I’ve been a fan or Robert (Bob) Buckley’s work for many years now. The man is capable of penning a solid story and keeping his eroticism credible, relevant and entertaining.
There aren’t many authors who can claim such a mastery of the genre.
Buckley, as you may or may not know, has been a familiar presence at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association since the days before the internet was available on computer. His standing as a celebrated author, editor and general literary jack-of-all-trades has never been in doubt. However, for those who may have wondered about his abilities, proof of his genius is now available in the anthology: Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley. This is Bob’s second title of collected erotica.
This collection is darker than Buckley’s previous work but not unpleasantly dark. The stories have an edge that gives their content a racy quality.
Take, for instance, the first story: “Fortune’s Fool.” The reader is introduced to a journalist who’s been doing the right thing and is suffering the consequences of such actions.
Personally I believe that no good deed will ever go unpunished so I can sympathise with the plight of the unnamed narrator in this story. This is a reporter who is trying to expose a football-playing philanderer. This is a reporter who has finally uncovered the dirt on the NFL’s biggest dirtbag. And, as a reward, his bosses have canned him.
Unemployed, and then blighted by a debilitating RTA, the narrator looks like he’s hit rock bottom. However, the one good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one direction to continue.
This is from “Fortune’s Fool.”
This is first-rate erotic writing, written with a distinctly masculine voice. The stories are entertaining, well-paced and thoroughly arousing. Proceeds from Buckley’s title go to benefit Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (msassociation.org), which is a worthy cause in and of itself. However, getting the chance to enjoy Buckley’s writing is also a worthy cause because I think we all deserve to enjoy literature of this calibre.
"Damn it, Tracey," Joann snapped. She ran to the door to see if anyone had heard. "It's all clear."
Tracey sank into the corner of the room. She had finished herself off.
Now Tianna climbed onto the bed. She straddled my head and eased her heart-shaped ass down grazing my lips with her pussy. Delicate, coiled hairs tickled my nose and I almost sneezed. Then I felt her pouty lips lock around my cock. Her tongue flicking about my shaft was in stark contrast to the nuclear-powered suck that Joann gave me. Tianna was all tease and finesse. I felt my jism begin to boil again. Her pussy aroma was all musk and citrus and my tongue eagerly sought entry. I slurped along her vaginal walls then back to seek out her love button. I began to tease her as much as she teased me.
I was getting close and so was she. Now she rapidly reversed direction and lowered her cunt onto my cock. She rolled those hula hips while holding her hands above her head. Her pretty little tits jiggled and bobbed sensuously. I envisioned a rocket launch and my cock exploded inside her. Her belly convulsed as she cried, "Oh, yes, baby, baby, baby...”
Who is “overweight?” Who is “plus-sized?” These loaded terms are more culturally-specific than many people seem to realize. This anthology contains no precise definition of “curvy,” but the fact that women’s clothing in Size 14 and up is usually only available in “plus-size” stores (at least in North America) neatly serves to divide women on the basis of size in much the same way that apartheid once divided people on the basis of skin colour. Despite famous paintings of full-figured women and even famous centrefolds of the likes of Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, the current belief that gorgeous equals painfully thin seems to permeate Western culture.
This anthology not only aims to restore the self-esteem of “plus-sized” women, it aims to show why they are and always have been sexy. In these stories, fat-phobia is unpacked as a form of prejudice that is no more rational than racism or sexism. In fact, the equation of “overweight” with poor health is deliberately overturned on the first page of “Champagne and Cheesecake” by A.M. Hartnett:
She called them her ‘victory tits.’
A whole year without smoking, and Sylvia had packed on thirty pounds, but she was no longer sorry for a single ounce of the blubber. In fact, now that she was staring at her reflection in the full-length mirror of the luxurious hotel room, she was feeling pretty good about the added girth.
Of course the hotel room where Sylvia has planned a tryst with two of her men friends is luxurious. Effective descriptions of sex, including scenes of mutual attraction and sexual tension, have always included delicious excess: extravagant settings, luxury items, feasts, multiple partners, extreme sensations (including pain so intense that it transmutes into pleasure and vice versa), explosive orgasms. The message of this anthology that fat can be beautiful is consistent with the traditional exaggerations in much erotic fiction.
Several of these stories combine esthetic excess with references to past periods when the ideal woman was imagined as plumper than the models of today. In “Wenching” by Justine Elyot, Ginny is dressed as a peasant wench of the 13th century to serve at a medieval feast, where she meets her modern-day prince, and he explains to her why she should never feel ashamed of her body:
Think of all the words associated with a bit of extra flesh. Generous. Ample. Voluptuous. Bountiful. Beautiful, sensual words. Contrast them with their opposites. Mean. Insufficient. Meager. Miserly.
Ginny and her admirer sneak off to a hideaway where he shows her in the most convincing ways that he adores her generous flesh.
“Before the Autumn Queen” by Angela Caperton focuses on a nineteenth-century painting of “Autumn” as a majestic woman who seems to be offering herself to a lover. A modern-day male art-lover notices the resemblance of a woman who works in the art gallery to the painting that graces one of its walls. The resulting seduction seems like a threesome which involves the man, the woman, and the eerily life-like image.
