Books to read in bed: Polysexual romantic fiction

Bronto wants to read © by gaelx, used under Creative Commons license.
I'm reading a terrible book.

Well, I'm actually reading two really good, meaty non-fiction books: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. But neither of these books are the kind of thing you can read before falling asleep, and I really enjoy reading myself to sleep… so I needed some fluffy fiction.

In thinking about what I wanted, I recalled what a friend said at the first meeting of our book club last year. Everyone was all, "I like magical realism" "Oh, well I like suburban ennui" "Yes, well I'm into historical fiction" bla bla. And we get to Tim, and he's all, "I like books with sex in them."

Of course everyone had to take off their English major hats and be like "Wait wait, me too! I change my answer!" So yes: we all like books with sex in them. (And by "sex" I mean "consensual enjoyable sex," and not just sexual assault that's used to motivate revenge or other plot points.")

Anyway, so I decided I wanted some light reading that had sex in it, and realized… I think this means I want to read a romance novel. But ew: romance novels? I'm not at ALL interested in the bodice ripper "big strong man, docile female" dynamic that many romance novels focus on, so I went off on a hunt for something different.

My search lead me to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which is exactly what it sounds like. From there, I poked around in their reviews looking for something that I was describing to myself as "intelligent feminist polysexual romantic fiction." Despite this tiny niche of a genre, I FOUND SOMETHING!

It's got a terrible title (Butterfly Tattoo), but it's a romance novel about a career woman who falls for a hunk who's mourning his dead husband. I'm not going to say it's super intelligent, but there are a lot of explorations of grief (so not totally brainless), the woman is smart and driven (so somewhat feminist) and the bisexual widower angle fills the polysexual checkbox, so I'mma say success!

It's still a romance novel, which means it's still sort of terrible in its formula and writing style. But the eBook cost $5, and it goes down easy — LIKE A BISEXUAL WIDOWER.

So now I must know, Homies: what sexy books are YOU reading in bed?

  1. lol, Ariel, you crack me up. I like to read books with strong women and with sex in them too! I have recently discovered Laurell K. Hamilton's "Anita Blake" series. It's got sexy vampires, sexy werewolves (and wererats, and wereleopards, and more) and it's got straight characters, bi-sexual characters, homosexual characters and more. The heroine is smart, and tough, and confused a lot of the time, but it's good stuff for fluff!

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    • I will say that Laurell K. Hamilton's books are very different from the beginning of a series to the end. I stopped reading Anita Blake because by the later books, I wanted LESS sex, more plot. But if you're into orgies, she totally does that. A lot.

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      • There are two books in a row toward the current last few boobs of the series where it's all very sex-centric, and I think a lot of fans were kinda turned-off by that (pun intended). The most current couple of books since then have been much more plot-oriented, almost too far for one of them. But it looks like she's finding her balance again in the latest book. If you can slog through the extra-sexy-times to get there, I'd recommend giving them another shot.

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      • I have very mixed feelings about the Anita Blake series. I agree that the plots really started to suffer. But I didn't want less sex — I wanted less burdensome sex.

        As the sex got more creative (yay), apparently the "guilt-avoidance-machine" would have to get more creative too (boo). So in addition to the fantastic sex descriptions, we got long rationalizations on why it was "ok" for Anita to fuck person X. Then all kinds of weird plot elements were introduced to justify all that fucking. Remember the ardeur? People, she had to fuck them!

        That felt so contrived to me I had to stop reading a few books later. ( So obviously I did not make it to the double digits in the series.)

        But I fully recognize that some people really dig the headgames that appear in many vampire series. So if you like that AND sex, this is the series for you!

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    • I also recently discovered Anita Blake. I started reading 4 months ago, and currently I'm on book 17.
      And now I'm all "Why is there plot here? She should have MORE sex!"
      I guess I need to find me some well-written romance novels.

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      • Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of her earlier books. I read Anita Blake for the sex. The sexual tension before she has sex with any of her boys? It's ok, but I like the ones where the plot is an entirely gratuitous means of vaguely almost explaining how much sex she is having and why she is having it with who she is.

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    • I read the first one and was disappointed that there was no sex at all. What book should I start at?

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      • I think the sexy times get started with gusto around book three if I recall correctly, but if you've already read the first one you might as well read book two as well. It helps to explain a lot of the "whys" of some things later in the series. Although she's pretty good about summarizing references from earlier books as necessary, so you may enjoy just starting later in the series better than I would ;)

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    • Haha, I sex-educated myself with the "Clan of the cave bear"-series (7 books).

      I was not allowed to read them (because of the above) so I did it in secret. Never had reading a book felt more bad-ass.

      But I agree. If you get over the dramatic "proud manhoods and fragrant flowers", it is a great and sexy series

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      • Would you believe that my mother pushed those books on me from when I was like 14 or 15?

