Appetites: Tales of Lesbian Lust is an anthology loosely themed around cravings, which is fine with me, partly because it allows for variety, something I crave as a reader, and partly because any good story needs characters with an intense desire for something.
The cover image suggests a connection with Valentine’s Day, and the title suggests gustatory pleasures, but the stories aren’t constrained by those concepts. Editor Ily Goyanes says in her introduction, “No, you will not be reading about food in every story, in case you were wondering. Nor will every story revolve around Valentine's Day, a holiday which I deplore. The one thing that every story has in common is that they all feature characters who are hungry, whether it be for love, romance, excitement, acknowledgement, respect, pain, control, or blood.”
I’m happy to say that the book delivers on this promise. Some stories will appeal to certain tastes more than others, which is as it should be, and all of them do what they set out to do well. The editor’s arrangement of the stories keeps the whole book flowing nicely in terms of comparison and contrast and varying themes and voices. I had a few favorites, of course, but every reader’s mileage may vary, so here are brief tips as to what each story offers.
Allison Wonderland starts it off with her trademark wit and wordplay in “Be a Gal Pal,” about a celebrity impersonation act. “I love Lucy and she loves me not,” the Ethel half of the act begins, and goes on a few lines later, “She doesn’t know I want to hug her and kiss her and wrestle her in a vat of grapes.” Need I say more?
In “Two Meals and a Funeral” Foxy Kettir does focus on food, with cooking school proving to be a better cure for Lesbian Bed Death than dabbling in “open relationships,” although not in the way you might think.
D.L. King’s “Hot Blood,” on the other hand, is about nourishment of exactly the kind you’d think from the title, with engaging characters and a nice contrast between everyday realism and wild nights under the full moon.
“Kissing Whiskey” by Lauren Jade contrasts ambition in the business world with the very personal charms of a cozy neighborhood bar, and lets the protagonist enjoy the benefits of both.
“The Sweetest Fruit” by Elle sets a more somber (but ultimately redemptive) tone, with ex-partners meeting reluctantly over the hospital bed of the mother-figure they both love.
The next story, Erzabet Bishop’s “Naughty Cookie,” comes as a welcome change of mood and is memorable both for its colorful coupling of lovers on opposing Roller Derby teams, and the joyfully sexy banter of the characters.
The story that really warmed the cockles of my fusty old-school literary heart is “The Tomb of Radclyffe Hall,” by Bonnie J. Morris. Yes, the protagonist, a women’s history professor on a trip to London as a birthday treat, does do a bit of lecturing, especially when she falls in with a tour group cruising past Radclyffe Hall’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery, but I loved it. And the “international meeting of wenches and tavern keepers— basically, women who own or run lesbian bars,” culminating in a costume party with a Radclyffe Hall theme, was so appealing that it’s improbability hardly seemed to matter. The ghostly bathroom scene combining the heat of desire with “the chill of the tomb” was so beautifully written, so evocative of the past living on into the future, that I gladly suspended disbelief.
Transitioning from a literary ambiance to the world of paint and canvas, in “A Taste of Home” Liz McMullen deftly draws a brooding atmosphere of despair, with New England sleet outdoors and dark, jagged brushstrokes in the studio, as an artist fights the demons of a personal tragedy and ultimately finds the beginnings of healing in generous sex and the remembered taste of blueberry muffins.
“The Second First Time,” by Ashton Peal, is a real stand-out for its beautifully sensitive and sensual handling of a different sort of transition, when a wife and the wife she first knew as a husband cross the last bridge to melding their old relationship with the life they have and cherish now. Lovely, lovely work.
In another shift of mood, Jillian Boyd’s “Kicking the Habit” is a clever riff on the cheating ex who’s still all too irresistible, with an appealing setting of indie entrepreneurship.
Then Beth Wylde’s “Tiger by the Tail” sweeps us right over the startling edge into the paranormal with a “sexually induced shapeshifter” who turns out to be looking for lust in all the right places.
Jean Roberta’s “Labels” brings us back to a realistic earth worth living in, with a hugely likeable butch who travels by skateboard, runs her own Brake and Muffler business, and is lured by lustful attraction into tackling a panel on Gender Identity for a Pride Week event. Queer theory was never this much fun before.
“Lucky in Lust” by Kiki DeLovely takes the fun in another direction, with performers on tour, sexy encounters behind the scenes interrupted by calls for sound checks, spankings in supply closets, all presented with as much wit as wetness.