Most of the couplings in these stories are heterosexual, and the man’s admiration for a woman with ample curves enables her to see herself through his eyes instead of through the self-punishing lens of the fat-phobic media. Two of these stories (Hartnett’s “Cheesecake and Champagne” and “Appetite” by Elizabeth Coldwell) involve threesome scenes in which the woman shows her generosity and her appetite for pleasure by taking on two men. In at least one story (“Excuses”), the man-woman relationship is interracial, and the white man shows that he admires the beauty of a woman who is neither blonde nor skinny.
Three of these stories feature f/f sex between women who have defined themselves as lesbian for some time, and therefore their relationship with mainstream culture is different from that of women who have never lived anywhere else. In “Recognition” by Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai, two women exchange glances in an airport and recognize each other as having something important in common despite their differences in race, culture, occupation, relationship status and home city (one lives in Atlanta, one New York). Their brief hookup in the cramped space of a lavatory is not meant to be repeated, but it seems likely to affect them both for a long time. In “At Last” by Jessica Lennox, a pair of long-term friends finally act on the attraction which has been simmering for years. “What Girls Are Made Of” by Evan Mora is more of a prose-poem than a narrative, and it sings the praises of a “dapper butch woman with a little substance to her.” These stories encourage me to hope that lesbian culture will never adopt the degree of fat-phobia which causes too many heterosexual women to see their bodies as asexual and repulsive.
The two male-Dominant BDSM stories, “Big Girls Do Cry” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “Marked” by Isabelle Gray, make a necessary distinction between desire and contempt. In these stories, a man goes to extreme measures to take ownership of a curvy woman while assuring her that he is not punishing her for any “flaws” of body or character.
The story which moved me the most, “In the Early Morning Light” by Kristina Wright, is told from the viewpoint of an exhausted mother of a newborn baby, not her first. The narrator dreads the thought of having to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs while she feels that her body is bloated and hideous. His gentle touch is miraculously effective at reawakening her old desire for him. By the end of the story, their relationship has shifted profoundly for the better.While some of these stories are predictable, some challenge conventional assumptions with confidence and wit. In general, this is a collection of well-told tales that would especially appeal to women who have been bullied because of their size, and the ones who love them.
When he tells me to lift my skirt and bend over his desk, there's a moment where I hesitate. There's always a moment. It's like the feeling just before the lock springs under the pressure of the correct key you've somehow chosen. My body goes completely still and the word no makes a fist in my throat, and then I just do it.
Thus begins Charlotte Stein's new novel, Power Play. From this brilliant, breathless opening paragraph, you might guess that Power Play is a classic male dominant, female submissive story, but if that was your conclusion you'd be wrong.
Before the end of the first chapter, the Dom in this first scene, the narrator Eleanor Harding's boss Mr. Woods, has been sent packing, and she has been promoted to his position as managing director of a small publishing company. Meanwhile, she has become curiously obsessed with Woods' personal assistant, a big, shambling, disheveled, but curiously appealing American lad named Benjamin. Ben's a bottom through and through, and he's not afraid to admit it. Still, in some sense he controls the action, as he provokes Ms. Harding into severe acts of discipline which simultaneously arouse and horrify her.
Although their scenes engender guilt and self-disgust, Eleanor can't seem to resist the urge to torment her peculiarly sexy subordinate. For one thing, he clearly enjoys the worst she can dish out. The more she abuses him, the more excited he becomes. Even more disturbing than the pleasure she achieves in dominating him is the tenderness he lavishes upon her. Ms. Harding has built her existence around strict self-control; she's terrified by the suggestion that Ben might breach the carefully constructed walls around her heart.
Neither lust nor love will be denied, however. Before long, Eleanor can't deny that her interactions with Benjamin are more than just kinky power games – that he has taken charge of her soul as completely as she possesses his body.
Reading Power Play is an arousing, intense experience. Ms. Stein's signature first-person-present narration brings an intimacy to every scene, focusing on sensory detail and highlighting the heroine's confusion and conflict. Eleanor doesn't plan the tortures she inflicts on poor Ben. They arise spontaneously from some part of herself she never guessed existed. At the same time, the author manages to suggest the psychological linkages between Eleanor's previous submission and her new role as a dominant.
Benjamin is a delightful contrast to the stereotyped alpha hero. He's clumsy, awkward and ill-dressed, with a puppy-dog eagerness to obey Eleanor's every command. Appearances are deceiving, though. He turns out to be far more insightful than one would expect, about both his own needs and about Eleanor's conflicts. The contrast between his impressive sexual expertise and his reportedly limited experience puts some strain on the character's credibility, but he's still more believable than a virile sexual superman who brings his partner to orgasm with every penetration.
Eleanor's personality seems, paradoxically, less well motivated. I say paradoxically because we spend the entire book inside her head and yet, she's still a cipher. Although the reader experiences the world through her senses and is apprised of every perverse fantasy that crosses her mind, every shift in her emotions, it's still not clear why she's so closed and conflicted. She has obviously had many sexual encounters and yet she claims to have never been in a relationship. She suggests that her life outside work is empty and sterile – but why? I would have liked the author to dig a bit deeper, to give us a more plausible and in-depth appreciation of what makes Ms. Harding tick. On the other hand, when Eleanor describes her submission to Woods, one can see that this was the first step in her real sexual awakening. The freedom she found in those encounters prepares her for her “natural” role in dominating Ben.
