4 Romance Novels Too Sexy to Read in Public

Hiding a sexy read

Thank God for ereaders. Before I had one, when I was reading in public and came to a particularly steamy scene, I would hold the book closer and closer to my face until I was basically pressing my nose against the word “cleavage.” These days it’s much easier, as a public-transit-riding urbanite and ravenous consumer of smutty books, to not share my predilections with nosy fellow passengers. But there was an occasion not long ago when I was publicly reading something so downright lewd it made me blush (and that’s rather difficult to do). So here are four lustful livres that will steam up your glasses—and are best read out of the public eye:

Vivian Arend’s Rocky Mountain Heat is the book I was reading on the (packed! Rush hour! Fellow commuters mere inches from my flaming face!) train that gave me the crimson cheeks, specifically in a secondary character’s scene that, to put it obliquely, got a little too close to Flowers in the Attic territory for me. The romance A-plot, however, between the oldest brother in a family of six ridiculously butch cowboys and the tomboy-turned-sexpot from the neighboring ranch, was appropriately sexy and fun without making me reach for the smelling salts.

It took me a long time to start reading Victoria Dahl’s books, which was incredibly stupid of me, since I’ve been a fan of her critique partner Jennifer Echols for years. (And I find it hilarious and awesome that Echols, whose backlist consists mostly of relatively chaste YA novels—although she’s been writing more for adults in recent years—is regularly weighing in on Dahl’s racy prose, since Dahl deploys the F-word better than any writer I know.) Her 2011 novel Real Men Will winds up a series about three siblings who run a brewery in Boulder, Colorado. Clever minx that she is, Dahl saves buttoned-up oldest brother Eric Donovan for last, pairing him with Beth Cantrell, the owner of the friendly local sex-toy shop. The story starts with what’s supposed to be just a scorching one-night stand, but gets hotter from there.

In my experience, historical romances, especially the ones set in nineteenth-century English high society, tend to be a little tamer, because there are usually more obstacles—like the words “ruination,” and “scandal,” and “shotgun marriage”—between the hero and heroine before they can find a flat surface and throw her skirt over her head. Not so with Megan Frampton’s What Not to Bare, in which unconventional heiress Charlotte, tasked with ghostwriting her best friend’s society fashion column, brazenly asks foxy diplomat Lord David Marchston what, exactly, he’s wearing under those trousers. David and Charlotte undertake a distinctly carnal education for the virginal miss, and it’s gloriously earthy and lascivious.

And there I was, minding my own business on the F train, reading an anthology of novellas called Unlaced, when I turned the page to Joey W. Hill’s contribution, Controlled Response. I was completely unfamiliar with Hill’s brand of erotic, BDSM-themed romance at this point, and my eyebrows fairly singed off my face as I read. It’ll change the way you think about motorcycles. And tables. And neckties.

What makes you blush when you read it in public?

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