The final story in the anthology, “No, Tell Me How You Really Feel” by Ily Goyanes,
turns from extroverted performers to an introverted “emo art-school girl” who fights her own hankering for the college volleyball captain by persuading herself that she despises the jock type, and by meeting any attempts at friendship with cutting disdain. Here, with repression as the spice of lust, interspersed with vivid masturbation sessions driven by fantasies of the gorgeous athlete, the reader knows just where things are going, and enjoys every minute of the ride.
The whole book is an enjoyable ride with views along the way that may linger with readers according to each one’s particular tastes. Even if a few happen to slide by you without lasting impact, they’re far from boring--and if you need to ask, “Are we there yet?” you haven’t been paying attention.
Brit Boys: On Boys is a kissing book. Yet another publisher slipped in an erotic romance rather than literary erotica, despite there being oodles of other sites happy to review that genre.
This is not my cup of tea. I tried to get out of writing this review even though I read the entire book, but I was asked to pretty please try to say something nice.
The spelling was impeccable and the grammar perfectly acceptable. When I rolled my eyes, it was because the embarrassingly stupid characters doing idiotic things, but never because of the general level of writing. I’ve seen worse cover art. And oh dear god this thing was long. 540 pages. Page after page after page. As unending as a Russian winter when the internet is down. So you’re going to get your money’s worth.If you enjoy reading about men in love (ostensibly. I know hundreds of men, gay ones too, and none of them act like these guys, but whatever) and like male on male sex scenes, you might enjoy this book.
I get a bit tired of saying this, but according to my definition, erotica is not primarily about sex, but about the experience of desire Your mileage may vary, of course. Personally, I don’t find stories that focus mostly on physical pleasure to be particularly arousing. Since enhancing physical pleasure is the raison d’être for sex toys, I approached Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica with some sense of trepidation. After all, how many stories about vibrators and butt plugs can one read without getting bored?
In terms of diversity, I needn’t have worried. The toys in these tales cover a wide range. From the customized pedal-driven fucking machine in Oliver Hollandaize’s “Bikery” to the stainless steel claws in the editor’s own story, “Claws Out,” the characters in these stories take many routes to release.
The stories as a group show considerable creativity in their underlying scenarios as well. In “A Tale of Two Toys,” Chris Komodo explores the very plausible possibility of two remote controlled vibrators on the same frequency interfering with one another. Valerie Alexander’s “The Cure for the Common Lay” conjures what may be the ultimate toy, an immersive virtual environment where one only has to imagine something to make it true. “The Superman Dildo” by E. Bellamy is a rather sweet story about the fragility of the male ego, while Dena Hankin’s “Gift” provides a rare (at least in erotica) glimpse of the sex lives of two elderly women. Rob Rosen’s “In the Pink” involves a straight man who convinces his gay colleague to help him accustom himself to anal sex, in preparation for being penetrated by his wife.
Despite the variety, though, I have to admit to being unimpressed by most of this collection. I would read a story, then immediately forget it. To some extent, I blame my own tastes for this. As I’d expected, the bulk of the stories concerned themselves with immediate sexual gratification, with few of the emotional complexities that make a story memorable for me.
There were, however, three exceptions.
“The Prototype” by Malin James was one of the sexiest short stories I’ve read in a long time. This is due partly to the nature of the sex toy involved (which I won’t describe, so as to avoid spoiling the fun) but even more because of the relationship between the protagonists and the clever, expressive prose.
Edward smiles at me. His eyes, behind his glasses, are earnest and adorable. Edward invents things for fun. In real life, he does something abstract with currency markets, but in his dreams he has an underground lab and a henchman. At the moment, he’s wearing his eureka! face, which means he’s onto something.
Okay, I admit I have a real soft spot for sexually experimental nerds. But even readers who don’t share my preferences in this regard will be delighted by Edward’s ingenuity and his partner’s reactions.
“Sex Kitten” by Errica Liekos introduces the reader to a submissive with attitude. When her master chides her for buying a sex toy without permission, she’s startled.
She briefly considered apologizing, then decided against it. She wasn’t a puppy, after all. She liked curling up at James’s feet, but she was also the type to stretch a limb across his newspaper or keyboard, casually encroaching on whatever space was most central to his needs. She liked biting and scratching instead of talking to get his attention. Some owners have submissives, she thought, and some have slaves. You, Sir, have yourself a cat. I want to rub up against you, pretending your focus isn’t somewhere else. I want to demand you keep a hand free to stroke me, oblivious to your other obligations. I want to sleep in a sunbeam and stretch half the day, wander the house insolently, then settle in to find you’ve made me dinner. I have opinions. I’m the pet who owns you back.
“My tail,” she said pleasantly, “is not a toy.”
This subtle, sexy story is beautifully written, which I guess is a prerequisite for keeping my attention.
