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PRIDE WEEK: Introduction and BDSM Recommendations by Sarah

We’re celebrating Pride Week here at Dear Author! (I’d post a GIF with glittery rainbows here, but I like writing for DA and don’t want Jane to cut me. ;)

Each day this week, DA reviewers will be posting something to commemorate Pride. Today I (Sarah) am recommending three m/m BDSM romances I consider to be the best (of those I’ve read so far). Tomorrow, I’ll be posting an opinion piece about Book Awards and LBGT books. On Wednesday, John will be recommending his favorite three Young Adult novels with gay themes. On Thursday, Jill will post about f/f and lesbian romance. On Friday, Sunita will be recommending her favorite three contemporary m/m romances. On Saturday we’ll have a “Hidden Gems” post, where we ALL talk about the best LGBT themed novels outside the areas we recommended individually (historicals will figure prominently on Saturday!).

And the best part is that we’ll have giveaways for each of the Recommendations posts. We love these books so much we want to share them with you! So post a comment on the Recommendation for the genre you’re interested in and you’ll be entered to win!

Which means, if you’re interested in reading any of the three books I recommend here, post in the comments with your own favorite LGBT BDSM romance (or why you’re interested in reading one of these, if you don’t yet have a favorite), and you’ll be entered to win. Giveaway ends at 4AM EST on Wednesday.

Sarah’s three favorite m/m BDSM romances:

BDSM, of course, is the combined acronym that covers the OTHER alternate sexualities: Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission (D/s), and Sadism/Masochism (SM).

I’d recommend david stein’s Carried Away, Carol Queen’s Leather Daddy and the Femme, and John Preston’s Mr. Benson, but — honestly — I haven’t read them all the way through yet. They’re all romances in their own way, all well-written, and all written by people heavily involved in the BDSM community. And Mr. Benson and Carried Away can obviously be considered gay BDSM romance, written as they are by gay men.

But this is a post about MY favorite BDSM romances with gay characters. This list should not come as a surprise to anyone. I talk about these books all the time. So, without further do:

UNEVEN by Anah Crow
This is one of my favorite romances of all time, no matter the designation. This is the book that started me writing for DA. I read it, adored it, and wanted to share it with as many people as possible. This is the book that I’ve bought the most copies of. I own one of each format, even formats I’ve never used. AND the paperback.

Most BDSM romances are D/s romances, concerned with power exchange, domination and submission, mind games. If the characters use pain play, it’s definitely subsidiary to the D/s play. Uneven is an utterly hard core SM romance. It starts with one of the heroes backhanding the other and they use it as foreplay.

Rase is in his 40s and has hidden his masochism and his homosexuality from himself for most of his life. His first interaction with Gabriel jolts him out of sleepwalking through his life, but he struggles with it, “fondling the combination” to his gun safe in his mind, before he allows himself to approach Gabriel. The closet of homosexuality and masochism are equated here, and considering how true sadism and masochism are often denigrated even in BDSM romances, this equivalency is not without validity.

This is the perfect book. It plays with the romance genre conventions and It’s perfectly balanced, perfectly written, and a brilliant, positive portrayal of both masochism and sadism, which is much too rare. But warning: it’s very very violent.

SPECIAL DELIVERY by Heidi Cullinan

This is a special book. Sam and Mitch are so real, so human, so desperately trying to stumble their way into a relationship, and so SO turned on by dirty, rough, hard-core sex, and so freaked out about it, each from their own levels of experience. Special Delivery is a road romance, which I enjoy. More importantly, at its core, it’s a romance. It’s about two men figuring out their lives, their loves, their connection with each other.

And the sex is hot. Sam and Mitch are both into rough sex, but Sam is utterly submissive, and they both get off on humiliation play. There’s pain play, but more just rough hot dirty sex. And there’s a third partner as well, Mitch’s old fuck buddy. It all works beautifully.

