The Pleasure of Jess Michaels’ Company!

Jess 4I’m delighted to introduce a newcomer to the lair, Jess Michaels!

In 2006, I went to my very first Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta, and one of the very first people I met was the lovely Jess Michaels who took me under her wing and showed a very bewildered newcomer the ropes. At that stage, we were both published by Avon. We’ve both since moved on to other publishing ventures, but the friendship has remained and I’m delighted today to bring her here to talk about her latest release, the very steamy PLEASURING THE LADY.

Here’s the blurb:

Once the game begins, there is no tearing your gaze away.

The Pleasure Wars, Book 2

Her mother’s madness and her father’s and brother’s irresponsibility have relegated Lady Portia to the life of a wallflower. The only shining light in her life is her best friend, Ava, who is suffering a rift with her own brother.

Portia’s quest to help takes her to the notorious Donville Masquerade in the hells, where—behind the safety of a mask—she witnesses shocking public acts of sin. And succumbs to the touch of Marquis Miles Weatherfield.

jess 1Unfortunately, they’re discovered. And now, tainted by scandal, she and Miles are destined for a marriage neither of them want. But Portia makes a bargain that raises even Miles’s eyebrows.

In return for saving her mother from the asylum, Portia will do anything Miles wants in bed. Shocked by his driving desire for Portia, Miles agrees. As they explore every wicked desire, every forbidden act that pleases them, they discover something that goes far deeper than flesh. But the lies that brought them together could be the very wedge that drives them apart.

Warning: This book contains wicked encounters, erotic voyeurism, lies, a brief threesome, and unexpected kindnesses.

You can find out more about Jess and her books on her website:

Jess, welcome to the Bandita lair! And congratulations on your latest release PLEASURING THE LADY. Can you tell us about this story?  

Sure! PLEASURING THE LADY is about Portia, a woman who has been a wallflower for years, thanks to a very sad family history. She wants to help her closest friend, so she ends up going to an underground masquerade where she has a very unexpected encounter with someone she knows, Miles, Marquis Weatherfield. Of course, he doesn’t realize she is a lady until it’s far too late and they are forced to wed, despite wide differences between them. Whether or not they will allow passion to turn into love will really depend on them. 🙂

Jess 2Sounds hot! What were the inspirations behind this book?

I love the forced marriage trope in romance and I hadn’t written one for a long time, so I was excited to get to write Miles and Portia’s love story. Portia was such a nice character in TAKEN BY THE DUKE that I knew I had to give her a worthy hero! Miles has to become worthy. 🙂

PLEASURING THE LADY is book two in the Pleasure Wars series. What an enticing title! Can you tell us about the series as a whole and what’s coming up next?

Thanks! So The Pleasure Wars is about two families in a very Romeo and Juliet-esque type feud that culminated in a horrible night when the Earl of Windbury ran off to elope with the Duke of Rothcastle’s sister. He made chase and the three of them were in a terrible accident. She was killed and both men were badly injured. In TAKEN BY THE DUKE, Rothcastle decides to exact his revenge by kidnapping Windbury’s sister, Ava, and ruining her. PLEASURING THE LADY features Ava’s best friend Portia, who goes into the underground to try to find Windbury. And the third book is about the woman Ava hires to seduce and spy on Windbury in an attempt to force a reconciliation. So it has drama and lots of very sexy sex!  The next book in the series is BEAUTY AND THE EARL (Windbury’s story), which will be out April 15, 2014. TAKEN BY THE DUKE and PLEASURING THE LADY are available now!

Jess 3What else is coming up for Jess Michaels?

I’m very busy! I recently contracted two more series with Samhain and I’ll have four books out in 2014 and again in 2015! All erotic historical romance, which is what I’m solely concentrating on at this point. I’m really excited, I love Samhain and I’m loving building my brand there. The cool thing is that I have promised myself what my husband and I jokingly call a “Big Year” in 2014, which means I’m putting pedal to the metal and focusing as much energy as I have solely on my writing and career. Within reason. I will still have nephews to play with and cats to pet.

As this is your first visit to the lair, we’d love to hear about your writing journey.

