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
Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex StoriesDo Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443441
March 2009

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Hotels and sex are natural bedfellows.  We go to hotels for sex.  Admittedly there are occasionally other reasons – business meetings, holidays, the necessity of travel etc – but, as a general rule of thumb (not to mention those other important parts of the anatomy) we go to hotels for sex.  Which is why it is only natural for the inimitable Rachel Kramer Bussel to link hotels and sex in her latest anthology: Do Not Disturb

I regularly go to hotels for sex.  And not just because people pay me.  (I don’t mean people pay me to go to their hotel rooms for sex.  Usually my wife gives me £50 and tells me to fuck off to a hotel for the night). 

Hotel sex is better than regular sex because hotel rooms already have a bed in them, so there’s no worrying about where the gear-stick might go, or what to do with your hat or your sandwiches.  Hotel sex is also good because, when you turn up at the hotel with your partner, the obviousness of the situation means you might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says: WE’VE COME TO THIS HOTEL TO LOCK OURSELVES INTO OUR ROOM SO WE CAN SPEND THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE HAVING WILD MONKEY SEX.

Even if that’s not the intention.  Even if your wife has actually destroyed and disposed of your T-shirt (which bears the aforementioned slogan) and privately warned you that you are not allowed to touch her with a ten foot barge-pole or any other part of your anatomy: everyone still thinks that’s why you’re there.  And, in this day and age of visual cues, if people think it’s happening then, whether it’s happening or not, it’s definitely happening.

So, we’re all agreed?  Hotels and sex go together.  If you’re still not convinced, go out and pick up Do Not Disturb

The anthology begins with Amanda Earl’s “Welcome To The Aphrodisiac Hotel.”  Aside from writing saucy, sultry stories, Amanda Earl is also a poet and people watcher.  Her people-watching prowess comes to the fore here as her story’s persona watches the occupants of a hotel lobby bar.  The idea is deliciously simple and, in Amanda’s skilful hands, the story comes to life in an enchanting, effective and erotic fashion.

Are you more interested in the honeymoon suite?  Madlyn March’s “Heart-Shaped Holes” is a pithy blend of pathos and the prurient as she introduces a confused new bride, a callous new husband, and the sympathetic ear of a neighbouring hotel guest.  Madlyn March’s story is a bittersweet sojourn with a conclusion that should warm the coldest heart.

Fancy trying something wicked?  They don’t come much more wicked than Kristina Wright’s “The Other Woman.”  Hotels are there to fulfil our fantasies.  Five Star hotels are there to fulfil our richest fantasies.  And the characters in “The Other Woman” get to fulfil their fantasies, even though things don’t work out quite as everyone expected.

In “Talking Dirty,” Shanna Germain’s characters use their hotel room as an escape from reality – or maybe an escape from unreality.  Whichever the reader decides it might be, the overall verdict will be that this story excels as a sympathetic and poignantly rendered tribute to deviance and dysfunction.

Saskia Walker leads us to the Kilpatrick in London where the waiting staff bend over backwards to satisfy their customers.  They also bend over forwards too in “The Lunch Break.”  Saskia Walker knows how to write smouldering hot fiction and “The Lunch Break” is no exception. 

And then there’s Lisabet Sarai’s “Reunion.”  This is a story that is powerful in its sexual content and equally profound in the depth of the relationship shared by the two central characters.  Written with a simplicity that is stylish and sexy, “Reunion” is one of those narratives that lingers with you for days after as you brood on the characters’ futures. 

If Do Not Disturb were a hotel it would a 5 star hotel with the luxury of 24/7 entertainment available.  The anthology includes authors of such renown as Thomas S Roche, Maxim Jakubowski, Elizabeth Coldwell, Donna George Storey, Alison Tyler and, of course, Rachel Kramer Bussel. 

If, like me, you know that hotels are there for sex and sex only – you will adore this book and the collected stories.  If you have any doubts about the purposes of hotels, buy the book and let Do Not Disturb change your mind for the better.

