It takes real balls for an editor to lead off his gay erotica anthology with a story that satirizes the genre itself. I say “balls,” but I admit that as a frequent editor of lesbian erotica anthologies I’d be tempted to do the same (or rather the equivalent) if I had as brilliant a piece to work with as “Different Strokes” by Richard Michaels (although I wouldn’t then claim to have “real balls,” just figurative ones. Maybe.) Michaels pulls off the tricky feat of being outrageously witty and still providing the nuts and bolts (and grease) to construct down-and-dirty sex scenes. Multiples sex scenes, in fact, or segments thereof, one after the other in a wild choose-your-own-adventure fuckfest. He piles cliché upon metaphor upon over-the-top image, switching imaginary partners from robust black stud to collegiate blond and still maintaining a convincing sexual tension between the writer/narrator and the reader in their shared quest for an ultimately rewarding wank-off. There are so many gems of descriptive overdrive here that it’s hard to choose just one quotation, but here’s a fairly tame taste:
…even with the deep-throating technique that all we narrators of these hyperbolic flights of erotica learned the moment we wrote our first word, I could not ingest all of his munificence…like driving a truck through a tunnel that’s almost too small, steering this truck with its precious cargo on the glistening highway of my tongue until the front of the cab, with its retracted grillwork of flesh, struck a roadblock and could go no farther, so I put the truck into reverse and backed it up, and then metaphor breaks apart, as it always does in these stories, and we get back to basics: I sucked his dick.
In case you can’t tell, I loved this story. The danger of a lead-off like this, though, is that the reader becomes sensitized to overblown prose and may be tempted to laugh rather than pant if other writers in the book get into a formulaic rut. I shouldn’t have worried, as it turns out, since, on the whole, all the stories are well-written, and some are memorable even aside from the sexual content. A few do get rather deeply into a morass of metaphors, but erotica readers develop the capacity to swallow plenty of that without gagging, so I’m not really complaining.
Onward to other stories that I found memorable. “Choice” by Rhidian Brenig Jones features a pair of likeable guys from Poland working in the UK, and their more-than-friendship with a young Catholic priest. “Feygele” by Alex Stitt mingles ornithological metaphors with the talents of a street firedancer in London. Gregory L. Norris’s “The Man In Black” is a science fictional tale wherein a shapeshifting alien gives the protagonist what he’s longed for from the various “men’s men, manly men” in his life who would never give him more than friendship. “Like Magic” by Salome Wilde involves a young man with a crush on a has-been vaudeville magician, not a very appealing object of desire, so readers seeking a vicarious erotic charge may not be satisfied, but the writing is excellent. Dale Chase’s “Nothing to Lose” is a complex and nuanced study of gay weddings, determinedly casual sex, and working through loss to healing. “From Here to There” by Xavier Axelson deals tangentially with a gay wedding, but what you’re likely to remember best is a fine use for lobster butter.
The final story, “Super Service” by Michael Roberts, is right up there with the first piece, “Different Strokes.” There’s a similar sly wit, and a knowing embrace of cliché, in this case the time-honored scenario of workmen coming to a home to fix plumbing, paint walls, whatever—three of them here—and using the tools in their tool boxes as well as those below the tool belt. The narrator stakes his tongue-in-cheek claim to upper-class erudition right away:
The vision in front of me wore an immaculately white crew-neck T-shirt that hugged his chest as if it and the torso had fallen in love and intended to cling to each other as closely as possible. I couldn’t blame the T-shirt. A fanciful image, peut-êtrè, but the sight made me absolutely giddy.
Later he stakes his claim to ordinary humanity by admitting that he can’t manage to get through the Henry James novel he keeps leaving behind in his chair and then sitting on. A sexy romp with attitude, similar enough in tone to “Different Strokes” that I wondered whether Michael Roberts and Richard Michaels were, perhaps, different sides of the same pseudonymous coin, but I’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.
Now that I’ve been scrolling down the table of contents, I realize that all of the stories are memorable in their way, each one worthy of being someone’s favorite. As so often happens in reviewing, I’m not the target audience for the erotic aspects of Best Gay Erotica, so there’s no reason to be swayed by my opinion on anything besides the quality of the writing. Some appealed to me more than others on that basis, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the book as a whole, with no if, ands, or peut-êtrès. (Admit it, you thought I was going make an obvious pun there. Shame on you.)
Is it time for this anthology already? How the year flies. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because Best Lesbian Erotica is a consistently good collection of work from a diverse group of writers.
Once again, I am a happy reader. So many compelling characters and good stories. And oh yes, hot sex, but that’s such a personal thing that I don’t even try to pick out the hottest stories for readers anymore.
If you’ve read my reviews over the years, you know that I generally pick out three or four stories from an anthology to talk about. That strategy doesn’t work for me this time. Each story was well-written. The more time I spend away from them, in the hopes that only a few are memorable, I find myself recalling almost every tale.