Well, I started writing full-time in 1999 thanks to my very supportive husband. I contracted my first erotic romance in 2003, a novella that was in SECRETS, Volume 11 from Red Sage. The next year I sold three books to Avon and spent the next eight years writing for them (as Jenna Petersen and Jess Michaels). I also wrote zombie comedy as Jesse Petersen.

In 2012, I was actually considering giving up writing entirely (it is an exceedingly difficult profession and there had been several contributing factors that made me want to give up) when Samhain said they wanted to revive the Jess Michaels name (which had been inactive for several years). I took a chance and found my publishing home. By the end of that year, I had decided to focus entirely on Jess Michaels and here we are!

Jess 5Erotic romance is hot in all senses of the word right now. What are your thoughts on the meteoric rise of this genre?

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been writing erotic romance for almost 10 years now, so it’s definitely not new. I do think readers respond to the very intense situations of erotic romance and the dark heroes that seem to be especially prevalent in erotic romance. Erotic historical romance is a smaller genre, but there are some great writers here. I think we also offer a very different set of consequences in our stories. People have always had really HOT sex, but if you get caught in the Regency period… well, you’re going to see a very different result than if you get caught in today’s world. I hope fans of erotic romance with contemporary or other settings will give us a try!

But I think that’s a great question for readers. Why do you think erotic romance is awesome? What’s your favourite book in the genre? Have you tried erotic historical romance?

BanditBootyGet commenting, people! Jess has very kindly offered a download (Kindle or Nook, international) of the first book in the Pleasure Wars series, TAKEN BY THE DUKE. Good luck!

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  • Hi Bandits!! I’ll be here all day (once my day is the 3rd and I’m awake and slightly aware), so I’m looking forward to the fun here!! Thanks again for having me. 🙂

  • Jane says:

    Welcome Jess,
    I love your Lady Spies trilogy. I do read erotic romance, but I love the stories where there’s a connection between the characters and it’s not just about sex and no emotion. One of my recent favorites is Cara McKenna’s “Unbound.”

    • Jane, I have to say that while I like it steamy, there has to be some connection between them for me. I want the emotion!

    • I also agree Jane! It’s one of the best compliments I get on my erotic historicals, that there is a real story there with emotional content. It’s not really a romance if there isn’t, you know?

  • Cindy Rushford says:

    Jess I have read your books for many years. I love history so the historical romances are right up my alley and I love romance of many genre.

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I recently read Unbound by Cara McKenna and was really moved by the characters. It’s not an easy read at times but I liked it a lot.

    I’ve read some erotic historical romances and I liked them also. If the writing is good I’m open to go along on whatever ride the author wants to take me on.

    • Marcy, that’s the second recommendation for Unbound. I’ll have to check it out – it had gone under my radar until now.

    • Marcy, the erotic historical world isn’t very big as far as authors go, but I think they’re some very talented authors. I keep waiting for our little genre to take off since we get the sexy, the history and the stakes are so much higher in some ways.

  • Susanne Bellamy says:

    I love historical romances, no matter the sub genre, so long as they are well written. Characters who draw me in, situations that are ‘realistic’ for the times, and enough historical fact to flavour the story so I feel I am there! I love the trope of forced marriages because the h/h have nowhere to hide; they must confront their issues to reach their happy-ever-after.

    I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading your work, Jess, but would love to. It’s Christmas this month and I’m heading to the coast with lots of time for reading!

    • Susanne, I so agree with you about historicals! And about forced marriage stories. Especially in the olden days when people couldn’t divorce without major difficulties.

    • Thanks so much Susanne!! The nice thing is that my most recent works from Samhain are really quite reasonably priced, especially in eBook format. One of my most popular books (ever actually) is An Introduction to Pleasure, which launched my Mistress Matchmaker series last year. And the book that’s being given away here is Taken by the Duke, which is the current book in my Pleasure Wars series. With 41 books out (18 of them under my Jess name) you have choices! LOL

  • Helen says:

    Hi Jess

    I have read all of your Jenna books and a lot of the Jess books as well and I do have these on my kindle ready to read I have always loved historical and fall into them and I do like them hot as long as there is a great story to go with the characters I love them :).
    Congrats on the release

    Have Fun

  • Amy Conley says:

    hello Jess nice to meet you. I know I read erotic romance before that I just never thought of it as such, only the fact that some books are harder than others. This series sounds very interesting though.

