Thursday, March 06, 2008

RFI: Female Dominant Romances

The US Military calls it a "Request For Information" and I guess I have one today. I'm currently writing a paper about BDSM romances, but specifically about female dominant BDSM romances. And I have a list of those romances, but it's a short one, so I was wondering if anyone else out there could add to it.

Non-BDSM Romances with Female Dominant characteristics:
*Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels.
*Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible:
Her mouth left his to make heat trails over his face and down his neck. Meanwhile her hands stoked down over his chest under his shirt. There was no hesitation, no unsureness: he was hers for the taking, and she knew it. He fell back against the wall, to brace himself, because she made him weak-kneed and because he wanted everything at once: he had to have her then and there that instant, yet he didn't want to move, to do anything to interrupt the sensations coursing through him. He had no names for what he felt. He might be dying, for all he knew. The pleasure was beyond anything. Let it kill him.

She was welcome to kill him with heat and pleasure or torture him. So long as she wanted him, she could take him any way she liked. He was strong; he could bear whatever she did to him, and happily, too. But he wanted her, too, and he couldn't wait forever.
*Laura Kinsale's For My Lady's Heart and Shadowheart (although Shadowheart is much more obviously and overtly BDSM than FMLH).
*J.R. Ward's Lover Unbound toward the end.
*And apparently Lydia Joyce's Shadows of the Night.

Female Dominant BDSM Romances
*Joey Hill's Natural Law, Holding the Cards, Mistress of Redemption and her print Vampire series, and, to a lesser extent, Mirror of My Soul and Ice Queen.
*Stephanie Vaughan's Cruel to be Kind.
*Diana Whiteside's The Switch, although that obviously is not pure FemDom.
*Emma Holly's Top of Her Game, although I have major issues with it.

And that's all I've got. I know more are out there, but I just haven't had the courage, time, energy, or money to buy ebooks without being able to look through them.

I know there are WAY more male dominant/female submissive romances out there, as there are male dominant/male submissive books (got lots of those), but I was looking specifically for ROMANCES with female dominant traits.

Thanks! Here's hoping y'all know more than I do! If you do have one, could you list title and author, as well as a little about the story , if it's femdom all the way through, and what you think of its quality, I'd very much appreciate it!


  1. Sarah, the villainess of my first book, THE LILY BRAND, is a sadist and loves nothing more than to dominate and even torture men (I wasn't in the best of moods when I wrote this book). The novel is now out of print, but I'd be happy to send you a copy.

    Charlotte Lamb's VAMPIRE LOVER contains some intriguing elements of female dominance: in one scene the heroine gives the hero a sleeping potion and ties him up in his own bed. When he wakes, they have a major row, before she proceeds to have sex with him -- more or less against his will! I blogged about this book some time ago; here's the link.

    I hope this helps!

  2. Okay, I guess I should have specified, female dominant HEROINE, rather than villain. I've got a whole rant about uber-villains being sadists, but Candy and Mary Novak said it better here. (Not a slam on you, just an observation!)

    And thanks for the info on the Lamb. I'll check it out.

  3. Coulter's The Nightingale Legacy isn't a BDSM romance per se, but the heroine ties up the hero with his own cravats to have her way with him (conceptually), and then for a wedding present he has made for her a pair of fuzzy leather cuffs.

    Interestingly, I would say that The Nightingale Legacy is more explicitly consensual in every encounter between the hero and heroine than any other Coulter Regency, many of which are from the Great Rape Era.

  4. Er, sorry, dictation software problem. That should be "consensually", not "conceptually".

  5. I liked "conceptually"! Had a ring to it.

    Fascinating observation about the Coulter book. Thanks for the rec!

  6. I liked "conceptually," too!

    The Lydia Joyce is a curious case, Sarah. I'm not sure the relationship is altogether D/S, but it seems that way because of the S/M elements: that is, the heroine enjoys inflicting pain (nothing major, nothing particularly stylized, either) and the hero, receiving it, but the question of who is in charge of any given encounter is quite open, or so it seemed to me. A very interesting case for your paper, actually, since Joyce does not try to "cure" her couple of their particular kink, and in fact the kink cures them.

    One other book that comes to mind from long, long ago: wasn't the heroine of Exit to Eden, the Anne Rice novel, a dominant? A book permanently spoiled for me by that awful movie, so I've blocked out the details (alas!)--other Rice Beauty books, perhaps?

