Or: “The Bold Seduction Of Professor Hornsby”
It’s Regency Femdom Week, but I am immensely busy trying to dodge a pandemic to safely meet my submissive, and don’t have the undivided attention to bang out a proper work of fiction. Instead I offer a Regency Historical Romance review by way of consolation!
“Bold Seduction” is available on Amazon here as an exclusively digital book, as well as the standard kobo, nook, etc… At the time of writing this review it’s still on sale for 99 cents, but the regular price is quite fair too. I receive no affiliate or financial benefits from my review, and the closest I am to the author is following her on Twitter.
The book, itself
The Bold Seduction (of Professor Hornsyby) by Karyn Gerrard, was something I grabbed on sale for 99 cents. The premise was unusual- a male virgin, so I was intrigued to see what she would do with it, although I had never read anything by her before.
I am very glad I did.
I keep saying the problem isn’t that femdom content isn’t out there, it’s that it is seldom flagged as femdom. This particular novel manages to hit enough points to do better than many things that call themselves thus, and with the organization of the first annual Regency Femdom Week, I would be remiss not to both review and promote this book.
Our hero, Philomena, or “Phil”, is a brothel madam who still occasionally sees clients. She’s now in her early 30s and doing very comfortably, but getting a little bit bored. Thus when she is hired by the well meaning friends of Spencer, the third son of a nobleman, to relieve him of his virginity, she takes the job herself. “Professor” Spencer is autistic, and as an austistic person (me), his portrayal is probably my favourite in fiction so far.
The book is from a short story, and now is the launch of a trilogy. I can see why she gave it a second pass and more fleshing out; it was well worth its increased length. Although it’s very much an erotic romance, there is no gratuitous sex, and an extremely slow burn story, as much about cooking and getting to know one another than bedroom romps. I usually skip the sex scenes in romances, and I never felt I needed to here.
This is not hard femdom, but (author) knows how to build a tease and denial atmosphere, replete with edging. Despite her mission, and the hero’s reluctance, our protagonist manages to reaffirm enthusiastic consent every step of the way. The convenient remote location and lack of transportation to and from the hero’s isolated house gives the characters space to get to know each other and her to respect the initial no without immediately leaving. If not strictly a Christmas romance, with the framing of New Years in the background, this is a Holiday story that holds up year round.
Content note to femdom hungry readers:
Although most of the sex is very directed and initiated by her, as Spencer starts to feel his oats, the heroine enjoys him taking a more assertive role occasionally.
It does not, however, disempower her or flip roles completely. He very innocently keeps joking about her being a queen in a way that I find is often a real life tell for a sub guy in the wild.
As a person who has done the sexual initiation thing, I generally find I appreciate knowing I have installed confidence into my target. I generally don’t code it as “dominant” in my emotional experience of his behaviour, but I enjoy Silver takes initiative and doesn’t confine himself to by the numbers submission.
This book does zero sadomasochism and manages to affirm enthusiastic content with natural regularity. There is no bondage, and no degradation. You won’t enjoy this if you are hunting harder kinks, but I found it nicely hit on the right notes for a naturally occurring FLR.
What about its success as a genre piece & romance?
There’s all the good stuff of a historical romance: Dresses. Navigating social class. Self discovery. Social ruin. The fantasy of inequality put in the service of feeling powerful. We don’t, thankfully, get a surprise extra level of enobling, but the hero is the third son of an Earl, so this isn’t strictly speaking the rare historical commoner romance.
Phil’s approach to sex work doesn’t go down quite so obnoxiously as many heroines, although this does do the “only client I actually ever was attracted to”. She is a victim of an abduction into her trade, which I was a little cautious of, and a little foreshadowing that her wicked aunt and uncle may have intentionally disposed of her into this state of social ruin. Luckily this book doesn’t assert all sex workers are victims, but touches on her colleagues having a huge scope of different experiences and relationships with what they do for a living.
Buried in all this, however, is a very lovely story about the isolation of trauma. Maybe this is particular to me, my autism exists in a space of unclear beginning/end between serious business abuse I survived. Spencer and Phil are both living in self imposed silos of isolation because of abuse, and that’s rather the connection point I can understand how they get each other.
Emotionally Avoidant People In Love
Phil and Spencer are using intense self reliance as a means to be safe, and neither is very trusting. Spencer overtly is never sure if he can trust the good intentions of anyone but his family due to very real past experiences. Phil, meanwhile, repeatedly remarks she respects, but isn’t close to her colleagues in her business, with a very obvious theme of nurturing but arms length to them. For example, a character mentioned repeatedly, but not introduced “Darius” her business’s security, is a rescue from a back alley beating, and I can bet that her “nobody cares about me” attitude never uttered self pityingly, is ruthlessly enforced.
Spencer makes her feel safe because she is so busy unpuzzling him and accommodating, that the inevitable love sneaks up and grabs her unawares. She makes him feel safe because she narrates everything she is doing with him and takes the time to explain something he’s hitherto been exposed to as something humans are supposed to automatically figure out.
Another thing I found pleasant in Gerrard’s depiction of autism was that she skipped the trope of inherent misanthropy. The hero is withdrawn, not because he can’t connect with people, but because the experience of being autistic has provided repeated trauma, both sensory processing and socially. We learn his inevitable social class fueled boarding school experience was an exercise in learning to suppress to survive. But we also see a family that, like every family tree with autism in it, has learned to accommodate.
What Spencer has, that Phil doesn’t, is a foundation of being loved by family, that he is able to share, in turn, by loving her.
And (hooray!), he is no Rain Man. True, he is an academic, but he’s not framed as a magic savant, just a guy with a strong knack for his field of study. I also had to grin when I saw him doggedly (and implied accurately) using the medium of classical history to understand human behaviour- oops, hello me! He also isn’t a particularly successful scholar as far as achievement- his “Professor” is a courtesy title he’s chasing because he seems to be trying to leverage his talents to overcome his disability.
Spencer also wanders around being boggled Phil doesn’t send him into a meltdown, again, see me with a big Cheshire cat grin. With spectrum disorders you can come to believe your worst is normal. In reality, the severity goes up and down with how stressed you are, so a discovery of a modicum of empathy and acceptance can seem miraculous.
Although I don’t consider saying their is a HEA is a spoiler, I am going to park a more tag before I touch on the climax of the novel.