Bound by Bliss is the third installment and second full novel in Lavinia Kent’s intensely erotic historical BSDM series that started with Mastering the Marquess. Lady Bliss Danser would prefer to never marry and avoid the pain caused by love. When her brother Swanston (the Marquess from the first novel) demands she find a husband by summer’s end or marry his friend, Lord Duldon, Bliss goes into a tailspin. Duldon sparks dangerous sensations and feelings in her, and she can’t let go of a misunderstanding in their past. Stephan, Lord Duldon, on the other hand, has longed for Bliss for years, but fears his darker sexual urges could destroy any connection between them. However, when the innocent but headstrong Danser asks for his help in finding a safe fiance, Duldon is happy to oblige; if he stays close, there’s a chance to turn Bliss’ heart towards him…and her reaction to his orders hints at a darker side to her own sexual desires.
Bliss is a much more conventional historical heroine than either Louisa from Mastering the Marquess or Ruby from Revealing Ruby in that she is young, never married, and inexperienced. However, as a member of the Danser clan, she definitely not a traditional young lady (her father has an obssession with breeding llamas…). In the previous novel she gets drawn into the predatory Countess Ormande’s circle, and while Bliss was not ruined, this precipitates Swanston’s sudden insistence on marrying his headstrong younger sister off before the younger Danser girls follow in her path. As a result of Bliss’inexperience the story is more about a young woman’s sexual awakening than a tale of consent, but the heat and passion of Kent’s previous works continues, creating an erotic tale that is more The Story of O than The Awakening.
I initially struggled with Stephan, Lord Duldon as a hero because his attitude of knowing Bliss better than she knew herself felt like straight up alpha male jerk territory. As the plot unwound I realized that Stephan has watched Bliss grow from childhood, so he wasn’t just assuming that he understood aspects of her personality. His presumed ownership of Bliss rankled a little, but the young lady did ask him to marry her at the tender age of twelve! Also, I believe that if Stephan truly thought that Bliss loved someone else he would stop his pursuit of her and allow her to simply be happy. His single minded behaviour stems from the hope that pushing the matter will force Bliss to examine her feelings instead of constantly running from them.
Now to the bits everyone is reading this review to learn about: the erotica! Because Stephan and Bliss are dancing around a relationship initially the sex scenes are a slow burn, rather than leading the the novel as in Mastering the Marquess. Bliss has no concept of how exactly sex works or that it can be pleasurable because, as an upper class woman, she has been protected from any hint of sexuality (she wasn’t even allowed to see horses mating because it was unseemly). Stephan analyzes her reactions, touches her, allows her to watch at Madame Rouge’s, and calculates what arouses her, finally bringing Bliss to orgasm with measured skill. For readers unfamiliar with various kink practices Bliss may be an easy heroine to identify with as she learns about the spectrum of sexual acts through Duldon’s tutelage which culminates in an intense, passionate, and soul bearing night. As in the previous works the women have agency in their sexual encounters, and Stephan carefully lays out the rules and safe guards, only asking that she think about whether a certain practice is merely uncomfortable or truly repellent before asking him to stop. The true power is in her hands, which is part of why I love Kent’s work: she understands that kinky sex should not be abusive, coercive, or frightening but rather safe, sane, and consensual.
Ultimately, I didn’t love Bound by Bliss as much as Mastering the Marquess, but it’s still a wonderful addition to the world of kinky erotica. If you enjoyed Kent’s other works, would love to read BDSM stories that don’t make your skin crawl, or just like really sensual historical sex Bound by Bliss should be on your reading list.
4.5 Teasing Feather Touches out of 5