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          • I read them at that age too, due to permissive parents.

            Looking back 15 years at my 15yo self, I'll say I feel those books confounded the damage I'd already encurred : my sex-education started with Jondalar's macho lies, Ayla's slutty fickleness, Ranec's melodramatic intensity…
            Combined with my parents' horrible married life, I'm still expecting people to be terrible.

            For entertaining reading, I suggest Liza Dalby's TALE OF MURASAKI, about the first novelist in the imperial court of 11th C Japan.

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          • From memory I got my mum reading the series for the first time…

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        • I was 13 (I don't think my mother quite remembered just how much sex there was, but when she did she only went: OH, ugh whatever) (I'd also put in a rape warning for the first book esp. the second one (towards the end) is where all the great sex stuff starts. Not that I don't LIKE the first book, is has some nice stuff, just not great sex.)

          After that came the Outlander-series. (Which is also a rec for fantasy and historical stuff and SEX, though in retrospect (and with more psych knowledge) I can see some very questionable psychology stuff and I'll put a major rape warning in here and I liked the early books much better than the later ones.)

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      • Yep, the most recent book The Land of the Painted Caves is currently next to my bed right now! Not a lot of sexy times so far in it, but maybe there will be another Mother Festival…

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    • I second the Clan of the Cave Bear series! I also go strongly for any Marion Zimmer Bradley. I've read The Mists of Avalon at least 6 or 7 times. Lastly, I just finished the Boleyn series by Philippa Gregory. As you can see I'm a total sucker for historical.

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      • Ah-ha! The Forest House and the entire Mists of Avalon set were gifted to me at Christmas during my "becoming a woman" tweenies age. I think it was my anthropologist mom's version of Judy Blume or something, but I loved them.

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    • My mother gave me Valley of Horses, the second book, for Christmas when I was thirteen. Because it was about horses and I loved horses! My brother pointed out that it was a bit adult, but I don't think Mom realized quite how much. It was certainly an education – and I had all the pages with sexy bits dog-eared.

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      • I can still insta-open my (well, ownership is disputed between me and my mother, it was hers first, but she hasn't touched it in decades) copy of the book to the relvant scenes… (I was 13 too)

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    • I was definitely going to mention the Merry Gentry series! It's a much more fun n'fluffy read than Anita Blake, totally worth a read.

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  2. my favorite fluffy/sexy book is this one:

    Claimed by the Wolf by Charlene Teglia

    it's super-cheesy, and i'm sure could be described as an awful book by someone else, but i just love it.

    The girl is sorta silly at times, but not dumb, and the guys are drool-worthy (heterosexual sex, but there are multiple guys, one girl). it's very much a romance novel, but great fun.

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  3. Thanks for the recommendations! Keep 'em coming. (I SAID COMING.)

    I also randomly stumbled across "I love you, asshole" which sounds awesome/terrible:

    Once upon a time, he had a last name and a pulse—and he was straight. But Marcus Desarno meets his demise in an explosion of broken glass and twisted metal, and when he wakes up, he's a blood-sucking, sexually ambiguous, card-carrying member of Green's Hill, the northern California refuge for the fey, the terminally furry, and the undead.

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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    • That is about the most confusing book description ever. Bahwhat? Only the 5th or 6th time over did I get it. At first I was like "Please explain what happened. He was straight and a car crash turned him into a bi/polysexual vamipiric werewolf fey? What?!" lol

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      • Are you getting something more than that out of it? Because I am not. Please share your insights.

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  4. …it goes down easy — LIKE A BISEXUAL WIDOWER may be my new favorite line!
    I have gotten those annual anthologies of best erotic fiction – the nice part is, if I don't like the story, I skip onto the next one. good for bedtime reading and travel as the stories are not hundreds of pages.

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  5. I love Lorelei James' Rough Riders series. There must be over 15 of them at this point, and I never knew I had a thing for contemporary cowboys until I started them. Holy Hotness.

    I love Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I have an MA in English and love to get away from that in favor of some smut.

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  6. The Memoirs of Fanny Hill, one of the first English language sexy books. Some great (read: hilarious) metaphors in there :) Some members of my book club blushed through our entire discussion of it. Covers all sorts of relationships

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    • I heard that Fifty Shades of Grey is actually the worst thing ever — it began as Twilight Fan Fiction… and the female narrator (just like Twilight's) lacks any discernible personality. booo

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        • Having read all three (in one day, its not exactly heavy going) I can say if you're looking for intense sexy times, these books aren't for you. Its tame at best, at least it is by my standards.

