Do you remember where you were when you first heard of Fifty Shades of Grey? No, me neither. But I do recall becoming aware of the trilogy because people kept quoting certain lines to demonstrate the poor quality of the writing.

Bliss in Bordeaux

Bliss in Bordeaux

And I was confused! What's wrong, I thought, with "my inner goddess is doing the Merengue with some salsa moves" or "my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle"? Ana sounded like fun, a girlfriend you could have a giggle with over a fizz-fuelled lunch. And the book was clearly intended to be light-hearted entertainment rather than a high-brow, moody rumination on erotic desire. To criticise Fifty Shades for failing to be what it wasn't even trying to be, is like criticising Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time for its lack of gay cowboys. (I haven't read it - please don't tell me it's full of gay cowboys!)

I think some people didn't get Fifty Shades because it's commonly believed that sex and humour don't mix. I beg to differ. Two of my favourite writers, Tiffany Reisz and Justine Elyot, skilfully blend wit, comical situations and sexiness in their erotic romances, without compromising on the heat or the emotional charge. Slapstick and silliness are probably lust-dampeners when the action's hotting up. But it doesn't follow that when we remove our clothes we put on our Don't-Crack-a-Smile Faces. After all, if you haven't laughed in bed with someone you love, I'll wager you're doing it wrong!

At the end of the day, I love nothing more than unwinding with a glass of something chilled and disappearing into the pages of a steamy, funny book. Humour not only offers a great escape from the daily grind, it also creates relatable heroines. My response, when I read about books featuring strong female characters who know exactly what they want, is a highly-articulate "meep". Who are these women? Are they friends with Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton? I bet they don't find half-eaten cupcakes in their handbag at parents' evening, do they? (It's okay, I got away with it!)

I'd far rather read about dorky, clumsy, insecure heroines than a Mrs-Iron-Knickers type. If you know what you want in life, presumably you also know what you want in love which leaves little room for exploration. To my mind, the sexiest scenes in erotic romance occur when the characters are taken by surprise. I don't mean ambushed en route to the supermarket and shipped off to a harem. I mean, taken by surprise by their desire for someone and, in particular, for something they hadn't previously considered. Someone angsting about busting a small, personal taboo is much hotter than a character confidently busting a major social taboo and remaining unaffected on the inside.

Spanking is one of my favourite things to write about, but my heroines aren't spanking aficionados. They're more likely to be spank-curious or even blind to the naughty pleasures of being bent over a man's lap and taken in hand. Conflict, internal and external, is at the heart of erotic tension. A believable heroine who ums and ahs about the wisdom or getting kinky is one I'm sure most people can relate to. And if that heroine can raise a smile as she's dithering, there's a good chance she'll win my heart.

In my latest release from Totally Bound, Bliss in Bordeaux, Harriet Sommers, a stressed and anxious freelance artist, is holidaying alone in a remote cottage in rural France. A last minute commission to illustrate the Kama Sutra has put paid to her plans to relax during her stay. She nervously embarks on her unusual project after imbibing a little too much local Dutch Courage (aka "slutty pink wine") and begins filling her sketch pad with crude drawings of erections to get her in the mood. When these drawings end up in the wrong hands (actually, the right ones!), Harriet's vacation gets a lot more interesting in the form of Jean-Jacques, a rugged, brooding gardener who's determined to unleash the passion he thinks Harriet has lost from her life. He's particularly interested in what he describes as "the English Vice". But Harriet, who's as English as buttered crumpets, shows sign of having only one vice on vacation, and it's heavily grape-based.

Bliss in Bordeaux is an erotic rom-com featuring mishaps, amusing culture clashes, an uncertain, hapless heroine, and plenty of kinky shenanigans. I hope readers will enjoy its blend of humour and romance. But, if you do decide to try it, a word of warning: this story does not feature gay cowboys or quantum mechanics.

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