The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl

Seriously, I can't make my way through genre romance, but -- being fascinated with fascination -- I'm always curious about how one gets drawn in. I mean the covers are a scream, but after that -- well. I start thinking about making a cup of tea or vacuuming. (What's wrong with me?) 

I did read The Lord Next Door* in one sitting, just for the the exercise. Also sampled one of the Spur paperbacks. It strikes me that the wide stance of these two specific works puts a tentative finger on the perhaps impenetrable distance (think about it) between ladies and gentlemen's response to this sort of printed simulation of life. "Lord" was the opulent house and trimmings, the clothes, the title, the social climb, and a whole lot of mannerly slooowww but progressive (skilled) (and strangely irresistible) teasing of an innocent heroine followed by true love and marriage. On the other hand (irresistible sequitur here), "Spur" was actually porn. Bought it at a library sale, where there was a whole series of it. The librarians had no idea it was porn; they thought it was like Zane Grey, something for grandpa who kept his mouth shut about such discrepancy. The Spur plot comes on as simple repetition /formula: hero (Tom Buchanan physique) larks about in cowboy outfits shooting and pummeling bad guys, returning hungry to the saloon/hotel where he finds a most comely lady who insists that he take her then and there, i.e., no foreplay, no bother, just some happy / inconsequential fast food.

So -- all I can conclude is that as long as no one gets hurt you just need a sense of humor about these things. 

Or you can get religious like Pat Robertson and make up laws to support the no-fault inevitability of the eternal drama. 

Or maybe, like me, simply see the gods rising up in us as we go along -- gods being, after all, the personifications of the energies of the organs and what-not. 

Still, it's all quite confounding, and maybe that's also why it's fascinating when fascination is found. The simple but essential business of energy gradients, the force that steers the sun and all the stars.

* The Lord Next Door: To rescue her family from financial ruin, lovely Victoria Shelby has no choice but to marry. Her options for a bridegroom are limited . . . until she remembers the shy servant boy next door. Then she discovers that her childhood friend is actually Viscount Thurlow -- ruthless businessman, future earl, and a man whose family is shrouded in scandal! ~Amazon

Best review ever: The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl:
http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/the-playbot-sheikhs-virgin-stable-girl-by-sharon-kendrick  And the cover. (No fluttering robes?)

book at amazon:
"From the second he rides into the story until the last page, he says and does nothing redeeming."

extra credit:

Maeve is a character in my opus VB&B. She likes to read and write bodice rippers. (Which VB&B is not. See below.) A peek at her work...

Prelude: 1885* 
*Excerpted from M.K.Stokes’s future work-in-progress, The Lily and the Stone

There were no secrets from him, not in all the world, and the moment he heard, he was off by train, New York to Ohio. By midnight, he was in the foyer of Locksley Hall, swirling off his satin-lined cape.  He’d come dressed for the occasion, a masked ball.
Music poured down the grand staircase; brushing past the footman, he swept up through it, bounding to the third floor. There, in the ballroom, things were well in progress, and taking a fluted glass from the long row of tables, he relaxed. Sipping champagne, he became just another vaporous being, wigged and masked and incognito; something conjured from a gothic novel, perhaps magician, perhaps priest. In truth, his billow of robes and long dove-gray locks came by way of a British barrister, a sometimes useful associate—
But wait. Why spoil our intrigue.
Exchanging the stray anonymous smile, he strolled among the exuberantly costumed guests. In the far wall of mirrors, rows of them danced, bright harlequins, Queens of Hearts and such, stepping forth on tip-toe with hands linked and held high, not minding in the least being caricature. Their glimmering props — jewels that needed locking up, heirloom swords that once flirted with blood — were not the objects of tonight’s fascination. Tonight’s fascination was the mask.
Masked or no, their hostess was easy to spot, aptly dressed as an angel and just now turning to make her curtsey as the rows of dancers broke into pairs. A ponderous Henry VIII bowed back to her, his bearing blithe and ludicrous, be he in reality solemn poet, cutthroat politician, or (cutthroat) industrial financier. Ah! This hostess, angel of the highest order! Her beauty charms open the deepest pockets. And more, her prey is willing. This is a charity ball, and even they, for all their glistering power, have inklings of that one inescapable reality. The one that never bargains yet might keep score. The great equalizer,when the world will flow on merrily without them.
And now they are here, far from their celebrated watering holes, gathered in a town they deem a mere backwoods, a place not even Cleveland. And once again, it is she who worked this magic.
As the music ends, her eyes wander mask to mask, catching on him. Instantly, he raises his glass, bowing stiffly, as if twice his age. Her smile, gracious in response, hides all traces of puzzlement. It would be impolite not to place her guest, everyone here so important, most of all to themselves. Should he go dance with her? No; best lose himself in the crowd. She’d know him by touch, ruining this rare opportunity, the reason he’d come. No secrets were safe from him, true. Other eyes watched; word always got back. But other eyes could not penetrate a gloss as his did. What was she like when he wasn’t around? Was she truly so heart-wrenchingly good?
The music cues up again. The dancers start returning to the floor. And she—?
She is nowhere to be found.
In the hallway, he sights her through the maze of banisters as she makes her way down the stairs. Tracking her to the first floor, he finds her slipping out the balcony doors. He follows, stealing along the marble staircase, keeping to the coolness of the wall.
There’s a full moon in the garden, a hint of winter in its strange, permeating light. And a silence so perfect that you hear the foliage about to fall, the leaves as they shrivel back into their source. She is standing on the flagstone path, her face bare, and she seems to be holding her breath.
Still, she stands. Unbearably still. And long, as if stealing the moment from time.
Enough! Leaning against the archway beneath the stairs, he takes a cigarette from his pocket, lights it — gray smoke writhing like a dragon — and shuts the gold case with a snap.
She turns, and seeing him, gives a startled laugh, her hand at her heart. “Goodness, I didn’t know anyone was there,” she says. “This moon. Its beauty.” She gestures, looking back at it. “It will not let you go.”
How tantalizing, her not knowing him. And how strange; nothing between them but her openness. She, a lily — exquisite and tender, needing to be touched in kind.
Pulling off his coarse wig, his suffocating mask, he goes to her. And she steps back. She steps back. She, a reverberation — stepping back a thousand times in the shattered light, as all falls to instinct, as he takes her with a lunge, pulling her into the shadows, his breath in her ear. “Come, seraph. Your guests will not miss you.” 

