I’ve been writing erotic romance for sixteen years now—since before I even knew what romance was. And much of this romance has included BDSM elements. My first novel, Raw Silk, was inspired by my personal initiation into dominance and submission. I’ve had only one BDSM relationship in my life, but it has influenced me profoundly. Indeed, it’s not a stretch to say that Lisabet Sarai would not exist if it had not been for my Master. My writing let me imagine situations beyond what I’d actually experienced as well as to relive the amazing emotional intensity of those precious months with my Dom. Raw Silk is not in any sense autobiographical, but nevertheless the heroine was a stand-in for me, as I discovered and explored my desire for surrender.
When I re-read my first book now, though—something I just did, in preparation for a re-release in March—I’m struck by how much of a fantasy character I created in the dominant, Gregory Marshall. I didn’t know the term or the concept then, but Gregory is a classic alpha hero. He’s tall, dark, muscular, mysterious, slightly dangerous, a man who knows what he wants and won’t brook refusal. Gregory is an expert at delivering sexual pleasure or teasing frustration. He doesn’t share his emotions easily, but he’s a wizard at intuiting my heroine’s feelings.
Gregory is extremely sexy, but he’s not at all realistic. He was the Master I thought I wanted at the time, with many of my real Master’s positive qualities, but a lot less vulnerable—and much better looking!
Fast forward a decade and a half to The Gazillionaire and the Virgin, where I’ve written a very different sort of Dom. Theo is the opposite of an alpha. He has had dominant fantasies from puberty, but his borderline autistic nature and social awkwardness have prevented him from ever acting on his desires. Although he has excellent instincts, as well as a fondness for detail that has motivated extensive research into kinky topics, he’s also consumed by self-doubt about his lack of experience as a Dom. When Rachel offers herself to him, he’s thrilled but a bit lost—though needless to say, he eventually rises to the occasion!
It took some courage for me to write a Dom like Theo. The interesting thing is that he’s much more like my real world Master than Gregory ever was. That may be why my beta readers have said they love him. He’s believable. They can identify with a man who has Theo’s issues, but who’s still dominant.
I hope the market will forgive me for violating all the rules about the way romance heroes should be. I wanted to show that wielding erotic power doesn’t require perfection. Indeed, a sensitive, self-conscious Dominant might well make a better lover.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Rachel Zelinsky is not a woman who lets pleasure interfere with business, but when she meets reclusive genius Theo Moore, she can’t resist his geeky appeal. Though Theo’s knowledge about sex derives from extensive research and a stash of kinky porn rather than real-world experience, he is Rachel’s first true Master—and the first man to truly touch her heart.
I decide to drive myself, and choose the BMW for its aura of unobtrusive luxury. One look at my red Lamborghini, I suspect, and Theo Moore would run away screaming. Cruising up to his attractive but unremarkable building at exactly six, I pull into one of the parking spots labeled “Visitors”. My pulse, I’m annoyed to notice, is elevated, and my cheeks feel hot. Do I look as flustered as I feel?
A quick check in the rear-view mirror reassures me. My understated make-up enlarges my eyes and shrinks my rather prominent nose. Gold-plated combs sweep my unruly curls away from my temples into a semi-elegant cascade. Matching gold earrings dangle from my earlobes almost to my bare shoulders. My strapless gown of teal satin hugs my bust and hips like it was made for me—which of course it was. I practice a confident but non-threatening smile. Good evening, Theo. I’m so glad you decided to come.
The minutes tick by, but there’s no sign of him. Should I climb up to his door and ring? Or wait for him to work up the courage to come out by himself? Does he realize I’ve arrived? Is he watching out his window? Or cowering in his room?
I get more annoyed by the second. I am considering honking the horn, which I know will embarrass him, when he appears on the second floor landing. I recognize him by his height and bulk. Otherwise, he’s transformed.
In the custom tailored tuxedo, he’s distinguished and elegant. The sleek black trousers cling to what are obviously powerful, muscular legs. The jacket highlights his broad shoulders and trim waist. Not fat, oh no! He moves with unexpected grace, as if the formal clothing bestowed a sort of gravitas to subdue his usual gawkiness. With his dark hair slicked back from his forehead, he looks like some international man of mystery. The spectacles just heighten the impression of intelligence and sophistication.
Holding the rail of the gallery that runs along the second floor, he scans the parking area.
“Over here, Theo,” I call out of the open window.
He jumps at the sound of my voice. I think he’s about to bolt, to flee back into his condo and slam the door. I can practically see the struggle going on in his body. I hold my breath, waiting for the outcome. Finally he raises his hand in a feeble wave, and fumbles his way down the stairs. The strong, self-assured man of a few moments earlier has vanished. But I remember him. That’s the Theo Moore I need to cultivate.
He makes it to the car. I press the auto-release and the door swings open. “Hi, Theo. Come on, get in. We’re running somewhat late.”
He ducks his head, folds his long limbs and maneuvers his massive body onto the leather upholstery. After fastening his seat belt, he focuses his attention on the blinking, teak-inlaid instrument panel. He neither greets me nor apologizes.
With a shrug, I trigger the ignition and back out onto the road. “You look fantastic, by the way.”
“I feel ridiculous. Like some performer in a circus. Or maybe a trained seal.”
“I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable.” I swing the car out of his complex onto El Camino Real. “In a way, I guess this is a kind of performance. The tux really looks great on you, though. You’re going to impress the donors. And that’s what’s important, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so.” He slumps into the bucket seat, sulking.
With a sigh, I address myself to the task of driving. It’s not far from Palo Alto to Mountain View, but the Saturday evening traffic is insane. Is it any wonder I prefer Santa Cruz? If Theo doesn’t feel like making conversation, that’s fine. I won’t be distracted.
A traffic light turns red just as I’m about to slide through. “Oh, damn!” I glance over at my passenger, embarrassed by my lack of patience. “Sorry. But I wanted to get there early enough to greet the first guests.”
I’m surprised to discover that Theo’s staring at me.
“You look beautiful,” he says, his voice low and earnest.
“Um—what?” I gun the engine as the light flashes green, bolting ahead of the other vehicles.
“Your hair. Your dress. The color suits you. It makes your skin look like polished ivory.”
Huh? “Ah—thank you, Theo. I guess we’ll make an attractive couple. Never hurts when you’re pitching to the beautiful people, right?” I force out a chuckle.
He does not respond. Theo Moore really doesn’t really understand the dynamics of polite conversation.
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LISABET SARAI occasionally tackles other genres, but BDSM will always be her first love. Every one of her nine novels includes some element of power exchange, while her D/s short stories range from mildly kinky to intensely perverse.
You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads and finally, on Twitter.
This post is part of my Gazillionaire and Virgin blog tour, running from February 1st to 15th. Leave me a comment on this post, including your email address, and I’ll enter you to win a $50 bookstore gift certificate (first prize) or a print copy of the new book (second prize). Visit all the stops for more chances to win. You’ll find the full list here: