Christina McArdle must cast out the demons of her past and present or lose the love of her life.
In the prosperous community of Bliss, New Hampshire, in 1995, Christina McArdle is living a feminist dream. In short order she has become the first female partner of the venerable, male dominated CPA firm of Driscol, Ryan, Jensen and Palmer. The honor followed by her selection as the first female member of the prestigious Maplewood Country Club.
But Christina fears that her career success has come at a terrible price. Her husband, Ben, has lost sexual interest in her. Unable to ignite his passion for her and desperate for understanding of her own inhibitions, Christina turns to Dr. Rachel Morrisey, a sex therapist, who helps her uncover dark secrets from her past. Christina's path to recovery is blocked by a misogynistic pastor who traps her and many other women of her church in a shame bind that serves his purulent interests.
Her path to freedom requires Christina to break bonds from past and present or lose the thing she loves most in life—the love of husband and family.
1. How did you start writing erotic romance?
When friend suggested I should try writing fiction, I thought I would have the most success writing about the most pressing thing on my mind. I'm a guy so that means sex.
2. Plotter or pantster?
Panster which makes writing even a novella a stretch for me because it involves plotting. Most of my work is short story fiction of erotic male fantasy.
3. What are three things you have on your writing desk?
Coffee cup, a binder holding my collection of yet unpublished short stories, a phrase book I keep for writing down beautiful passages from other authors.
4. Favorite food?
By volume it's cookies. I am a foodie though so next would be anything I can cook on the grill.
5. Tell us a little about your new release. What character in the book really spoke to you?
"Bliss" is a story about a woman's struggle with sexual shame. My main character, Christina McArdle, is on a rocket ride to professional success but is struggling inside. Her husband, Ben, has lost sexual interest in her. She doesn't have the tools to address her sexuality so she goes to a shrink and begins uncovering unaddressed psychic damage from a sexual assault in her youth. Her struggle is further compounded by a misogynistic pastor who's on a purity crusade among the men at the church where Christina and her husband attend. She has to cast out demons of past and present or lose the love of her life.
Although Christina is the main character I really like her husband, Ben. I want to be Ben when I grow up. He's an at-home dad like me but a very rock solid guy. I don't want to give plot away but the story of Ben and Christina meeting the first time is my favorite scene in the book.
6. I write because ____...
Wow if I knew I could open a practice as a shrink. I don't do it out of suffering. I enjoy it and it's much cheaper than other pass times. How can you not like erotic romance? I can make love to any woman I want and my wife could care less.
7. What is your favorite type of character to write about?
"Bliss" is very different for me. It's a female POV with dark overtones. The bulk of my published and unpublished work is male erotic fantasy laced with humor, where my main character tends to be a slightly clueless guy who falls into the clutches of a sexually aggressive woman.
8. What is the sexiest scene you ever wrote?
It's in a yet to be published short story called, "The Substitute."
9. What advice would you give new authors in the erotica/romance field?
This may sound strange. I'd say be wary. I don't have enough street cred to be passing out writing advice like candy. In fact at the start, I deliberately ignored all the advice about studying genres, presentation, query letters, proper English. All of those necessary things interfere with the creative process for me. I decided I would write and write and then after I was comfortable with my voice and style I'd start on those other tasks. So my advice is write a lot. Tell the story you want to hear in the voice and style you want to hear it in. That's what I did. I have only been writing for two years and in that time I have placed two short stories in anthologies and got a contract for "Bliss".
10. What is next on your writerly horizon?
I have another novella looking for a home, a mermaid story. I have a growing collection of short stories I'd like to get published—male erotic fantasies. I have been working on and off for some time on a three part sci/fi fantasy series surrounding "The Gueschtunkina Ray Gun." One blast from this gun renders a woman into a state of extreme sexual arousal. It's fun, funny and wild.
Dr. Rachel Morissey touched Christina's arm gently and handed her another tissue.
"Mrs. McArdle, I'm a sex therapist and not a family doctor. I find that I need to speak about sex bluntly in order to get through people's resistance." She searched Christina's eyes to see if she was tracking. It had been a hard first session. Taking the first steps in breaking down resistance, confronting demons, bringing up painful personal memories always brought tears.
"Sexuality is a hard discussion topic for couples. I don't mean to diminish your pain, but so far it's like so many others. When you're young, sex may be clumsy, but quantity is a quality all its own. So is time. Now you're thirty-five, a working professional mother of young twins, with an at-home husband. You're both living in a different world from your parents, and there are a lot of demands on your time that sap sexual energy. In this phase of life, you have to be much more intentional about sex." Dr. Morissey paused again, waiting for Christina to process. "Lying in bed in the dark, waiting for your husband to initiate sex, isn't a good strategy for fostering intimacy."
Christina wiped away another nagging tear.
"But there's something else I need to explore," said Dr. Morissey. "I am wondering if you were ever raped or sexually abused?"
"Why? Is that important?" asked Christina.
"Very. It often creates problems with intimacy years later. You seem almost fearful of sex."
Christina hung her head. "I was nearly raped once," she whispered.
"So you were assaulted."
"Mrs. McArdle, I'm sensing a lot of guilt here. Physical contact without your permission is assault. It's another person's crime, not yours. You said nearly raped. What happened?"
Christina shuddered as she recalled the forbidden memory. "We had a boy in our neighborhood that was a bully to the boys and terror to the girls. Nobody would do anything about him. Our parents told us to stay away. But he would hide out and grab girls, rip their clothes off, and grope them. It happened to many of my friends."
"How old were you then?"
"Did he actually do forceful penetration on any of his victims?"
"You sound like the police now."
"It's an important distinction, especially with a minor perpetrator."
"No. He didn't."
"What happened with you?"
"I was taking a shortcut home across the athletic fields one evening. No one was around. He jumped out from between the outbuildings, threw me down to the ground, and jumped on top of me. I tried to fight, but he had his hand on my throat."
Christina unconsciously reached for her throat and pulled on her necklace.
"Sometimes I can still feel him squeezing my throat," she said through closed eyes. "I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream but couldn't. He was pressing down on me with his crotch between my legs."
"Were his pants on?"
"Yes, but he was humping me like some kind of animal."
Christina gasped as if she were going to scream. "Finally, he leaned down and put his cheek next to mine. I was hysterical with fear, that's why I did it."
"I bit off a big chunk of his ear."
Christina rolled forward, put her head between her knees, and sobbed.
"Now we're getting somewhere. What happened after that?"
Christina rose up, brushing away tears with a clenched fist. "He ran away screaming and told his parents that I had attacked him." She had to stop to catch her breath. "The police came to our house and asked me a lot of questions. Nothing happened to him. I got suspended from school. Can you believe it?" The rage faded to sorrow. Christina wept softly again. "I got so much grief for that, Dr. Morissey. Did I do right? I was just so scared and desperate."
Some men are born great, others strive for greatness; still others have greatness thrust upon them. Spencer Dryden is none of these men. In fact, he is so unimpressive, he leaves no footprints on newly fallen snow. He was trained in fiction writing on the job with the many sales reports he produced for his managers, winning the coveted "keep your job contest" three years running. His expense reports are still considered masterpieces of forgery by the bankruptcy trustee of his former employer. He lives an unremarkable life in a suburb of a northern city. His friends and family would drop dead in horror if they knew of his secret life as a writer of erotica. He hates the family cat but still loves to pet his wife.