Authors
Alexandros
Carmine
Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
American Casanova: The New Adventures of the Legendary LoverAmerican Casanova: The New Adventures of the Legendary Lover
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Contributions By: M.Christian, Michael Crawley, Carole Ann Davis, O'Neil De Noux, Stella Duffy, Sonia Florens, Mike Hemmingson, Vicki Hendricks, Thomas S. Roche, Mitzi Szereto, Lucy Taylor, Matt Thorne, Mark Timlin, Sage Vivant, Molly Weatherfield
Thunder's Mouth Press
ISBN: 1560257660
May, 2006





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

What happens when you begin an erotic novel with a fascinating and provocative premise, and then invite some of the most prominent authors in the genre to serially contribute individual chapters? The result could be inspired chaos, a kaleidoscope of erotic visions and fractal views of the main characters through the lens of each writer's unique style. Alternatively, the novel could end up as an incoherent and annoying muddle. Unfortunately, American Casanova is more the latter than the former, though it does offer occasional flashes of brilliance.

Maxim Jakubowski sets the stage and introduces the protagonist in the intriguing first chapter. Giacomo Casanova, burdened by the decrepitude of old age and the bitterness of lost loves, drifts into deathly sleep in Venice in 1798 and awakens in 2005. Reveling in his renewed vigor and youth, he immediately resumes his old ways by seducing an apparently innocent Italian girl who works at the local cafe. Christiana mentors him in the strange and outrageous ways of the modern world, as well as regaling him with the pleasures of her flesh. She accompanies him to a mysterious private party where the sexual excess of the guests shocks even his debauched sensibilities. It is here, at this lascivious ball, that Casanova first glimpses the intoxicating woman he calls Athena, leashed and collared, clearly a slave, yet with a beauty and presence that pierces even his jaded heart. As Athena disappears, he vows to find her and make her his own, thus beginning the quest that will drive (albeit in fits and starts) the novel to its conclusion.

The first few chapters unwind themselves in a reasonably consistent and satisfying fashion. Christiana helps Casanova discover the source of his invitation to the ball, the enigmatic Power Company. When he makes his way to their headquarters to confront them, he is drugged and abducted. He wakes on an enormous ship, a sort of floating dungeon, where he is forced to watch Athena being abused and debauched, even as he himself provides perverse entertainment for the ship's passengers. Christiana reveals herself to be no innocent, but a lustful slut who tops and bottoms with equal zest.

The ship docks in Key West, where Casanova escapes and nearly drowns. By the time he makes land, he finds that Athena (or O, as she turns out to be named) is being auctioned to a vicious punk rocker, Toby Faith. Along with D, one of the slaves from the dungeon ship, and with the help of a local cowboy, Casanova pursues Faith's caravan, driven by his need to possess O.

At this point, the narrative begins to fall apart, careening wildly from Key West to New Orleans to Seattle to San Francisco and finally to New York. Each subsequent chapter introduces new minor characters, who pop in and out of the story, changing roles and tugging the flow of the tale out of its main channel and into weird, distracting eddies.

Mark Timlin's chapter begins the dissolution by starting to tell the story from O's point of view. Before too long, there is also a thread narrated from D's perspective. We lose the pleasure of seeing the modern world and its sexual extremes through the eyes of Casanova, a cultured gentleman from another era as well as a sexual predator, and with that loss, much of the grace and intrigue of the tale.

Mitzi Szereto violates the perfect image of O by turning her into an idiot. She sends O on a benighted quest for enlightenment, seeking a God that she identifies with Kurt Cobain among bemused drug addicts and religious fanatics in Seattle. Then Michael Hemmingson's chapter layers on the wretchedness, filth and degradation in his characteristic neo-Beat style.

The plot thickens to the consistency of sludge as new chapters introduce yet another secret society, The Order, which exists to liberate and rehabilitate slaves from the clutches of the Power Company. D, Christiana, and various other characters reveal themselves to be double, or perhaps even triple agents, in this worldwide battle for flesh and souls. Casanova (who has by this time become almost passive, suffering lust and torment as he again and again catches up with O only to lose her) realizes that he has been brought back to life by the Power Company for some obscure purpose. This intriguing concept, alas, is never elucidated, although we discover by the end of the novel that O is also a revenant, the famous submissive of Roissy who has been brought to life in the new millennium after an untimely death in the 1950's.

Maxim Jakubowski makes a valiant attempt to tie up loose ends in the final chapter, which includes dark echoes typical of his writing. The final scene returns to Venice, with satisfying unity that is sorely lacking in much of the book.

