Beyond Black and White Article
As a white author, it was something of a challenge to write an interracial erotic romance where the heroine is both a submissive, and the black partner. The power relationship in a Dominant/submissive romance is already a delicate balance and is right there at the forefront of the story and, of course, the politics of multicultural societies can so easily become entangled in that. Ultimately, though, this story is about two people who love each other, and their ethnicity is of no relevance to them.
The story is set in Morocco, and Fleur, the heroine is of Berber descent. She is very much an international animal, however, and has had plenty of practice at living in a multicultural setting. She is, herself, the product of an interracial relationship and her family have spent years perfecting their ways of making it work despite pressure from their wider family and community. Fleur went to university in Edinburgh and worked for a while as a doctor in the UK before returning to Morocco. Chameleon doesn’t attempt to preach about how others should live; it just describes how one family put the people they love before all else.
Whilst Fleur and Ethan might have set aside any ethnic issues, culture is relevant to them. Fleur values her Berber roots and adheres to the traditions. She shares those with Ethan by making him a gift of a carpet she wove, and he recognises its significance to her, as do her mother and grandmother. But Chameleon is about transcending cultural expectations and shedding any limitations to explore new and fulfilling possibilities.
I appreciate the difference may seem subtle or contrived but the essence of Fleur and Ethan’s story is tolerance, and holding true to what matters most to them and to the people they care about. They are both prepared to compromise, and to make room for each other’s values and lifestyle. They start with the premise that their relationship is going to work, and set about finding ways of ensuring it does. This is exactly how Fleur’s parents approached their marriage and their legacy lives on in her.
The title of the novel describes Fleur and, in particular, her ability to blend into her surroundings. Despite initial appearances, she is far from a traditional Berber woman. She is fluent in several languages, a qualified doctor, her father is Muslim and her mother a staunch Roman Catholic. She has been brought up in both faiths and shifts effortlessly between them, though she is herself probably an atheist at heart.
A more subtle sub-plot, and one which non-UK readers may find less easy to spot, is the contrast between how Fleur’s parents behave, in particular her father, and Ethan’s own family in the mining communities of South Yorkshire. That community was torn apart by political differences created in the miners’ strike in the 1970s. Rifts were formed during that bitter struggle which tore families apart and have not healed to this day. It has always seemed to me that politics can be far more divisive than either race or religion.
Blurb for Chameleon…
A chance meeting, two strangers whose paths cross—in the same place, at the same time, yet a world apart.
When mining engineer Ethan Savage spots the cloaked, veiled woman riding a donkey in the Moroccan desert, he can be forgiven for thinking that in some respects nothing much has changed in two thousand years. She wouldn’t look out of place in Biblical times. They pass, nod, smile politely and go their separate ways, two strangers a world apart.
But when, moments later, she rescues him from his crashed car, the first words she utters make Ethan realise that appearances can be deceptive. His little Berber peasant is not what she seems.
Shifting effortlessly between her traditional roots in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and her professional life as the Totally Five Star hotel doctor, Fleur is a human chameleon, able to adapt and blend into any environment. At first irritated then amused by the handsome stranger, Fleur knows the assumptions he’s made about her. As their paths cross once more at the luxurious hotel, she realises he, too, is not all he seems. This sexy Englishman holds the key to her most secret and sensual desires, dangerous yearnings she’s kept locked away for years. Now she has a choice to make.
Ethan is only in Marrakesh for a few days, then he’ll be gone and she’ll never see him again. No one will ever know, so surely it will do no harm? Can she pass up this opportunity? And once she’s trusted him with her body, experienced all he can offer, will she be able to return to her old life? Or will the sensual chameleon need to reinvent herself once again to fit into his world?
In this excerpt, Said Mansouri, Fleur’s father, explains a little of his philosophy to the man he is beginning to suspect might be his future son in law.
“Are you sleeping with my daughter?” The older man’s question took him by surprise, but Ethan knew better than to lie to him.
“I am, yes.”
Said eyed him narrowly, though without hostility. “I see. Will you be sleeping with her tonight?”
“I hope to, yes.” There was, of course, always the slim chance that she might even now back out.
“Yet you are planning to leave our country tomorrow. Will you be returning to Morocco?”