          I'd say they were more fit for the 14 year old teenage female audience as the narration runs along the lines of "He's so deep and dark but meaningful and we can be together and I can change him" in that sort of crush on the troubled, dark haired, quiet guy that they all seem to gravitate towards

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          • Yeah, here's another vote for "No" on the Fifty Shades trilogy. I didn't make it through all three like Sarah did. I had to stop at two. The sex scenes were the same (and very mild) – over and over and over. I actually started skipping them. And I really felt like the author villified BDSM – like people who are into it must have something wrong with them, and you should rush into their life and be their savior and change them. Yuck.

            As far as good BDSM goes, I have read a couple Annabel Joseph e-books that I enjoyed. Not for the faint-hearted, but well-written with good sex.

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    • I was just going to add Tipping the Velvet too!
      Along the order of Lesbian Lit- Sarah Waters writes some gripping sex scenes. Tipping the Velvet takes a look at a young woman who is coming to terms with who she is an individual (a young lesbian in victorian England) and what that means for her expression of self (sexually and otherwise). You get a little bit of every thing as she figures it out. Emotional, Raw, and Hot.

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      • I'm reading Fingersmith right now… I am having the hardest time getting into it. :(

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        • Fingersmith was meh for me. So was Affinity, but The Little Stranger was fab after I got into it.

          Sadly, only one awkward sex scene in The Little Stranger. Lame!

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        • The best part of Fingersmith for me was when it came up at my bookclub (by then we'd all been drinking for hours) and someone suggested "That Sarah Waters book — fingersomething? Fingerfucker? Fingerbanger?"

          The whole time I was reading it, I was like "I wish this book was called Fingerbanger."

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      • I agree, Tipping the Velvet is my fav of the Sarah Waters books. I kept waiting for Affinity to get hot, but it just lead me on, book tease… The Tipping the Velvet BBC movie (mini series?) was pretty entertaining too. I pop it in when I'm feeling particularly sapphic and victorian…

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      • "Mrs. Sucksby" – ?!?
        Really??

        LOL… Not the book for me.

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    • I tried so very hard to like Tipping the Velvet. I loved the miniseries (Victorians! Lesbians! My two favorite things EVER!), but I just do not like Waters' writing. And I just couldn't sympathize with any of her characters. it made me so sad.

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  7. I've recently decided to embrace my love for paranormal romances – the paranormal part keeps it interesting while the romance part makes it steamy. I like to find the anthologies that Laurell K. Hamilton or Charlaine Harris (of Tru Blood fame) have contributed to in order to find new authors. Plus, my library uses "paranormal romance" as a tag for online searches.

    1 agrees
    • I have to admit I'm not a huge Charlaine Harris fan. But the only thing I've read of hers was the first book that got turned into True Blood, and since I really hate the show, it kind of colored the book. I didn't get more than 30 pages in.

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      • I read a bunch of the True Blood books before seeing the series. The series is way worse than the books (my opinion) – the books are way sexier and have better plots. (to be fair, I could only bear to watch 2 episodes of True Blood). Even my husband reads them and described them in the most accurate, awesome way possible: "They are literary popcorn – not really all that great, but good enough that you plow through them insanely quickly."

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        • Oh True Blood. It's a bonus to have seen the series because then I can fill in the scenes with Sexy Eric Face and Body and Accent. Mmmmmmmmmmmm Nordic vampires.

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          • THIS!! True Blood is ALL ABOUT Sexy Eric. There's nothing else really! He is also why I am TRYING to read my husband's copies of the Sookie series. It's difficult, and so far, NO SEX. And oddly, our copy of the omnibus (first 3 books) smells like blood. No idea on that.

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          • Sexy Eric, yes…but when Alcide got a face and body on the small-screen, my heart burst out of my chest and jaw fell to the floor. Yum. I started these books almost 10 years ago, so while the series is ok, the visuals and how they enhance my reading pleasure, are the only good to come of it. Nekkid man time isn't so bad on Sunday nights.

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          • I have to say I really appreciate that True Blood is only about half-way based on the Southern Vampire Chronicles. I really love the stuff Alan Ball & Co have added! It's like you get two great series.

            And sexy Eric? Oh yeah having Alexander Skarsgard in my head before I read the books really really helped.

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  8. I am currently reading Amber Benson's How to Be Death. Not much sex so far but other of her books do have some (plus, it's Tara from Buffy!).

    Some of the books by Kelley Armstrong have sex (Clay and Elena especially, but Hope gets hot and heavy, and Paige and Lucas definitely do too. Strip spellcasting!).

    The Joanne Walker series by C. E. Murphy has some hot stuff in it.

    None of these are seriously way sexy but I enjoy them and the times they do write about sex I can appreciate it.

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    • I really love Kelley Armstrong's books. Not tons of sex like the Anita Blake books (which I love for the sex), but some, and they're really enjoyable books. Also along the lines of steamy but a little less graphic sex paranormal romance, I love Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series.

