The royals of the ancient world have gathered in the glittering white city of Memphis for the coronation of a new Egyptian pharaoh. Whispers and gossip abound, speculating about a mysterious masked thief, the arrival of a seductive Nubian princess, and most of all, the woman they call the Lady Sekhmet – a beautiful handmaiden who rescued their Golden Queen from certain death.
Sekhmet resents her growing fame and does her best to dodge the sensual temptations of court life, even going so far as to distance herself from her former lover, the Queen. Instead, she spends her days honing her battle prowess. The notorious assassination attempt left her scarred and determined to never again be so vulnerable.
Alone in a ransacked temple under the glow of moonlight, Sekhmet finds herself forced into a tenuous alliance with the enigmatic and dangerously seductive masked thief. The connection between them is as electric as it is forbidden, and far too strong for either to resist. Together, they must embark on a series of adventures to uncover the deeper conspiracy that brews at court, restore a priceless relic to the crown, and save Egypt herself from sabotage.
People have this super macho mental image of the ancient world – a place where women were chattel and men fucked around at their leisure, often with hairless boys drenched in olive oil. So slippery.
Certainly, there have always been places in the world where that’s true. Hell, that’s going on right now in some of the more unsavory corners of the globe. The chattel part – boys drenched in olive oil feeding each other pitted figs is totally okay with me.
Anyway, I’m just saying the assumption is merited, but it’s a mistake to believe that just because our ancestors were from a more primitive time that all of them had the emotional intelligence of a half-eaten, olive-oil-smeared fig.
Romantic love was revered by the Egyptians. It appears so frequently in their art that even primitive, middle class tombs often depict departed spouses embracing again in the afterlife. Can you imagine being so devoted to someone, so wholly enchanted by their presence, that even in death, you intend to find and keep them?
It was the ultimate culture of passion and romance – the perfect setting for a heroine to get swept off her feet (and into a bed … or onto the floor or against a wall or … hm). In fact, there’s a wealth of truly naughty Egyptian art out there that dates back to several thousand years BC. A particular favorite is the one where the guy’s penis is so huge that it has basically decided to play the “you’re flying!” game with the woman he’s trying to bed.
This devoted, sexually-charged Egyptian comprehension of love and lust existed in stark contrast to their neighbors, the Greeks, whose men didn’t wed until they were around 30, and then only did so out of a sense of duty and to women around half their age. Presumably with a full range of options still happening on the side.
I know where I’d rather live.
So, with this knowledge, garnered from an undergraduate course many moons ago on anthropology and gender, sprang the concept for Another Man’s Queen – a story about a woman who knows she deserves more than some absentee Greek douche bag. I mean … remove his battle prowess and it kind of sounds like college, doesn’t it?
Our heroine, the Grecian beauty Isis, is not the only woman featured in this story. We also meet the pharaoh’s wife, a dominatrix queen with an assortment of obedient pets. Though she appears briefly, she raises an interesting question – would such a thing have been allowed?
Well, yes and no. Married women (outside of the royal family) had a title – “Mistress of the House.” They held equal political standing with the men in Egyptian society and just as much of a say in who their life partners were. Oddly, there exists no record, through several thousand years of Egyptian anthropology, of a wedding ceremony. Presumably, once you chose your partner and began living with him or her, that was that.
Due to this no-nonsense approach to matrimony, adultery was pretty severely frowned upon for women. Because some dudes had lots of wives. So long as they could provide for them. Seems unfair, but I get it. Pragmatism.
But I’m getting off track. The point here is that we’re not re-inventing the sexual wheel here in our innovative 21st century paradise. Sex, love, butt-stuff, it’s all been around for eons.
Chances are very good that women enjoyed a bit of BDSM at the dawn of the world, and the odds that a miserable bride imported from Athens with some unromantic ass-wipe of a husband might be considered “not quite” married by an Egyptian – a product of a culture that actually sought mutual attraction and affection. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that their pantheon of gods is substantially less rapey and wife-murdery than the one on Mt. Olympus.
In fact, the more I research Ancient Egypt, the more I kind of hope I accidentally touch a statue in the Brooklyn Musuem and end up transported there for a one-night fling with some sexy, Thebian courtier.
No married woman should attract so much attention. She is a pale jewel in the glittering court of ancient Thebes, the obsession and desire of every man save one – her new husband.