Finally, Giselle Renarde’s “Must Love Dolls” takes a rather ordinary premise and makes it extraordinarily sexy. When a couple splurges on a high-end Japanese sex doll, they discover they’ve embarked on a true three-way relationship.
Honor set the brush on the nightstand and slowly slid her hand down Natsuki’s soft shoulder and along her arm.
“You can touch her breasts,” Tom said, like he could read Honor’s mind. “She’s ours now, babe. You can touch wherever you like.”
Honor’s stomach knotted with nerves as she cupped one of Natsuki’s perky silicone breasts. She could hardly breathe as she carried that significant weight on her palm. It had been ages since she’d touched any breast but her own.
“How does it feel?” Tom asked.
“Heavy.” She sank onto the bed, wrapping her arms around the love doll, pressing both big breasts together and wishing she were naked too. “Her skin’s so soft. Her hair smells like lilies. God, I’ve missed this.”
“Playing with dolls?” Tom asked.
“Playing with women.”
He smiled. “I know, babe. Take off your top.”
Having sex with a mannequin definitely counts as kinky, but it’s the intensity of anticipation that makes this story so arousing.
Should you read Come Again? Probably, especially if you’re less picky than I am. Like all Cleis anthologies, it’s impeccably edited and beautifully presented. If you’re looking for brief, hot tales where the sex is front and center while other considerations retreat into the background, this book’s for you. On the other hand, if you’re crazy enough to want thematic complications or literary language, like me, you might want to pick up something else.
I didn’t enjoy this title. To my puritanical taste, the morality of the first story seemed skewed and the plot structure seemed convoluted. None of the other stories I read after that excited me. If you’re the author reading this, I apologise for not enjoying your work. If you’re an editor or a publisher of the title, you’re probably already familiar with my foibles.
Fred slowed his own jerky gyrations, entranced with the vacant stare of the voyeur. His sense of time altered, or ceased to exist. Back to the stare, the total existence of sexual being. “The Engrossment of Fred,” he’ll call it. He’ll call it that when out of his trance. When she has squealed her release. When she has screamed out to whatever gods that be to fuck her silly. For all the gods to fuck her as Fred fucked her that first time.
How he fucked her backwards in the cunt in the broad daylight under a tree near the last bus stop. How he fucked her, face against the trunk of the rough bark, mini-skirt folded up in back, panties stretched around her knees. Long gone was the hot purple dildo that she’d lost on the bus. The wet, sticky rod that maybe some kid found, or maybe somebody’s grandmother. And now Nancy fucked herself harder.
I come away from this with the impression that Daddy X has aspirations to be the Hunter S Thompson of erotica. As aspirations go I can admire that one. We all strive to emulate our heroes. But, as I’ve never been a fan of Hunter S Thompson, that’s probably one of the reasons I’ve not enjoyed this collection.
I appreciate that it’s close to sacrilege admitting to a dislike of Hunter S Thompson but I’ve always found Gonzo journalism to be uninteresting and obscenely unapologetic in the way it glamorises substance misuse. If I want to endure shit like that I might as well just go and chat with a local smackhead about how great it is giving five quid blowies to feed his habit.
“All tits and ass” is the term for women like Willow. “Like a brick shithouse,” or,
“Cantilevered bubblebutt hardbody fuck machine,” would also fit. But Willow’s singular appeal is in her thoughts, in her capacity for love. Our love, her can-do attitude—the acceptance of whatever might contribute to the package. My love, my lover, my Willow. My eternal, end-overend fun pack.
“You okay?” Tears must be questioned.
She nods a qualified yes then: “It hurts. But, it’s okay—hurts okay, you know.”
Leaning forward on my knees, I brush my mouth against hers. “I know—” The vibrations we sense on our lips speak louder than the words themselves.
Willow’s breath nuzzles my ear. “Push,” she suggests.
Tongues tangle as I comply with her wish. One long stare combines us in one another’s welling orbs.
As I said at the start of this review, I’m probably biased because of my lack of empathy for Hunter S Thompson and my pedantic enjoyment of cohesive description and chronological plot. I don’t doubt there will be far more intellectual readers than myself who find this book stimulating and engaging. One thing I did think was good in the book was the dedication:
Even though I didn’t enjoy the title I can’t argue with that sentiment and I salute Daddy X for honouring one of my favourite bastions of erotica with such a thoughtful mention. This wasn’t my ideal read but I can understand that there is likely a large readership desperate to enjoy The Gonzo Collection.
This volume is dedicated to Adrienne Benedicks, in appreciation for all the writers she has encouraged through the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.