As a single narrative, American Casanova lacks coherence and focus. On the other hand, from such an assemblage of erotic luminaries I would expect some beautiful, disturbing or evocative writing, and I was not wholly disappointed. Thomas S. Roche delivers an arresting chapter in which an aroused and conflicted Casanova chastises O and wins her devotion. John Grant's chapter includes one of the most intense sex scenes in the book, a coupling between Casanova and Croy, the in-your-face black DJ/chauffeur/body guard who works for the Order. And Sage Vivant's chapter, early in the book, provides a deliciously ambiguous encounter between Casanova and a woman who might, or might not, be a resurrected ex-lover from his own time.

I was ultimately disappointed by American Casanova. I can't help but wonder about the motivations of some of the authors as they fashioned their chapters. Building on someone else's plot twists and characters must be quite difficult, but I know from past reading experience that these writers could have done better. I had the sense that some contributors were playing a game in which each tried to outdo predecessors in offering ever wilder and more outrageous characters, events and interpretations. Certainly, in many cases, there seemed to be little consideration paid to the narrative as a whole.

Although the cover glosses the book as "An erotic novel directed by Maxim Jakubowski", it's clear that he exercised very little direction over his contributors. The result is a novel that I suspect is quite different from what Maxim imagined, based on the glimpses provided by his initial and final chapters. That novel, I think, I would have greatly enjoyed.





Chaos MagicChaos Magic
By: Jay Lygon
Torquere Press
ISBN: 1603703691
April, 2007





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

The Magic of Household Gods

The title of this gay-male BDSM romance or parable of sexual magic in the City of Angels is misleading. It is more about patterns than about chaos. The adorable young bottom who tells the tale has a plan for his life, and the minor deities that he has willed into being (the Goddess of Traffic, the Goddess of Negotiation and the God of Computers) have their own plans. The author's plan is the best of all.

Sam, who appears to be a SAM (Smart Ass Masochist), opens a psychic door to something new by literally praying for a new Daddy to appear in his life. This request is unusual for him, as he explains:

"See, to the Gods, most prayer was like the buzz of a hungry mosquito in a dark room late at night . . . Knowing that, I worshipped my Gods, but rarely prayed for anything. When I knelt before their altars and offered sacrifices, selfless adoration flowed off my soul much the same as when I gave my body to a Master. It was an incredible high to bow that low.

"Boundless faith, bottomless misery, and sheer desperation -- the holy trinity of prayer."

Sam reluctantly goes to the bar with his concerned friends, who want to help him get over his last relationship with a man who is very bad news. Unfortunately, Marcus the ex-Master is stalking Sam, and often appears in places where Sam has gone to escape from him.

Sam bolts out of the bar and into the arms of Hector, a mature and reputable dominant as well as a successful salesman of oil-rig equipment. Hector has no interest in tricks of any kind. Despite his frequent out-of-town trips, he wants to get to know Sam step by step, in an old-fashioned courtship that suggests the traditions of his Mexican ancestors. Hector even lives in the house of his dead grandmother, who appears as a ghost to Sam and his family of protective spirits.

On their first date, Sam expresses surprise that the oil-drilling business provides Hector with a good living in Los Angeles. Sam was raised in an eccentric family of pagan farmers in Oklahoma, and he is not familiar with all aspects of his adopted city. Hector explains it to him:

"Los Angeles is like sedimentary rock -- layers applied over each other and compressed together. One layer is entertainment industry, another is agriculture, oil, aerospace, fashion, meat packaging -- name the industry and it's here somewhere you've driven past a million times and never noticed."

This description of the local setting suggests the complexity of a plot that combines romance, hot BDSM, psychological realism and the paranormal. L.A. (or El Lay, as it has been called) is described as a place where anything can happen.

When showing his altar to Hector, Sam explains his religion:

"Gods aren't immortal. They don't live much longer than humans do. Every time a god spirit is reborn in the cycle, the Dewey Clan [Sam's family] stands ready to worship the new deity. That doesn't mean we have to though, except that Mom would scalp me if I didn't worship the family Gods. So I have altars for the God of Agriculture, the God of Weather, and of course, Mama Fertility, even though I don't farm."

Sam goes on:

"The minor deities share [an altar]. I'm never sure if those nameless ones are old gods clinging to life or new gods without much of a power base: the God of Exact Change, the Goddess of Please Let My Period Start... Think of how many prayers rise from human lips in the average day. People don't mind asking for help, but then they refuse to believe in their own Gods. It's sad. A lot of minor deities end up in therapy. No amount of hand patting and 'it's them, not you' can give a God the strength to go on. Only worship, faith and the occasional bottle of Stoli can do that."

