I have to admit that I went into this collection a little unsure. It’s not that I don’t trust Cleis or Shane Allison – I know their work well and know they do strong erotica – it’s that, frankly, I’m sick to death of college athletes in erotica. The Big Man on Campus isn’t remotely erotic to me, personally, and I find the closeted swaggering lugs to be vaguely enjoyable to watch at best, and incredibly annoying at worst.
So I tried to check my own internal baggage here when I stepped into the collection, and that made the stories like the ones I was expecting a bit more fun to read. But the big thing is that I didn’t have to do it all that often.
Don’t get me wrong, the handsome strapping college studs are near-constant in many of the stories, but more often than not they aren’t the character telling the story, and the authors do a good job of letting you know the effect those studs have through that narrator’s voice. There are also more themes at play here than would perhaps occur to the reader at a glance. While yes, there’s a lot of secrecy running about – guys who aren’t out, and/or don’t want to be (“Big Ten” or “Physics Professor Proves Kinky”) – and sometimes that blurs even further to blackmail for grades or a job (“Making the Grade,” or “Meeting Expectations”) – most of the stories are actually the starts of relationships.
This isn’t to say that the erotic charge in all the stories is off. That’s not the case at all, and having read Cleis anthologies in the past that Shane Allison has edited, I knew from the first step I was in for some hot scenes, and every story absolutely gives the reader the hot moments they’re looking for. Again, this does lead to a few stories that are more scene than story, but I know that’s a popular vibe, so again I’ll tuck away my love of foreplay as personal, and note this as a likely strength for many readers. More, there’s some kink, some submissive stuff, a few sweatier and raunchier tales (“The Jock and the Professor”) – enough, I think, to please a wider audience than I would have expected.
Is there original stuff here? Yes. Particularly clever was “TILF” by Martha Davis, putting a writing student in the class of a hot teacher and having the student try to seduce the teacher with his writing assignments. For the kink lovers, “Leather Dreams” by Dominic Santi had a nice progression to it and the erotically charged reaction the character has to leather was well written and felt real. I also liked the sweetness of “Robin’s Hood,” by C.C. Williams, which had a softer side to it, a tale of coming out and acceptance among peers that was nicely placed in an anthology that otherwise was a bit more rough and tumble.
Jocks abound, of course, as so often the Big Man on Campus is exactly that – the burly, strong, popular athlete. There was a good range of sports, though – swimming, football, wrestling, basketball – and also enough variety to the physicality of the men involved that it wasn’t just buff blond jock after buff blond jock. There was even a solid mix of racial diversity, which is always a welcome breath of fresh air.
All in all, Big Man on Campus was a pleasant surprise for me. Enough of the stories strayed far enough away from what I expected them to be that I had a good time with the collection as a whole. And the stories I was expecting didn’t read too much like a stereotype or a rehashing of old ideas. There was freshness even when the professor was approached by the handsome athlete for a better grade, and that’s not an easy task.
I’ll probably always have to remind myself when I see “Jock” or “College” anthologies that I should back off on my own preconceptions before I open the book, and Big Man on Campus was a good reminder of that.
Some men just know.
Thus begins Alison Tyler's scorchingly honest memoir, appropriately titled “A Story of Submission.” Her prologue continues: “I've been lucky enough to find those men several times in my life.”
Dark Secret Love chronicles Ms. Tyler's journey through relationships with several dominants, as she struggles to accept her own needs for punishment and for pain. She was only eighteen when she met her first Dom – no virgin, but well aware already that “normal” sex didn't really satisfy her. “I didn't need to tell him anything,” she writes. “He saw me and gave me his number scrawled on a paper napkin. Call me, was all it said.”
