A few things really stood out when I read Selena Kitt’s Colors. One, I was surprised – pleasantly – to find a mix of straight and gay stories in the anthology. This may be far more common than I’ve encountered myself, but this was a nice surprise for me (especially being a gay fella). Two, the range of the stories was a heady mix; some of the stories were sweat-soaked and down and dirty, some were a bit more romantic, one was a spec fic piece, and one walked the line near paranormal horror.
All in all, Colors was unexpected.
I was a bit worried that a collection with this focus – interracial stories – might somehow descend into trope or racial stereotypes, but Kitt didn’t snag that sort of tale for the collection. I enjoyed all the stories, and never really bumped into anything that made me squirm except for the M.E. Hydra story, but that made me squirm for a very different reason.
Though it’s hard to call any of the stories “traditional,” some were closer to a down to earth feel than others. Kitt’s own “Shorn,” which had an unusual pairing of an older woman with a younger man in a scenario that practically hummed with frustration. This is a woman who knows what she has is not going to last, but the fierceness of her emotions felt all the more real for it.
“Honey Trap,” by Giselle Renarde has a fun feel to it – a woman trying to use sexual blackmail to get something she wants ends up with more than she bargained for. This was a fun story with a twist ending that made me smile.
For those enjoying some submission, “Harvey’s Bargain” by Tristan Cole was a hot gay tale with a distinctly submissive twist – the character in question has always had an attraction – and a desire to submit to – black men. Added to that a difficulty in saying “no” to anyone, and Harvey soon finds himself tangled in a deal that grows more and more extreme, but may just be everything he’s ever wanted. Cole walks right up to the edge of a fantasy that’s just shy of taboo, and the story is all the more enjoyable for the journey. For those who prefer their submissive stories involving men and women, “A Most Extraordinary Orgasm” by Samantha Jones had a wonderful narrative path – a woman hired to be a submissive for the evening is puzzled by the lack of interest her master seems to be giving her – and the end result was another one that made me grin.
The two biggest surprises for me in the collection though were M.E. Hydra’s “The Skinning Knife” and “Jungle Bunny” by D. B. Story.
The former is a tale that is borderline horror – having read M.E. Hydra’s succubus tales, I went into “The Skinning Knife” cringing a bit and waiting for a tragic ending, but was surprised – if a bit squicked-out – by where the story went. I’m pretty sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the story was solid and well crafted. A mixed race couple who are getting grief from both families decide to take a very dangerous – and mystical – path to potentially being together forever. But if they fail... Well. You’ll see.
D.B. Story’s “Jungle Bunny” was probably my favourite of the collection. Despite the racially charged title, the story itself managed to use speculative fiction – in this case, a robot designed with the appearance of a black woman – to discuss more than itself. I love speculative fiction, and to have this mix of a clever story, erotic content, and some wonderful character development (especially in the form of the robot herself) was just such a welcome surprise. Definitely worth the read, and I’ll be looking for more D.B. Story.
All in all, my impression of “Colors” was one of surprise. I liked the freshness of the tales, as none really felt particularly “been there, done that.” Even the few stories that were more-or-less traditional weren’t stale, and the mix of stories that crossed boundaries (or genres!) had a wonderful effect. I really enjoyed this, and my time with the collection.
At the back of this book, author Kate Kinsey says:
“The stereotype that people who embrace BDSM—or indeed, any kink considered outside the mainstream of ‘normal’—are somehow sick or damaged could not be further from the truth. It takes courage and self-awareness to seek out the things that fulfill and satisfy us. People who do what we do are among the healthiest and happiest people I know.”
I can agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. Those members of the BDSM community I’ve personally met are no more damaged by their involvement with the BDSM lifestyle than any other members of a specific community operating outside the realms of perceived ‘normality’. They’re no more damaged than most of those inside the mainstream of perceived normality. However, because BDSM participants are defined by their involvement with sexual relationships characterised by aspects of power-play, it’s easy to see how these misconceptions can arise.
