I’ve just finished reading The Sons of Johnny Hastings, the Boxed Set. This is a new offering from the folks at Blushing Books (who also have some of my books in their catalog). In this set are short novels by some well-known names in the BDSM/Spanking Romance genre. We have Patty Devlin, Patricia Green, Renee Rose, Maddie Taylor and Mary Wehr, accomplished writers all. There are 5 novellas in the boxed set for a combined page count of 580 pages, so the $9.99 price tag is a good deal. If you were to buy all of these separately you’d likely pay almost twice that.
These are all westerns and they are tied together by a unique premise. All of the male leads are the sons of a wastrel gambler by the name of Johnny Hastings. It seems ol’ Johnny got around a good bit, and he sired sons all over the West, five of them to be exact, and all by different women. Johnny was never one to hang around for very long, so none of the five ever know their father. They are raised by relatives or adoptive parents. Johnny comes back into the picture only after his death, when his will is read with all five sons present. So that’s the central MacGuffin, and each novel is the story of one of the sons and more importantly, the women who fall in love with them.
The first book is The Lawman’s Lesson by Patty Devlin and it’s a good lead off story. Celia Whitman has been hired as a schoolteacher in Denver, circa 1885. It turns out that the school board made a mistake offering her the position. They thought CJ Whitman was a man. Denver is a rough place, and in the view of the school board, no place for an unmarried woman. Enter Jackson Owen, the marshal. He is appointed Celia’s protector, and oh by the way, they’ll have to be married. Celia, desperate to keep the job has no choice but to agree and so off to the preacher they go even though they barely know each other. She is a stubborn, fiery and headstrong little spitfire, and sees no need for either a husband or a protector. Jackson sees it differently, and while he is clearly captivated by Celia, he is also determined to keep her safe, even if it means paddling her shapely backside every time she breaks a rule.
It’s a cute story, and the war of wills between the buttoned down, gruff Jackson and the feisty free-wheeling Celia is a fun read. Celia does everything she can to circumvent Jackson’s edicts, but the usual result is a well warmed bottom. But Jackson is right to make those rules because there are bad elements in town. There is also a subplot involving a bank robbery that results in no small amount of danger to Celia.
There is a good bit of spanking in this one, but no explicit sex. The spankings are not overly described and are frequent but fairly short. It seems about right for the type of story it is, a cute romance that is mostly about a clash of wills that turns to love.
Following that book is Patricia Green’s The Blacksmith’s Bride. No desperadoes in this one, it’s all about propriety. I don’t know that much about Regency romances but this one has the air of a Jane Austen novel that went West. Our heroine, Sunny Winslow, is a recent transplant from Kansas City to the Colorado town of Carrollton. Her mother, for financial reasons it turns out, is most anxious for Sunny to find a suitable husband (translation—rich and well connected). Naturally she falls in love with the town blacksmith, a man much older than she and a (gasp!) divorcee. This absolutely won’t do, and we are off and running as Sunny tries to manipulate the situation and follow her heart. Along the way she finds that Abel Armstrong, the blacksmith, has little tolerance for Sunny’s hi-jinks and she finds herself across his knee when she lies to people or tries other schemes to get her way. Abel wants to play it straight up, and this leads to conflict and the frequent warming of Miss Sunny’s adorable bottom.
There is a cad who pursues Sunny and he must be dealt with, Sunny’s mother must come around, and it must all be done properly. Social convention and propriety are the themes in this one. It’s about how lovers must break through the barriers of social convention to find happiness.
There is explicit sex in this one and it’s hot without being crude. Sunny gets spanked by Abel for her various misdemeanors, but even so, the spanking causes those tingly feelings down below. One is a juicy belt licking. When the lovers do get physical, spanking or memories of spanking fuel the fire.
Following that is Renee Roses’ The Outlaw’s Bride. In this one we are back to desperadoes, and in a big way. In fact, the male lead is an unwilling desperado, compelled to ride with a gang he did not choose and forced to participate in crimes he wants no part of. But he is on the run from the law for another reason and has little choice. The line is drawn however, when the gang happens upon the farm of Mabelle Lawson, a young woman from Virginia visiting her sister. Her sister and her sister’s husband have been killed in an Indian raid, and she must fend for herself out on the Wyoming prairie. The gang sees the woman all alone and has ideas. That is when Sam Pride steps in. Enough is enough.
He takes her aside and promises to protect her, but she must obey him without question. It is a tense situation. Obedience is not Mabelle’s long suit and so Sam must remind her from time to time to do as he says. The spanking scenes are numerous and escalate in both intensity and eroticism. Mabelle falls in love with her strong protector as together they overcome the numerous obstacles in their path.
