Books are one of life’s sexiest pleasures, right? The advent of ereaders and Kindle has liberated our reading, brought the world of literature swirling from the ether and right into our eager hands. Well, mine anyway. No longer do I need to bend back the spine of the latest helping of smut so as not to broadcast my questionable taste in erotic fantasy to the other commuters on the train. No longer do I need to use up precious kilos of baggage allowance to take a pile of essential books on holiday. Happy days.
So yes, I love my kindle. I’ve already worn out one and I’m well into my second. But nothing replaces the heady feel of an actual book in my hands though the joy of being read to comes a close second. I love audiobooks almost as much as paper ones.
Usually I listen in the car, on my own. And on trains. I can watch the countryside whizz past and enjoy a private moment with great and uplifting literature. Or not. Although I do have some smut in my Audible library I mostly go for other genres – modern romance, some paranormal, historical perhaps. Here are three very different sorts of stories that I’ve listened to and especially loved in recent weeks. They all have one thing in common - a feisty, intelligent heroine who knows what she wants and sticks to her guns as she pursues her goals.
Nora Roberts is one of my absolute favourites. I’ve never wavered over the years, despite her penchant for head-hopping. Currently I’m a few chapters into Dark Witch. This is the first book in a series so there’s lots more deliciousness to come. It’s a sensual flirtation with history, mythology and paranormal, wrapped up in a modern setting. Ms Roberts blends these themes so well and it never fails to draw me in.
Dark Witch features Iona, who, when we meet her is a lonely, isolated character who craves a sense of connection, of being rooted. She arrives in Ireland on spec, brimming with optimism and enthusiasm, ready to take risks to find something she can’t even define. She’s a fascinating character from the outset, vulnerable yet indefatigable too. She quickly starts to discover much of what she wants in the wilds of County Mayo. This is a story about ancestry, connection, destiny across generations with a liberal dose of ancient evil thrown in. There are a host of strong characters hovering in the wings (promising much for the rest of the trilogy) and a truly evocative backdrop. Oh, and did I mention there’s a gorgeously sexy alpha male too?
My next pick is No Sex Please, I’m Menopausal by Stevie Turner. I met the author at a book signing and the audiobook was a promotional giveaway. It worked, Ms Turner is definitely on my one-click list.
What I most loved about this one was the quirkiness of the main character, Lyn. Having reached a certain age Lyn has gone off sex. Completely. Problem is, her husband most definitely hasn’t. When Lyn discovers an unfamiliar pair of pink panties in their van she flips and leaves him to his nubile young love interest while she goes off to reinvent herself in Cornwall. There, she discovers a taste for independence, a business acumen she never properly gave herself credit for, and some weird and wonderful new friends who she meets via online dating.
I found myself admiring Lyn more and more as the story unfolded. She’s led a sheltered, narrow existence but discovers depths of tolerance, acceptance and humour in her newfound freedom. Go girl!
My third and final pick for today is The Taming of the Queen by the wonderful Philippa Gregory. I write historical novels myself, so I appreciate the depth of research needed to craft a truly authentic story. Ms Gregory is first and foremost a historian and she gets it right. She knows her stuff, but she’s also a story-teller and can bring her characters marching back across the centuries to astound us even today.
The Taming of the Queen is about Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. She was the one who outlived him, but by the skin of her teeth. On a bad day the tyrannical Henry would have lopped off her head too. This book drips with the political and religious intrigue which was the hallmark of the Tudor court. Katherine navigates a perilous existence where the loss of her husband’s favour would be catastrophic. At the same time, she is a scholar, well-educated, with a yearning to advance the religious reforms of the time but is forced to defer to the King. Having a wife more intelligent than he is would without doubt cost her her head.
There is one particularly memorable spanking scene in the book, around which the title revolves. Henry takes a cane to his wife and considers her tamed as a result of his intervention. This is no sexy, erotic spanking. There is not the slightest shred of consent or caring in it. This is abuse, pure and simple, the actions of a sadistic and cruel man who genuinely believes himself to be infallible. Henry isn’t even above the law. He is the law.
Katherine submits, she had no choice, but by keeping her head down, and firmly affixed to her neck, she emerges the winner in the end because she survives Henry to marry the love of her life.