Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Ingredients of Bliss by Lisabet Sarai: Guest Post

The Ingredients of Bliss
(What’s her Secret? Imprint)
by Lisabet Sarai

One sexy French chef. One kinky American TV producer. One ambitious Chinese gal who thinks she wants them both. The ingredients of bliss? Or a recipe for disaster?

Accomplished cook Mei Lee ‘Emily’ Wong knows exactly what she wants—her own show on the Tastes of France food channel. But life is full of complications. First, her deceptively nerdy producer, Harry Sanborne, initiates Emily into the delights of submission. Then her boss, legendary chef Etienne Duvalier, begs her to dominate him. Emily just can't resist—especially when Harry orders her to explore her inner Mistress. Suave and sexy Etienne will do whatever she asks—in the bedroom if not in the kitchen. And Harry, her lovingly diabolical Dom, adores pushing Emily’s limits.

When the network sends the trio to France to shoot a series of cooking shows on location, Emily knows her career is on the upswing. Her plans fall apart in Marseille as a Hong Kong drug syndicate kidnaps both Etienne and Harry. The Iron Hammer Triad mistakes Etienne for notorious gangster Jean Le Requin, who has stolen their drug shipment, worth millions. Emily realizes she must find the real Le Requin, retrieve the purloined dope, and bargain it for Harry’s and Etienne’s lives. The secret she’s been keeping from Harry might prove useful. Still, what chance does one woman whose knife skills are limited to chopping vegetables, have against the ruthless cruelty of two criminal organisations?

Reader Advisory: This book contains female dominance and submission, anal sex, public sex, ethnic slurs, threats of violence and a scene of attempted rape.
The Asian Connection
By Lisabet Sarai

Greetings! This post is part of my blog tour for my new novel The Ingredients of Bliss. If you've read any of my other publicity about the book, you may have picked up on the fact that my heroine, Mei Lee “Emily” Wong, is a Chinese woman, from Hong Kong.

I know quite a bit about Asia. I've traveled in many Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Cambodia. In fact I currently live in Southeast Asia. Of course, being a tourist or even an expatriate doesn't necessarily give you a deep understanding of a country's beliefs and assumptions. Still, I probably have more accurate notions about Asian mindsets and cultures than many authors.

I'm not sure why I decided to make Emily Asian. Like many characters, she popped into my head fairly fully formed. Given the way her story developed, though, she really couldn't be anything else. Her nationality, ethnicity and culture all influence the plot.

For one thing, her drive for success is a typically Chinese trait, and that's what propels the short story (Her Secret Ingredient) which leads up to the novel. Emily would never have gotten sexually involved with Etienne Duvalier if she hadn't been trying to advance her career.

Emily's Asian heritage also sets the stage for her conflict with Etienne over cooking methods. Although she was trained in Paris, her personal recipes are Asian-influenced. Traditionalist Etienne views her creative Asian modifications to classic French recipes as something close to sacrilege.

Then there's the aphrodisiac caterpillar fungus that is her “secret ingredient”, which is traditional in Asia. I did not make this up! I suppose I could have had her use Spanish fly or some other Western stimulant, but those have very negative connotations. Dōng chóng xià căo, “winter worm, summer grass”, in contrast, is viewed as a healthy way for men to retain their virility.

Of course, her Chinese background allows her to communicate – and negotiate – with the Hong Kong gangsters who abduct Etienne and Harry in The Ingredients of Bliss. Emily knows enough about the Triads to understand how they think. If I'd made her American or European, I would have probably had to replace the Triads with the Mafia. That would have been okay, I suppose, but does the world really need another take on The Godfather or The Sopranos?

Meanwhile, her secret entirely depends on her status as a Chinese woman. I can't tell you what that secret is – you'll have to buy the book to find out – but if Emily were not from Hong Kong, I'd have to rethink that entire aspect of the novel.

The one area of the book that would not change if Emily weren't from Asia is her relationship with Harry. Though there's a suggestion Etienne has a touch of “yellow fever” - a particular attraction to Asian women – Harry really doesn't care. He'd love her regardless.

Emily's a lucky woman. But then the Chinese place a lot of emphasis on luck.
I started both writing and cooking at an early age, and I've continued to indulge both passions as I've matured. Usually I'm an improvisational cook; I'm not all that fond of following recipes, and when I do, I almost always introduce my own variations. My philosophy tends to be the more spice, the better.

You could say the same about my writing. Since the release of my debut novel Raw Silk in 1999, I've published lots of erotica and erotic romance in almost every sub-genre– more than fifty single author titles, plus dozens of short stories in various erotic anthologies, including the Lambda winner Where the Girls Are and the IPPIE Best Erotic Book of 2011, Carnal Machines. My gay sci-fi erotic romance Quarantine won a Rainbow Awards 2012 Honorable Mention.

My lifelong interests in sex and the written word became serendipitously entwined more than a decade ago when I read my first Black Lace book by Portia da Costa. Her work inspired me to take my fantasies out of the closet (and the private email files) and expose them to the world. The rest, as they say, is history (although granted, no more than a minor footnote!)

In addition to writing, I also edit erotica and erotic romance. My editing credits include the groundbreaking anthology Sacred Exchange, which explores the spiritual aspects of BDSM relationships, the massive collection Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, the charity anthology Coming Together: In Vein, a collection of vampire tales that benefits Doctors Without Borders, and six volumes of the Coming Together: Presents series of single author charitable erotica books. You'll also find me writing the newsletter and occasional articles for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association and monthly reviews for Erotica Revealed.

I have more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by my chosen genre. I've always loved traveling; my husband seduced me in a Burmese restaurant by telling me tales of his foreign adventures. Since then I have visited every continent except Australia, although I still have a long travel wish list. Currently I live with him and our two exceptional felines in Southeast Asia, where I pursue an alternative career that is completely unrelated to my creative writing.
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