Future PerfectFuture Perfect
By: Helen E. H. Madden
Logical Lust Publications
ISBN: 978-1905091218
March 2009

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Helen Madden is one of the most energetic writers I’ve ever met. She sets incredible goals, and reaches them. She produces a weekly comic on her hugely popular Cynical Woman website, produces cover art and websites for publishers and writers, and produces a weekly webcast that demands a fresh story every week. Not only is her output amazing, but the quality of her work is enviable. With a strong base of stories to choose from, it came as no surprise that she was releasing a collection.

As the title of the collection suggests, Helen’s stories are speculative fiction. The collection begins with a flash fiction (ultra short) piece “Circus Circus” that serves as an introduction as well as a story. It sets the tone for what will come.

“Event Horizon” reminds me of the restaurant at the end of the universe in the HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A man is in a bar with a view of a star nursery nebula that is about to implode. There, he meets Shiva, who promises to show him how to go out with a bang.

If voting were ever like “The Voting Booth,” we’d have 100% citizen participation. Heck, I’d vote early, and vote often, if the candidates worked that hard to get my vote.

“To Birdman with Love” is set in the superhero universe. Ever wonder if those villains and superheroes running around in latex catsuits are a bit kinky? The line between bad and good was never so hard to draw, especially when they’re all writhing on the floor in a huge spandex orgy. You’ll be cheering for the sidekick who finally comes into his own.

“Husbands and Wives” is a melancholy tale set in an alternate universe that will linger with you for days. Lovely execution.

“Future Perfect” is the longest story in the collection. In this contemporary science fiction novelette, a researcher perfecting a line of sex toys begins to have visions while she and her submissive boy test her products. To her boy’s dismay, she immediately runs off to prevent her visions from coming true. That leads to a rift in their relationship. But the visions of danger don’t stop, and despite being apart, they are drawn back to the scene until the future finally plays out.

All of the stories in this collection are good, so picking out a few to mention was difficult. The best thing about this collection is how diverse these stories are. Some are funny; some are sad. Sex is explicit and hot in a few; others linger on seduction. Some tales have happy endings; some don’t. But each one will give you something to think about. That’s my definition of a good story.

Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Constable & Robinson (UK), Running Press (US)
ISBN: 0762436336
January 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This thick collection of 41 stories is a banquet of sex in various forms and flavors, all predominantly heterosexual with a tiny amount of same-sex action sprinkled in for spice. The editor admits that his taste is "idiosyncratic." As a writer and bookseller of crime/noir fiction, he seems especially fond of erotica in those genres. He also has a fine eye for literary skill, so there are no clunker sentences or groan-worthy metaphors on any of the 460 pages of this book. (Not a single brooding detective in a rumpled raincoat meets a slinky dame, except in stories such as "Amour Noir" by Landon Dixon, in which an innocent traveler is bewildered, then aroused, then alarmed by characters in Iowa who seem out of touch with reality.)

Instead of relying on a select group of well-known writers to supply him with the year's best published erotica, Maxim Jakubowski has become famous or notorious for trolling the 'net for gems and republishing them with a minimum of communication with the authors. In fairness to him, the current general conception of "published" work includes anything posted in a public place, and Jakubowski seems to be pursuing authors more systematically now than in the past. A note in the acknowledgment for "Child's Position" by Dawn Ryan, first posted on the site "Sliptongue," claims: "Repeated attempts have been made to contact the author. Should she come across this volume, she should contact the editor c/o the publishers."

The results of the editor's treasure-hunt style of finding material (he also welcomes submissions) are impressive. In the introduction, he boasts: "Many names will be familiar to readers of past volumes, but I am particularly proud this year that eighteen writers appear in the series for the first time, and that a growing cohort of male authors also provides evidence that sexual sensibility is not just the domain of female writers."

