Ask a woman about her favorite sexual fantasies. She might talk about being tied up and spanked, or covered in chocolate and licked clean, or ravished up against a rough alley wall by a dark, dangerous stranger. This sort of exotica will vary a lot from one individual to the next. Most straight women, though, even the most vanilla, will likely agree that they'd like to have more, and more pleasurable, sex – sex without guilt or self-consciousness or repercussions – sex with men whose main concern is satisfying their partners rather than themselves. Amanda Jilling's House of Roosters is a lovingly detailed instantiation of that fantasy.
Book 1 of this series is narrated by thirty-something Melissa, an independent single woman who makes a good living working for a bank, but who's been enduring a long dry spell in her love life . While she's having her nails done at her regular salon, she overhears some gossip about a place called “The Happy Ladies' House of Roosters,” where women can go to have their sexual needs met by accommodating men. Before long, she and her more extroverted and adventurous best friend Ellie check out the rumors. Their research leads them to an ordinary-looking split level ranch house owned by Dorothy, a plump, vivacious Latina whose goal is to “create a network of women who will then facilitate the types of erotic entertainment that they most enjoy... a club... like the old gentleman's clubs in Victorian times with yearly dues and a board of directors.”
Both Ellie and Melissa join the board of directors, along with a diverse group of other women, and little by little, the House of Roosters begins to take shape. Ellie takes on the official role of “rooster tester”, though the other women are welcome to join in the hands-on trials required before a man will be accepted into the fold. The board has high standards. Still, it's not as difficult as one might think to find potential roosters, sensual males who love to lavish attention on the female of the species, whatever she might look like.
The House hosts outrageous parties where the attendees are free to request sexual services from any of the men present, and the men are required (and generally eager) to comply. The roosters receive financial compensation for their time and effort, but most participate as much for their own enjoyment as for the money. As time goes on, the core groups of Ladies and Roosters both expand. Their frequent mutual pleasure and their shared commitment to the club's goals mold them into an intimate community, forging emotional connections on top of the physical ones.
Although the House has highs and lows, crises and growing pains, overall it experiences phenomenal success. Dorothy, Ellie, Melissa and the other founding members begin to search for a larger, permanent home for the club. An abandoned factory proves to be a good fit. Book 1 comes to a close with Melissa “christening” the newly remodeled building with contractor-turned-Rooster, Derek, and then a wild, orgiastic farewell party that overflows the bounds of Dorothy's suburban home, the original House of Roosters.
I wouldn't call Ms. Jilling's book literary erotica, but I have to say, it was great fun. For one thing, House of Roosters has to be one of the most sex-positive stories I've ever read. There are no victims in Dorothy's club – no exploitation. Everyone – lady or rooster – gets a piece of the action. The values of mutual respect and mutual pleasure govern every encounter. There's affection and tenderness, too, if that's what you're looking for, though the main focus of the House is sex without strings.
In her tongue-in-cheek forward about condom use (or lack thereof), Ms. Jilling reminds readers that the book is a fantasy. Nevertheless, House of Roosters is far more realistic than many examples of the same genre. Rather than embodying physical perfection as in some porn, the characters come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Dorothy is unabashedly ordinary, aside from her prodigious sex drive. There's senior citizen Ethel, who believed (before finding the House) that she'd never have sex again; shy college student Brandon, a closet artist who loves older women; Little Tom, named for his penis size, who's much in demand for his oral abilities; potty-mouthed, bisexual black mama Barb; Janet, who gradually becomes confident enough to get naked and reveal her mastectomy scar; timid Nicole, who gets the opportunity to act on her secret desire for black men; Gloria, a veteran of Iraq who has lost both her legs; and many more. The message here is clear – everybody can, and should, enjoy sex, regardless of what you look like or where you come from.
The sex party scenes recognize the fact that even the horniest man or woman will become exhausted eventually. The orgy room alternates between frantic activity and languid caresses as the participants recover. This matches my own experience at sex clubs and swing parties. Lying around naked and relaxed can feel as transgressive and satisfying as frenzied fucking.
Ms. Jilling's attention to the organizational details of the club as it grows also struck me as realistic. The only issue she neglected involved the legality of Dorothy's brainchild. Most cities would fight tooth and nail against an establishment like the House of Roosters. Maybe this is another area where fantasy won out. Ms. Jilling invites readers to imagine a world where everyone lives according to the time-honored mantra: mind your own business!
I've mentioned a few of the characters above – but only a few of many. The author introduces them gradually, and identifies their distinct characteristics, but I still found myself having difficulty remembering who was who. I think the book would have been improved by having a smaller number of core characters, developed more completely. Even Melissa, the narrator, felt a bit shallow to me. Aside from her sexual urges, her conflicted desires for her friend Ellie, and her transient emotional connections with Brandon, Derek and a few of the other roosters, she's something of a blank slate. In truth, this isn't really Melissa's story at all – she's just the vehicle for describing lots of sex.