Okay, so there are a few that stayed with me. I like to compare the wonderful Fiona Zedde’s “Kiss of the Rain Queen” with Catherine Lundoff’s “Arachne,” because both are tellings of myths the way they probably used to be before the flesh and blood was stripped away to leave us with dry bones. “Kiss of the Rain Queen” evokes such a lush world full of spiritual beauty where “Arachne” speaks to the beauty of art. And yes, the sex is hot, but what stayed with me were the themes of personal worth. Arachne is confident in hers, but Hasnaa from “Kiss of the Rain Queen” has constantly been told that she’s worthless. Once she is with a lover who values her, she’s able to soak in the comfort and love.
I’m not usually a fan of stories told in the epistolary form (traditionally as letters, but nowadays commonly as a series of emails), but Lee Ann Keple and Katie King pulled it off well in “A Knock At the Door” as two women work through a fantasy where each gives the other multiple choices for where it might go next. It ends with a knock on the door, and you know these two lovers are ready to take it to the next level.
What do you want to read? Seasoned lovers helping youngsters who have lost touch with themselves? How about Sacchi Green’s “The Bullwhip and the Bull Rider” or Anna Watson’s “My Visit to Sue Anne?” Like a threesome? Deborah Jannerson’s “Andro Angel” or Nan Andrew’s “Learning to Cook” might be your thing. Okay, technically “Learning to Cook” isn’t, but neither is “Still Flying” by Andrea Dale, but there is another woman involved to get things going.
You really can’t go wrong with this anthology. It amazes me that every year they manage to find so many great stories, but they do. The stories are varied. There’s some BDSM, but there are also more vanilla stories, if that’s more to your liking. There’s sweetness and nasty, naughty sex too. Whatever mood you’re in, you’ll find something to entertain you here.
This is Violet Blue’s tenth year as editor of Best Women’s Erotica and, once again, she has compiled an engaging collection of short erotic fiction that is well-written and entertaining from beginning to end.
I’ll hold up my hand here and admit I feel more than a little marginalised reading this collection. This is a collection of stories written by women, with no stories written by male authors. I assume this is some holdover to the facile idea that some women can feel more comfortable reading stories that are written by women. Perhaps the idea here is that the social construct of gender is detectable from words on a page depicting a fictionalised reality. Personally I don’t hold with such notions of arbitrary segregation but I would say that: I’m a man.
This is not to take anything away from the great stories that are contained within the anthology. Obviously there are familiar literary tropes, some of them more familiar now to the post-Fifty Shades readership of erotica. These lines are from the opening pages of “The Ghostwriter” by Valerie Alexander:
Rain plopped on the glass.
“There will be the usual nondisclosure agreements,” he said. “And you’ll have to clear your calendar for the next few months.” He lifted his green eyes from the laptop screen. “You would come to this conference room every day. Recording our sessions is fine, but I would need you here for at least three or four hours a day. The publication schedule is tight.”
Power relationships in sex and contractual obligations hadn’t previously been as predominant in much of mainstream erotic literature. That said, Alexander’s writing has more literary merit than Fifty Shades and the story is a delight to enjoy.
Of equally high literary calibre is Tamsin Flowers’ “Roxanne.” A text with wonderful overtones of Cyrano de Bergerac’s removed relationship with his beloved Roxanne.
“So ask her out.”
Christian went red as cherry-pie filling and I stared at him. He nodded. “Yeah, this is what happens every time I try to talk to her.”
I could relate to that.
“So text her,” I said. Yes. I am that expert at giving dating advice to lovelorn jocks and broken-hearted he-men.
“You think?” Christian’s teeth were so goddamn white.
He held out his cell phone and I took it—I don’t know why.
And that’s how it started. I typed in a text.
Want 2 compare magnetic attraction coefficients Thurs night?
I showed him.
“Seriously? I don’t even know what that means.”
“How well d’you know her?”
“I sit next to her in Physics 360.”
That seemed to satisfy him. He hit send and ten minutes later she replied.
Horizontal or vertical?
He showed me her text, his chest heaving with excitement.
Up 2 you, I texted back.
“Fuck me, Syra, you did it,” he said loud enough to earn us a harsh look from the professor.
He did a little wiggle with his arms. “Gonna get laid. Gonna get laid.”
That stuck in my craw some and I should have called a halt right then, but this was a love story and I was hooked.
“Roxanne” is a witty, engaging and sexy story. The characters are painted as realistic and the whole package is entertaining.
Best Women’s Erotica 2015 contains some of my favourite erotica authors, including Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Annabeth Leong. The title also includes gems from authors I hadn’t previously encountered and now adore, such as Dani Bauter, Evey Brett and Ariel Graham.
There’s something in Best Women’s Erotica 2015 to please the taste of every reader, unless the reader is specifically looking for something written by a man. Quite why a reader would be looking for something written specifically by a man is a mystery to me. But then again, I’m not sure why a reader would be looking for something written specifically by a woman.
