By author Joey W. Hill
So my BDSM/erotic romance tastes can be boiled down to two questions: “Are the characters worth reading?” and “Is it a love story powerful enough to linger in my mind?”
You’ll notice neither of those questions is about the sex. That’s because if I’m browsing in the BDSM/erotic romance genre, I expect there will be explicit sexual content. The answers to those two questions tell me if the eroticism was integrated in the story in the right way.
Back in the 80s, I was a reader who wanted much stronger erotic content, but I wanted it with all the quality elements of an intense love story I’d experienced from reading authors like Kathleen Woodiwiss, Laura Kinsale, Penelope Williamson, and the 1980s-1990s greats like them. Yet when I started writing BDSM romance, the attitude in the romance industry was “sex is lazy writing.” If an author put a lot of sex in their books, it was because he/she didn’t want to put in the time to develop a good story with memorable characters.
However, I believed a great love story could be written with soul-deep eroticism and engage the heart, mind and libido of an intelligent, well-read woman. I’m so happy that time has proven me right, AND made room for a very lovely and diverse genre in the romance section.
So, if you want to give BDSM/erotic romance a try (pause for me to cheer and do a couple backflips – grin), there is so much to offer in this genre. You can ease into the waters at the shallow end or jump right into the deepest part.
When I first told Jennifer I’d provide this list, my thought was to compile a list of my favorites and then ask my readers for their recommendations. I ended up with 160 recommendations (not including my own), and for a while the idea of how best to present this info to a new BDSM/erotic romance reader in a way that would be helpful and not overwhelming stumped me. After I examined the list and noted how often certain authors were referenced, I decided to put together a list of ten authors I and/or many of my readers would recommend to someone wanting to explore the BDSM/erotic romance world.
All ten of these authors are excellent. The order should not be taken as a rating of one over the other, though the authors listed #1-7 take a more mainstream or romantic approach, whereas 8-10 get more extreme on the emotional and physical end of things. I don’t mean extreme as in “hotness.” At its heart, BDSM romance is a pretty profound exploration of Dominance and submission, and how those qualities manifest in the characters. Sometimes that can be a bumpy journey outside of comfort zones. It’s one of the reasons I love this genre – because the authors of it don’t leave a corner of the amusement park untapped, including the shadowy corners.
While I haven’t read all these titles personally, my readers recommending them suggest they live up to those two questions I started with. When I was verifying titles/spellings, I was seeing a lot of high Amazon review ratings, which also seem to support that.
I hope this list helps you become a fan of the genre. Or, if you are already one, that it gives you some more good reads!
I lost count of how many of my readers passionately recommended Cherise’s Masters of the Shadowlands series as the best introduction to the BDSM erotic romance world. “Not only steamy but emotional, and the connection between the couples and their friends is heartwarming…great stories with difficulties to overcome, deep abiding love and very hot scenes.” When they talked specific books, the accolades continued: “Super emotional, a compelling read, and a good look at BDSM as an emotional connection and even a kind of therapy, not just titillation and sexual release.” (Breaking Free). Cherise writes various approaches to Dom/sub relationships, not just MaleDom/female sub, as this description of Servicing the Target shows:“Tough as nails female topping a former Army Ranger who will only submit to her.” Her readers also recommend her title The Dom’s Dungeon. (That one went on my TBR list, too!)
Lexi Blake received a wealth of comments along the same vein as Cherise’s, particularly for her Masters and Mercenaries series “Amazing characters, a multitude of kinks, and story lines with depth.” Think espionage and eroticism, well-written characters with suspense story lines.
Elizabeth’s Elite Doms of Washington series books are glamorous, romantic, and yet have very relatable characters, particularly her heroines. They’re an easy glide into the BDSM world. I’ve read 4-5 so far and have a couple more waiting on my Kindle.
Meghan March’s Mount Trilogy (officially the Anti-Hero collection, but I like Mount Trilogy, lol) dips its toe into the capture fantasy end of the BDSM world with an organized crime bad boy (who is 100% grown man – fanning self) and a feisty heroine who runs a distillery. I was addicted in no time.
