There are terrors worse than stage fright. Like falling in love.
Violinist Stephen Ashbrook is passionate about three things—his music, the excitement of life in London, and his lover, Evander Cade. It’s too bad that Evander only loves himself. A house party at their patron’s beautiful country estate seems like a chance for Stephen to remember who he is, when he’s not trying to live up to someone else’s harsh expectations.
Joshua Beaufort, a painter whose works are very much in demand among the right sort of people, has no expectations about this party at all. Until, that is, he finds out who else is on the guest list. Joshua swore off love long ago, but has been infatuated with Stephen since seeing his brilliant performance at Vauxhall. Now he has the chance to meet the object of his lust face to face—and more.
But changing an open relationship to a triad is a lot more complicated than it seems, and while Evander’s trying to climb the social ladder, Stephen’s trying to climb Joshua. When the dust settles, only two will remain standing…
An excerpt from Rite of Summer
The man in the portrait was not classically handsome. His mouth was too full and his hair too red for that, his jawline perhaps a little too soft. But his eyes crinkled at the corners with secret mirth, as though sharing a very private joke with the viewer, and those lush and generous lips curled up at one corner. He sat in a smock and his shirtsleeves, a palette on the table behind him. His head tilted very slightly to the side, like he was listening to some secret, lively song. His eyes caught and held Stephen, grey as stormclouds over the cliffs, a hint of blue that was the clear sky breaking through, and a knowing look that struck some chord deep within that Stephen could not immediately name.
Well, he wanted a great many things. But never before had a portrait been responsible for a curl of longing or desire twisting its way up from the center of his being, some vague and wistful sense of thwarted desire focused on that arresting stare.
I wonder if he would look at me that way in life.
I wonder who he is.
A faint scuff of feet behind was all that gave Stephen warning before someone spoke, and he managed neither to whip around in surprise, nor jump like a child caught where he shouldn’t be. “He’s not a particularly good-looking fellow, to deserve such lengthy scrutiny.”
The voice was an unfamiliar one, a warm rich tenor that verged on a deeper range, a faint northern accent coloring the tone.
“I suppose not,” Stephen replied, pausing to allow his heart to slow before he introduced himself. “If you value men solely based on looks. But there is more life in his expression than in all the other portraits put together. Either the sitter was a man of uncommon vivacity, or the painter was exceptionally fond of him.”
He turned and looked at the man standing behind him.
His hair was shorter now, and he was dressed for dinner, his cravat impeccably tied and tucked into a cream waistcoat. The man from the portrait stepped in to the gallery, framed by a shaft of light that fell across the floor from the hall. His eyes had not been exaggerated. They had been perhaps underplayed, and that grey-blue gaze regarded Stephen with a peculiar intensity. He was a little taller than Stephen, his frame of very pleasing proportions, and had a controlled energy to his walk that suggested strength lying beneath the layers of wool and linen.
“Or he was his own painter,” the newcomer said, his lip quirking up in that selfsame knowing smile, “and both irredeemably prone to vanity and in desperate need of an honest friend to check him in his fancy.”
An interview with Tess Bowery
How long have you been writing erotica, and what inspired you to get into this genre?
I like sex? Hah; that’s a terrible answer. Let me backpedal and say that it’s because I think the act of sex is an absolutely fundamental part of a sexual relationship. (For asexual characters, the negotiations surrounding sex/no sex would partially fill that role, depending on circumstance and context.)
Who we are in the bedroom is never textbook – everyone comes into it with their own hang-ups and needs, their desires both open and hidden. The baggage of the everyday doesn’t get wiped away by the urge to mash genitals. So I follow my characters into the bedroom to see how that all plays out, how their lovemaking (or sex, or fucking) relieves and generates tension, and what they’ll carry with them into the next day, just like in any other non-sexual scene. All of these incredibly vulnerable, naked moments have amazing potential for a storyteller.
It would be tricky for me to write a story that fades to black, and have it feel really complete, unless I could top-load all those moments of negotiation and power exchange and so forth into the PG-rated early foreplay.
What gave you the idea for your latest book?