She does her best to avoid the electric connection she feels with the pharaoh’s eldest son – a charismatic prince whose Sahara-colored eyes seem to see right through the farce of her marriage, and into her secret desires for his touch.
His intentions are clear. He intends to make the exotic, blonde foreigner his own. While she strives to maintain propriety, she can’t help but meet his gaze every time they cross paths.
He calls her Isis. To him she is a goddess of the night, a symbol of beauty and love. He tells her the truth about her husband’s indiscretions. He promises passion, romance – and most appealing of all – revenge against her despicable spouse.
How long can she resist the allure of his touch? Perhaps in the arms of the Egyptian prince, she will finally capture true love … and her husband’s undivided attention.
Now, to be totally honest, I imagine in the ancient world, most noble people who experienced true romantic passion did so outside of the bounds of their marriages. This sober reality extends to most of the time periods I write in, of course, so it’s a natural place for me to go.
My original intention was to write Isis, the Grecian princess who narrates our trip to the royal court of ancient Thebes, as a timid new bride. She certainly starts off that way.
But something happened after her first physical encounter with the pharaoh’s handsome son – something I didn’t plan on. She became empowered, almost aggressively so, and it worked out so well for the story.
As I was writing, I was delighted to learn from one of my beta readers (who happens to be a domme) that an entire community of fetishists center around men who love knowing they’re being cheated on. That humiliation factor, the stripping of masculinity – it really gets them going.
Isis’s husband, an unnamed second son of the Greek emperor, was such an afterthought for me (and let’s face it, for Isis), that I didn’t even stop to consider that his reaction might be anything other than indifference or outrage.
Let me tell you, writing him on the sidelines, aroused as can be at the idea that his little wife is getting it from this exotic, powerful Egyptian prince did things to my perception of romance that I’d never anticipated. It also grew into a story that is much longer and more emotionally charged than I’d ever planned for it to be.
Now, let’s put one thing on the table. Romance (not erotica) is an industry that really thrives on traditional relationships. Man, woman, marriage, sex, probably some babies. The romance novels I grew up with also included the virginal heroine trope. It’s a bright new world where tradition isn’t exactly right, but that singular duo of monogamous bliss remains a constant in the genre.
This book created an unprecedented question for me as a romance writer – does Isis want out of her marriage, or does this trio have exactly the right dynamic for everyone involved?
I’ve been thinking all day that it’s perfect that this story particularly will debut on Independence Day (US). It’s about a woman liberating herself, escaping the tyranny of her marriage for brighter horizons.
Appropriately, Another Man’s Queen is the first in an eventual trilogy. This idea is just too juicy not to explore in full. I’ll be thinking about it tomorrow night while I”m watching the fireworks.
Last night I dreamt of Karnak again. I know, it’s terribly du Maurier, isn’t it? I’ve never even been to Egypt, much less stood between the grand pylons of the Middle Kingdom. All the same, it calls to me the way it does to so many people.
It’s undeniably romantic, but beyond that, all those scantly clad, beautiful antique people with their gods and their insane architecture and gold accessories just do something to the imagination. Which is why my next book, (tentatively titled) Another Man’s Queen takes place on the dunes of Ancient Thebes. It involves a neglected bride and very sexy Egyptian prince (in various states of undress) and by and large seems to be a big favorite amongst my beta readers.
Part of that is just because I love the setting so much that I really fell into describing it. Not just those easy-access kilts and bare chested collar-capes the pharaohs wore – though it certainly doesn’t hurt.
My current fix for all things ancient Egypt is the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. Now, this series doesn’t have any graphic sex scenes, but it certainly has a lot of tongue-in-cheek allusions to it. And the male lead, Radcliffe Emerson, is pretty delicious as a character. I can’t recommend it enough.
As far as actual romance and sex set in the ancient time period rather than on an archaeological dig, I haven’t had much luck. There are tons of books devoted to Cleopatra and a few more on the fringes about Nefertiti, but when I’ve picked them up, they’ve done very little for me. Certainly less than watching Oded Fehr gallop around the dunes in The Mummy or just straight up staring at Rami Malek in Night at the Museum.
And of course, Yul Brynner in The 10 Commandments. I could go on. The point is, it’s just an inherently sexy theme. If you agree, keep an eye out in the first week of July for the first installment in my Ancient Egypt trilogy. I can’t wait to hear what you think.