VB&B is about sisters as they find a way to make a living and fall for beautiful men... get caught in nets, cut their way out with their own cunning, coming to love better men -- or maybe not better, or maybe not needing them at all. Sisters who learn their way together through their differences. It's what women do.

The lessons I hold dear in life all snuck up on me. I hope in VB&B to share, to recreate that experience. Of course, it doesn't take place in a "Locksley Hall" for nothing. There's the whole business of wealth and poverty, selling ourselves, what it to be betrayed, celebrity as a modern pantheon and the-gods-you-worship-are-the-gods-you-deserve, hypocrisy, the return of the robber barons and what it is to be under a thumb. It's also about justice and how necessary it is for healing.
In the morning, Janey opened her eyes as the sun poured into the White Room, and for the first time, she noticed an imperfection in the plaster, a ridge someone had missed. And she remembered... in the night, she’d dreamt of Ashton Locksley — Ashton coming to the house, oozing like a vapor beneath the door. The real Ashton, gone so many years, now returning to flesh and blood. Taking her to his room, he presented her with a beautiful necklace. Then he stretched her across his bed, and she became Astraea, seeing him with Astraea’s eyes, as Ashton undid her buttons… and when she was naked, he took a silver cord from his pocket and bound her hands above her head; he took a golden shackle from his other pocket and locked it round her throat. And he showed her his golden key, so astonishing and so ordinary — and his eyes watched her eyes as he took her.
Had there been pleasure in it? Had there?
Somehow — after Ashton, after all the pain and loss, love came again to Astraea. Love, like something forming from the first light of morning. Looking through the White Room, Janey watched the light just as Astraea had watched it, just as Astraea would wash and dress in it, just as Astraea had let it guide her day. And one day, Astraea had closed her eyes looking at that light, and leaving life behind, she’d followed it.
It’s brave to heal, the bravest thing of all. It was the very thing that brought us here, all of us: those who found a way to go on in pain as well as joy, in both darkness and light.
It began to rain. All afternoon it rained, and Janey spent it cleaning. She washed and waxed wood, polished brass, all with total reverence. Sean came eventually, and she would pass him on the stairs, or he would find her when he had a question. But he seemed far away from her now, building a wall between them. Just when she’d been taking walls down.
That night, she stood in the door of the old nursery, searching for some trace of Astraea. She wanted to stand by her, to send strength and love across the impossible distance of time.

Just read Katrina Passick Lumsden's Review of Fifty Shades of Grey. No, I haven't been moved to read Grey (here's maybe why), but love the way Lumsden has nailed it. Looking at Maeve's bodice ripper, it's nothing like Ana and -- what's his name. I include the excerpt at the end of my novel as an --well, it's not really an epilogue. It's a sort of appendice, written by one of the main characters, a response to what she learns through living in my novel about the people who built her house. Make sense? Anyway, I have no idea what the rest of Maeve's book would be, but it wouldn't be in shades of grey. Dorian Gray, maybe, but nothing remotely Cullen-cloned.