That said, if it was Kate Kinsey’s intention to write a book that shows the comparative normality of relationships in BDSM, she’s taken a very bold route. Red is not a story that tries to show how everyone within a BDSM community gets along together, tolerating differences and accepting their given roles. Red is a tour de force of writing that is one part murder mystery, one part brutal psychological thriller, one part soap opera and all of this driven by a powerful and compelling undercurrent of eroticism.
What was it about rope, Robyn thought, that even the loose slip of it over her bare skin made her nipples hard? Even as a kid, she’d liked being tied up. When the
neighborhood kids played cowboys and Indians, she always made sure she was an Indian. She sure as hell was an Indian, now. She almost giggled at the thought, but the ropes pulled tighter, and her breath caught in her throat.
“You all right?” he whispered, lips brushing her ear.
“A little tighter. Please.”
The ropes grew taut again, pulling wrists and ankles tight against the mattress. The blindfold—cool, slick satin—blocked out everything but the sound of his voice and the feeling of his hands on her body.
Paul’s gentle fingertips traced from cheek to throat to the first curve of her breasts, lightly brushing her hard little nipples.
She moaned and arched her back. Wanting his fingers to linger, but knowing that the teasing had just begun.
He knew her so well, the location of every nerve ending wired directly to her cunt.
To some it might seem strange that Kinsey is trying to show us the normality of the BDSM community by presenting a narrative the focuses on a brutal murder investigation. However, when you consider the usual tropes of contemporary fiction: what could be more normal than the investigation of a brutal murder? At least, in this story, evidence of sadomasochistic practices is not tantamount to damning evidence.
Red is a powerful, complex and thoroughly engaging story. This is more than a mere titillation of BDSM encounters woven within an unrelated narrative. This is a compelling blend of murder mystery, psychological thriller, soap opera and skilfully driven erotic narrative. Highly recommended.
When we pick up a book with a title like Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, edited by D. L. King for Cleis Press, we have certain expectations. When the cover blurb confirms that yes, this is succubus erotica, our expectations get ramped up as high as the libido of the traditional sorcerer summoning a sex demon. “Sexy, immortal women with the power to steal what they need from human beings through seduction,” the editor promises in her introduction. At this point, the reader’s needs had better be met, as well.
Seductress does not disappoint. In some ways we get a better deal than the sorcerer, since we can share the pleasures of both the human and the succubus, and count on surviving. (My one quibble about the book as a whole is that there’s a bit too much surviving going on. Still, it’s a tricky business to draw a reader deeply into the persona of a character, as most of these stories do, and then polish him or her off abruptly at the end, so maybe it’s just as well.)
D. L. King wisely starts off with two relatively traditional pieces. The first, “Harvest” by Aurelia T. Evans, has just the right tone and atmosphere, and a most satisfying succubus (with an especially talented tail.) “’I will hurt you. But in the end...’ That predatory smile again, like the glint of a sharpened blade. ‘It will be more pleasure than you have known or will know again, made more potent by the fact it cannot kill you.’” Yes, that’s exactly where we wanted to go when we opened the book.
The second story, “A Surprising Summons” by Kaysee Renee Robichaud, has just as much of a traditional feel even though the seductress quickly adapts herself to the modern world of her summoner. Over three encounters separated by a good many years. The sex is just as intense as in the first piece, but more nuanced, and so are the characters. The ending is poignant, moving, and well-earned by what has come before. A nice variation on the ancient theme.
I’m a big fan of variations. However clear my expectations may be, there comes a point when enough of them have been met that what I want most is to see wildly different treatments of the theme, and the parts that stick longest in my memory are the ones that startled me.
What catches my attention could be a macabre, disturbing, yet lovely description of a setting, as when Kannan Feng says in “Before a Fall,” “Last year, I attended a moon-viewing party over the River Nekane. A hundred skin lanterns floated in the water, throwing back ruddy, sullen shadows.” The story that follows is beautifully written and intensely erotic, though I did find myself wishing for more details of this particular world of demons.
Or the hook for me could be an imaginative set piece, like the submissive man cowering on the step below his mistress in a lavishly decorated department store as he rides with “The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator” by NJ Streitberger. This one was also quite satisfying in that the man was so easy to dislike.