To be so transparent to a Master – to be recognized for what you are and what you crave – in fact, not only recognized but approved and valued – is a heady experience for a submissive. (I can testify from personal experience.) No ordinary person would have guessed the author harbored the dark and deviant fantasies that consumed her. In her teens and twenties, Ms. Tyler (or maybe I can call her Alison, after the intimate confessions in this book) was smart, witty, self-confident, petite and pretty, responsible and hard working, a good girl in every way. Nobody would have guessed that she wanted to be beaten, used, humiliated, punished – that all her fantasies involved pain, that (in the words forced from her by one of her Doms) “It has to hurt.”
Nobody, that is, except those few men who in fact could give her what she needed. First there was Brock, the motorcycle-riding petty crook ten years her senior:
I have a photo of him following a night of no sleep. He's wearing black jeans and no shirt under an open blazer and he's smoking a cigarette, but barely, the butt dangling from his lower lip. He has that insolent fuck you look that has always made me wet in a minute.
Then, after she moved in with her rich, narcissistic, hopelessly vanilla fiancé Byron, there was Connor, young, brash and California blond. Ultimately, her raw, stolen moments with Connor are the reason Byron throws her out on the street, not even allowing her access to her clothing.
Once she's free (or perhaps “set adrift” would be more appropriate), Connor arrives at her door with flowers. And a crop.
Alison's account of her three years with Byron will be enough to convince you that the skeleton of this tale is true. No one would fabricate such a stupid decision as to move in with a guy like him. Still, you can understand her motivations to some extent as a desperate attempt to be normal and socially acceptable. Externally Byron was everything a woman should want. Furthermore, as one of her Doms points out later, she did submit to him, for three years, wearing the clothing he chose, decorating his house the way he liked, suppressing her real self in a (hopeless) attempt to please him.
However, to paraphrase Shakespeare, kink will tell.
Connor leaves for Georgia, to pursue his own dreams. Alison stays behind in LA. (“We didn't have love. We had lust.”) Sleeping on a couch in the group apartment of a friend of a friend, the author gets involved with her two male roommates, Garrett and Nate. Both turn out to be well-practiced dominants, though Alison goes far deeper with Nate. This is one episode that felt fictional to me. Perhaps the ratio of dominants to the general population is significantly higher in Los Angeles than the rest of the world, but honestly, what are the chances both guys you're living with are hot, kinky, and skilled in the dominant arts? As well as kind and supportive?
Of course, maybe the author was more fortunate than most of us.
Finally, Alison encounters Jack, a steel-willed, frightfully powerful, intermittently cruel older man who not only sees what she needs, but forces her to admit it.
“Say it. I want to hear you say it.”
A deep, shaking breath. “This isn't punishment.”
Eyes shut tight now. “The fact that you're going to use your belt on me.”
“I'm going to whip you.”
Oh, Jesus, please.
“You're going to whip me,” I repeat obediently. “But it's not a punishment. It's a reward.”
“Because I need it.” I choked on the statement, so difficult to admit, so hard to confess.
Jack brought his mouth close to my cheek then, kissed me fiercely, and when he spoke, his words were so soft I could barely hear them. “Don't worry so much, Sam. I need it, too.”
Jack strips away whatever shreds of normality the author has left. He insists that she be absolutely faithful and obey him without question. He punishes her when she's resistant or disobedient – and when she's not. He's more extreme and more manipulative than I would ever want in a Dom, but somehow he's exactly the Master the author has always dreamed of. Dark Secret Love has a happily ever after (apparently, at least), of a peculiarly difficult sort that only BDSM aficionados will appreciate.
I believe this book. I've read many of Alison's short stories, and I recognized the scenarios from some of my favorites. We erotica authors all mine our pasts for fictional material. Now I understand why those brief tales felt so intense. They're slices of life, in the truest sense.