Considering his professed open-mindedness, it seems ironic that he has not found any stories about sex between two men or two women worthy of publication, and the few stories about bisexuals (i.e. "menage" stories) emphasize the importance of male-female sex. There are no transgender characters in this collection that I could find.

The consistently high quality of this collection makes it hard to choose favorites, although as a member of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, I am always glad to find a good handful of stories from the ERWA website in this series. Probably the fairest way to describe the stories in this book is to identify general themes.

There is an interesting spectrum of Dominant/submissive relationships, although the kind of BDSM activities defined as "extreme" or "black-hanky" are largely missing. In "The Slave," the first story in the book, Julia Morizawa takes on the voice of a female character in a doomed D/s affair with a man who reacts violently to her complaint that he is "too gentle. . . Master." Love, as distinct from momentary lust, is the demon they both fear.

In "The Shoot" by D.L. King, eye-candy male submissives are arranged for the camera by their Mistresses. Like other stories of camera erotica, this story plays on the D/s implications of human models who can be dressed, undressed, painted and posed for photographers who capture the image of a moment for all time.

"Matching Skirt and Kneepads" by Thomas Roche is the closest to a gay/lesbian story in the book. A female submissive who spends much time on her knees is taken out by her Mistress, who introduces her to a pair of leathermen. The "girl" is recovering from a clit-piercing, but she is able to please Mistress' friends with other parts of her body. Her reward is a set of kneepads that match her skirt.

In "Incurable Romantic" by Lisabet Sarai, a male Dom with the female submissive of his dreams is able to learn some new things about his own desires. "Late for a Spanking" by Rachel Kramer Bussel is brisker and lighter, but it also plays with desires that could break the trust in a good BDSM relationship. Like the Dom in Lisabet Sarai's story, the man here knows he is lucky to have an almost-perfect female submissive, and he has promised to be faithful to her in his fashion, but a frisky girl who likes to be spanked is almost irresistible.

"The Unattainable" by Livia Llewelyn is an outstanding story in a book full of them. On the surface, this is a kind of country song about a one-night-stand between a woman who has returned to small-town Virginia and a hard-muscled rodeo rider who tells her that he "always wins." Below the surface, however, his deep, unexpressed desire to submit, and her desire to be "the thing he longs for most in all the world" can almost be felt by the reader.

"Victoria's Hand" by Lisette Ashton is an over-the-top scene of a marriage proposal in the Victorian Age. The suitor asks Victoria for "her hand." Enjoying his anxiety, she seizes her advantage and demands to see the goods before she will commit to anything. In an age when most women have few rights, she negotiates a marriage in which she will be in charge.  

D/s stories often overlap with fetish stories; the crucial difference seems to be that fetish stories focus on an object, a body part or a single activity rather than a relationship. Fetish stories in this book include: "Boot Camp" by Kristina Lloyd, a hilarious spin on recovery or detox centers. In this case, the narrator is a woman who loves to lick boots, and who has been sent to a camp for fetishists, supposedly intended to "cure" them. Not surprisingly, "Spitshine" meets a boot-wearer whose fetish is very compatible with hers. In "Supercollider" by Chad Taylor, a waitress meets a quirky customer who likes the same games that she does.

"I Am Jo's Vibrator" by M. Christian is a playful monologue by a vibrator who is thrilled to be brought home from the store to pleasure a young woman, and learns that he can also serve her boyfriend. In "Spin Dry" by Sam Jayne, a fiercely antisocial Englishwoman prefers the vibrations of her washing machine to the efforts of a man. When her washing machine breaks down, she must find a way to replace it. 

"Hair Trigger" by Nikki Magennis is a darker story about a woman who learns that her boyfriend, who will only see her at certain times, loves long hair more than he loves individual women. She takes revenge in an appropriate way. In "Slightly Ajar" by Jeremy Edwards, a woman and her husband discover the primal excitement of a woman pissing with the bathroom door slightly open. In "Glint" by Portia da Costa, a woman on vacation believes that the people in the next cottage are watching her and her husband on the beach, and the feeling of being watched transforms them both.