Ms. Jilling's writing tends to be direct and unadorned when she's penning dialogue or describing orgies. It doesn't get in the way of the action. When she slows down to focus on Melissa's internal experience, however, she adopts a more metaphorical style that felt stilted and self-conscious to me.
How long we continued this sensual ballet I have no idea. The concept of time had no meaning when my being was centered on interpreting the significance of the captivating choreography flowing across the endings of my nerves. I followed the ebb and flow of Brandon's cock within my sensitive walls with a timeless concentration as the secret music that informed our dance grew in ardor. I could tell by his movements that Brandon was close to coming. Feeling the power of his urgency sparked my own need for orgasm. We joined in a fevered duet to reach our elusive mutual goal. Then it was there, first for him and then for me.
On the other hand, I noticed very few grammatical or typographical errors in the book, despite its being (I believe) a self-published work.
Overall, House of Roosters is a rollicking, explicit piece of wank material that gets a big plus from me for its inclusive, sex-positive values. I suspect there's a big audience for this particular fantasy world – not just among women but also men who might like to imagine themselves in the rooster role. My personal fantasies tend in a more kinky direction, but I have to admit that reading House of Roosters for a while in bed motivated me to jump my hubby's bones. And, like the roosters, he was happy to oblige me.
Leather Bound is a light BDSM (light by my standards) mystery.
Janine runs Leather Bound, a rare bookstore, with her friend, Lily. A mysterious, sexy man asks her to find a book that might not exist. He can’t give her the name of the author, and he doesn’t have the title. She turns him down, but there wouldn’t be much of a story if that were the end of it, so circumstances conspire to make her call him back and offer to find the book. Soon she’s on a journey through her own back yard, where she finds out there’s a whole lot going on that she never noticed before.
This is definitely one of those “switch off your critical brain and just go along for the ride” stories. It’s a fantasy, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Leather Bound is well written. The sex scenes are interesting and varied and should appeal to many readers. The BDSM wasn’t heavy into pain or humiliation, which was a refreshing change from books that have novices plunging into heavy scenes with only a mild protest, and then loving every second of it. Since this is BDSM, the real search in the story is for the heroine’s true self, not the book. By the end, she finds both.
I wish I could be more excited about this novel. I want to be clear that it was my reaction to the characters and a pet peeve with the plot that made it impossible for me to like it more. Many readers will love this story, and their opinion will be as valid as mine.
In Out of the Shadows Into the Darkness Senta Holland tells a story of extreme BDSM desires that manages to be both dreamlike and piercingly, even brutally, explicit. Her writing has a fragile beauty combined with startling imagery, so much so that I made notes of passage after passage that I wanted to mention, and finally realized that there were so many there was no point in jotting down more.
Senta is the name the point of view character has chosen to use in her internet search for someone who can fulfill her dreams of complete sexual and spiritual submission. It’s also the name the author has chosen to use. At the end of the book the publisher has inserted the usual disclaimer of “This novel is entirely a work of fiction” etc., etc., but the scenes, however extreme, are so nearly believable at times that it might have been a good idea to put this passage at the beginning. In spite of Senta’s occasional assertion that she avoids any permanent physical damage, some of the punishments she endures for the sake of absolute submission could, indeed, be dangerous.
The story has a well-defined shape, although the many flashbacks are confusing at times. Senta saves up for a long time to be able to afford a round-the-world adventure which includes meet-ups with potential Doms she’s contacted online. Her search ends in Bangkok, and so does her journey. A wealthy young man whose American family has become firmly established in Thailand turns out to be the Master (or “Nai” in Thai) that Senta has longed for, and as they gradually grow closer, their BDSM scenes grow ever more intense. There are ups and downs, and even as Senta pours out all her pent-up need to show her devotion, utter obedience, and endurance of pain, she recognizes that her Nai’s need to dominate is rooted in his own sense of insecurity. There are occasional lapses into extraneous philosophizing about BDSM and railings against the cruelty imposed by the rest of the world on those who crave it, complaints which tend to seem dated now that a certain trilogy of bondage books have made BDSM all the rage, or so it seems, but they do turn out to have a place in the plot. I won’t go any further into the progression of events, since they should be revealed in the author’s own words, but the story is deeply involving and well worth reading.