In addition to relating Alison's voyage of sexual discovery, Dark Secret Love also documents the history of her distinguished career as an author. She has written “forever” but only under Nate's benevolent dictatorship does she manage to actually finish a novel and submit her work. Writing has always been easy for her. She's merely capturing the events and revelations as they occur:
And when we were done, if I wasn't too drained (or if he had decided to undo the straps holding me to his bed), I'd head back to my notebook and write it all down. You want to know how I can still remember different nuances, subtle lighting, scents, changes in the weather, the way the cool metal of his cuffs felt on my skin, the way I felt when I heard other girls' voices on the answering machine? That's simple. I recorded it all. Every important moment.
Later, Jack gives her rare permission to travel to New York on her own, to meet with publishers and editors, a thrilling experience that marks her transition from amateur to professional. Indeed, all her dominants support her literary aspirations. I'm very grateful.
If you're tired of the dozens of stories that whitewash BDSM – tales where the sub has more orgasms than stripes, where the first Master who recognizes her as a “natural submissive” turns out be her soul mate, where her fear disappears with the first mild slap on her bare ass – check out this book. Ms. Tyler makes it clear that being a submissive isn't necessarily easy. It's a process of growth. It may take years to unequivocally accept your own dark fantasies and be willing to live them without embarrassment or regret.
Hotel sex is a classic theme for erotica, and the ten stories in Do Not Disturb won’t disappoint anyone who feels the allure of a setting removed just that slight degree from everyday life, and focused suggestively on a bed and what can be enjoyed thereon. There’s a nice variety of perspectives here, and if some include “twists” that come as no surprise, they’re written so well that you don’t mind. I won’t spoil things by telling you too much about individual stories, but a few tantalizing bits about each should give you an idea of what the book offers.
In “Something Extra,” Flora Dain sets the scene with a woman in the bar of a “plush hotel,” nervous in her unaccustomed role of seductress, listening to the commands of her uber-alpha master coming through her earphones. Atmosphere, characterization, sensuality are all spot-on, and any writer who provides the image of “his reflection looming over my shoulder like a demon in a painting” definitely gets my attention.
Jason Rubis throws us a bit off-balance, just like the man in “Room 414.” Is he delusional? Confused? Or under the supernatural spell of the room and the woman who comes to him there? How much does it matter? A nice change from expectations.
“Ice is Nice” by Louise Hooker makes the most of a chillingly exotic locale, a hotel made entirely of ice. I’ve read that such places are quite popular in Scandinavia and Canada, and this one has the right balance of frozen walls and steaming hot tubs to melt any inhibitions.
Rachel Kramer Bussel may not be the first to write Skype erotica—I don’t happen to have seen seen it before—but I can’t imagine anyone doing it better. “Flashing” combines the emotional component of a loving couple far apart on New Year’s Eve with the hyper-sexual tension of voyeurism, sex toys, and directed masturbation, bringing both characters and readers to one flash point after another.
“Suite Surrender” is almost too clever for its own good, but Willow Sears takes good advantage of the luxurious hotel setting, where the girl determined to surprise the object of her affections on his birthday is equally determined not to waste the opportunities offered by the great four-poster bed that dominates the suite. One doesn’t often find four-posters in the common run of hotels and motels, so it’s nice to have a setting where such a thing could reasonably be expected.
“A Touch of Class, a Bit of Rough” by Rose de Fer is my favorite piece in the book, partly because the top-notch English country-house hotel is almost a character in its own right. This upper-class setting makes a fine background for the irreverent shenanigans of the working-class staff, who take advantage not only of the four-poster beds but the fancy duds of the guests while the latter are occupied elsewhere. Not only is the sex abundant and hot, the characters are so appealing that you enjoy the fun almost as much as the couplings.
Elizabeth Coldwell’s “An Airport, Anywhere” is another story from the viewpoint of a hotel’s staff member, in this case the night receptionist. Lauren makes up for the boredom of nothing happening at night by writing urban fantasy stories about a female demon-hunter, and models some of her villains (who get killed in such ways as being impaled on a gargoyle) on particularly disagreeable hotel guests. The man who calls the desk a two AM to complain about a faulty hairdryer might seem likely to deserve similar fictional treatment, but he turns out to be worthy of many a written sex scene instead. Lauren was possibly my favorite character in the anthology, maybe because she aspired to be a writer, but mostly because she was drawn in such depth by the author.