HARD FALL by James Buchanan
I know James calls this book an “inspirational” and in a way it is. As I said in my review, the first-person perspective character is Deputy Joe Paterson, devout Mormon, Sheriff’s deputy in a small county in Utah, and a deeply closeted, although self-accepting gay man. This book is as much about him being outed and its effect on his deeply-held faith, as it is about his exploration with Kabe of the dominant, sadistic side of himself he never understood, or even knew was there.

I love this book because it’s about a Dominant realizing his own sexual proclivities, which overturns the typical BDSM romance in which All-Knowing Dom helps Clueless Sub figure out his Twue Desires. Joe is clueless; Kabe has experience and helps guide Joe through figuring things out.

I love all these books because the characters are so alive. Rase, Gabriel, Sam, Mitch, Joe, and Kabe are all utterly different from each other and I’d recognize any of them in any context, because they’re so real. None of these books are about Kinky Klubs of Kinkiness. They’re all about men finding each other in their everyday lives and connecting, not just emotionally, but sexually, in very specific ways. That’s what makes them so romantic and what keeps them on the top of my favorite romances, let alone favorite BDSM romances.

Bonus freebie: “Songs You Know By Heart” by Dr. Noh, Parts One & Two. Fucking brilliant.

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

47 Comments

  1. Jambrea
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 06:10:02

    I would have to say my favorite is the follow up to Special Delivery, Double Blind. Totally awesome story! And Claire Thompson has some WONDERFUL BDSM m/m. Switch, Submission Times Two, Safe in His Arms and Texas Surrender.

    I know I would love a chance to read Hard Fall. I really enjoy James’ work, but haven’t tried that one yet. :) Of course…I might have to check out the Uneven book too! Wow.

    Thank you.

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  2. Angie
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 06:44:19

    Yes, yes and yes. Not entering the drawing because I have all three, and all three rock. I particularly like how Special Delivery flouts the het romance convention that Thou Shalt Never Glance At Another by letting Sam do much more than glance at other random guys, because he wants to, because he and Mitch both get off on it, because they think it’s hot and it doesn’t threaten their relationship at all. Het romance has a lot of strong taboos I’d just as soon not see get a foothold in GLBT romance, and that’s one of them. Major props to Heidi Cullinan for flipping a bird at the OMG No Sluts!!! crowd.

    For a recommendation, I’ll go with Jay Lygon’s Gods and Chaos series, starting with Chaos Magic. I like the Daddy/boy kink, and also that Hector is very much a non-omnicient Dom who comes across as a human being. He has anger/jealousy/violence issues, but they’re acknowledged and treated as the kinds of issues a real person would have, with therapy and professional support. Too often a character with those kinds of issues is either painted as the two-dimensional villain, or the issues themselves are romanticized and held up as proof that the guy is “really” in love. (Everyone knows that “I hit you because I was jealous because I love you so much” is totally an excuse for partner abuse. [cough]) Jay Lygon takes the harder road of treating Hector in a realistic way. There were times when I wanted to smack him a good one (she said without any irony at all), but his very authenticity makes him one of my favorite characters.

    Angie

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  3. Jules
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 07:18:22

    I’m a fan of 2/3 of those books (I’ve never read Anah Crow’s, and for personal reasons, violence is an iffy area for me so if I ever do read it, it will be a ‘proceed with caution’ kind of thing), and I’m so excited that Joe and Kabe’s next book is on its way out! <3

    Also, had to chime in to say that The Leather Daddy and the Femme is one of my very favorite books. It was so NOT what I was used to when I read it, but I LOVE it. I actually wrote a guest review of it for a friend's review site because I loved it so much, and I don't review that often.

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  4. Darlene Marshall
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 08:25:16

    I love The Leather Daddy and the Femme and hope more people discover it. It’s been on my keeper shelf for years.

    Of the three books reviewed, Hard Fall sounds most intriguing to me and I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks!

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  5. Hydecat
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 08:37:14

    My favorite LGBT romance is False Colors by Alex Beecroft (not new to DA readers, since I found it here). It’s set in a historical period that I read a lot about for my work, and I loved how Beecroft gave a really great historical portrayal of the period that worked seamlessly with the romance plot. Of the three books above, the one I want to read most is Special Delivery. I remember thinking that when I read the review the first time, but I didn’t get around to buying it yet.