“Spider” by Donna George Storey features a seductive Japanese man who plays on an American woman’s fear of large spiders; he teaches her to enjoy being caught in a shibari web. “Paranoid Polly” is a more farcical story about a young woman who is equally surprised by the barely-hidden sexual relationship of two male co-workers and her own reaction to a stuffed toy when she accidentally sits on it.

Is incest a fetish? If so, the surrealistic “Narcissi” by N.J. Steitberger fits in with the other fetish stories. Joseph desires his twin and female alter ego, Josephine, but is she real? His (or their) mother doesn’t think so, but Mom is often in an altered state of consciousness.

On that note, there is a small but memorable group of fantasy stories in this collection, including “The Threshold” by Polly Frost, in which a high school virgin learns that supernatural beings from another realm have been attracted to her town by the freshness of her energy, on which they want to feed in an ancient ritual. And despite the bragging of her friends, male and female, she is far from the only unplucked rosebud in her school. “17 Short Films About Hades and Persephone” by Elspeth Potter is a powerful reworking of the ancient Greek myth about the god of the underworld and his abduction of his own niece, daughter of his sister, Demeter. “Sparklewheel” by Kris Saknussemm reads like a hellish acid trip through the modern industrial world undertaken by a man and woman who survive despite the odds.

The impact of disability on sex and sexual relationships might be considered anti-erotic, but it is brilliantly and sensitively dealt with in three stories. “An Early Winter Train” by C. Sanchez-Garcia is told by the husband/caretaker of a woman who has lost most of her memory. In “Objects of Meaning” by Savannah Lee, a female anthropology student gives a professor, who was accidentally mutilated years before, what he could not get from his fiancée. In “Skin Deep” by Kristina Wright, a man who must not overexert himself because he has a heart transplant meets a woman whose husband has been repelled by her mastectomy. In a poignant encounter which can never be repeated, they mirror each other’s beauty and strength.

Stories about heists, murder and contract killing include one by the editor himself, “L’Americaine,” about a cool American blonde who travels with two passports (much like this reviewer, except that I don’t do this for nefarious purposes) and who inadvertently rescues a young Italian woman from a sinister older man in Paris. “Murder Intermezzo” by O’Neil De Noux, set in New Orleans, is as dramatic as an opera. “Behind the Masque” by Sophie Mouette features the kind of surprise twist that is characteristic of this author.

The story which will probably resonate in my mind the longest is the chilling historical tale "Mr. Merridawn's Hum" by Cervo, based on a traditional ballad which has inspired other modern artists. (The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, an innovative folk-rock album recorded by the Incredible String Band in 1968, is one example, and so is the 1993 novel of the same name by Sharyn McCrumb.) The daughter of the hangman (whose presence at dawn brings anything but merriment) is a delicate flower whose grotesque sexuality seems logical for her circumstances:

She did, however, have a deep weakness for hanging owing to the fact that it so often befell the youngest and prettiest of men who were nimble enough to try -- but not to succeed -- at poaching, robbing the high roads, and sheep stealing. She would comfort them in the night by singing to them softly before they dropped away from the light at dawn. On more than one occasion she had noticed that despite all the unattractive results of hanging, many of these men were taken down with their cocks still hotly erect and they had clearly ejaculated at their final moment. This was for her a new discovery, and something to consider when thinking of a stiff prick. 

Desire, hope, mortality, greed, generosity, deception and illusion all mix together seamlessly in these stories, as does the comedy of sex and the tragedy of human loneliness. This is a book to be dipped into again and again.

*Editor’s Note:

Regarding the statement about Mr Jakubowski “trolling the 'net for gems and republishing them with a minimum of communication with the authors,”  he states that “In 15 years of publishing the Mammoth books, [he’s] only published 4 stories discovered online which [he] was unable to find the authors of, despite documented mails to editors of the websites where stories had initially appeared and all other possible sources.”  He further states “in ALL cases, bar the latest, authors [made] contact with [him] and were not only paid, but [were] delighted to be in [the] books.

