A recently-widowed woman, who was in love with her much older husband, meets her husband’s relative, a notorious rake who is currently embroiled in a paternity lawsuit and is basically co-habitating with his married mistress.

The hero and heroine–the widow and the rake–don’t kiss until the book is way more than three-quarters done, don’t have sex until the last fragment of the book, and he receives a certain type of attention from his mistress more than halfway through the book.

Sounds risky, right? Like a self-published book that was self-pubbed because the author couldn’t find a home for it in traditional publishing?

It does sound like it–but it’s Judith Ivory’s Black Silk, published by Berkley in 1991, and republished in 2002.

I read Black Silk way back when I first returned to romance, and I know I liked it at the time, but I’m not sure I appreciated it as fully as I should have. I never, ever re-read, so this was a big deal for me to pick up again–but I knew I was in the mood for something perilously close to literary fiction, but with a happy ending, and I knew Ivory, especially her early books, would suit. Plus it had been so long my memory was hazy with what exactly had happened during the course of the book. I just knew I liked it.

At the end, when Graham finds Submit (yes–that’s the heroine’s name) and bares his soul, the language is practically elegaic:

“I love soft saddles and mean horses and bright, booming fireworks that end in a rain of sparkling ash. I would love to roll around on the floor with all of these, touching them with the most sensitive parts of my body. But the truth is, none of them are really as good for fucking as the woman I love. And you’re it.”

Later on, she’s trying to pull away from him–after that declaration, even!–and he says,

“Submit, listen to me. There are probably good reasons why we shouldn’t be together. But the overriding fact is I love you, and you love me–you need me. I can keep your life form becoming hopelessly earthbound. And I need you, as sure as leaps in the air need gravity.”

Whoa. Who could resist that? I couldn’t–and luckily for our Happy Ending, neither can Submit. Black Silk is a rarity, a risk-taking book that succeeds in what it attempts, a literary fiction book masquerading as a romance, a delicious tour de force from an immensely-talented hand.

Besides our books, what books have taken risks that you’ve loved?