  7. Eric, I know little about Exit to Eden but the Beauty books are hardly romances. Don't get me wrong--I own them! But they're not romances.

  8. Ah! Well, there you go. It's been twenty years, almost, since I read them, and somehow the HEA (or lack thereof) wasn't what stuck in my mind.

    It's been just as long for "Exit to Eden," but the folks who left comments at Amazon seem to think it's a romance. (Ooh! High quality source, dude.) "If you enjoy romance novels, minus the kinkiness that Anne Rice has a reputation for, then this might be right up your alley. It's got just a dash of kink, but predominantly it's a tale of two lovers," says one.

    I'll keep mulling this one over!

  9. I do know of a few others but they're ebooks, erotic romance, and not full length. They are:

    *Devarian Exile by Sierra Dafoe-Changeling Press. It's a futuristic set on a planet where women are warlike and dominate men.

    *C.H.A.S.E.2: Plain Brown Wrapper by Shelby Morgen-Changeling Press-On a flight to Paris a woman who has fantasized about dominating a man meets a male escort on his way to Paris to meet his first client. They hit it off, she hires him for one night and they spend it exploring her dominance and his submission.

    *Black Widow by Lena Austin-Loose Id-Heroine works as a dominant at a BDSM club. "Kelly’s profession as the infamous Dominatrix, The Black Widow, has brought her fame and fortune, but not love. She accepts a passionate challenge from this man who won't submit." She's not much of a dominant.

    Queen of Carnage by Michael Barnette-Loose Id. I haven't read it but from the excerpt it appears that the heroine is the dominant.

    BTW, I love Joey W. Hill's Femdom. I just wish she hadn't added the paranormal elements. I also expected great things from Stephanie Vaughan after Cruel To Be Kind but she moved on to m/m. I really wish Vaughan had written more femdom. I love m/m but there are so many people, male and female, who write m/m. Very few female authors are willing to write Femdom. I've been told by several authors that they just can't convincingly write F/m. It seems unnatural to them. I've also had editors and publishers tell me that F/m BDSM doesn't sell well.

  10. Wow, Barbara, thank you! I'll check them out!

    Have you read Hill's Rough Canvas? M/m, but brilliant!!! No supernatural and just a brilliant exploration of a true BDSM relationship. Yummy.

  11. I would say that Exit to Eden qualifies as a romance, and it is a hetero fem-dom story. It is, like AR's Beauty stories, very explicit, but the central relationship between Lisa and Elliott meets your qualifications, I think. The characters truly fall in love, and ironically, the kinkiness of their sexualities is the main obstacle they have to overcome in order to get their HEA. Their relationship develops and grows, inside and outside the world of d/s literally and figuratively.

    Are you looking for books with a fem-dom scene, or a dominant female heroine in a kinky relationship with the hero? I don't think you'll find too many of the latter in mainstream romance.

    One twist on the theme can be found in Dance on the Wind by Mary Jo Putney which featured a male D/s villain. The interesting twist was that the villain had captured and imprisoned the beautiful woman, but rather than forcing her into a submissive role, he forced her into the domme role, which disturbed her terribly. The idea was that her final denouement--gang rape and death-- would be that much sweeter if he had been dominated by her previously.

    (I c&p'd some of this from old posts of mine on Salon's forum, Table Talk. If you're interested in the thread, it is here:

  12. I'm afraid my publisher discourages writing from the Domme pov...says they just don't sell as well. Can't blame them for not wanting to publish what won't sell for them (although if my experiences in roleplaying in Second Life are any indication, the genre could be HUGE).

    Anyway, you asked for romances with female dominant traits and I have two of my own to suggest. But as it's bad form to suggest one's own titles in a public forum, I'll email you off-blog :).

    Diana Hunter

    grrr...posting this anonymously 'cause I can't remember my password and my cheat sheet is at home and I'm not.

  13. No Sarah, I haven't read Rough Canvas yet. I've bought it because I love Hill's writing style so much, but it's still in my electronic TBR pile. I'm afraid that when it comes to m/m I like it much "rougher" than most female authors are willing to go!