I will, though, share some of the author’s own words in passages that struck me as being especially effective. Describing her lover’s weight pressing down on her, Senta feels it as “a counterweight to the slow turning of the earth.” Walking with him near the river in Bangkok she feels that the voice of reason is drowned out by “the night carpet of silvery mosquitoes,” while “under my bones, my blood was singing.” During thunderstorms she watches “huge strong paths of lightning, standing still in the sky. So high in the sky that I couldn’t tell where they started, the clouds hung in many tiers like the runaway balconies of a giant vaporous opera house.” When her Nai binds her with brightly colored ropes, she thinks of them as “snaking over my body and the bed sheets, wrapping around me like the solidified paths of fireworks, petrified gas, fixed in time and space, blown into three-dimensionality by so much energy that it warps the sluggish cosmos.”
But of course someone who reads this sort of book will be most interested in how well the sex and dominance/submission scenes are written. They won’t be disappointed. I won’t share much of that, but here are a few brief tastes. Of having sex while standing in deep seawater, Senta says, “I felt the wave of my own orgasm building up. Every movement of his penis made me contract, and the point behind my cervix where the tension collects before it opens out and swallows sea water until it drowns, happily, was gaping its hungry mouth.” Of a more land bound session, she says; “I
come. And come again. And again. Earthquakes push up from the deepest fault lines, breaking the surface. I don’t know where it originated, but it is there. I am there. And I need, need, need more.”
There is, of course, much more. And the insight Senta gives into the depths of her need to submit are just as striking. I’ll leave the extended pleasure/pain/punishment/sinking-into-subspace passages for the reader of the book to savor, but it seems to me that one recollection near the end works well as a summation. “The strokes of your whip made my body dance in the water. It jumped and contracted and opened out, not in response to the wishes of my mind but subjected to your power. My body obeyed you not me. It bypassed my small self. I was the dancer but I didn’t know the dance.”
Readers with an interest in BDSM, especially from the submissive side of the equation, are likely to enjoy Out of the Shadows and Into the Darkness. It shouldn’t be taken as the last word on the subject; I know dominants and submissives with very different tastes and outlooks from those Senta describes, and some of the punishments and tortures her character willingly endures go beyond any boundaries of safety and even physical possibility; but the book is, as stated above, a work of fiction, and a very good one at that.
This is from Susana Mayer Ph.D.’s dedication at the beginning of SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013.
SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 volumes I and II are dedicated to my chosen mom, Dr. Frances Seidman, the Erotic Literary Salon’s first nonagenarian attendee. When I mentioned I was creating a Salon, Frances immediately said, “I’ll write a piece. You know, I’ve never done this before!” Even at 91, she was up for the challenge.
After much thought, she decided to initially write under the pen name Lily, since she did not want to compromise her winter volunteer position with the Florida public school system. During the second year of the Salon, Frances chose to use her given name, since she was no longer working directly with children, but teaching adults how to volunteer.
Now, before I go on to say what a great collection of writing is contained within this book, I need to point at this dedication and cite it as evidence for something wrong with the world in which we live. I’m not specifically pointing at Florida’s legislation policies on this (as they are perceived by volunteer employees, or as those policies actually stand). But this pair of paragraphs exemplifies the trauma and unnecessary burden that every erotic fiction writer has to negotiate when putting pen to paper.
What would my employer think if they saw what I’d written? What would my family and friends think? Will writing this fiction have any negative effect on my financial future or economic wellbeing?
Fiction writing in and of itself is a difficult enough challenge. Fiction writing with the additional worry that the material produced could be misconstrued as indicative of an unscrupulous or untrustworthy psyche can be positively devastating to a writer.
If we were writing about how to make bombs, or how to best send anthrax through the post, or how to judiciously invade people’s privacies by reading their emails and logging records of their search histories, I could understand someone having fears about repercussions.
But seriously, when a ninety-one year old lady writing about sex is worried that she might lose her voluntary position within a school, it’s a sad indictment of our society. It’s a sad indictment of our society that people fear unnecessary recriminations such as this. And, what’s sadder is that unnecessary recriminations like these do actually happen to justify those fears.
Which is perhaps why the idea behind SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 is such a powerful one.
SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 was borne from the Erotic Literary Salon: a gathering of supportive likeminded adults sharing their erotic fiction. According to the website of the Erotic Literary Salon, http://theeroticsalon.com/, this is what a visitor to the Bohemian Absinthe lounge can expect:
A room filled with people who represent a cross section of society, all interested in hearing erotica. It is a comfortable atmosphere for enjoying erotica, filled with a supportive community of listeners and readers.
The various styles of writings range from sensual innuendo to the graphically explicit. Individuals share their first person erotic journals, poetry, stories, writings in progress, excerpts from novels, etc. along with fictional works.
Not everyone is interested in reading and attend only to hear erotica and appreciate the pieces with applause. The readers range from published authors to “virgins,” who command applause even prior to reading. The audience is especially supportive of first time readers.
Along with attendee readings; published authors, gifted attendees, and various artists are featured presenters. Occasionally after the readings, guest experts lead discussions held on various relevant topics.