    • Amy, I think sometimes the erotic definition is in the eye of the beholder!

    • Amy, you know I think you just hit on the definition of a great erotic romance, you know think of it as erotic, but just a good book that’s extra sexy. If the erotic parts could be removed, it’s not a great one, if the book is only sex, it’s not a great one. The story has to be a strong, emotional romance that you connect to and love scenes you just can’t skip. 🙂

  • Linda says:

    Hi Jess! I’ve a few of your Jenna Petersen books which I’ve really liked – What the Duke Desires is my fav. I’ve not read many erotic romances other than An Introduction to Pleasure (because you wrote it!).

    • Oh, I loved What the Duke Desires. That was one of my very favorite heroes. But you know, I would say my Jess books really aren’t that far afield from my Jennas. The Jenna books were always very, very sexy anyway. I plot just a little differently with Jess and I build in some core sexual conflicts that I didn’t look for as much with my Jenna books, but a lot of Jenna fans didn’t find the switch to be that jarring. I hope you enjoyed An Introduction to Pleasure.

    • Linda, nice to meet someone who’s already a fan of Jess’s!

  • Barb says:

    Hi Jess
    I have read your Jenna books as I love historicals and I have also read your Jess books … I don’t mind erotic as long as there is a good story with it.. Congratulations

    • Yup, I totally agree! There has to be a story. A long series of sex scenes without plot might be stimulating for a short time, but it would never be memorable or a favorite. What would be the point? I’ve definitely read books like that and have always tried to keep the romance still at the forefront of erotic romance that I write. 🙂

    • Barb, I find it kind of amusing that the hot stuff gets pretty boring if I don’t care about the characters! And if I care about the characters, the touch of a hand can be sizzling!

  • Maureen says:

    Congratulations to Jess on her new book! I do like erotic romance when the sex the characters have becomes intimate and emotional. Anne Calhoun is a favorite author of mine and I have also read erotic historical romance. Pam Rosenthal is a favorite in that category.

    • Maureen, so often in erotic romance the sex sort of leads that intimacy too, which is really interesting to write. The first few love scenes in my books are often just scenes of intense attraction, perhaps even between people who don’t know each other. But as the story goes on, they begin to express far deeper emotions in what they are physically doing. There’s a scene in Pleasuring the Lady, actually it’s kind of the Dark Moment, where Miles tries to give Portia something he thinks she wants, but it’s also very much a way to distance himself from her. Through loving him and through the intimacy they’ve created, she’s finally strong enough to just say, “enough.” And that changes the entire course of their relationship. Sex becoming plot and driving character and emotional growth. I loved her standing up, too, since she is a rather quiet and uncertain character when the book begins.

    • Maureen, I love Pam Rosenthal’s books. She’s such a beautiful writer and I love that she includes real historical events as part of her plot.

  • I’ve loved S Michaels since he Albright sisters books and have read them all. I was so glad to see Miles gets his HEA. I am reading this next on my Tbr

    • You know the first Albright book, Everything Forbidden came out almost SEVEN years ago, and it continues to be a favorite and still pops up on best lists! It is crazy to me that a book nearly a decade old could still have that strong a hold and interest to people, but I love it!

      And I did love revisiting Miles. He plays such an important role in An Introduction to Pleasure and people asked me about him all the time, so when I started thinking about Portia, he just jumped into my mind. What better match? The consummate wallflower and the rake who could not be tamed. It’s a favorite trope of mine and writing it was great fun.

    • Nancy, lovely to see you here! So glad you’re already a fan of Jess’s!

  • Teresa Hughes says:

    Hey Jess! I have been a big fan for awhile. Looking forward to the newest book!!

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Welcome to the Lair, Jess and thank you for looking after our beloved Anna, all those years ago!

    I’m glad your publishing journey rekindled. It is indeed a hard business and riding the ups and downs (and more downs) tests the toughest writers amongst us!