Power Play has little in the way of plot. The entire 280-page book chronicles the development of Eleanor's and Ben's relationship, through a series of intricately described sex scenes. This, however, is anything but boring. Ms. Stein spends page after page building delicious sexual tension, capturing every flickering mood, every scent, texture and taste. Indeed, the whole novel might be viewed as one long sexual encounter, since when Eleanor is not physically involved with Ben, she's fantasizing about him.
The novel's ending veers toward a romance Happily Ever After. Then again, a really satisfying sexual relationship does often lead to deeper connections. After reading Power Play, I'm definitely convinced that Ms. Harding will be spanking, sodomizing, humiliating and otherwise tormenting a very happy Benjamin Tate for a long time to come.
I had the pleasure of reading the first chapter of this book when Elizabeth posted it to ERWA's Story Time group for workshopping, but didn't have time to follow the rest of the story or even see if she'd posted the rest of it to the group. It's always satisfying to see an author from that group published. But even more satisfying is a chance to read the rest of a story you remember but never got a chance to finish.
If you're a fan of Celtic folklore, you'll enjoy this story. I thought I was fairly well acquainted with most Irish mythology, but I didn't know about the nine Princes of Air, sons of the goddess Morrigan. If they are Elizabeth's creation, she deserves credit for how seamlessly this tale fits into the feel of existing legend. If she didn't, then she did a fine job of expanding the tale and making it her own. Overall, it has the feel of a story that would be told around the hearth over several nights. Except maybe you'd wait for the children to fall asleep before you got to the erotic content. But the erotic content is in keeping with tone of the rest of the story so don't worry that you'll suddenly shift to something that will take you out of the spell that's being woven.
There's a glossary at the end to help you translate the terms she uses. I was able to figure out the meaning in context without flipping to it, and you probably will too, but it's a nice bonus.
Princes of Air is narrated by the youngest son, Niall, and his tale is told first. While the sons are ravens - the guise Morrigan takes in many folktales - they can also change into human form and go among humans. He's heartbroken since his true mate died and occasionally takes human lovers. That’s where the problems begin. A sorceress thinks she knows something of his powers and plans to seduce then enslave him to take his powers from him. I hate to say much more than that, because the pleasure of a tale is it unfolding before you. I'll only say that this leads into stories about his other brothers but they all interweave in a cohesive larger story arc.
We review erotica here at Erotica Revealed, and my one very, very tiny quibble is that this story has the feel of erotic romance rather than erotica. However, since I like to judge a book for what it is rather than what it isn't, I'll say that as erotic romance it's a well-told tale that I enjoyed, and you probably will too.
Sex with strangers isn’t the freshest theme for an anthology, so to some extent I went into Sex and the Stranger with a bit of a worried eye. Could the collection have anything new to share? I wasn’t really sure, and having finished the collection I’d say if there’s a flaw to Sex and the Stranger it’s that there were only a couple of “aha!” moments for me.
This isn’t to say those moments weren’t worthwhile. “The Only Man Worthy” by Aishling Morgan, for example, had a wonderful punchline to it that made me laugh out loud. In it, we find an incredibly driven woman who has secured the perfect husband for herself – but one she finds unworthy of fathering her children or taking her virginity, and so she seeks out a virile and handsome gene donor of her own volition. That she’s not including her husband to be in her plans makes her a little hard to like, but the resolution of the story is perfect.
Similarly, I think “Something Between Them” by Ashley Hind had the best mix of naughty and sweaty – a humid and hot train-ride on a packed train turns erotic, and the dirty talk between the couple sandwiching the very flustered – but very willing – heroine of the tale is superb. The exhibitionist streak in the story (this is something happening on a crowded train, unnoticed by the other passengers) was a nice touch.
But it’s the last tale, “I Have You” by Charlotte Stein that was the one that offered the largest – and most skillful – surprise. Here a woman and the stranger are having sexual encounters that border on complete detachment, though she is slowly feeling her body warm and return to sexual releases. Her journey – from ice to fire – is as intriguing as it is erotic, and the big reveal was a swift, sharp, shock that left me more than a little impressed, and very surprised. It’s just that good. I enjoy when erotica goes to new places, and Stein did this wonderfully.
Of the ten stories, those three were the ones that I remembered after turning off my Kobo and letting a day pass. This isn’t to say the other stories were poor – I don’t think any of the stories were badly written, nor did they fail to titillate – they just didn’t have a lot of staying power once I was done.
On the basis of the three stories I mentioned above, I’m glad I read Sex and the Stranger (especially Stein’s story), but the rest of the collection as a whole isn’t breaking any new ground. There are some fun moments, a character or two that might resonate more with you than with me, but I can only see myself revisiting this collection to share Stein’s tale with someone, or to re-read it myself when I need to remind myself how to push an erotic tale somewhere further than the usual.