The Original Sinners books are a great mix of the romantic and larger-than-life characters we love in romance, with realistic emotional struggles and sexy BDSM scenarios. Here’s what one reader said: “[Sex] isn’t all the books have to offer and it’s not in a useless way... know what I mean? Meaty plots and highly memorable characters.” One of the most compelling central figures in the series is Soren, a Catholic priest who is also a Dom sadist, and his spiritualism is an amazing core of the story. Trust me – it works, as me and millions of other Original Sinners addicts can attest. I love them – have The Mistress on my reader now, and I’ve read most of the rest of the series. One reader also suggested that Tiffany’s short story The Gift is an awesome introduction to the mindset that drives BDSM. “It was my first read I’d hers, maybe my first power exchange read, and I’ll never forget the feeling I had. Confusion, longing, curiosity, and incredible wonder at the power of the storytelling.”
Each book I pick up by Pam pulls me in, and they go in fresh directions from book to book. For instance, the first I read was Beneath the Burn, a rock star hero story where he was trying to beat addiction. Dark Notes, my current favorite, is about a pianist prodigy and her Dom teacher, and it’s amazingly written. My readers highly recommend her Tangled Lies series.
If you are a historical fan, yes, there is erotic fare for you, too. Robin Schone is an amazing author who writes Victorian/Edwardian erotic historicals. A reader said they are “graphic, but so involved in the relationships, and the characters are so three dimensional, without being anachronistic in any way, that I think I own everything she’s ever written. Gabriel’s Woman is a favorite.” I’ve read The Lover, and it’s now on my keeper shelf. If I ever have the chance to meet her in person, I’ll probably stammer like a kindergartner.
Annabel’s story Cirque du Minuit was the first book I read by her, in her Cirque Masters series. The gorgeous aesthetics and artistic characters pulled me in (in Cirque du Minuit, the main characters are aerial silk performers). Deep in the Woods is another title of hers I love. She can write anywhere along the spectrum of soft eroticism to more hardcore; she lets the characters guide her in how they want to embrace Dominance and submission. Her bio statement on Amazon says it all: “Her characters all have one thing in common; they are "into" BDSM and they have lives that are richer, fuller, and more complex because of it.” My readers also love her Dark Dominance and Club Mephisto series.
CD’s erotic content is explosive and raw, edgy, yet the emotions her characters experience keep the stories firmly grounded in the love story arena. I’d recommend Iron Crowne as your gateway to her writing style (she just came out with the next book in that world – definitely on my TBR list). Byron and Olivia have chemistry that’s off the chart and you see the love coming at them before they do, which makes for a great enemies-to-lovers story. If you decide you love CD’s style as much as I do and want to get into deeper waters, read Marriage Games, followed by Separation Games. Those two are heavy stuff though - be warned.
Like motorcycle romances? And paranormal books? How about together? Her Rolling Thunder MC series is considered BDSM/erotic Urban Fantasy, because her characters are shifters (wolves, bears, swans, you name it, lol). The RTMC is the recommended entry to her work, as it gets more intense on the BDSM end of things as you go along. “Excellent character pieces, true to the UF genre,” according to one reader. She also has a contemporary series (Safeword) that comes highly recommended. One reader said, “I learn something new from each of her books.”
As I noted at the beginning, my readers had many suggestions. The above were just my best judgment of what to recommend to a newer BDSM/erotic romance reader from the compilation of their suggestions and my own. However, if these get you started and you want more, or if you still haven’t quite seen what you want, here are a few more with my brief comments, or those of my readers:
Angela has been a well-known name in the romance world for many years. Her novella,
“Roarke’s Prisoner,” a sci-fi BDSM story (first featured in the Secrets anthology, Vol 2) was one of the earliest stories I read that showed me how I wanted to write BDSM romance. She has both paranormal and contemporary books with light BDSM, kinky fun and good suspense elements. Her Mageverse series offers the premise of King Arthur and his knights as vampires who fight for justice in our contemporary world. The women of that world are mages/magic users. Very cool stuff.
“Really good, thoughtful and romantic story of heroine exploring her sexuality, so there is a bit of everything in it.”
In addition to being a sex educator and BDSM lifestyle practitioner, Eden is a BDSM romance author, with a wide variety of books to offer in the BDSM genre. The Training House series is one of her most popular offerings.
A BDSM/fantasy twist on the Alice story.