“I have business in London in the coming days. I may return. I had no plans to initially, but now, who knows?” Ethan was more than a little surprised to hear himself say this. He had not realised himself that he was contemplating coming back. But there it was. How interesting.
“Fleur has not had good experiences always, I am sure you will know this…?”
Ethan nodded. “She told me she was married, and that her husband is now dead.”
Said shook his head gravely. “Yes, a terrible business. Not Youssef’s death, you understand. That was not terrible. It was long overdue in my view. I have no sympathy for the dog. He hurt my precious girl. I might have killed him myself at one time.”
Ethan pondered that, and considered the possibility that Said was warning him of the potential consequences if he were similarly careless with Fleur’s well-being. He had no intention at all of harming her, at least, not in the manner that her father meant. As for emotional hurt, she had known from the outset that his was a flying visit at best. He fully appreciated that emotions could assert themselves to derail even the best-laid plans, but he would be careful not to create expectations where he should not.
“I understand he was a violent man. Please be assured, Said, that I am not.” Ethan could deliver a decent whipping, fully consensual, of course, but he would never raise his hand to any woman in anger, and he was not a bully. He could and would, make Fleur scream, but he knew she would thank him for it afterwards. Meanwhile, it was by now clear to him that Said was not about to play the paternal moral card, though he was clearly seeking reassurance. Ethan was happy to provide it. “Fleur is safe with me, Mr Mansouri.”
Said nodded. “I believe that. It is clear to me that she holds you in high regard. Is that the right phrase? You will appreciate English is not my natural tongue.”
“I take your meaning, even so.”
“Fleur is old enough to make her own choices now. She is wiser than once she was. I want her to be happy. I want this for all my children.”
Ethan nodded. They seemed to be at an understanding. “Yours is an unusual family, if I may say so, Said.”
The older man nodded. “I imagine it is. We have found a way to get along well enough together, though.”
“Indeed. Fleur tells me she was brought up to be both Muslim and Christian. I had not thought that possible.”
Said smiled wryly. “I suspect it may not be. I would never ask any of my family to choose. We all find God by our own route, whatever name we call Him by. In truth, I fear my Fleur is a godless creature, despite her mother’s most fervent efforts. My daughter’s immortal soul remains a work in progress for Yvette, I think. For myself, I trust that she may find whatever she is seeking, be that God or some other source of fulfillment. We all need to have meaning in our lives. Would you not agree?”
Ethan did agree, and said so. He couldn’t help thinking that if his own father had possessed the tolerance, wisdom and vision of Said Mansouri, and the ability to let go of old hurts, his own community in south Yorkshire might have been the richer for it.
“I think that perhaps you need to be returning to your hotel. Not that I am not enjoying your company, of course. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance this evening and I sincerely hope that we may meet again, perhaps when you are able to remain with us for longer…?”
Said’s meaning was clear. Ethan smiled, inclining his head slowly. “You are right. I should be going. And yes, I hope we do have an opportunity to meet again. Thank you for your hospitality this evening, and please pass on my thanks to your lovely wife.”
“Of course. I will telephone for a taxi for you.”
“There’s no need…”
“I would not hear of anything else. It will just take a few minutes. Please, have some more mint tea while I make the call.” Said pulled his mobile phone from his pocket. Ethan reached for the teapot.
About Ashe Barker:
Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. So I left, and at last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance. I’ve been writing seriously for about two years but I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, erotic and other genres. I love reading historical and contemporary romances in all pairings – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.
In my own writing I draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. My stories are often set in the north of England where I live but I draw inspiration from all over. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea. But ultimately my tales of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid and smutty imagination.
On the rare occasions I’m not writing my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.
My other titles include the ‘Black Combe’ trilogies, The Dark Side, Sure Mastery, The Hardest Word and A Richness of Swallows, all set in the atmospheric moorland of West Yorkshire or Cumbria and with a strong BDSM theme. The Three Rs, part of Totally Bound’s What’s Her Secret? imprint is a stand-alone novel set in Berwick in the Scottish border. I’ve also written a couple of short stories, Re-Awakening, and a raunchy pirate tale, Right of Salvage, as well as a novella, Carrot and Coriander.
I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.