If you’re not burned out on novels about rich, powerful older men and naïve young women, you could do worse than give Ashley Lister’s A Taste of Passion a try. Even if you think you are burned out—especially then, in fact—you may well find this variation to your taste. It kept me reading right along, not wanting to stop even when I had other urgent business (like going to bed.) When I’m reading with a review in mind, that’s a very good sign.
The setting is a city in northern England and its rural surroundings, modern but with a sense of history, which is refreshing in itself. The rich (but not overwhelmingly rich) older man is a famous chef, with his own three-star restaurant, while the young woman has a mind of her own, a brand-new degree with honors from a culinary institute, and a plan to start a new online pastry business with her two housemates. That she enjoys getting spankings as much as he enjoys delivering them is only one facet of their complex personalities.
Lister makes fine use of this food and restaurant concept to weave together the senses of taste and scent and sight and texture, intensifying the scenes of backstage gourmet cooking and those of sex as well. We get sound, too, in the chaotic kitchen, and, more to the point. when spatulas and wooden spoons play a part in the sex.
Wisely, Lister doesn’t overdo the food-sex connection, but I did appreciate such bits as the “rich and delicious sting” of a spanking that “echoed hollowly from the kitchen’s flat acoustics,” and the “slightly-sweetened saltiness” of an encounter of a slightly different nature. Very deftly done, as are many other sensual details, even those describing the forested area outside the city where the young woman runs for exercise. Maybe it’s just that I have a thing for forests and non-urban settings, but “the crisp intersecting ripples of bark” on ash trees delighted me as much as any tantalizing image of food.
The sex is abundant, to say the least, and since this is, after all, an erotica novel, I won’t quibble about some degree of repetition. Satisfying sex can be worth repeating.
I do, however, have a few quibbles, largely concerning editing that could have been better. I’ve enjoyed Ashley Lister’s writing in the past, and I did, on the whole, enjoy this book, but the level of editing seemed more lax than in previous books. Repetition of certain words and phrases bothers me where it probably wouldn’t matter to most readers. As an example, “sultry” is used twelve times, which wouldn’t seem like much in a book of 278 pages if it weren’t concentrated toward the beginning, and in one case occurs twice on the same page—and in the same paragraph.
Another issue is that as the fairly complex plot works itself out, there are a couple of instances where the same significant statement is made twice, but seems to come as a surprise to the main character the second time. There are also plot elements that don’t make much sense except as providing the requisite difficulties and misunderstandings to be overcome, but this is so far from being rare in any work involving relationships that it’s hardly worth mentioning.
My own naivité is responsible for my disappointment at the end of the book. I knew all along that this was Book 1 of the Sweet Temptation series, and that a series seems to be a requirement for books like this, but I thought that the following books might deal more with some of the other characters, or further developments affecting these main characters after the current problems were resolved. I should have known better than to hope for any resolution at all. It’s like a cliff-hanger at the season finale of a TV series.
Let me begin by warning readers that the subtitle of this collection is distinctly misleading. Anyone who buys this collection looking for romance will be sorely disappointed.
What could be less romantic than Greta Christina’s “Craig’s List,” a tale of a woman seeking extreme anonymous sexual encounters via the personal ads, sticking to self-imposed rules about having to accept all comers no matter how repulsive? This phenomenal tale, which I first read in Ms. Cristina’s single author book Bending, is extremely arousing in a squick-inducing sort of way, but romantic? I suspect it would make a true romance fan run away screaming.
Then there’s “Jailbait Torch Song” by Valerie Alexander, one of my favorite stories in Hungry for More. This tale chronicles a feverish, hopeless affair between an almost-thirty single mother struggling for respectability and an eighteen year old high school student. It’s gorgeously written, flooded with genuine heat, but there’s no possible happy ending. Both participants know this from the start.
I thought the editor’s own story, “A First Time for Everything,” was one of her best (and I’ve read many, many stories penned by Rachel). It’s full of smart, funny, heartfelt observations by the narrator, who decides to fulfill her darkest fantasy by staging a bukkake party (basically a gang jerk-off where the many men present all drench her in their cum). In this tale, her gay best friend rounds up a quintet of hot guys (most of whom she has never met), “men I admired and respected enough to welcome into my home to defile me...It takes a special, enlightened, intelligent kind of man to treat a slutty girl like me just right.”
Later, in the midst of the action:
“Just then, I felt the first jet of cream land on my back, and I whimpered as best I could with a mouth full of cock. I looked up into the eyes of Rob, and he cradled the back of my head gently in his hand as I sucked him. This may sound crazy, but it felt spiritual to me, a moment of bonding that went far beyond the mechanics of sex. Or maybe I’m just the rare girl who can have a holy moment with five gorgeous cocks surrounding her.”