I can’t say for sure that Cesar Sanchez Zapata intended “Poison” to be satirical, but it certainly comes across that way. The middle-aged academic torn by lust and angst, angst and lust, along with a huge dose of guilt, is such a staple of “literary” writing that the over-the-top treatment here might actually be taken seriously in some circles. The barely-legal young woman who seduces him so energetically —oh horrors, his friend’s sister!—takes control, has a jolly good time, and fulfills every middle-aged academic’s wet dream, while he indulges in an orgy of self-recrimination and existential philosophizing along with the plenitude of fleshy pleasures. Okay, yes, I’m sure it’s a satire, and great fun.
“Scheduling Conferences” by Kathleen Tudor has an academic theme of a different flavor, taking place in a hotel hosting a literary conference of some sort. The lovers only manage to meet, illicitly, at such conferences, taking advantage of every possible minute together and communicating meeting times and room numbers via coded lecture questions and answers. The sex is as hot and heavy and extended as anyone could want, made all the hotter for the participants by its covert and forbidden nature.
The last story in the anthology, “Sshh No Speaking!” by Tabitha Kitten, deals with an online affair about to move into in-the-flesh territory. The lovers plan to meet each other for the first time in a hotel bar and then to proceed with role-playing their combined sexual fantasy, formerly only played out in e-mails, texts, and phone calls. They’ve agreed not to speak a word to each other until after their fantasy has been fulfilled. Sex does, indeed, ensue, but with certain complications.The anthology as a whole does a good job of delivering what one might expect of a series called the Mischief Collection, providing relatively light but heavily erotic entertainment, and it does it without skimping on the quality of the writing. Do Not Disturb turns out to be disturbing only in the best possible sense of the word.
This is a really great collection of erotic romance stories. Admittedly the focus is on capitalism – presenting materialism as though the artifice of possessions is erotic in and of itself. But, as they say, whatever floats your yacht.
If getting tingly while watching your man shave made you eligible for a special club of women who could turn mundane rituals into the stuff of wicked daydreams, Debra would have been the club’s founder. A woman likes her man well groomed, after all. For Debra, the act itself was its own reward. Could a man get any more Cary Grant than when he brushed some high-end shaving cream onto his cheeks and ran a razor over them, revealing his rugged jaw line, smooth and refreshed?
Through the open bathroom door Debra observed her husband, freshly out of the shower, a white terrycloth towel wrapped around his waist, drops of water trickling down the small of his back. She regarded him as he cupped his hands under the faucet and splashed his face with water. Now he reached for the brush, wetted it, then dipped it into the tub of fine English shaving cream she had given him for their last anniversary. He swirled the wet tips in the rich cream and soon his chiselled cheekbones had disappeared under a thick lather of opaque, herbal-scented mousse. She watched the play of his shoulder muscles as he swiped the brush up and down across his cheeks and neck. The hot damp air wafting from the bathroom carried a crisp, invigorating, slightly woody smell, making her mind wander back to the days when Nicholas’s eyes would catch her own in the mirror, and he would turn around, hold out the shaving cream to her and ask if she’d help him. She remembered the cheeky grin on his face and how it felt to paint his strong jaw and neck with the frothy mousse while his hands played with her waistline. She remembered the silent innuendo between them as he moved the razor blade closely over his skin. When he was done, she would rub moisturiser onto his cheeks and chin, taking her time, and Nicholas’s eyes would rest on her face the whole time until, finally, he would swoop her up in his arms, impatient to get her underneath him. His clean-shaven, cool cheeks would feel so fresh and alluring against her skin as he whispered sweet words into her ears . . .
A sigh escaped her lips, and Nicholas turned. "What’s the matter, hm?" he asked, his voice soft.