    Wow! I didn't know Diana Hunter had written any significant dominant female characters. I'm surprised because I've got her Secret Submission and Cabin Fever. I haven't bought any more but the excerpts suggest that her other books are M/f as well.

    I'm a bit bitter when it comes to ebook publishers. I had such high expectations when I first started reading erotic romance. Unfortunately for me they're just as traditional as mainstream romance when it comes to sex roles.

  14. Take a look at some of Catherine Asaro's books. They're futuristic when romances; really more on the space opera plane.


  15. As someone else mentioned, it's easier to find (overt) examples in erotic romance. There's a Susan Johnson novel with a very experienced, assertive woman wearing the pants, so to speak. I'll try to remember the title.

    Also, the Captivated anthology includes:

    Susan Johnson's Bound and Determined
    - A princess has a man kidnapped and tied to a bed to impregnate her so her kingdom will have an heir.

    Bertrice Small's Ecstasy
    - Set in a fantasy world in which women rule and men are sex slaves.

  16. Ooh, RfP, I've got Captivated. Thanks for reminding me! And most of the Susan Johnson--I never really considered any of them overtly femdom, though. Hrm.

  17. I don't think any of Johnson's novels are overt. But I do remember one or two historicals in which the overall dynamic definitely has the heroine in charge. (One with a younger man; maybe one in which she had a child, so that drives her decision making.) Those might not go as far as what you're looking for.

    I'll try to remember titles for other erotic romances with different shadings of feminine dominance. (I won't say "femdom" in case that's a really specific term.)

  18. Hmmm. There are a number of 70's/80s era westerns where the woman accepts a convict off the gallows to marry. Similarly, Woodiwiss' Shanna involves the privileged daughter hooked up with a convict/bondsman. Actual BDSM? No. Contrived situations where the woman holds some power over the man, yes.

  19. Oh, I had forgotten about this hideously bad book by Dara Joy called Ritual of Proof, which takes place in a faux-Regency world where the women are in charge ("she-dukes" and "she-earls"), and men have been genetically engineered to have some kind of hymen-equivalent which requires them to lose their virginity in terrible pain. Of course, it hardly counts as female-top BDSM, because Dara Joy being who she is, the heroine discovers that she is much happier when her ingenue husband turns all the female-topping customs of her world topsy-turvy and instead completely dominates her sexually.

    I'm losing brain cells just remembering this book.


  20. Barbara B., Rough Canvas is very rough. Their first scene together is Well worth the read. And your comment about traditional sex roles is precisely what I'm trying to cover in my paper. Thanks for the recs!

    And Deborah, I think I'll skip the Dara Joy! ;)

  21. The Dara Joy reference reminds me of Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, but that's fantasy, of course. And also in the f/sf realm are the various books by Elisabeth Vonarburg.


  22. Hmm, why do I get the impression that I'm reading vanilla romance? *g* But still, I thought of another novel that might fit: Vicki Lewis Thompson's ACTING ON IMPULSE: Trudy is new in the city and far from being a shy country girl. She is bent on seducing Linc and, if I remember correctly, takes very much the active and slightly aggressive part in their relationship. She stages several sexual fantasies for Linc: in the first she takes on the role of a servant girl and he is the master, but some nights later she is the princess and he her sex slave (well, naturally he gets tied to teh bed ...)

  23. Quick note to're right. I DO write primarily from the male Dom, female sub p.o.v. In all my books the female is strong, but only two contain a woman that would be so strong as to be considered dominant.


  24. I've not got any helpful suggestions to add because, like Sandra, I think I must be reading a different sub-set of romances or something. Or maybe I'm just not recognising "Non-BDSM Romances with Female Dominant characteristics" because I've just not been thinking of the heroines in those terms. I certainly wouldn't have thought of Lord of Scoundrels like that.

    Thinking about this a bit more, it occurs to me that maybe you'd class Sandra's Castle of the Wolf as having somewhat female dominant characteristics, because the heroine is very determined and pursues the hero emotionally and sexually. She also defeats the villain.