Despite the sexual epiphany (which I don’t mean to disparage - I’ve had those moments, too), I don’t think these guys would really qualify as her soul mates!
In Tiffany Reisz’ tale “Bringing the Heat,” the heroine Jada dumps her arrogant, homophobic date at a minor league baseball game and ends up hidden in the locker room, where she watches a handsome, athletic ball player get his butt fucked by his equally buff sports therapist. The (hot and well-written) sex scene would be right at home in a gay erotic romance – without the secret observer. I suppose it may qualify as vicarious romance.
Katya Harris describes a wildly erotic public coupling – in the middle of a dance floor – between two individuals who are mere acquaintances. Sexy, definitely, but romance? There’s certainly no HEA. “His firm lips caught at hers, his tongue flicking out to lick across her mouth. Lila’s eyelids fluttered; her breath hitched. She leaned forward for more, but he was already melting into the crowd with a wink and smirk.”
Erzabet Bishop’s “Red Lipstick” chronicles the BDSM initiation of a cosmetic salesgirl by one of her regular customers. In this lighthearted tale, the elegant and self-assured Mistress provides her submissive with plenty of pleasure, but there’s definitely no mention of commitment. Giselle Renarde’s “Happy Ending,” another F/F tale, brings the intimacy and intensity of a full body massage to glorious life – but as the masseuse reminds the heroine after her stunning release, this is “work.”
Several of the stories that made an impression on me do feature committed couples doing various naughty things. Jeremy Edwards’ “Tickle Day” made me smile. Although I have to say that personally I find tickling annoying rather than erotic, Mr. Edwards excels in bringing out the playfulness of his characters.
“She clutched his idle wrist and thrust the open expanse of her tender underarm toward his tickle hand, urging him on. She was vanilla ice cream, and he was a million soft, tiny spoons.” Now there’s a novel metaphor!
Meanwhile, Tilly Hunter’s “My Pillar-Box Red Cock” relies completely on the trust between two long-time lovers. When the heroine, prodded to reveal her darkest fantasy, confides that she wants to fuck her husband in the ass, his initial reaction is rejection. Then, weeks later, he reveals that he has bought a set of butt plugs and has been training himself to take her cock. The story brilliantly captures both the thrill and the uncertainty of that first penetration.
But then, in contrast, there’s Rose de Fer’s chilling and arousing kidnap tale, “The Instructor.” A woman wakes from a confused dream to find she’s a captive, chained naked to a bed in a bland, windowless room. She has no idea who has taken her, or why. A man appears, interrogates her, slaps her face, whips her, and reveals the truth:
“The air is heavy with the implicit threat and he lets the silence hang for agonizing seconds while I tremble and wait. At last he speaks again.”
“‘I am the instructor,’ he says simply. ‘And you are here to be instructed. Specifically, you are here to be trained to be a slave.’”
Ms. de Fer manages to kindle real fear, edged with inescapable arousal.
Not exactly the stuff romance is made of.
Why am I making such a big deal of this mislabeling, you might ask. After all, here at Erotica Revealed, we attempt to exclude romances from the works we review – not because we disapprove of the genre, but because there are already dozens of review venues that cover romance. In contrast, few if any sites, other than Erotica Revealed, are willing to review sexually explicit fiction that does not feature committed relationships or happy endings. So if this book is billed as romance, but turns out not to be, I should be pleased, not sorry.
The trouble is, the publisher seems to have believed that this book of erotica needed the label “romantic” in order to sell. That bothers me greatly. I suppose this is a marketing decision, but to me it feels both dishonest and a bit cowardly.
Anyway, if you’re looking for “romantic fantasies,” I would not recommend that you buy this book. On the other hand, if you want to read a fairly diverse and well-executed collection of erotica, Hungry for More might be a good place to start.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, this anthology of Upstairs/Downstairs trysts between the male servants and the men they do for is bound to pique your interest. While the exact years these stories take place aren’t mentioned, they seem to fall between 1900 and 1920. Most seem to take place in England although one is definitely set in the United States. Thankfully, with these stories, the term manservant actually refers to a man in the employ of a household and not part of a man’s anatomy.
So what were the lads up to back in the day? Apparently quite a bit. The threat of imprisonment or disinheritance hung over them in ways that are difficult for most people under forty to understand nowadays. Getting caught wouldn’t simply cause social embarrassment. It meant hard labor. It meant ruin. For them, secrecy was imperative, but for us looking back, the threat of it merely spices up the story.
Felice Picano is a masterful storyteller. I looked forward to his contribution and was not disappointed. Most of these stories take place in manor hoses, but this one shows the rougher side of London with wonderful imagery and such a deft touch with language that you’re bound to enjoy it as much as I did. In “Folly’s Ditch,” an actor lately dismissed from his troupe runs into a childhood chum at an inn near the riverfront. This friend introduces him to a lady who runs a doss house and teaches him how to ply his trade there.