All the stories here are good, each in its own distinctive way, and all deliver abundantly when it comes to eroticism. Since women are always in charge, and their needs are paramount, reading too many stories in a row too quickly may give an impression of repetition when it comes to the elements of sex, but that’s pretty much inevitable. The men certainly get everything they can handle, and then some.
The stories that really blow my mind (and everything else) are the ones combining well-crafted writing with startling originality. Three in particular stand out in this respect.
In Evan Mora’s “Star-Crossed,” the legendary lovers achieve an immortal life together, but at a price. Romeo has an accidental encounter with a vampire, and Juliet, in order to stay with him, makes a deal with the devil. But the vampire Romeo has no life force to feed on, and Juliet the succubus has no real blood in her veins. “And that’s us in a nutshell: Romeo and Juliet, the star- crossed lovers, a pair of immortals who can’t give each other the very thing necessary for their continued existence. The Devil, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” That, of course, is only the beginning; the pair work out their system through several centuries, and eventually Juliet shares an episode when they go clubbing to hunt down a meal satisfying to both of them. A clever concept, developed with style and passion.
Sasha Bukova delivers a memorable character in “Zach’s Last Ride,” a stunt-rider whose feats of speed and danger feed the lust for more than soaring through the air on his motorcycle can satisfy—until he meets the mysterious girl on a bike that’s “all big engine and wide tires with high, wide handlebars that resembled devil’s horns.” Both of these characters are larger (and darker) than life, but Bukova somehow makes them touch us deeply.
The final piece is Kate Dominic’s “Soaring.” Kate takes originality to unexpected heights, with a seductress who passes for a photojournalist embedded with American troops in Afghanistan. This succubus feeds on the sex-gorged dreams of soldiers far from their homes and loved ones, while bonding with them on very human terms, until a final twist raises the transfer of erotic essence to a whole new plane. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully realized.
So, yes, in case there’s any doubt, I liked Seductress very much, and quite a bit of it I loved. The fact that I’m a writer and editor myself is bound to affect my opinions, so take that into account. That said, I do think that anyone who is intrigued by the notion of succubus erotica will have their needs and highest expectations met here—and then some.
Freedom. Sensuality. Unsullied nature. Deliciously tacky bars and souvenir shops. Succulent fried fish and icy beer. Scalding sun, gritty sand, salt on the breeze and on your skin. A sense that everyday rules are suspended, that almost anything can happen.
This is what I think of, when someone suggests a seaside holiday. After reading this delightful erotic collection, I know I'm not alone. Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse have assembled more than a dozen luscious tales that celebrate life and love alongside the ocean – tales of temptation and transgression, self-indulgence and sweet release.
Most of the authors in the book are from the U.K., and at least half the stories are set in British ocean resort towns like Scarborough, Brighton and Bridlington, with their boardwalks, fun fairs, and ice cream parlors. Lexie Bay's “Last Chance Summer” chronicles a young woman's torrid fling with a well-muscled carnival attendant, who gives her a ride she'll remember all her life – even as she moves to London and into the adult world. In “Ice Cream Kisses,” M.A. Stacie's harried heroine enjoys a thrilling, sticky encounter inside an unconventional ice cream vendor's closed kiosk. There's more ice cream, of an Italian flavor, in Slave Nano's “One Scoop or Two”. I don't normally find food sex arousing, but imagining a cold stainless steel ice cream spoon being smoothed over hot, sensitized breasts definitely did the trick.
Lucy Felthouse takes us back to the fun fair with “Dodging”, in which a gal sneaks away from her friends, determined to seduce the God-like bumper car attendant. Tanith Davenport's story “I Like It Wet” is another Scarborough romp, this time among the waves. Victoria Blisse shows us Scarborough in a less sunny, more pensive, but equally sensual mood, in “A Proper British Seaside Holiday,” with a rainy tryst atop an open-air bus. In “Of Moon and Sea,” Cassandra Dean paints an image of Scarborough in an earlier time – perhaps Victorian or Edwardian. Heroine Olivia throws propriety to the winds as she surrenders to her new husband.
