I’ve recently read Megan Hart’s Pleasure and Purpose and No Greater Pleasure, both part of her “Order of Solace” series of paranormal erotica. The premise is so intriguing. In an alternate vaguely English history, there’s an order dedicated to providing solace to its patrons.
- There is no greater pleasure than providing absolute solace.
- True patience is its own reward.
- A flower is made more beautiful by its thorns.
- Selfish is the heart that thinks first of itself.
- Women we begin and women we shall end.
I think is appropriate that I’m writing this post on Mother’s Day. (Hi, Mom!, except that my mother doesn’t know I write BDSM erotica, so that shout-out is a bit tongue-in-cheek). A lot of women, but mothers in particular, often behave as though Principle #4 is tattooed on their bodies. My mother always takes the least appealing portion of any meal: the toast that got a bit over-done, or the dried-out corner of the casserole. It’s instinct: your guests, family, loved ones, friends all get the better bits.
But that’s selfish, too, in its own way. It’s grabbing for oneself all the generosity in that gesture. That’s not why my mother does it. I know why she does it; she’d feel guilty if someone else was eating something not as nice as what she herself had to eat. But if someone said to my mother, “No, I want the burnt one,” I think there’d be a real paradox at work in her head.
Megan Hart’s heroines in the trilogy of novellas, Pleasure and Purpose, all struggle with this paradox, particularly as they fall in love with the men they’ve been sent to serve. They believe, as handmaidens, they are serving a deity named Sinder, helping him repair a mythical wrong and reinstate his family. So their actions are not those of a slave or indentured servant. In a sense, they’re using their patrons’ misery or troubles as a way to further Sinder’s end.
It’s as if a religious order in our world had taken as its sacred duty the provision of services–some sexual–to troubled men. Because while there are references to prior placements where the handmaidens served older women who are dying, for example, in these novellas, the recipients of the handmaidens’ efforts are three handsome but troubled men who end up very sexually attracted to their handmaidens.
The sex is hot, but the philosophy is even hotter. All that delicious doubling back on what we think of as “duty” and “honor” and, yes, “solace.” I devoured the stories, all the while paying Megan Hart the ultimate compliment: I wish I’d thought of it!
I will say, I think Pleasure and Purpose was more successful than No Greater Pleasure, which is a full-length novel. The shorter length seems to suit the set-up: A man needs solace, a woman arrives as his handmaiden to provide that solace whether he wants her to or not, they duke it out (spoiler alert: the handmaiden always wins), and then sift through the trickiness for their happy ending.
Oh, yeah, and they have some super-hot sex in the process.