Thus the reader learns how closely Sam's spirituality is connected to his sexuality. As his guardian god-spirits tell him, his faith is strong enough to keep them alive and healthy, and therefore any favors they do for him are part of a power exchange, not one-sided acts of charity as he believes. Their hardest job is to get him to believe in himself.

Sam at first appears vain, restless and eager to connect with dominant men on a strictly physical basis. As his story unfolds, the reader learns how dangerous Marcus is and how much Sam is in denial about the harm that has been done to him and about his own paralyzing fear. As Sam has reason to know, hell hath no fury like a Master scorned.

At first, Hector looks like the anti-Marcus. He offers Sam a chance to reconnect with the soil by growing a garden while living in Hector's house. Hector points out several times that he could easily support Sam, whose writing job on the fringes of the movie business barely pays his bills. Hector appears protective, concerned and generous. Is he the ideal Daddy or a control freak? Sam wants to be loved, like all other human beings, but no one living in L.A. could be unaware that exchanging sex and other domestic services for material things is a business. As Sam explains to Hector, a real relationship between them can't be about money.

When Sam's protective deities magically create houses in Hector's neighborhood so they can live nearby and watch out for their boy, none of the local residents seem to notice anything unusual. Even with supernatural guardians, Sam can't always be safe in a city where everyone seems to ignore all the "layers" or dimensions of reality outside their own.

Hector's demon seems to be a fear of disloyalty. He has been wounded more than he will admit by two previous boys whom he loved but lost when he caught each of them with other lovers. Hector is determined not to let such a thing happen again. Unfortunately, Sam's first reaction to fear is to run away first and explain himself later, if at all. And Marcus knows the weaknesses of both Sam and Hector. His plan is to convince Hector that Sam is too fickle to trust and to convince Sam that there is no alternative to a life of submission based on fear.

For awhile, Sam's relationship with Hector seems headed for disaster as surely as the plot of a Greek tragedy. Even when Sam realizes that Marcus is the God of Fear, it is hard for him to turn off the negative energy that has enabled the bully to grow larger than life. As the plot thickens, the reader becomes aware that this saga is a teaching story about the differences between loving, consensual BDSM and one-sided abuse and how easily one can slide into the other.

Does Marcus regain control of Sam's life? Does Hector learn to trust Sam? Does Sam learn to trust himself?

To discover how things work out, you have to read the book. Be warned, however: on the way to a conclusion, you are likely to be distracted by the hot sex scenes. Sam attracts everyone who sees him (even Mama Fertility, who wishes he were straight enough to mate with her), and he describes every blow job he gives and every spanking he gets. He even learns to accept sex in a form that always frightened him too much to enjoy before. As he and the reader learn, however, love and trust are the best forms of lubrication.





He's On TopHe's On Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442704
March, 2007





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.

 





My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up
By: Stephen Elliott
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442550
October 2006





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Stephen Elliot’s My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up is a bold confession. From his introduction, This Could Have Been a Memoir, he says, “It is in everyone’s best interest for more people to be open about their sexual desires.” He puts his need on display and offers an explanation, but doesn’t apologize for it – nor should he.

My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up isn’t exactly a novel. It’s a collection of short stories that are linked together so that there is a broader picture.

In First Things First, he tells of an encounter with an S&M domme. His inexperience is the frightening thing here. He’s not sure what he wants, and doesn’t know how to admit that the scene is too much. He addresses the danger of that situation in his introduction, and talks about how the US Government’s drive to censor the internet has driven websites with crucial information on Safe, Sane, and Consensual practices to shut down.

My Stripper Year is about his heroine addiction and touches on his work in bisexual porn. “I got robbed. I got beat up. Things weren’t going well. Nothing made sense. I was having the best time of my life,” right up until an overdose left him paralyzed for eight days. He was lucky to survive, and knows it.

Beginning with What It’s Like in San Francisco, the stories in this collection take on the feel of chapters in a novel. My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up, Other Desires, and Tears are about relationships that don’t work and the search for a domme that’s compatible with his needs. Through those stories, although he never says, it seems that he began to understand what he wanted, and learned to communicate his needs.

