Our guest blogger from last week, Cecilia Tan, got me thinking about the varieties of ménage scenes we write in our erotic romance and why we write them. We got started, of course, because of the erotic appeal of even imagining a third partner in a sexual encounter: an extra pair of hands, the pleasure of two persons entirely devoted to satisfying the third, the famous male fantasy of two women at once and of course its counterpart, double penetration for the female. We’ve written all those, and we love to read them.
But what about the variety of relationships that make such encounters possible? Sometimes it’s a true polyamory – as in our full length novel Writing Skin, in which Luci Parker is courted by a married couple. Each of the pairs in that resulting triangle struggles to develop the bonds of trust and love that make the committed three-way relationship possible and satisfying.
Sometimes, as in our Meghan’s Playhouse series of novellas, a primary bond (the romance!) forms between two parties, and the additional characters and ménage scenes serve the purpose of driving forward their story and their romance. That was Meg’s role at the beginning of the series, when she was a carefree twenty year old sprite. By now we’ve watched her grow up across four books and her needs have changed – hence, book five: Meg’s Folly, her own version of a happy (romantic!) ending. It’s available in print and e-book at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.
Relationships in the swing lifestyle are very different. Most swingers are committed couples, already (we hope) secure in their love and trust together. They seek erotic encounters with others for pure pleasure and variety, and for most, the excitement and energy of those experiences feed back into their ongoing relationship. Some couples prefer to keep their swinging encounters simple: meet, have some great sex, and leave without any chance for developing complications. Others seek the “friends with benefits” model – they want to find other couples they can enjoy spending time with doing non-sexy things in addition to bedroom activities.
Brett and Jen Andrews, our hero and heroine in the Swinging Games series, like this second approach , with a little twist: they’re also seeking a safe outlet for expression of their bisexual nature—yes, by now readers will have figured out that it’s not just Jen who is bi! This is tender territory for both of them, because it’s new, so building trust and establishing a relationship is an important value for them.
The next installment of their story was just released at Extasy Books today!
Brett and Jen agree to mentor a much younger couple into the swing lifestyle
– but Carson and Vanessa turn the tables with their bi-play!
What’s a girl to do? Happily married with all her children grown, Jennifer Andrews has finally figured out she’s bi-sexual – but just turning on to hot f/f fiction and videos isn’t enough. She wants the real thing, and she want to share it with Brett. Addition sounds so much better than subtraction. Will the swing lifestyle be the answer they’re seeking? They’re determined to find out.
Take on a newbie couple? Intrigued by the fact that both partners are bi, Brett and Jen Andrews accept the request of a much younger couple to mentor them into the swing lifestyle. The tables are quickly turned when the new couple pushes boundaries and fulfills fantasies Brett and Jen only dreamed of!
Across the series thus far, Brett has gradually figured out he, too, might be bisexual. Both partners in this new couple turn out to be bi and are thrilled to initiate Brett into some hot M/M action. New three- and four-way combinations are suddenly opened up for all four participants.
Brett nodded. “It’s been our experience that most couples need a time or two before they become comfortable with one another. So do either of you have more questions in general about swinging? We’ve covered a lot already. And we’ve gotten into our own likes and dislikes, which is a conversation I’m sure we’ll continue over time.”
“Have you ever done double penetration—one guy in your pussy and one in your ass?”
Jen tilted her head slightly before answering Vanessa. “I know what it is. I’ve tried it.”
“Wow! I so want to try that. Did you like it?”
Brett wondered how honest Jen would be. He knew the answer. Vanessa nearly bounced beside him. Her fingers tightened on his thigh as she waited for Jen’s response. He doubted Vanessa was good at waiting for much of anything.
“I love d.p. if the guys are good at taking their cues from me. But double penetration doesn’t have to be limited to two guys. A woman with a strap-on is a nice variation.”
“Oh wow!” Vanessa scooted even closer to Brett. “I’m creaming just imagining that. I’ve never tried a strap-on with a woman.”
Brett tried not to choke as he processed the implications of Vanessa’s off-hand comment. His butt clenched.
Vanessa leaned in to him to whisper in his ear. “That won’t happen on a first date either. But it is something for you to think about. You have such a nice butt.”
I think it’s wonderful that “menage” and other forms of multiple-partner relationships are finally gaining some acceptance within romance. The realization that true love doesn’t only have to come in a two-pack is one I’ve experienced in real life and truly enjoy reading in fiction. What makes fiction exciting is the conflicts and unexpected twists. Realizing that there are various ways things could go and that it’s not a given who ends up with whom in exactly what configuration in the happy ending adds some of both!
Since I enjoy multiple-partner relationships, love triangles that become triads, pairs that meet to become quads, and maybe even—as I joked on Twitter with Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan the other day—the love trapezoid, it only made sense for me to start writing them as well. In the Magic University series, our hero arrives at Harvard to his own “Harry Potter” moment—the shocking news that he is magical, and will actually be attending Veritas, the hidden university of arcane arts on the campus.