In counterpoint to these classic holiday romps, K.D. Grace offers a haunting portrayal of an encounter between a woman and a selkie in her exquisite tale “Skin”. This is perhaps the most serious story in the collection, ripe with mystery and bittersweet echoes of loss. Another delicious oddity is Cynthia Rayne's “Communing with the Mighty Neptune,” an arch fantasy about a woman and a very well-endowed merman. I loved this funny but very sexy story.
Paying tribute to a pagan god is never an easy task. It's not like a simple Christian ceremony where you have to go to the local church, pray, and you're all set. No, there's always a ritual that needs to be translated from some archaic language. Then there is the obscure ingredient list. Of course the ritual must be done at just the right time on just the right night. And then there's the outfit that must be worn, or rather, lack of outfit.
“Swashbuckling,” by Lily Harlem instantiates one of my personal favorite fantasies: running off to sea with a black-haired, virile, and very kinky pirate. Surfing idyll “Against the Current,” by Heidi Champa, breaks the mold as the only gay story in the collection as well as the only one clearly set outside of England. It's a bit too sandy for my tastes, but sultry nevertheless. Finally Justine Elyot's “Love in the Low Season” is a pitch-perfect invocation of a Tom-Jones-like crooner on a downward slide who gets a second chance with a former one-night stand.
Although I associate Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse more with romance than erotica, many of the stories in Smut By The Sea celebrate the intensity of brief encounters as opposed to long-term relationships. Indeed, holidays by the sea often have the quality of stolen time, a reality separate from the drab world of work and commitment. The ocean constantly changes. You can't hold on to the tide. And the love you find on the beach is meant to be savored and then released.
This was my first experience with a book published by House of Erotica. I was favorably impressed by the production. The pages were tinted a creamy peach color, which actually made them easier to read. Victoria Blisse leads off with a lively introduction, expounding on the book's vision and defending the term “smut.” Author bios follow the stories. I always enjoy finding out more about the people behind the tales.
Another round of copyediting would have improved the book further. I did notice some typographical and grammar errors. However, they weren't sufficiently common to really interfere with my enjoyment of the book.
In summary, Smut By The Sea is a light-hearted celebration of life, sex and salt water. If you can't get to the beach in reality, it's the next best thing.
It's no secret that I'm a great fan of Circlet Press. They embrace science fiction and fantasy with the same ardor as erotica, creating a home for unique, imaginative tales The Viscountess Investigates is exactly the reading experience I've come to expect from them.
The Viscountess Investigates is set in parallel worlds. One is a modern world, but not exactly this one. A magical blindfold exists that hides BDSM practices from the vanilla world, so a slave might walk around naked with his mistress and not be seen. It hides buildings, pony girls, and every other high fantasy BDSM practice you've ever read about. Past the blindfold are Dominions, alternate worlds that are solely high fantasy BDSM. One Dominion is a prison to punish bad slaves, another is Victorian London, and then there are the floating worlds of Japan with their modern and historical regions. The portals between these worlds allow people to move from one to another in sort of folded space. Each of the portals are different-- I loved the entrance to the Floating Worlds, but won't tell you so you can enjoy that discovery yourself-- yet all require sexual energy to open.
This is a murder investigation, so that gives the Viscountess and her submissive slave Severin an excuse to move through these worlds, talk to a few people, and fuck many more. And yes, the mystery gets solved, but I doubt you'll read this book for the mystery element.
Because this is high fantasy BDSM, the sex is of the non-stop, balls-to-the-wall, everything and the kitchen sink plus a bag of chips, don't try this at home variety. No one seems to have limits. Everyone is multi-orgasmic. Everyone is a masochist or a sadist but they're all loving every second of it. It's so over the top that no one could ever feel threatened by it. It's just good, naughty fun.For that reason, The Viscountess Investigates strikes me as a worthy successor to A. N. Roquelaure's (are we still pretending Anne Rice didn't write them?) Sleeping Beauty series. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of that style of erotic storytelling.