Do you remember good old vanilla lust? Before FSOG or A.N. Roquelaure’s Beauty Trilogy? Before music videos full of lewdly prancing, half-naked androgynous bodies? Before twerking and sexting? Before being gay became a fashion statement? Do you recall watching your next door neighbor hang her undies or wash his car and thinking you were going to die of desire? Do you remember when sex was rare, when it was private, when you dreamed about it non-stop?
Julius Addlesee’s collection The Sweetest Thing will take you back to those days. Although the characters and situations in this book vary, all these stories focus on mutual heterosexual lust, seasoned by serendipity, affection, and, in many cases, lingerie. Julius’ characters often start out lonely, but when a carnal opportunity presents itself, they seize it with both hands (and get other body parts involved as well). Although most are set in contemporary times, these tales feel old-fashioned because the characters experience desire in such an enthusiastic, uncomplicated way. No one takes sexual pleasure for granted, but no one questions it, either. There’s no guilt, no angst, no inner conflicts other than some occasional embarrassment at having one’s arousal unmasked.
There’s an innocence about these tales. The mostly male narrators display a sense of wonder when confronted with the glory of women. Characters linger over foreplay, delighting in the tastes, smells, and textures of their partners, who tend not to be model-thin or movie-star handsome but who are nevertheless almost unbearably desirable. Sex is special, a sweet mystery to decipher, a gift waiting to be opened.
In “There Comes a Time,” for instance, we meet twenty five year old Justin. “Life had conspired to make him a virgin, or rather, to keep him a virgin.” His buxom, fifty-ish neighbor Brenda knows just what to do about that problem.
Neighbors help one another out again in the exuberant “Mrs. MacLeod.” In this case the protagonist is a widower who admires the lady of the title as she walks by his house each day:
His late wife had accused him many times of being a tit man. He was a tit man. He loved all the other bits, too, but it was a woman’s boobs that always drew his first glance. That, or rather those, were what made Mrs. McLeod special. Hers were big. By most standards they were too big, but when you’re a real tit man, it’s hard to ascribe the words ‘too big’ to any woman’s breasts. Hers fascinated him.
He never missed his sightings of them. She was perhaps five-eight, and although wide of hip and heavy of bust, she bore herself with considerable grace. Her breasts varied their position on her chest, no doubt depending on her choice of bra. Their bounce factor varied too, for the same reason, of course.
One glorious day, he’d seen her obviously braless. Just the once. She’d no doubt realized, as did Reg, that her breasts were too heavy to be free like that. But their heavy movement and very, very obvious nipples had been a remarkable sight. The next day, he’d even set his alarm clock - just in case. But there’d been no repeat of that delightful performance, that morning or since.
Julius likes his ladies with plenty of flesh. Age doesn’t really matter. His heroines may be fresh and sassy or mature and nurturing. In “Happy Birthday, Mr. Hewitt,” a voluptuous twenty-something woman shows up in Graham Hewitt’s office, dressed in a garter belt, lacy black stockings and a tiny thong, and proceeds to give him a very special birthday gift – only to discover her services had actually been booked on behalf of Graham’s twin brother Gordon. In “Perfect in Every Detail,” orderly and somewhat repressed Milly receives a box of exquisitely detailed, penis-shaped chocolates, mistakenly delivered to her confectionery shop rather than to the adult toy store next door. When she returns them to their rightful owner, she is introduced – much to her eventual delight – to the real-world model for the candy cocks.
Some of the stories, like “The Airman and The Lady” or “Six Miles High,” focus on chance encounters or once-in-a-lifetime adventures. Others, like “Crumpet Buttered Lips,” “Waking Dream” and “Her Fuck Was Coming,” offer peeks into the lives of established couples. Even when the couple involved are strangers, the tales in this collection take a romantic view of sex. More often than not, there’s at least a hint that the wonderfully satisfying sexual encounters chronicled in the story will be repeated in the future.
One of the more unusual stories, and one of my personal favorites, is “Time Travel Made Easy.” This scifi fantasy takes place two centuries in the future. Fertility has dropped dramatically. The narrator works in the “Female Acquisition Department,” where androids deliver healthy young women fetched from the twentieth century. The females’ eggs are harvested before they’re returned to their own time. Due to a system glitch, copper-haired Arabella shows up in the acquisition pod – a woman from 1699 rather than 1999. Born in a benighted time when women were property and men were more or less brutes, Arabella has never experienced foreplay or the pleasures of a considerate lover. As you might guess, she turns out to be a fast learner.
Another favorite was “Pussy-holic,” about an author of erotica who is more of less stalked by one of his fans. Together, they act out what had previously been only fiction.
The author is very much present in these tales. His personal feelings about women – something just short of worship - blaze bright in every story. In addition, several of the stories feature historical or cultural notes, especially the tales that draw on the author’s own career in aviation.
Overall, The Sweetest Thing is an arousing and entertaining, if unfashionably straight, book. It left me with a sense of nostalgia – as well as an appropriately moist pussy.