It’s not every author who can make nearly every page sizzle with sexual tension when we’re talking about two characters, let alone four, but Megan Mulry more than pulls it off in her historical romance Bound to be a Groom, following on the heels of last year’s Bound to be a Bride. There’s not only numerous BDSM-themed sex scenes, but every one of them makes explicitly clear that these pairings aren’t just about momentary pleasures, but build toward a more lasting, expansive love. Mulry captures both the logistical and emotional challenges of balancing multiple relationships and desires.
The year is 1808, the place, Badajoz, Spain, and Anna and Pia know they have to escape their Spanish convent and find a way to be together. Their plan? Have Anna find work as a courtesan and earn enough to support them.
"Neither she nor Pia had any firsthand experience with men, of course, but they’d convinced themselves that if they could make each other shudder and beg, surely a brutish man would succumb to far less.”
This task proves easier than Anna had hoped when she meets Sebastian, but what she doesn’t bargain for is how much pleasure she will get in the bargain. Almost immediately, her emotions betray her, and she finds herself wanting more from him than his money. She can only pretend to be detached for so long. Sebastian is quickly entranced by everything about Anna. Mulry doesn’t paint their initial encounters as perfect, but rather as two people getting to know both each other.
This first sexual encounter stats on page eight, setting the tone for the many more to come, but what truly stood out for me were the ménage scenes and ones where the sex led to a blossoming of the strength of what eventually becomes a four-person relationship, with its own two-person pairings within it.
Once Pia has been rescued,she grudgingly gets over her hurt when she realizes Anna intends to be with both of them, and that neither woman has to give anything up in order to be together. Mulry does an excellent job of making it clear that Pia’s and Anna’s love is still very much intact, but that it has room to grow and expand to include Sebastian.
“There’s my sweet girl. I adore you, Pia.” Anna kissed her tenderly on the lips then turned and looked over her shoulder. “Come taste her rosy flesh, Seb. She can come just like this, from my mouth on the tips of her sensitive breasts. I’ve been dreaming of how she would delight in two mouths.”
Sebastian was on his knees in a second, reaching gently for Pia’s left breast while Anna licked and teased her right. Pia gasped at his touch at first, then moaned into the undeniable pleasure of it. Anna bit on the nipple in her mouth; Sebastian watched her and mimicked the pressure and pain. Pia cried out, panting and wrestling with the imprisoning fabric of her sleeves that prevented her from touching Anna in return.
Keeping the stiff nipple lightly between her teeth, Anna looked up at her flushed lover. “You remember the rules.”
Pia nodded frantically.
“Tell me, darling.”
“I’m not to move.”
She cried out when Sebastian started sucking her nipple deeper into his mouth.
“And?” Anna repeated.
“And I’m not to let go until you give me permission.”
“Yes, my love.”
Anna dipped her lips to Pia’s breast and then reached under the folds of her old dress. Pia cried out when Anna’s fingers began to pinch and toy with Pia’s hard clit and swollen folds. Anna moaned into the pleasure of it all: the scent of Sebastian; the sound of his rough masculine breathing near hers; the familiar texture of Pia’s hot flesh against her lips and fingers.
When their travels take them to Farleigh, who was once Sebastian’s lover and still clearly pines for him, tension and jealousy once again rear their heads, but Mulry plays up the simmering fire between the two men as well as Anna’s and Pia’s reactions—the former, suspicion and the latter, keen interest. I appreciated the former as much as the latter; it’s not simply assumed that because Anna and Pia are still together that Sebastian has free reign to do whatever he wants. This level of negotiation, devotion and understanding clinched Sebastian for me as a hero.
“So...if I said I was...it was...fine with me...if you made love to Farleigh again . . . then you would?”
A bit of both, he thought with a smile: her feelings; his sex. Her boldness in stating it outright sent a flush up his neck and cheeks. “Only if you were completely at ease with it, my love,” he answered at last, when he realized she was waiting for his reply.
“And if I asked you not to?”
“Then I would not.” He said it so quickly and with such conviction, there was no way either of them could deny the truth of it.
“But you would never ask me to give up Pia . . .”
He narrowed his eyes. “The thought would never cross my mind. It’s true, I would never ask such a thing of you.”
Farleigh in particular grapples with shrugging off society’s expectations, especially with Anna and Sebastian being engaged. Thus far, he’s been left out of the pleasures the three others have enjoyed, and is well aware of what he’s missed. “After having spent his whole life believing adulthood required he divide duty from desire, Farleigh was chilled and breathless when he glimpsed the potential future that was standing right before him.” The consummation of the building lust between them is as delectable as it gets:
“Farleigh . . .” Sebastian swam up to him and wrapped his arms around his neck and coiled his strong legs around Farleigh’s hips. “Kiss me, man.”
Farleigh would not have called what followed a kiss, more of a ravishment. He pulled at Sebastian’s wet hair, tugging and scratching him, the two of them like a pair of sea creatures set free at last. Eventually, after they became winded, Farleigh pulled them to shore, desperate to see all of Sebastian while he touched him and made his body bend to his will.
“God, how desperate I am for you,” Sebastian gasped as Farleigh slammed him to the soft earthy edge of the lake. They lay side by side, panting and staring at the crystalline blue sky.
“What shall we do about it?” Farleigh teased.
Sebastian turned on his side and rested his head on his palm, staring down the length of Farleigh’s body. Farleigh watched out of the corner of his eye as Sebastian licked his lips and looked down at Farleigh’s jutting cock. “Come, Seb. Suck me off quickly, for a start, to sand off this jagged edge.” Farleigh spread his strong thighs, letting his legs rest wide and inviting.
This is a scene between the two men, but the women are watching, sharing their own mix of yearning and awe. Their keen interest in the two lovers, whose passion has been simmering, makes this scene resonate. If Mulry hadn’t properly built toward the conclusion where all four of them come to fully appreciate each other, the final pages would feel rushed and untrue. Yet because she’s made it clear that there’s both love and passion between Anna and Sebastian, Anna and Pia, Sebastian and Farleigh and Farleigh and Pia, when they do finally all come together (pun intended), it’s woven seamlessly into the rest of the story, so much so that I could almost forget just how outré their union would have been for their time (or even in our time).
Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a freelance and erotica writer, and editor of over 50 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories; Only You: Erotic Romance for Women; Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission and others. She tweets @raquelita and blogs at Lusty Lady.