On the BareOn the Bare
By: Fiona Locke
Virgin Nexus
ISBN: 0352345152
April 2009 (UK) June 2009 (US)

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

On the Bare, is a collection of M/f spanking stories by expert metaphorical fustigator, Fiona Locke.  It re-energizes that old-fashioned spirit of bare bottom domestic justice for wayward young ladies while also leaving them sighing with very soggy knickers.  I must confess to strong sympathies for those better days when gentlemen took it as their duty  -- as well as their pleasure -- to spank their female enamorata. 

In point of fact, I am equally sure that just as many, or more, male behinds were discretely disciplined with relish by stern ladies.  No one gets spanked enough these days if you ask me, and I cannot imagine anyone who would not benefit by a visit to Ms. Locke’s spanking world.

Ms Locke’s spankers in On the Bare apply palms, canes, paddles and other implements to the smooth, round, firm, warm (though soon to be warmer) luscious rears of girls, Ms Locke being something of a cheek connoisseur.  It’s not so much her description of the targets for punishment, as the way their owners feel about having them bared and spanked.  In “Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter” a girl is caned while wearing a pair of boy’s trousers that she donned as a disguise.  Clearly the pants give her as much of a charge under her dashing lieutenant’s discipline as the caning itself.

 As Locke’s story “The Woodshed” illustrates, she even has a deadpan sense of humor about spanking equipment. Her bratty heroine finds herself on a shopping expedition to a garden center.  Her master needs her to test just the right sort of birch trees to put in at his estate. Locke has created a lush treasury of disciplinary dalliance.  It is a world in which the old balance between male and female seems decisively one-sided.  As a feminist, however, I can say there is nothing here to protest.

First, the spankings may not always “look” consensual at first blush, but in all cases the lady has engineered her situation to wind up studying the carpet next to her lover’s knee. In “Damsel in Distress” the central character devotes endless amounts of time and energy getting the spanking she very much deserves even if the punishment is a bit more than she expected.  Well, a spanking should be, shouldn’t it? Likewise, when a character in the story “The Good Old Days” must be caned on national television for her role in a historical series, she is delighted to take her stripes as they mark the rise in her acting career.  After all Britons are itching to bring back the cane and birch, aren’t they?

More to the point, what is really outstanding about “On the Bare” is that every single spanking is unique. Each story has its own sensibility from the grim futurist story “The Improvement Session” to “Just Another Story” about an authoress of kink who finally admits she wants to be spanked as “research.”  Some of the spankees feel guilty while others are just plain horny for some slap and tickle.  For some it’s a rite of passage whereas others get the ordeal they expect plus something more.  That something is a new erotic choice, getting spanked.  Ms. Locke seems to say, “Try it…what could it hurt?”  What indeed?

Her wonderfully detailed descriptions suggest that Ms. Locke is clearly a devoted recipient of the lingering burn and deep throb from the spank and cane. I presume so because she so ably describes the throb of a large red handprint on a girlish bottom cheek.  What is more, she has a real sense of humor about all this recreational/correctional/educational/sensual spanking that is genuinely funny while at no time reducing the sharp sting of each truly hard, well-deserved smack.

Ms. Locke writes in a clear, agile, effortless English that is a joy to read.  Like most authors of BDSM erotica, her dialogue is a tiny bit stiff. Then again perhaps she is appealing to a broader readership given that the vanilla world seems to think spanking enthusiasts actually talk in this sort of schoolmarmese between bottom blisterings. I am very sure Ms Locke knows better from direct experience.

The publisher, Nexus, has given us many breathtaking views of the female nether regions both inside and outside their book covers.  Few can compare though with the round, firm, muscular and yet plump bottom that appears on the front of On the Bare.  It is one of those truly fine selections that is the mark of a genuinely thoughtful and stimulating libidinous publication. 