The Men in Blue or PowerTools series are pure fun. With PowerTools, Jayne knows how to write menage plus stories – as in threesomes, foursomes, and on up, lol. Men in Blue brings it back to twosomes and threesomes, but with great suspense and sexy cops.
Her David’s House series offers tender BDSM stories that address the issues of trust that people can bring into the BDSM world, and how they resolve them. Masked is the first story, which I recently finished. The heroine’s struggle to achieve intimacy was touching and thought-provoking.
According to the several readers who recommended it, her Game Maker series has “amazing characters, great chemistry, humor, fantastic supporting cast and even an element of suspense.”
You may already know Kristen as a fabulous spicy romance mainstream author. You may not know she also has a Female Dom/male sub BDSM series called The Honey Series.
Her Breed series (paranormal) gets WAY high marks from my readers, as well as her Bound series (contemporary).
Cowboys! (need I say more?)
The Sweet Series. “Interconnecting characters throughout. In-depth story lines where the erotica isn’t just there to be there but has a purpose in the story. She’s a masterful storyteller who creates characters you really get invested in. Also recommend her KGI series.”
Megan’s work is more erotic than BDSM, but it tangles sexual and emotional intensity in a way that reminds me of good BDSM romance, tapping into soul-deep issues through sexual expression. I’m not sure anyone can read Megan’s work without learning more about themselves. Dirty was the first book I read by her.
Her New Camelot series is her most popular and, according to readers: “It will completely gut you and put you back together only in the way a talented author can.” I’ve read the first in her Thornchapel series and the writing/emotion is AMAZEBALLS. I already have the second book on my reader.
The Reluctant Dom is heartbreaking (grab a box of tissues) and hot. Reader comment: “Took me through the wringer of sorrow, confusion, anger and healing into joy.” Her Suncoast series is also recommended. As a side note, guest poster Trisha Bowers, an avid reader and advocate for the genre’s many wonderful authors, including Tymber, provided a list of her favorite erotic romance authors last year on Tymber’s blog. You can find it here.
M/M Erotic Romance
Before I bring this post to a close, I want to make special mention of Male/male love stories. Traditional romance publishers didn’t think the primarily heterosexual female romance readership would enjoy stories about two men. They were seriously wrong, because it is a very popular ER niche these days, probably because the books are written with just the female romance demographic in mind. If you’ve never tried one, it’s a great way to discover that, when it comes to love, the heart has one language. You’ll probably find some male/male sprinkled in the choices offered above, because many erotic romance authors write more than one dynamic (I’ve written several M/m stories, for instance), but here are some specific ones that come highly recommended by my romance readership:
Spires series includes two of my favorite M/m erotic romances of all time - For Real and Glitterland, particularly For Real. Nothing about it should have worked, but it DID. Made me an Alexis Hall fan for life.
The Deviations series receives rave reviews whenever I talk to anyone about great M/m BDSM romance. And as a side recommendation, I can tell you Chris’s novel Bareback is awesome and emotional. Plus it has cowboys!
Another Way series follows an evolving and deepening relationship. It’s a classic re-release from when it was a popular 2011 title.
Thanks for checking out this list! I really hope you find some great reads from the recommendations above. I certainly have loved reading many of these books myself, and have definitely added to my TBR list from my readers’ recommendations. Feel free to comment with more BDSM/erotic romance recommendations if you like! We’re all looking for the next great read.
About Joey W. Hill
Are you wondering about my books? Well, since this list was compiled from recommendations by my readers, and I’ve told you about some of the books I myself like reading, that might give you a good idea of what my stories are like. However, in a nutshell, my reader favorites in my contemporary worlds are the Knights of the Board Room and the Nature of Desire series. The Vampire Queen series is their fave in the paranormal world. In the VQS, I explore the Dominant/submissive potential of the vampire/servant relationship. The Nature of Desire is all over the spectrum, exploring a lot of different permutations of BDSM relationships – F/m, M/f, M/m, F/f/m, etc. The Knights of the Board Room are all MaleDom/female sub stories, except for one (Matt Kensington’s admin was a Domme, and she had to have her way with the head of the limo pool, a former SEAL). One of the KBR books, Afterlife, is actually a free ebook right now on all platforms if you want to safely try out my work with minimal financial risk (grin).