In Three Men and a Woman, he finds Eden. She offers a relationship beyond sexual encounters, but it’s a polyamorous relationship with her husband and another man. Elliot says, “That I love her and that I think this could maybe work sometimes and then other times I see nothing but a bunch of potholes, a couple, landmines, and a train wreck.” It’s obvious that he has doubts. The relationship continues, but not easily. He has an awkward meeting with the husband and tries to work around the jealousy and scheduling problems of sharing her with the two other men in her life. “She’s with me all the time, or I’m longing for her. She leaves a velvet bag of rope next to my bed. Sometimes I think it’s unfair. She’s with me when she isn’t.” That has got to be one of the most honest descriptions of love I’ve ever read.

In My Friend Petey, he tries to explain his relationship with Eden to someone who can’t or won’t understand. It’s as much a declaration of ‘This is Who I Am’ as it is an explanation, and it is unapologetic, as it should be. Just Always Be Good is self-acceptance. “This is a happy story,” Elliot says, and he means it.

Epilogue: My Mainstream Girlfriend is an admission of being kinky, but also the realization that maybe he isn’t that far out of the norm. He says, “I spend much more time with my face between her legs than I do getting cut. You have to look at the percentages. More and more I feel like I’m joining mainstream America.” Looking at the huge amount of BDSM literature and porn available, as well as the images slipping into mainstream media nowadays, he may be on to something there.

This book isn’t easy reading. It’s about sex, but not sexual. It’s graphic but not titillating, not a one-handed read. What it is is an honest account of someone finding balance and peace in his sexuality.





She's on TopShe's on Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442690
March, 2007





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.

 





The Melinoe ProjectThe Melinoe Project
By: D. L. King
Renaissance E Books
ISBN: 978-1600890246
February, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

What could possibly be sexually arousing about hospitals? OK, there are nurses, and untold opportunities to be forcibly undressed, and the chance you could be subjected to enemas, and bed baths and…

Wow! It looks like I answered my own rhetorical question.

The Melinoe Project starts in the not too distant future when we meet Raymond Reynolds. Raymond is sick of his job as an office temp. He’s a photographer by vocation and specialises in pictures of submissive men – a subject with which he has a lot of sympathy. He’s proud to admit that his own sexual preferences run to being submissive. And he’s eager to explore his limitations in that sphere of personal development. Taking a break from the temping work, and hoping it’s going to be a permanent break, Raymond enrols as a test subject for the Melinoe Project.

[In a way I think DL King may have made a slight mistake here. If Raymond were really into suffering and humiliation (and wanted to be at the mercy of domineering, ball-busting bitches) he would have ignored the Melinoe Project and stayed working as an office temp. I’ve done that gig. I’ve grovelled beneath power drunk females as they forced me to plumb the depths of office servitude and lick their metaphoric boots – or at least do lots of invoicing.]

The Melinoe project is the brainchild of the beautiful and brutal beauties at the Melinoe Research Institute. These are the same people behind Club Melinoe: “the hottest and most exclusive Fem Dom club in the country.” All these elements are tied neatly together as the story progresses and we learn more about Raymond’s goals and ambitions, his dreams and desires, and his dark, deviant needs.

The Melinoe Project is DL King’s first full length title. The author of many arousing short stories, King exudes a formidable talent for teasing, torment and titillation. In this all out extravaganza of female domination and male submission King excels. The tone of The Melinoe Project is tempered slightly by the flavour of romance, but it’s a romance on the strictest of terms and with an edge that’s as hard and cutting as surgical steel.

Although I try to avoid clichés [we all know they’re old hat – I usually avoid them like the plague] the phrase “pushing the envelope” kept springing to mind as I read The Melinoe Project. King takes the punishment further than anything I’ve read before. Raymond is a tough cookie, and he takes more than most men could endure. But still DL King makes him, and the reader, squirm as the story moves to its satisfying climax.

The characterisation in this story is strong. The reader can sympathise with the frustration of Raymond’s plight and empathise with his desire to succeed. The opportunity to be a part of Club Melinoe is his ultimate ambition, which lends credibility to the effort he invests in getting there.

But it’s not just the protagonist who is competently portrayed. The dominant but kind-hearted Sunny blends a penchant for mastery with a wholly believable soft, seductive centre. In contrast the vicious and brutal Susan was so perfectly created she reminded me of every bitch of an office manager who has ever tried to metaphorically brand me with a cat-o-nine tails.

The Melinoe Project is not for everyone. The story does push boundaries and takes the genre of fem dom and male sub to a new and shocking level. But we all need to push ourselves to new levels every now and again. Do you still want to know what could possibly be sexually arousing about hospitals? Read The Melinoe Project. If you like your women strong enough to make your men cry, and you like your men punished good and often, you’ll find the answer written on every page.