X: The Erotic TreasuryX: The Erotic Treasury
Edited By: Susie Bright
Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0811864022
September 2008

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

A few years ago, my dear friend Seneca Mayfair wrote a wonderful erotic story entitled “The Bookseller's Dream,” which was published in my Cream anthology. The heroine in this story, Alexi, has a book fetish; she loves to touch books, smell them, rub them all over her body until she comes.

X: The Erotic Treasury would have had Alexi wet in an instant. Bound in claret silk patterned with a swirling floral design halfway between William Morris and Georgia O'Keefe, with gold lettering embossed on the spine and thick, smooth pages, the book is heavy enough to secure my teetering pile of manuscripts, but not, of course, too heavy to read in bed. It comes in a slip box decorated with the same pattern, with a bold X carved out of the front so that silk shows through.

It's a tasteful and beautiful volume.  It's not, in Seneca's words, a “one-night stand book.” Susie Bright and Chronicle Books were brave to publish it now, at the hefty price of $35, at a moment when the world is reeling from compounded financial catastrophes. On the other hand, for that price you get forty stories, three-hundred-sixty plus pages. Less than a dollar per story. And rest assured, nearly every one is more than worth the cost.

X is a rich collection culled from Ms. Bright's illustrious decade and a half as editor of the Best American Erotica series. Aside from its impressive size and elegant presentation, it is notable for the uniformly high quality of the writing and for the diversity of themes and styles.

Michael Dorsey's “Milk” offers the dreamy eroticism of a young Russian man confronted with the essence of femininity.  Anne Tourney's astonishingly perverse “Full Metal Corset” explores the irresistible beauty of pain. “Slow Dance on the Fault Line,” by Donald Rawley, takes a stroll through a night-time carny world in which the ugliest man may be the one to fulfill your true desires. Matthew Addison's gentle fable “Wish Girls” is a meditation on the pitfalls of fantasy.

The book includes raw encounters with strangers (Paula Bomer's “On the Road with Sonia”) and    couples' games on the edge (“Yes” by Donna George Story and “Red Light, Green Light” by Shanna Germain). There's tear-inducing romance (“Valentine's Day in Jail” by Susan Musgrave), irony (Robert Olen Butler's “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot”), humor (“Gifts from Santa” by Tsaurah Litzky and “Loved It and Set it Free” by Lisa Montanarelli) and gory horror (Vicki Hendricks' “Must Bite”).

A few of these stories have happy endings, but most conclude ambiguously, some even tragically.  Many offer life lessons.  In Susannah Indigo's “Ratatouille,” a man learns that if he tries to hold on to his perfect lover, he'll lose her.  In “God's Gift” by Salome Wilde, a horny rock-and-roll idol known as a womanizer is reincarnated as a vibrator. “Inspiration” by Eric Albert is an exceptionally raunchy fantasy spun by a man at the request of his partner who is on her deathbed.

I spent more than two weeks reading this book. This was not a consume-it-and-throw-it-away collection.  I couldn't tackle more than two or three stories at a sitting.  I wanted to savor each one, not rush on to the next.

My one complaint about this book is that, despite its stylistic diversity, it is overwhelmingly heterosexual.  Among forty tales, there are only two or three with lesbian themes or activities, and no gay male erotica at all, aside from Carol Queen's rowdy reminiscences of a Mexican bathhouse.  Clearly, as an editor, Ms. Bright has the final decision on what to include.  However, the slip box boasts “If there's only room for one book on your bedside table, this should be it.”  I don't think that it is fair to suggest that this book represents the full range and richness of literary erotica available today. This is Ms. Bright's selection, and it presumably reflects her tastes.  Other editors (including yours truly) might have made different choices.

Overall, however, X: The Erotic Treasury succeeds admirably in its objectives, offering a double helping of stories that are both sexy and thought provoking.  The volume would make a wonderful birthday or anniversary gift.

Time to start dropping hints to someone you love.