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    • OMG reading Amber Benson's sexy scenes is the most hilarious thing ever! Because you're like whoa, that's Tara and she's so earnest and mild-mannered… but the book in your (non-dominant) hand is a cheesy YA fantasy novel. I will read anything she writes, ever, but I still can't see photos of her and her boyfriend Adam Busch without retching (and if you've seen Buffy, you know what I mean).

      2 agree
  9. The Amazon Kindle store always has tons of free ebooks, and many are romance. I like light fluffy reading before bed, too, and I think I've read at least 50 free romance ebooks. Honestly, most of them are pretty well written and entertaining. I would be really embarassed if anyone actually saw what is on my Kindle, but I love me some free books!

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  10. I like to read, but i've never claimed to be intelligent about it….

    Stating the obvious… Southern Vampire Chronicles by Charline Harris… the books that TrueBlood is based on…

    The TV show is aweful, but it's only very loosely based on the books. I like Sookie cuz she's not "a career woman" she's a waitress, but she likes her job and she sticks up to vampires, bosses them round, and then has crazy freaky sex with them.

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  11. Years ago I read the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice (written under the pen name Roquelaure), which are BDSM fantasy loosely based on the fairy tale. Parts of the books made me squirm a tad uncomfortably, but in a sexy way and I really enjoyed them. I also enjoyed a book called Faking It, about a lit prof who's bad with men and hires an escort to teach her about sex. It had a sequel that wasn't nearly as good called Ordinary Life. In fact, reading the sequel kinda spoiled the original for me, so I'd recommend stopping after the first one!

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    • The Sleeping Beauty series was my first foray into erotica. (I had to sneak-read them in HS) Thinking about it know, those books probably strongly shaped my…um..tastes? :p

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      • I also loved those books. Sure, some of it was, uh, not to my liking. But the overall idea and the poetic writing style of Anne Rice? Felt like I was reading the classiest BDSM gang bang you could ever get your hands on.

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        • That's exactly what I liked about them too. Some of the scenes are beyond what I'd care to try in the sack myself, but reading about it is still hot.

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    • I have found this to be the most enjoyable series (for me). I make it a point to read the trilogy once a year. This year, my plan is to read it to my S.O. before bed and sexy time :-)

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  12. If you're into "supernatural romance", Meg Cabot (of The Princess Diaries, now writing for the same girls who have grown up) wrote a grown-up 2-book series about vampires: Insatiable, and Overbite.

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  13. I would also like to suggest the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. The first Book is "Boneshaker" Its a FANTASTIC Steam Punk romp. There's no sex unfortunately, but there IS a strong female lead in each story, and Steam Punk-ness, and zombies (lots of zombies)

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  14. i generally like to keep my sex and plots separate when reading, so i'm not really much for "romance" books. but this totally flashed me back to high school (middle school?) when i accidentally discovered anne mccaffrey books with sex scenes. at the time, it was a very exciting discovery.

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  15. While I love me some sexy books, I can't read them right before bed because – well, it makes me want to do something else in bed rather than sleep.

    HOWEVER! Some recommendations for those who enjoy the paranormal sex: "The Goblin King" by Shona Husk – which also has a plot (and though the description differs, I couldn't help but picture David Bowie in "Labyrinth" while reading). And while I have not finished it, I LURVE "The House of Dark Delights" by Louisa Burton. It includes sex of every kind – mostly kinky – and with mostly polysexual participants. One character is even a sort of fae who switches from male to female at will. There is a plot underneath, but it is mostly sex – and I am fine with that when that's what I crave.

    2 agree
  16. Anyone else read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series? Because they are amazing. And by amazing I mean ridiculous and hilarious brain candy.

    They're quite fluffy paranormal steampunk. There's not a lot of sex, but there are sexy werewolves, and a hilariously gay vampire, and a really hot cross dressing lesbian inventor who I kind of want to marry.

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  17. I recently read "Swordspoint" by Ellen Kushner and absolutely loved it. While the sex scenes aren't overly detailed, the pillow talk (really all the dialogue) is wonderful. Plus there is court intrigue and most of the characters are polysexual.

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  18. I can't get enough of Alice Borchardt's writing. She's Anne Rice's sister, but she does more historical/fantasy stuff than Anne. The Dragon Queen Trilogy books are about Guinevere and King Arthur, except with Guinevere as a possibly part fairy, magic-wielding, warrior princess. The sex is fairly frequent and the descriptions are awesome. Her other series are also sexy and fun.

    1 agrees
    • For those into sexy-vampire times the best paranormal romance I have read is 'Sunshine' by Robin McKinley. It is a stand-alone with a really good plot and the main character likes baking cinnamon rolls.

      1 agrees
  19. I like my sexy books classic and straightforward, which means one thing- ANAIS NIN. Also, the Aqua Erotica series is amazing.

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  20. Ha! After the first 2 paragraphs I thought "Well she needs to get herself to Smart Bitches". Great minds…

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