    This sounds like a fascinating series! 🙂

    • Hi Anna!

      You know Anna Campbell hardly needed any looking after at all. LOL She was perfectly fine, but so lovely and nice. And she became one of my very favorite people in the whole industry. She even met my Mom at a conference and was also very sweet to her.

      I disappeared in a lot of ways for a long time, but now that I’m limping back it’s nice to see so many of my old friends welcoming me home. As I said above, the publishing industry is brutal, but the readers make it so worthwhile and the friendships we develop with each other. Having a supportive publishing house also does wonders. 🙂

    • Anna, that first conference was actually a really tough time for me – my beloved mother had just passed away and I was really the walking wounded. Anyone who was kind to me in Atlanta has a permanent place on my gratitude list!

  • Quantum says:

    Hi Jess and Anna

    I think ‘steamy’ scenes have been around in historicals for a long time without attracting the ‘erotic’ label ….. check some of Elizabeth Lowell’s work for example. So I’m a little confused about the definition of ‘erotic historicals’.

    I did read an ‘erotic romance’ once, but the plot was almost non-existent, mainly being an excuse for more sex. Better leave the author anonymous to save blushes!

    A good erotic romance needs to be like a well brewed cup of tea. One senses and anticipates from the delicious aroma of Earl Grey in the tea pot. This excites the imagination while revealing nothing. Then the tension rises as the steaming liquid becomes visible, pouring seductively from the antique china spout. Finally the climax approaches, as after adding a slice of lemon, the liquid finally enters thirsty beckoning lips. The flavour stuns the senses as one relaxes back in the chair and dreams of heavenly bliss. 🙂

    In other words the steam is great but the build up to the main event, the anticipation, the naughty glimpses, the plotting to seduce etc. are more important and need to be an integral part of an exciting adventurous story. At least that’s how I see it.

    I guess ‘erotic’ defines the ratio of steam to adventurous story?

    Jess, I noticed that your ‘An Introduction to Pleasure’ is available as an audio at Audible UK. Would you recommend it as an introduction to your work?

    • Oh yes, Quantum, quite true. There have been very sexy historicals for a long time (though I would argue that erotic historicals are slightly different). My books as Jenna Petersen were always quite hot and I had gravitated to hotter books throughout my time as a reader too (Lisa Kleypas always wrote steamy books).

      In fact, my 2008 book as Jenna, Lessons From a Courtesan, was very much on the line between sexy and erotic (and tipped over). I loved that book so much…. sorry, got distracted thinking about that book.

      That’s why it’s so funny to me to see readers going gaga over the new erotic stories. We’ve been here all along. 🙂 In fact, if you like erotic and you buy me, you have a hefty backlist to satisfy you and I put out 4 books a year. You might NEVER run out. 🙂

    • Quantum, you are SUCH good value! You’re a whole teapot full of good value. I LOVE your description of a good erotic romance. Actually you’re right about sensuality being a large part of a lot of historical romances for a long time – I mean, mine have plenty of nooky in them when all’s said and done (and there’s quite a bit done!).

  • Lindsey Ross says:

    I am not sure what rock I’ve been living under but I have not read any books by Jess Michaels. I feel I must remedy this soon.

    I’m not really sure I’ve read “erotic” before. I feel a lot of the books I read have very hot steamy moments that could be called “erotic” because they are to me. I suppose the definition of “erotic” is different to anyone or maybe it’s because we are told it’s “wrong” to like it. I don’t know but I want to read your stories the storyline itself sounds great.

    My reading lists grow and grows… 🙂

    • So for me, a steamy romance is a romance that has a high degree of sexual content, but it doesn’t necessarily center around the sexual relationship of the hero and heroine.

      An erotic romance has the sexual content more at the forefront. You could not remove those scenes without losing some of the plot, character and emotional development. The sex is fully described and often the language is more blunt.

      In my books, the plot often revolves around a sexual conflict (Andrew training Lysandra sexually in An Introduction to Pleasure or Christian using Ava as revenge sexually. while she is using her body as a object of peace in the war between their families). But it’s an erotic ROMANCE, so it has to have the same satisfying emotional ending.