Thus begins a fantasy epic, but since it is paranormal romance, rather than a quest to defeat evil, I have turned the series into a quest for true love. I already knew at the outset that our hero would have a different love interest in each book of the series. In THE SIREN AND THE SWORD, the very first girl he meets seems absolutely perfect for him, and he spends much of the book trying to be perfect for her. But you know a quest doesn’t just end in the first book. By book two, THE TOWER AND THE TEARS, his search needs to move on.
Originally I had planned for Kyle to just have one partner per book, but he has not been very good at doing what I want. He was supposed to start dating a girl named Marjory in book two, but before the second chapter was out, he was making a date with a girl named Ciara from his sex magic class! Marjory was not to be denied, though. As a tutor in sex magic (known in academic circles as the “Esoteric Arts), Marjory gets involved with both Kyle and Ciara, both sexually and emotionally. At one point they even have a foursome with Kyle’s best friend, over the holidays when all four of them live together off campus.
This may sound like all fun and games, but it actually becomes a challenge to give each of the important characters enough “screen time.” In a typical fantasy, the camera is nearly always on the protagonist. But in a romance we are already doubling the difficulty, as modern romance readers want to know what is going on in both the hero and the heroine’s heads. Now add a third or a fourth character to the love mix, and you have a whole additional layer or two of backstory to be told, and limited pages within which to win over the reader with a new person.
To succeed, each character must have an emotional arc that carries them in the story from one place to another. If characters do not grow or change, they are more like scenery than people. The larger the cast becomes, the more difficult it is to make them anything more than spear carriers. The reader wants to go on an emotional journey while reading a romance. They become invested in the characters, and the writer wants to give them good return on that investment!
This is probably why each of the Magic University books has been longer than the previous. In THE SIREN AND THE SWORD there was just one major love relationship to explore. In THE TOWER AND THE TEARS, it evolves into a threesome. In book three, THE INCUBUS AND THE ANGEL, things are complicated further as Kyle is essentially in a love triangle, but when he discovers lucid dreaming, he ends up carrying on the equivalent of four relationships, not two, as each has a waking and a sleeping version.
I’m writing book four now. Maybe this one will end up with a love trapezoid. We’ll see.
About the Author: Cecilia Tan is a writer, editor, and the founder of Circlet Press. She is the author of many books, including Mind Games, The Hot Streak, White Flames, Edge Plays, Black Feathers, The Velderet, and Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords, as well as the Magic University series of paranormal erotic romances, and the currently ongoing web serials The Prince’s Boy and Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. She has the distinction of being perhaps the only writer to have erotic fiction published in both Penthouse and Ms. magazines, as well as in scores of other magazines and anthologies including Asimov’s, Best American Erotica, and Nerve. Learn more at http://blog.ceciliatan.com.
The Magic University Series: Info page http://blog.ceciliatan.com/?page_id=318
Print Book buy links:
The Siren and the Sword: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159003208X
The Tower and the Tears: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159003211X
Ebook buy links:
The Siren and the Sword: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-book-one-the-siren-and-the-sword.php
The Tower and the Tears: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-the-tower-and-the-tears.php
The Incubus and the Angel: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-the-incubus-and-the-angel.php
If that title sounds silly to you, keep reading. How many of you have heard of The Sinclair Institute and BetterSex.com? Neither had we. But turning forty (not gonna say when!) was a watershed transition in our personal lives, and the possibility of discreet help for libido, getting the juices going and increasing frequency rather than risk losing it all led us to a (then) tiny enterprise that offered resources for “Great Sex Over Forty.” Sure sounded good to me!
We ordered our first video. I’d watched porn before, so this wasn’t my first experience with naked bodies doing hot stuff on screen, but it’s hard to describe the difference when who you’re watching is just like you: middle aged, imperfect bodies being relaxed and comfortable and having a good time sexually. Oh, and looking like they were really in love with each other, too. I could identify.
Would my husband and I be writing erotic romance with juicy sex scenes aimed at arousing readers of either sex if we hadn’t found the Sinclair Institute? It’s hard to say, but we sure needed a jump start from somewhere. And that’s why we’re writing this blog today – with all the explicit and titillating hot sex thrown in our faces by advertisers, media, movies and yes erotica writers, there are still a lot of peeps out there who aren’t getting enough (or, equally troubling, aren’t wanting enough) and don’t know how to fix the problem.
Needless to say both our personal life and our fiction heated back up with a little help from the resources we accessed, and I don’t think either of us has ever looked back. We’ve shared this story at the risk of some embarrassment in hopes others who find libido waning or technique getting stale won’t be too embarrassed to seek similar resources. Bettersex.com is a great place to start. AskDanandJennifer is another one, and we’ll blog about it another day. And of course the two halves of Adriana hope our books provide similarly effective inspiration – as TwoLips Reviews remarked, they’re meant to be read with “either a partner or a bucket of toys close at hand.” Oh, and where to get those great toys? Here’s a link to a discount for first time customers at – you guessed it – BetterSex.com!
All Books available at Amazon.com