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  6. Shannon H
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 09:50:39

    I love Uneven, it is a fabulous book. I also liked Hard Fall a lot. Haven’t tried anything by Heidi Cullinan even though I keep hearing great things

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  7. Liz S.
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:16:49

    I’m just getting into LGBT BDSM and would love a chance to check out these stories. They sound wonderful.
    Most of what I’ve read so far has been online.

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  8. Josephine Myles
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:32:22

    I love Special Delivery so I’ll definitely add the other two to my reading list. BDSM romances can be wonderful done well, and very poor indeed done badly, so I don’t tend to buy them very often. It’s hard to pick my way through what to buy, so recs are always appreciated!

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  9. Jane Davitt
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:37:28

    I had the pleasure of reviewing ‘Uneven’ when it came out and I love the two in that series by Heidi, but ‘Hard Fall’ is one I haven’t read yet so I just treated myself to it.

    It can be my carrot as I do the housework :-)

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  10. Eboni-Rai
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:41:56

    I would really love to read Uneven. I enjoy a well written BDSM story & this sounds like it would hit all the right notes for me (weeeeellly bad pun, forgive me I’ve only had one cup of coffee). On another note, I would be interested in seeing some recommendations for books with bisexual characters. The only one that was a keeper for me was the Emma Holly classic Menage & that had a cop out towards the end with a typical hetero HEA. While Menage has some very light bondage play that I would have enjoyed seeing played out a little more, the over all book was enjoyable.

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  11. Tam
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:58:15

    The only ones of those I’ve read is Hard Fall. LOVED it, but then I’ll read pretty much anything by James Buchanan. James has finished the sequel to that one and I know it’s in the revision stages so hopefully we’ll get to see them again soon.

    I tend to steer away form the hardcore and go for a more BDSM lite so to speak. Less on the SM and more on the B or D/s side of things. So I’m pretty sure the first one is not for me. I forgot to add that I already have Heidi’s so don’t count me in for the contest. .

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  12. Ferishia
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 11:02:45

    While I love reading m/m romances, I do not actively seek out ones w/BDSM. If the story I’m reading happens to have that as part of the story line, I’m ok with it though. I’m most intrigued by Special Delivery and I plan to add that to my reading list.

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  13. willaful
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 11:23:00

    I don’t think I’ve ever read one — all the LBGT books I’ve read have been fairly vanilla — but Hard Fall sounds so interesting I’m putting my name in.

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  14. LaurieS
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 11:39:19

    You know, I will never tire of glittery rainbow unicorns.

    I’ve only read a small handful of m/m BDSM but of those I very much enjoyed Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan and Bound by Honor by SE Jakes. I have Special Delivery and have to get to it soon.

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  15. LG
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 11:47:44

    I’ve read very little BDSM, and only one m/m BDSM (Katrina Strauss’s Some Kind of Stranger, which I enjoyed, but then I seem to enjoy most anything she writes). I think I’m probably like Tam, more on the BDSM lite side of things. That said, I’m willing to be adventurous with my reading every once in a while. Hard Fall sounds most like it’d fit my tastes, but I’m keeping all three in mind to try.

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  16. Tamara Hogan
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 12:07:06

    Is it just me, or does SPECIAL DELIVERY’s cover guy look…barely legal? The storyline sounds great, but could someone who’s read the book weigh in on the characters’ relative ages?

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  17. Tabs
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 12:09:38

    I also haven’t read much BDSM or m/m but I loved the three Cullinan books I’ve read. “Special Delivery” really is great. All of the m/m I have read were recommended here on DA so I’d love to read either of the other two recomended books.

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  18. Jane Davitt
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 12:19:06

    Tamara, Sam is 21, so yes, he’s legal. I think Mitch is mid-thirties so there’s an age gap and definitely an experience gap, but Sam’s not taken advantage of at all.

