How erotic can a historical romance get? Especially with straight-laced Victorians, prudish Puritans or proper Regency society?
When an agent asked if I could turn my Regency-set romance into an erotic romance, it turns out it wasn’t that hard. The fact that the Regency was a period where proper manners and polite society were of paramount importance made the taboo even more naughty.
The granddaddy of kinky wickedness—the “S” in BDSM—lived from 1740 to 1814. The Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat and sexual libertine. One of his affairs involved his wife’s sister. Others involved prostitutes and servants. According to Wikipedia, “[h]e coerced women into performing sodomy, mutual flagellation, and other unorthodox sexual acts, and poisoned several of them with aniseed and cantharides.” His mother-in-law secured an arrest warrant, and de Sade was eventually imprisoned in the Bastille in the 1780’s. During his imprisonment there, he wrote his magnum opus, The 120 Days of Sodom.
My historical romances are mostly set in early 19th century England, and de Sade’s works were not widely published then. According to Wikipedia, the first uncensored English translation of his novel, Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue, was not published until the 1950’s. But de Sade wasn’t the only novelist writing kinky stories.*
John Cleland (1709-1789) was arrested for the 1748 publication of his novel Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. The story, featuring a young innocent woman and her sexual encounters as a prostitute, includes menage, orgies, voyeurism, flagellation and non-consent fantasies.
After reading de Sade and Cleland, I didn’t find the idea of a BDSM club set in a historical so far-fetched. (Actually, nothing I can think of can come close to the stuff de Sade wrote in The 120 Days of Sodom, which was required reading in my political philosophy class in college.) I had a lot of fun researching what was possible, and the prevailing norms of society back then only adds more tension to the erotic elements.
If you’re curious to read an erotic historical romance, you can get a free copy of my book, Punishing Miss Primrose, here. It starts off steamy but gets more wickedly wanton as it progresses.
About Punishing Miss Primrose
The Marquess of Carey intends to provide Miss Primrose a set-down she will never forget after what she did to his brother at the Inn of the Red Chrysanthemum, where members indulge in illicit pleasures. He entices the wicked harlot to spend a sennight at his estate. But when Miss Primrose enflames his passions, will she prove too hot for him to handle?
*’Kinky’ may be far too tame a word to describe de Sade’s writings, which many find extremely disturbing.