Since I’m on tour with Combustion, which has revisionist-Victorian overtones, I thought I’d take this blog post to talk about the sexually conflicted Victorian period as it really was, not as I reimagined it.
People tend to think of the Victorians as being pretty darn uptight when it comes to sex. And in a way, they’d be right: the same rules and regulations that governed all aspects of Victorian life didn’t exclude sexuality. Men prided themselves on controlling their baser instincts, and women were considered not to have many sexual feelings at all!
At the same time, though, the Victorian era was a time of rampant prostitution. Regulating sexuality didn’t really control it; instead, those regulations pushed sexuality underground. Women’s sexuality was still considered abnormal, however. Any aberrant behavior by a woman was considered a sign of hysteria, pent-up sexual frustration, to be “cured” by a doctor who would bring a woman to orgasm by hand in his office.
Of course this was very popular with the women of the Victorian era. Doctors started developing hand problems, so they invented vibrators to make their jobs easier.
Combustion takes a very different view of Victorian sexuality. Instead of the conflicted views of the actual Victorian period, I imagined a world where sexuality was generally accepted and understood, and felicitation devices – vibrators – are a sexual aid rather than a medical device. Despite this openness, though, not everyone in the world of Combustion wants to see these devices go mainstream.
There are some hangups, though, a few holdovers from the actual Victorian opinions about sexuality, especially women’s sexuality. For all the political progress in the world of Combustion, some people don’t feel that sex toys have a place in the World’s Fair, no matter how inventive. This leads Astrid and Eli to their tentative partnership, and that partnership, of course, leads to everything else.
Astrid hopped up on the worktable, legs dangling freely. “Eli, you can hang on to whatever outdated notions of propriety work for you in your world, but I’m not going to deny myself what I want just because I’m worried about what people will think.”
Taking deep, calming breaths, he studied her. Maybe she had a point. Maybe it wasn’t his responsibility to protect her reputation. Maybe she did want to sleep with him. Damn, he wanted to believe her.
Seeming to sense his acquiescence, Astrid made him an offer. “Look, I’m only talking about one night. Resolve this tension between us, and then we can get back to work like normal.”
It was tempting. He hesitated, running through the pros and cons in his mind. She was so damn sexy, sitting there swinging her feet, her dark eyes sparkling in the light from the lanterns. He’d sworn off relationships after Mallory, wasn’t going to go through that heartache again. But Astrid wasn’t proposing a relationship—and he wasn’t surprised; she was dynamic, bold, adventurous, and he was a straightforward businessman like every other businessman. She was proposing sex. If it didn’t mean anything, couldn’t they share one night and be done with it? No heartache, no complications?
“Just one night. One night, and this never happens again.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Right?”
“Of course. You’re still a self-righteous prude, and I doubt I’d be able to stand more than one night.” Her smile indicated that she was teasing, but she’d made it clear what she thought of him already.
He looked around the workshop. “So…what happens now, exactly?”
Astrid hopped down off her bench. “Now, I think you take me home.”
A war orphan, Astrid Bailey is content living her adult life alone, working as a contract machinist. Her real passion, though, is inventing felicitation devices that promote women’s sexual empowerment and help them find pleasure independent of a man.
The upcoming World’s Fair, with its substantial cash prize, is an opportunity to open the shop she’s always imagined and hopefully solve her financial woes. Except the committee has denied her entry unless she obtains a “sponsor”. Astrid suspects they mean “male”.
Eli Rutledge, noted watchmaker, knows entering the fair will solidify his reputation as an innovator —but he’s fresh out of ideas. Until Astrid approaches him with her outrageous product line. With no other options, though, he agrees to lend her his good name.
As construction heats up, so does their chemistry—and the complications. Astrid is unaccustomed to asking for help, much less sharing credit. And Eli fights an attraction that could spell professional disaster. As the Fair date approaches, Astrid and Eli must decide how far they’ll go. For the business…and for each other.
Product Warnings Contains period-appropriate graphic language, highly inappropriate amounts of M/F and F/F sex, and copious amounts of *ahem* product testing. May *ahem again* “spark” an online shopping binge for *cough* toys. Of the adult variety.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Elia Winters has always been a New England girl, despite having spent much of her childhood in Florida. She holds a degree in English Literature and teaches at a small rural high school where she runs too many extracurricular activities. She balances her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness.
Elia dabbles in many genres, but erotic romance has been one of her favorites since she first began sneaking her mother’s romance novels. In high school, she kept her friends entertained with a steady stream of naughty stories and somehow never got caught passing them around. Her erotic fiction and poetry have been published online at Clean Sheets and Scarlet Letters under a different name. Elia currently lives in New England with her loving husband and their odd assortment of pets.
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