I especially liked the spanking and sex scenes in this one. They are well written, and Renee has done an excellent job of ramping up some literary heat that you can feel. The sexual tension is amplified because Renee creates a situation that forces the couple to wait. When they finally consummate their passion, you want to reach out and grab somebody yourself.
Girls, make sure hubby is handy when you read this one.
Next up is Maddie Taylor’s The Juniper Bride. In this book we have an engaged couple in Boston, Clint and Emmalee. Clint Ryan receives a strange message and announces that he must take a trip to Denver. He won’t tell Emmalee why, but we know by now that it’s about Johnny Hastings. He tells Em the Wild West is no place for a woman and so she must stay behind. Well, of course she has to disobey and follow him, and that sets up the essential plot and conflict. This is a road story, all about the trials and tribulations that an arduous journey into the West in the 1870’s would entail. We have a train wreck, Indians, an oafish would-be suitor and other troubles along the trail. In the wilds of Iowa (really? Iowa?) the couple marry for propriety’s sake, and that turns up the heat quite a bit.
Emmalee has trouble understanding that obedience in a wife is a good thing, especially on the trail, since Clint’s rules are there for her safety. But time and again she breaks them, and Clint must remind her all about the advantages of wifely obedience. The main advantage is being able to sit.
The spankings are hot and so is the sex. Maddie’s sex scenes are vivid word pictures, sure to inspire and drawn out just enough. Maddie’s excellent wordsmithing manages to describe the action in terms of feelings and sensations, which I think makes it more engaging. There is also a good bit of dialog included in these scenes, a feature I especially liked. Imagine that. Lovers communicating about what is pleasurable. In fact the latter part of the novel is all about sex –sex on the train, sex in the hotel bathtub, sex over a hotel balustrade—it’s a honeymoon travelogue and as it turns out, Clint is a one man walking Kama Sutra.
The final book is Mary Wehr’s To Have and to Scold. As the book opens, Annie Dobbs is a rambunctious imp, prone to pranks and hi-jinks that frequently land her in hot water with the object of her attentions, one Matthew Caine. It seems that Annie has a crush on her handsome older neighbor, but to Matt she is just a bratty hoyden who needs to have her britches warmed.
The timeline then shifts to 3 years later. Annie’s father has died and her harridan of a stepmother is about to marry Annie off to a local rancher’s son, an absolute boor of a man, just to pay off her husband’s debts. Annie sees no choice but to run away. When Matt finds out, he sets out after her, only to find her working in a saloon, of all places, and figures that the only way to save her is to marry her. After that it’s off to the races with a delayed spanking and hot post nuptial sex.
The story line involves Annie’s quest to keep her father’s ranch despite the debt and despite Annie’s awful stepmother and her neer-do-well son. Through it all, the long suffering Matt has to keep his little filly tamed which requires a sturdy palm applied to Annie’s bare backside when she acts up. Since Annie is an impulsive, quick tempered little spitfire, this happens a lot.
It’s a nicely written book with a lot of “spanking talk” and reminders to behave. My one quibble is that maybe this starts too soon, but then again Matt tanned young Annie more than once for playing childish pranks on him, so maybe it makes sense. The spanking scenes are not long but are well-described and come about at well timed places in the storyline. The sex scenes are nicely done as well. The emphasis is on what the characters feel and sense as they give in to their passions.
There is a nice touch of a scene in this book when Annie actually provokes a spanking in order to jolt her husband out of a dark mood. He rises to the occasion and delivers a spanking that sets things aright, with tender lovemaking as aftercare. It’s very sweet and the emotional impact is deftly handled by Mrs. Wehr.
The final scene in each novel has all five brothers meeting each other for the first time in Johnny Hasting’s lawyer’s office for the reading of the will, which ties all five story lines together.
Another common thread is the fish-out-of-water plot device. All of the women, except Mary Wehr’s Annie, are from places back East, certainly more civilized than the rough and rowdy West. Much of the friction between these ladies and their soon-to-be husbands stems from the fact that they fail to appreciate the dangers inherent in their situations. What they do come to appreciate is that their husbands are kind and devoted to a fault, but will not hesitate to turn each one of them across the knee for a bare bottom tanning if that’s what it takes. The spanking scenes are justified and the men are never abusive. It’s always just a little lesson in frontier discipline from loving husbands. And the wives discover they wouldn’t have it any other way.