As many people reading this will know, I’m a huge fan of the spoken word. I help host a monthly open mic poetry event in my local community and I visit spoken word events wherever and whenever possible.
If you enjoy erotica and live sufficiently close to the Bohemian Absinthe club I would urge you to attend to experience the magic of a live reading. I would urge you as someone who knows how impressive it can be to watch a writer share their work with an audience and I would urge you as someone who has just enjoyed the experience of reading the books borne from the endeavour of the Erotic Literary Salon: SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013, Volumes I and II. The title includes works from some of my favourite writes, including Gwen Masters, Sharazade, I G Frederick, Robin Sampson and Heidi Champa. The title also includes some superb writing from authors I haven’t previously encountered but will be researching thoroughly now I’ve discovered their work.
And here, to give you a sample of the quality of strong writing in this collection, is a slice of erotica from the inimitable Gwen Masters and her short story, “White.”
She looked at him, at the handsome face framed in tendrils of blue smoke. The smoke matched his eyes and the rush matched the way he made her feel when he did that one little thing he liked to do between her legs, that one sweet motion that sent her to the moon and back. She leaned back against the couch and then there were two of him, the one living and breathing and the one in the little mirror on the table.
Double the pleasure.
“Do me,” she said.
His hand demanded that she open, and she did while the low music of her own blood sounded a bass line through her head. He slid into her and then his rhythm was hers, and she was flying right along with him, saying things that were like second nature, telling him to fuck her hard and fuck her deep. When he rolled her over onto her knees it was like the world was the one spinning, not her, and the idea made her laugh out loud.
SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 is an intelligent and enjoyable anthology put together by writers who care about their craft and work hard to deliver quality material for the genre. As we live in an age when investment in this genre is equated with deviance, it’s worth subscribing to this title to show your support for writers who are bold enough to bravely bare their work in public.
Before I say anything else, can I just raise my hand and praise Lucy Felthouse and Victoria Blisse for using the word “smut”? I love the word smut. I write smut. I read smut. As much as the preferred term is erotica, sometimes I think “smut” does such a better job as a descriptor.
So, hey. Big approval on the smut.
Also, big approval on Smut Alfresco, as a whole. The subtitle – “Tales of Outdoor Adventure” – paints an accurate picture of the general thread connecting the tales in this anthology, but the stories selected do run a pretty strong variety of settings and heat levels throughout the collection.
Major props to the first tale. I loved “Being Free” (by Lucy Felthouse) probably the most of all the stories in the collection, which may surprise you when I explain a little more. It’s a solo story – a young woman, Violet, is being forced to work some overtime and she’s just about ready to flip out on her useless boss. She’s working through the weekend and she’s hitting that point of no-return. She gives up, takes off, and in a dash through the nearby park, she’s caught in a rain shower, and the glorious sense of freedom that comes from the whole scenario leaves her with the urge to get off, and get off quick. And she does. By herself. In a rainstorm in a public park. I can’t remember the last time I read a story where masturbation was actually shown in a positive light, not something done as a standby or a second-best. Violet’s physical and emotional journey in this wee tale had me grinning from ear-to-ear. She got herself off and it was hot and empowering and did I mention hot? Bravo.
For sheer originality (and some lovely sexual fluidity), you’d be hard pressed to beat Kay Jaybee’s “The Mattress” in which the eponymous cast-away mattress tells the tale of the men and women who furtively meet with it in its out-of-the-way location where it has been dumped. This was a clever little story, and made me think of the phrase “if these walls could talk” (except it’s the mattress doing the talking) and had a lovely surprise of a few moments of some man-on-man action for me.
The final story in the collection, “Shine,” by Jenny Lyn, had a strong plot to it and could definitely have been drawn out into a full novella-length story and stood fine on its own. I loved the characters – young woman from a family on the wrong side of the law, and a sheriff who fulfills the uniform fantasy in every regard – and their spark, connection, and frustrations of the bridges they needed to gap made for a really engrossing tale.
Other tales that are definitely worth spending your time with included “When the Rains Come,” by Nicole Gestalt, which built one of the strongest back-stories in the collection, and just a slight trace of magic in the form of a rain-dance that brings more than refreshing showers. “Little Wonders,” by Victoria Blisse was another meet-cute story, but it’s the granny who really made the tale for me (I love seeing older women shown as sexual creatures). Don’t worry, though, the young granddaughter definitely gets to have a hot time. “Into the Woods,” has some kink for readers looking for a bit of spanking fun and light bondage (and Demelza Hart knows how to write an aloof alpha male without making him annoying as hell).
End result? Smut Alfresco lives up to its promise, and has a cheeky good time delivering. Apart from a few editing glitches (my copy had some line-break issues), the end product is worthwhile and none of the stories felt like duds, and there were some real gems among the collection.
I’m definitely going to look into more of the “Smut” series.