That would be a book called Mother Clap’s Molly House, written by British historian Dr. Rictor Norton, and it laid out, in very intimate detail, the lives, loves, habits and deaths of the gay community in Georgian London.
There’s this whole set of subcultures that existed just below the official radar, and we get these tantalizing hints of what was accepted (or not) in court records, diaries, and sometimes even love letters back and forth between couples. It’s an incredible puzzle to put together.
Stephen and Evander were born from those musings and character sketches; Joshua came along a little bit later.
Who are some of your favorite erotica writers or other literary inspirations?
I haven’t read a huge amount of recent erotica; when I’m writing I always have this fear that I’m going to accidentally incorporate a turn of phrase or image that I loved from someone else. When I do, I adore some of the short story compilations that are out there. There are a couple of older anthologies I always go back to – Pam Kesey’s Daughters of Darkness, especially. It’s lesbian vampire erotica from the heyday of vampire stories back in the late 1990s, which was right in the middle of my velvet-thigh-highs-and-corsets goth phase. There’s a fantastic sci-fi take on the theme in there from Katherine V. Forrest which is just delicious. Pun intended.
Describe your typical writing routine. Where do you usually write? How many words/pages per day? Do you keep set hours? What does your workspace look like?
I do a lot of contracting and freelancing as well as starting a writing career, so balancing all of those pieces takes a lot of juggling. There will be weeks when I’m up to my armpits in scripts and patterns for 14-hour days, others when I have a couple of days in a row to sit and write to my heart’s content.
My usual writing space is curled up at the end of the living room couch. We have a big bay window that looks out into the backyard, and having the daylight and green space is incredibly helpful. When I’m deep into things and the couch is eating me, I can move upstairs to a corner of my bedroom that I’ve stolen as a small office. It’s away from the centre of the house and the chaos that comes with having a young family, and gives me a chance to get some peace and quiet. I tend to use that space more for revisions and editing, while the couch is creative noodling space.
I write in the mornings when I can. My words-brain is more connected then, or perhaps my inner critic is still asleep! Either way, I find I second-guess myself much less and I can sink into the story more while I’m nursing my second cup of coffee. I save the afternoons for editing, or contract work, when possible. The manual side of my brain kicks in and I do better at jobs that have a stricter definition, or a physical component. (That’s when I get my most focused grading and pattern-drafting done.)
So basically I’m a morning writer when I can, and otherwise I’m all over the place.
When I’m on a roll, I can generally get about 1,000 words an hour down. Slower days I still clock in about 500 words an hour, unless I’m stopping for research or fact-checking. I tend to get sucked down research rabbit holes and get horribly distracted by interesting new sources.
Do you have any favorite foods or beverages that help keep your creativity flowing?
My writing is fueled entirely by coffee and spite.
Do you have any writing superstitions or rituals when starting (or ending) a new book?
Do you mean in terms of rubbing a rabbit’s foot, turning three time widdershins and lighting a candle? Not really, no. I’m not a hugely superstitious person as a rule. The only thing I do, as a rule, is push the chapters out the door to my usual crowd of beta-readers and beg them to be both cruel and kind. Then have a stiff drink.
What do you think makes for a good erotic story?
Tension. Like a good encounter in real life, a written scene should be all about the teasing, the tantalizing, the journey toward and beyond orgasm. It’s incredibly difficult to do that well, to keep the tension slowly building without becoming tedious, or to fumble the ball and build too high, too soon.
The author’s comfort with their material plays a huge role in it as well. You can tell when someone’s shying away from certain acts or words, when something explicit dips into euphemisms or vagueness for a while, and then back out again. I always suggest writing to your own comfort levels. There’s no need for something to be explicit in order to be erotic, and if you’re not at ease with something, it shows.
Along with that, word choices that keep the reader in the moment. I’ve been jolted out of sex scenes that were amazing up until the words “seminal fluid” were used, and ditto a romantic candles-and-roses scene that switched into “cock and pussy” the moment the clothes hit the floor.
Erotica is like any other kind of writing in that the mood needs to be consistent; maybe even more so, because you’re guiding the reader through a very intimate emotional and physical journey.
What’s your favorite euphemism for genitalia?