      In Erotica, the story doesn’t have be romantic and it doesn’t have to end with a “happy” ending. But there is still a story even though there’s a lot of sex.

      Porn is just sex scenes meant to titillate.

      There is value is every one of those types of sexy books, but it’s all about reader expectation and desire when it comes down to what they want to buy.

    • Lindsey, lovely to see you here! Thanks for swinging by – and even better, we’ve introduced you to a great new author! I love it when that happens. I must say I like the eroticism to fit the story. Some stories are really compelling without a lot of overt sexuality and some are compelling with LOTS of overt sexuality. It’s lovely that we have such a choice in the romance genre, isn’t it?

  • Carol Cork says:

    Anna and Jess, thank you for a great interview!

    Jess, some years ago I read and enjoyed Her Notorious Viscount and Rogue for a Night which you wrote under Jenna Petersen but I haven’t read any of your erotic Historicals yet.

    I’m open to reading erotic Historical Romance but there must be good plot line and I have to feel that the H/h have a strong emotional connection as well as a sexual one. The sex scenes have to be integral to the story or the characterisation. My favourite erotic romance is The Lady’s Tutor by Robin Schone. It has all the elements I look for.

    Your books seem to have those elements too, Jess.

    • Oh thanks Carol! Rogue for a Night was the first book I wrote specifically for indie publication, so it was a big leap for me and led me down the path I’m on now (semi-traditional publishing with the occasional indie release to supplement). Plus, I just really wanted to write a book for Rage. 🙂

    • Carol, oh, you brought back memories mentioning The Lady’s Tutor. I read that over and over back in the day. It’s still on the bookcase, I must drag it out and read it again. I remember how detailed those sex scenes were!

      • Carol Cork says:

        I haven’t read it for a long time either but it’s on my keeper shelf too along with The Lover and Gabriel’s Woman, two other Robin Schone books.

        I’d love to do more re-reads but I have so many other books I haven’t read yet. Maybe when I get to the bottom of my TBR pile, I can re-read some of my keepers! Fat chance, when favourite authors, like yourself, keep writing fabulous new books!!

  • Okay, I think I’ve responded to all the comments thus far! SCORE!! I’m going to be around all day, so I’d love to chat more. Feel free to ask questions, too, if you’d like to talk about writing or ask about books past or future. I’ll do my best to answer each and every comment. 🙂

    • Jess, I remember being a really fanatical reader of your writing advice blog (the Passionate Pen?). What would be your advice for an aspiring writer wanting to make a career today?

  • Melody May says:

    You know I never thought I would like erotic romance, because sometimes you get that taboo feeling there happens to be a lot of sex involved. However, I tend to like them more when there is a good story or plot. I have really enjoyed the books I have read by you. I find you have a good balance in your stories.

    • See, I always liked the taboo feeling. 🙂 But maybe that’s why I write the naughty stuff. 😉

      I know what you’re saying though. Just reading sex without any story does make you feel a little dirty after a point. Which is why it’s so important to actually have a story and emotional impact in there!

    • Melody, I rather like that naughty edge in a good erotic romance – as you say, as long as there’s a good story as well!

  • Zeee says:

    There has been a rise of popularity for the genre especially since the 50 shades books came out. Unfortunately, a bunch of the erotic romance genre center more on heavy eroticism , bdsm, pseudomasochism that I have shied away from it. Fortunately for me, authors like you, Jess have kept me reading the erotic romance genre because your books also focus on the story and the romance and not just sex for sex’s sake.

    My fave genre is historical romance so erotic historical romance is just up my alley… 🙂

    • Yes, the BDSM stuff has become very popular. It’s just never been my thing, but it’s cool that there’s something for everyone now. I just have to have something like BDSM or threesomes fit into the story and I’ve never had a story where either could fit. Well, a little light BDSM (VERY LIGHT) in Nothing Denied, which was sort of a Taming of the Shrew story where that fit a tiny bit more. But if it doesn’t fit, I just don’t use it.

    • Zeee, there definitely has been a rise in the extreme side of erotic romance, hasn’t there?