    That said, this week I've been reading a cache of Mills & Boon romances from the 1980s that I found in a second-hand shop. Admittedly it's a very small sample, and I've been reading them one after another, so perhaps that's made me more aware of the similarities, and perhaps it's that I've had thoughts about this thread drifting around in the back of my mind, but it seems to me that in almost all of them the hero has a lot of power compared to the heroine. Sometimes it's the bullying, punishing kiss type of power (in which case it's more pronounced than in the modern M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents line). But in others it's the situation where he just keeps pursuing her, until she gives in. Betty Neels's heroes are like that, and she wrote in this period (although her career spans decades). They're just very, very persistent heroes, in a relatively quiet sort of way. In addition, there are not infrequently accommodating male characters, either the insipid boyfriend who gets dropped by the heroine, or the "other man" who's less determined/sexually aggressive and pales in comparison with the hero.

    Anyway, reading those books, and this thread, and another thread about male protectiveness that's been going on at AAR gives me the impression that there's a lack of female dominance (in the non-BDSM sense) and that it's tied in with ideas about masculinity and femininity.

    However, I do know that in jay Dixon's book about Mills & Boon she said that in many of the romances written after the First World War there were more boyish heroes. In

    Louise Gerard's The Strange Young Man [...] it is the heroine who is the mother-figure - she is the one who takes care of the hero, in this instance being employed by him as his bodyguard. In other books by the same author the heroine takes a more conventional maternal role, as for instance in The Dancing Boy [...] This book has an example of a hero who is the exact reverse of the alpha man - he is poor and not socially powerful, the illegitimate son of a Russian aristocrat and an English dancer, earning his living as a professional dance partner. The heroine, on the other hand, is middle-class, and training to be a doctor on a £1,000 annuity. The plot of this book also emphasizes the reversal of roles when the heroine rescues the hero from his murderous enemies. (65).

  25. I agree with Eric's description of Lydia Joyce's Shadows of the Night. I'm sorry I didn't describe it more clearly on Dear Author (It is always tough to describe books when trying to avoid spoilers).

    I agree that Rice's Exit to Eden is a femdom romance (a precursor of today's erotic romances) and a very good one, too.

    You might also be interested in investigating Pam Rosenthal's novella, "A House East of Regent Steet" (it appeares in the anthology Strangers of the Night). The novella takes place in what used to be a house of ill repute, and as I recall, the hero asks the heroine to tie him to some contraption that was used for S/M sex. The heroine is definitely in the dominant position in that scene, which takes an unexpected turn.

  26. I thought I'd left a comment previously but it appears that Blogger ate it.

    It's not clear to me from your post whether you are looking for romances with heroines who have sexually dominant traits or if any kind of dominant traits will do.

    If it's the latter, then there is a long history of 'managing' heroines: Austen's Emma, Heyer's Grand Sophy being two prime examples. There is often - though not always - a sense of the managing heroine yielding to the hero at the end though so that might not be what you're looking for. Managing heroines have dominant traits but they don't usually dominate the hero. They turn up a lot in 'meeting your match' storylines.

    I would class Jessica Trent as a managing heroine rather than a dominant one. And I don't think I'd class the heroine (Daphne?) of Mr Impossible as either.

    The fact that you give Lord of Scoundrels and Mr Impossible as examples makes me think that perhaps you are looking for books with more subtle overtones of dominance as well as those with overtly dominant heroines?

    If so, I'd recommend you take a look at Charlotte Lamb's Obsession (1980). It's an interesting book in which the heroine feels a strong physical desire for the hero and the kind of possessiveness and jealousy that is more usually associated with Lamb's heroes. There is a definite power struggle between the hero and heroine in this book and the heroine does not win all the battles. She does, however, win the war and the hero is warned at the end that she'll 'never let him go'.

    I second Sandra's recommendation of Vampire Lover - the only category romance I've ever read with an overtly female-dominant sex scene.

    Another possible category author to look at is Susan Napier - she's written a few books in which the hero is a virgin and the heroine much more experienced. There is one in particular which I think might meet your criteria. I think it's called A Lesson In Seduction. The hero is nerdy and a virgin. The heroine is an actress who went through a promiscuous phase at one point in her life which resulted in her -I think - becoming infertile. It's a long time since I read this but I think the heroine is pretty dominant both in and out of the bedroom.

  27. Thanks, Tumperkin! I've cued them on my Paperback Swap list. I appreciate the recs.

  28. I thought there was a twist in the Susan Napier book and Roz got a humiliating comeuppance in the end. Wasn't she trying to reform her bad girl ways? And wasn't the hero only *apparently* nerdy?

