There’s been a lot of fuss over Fifty Shades of Grey recently, so I thought I’d tell you a bit about the first book I read that had some S&M in it. (I use the term loosely, don’t shoot me if I should be saying BDSM or something, you know what I mean).
Phedre is cursed by a god to feel (sexual) pleasure when she feels pain. This makes her perfectly placed to be trained as a specialist courtesan/prostitute/spy. In a country where prostitution is considered a sacred calling, and where overstepping the bounds of a contract is not just rape but actual blasphemy, the courtesan/prostitute part is relatively safe and can take you to a high place in society. It certainly gets you lots of nice dresses to wear. The spy part? Not so safe.
As all beautiful young spies must, she discovers a conspiracy and must go through various trials to save her country. As all people with “superpowers” must, she finds that the best way to do that is to use her powers – in Phedre’s case her powers appear to be having sex and bearing pain. Having been trained as a keen observer (spy, remember?) and taught numerous languages from the age of 10 doesn’t hurt.
There are now three trilogies, and the gods get rather more interfering as the books go on. In book one the gods stay out of things for the most part, with the only visible sign of their existence being Phedre’s affliction and the powers of the Master of the Straits. Personally I prefer it that way, but to counter this the characters get rather more self-aware, admitting that the citizens of Terre D’Ange are rather vain, insular, and self-satisfied. Terre D’Ange is basically France, except the inhabitants are a little bit descended from angels, so you can forgive them for thinking that nobody else is quite as beautiful as them. The writing of the three trilogies is different too, and it has been mentioned (by someone cleverer than me, but I don’t remember who now) that the abundance of detail in the first trilogy (from the viewpoint of Phedre) is possibly due to her training. The feel of the narration certainly changes within a single book in the second trilogy – there’s a definite contrast between the style when we are following Imriel (who is a bit mopey to be honest) and when we are following Leander.
I’d definitely recommend these, not really as “dirty” books so much as fantasy books with a good story that is not the usual “boy from small village seeks destiny (or has destiny thrust upon him)”. The kinky bits are just a bonus.
Apologies to everyone who loses a few hours of their life clicking through TV Tropes as a result of all my linking…