  • may says:

    I like it if the story is good and interesting. I like crossfire series by Sylvia Day.

  • bn100 says:

    Don’t have a fav; don’t think I’ve tried it

    • Who do you like in historical? If you like people like Anna or Lisa Kleypas, you probably would like erotic historical! 🙂

      • Jess, I agree – the line between erotic romance and steamy romance is fairly undefined. A lot of my books work on a sexual premise – if you took out the sex, the plot would collapse – so within certain definitions that means they’d be erotic romances.

  • Hey Jess! Welcome to the Lair. Can’t wait to read Pleasuring The Lady!!

    I read all heat levels and erotica among it. If the eroticism is done well, lots of heat and variety, and the story is strong enough to hold up to the sex, erotica can be a very fun read. Unfortunately, sometimes it does feel like sex for sex sake.

    One of the reasons it’s become so popular over the past decade is the safe fantasy. Women, and men, can tap into those fantasies they wouldn’t dare try in real life. Also, the naughtiness of knowing you’re sitting on the commuter train reading from your kindle and no one has an idea the heroine has just been tied up and pleasured by two brawny men. 🙂

    • I think the eBook readers have helped romance in general but erotic romance especially! We had so many readers who didn’t want the clinch cover or didn’t want their friend or co-workers or strangers to comment on what they were reading. Now it’s just the kindle in your hand (or nook or whatever). Though sometimes I’m reading something in public and I think, “sheesh, if they knew…”

    • Ha ha, Suz, I’m having a (hot) flashback to Lacey Morgan after reading your comment! I agree with you – the rise of the Kindle and its discreet reading definitely has helped erotic romance to thrive!

  • Lucy says:

    Hi Jess and Anna,

    Some of the first erotic historical books I read were yours Jess – the Albright sisters starting with Miranda in Everything Forbidden!
    I also really enjoyed Cassandra and Nathan in Taboo as well – I was so glad Cassandra ended up with her own HEA.

    I was sad when you stopped writing as Jenna Peterson – Scandalous is still on my shelf as one of my all time favourites, but I am very happy to see all of the wonderful Jess Michaels books continuing!

  • This was so fun! I’m off to help hang a garage organizer! Because my life is glamorous that way. 🙂 I’ll check in a little later!

  • Jess, again, welcome! Your new series sounds wonderful. I read erotic romance from time to time. I love Suz’s The Surrender of Lacy Morgan, which is a western. I’ve also enjoyed several of Sharon Page’s books.

    I suspect the appeal of erotic romance is that its characters enjoy things readers are maybe not even sure they want to try, let alone would tend to like. The ones I’ve enjoyed, historical and contemporary, truly are erotic romance, with a romantic arc that’s critical to the story.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Jess! Welcome to your virgin visit to the Lair.

  • So Anna asked earlier today about Passionate Pen, which was my site for writers that I ran from 1999-2009. It still exists, my husband actually runs a site to help authors build their platforms called Killer Book Marketing. He has a special section of his site that is what remains of The Passionate Pen and I also sometimes do videos and blogs for him. His site is

    As far as advice for new writers, aspiring authors, the market has changed so much, which is awesome. We are no longer dependent entirely on the whims of the traditional publishing system. This is awesome since tons of authors are finding readers and success on their own terms.

    However, it can also lead to over-excitement. So I would say, make sure you know what your goals are as an author. How do you want to publish, do you want to publish one book or a career-worth, etc. There is no wrong answer.

    Once you have some basic answers, then don’t rush to publish. Even if you want to indie pub, you still need to edit, read, make the strongest story you can. Read a lot in the genre. And build a platform so that you have the best chance when you do publish.

    I’m happy to talk more about writing if anyone has questions along those lines.

  • Thanks, everyone, for a great day in the lair. Thanks, Jess, for being such a great guest and we wish you every success with PLEASURING THE LADY!

    Don’t forget to check back to see who won the download of TAKEN BY THE DUKE!

  • The winner is… Marcy Shuler! Marcy if you email me at with your preferred format (Kindle/Nook/etc) I will send you a copy!