This is the opening passage from the collection’s first story. It’s well-written. It reveals something about character and sets up the underlying character goal for Debra which will be played out through the remainder of the story.
And it focuses on eroticism through a concept of acquisition and materialistic possession. The story later shows Debra pursuing Nicholas and reminding her husband: “I’m yours.”
Is this the ultimate erotic development of a capitalist ideal? Or should I just be reading the pretty words?
As I said at the start of this short review, the story is more romantic than erotic so perhaps I’m judging it by unfair criteria. The following passage comes from Mina Murray’s short story, ‘Shutterbug’.
"This is it," Amy says. "Look familiar?"
Howard’s throat goes dry. He definitely remembers the desk, although, when he saw it, Amy’s delectable body was draped over it.
Here goes nothing, she thinks, unzipping her dress and letting it fall to the ground with a hush.
Howard also recognises the lingerie Amy is wearing. His collar suddenly seems too tight. When she strips out of her stockings, her corset, her bra and her panties, all the air seems to leave the room.
"Amy, you’re –"
"– so lovely."
She spins, slowly, showing off her peach of an ass. When she bends forward over the desk and looks back at Howard, the expression on his face is pure unadulterated lust.
Howard approaches lovemaking as he approaches most things in his life, with the precision required to achieve the most desirable outcome. His trembling hands move over Amy’s body slowly, calculating the degree of her response to each touch, assigning each a value weighted in proportion to her pleasure.
But when Amy shimmies her hips in desperation and pleads, "Howard, lick me, please, put your tongue in me," she undermines any goal of orderly erotic progression and forces him to act on instinct instead. Gone are the carefully measured caresses of before. He falls on her with an intensity both thrilling and frightening. The man Amy thought she knew is gone. This man, behind her, who traps her against the desk, who growls when she tries to turn around, is some other person entirely.
Again, I found it difficult to engage with this piece. Perhaps it’s the shifting perspectives? Perhaps I’m turning into a grumpy old man in need of more/less/different coffee? Perhaps it was the reliance on established tropes of textuality within the story, such as the rendering of an email, which seem to be necessitated in erotic fiction since the publication of Fifty Shades?
In this story Amy and Howard, a mismatched pair of loners, fall into each other’s arms to find the gratifying release of sexual passion that we call love.
Mina Murray is a competent writer and, although this story self-consciously shifts from one perspective to the other, it’s apparent throughout that the point-of-view shift is a deliberate decision on behalf of the author and not an arbitrary whim of professional neglect.This is a great collection of erotic romance. It aims to satisfy the needs of a modern readership, particularly those new to the genre. The writing is first class and the fiction therein is engaging and titillating. You will enjoy.
The publisher, Robinson, calls this a modern erotic classic. That’s a brand, not a promise.
I’ve read hundreds of books on my computer and ebook reader, and never had a problem until this one. The font is so small and densely packed that I imagined someone at the publisher thought they had to pay by the page in ebooks, and that cost per page was extremely dear.The difficulty in readability, alas, was not limited to the format of the book. Honestly, I tried to get out of writing this review because I don’t like saying things that will hurt a writer. Maybe instead I should blame the editor for acquiring this book. Maybe s/he was under pressure to put out anything that even remotely smacked of BDSM following the dizzying success of FSOG, but that’s a poor excuse for accepting a collection of short stories by a writer who wasn’t ready to be published. Nothing is shown in these stories, everything is told. That’s fine for fairy tales, but not modern literature. The dialog was utterly unrealistic, with strangers suddenly appearing to spout deep personal insights then disappear forever. I’m not sure why this collection was classified as erotica as there was nothing sensual or arousing about the stories. While reading it, I felt as if I’d been trapped in an airplane seat by a fellow passenger determined to share what they thought were deep insights into their life despite my attempts to put on my headphones and stare out the window. That’s the biggest sin in this collection. The stories are dull.