7.31.2014

I Like Smart Smut And I Cannot Lie

I do love intelligent smut. A smart smutty novel is one of my favorite ways to decompress (and mental decompressing is key right now, after the wonderful whirlwind that was BlogHer14).

Unfortunately, good smut can be hard to find. The trashy novels in my grandmother's basement blew my naive teenage mind, but in hindsight were indistinguishable Olden Tymes ravishment fantasies (a.k.a. rose-tinted rape), combined with breathless and statistically improbable odes to schlongs of unusual size.

Ew to that. Adult me wants well-written smut, ideally of a fantasy, sci-fi, or historical bent; with fascinating plots, populated by fascinating characters getting into fascinating situations -- and also having fascinating sex. And it needs to be sexy sex. Octavia Butler is a genius and probably my favorite storyteller, but her worlds are bleak, and that includes the sex.

So who does intelligent sexy sex, and does it right? 

At the moment, my favorite smart smut writer is Lia Silver, author of the Werewolf Marines ebook series. Its setting is contemporary, but, hey, werewolves. The writing is as compelling and streamlined as Ms. Butler's -- the first book, Laura's Wolf, even evokes Clay's Ark -- but Silver's sexy sex is sexy indeed. Even when it's condom-y sexy sex. I know! But yes. Laura's Wolf gets bonus points for its straight take on sensory issues and PTSD (the author is a therapist specializing in PTSD). Here's a summary from the Amazon page:
"Roy never wanted to be anything but a Marine. But on his last tour of duty, he was bitten by a werewolf. Next thing he knew, he was locked up in a secret underground laboratory. Despite the agony caused by his newly enhanced senses, he managed to escape his captors. Unable to return to the Marines, his entire life shattered, he hid out in the woods of Yosemite."
  

Though I am leery of overwrought alternative historical fantasy worlds, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series is skillfully constructed and too much fun. If you appreciate quality smut as much as I do, and you also happen to be a geographile and Sherlock Holmes fan, you'll find volumes of rewarding distraction in the adventures of a beautiful, brilliant submissive living by her well-trained wits in a reimagined medieval France -- in which sex is essentially a sacrament. Ms. Carey is also a skilled namer. You wouldn't think that matters in the context of this review, but it does -- this is a new world with new characters and new place names and new gods, and few things jar me out of an author's world faster than unskilled character and place naming.


I reviewed Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie two years ago, and gave it kudos for featuring "An autistic character portrayed as not just brilliant but totally hot -- and in need of acceptance, not conformity (the word 'autistic' is not used as the Victorian time frame predates the label)." I'd never before seen the perennial "he just needs the right woman" theme incorporate autism acceptance -- woot to that. And who doesn't love a 19th century UK-Paris-set tale? Recommended.


And now, lucky us, Ms. Silver released a second Werewolf Marines book, Prisoner. Amazon summary:
"Echo was born when a secret laboratory tried to genetically engineer the perfect assassin. Two clones survived: Echo, the success, and Charlie, the failure. Stronger and faster than any normal human, Echo knows no life but killing, and has never loved or been loved by anyone but her frail sister. But that's about to change..."

I've not read Prisoner yet -- I've squirreled it away, to binge on during this upcoming weekend's flight to (speaking of travel and fantasy) Oaxaca. Where I am going with just my husband, to celebrate a rare alignment of our kids' sleepaway camps significant wedding anniversary. And I could draw some parallels between that trip and this post's theme, but I think you got that part already.

These four books are examples of what I think good, smart smut is. Feel free to suggest your own favorites. The lurkers will be grateful, as will I.

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