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  19. Heidi Cullinan
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 12:57:22

    Hard Fall was one of the very first m/m books I read. I never even thought to consider it BDSM, but I keep hearing it as such, and now I want to reread it. Except damn it all, I can’t find the ebook file. Don’t put my name in though. I’ll just re-buy it.

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  20. Tamara Hogan
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 14:06:45

    @Jane Davitt: Thanks, Jane!

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  21. eta_o
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 14:38:11

    Torn between Hard Fall (social commentary behind it sound interesting) and Special Delivery. But I think I’m going to have to go with Special Delivery

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  22. Chris
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 16:50:46

    I’ve read all three and they were on my list of potential recommendations to post here. How about Bound & Determined by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow?

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  23. Jason
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 17:09:13

    I’ve read all that you’ve mentioned except Carried Away and Uneven so I know they have to be awesome to be in the company of these other books. I have Uneven so I won’t enter the contest.

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  24. Liz
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 17:38:24

    I loved–loved!–Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan. I love her characters for being so ordinary. Her books show that hot raunchy sex and the extraordinary blessing of love are for everyone. Love is love, baby, no matter what turns your crank.

    Of the three–well, I already own Special Delivery. Both of the others sound terrific, but I’m loving the premise of Hard Fall.

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  25. allison
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 17:45:22

    I’m extremely picky about the BDSM books I’ve read. I’m really not into pain play nor am I into humiliation so it’s often really hard for me to find a book where I can enjoy the BDSM aspects (I guess I like teh BD but not so much the SM). However, Strong Hand by Catt Ford hits me in all the right spots. It’s got a great romance, fantastically written characters and touches on the various aspects of BDSM. There is the main couple who don’t hit my squicks and there’s a couple “in the middle” and then there’s a hardcore couple. No one is shamed about what they do or anything.

    I really enjoy Strong Hand by Catt Ford and highly recommend it for people not into painplay and humiliation but want to read a bdsm-themed book.

    Edited to add: Once more – many thanks to you for running this again this year! I enjoy the recommendations and the way that this opens the genre to people..

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  26. Charming
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 17:49:11

    Oh, I loved Songs You Know by Heart. Please enter me for any of these.

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  27. Natalie M.
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 18:09:09

    Of these, the only one I haven’t read is Uneven (but now I’m intrigued). Special Delivery is one of my favorite books of all time in any genre. It’s a total comfort read for me.

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  28. Merrian
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 18:12:38

    Except for HARD FALL by James Buchanan, I have read all of these based on the reviews here on DA. They all mean something different to me. I loved the books I have read so now must add the Buchanan to my list.

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  29. HelenMac
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 18:35:39

    Please don’t enter me into the draw; I just wanted to comment and say I don’t know if I have a favourite BDSM M/M novel, but if I did, I think it would be Nowhere Ranch. I love it so SO much.

    Also, a Shousetsu Bang*Bang link? Loving your work, Prof Frantz!

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  30. Rossy
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 19:13:28

    I really loved Special Delivery, and Hard Fall was pretty good too. It looks like i’ll have to read Uneven sooner than i thought!

    I would recommend Golden Boy, Golden Man by Claire Thompson. My first m/m w. BDSM. Also Bad Case of Loving You by Laney Cairo.

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  31. MichaeleneM
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 20:04:44

    “Special Delivery” sounds really good, but so does “Uneven.” I love m/m, so it’ll be nice to read a BDSM m/m as well.

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  32. Amanda B.
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 20:10:35

    Special Delivery is already in my TBR pile for next month, but the other two you recommend will definitely go on my never-ending wishlist. I have enjoyed Sean Michael’s Hammer series but each couple approaches their D/s lifestyle in a different way.

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  33. Jody
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 20:51:21

    I don’t have a favorite BDSM and am fairly new to the genre. They all sound very tempting, but I would love to give Uneven a try.