I love some of the historical terminology, I have to say. There’s the usual “quim” and “cunny,” but when you delve into the slang you end up with these marvelous descriptive terms, like “mound of Venus,” or “a pair of pouting bubbies.”
Let me see if I can remember some of the ones I’ve seen in original 19th century sources… for females:
- Elysian font
- Harbour of delight
- Her terra incognita
- Her low countries
And my absolute favorite, from an 18th century description: “the mother of all saints.”
When I’m actually writing for myself, mind you, I tend to rely on “cunny,” for women. I can’t bring myself to use “cunt,” as such, but the more euphemistic options make me giggle. And that’s not always sexy.
For men I always seem to end up using the usual trifecta – “cock,” “prick” and “balls.” “Arse” features prominently in Rite of Summer, naturally!
What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked by a fan? And what was your response?
I don’t know that I’d classify any of them as strange! At least, not out of the ordinary for internet conversations, which is where most of our interactions take place. I mean, I’ve hung out with some readers of mine in an IRC chat room where we ended up discussing rainbow-ejaculating unicorns and flying shapeshifter sex, so what becomes “strange” after that?
… I think that basically means “catch me online when I’m tired or drunk, and it’s a filter-less free-for-all.”
(I have the best fans ever.)
If you were in charge of adapting a scorching summer romance for the big screen, what book would you like to see made into a movie, and who would you pick to star as the male and female leads?
There’s a post that’s been going around Tumblr which thrills me to no end – it’s a gifset suggesting a remake of the movie Grease, with Kristen Stewart as “Danni” and Taylor Swift as “Sandy.” Let me tell you how many times I would watch that movie, especially if there were sex scenes! It would be a thing of utter glory.
As far as book adaptations go, I wish that The Other Boleyn Girl had opened the door to movie treatments for a few more of Phillippa Gregory’s novels. Her books are an easy read, and the worlds they describe are so filled with the sensuality of velvet, silks, and furs, her women existing at the intersections of power, duty, and luxury.
I’d love to see her book, The Constant Princess, made into a steamy, sumptuous historical romance, moving back and forth between the grey world of early sixteenth-century England and the glorious warmth and colors of southern Spain. The story of Catherine of Aragon’s first marriage, to Henry VIII’s older brother Arthur, doesn’t get nearly the kind of treatment all of Henry’s adventures received in the media, but Gregory’s laid out a romance – yes, with sex! – that is really worthy of a second look.
As far as casting goes, I’ve always adored the way Sarah Bolger played Lady Mary in The Tudors, and I think she’d do a marvelous job in the role of Mary’s mother, Catherine. I definitely think she’s strong enough to carry the role as the heart of the story.
For Prince Arthur, the trouble would be finding a young actor who doesn’t play too young. Alex Pettyfer has a gorgeous ginger-Tudor look, but he’s a bit buff to be cast as a prince who dies young. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I care! :D
This is my last spot on my official tour before my release on Tuesday, so I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone so much for coming along with me. Thank you as well to my amazing hosts, and to all the readers who have been so encouraging. We’re an awesome community here in Romancelandia, and I’m so privileged to have become a part of it.
Come by TessBowery.com on June 2nd, 7 PM Eastern Time, to join me in the chatroom for the release party! I’ll have giveaways and prizes as well as interviews and a social hour. I look forward to seeing everyone!
About the Author
Tess Bowery has been a fan of historical fiction since learning the Greek and Roman myths at her mother’s knee. Now let loose on a computer, she’s spinning her own tales of romance and passion in a slightly more modern setting. Her work in the performing arts has led to a passion for the theatre and dance in all its forms, and been the inspiration for her current books. Tess lives on the east coast, with her partner of fifteen years and two cats who should have been named “Writer’s Block” and “Get Off the Keyboard, Dammit.”
Tess can be found reblogging over on tessbowery.tumblr.com, twittering at @TessBowery, and talking about writing in general and her books specifically over at TessBowery.com. You can also find Rite of Summer on Goodreads.
Tess will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. To enter, use the widget below, and don’t forget to visit the rest of the tour stops. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning! All tour dates can be found here.