Michael Robert’s “Manor Games” is a funny romp. When his master’s gambling debts grow too large, a servant comes up with a scheme to help him win at cards by creating a distraction. I’m not sure if he meant to make so many mistakes, but in the end it works exactly as he’d envisioned.
“Finnias Laredo,” by Alex Stitt, shows how close a man and his valet can be, even if the man doesn’t quite see it for far too long. How can someone who anticipates all your needs, and who is beside you at your most vulnerable times be almost invisible? Of the many, many similar valet/master stories in this anthology, this one stands far above the others.
On the downside, there were a few stories in this anthology with wandering POVs, anachronistic historical details, and too many poorly drawn characters cluttering up the landscape. You can skip over them; I couldn’t. But as I said, if this is the era your enjoy reading and you can’t get enough of upstairs/downstairs shenanigans, this may be your book.
A light touch at first.
He groaned, his head down, and that sound took me to a higher level. I started to jerk him in my fist, no longer touching him tentatively or hesitantly. But touching him like he needed.
He said, “Jesus,” again, but it was different this time. He said, “Jesus,” and I knew that meant don’t stop.
I was fucking him seriously, and he accepted everything. The pleasure from my palm and the sensation of being filled, and the whole fucked-up scene. He devoured it, somehow, from beneath. Until I was the one to let go. I was the one to come, that toy cock pressed so hard against my clit as I drilled him, the feeling of his rock-like rod in my fist. We were joined—we were one—and I came until I could hardly breathe, collapsed against him, liquid, spent.
This sex scene is from one of the early amorous encounters in Wrapped Around Your Finger, the third instalment in Alison Tyler’s series of novels that explore bondage, kink and polyamorous relationships. Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission #1 was described as a modern-day retelling of Story of O. I’d argue with this. Tyler writes in a much more accessible fashion than Reage and, as a reader of erotica, I’d say this makes Tyler’s prose preferable.
The Delicious Torment: A Story of Submission #2, continued the story and now we’re onto Wrapped Around Your Finger: A Story of Submission #3.
While he watched, I stripped, then slid on thigh high stockings, the dress, and the shoes. I didn’t ask for knickers. If they weren’t put out for me, then Jack didn’t want me to wear them. I knew where he was taking me. Knew that Juliette would undoubtedly be involved.
Wondered whether Alex might show up. It had been several days since I’d seen him, and somehow he had become the unspoken subject between the two of us. Fuck the elephant—Alex was the hard-on in the room.
“Ready?” Jack asked. This was a useless, stupid question in my opinion, a question that had no answer. No correct answer—or truthful answer, anyway. I had to say yes, or win Jack’s wrath, but I was never, ever ready for something like that. Still…
“Yes, Sir,” were the words that made their halting way past my lips. “Yes, Jack.”
He gave me a final nod before attaching the collar around my throat himself, although he kept the leash in his hand, not making me wear the thing down the hallway, or in the elevator, which offered a tiny bit of relief.
Tyler has a way of describing the kinky and the non-conforming so that it is presented as something exciting and thrilling – yet well within the realms of possibility. Her fiction is efficient and well-paced. Her characters are all the more believable because they are so thoroughly invested in the worlds she has created.
Critics and reviewers in various online corners keep pointing out that Tyler is writing from twenty-five years’ experience, penning sultry stories here to create a work of autobiographical fiction. Personally I’m not sure if I believe in the truth of any autobiography. I think fictionalised autobiography is likely to give a more honest story than any ‘real’ biography. But maybe that’s just an argument in semantics.
Jack seemed to understand my desires. He cupped my pussy with his hand, and his fingertips sought out the wetness awaiting him, his middle finger stroking my clit so that I would have lost my balance if he hadn’t supported me with his other arm. The pleasure was even more powerful knowing what pain I’d have to go through before I experienced relief.
“You’re ready for me,” he said, voice sweet. “I like that. You make me want to break my own rules. You make me want to lick you while you stand there, flip you around, lick you back here,” he reached behind me to strum my asshole. His touch made me weak. “But first, we’ve got a bit of business to take care of.”
He led me down the hall, his large hand tight on my wrist, making sure that I wasn’t going to try to get free again. He led me to Alex, who was waiting, already seated on the bed, paddle at his side.
If you want your erotica to be well-presented, original, innovative and exciting you can’t go wrong with Alison Tyler’s work. This book is the third of a series and, whilst it can be read as a stand-alone title, it can also be enjoyed after reading the two previous titles.
A great book from a wonderful author.