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  34. Steven
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 21:20:03

    I’m interested to read one of these novels because I have, alas, never read a BDSM novel. I first came to gay romances because I wanted to read about people like me falling in love, and my favorite novel of this genre is Selfish & Perverse by Bob Smith. This book is as much about the two heroes falling in love as it is about finding oneself and accepting your flaws. It brought up issues within the gay community, and of course the sex scene was hot. Highly recommended to anyone!

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  35. Rebecca (Another One)
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 21:25:52

    I bought all three over the past year, and enjoyed them all. Thanks for the recommendations.

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  36. Sirius
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 22:16:57

    Please do not enter me into drawing, I have all three and read all three, actually no could not finish Uneven (recognised great book but way too violent for me). My favorite BDSM novel actually would probably be Nowhere ranch too, where everything worked for me. I liked Mitch and Sam, but did not care for some sex scenes, humiliation play is still not something I enjoy reading very much about, but Sam’s journey of self discovery, how much he matured and grew by the end of the novel was awesome.

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  37. Sirius
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 22:18:34

    Oh from classics, John Preston “I once had a master”, definitely, I have not read “Mr.Benson” yet.

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  38. Katherine
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 00:53:24

    Special Delivery.
    The characters are amazing – they truly grow and evolve throughout the story. That the sex scenes are incredibly hot is just an added bonus. This book is simply wonderful.

    I haven’t read the other two – definitely would like to.

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  39. chanceofbooks
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 12:37:55

    Would love to win any of these. I am new to m/m romance but I just read collision course by k.a. Mitchell which has some bdsm and loved it.

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  40. Artemis
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 19:58:22

    I’m still a rookie when it comes to reading m/m BDSM romances. I have read a few that were absolutely wonderful and a few that were mediocre. The three you have listed here are what I enjoy: Real people experiencing the love, connection, and pleasure that is inherent in a BDSM relationship. Either way, these are going on the TBR.

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  41. Lindsey
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 23:11:25

    My favorite BDSM m/m romance would have to be Special Delivery, though, granted, that’s the only one I’ve ever read. Hard Fall looks excellent, though. I’ll have to check it out.

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  42. SarahM
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 12:18:21

    “A Russian Bear” by CB Conwy is my current fave BDSM book and is excellent! I have “Uneven” but haven’t read it yet so that will be moved to the top of my TBR mountain :-) Would love to win either “Hard Fall” or “Special Delivery” – thanks for the giveaway!

    smaccall AT comcast.net

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  43. Sarah Frantz
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 22:51:43

    Winners for our giveaway:

    #1 Jambrea: a copy of Hard Fall
    #12 Ferishia: a copy of Special Delivery
    #17 Tabs: a copy of Uneven

    Thanks all for your amazing recommendations. So many books to add to my TBR pile. I’m looking forward to it!

    If you decided to try any of these three books, I hope you love them as much as I do!

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  44. orannia
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 03:38:58

    I know I’m a bit late in commenting, but I wanted to anyway ;) I was unsure about Special Delivery, but your review convinced me and I’m so glad I read it. I can’t wait to read Double-Blind – still haven’t read it yet :) Hard Fall I also loved and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

    Uneven I thought I owned, but I can’t find it :( Worth a go? I seem to like boundary challenging books :)

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  45. Sarah Frantz
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 06:22:16

    @orannia: Uneven’s very very different from the other two. It’s truly an SM romance, with a level of violence most people would assume is abuse but is, in fact, consensual. So it’s up to you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! :)

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  46. Jane (no, really)
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 08:57:11

    Um, it’s OK to post a f/f BDSM rec, right? Post-giveaway?

    Kate Allen’s Alison Kane mysteries are funny and hot and full of community. Alison, the tough cop, has always known she was a lesbian but only realizes she likes BDSM in the first book, Tell Me What You Like. Then there are three other books, Give My Secrets Back, Takes One to Know One, and Just a Little Lie. I really can’t recommend these books enough.

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  47. PRIDE WEEK: Summary, Thanks, and Wrapup | Dear Author
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 10:00:15

    [...] PRIDE WEEK: Introduction and BDSM Recommendations by Sarah [...]

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