Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy -- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty's Punishment, Beauty's Release -- is being republished by Penguin Group's Plume. Rice first published the series in the 1980s under the pen name A. N. Roquelaure, although she's also included her name on later editions. (Her other erotic work includes the novels Exit to Eden and Belinda, written under the pen name Anne Rampling.)
For those who are not familiar with Rice's trilogy, the story starts off with a prince finding Sleeping Beauty. He has sex with her while she's still asleep (in the real world, we call that rape) and then she wakes up. She is soon tied up naked and paraded around on the prince's way back to his kingdom. The way he explains it to her, she is so beautiful that she need not cover her nakedness. Everyone, he insists, will appreciate her beauty. Once they get to his kingdom, she joins a bunch of other captured princes and princesses, all of whom are forced to do all manner of unspeakable sex acts, sometimes in front of audiences. Each captured person even has their own caretaker of sorts. It's almost like an NC-17 version of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.
The timing of the trilogy's reprint couldn't be better, what with the mega-success of EL James' Fifty Shades trilogy and subsequent consumer demand for more erotic fiction. In fact, the front cover of each reprint has a note to readers, letting them know that if they love Fifty Shades of Grey, they'll love Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy.
Rice's books may have come first, but James' books -- which originated online as Twilight fan fiction -- have recently caused a big hullabaloo among those who never got into the erotic reading action. The story is about a virginal college student who gets caught up in the BDSM lifestyle of an eccentric billionaire. (It doesn't hurt that he's described as young and exceptionally good-looking.) The two main characters, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, were originally based on those two famous tween-beloved characters created by author Stephenie Meyer: vampire Edward Cullen and human Bella Swan.
James' books are reportedly a little too much for some U.S. libraries, which have a problem with the books' erotic content and are keeping them from the shelves. Clearly, these librarians had never checked out one of the romance novels their libraries presumably carried or bothered to check their fiction sections. Rice's trilogy might have been sitting under their crinkled noses all this time, even though it makes James' books seem plainer than vanilla ice cream. (Example: One captive tells Beauty about the time his torturers stuffed food up his butt hole.)
Mediabistro's Galley Cat blog posted an excerpt of the Rice's trilogy's new preface, in which she defended her books' racy content.
As a feminist, I'm very much supportive of equal rights for women in all walks of life, she wrote. And that includes for me the right of every woman to write out her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. Men have always enjoyed all kinds of pornography. How can it be wrong for women to have the same right? We're sexual beings! And fantasy is where we can do the things we can't do in ordinary life. A woman has a right to imagine herself carried away by a handsome prince, and to choose for herself as she writes, the color of his hair and eyes, and imagine his silky voice. She has a right to make him as tall as she wants and as strong as he wants. Why not? Men have always allowed themselves such fantasies.
But beware, Rice. This reprint might spawn a spoof or two. James' work (and Meyer's work, for that matter) has been met with some mockery, including a Saturday Night Live Mother's Day skit.