Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Secret Romance Habit

By Annabeth Leong (Guest Blogger)

Thanks so much to Lisabet for kindly hosting me again on Beyond Romance. The last time I was here, I was promoting a dark tale of stranger sex. And now for something completely different...

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I came to romance as an act of rebellion. About three years ago, I forced myself to buy several category romance books from a physical bookstore. My heart has never pounded so hard, not even the first time I went collared to a fetish event. I then continued my personal dare by making myself read them in public, proudly, covers visible.

By that point, I'd been reading and enjoying romance for years online. Even as a punked-out literary teenager, I sneakily read romances in the bookstore where I worked, but you wouldn't have caught me dead with one on my bookshelf.

As an adult, I came to romance through the back door of erotica. Reading and writing erotica opened my eyes to sexual experiences portrayed in a wide variety of modes — romantic, ecstatic, dark, hopeful. Erotic romance introduced me to the idea of the HEA or HFN, the exact sort of genre convention that I'd always thought precluded tackling serious subjects. Except that, as I experimented with reading in the genre, I found plenty of books that I liked, and eventually edged into reading and loving the romance books I couldn't let myself enjoy when I was younger. Plenty of them tackled heavy subjects — it's just that they worked around to a solution by the time the ending came around.

It's hard to describe how I feel when I pull out a romance in public now. For me, it's a way to play with my own comfort, to let myself inhabit an image of femininity that I've always had trouble with. I'd have an easier time sitting on a crowded train with Best Bondage Erotica 2013 prominently displayed than I would sitting there with a paperback with the traditional beefcake cover. To my mind, the erotica collection says I'm worldly, sexy, edgy. The beefcake says I'm romantic, vulnerable, and naive.

It's very hard for me to be vulnerable, and what opens a person up more than admitting to the desire for committed love?

My latest release, Not His Territory, is the most unabashed romance I've written. There's explicit sex, but for me the part of the writing process that made me feel really exposed was the belief in love, the idea that the hero and heroine can really get away with trying to heal each other. It was hard to write a story where the decision to run off together could be a happy ending, not a stupid decision.

I can't seem to resist heavy subjects, and they're not absent from this story. At the beginning, the heroine is being stalked by her ex-husband. The hero works for an organization that doesn't care about people, and that never improves.

I've experienced some hard times in life, and they make me want to toughen up with cynicism. I've seen people who believe in happy endings and get hurt over and over. But I wouldn't be an honest writer if I claimed I only get bad outcomes. In my life, as a reader, and as a writer, there's a place for happy endings even if they scare the hell out of me.

If you look through my list of published work, you'll find some dark stuff. I'm glad to get the chance to share my darker work with readers — happy endings can be a sort of tyranny if they're forced. On the other hand, a darker ending isn't automatically the smarter one.

Writing Not His Territory challenged me, and gave me a chance to stretch my writing in a new direction. Love can feel like two against the world, ready to stand together and fight and overcome. Sometimes, that feeling is right, and I'm glad there's a genre devoted to exploring that.

By the way, I'm giving away a copy of Not His Territory to one lucky person who comments. Don't forget to include your email address in the text of your comment!

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Blurb

After a devastating encounter with an illegally shifted werewolf, a wounded Raul Silva slumps on Chandra Williams’s doorstep, begging for refuge. As an investigator for the legalistic Werewolf Council, Raul’s been sent to look into instability in the local pack. Chandra’s presence makes him want to succeed at his mission for personal — not professional — reasons.

The Werewolf Council disapproves. Chandra is strictly off-limits for Raul according to both the traditions and laws of the werewolves. But after a life devoted to upholding principles, Raul’s instincts and desires are boiling to the surface. Can Raul resist Chandra, or will he break with everything he stands for to pursue a woman who is not his territory?

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Excerpt

"Can I take off his marking? I'm glad it kept you safe, but I'm not his territory. It's not his house. I pay for it."

Raul's eyes took on a strange weight. Chandra shivered, too aware of his body. "I wish it were that simple."

"Why isn't it? I can buy spray paint and cover up his mark."

"A territory dispute must be resolved on the full moon in the ancient way."

"The ancient way?"

"A challenge. A battle for control. It's done in fully shifted form."

"Well, I'm not a werewolf. What am I supposed to do?"

"We're set up to be self-policing. Your ex shouldn't be behaving the way he is. Marriages to humans are somewhat frowned upon and are supposed to be done with full knowledge and consent on the part of the human. This obviously wasn't how he did it with you, since you know nothing of our customs. A human has good reason to be wary of marrying one of us, though. Werewolf law often resorts to the ancient way for final arbitration. A human is at a disadvantage in any dispute with one of us. It's much easier when we keep to ourselves." Both of Raul's hands gripped the tablecloth now. Chandra wondered what part of this upset him so much.

"So you're saying he shouldn't have married me."

"Not if he planned to treat you this way." Raul's voice came out as a snarl.

"I mean, because it breaks werewolf law."

"It's not that a werewolf can't be with a human," Raul said. His emphasis on the words "be with" sent a chill down her inner thighs. "It just needs to be done properly." Now Chandra grabbed her own handful of tablecloth. She needed to figure out how to get free of her ex, not become distracted wondering what Raul would consider the "proper" way to be with a human.

"Okay, well." Chandra's voice shook. She forced herself to look at a spot on the wall beyond Raul. If she looked directly at the man, she'd be off on another fantasy before she knew what hit her. "Since that's water under the bridge at this point, isn't there any way to dispute his claim on my house?"

Raul's hand brushed hers. Chandra jumped. "Another werewolf could dispute on your behalf. I could do that for you. If you wanted. I owe you my life as it is."

Chandra waited for him to move his hand away. He did not. She went on speaking anyway, despite the bolts of arousal shooting through her lower belly. "And what then? Am I—I mean, my house—is my house your territory if you win?" Her arms trembled. The idea of being his territory sounded medieval to her brain, but her body loved it. Enough that she involuntarily crossed her legs and squeezed them together, further igniting the heat between her thighs.

"In theory," Raul said slowly. "I suppose so. In practice, only if you want it to be." He smiled. "I'm a werewolf, not a caveman."

Available from:


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Bio

Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors -- dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. In addition to Not His Territory, Breathless Press published her werewolf story, “The Arcadian Cure,” in its Ravaged anthology. For a complete list of her published work, visit her blog. She particularly enjoys playing off myth, legend, fairy tales, and fantastic history. She believes passionately in freedom of speech, rights for people of all sexual orientations, and freedom of religion. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at annabethleong.blogspot.com, and tweets @AnnabethLeong

8 comments:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Annabeth, and welcome back to Beyond Romance!

As another author who writes both darker erotica and romance, this is fascinating take on the contrast between them. I've never thought about the courage required to write a HEA - it always seemed to me to be the easy way out. However, you've got me thinking that I might be wrong.

Good luck with the book!

Annabeth Leong said...

Thanks so much for having me! I'm always glad to have the chance to write a variety of endings. :)

ridgetb said...

Could someone educate me as to HEÂ and HFN mean?

Please enter me for the book, it sounds delicious.

M. Herzog ridgetb AT yahoo DOT com

Annabeth Leong said...

Hi there! HEA means "Happily Ever After" and HFN means "Happy For Now."

Thanks for reading!

ridgetb said...

Psssst, did you pick a winner for the ebook? I'm so anxious.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, M.,

I'll remind Annabeth about the giveaway.

Annabeth Leong said...

How could I refuse someone anxious to read the book? I'll send you an e-mail forthwith, ridgetb. :)

ridgetb said...

Awesome! I'm doing the happy dance! Yaaahhhhooooooo!

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