subjected to continual sexist assumptions and what I’d view as sexual harassment because of her looks. The historical emotional abuse of the heroine’s flatmate is also a subplot in the second book and the flatmate is the heroine of the third book, in which the main non-romantic focus is her regaining her confidence and sense of self after escaping that controlling relationship. So while there’s no sexual trauma as such that one is pretty emotionally harrowing.

    The fourth (which is my favourite) is much lighter, and the heroine is completely comfortable with saying what she wants sexually and the hero totally appreciates that so it fits the bill for enthusiastic consent. My only minor concern with that one would be the reference to a historical incident when the heroine slept with someone who it turned out was sexually exploitative, though she wasn’t aware at the time. It probably wouldn’t count as sexual trauma, but it definitely makes her uncomfortable in retrospect.

    That all said, I’d thoroughly recommend the series to anyone as long as they’re not worried about the potentially triggering content.

  21. 21
    JenM says:

    I’m in the middle of an ARC of Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn and while I can’t speak to how the book is going to end, I can say that the initial sexual encounter between the hero and heroine is filled with enthusiastic consent. It starts with him recognizing that she is starting to pull back, then she admits she has trouble “finishing”, and this in turn leads to him asking her to show him exactly what she likes so that he can do what most pleases her. Along the way, he frequently checks in to make sure she’s still with him and that he’s doing what she needs to achieve maximum enjoyment, as well as assuring her that he’ll be fine with whatever happens. There is no sexual trauma or abuse in her past so there shouldn’t be any triggers. The book is scheduled for a Dec 31 release date. Also, it features lots of competence porn with the heroine being a talented calligrapher.

    I’d second recs for Talia Hibbert, specifically Get A Life, Chloe Brown, in which the heroine has a chronic illness, but definitely no abuse in her background. I’m pretty sure at least one or two of her Ravenswood books would fit, maybe others.

    I also recently read What Matters Most by Barbara Longley which features a blue-collar female plumber heroine and an upper crust lawyer hero. As I recall, he was very much about consent and wanting her to take the lead when they got together and she did not have any trauma in her past.

  22. 22
    Alyssa says:

    A Girl Like Her is an excellent book with excellent consent but also the herorine does have a backatory of intimate partner abuse, it is not as prominently featured as is conventional in romance ans not explicitly recounted but it there. Sally Thorne has excellent consent especially in 99 % mine without sexual trauma backstory.

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