    Perhaps I'm confusing it with Winter of Dreams (Napier's book about Roz's twin sister, Olivia). In WoD, Jordan is a "tender brute". Olivia is a big personality with an impressive temper (though damped down by illness), but she's very quivery-feminine and illogical. I've enjoyed some Napier books, in part because the heroines have distinctive personalities, but I don't think of them as anything approaching femdom.

    You've made me curious--I may have to re-read Roz's book.

  29. I've had another thought. If Lord of Scoundrels is about a dominant female maybe you'd think Heyer's Devil's Cub is too. At any rate it's another novel in which the heroine shoots the hero.

  30. If it does not need to be sexual domination and classics are allowed, try Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South: two dominant charactars whose ideas an views collide constantly. At the end of the book their opinions have both changed under the influence of the other. At that point his factory has gone bankrupt so when they finally come together she is in the stronger position.

  31. Sarah, I don't know that this will be of any help to you but Jayne Ann Krentz has a number of books in which there is a scene in which the heroine ties up the hero and dominates him (usually after he's done it to her, and it usually winds up with him taking over). It's just sex play, not the actual nature of the relationship. There's a very funny one in a faux torture chamber in Gift of Fire.

    There are also a few knock-down-and-drag-out sex scenes between Eve and Roarke in the J.D. Robb In Death series--again, mostly play, but genuine use of fighting skills. Eve wins sometimes but not always.

  32. Not exactly a romance, and not erotica, but an interesting look at a society that is female ruled is Wen Spencer's "A Brother's Price." Basically, it takes place in a world where men are so rare that female sisters form reverse harems. The men are treasured and protected (and domestic) and the women go to war.

  33. I just remembered - Heart of Deception by Taylor Chase. The heroine, Vivian is queen of the London underworld in Elizabethan London and she totally dominates the hero who is her guard and an underling (and also an undercover spy). I remember there's one scene where she makes him strip and pose for her, mostly to teach him she's the boss.

    This is what Mrs Giggles had to say: Rafe's relationship with Viv is more of a power play, a game of dominion and subjugation of the sexes, as Viv spins a web of lust around Rafe. Did I mention that Viv is called the virago man-eater by her men (they're praising her, by the way) and the nickname actually fits?

    I think Chase - aka Gayle Feyrer - wrote a great Maid Marion, too. But I have no idea if she was a dominant, as I haven't read it.

  34. I know your course etc is probably over by now, but in case you want a good read, I heartily recommend the Laurell K Hamilton, Merry Gentry Series, The heroine is a princess (immediately placing her in dominant to the men the majority of the time) there's elements of sadism and masochism, blood is drawn a couple of times throughout the books, but more interesting is the romance being between the heroine, and several men, but still very definitely being romance. Also there's Queen Andais, Merry's aunt, who is a true sadist, and with the balancing act of court intrigue come much more restrictions than mere ropes can provide.

  35. I may have to look for some of these...! Found this through a search. Just wanted to see if there was any erotic fiction out there involving some F/M Domme action that wasn't too into playing the "Women as dominants are sadistic and creepy" trope.
    The best I've been able to do on my own so far is a few like the Mercy Thompson series and the Walker Papers. Pretty much it. Strong female leads, no real kink.
    I've just been recommended way, way too many "romance" novels where the male hero--and I use the term loosely-- seems to think that raping the female lead into submission is a perfectly healthy way to get her attention. And his way, of course.
    I know I'm ranting and I apologize--especially since the post isn't precisely recent. It's just that with 50 Shades all over the place (which features a creepy, controlling, sadistic jerk who ignores No, stalks the heroine, and uses "It's okay, I'm into BSDM" as an excuse for his liking to beat women as part of his mommy issues--seriously, the author did not do much research here)...I've about had it. I need something more to my taste! Something where the woman isn't a simpering idiot. And if that means she picks up a riding crop...all the better, I say.

    1. "I know I'm ranting and I apologize--especially since the post isn't precisely recent. It's just that with 50 Shades all over the place"

      Absolutely no need to apologise! I hope some of the books mentioned here are more to your taste and if you haven't already seen it, I think you might enjoy Angela Toscano's review of 50. I suspect her feelings about the book are not dissimilar to yours.

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  37. Straight up romance book, futuristic "Lord of the Storm" by Justine Davis