Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Afternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay CouplesAfternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay Couples
Edited By: Shane Allison
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446580
June 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

"Happy families are all alike," according to Leo Tolstoy.  After reading Afternoon Pleasures, one might begin to wonder whether this is true of happy couples as well.

In this volume, Shane Allison has gathered seventeen explicit tales of gay sexual encounters, the preponderance involving men in long term relationships. True to its subtitle, the book serves up tale after cum-drenched tale about men enjoying each other's bodies. Quite a few of the authors interpret the book's title literally, writing of lust-filled, stolen afternoons in hotel rooms, trailers, log cabins, movie theaters or in one case, a museum.

This anthology includes some noteworthy stories. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it lacks variety. At least three quarters of the tales explore essentially the same scenario: a committed gay couple keeping the spark alive by inviting others into their sexual play, or by introducing new toys or activities, or by swapping roles. The style tends to be rather similar from one story to the next as well. With two exceptions, all the tales use a first person POV.  Big, hairy bears predominate. The sexual descriptions almost universally involve copious amounts of bodily fluids. I found it difficult to keep the stories separate in my mind because of these commonalities.

One of my favorite tales in the collection was "Public Displays of Affection" by Logan Zachary, humorous fantasy that nevertheless manages to be very hot. Couple Quentin and Casey are both employed by the same museum and have trouble keeping their hands off each other during working hours. The situation comes to a head, so to speak, when they take delivery of a dozen anatomically correct male mannequins intended for a costume exhibit. The well-hung dummies turn out to be ideal play partners. Things reach an unexpected crisis when the museum's most important donor unexpectedly shows up to inspect the new exhibition.

Kyle Lukoff's "Something Different" was another story that kept my attention. A sub discarded by his first master decides to try being dominant for a change. The beautiful FTM transsexual he encounters in the BDSM club is more change than he'd bargained for, but both participants in the scene find a connection beyond the physical pleasure.

Although it is based on a similar premise to many other tales in the book, I particularly enjoyed "One Afternoon in the Bible Belt" by Jeff Mann, because of its skillful use of language and dynamic characterization. The narrator's a burly bear, a hot-headed good 'ole Southern boy, but his partner is a lean, self-contained Yankee. The eager young submissive they make into their "boy" for the afternoon is equally distinct.

Pepper Espinoza's "Tokens" also deserves mention, not only for its vivid characters (I loved Jake, the laid-back Mediterranean bad boy who hides his corporate lover's shoes in order to keep the man in his bed), but also because it deals with the beginning of a serious relationship as opposed to one of long standing.

Overall, though, the stories in Afternoon Pleasures are forgettable, at least partly because they are so much alike. I suspect that this may reflect the editor's preferences. It makes sense that he would accept stories that he personally found arousing. It's possible that his target audience (gay couples) would agree with his choices, of course.

If you decide to read Afternoon Pleasures, by the way, do not miss Shane Allison's deeply personal  introduction, "Sex is a Cock-Ring Clad Angel." It's romantic, heartfelt and sexy all at the same time. Reading it, I have some sense of what Mr. Allison was trying to accomplish in this collection, and an uncomfortable feeling that maybe I'm looking at the book through too literary a lens.

If you're looking for commitment, happy endings, and lots of hot dick and ass, this may indeed be the book for you.

Ageless EroticaAgeless Erotica
Edited By: Joan Price
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580054412
February 2013

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

The theme of Ageless Erotica has a special appeal for me, and the Table of Contents has a high percentage of writers I’ve long admired, so I had high expectations. At the same time, I felt some trepidation as to its general appeal. When Joan Price starts her introduction with “Older folks still enjoy sex—boy do they!” my first reaction was, “Of course! Why would anyone doubt that?” But my next thought, which I’ll bet most of us share if only subconsciously, was, “But, well, how old? Do many people—okay, do I—really want to read erotica about them?” Then I read a few lines further to discover that she’s talking about “erotica by, for, and about women and men ages fifty to eighty-plus.”

FIFTY? Fifty isn’t old! But then I remembered doing a reading of Best Lesbian Erotica in NYC some years ago, and opening my turn by saying that I was there to prove that there’s life after fifty. I certainly knew then that some people, maybe even most people, do think of fifty as old. It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that our perception as to what constitutes old age keeps changing as we get older, always hovering some distance beyond wherever we are now. For that matter, our perception of what constitutes sex may undergo a certain degree of adjustment. But age brings experience, and no lack of imagination. Where there’s a will there are many creative ways, and yes, the will lives on, as intensely for the eighty-pluses as for those young fifty-ish whippersnappers.

I’m glad to report that the work in Ageless Erotica displays a lively variety that rings all the chimes you’d enjoy in any good assortment of erotica, as well as playing some new, ingenious, and ultra-seductive tunes. As with any anthology, some stories appeal more to me than others, and the order in which they appear leads me to think that the editor shares my taste, front-loading the book with some of the real standouts. The middle part, with several exceptions, has several perfectly okay pieces that just don’t have as much of the spark and flow of really good writing. Some of them lean more toward the informative than the seductive, telling more than they show, and after a while there gets to be some inevitable repetition. Toward the end, though, as a good editor should, Price gives us more of the beautifully crafted work that could appear in some of the best anthologies in the genre without being limited to the “ageless” theme, as, indeed, several of them have.

My favorites:

Erobintica leads off with “To Bed”, a sweet and poignant story of love between long-term married lovers that sets a high standard for the similar stories to come.

Dale Chase’s “Dolores Park” gives us a change of pace, where two aging gay men in San Francisco, after lives spent in the atmosphere of the too-prevalent focus on youth and fitness, share a bench by chance in the park and watch the buff boys go by. It begins with; “Nice butt,” says my bench companion, and ends, after the two have found something much deeper together, and are relaxing at peace with each other, with; Then I slide a hand onto his bottom. ‘Nice butt,’ I say. I do love well-rounded story arcs!
If you’re thinking of adding a new fetish to your sex play, Kate Dominic’s “Hand Jobs” may inspire you, unless you’re already an old hand at this one. A woman with arthritic fingers that always feel cold decides to start us both on track for a total glove fetish, which turns out to be a tactile treat and a thoroughly arousing success.

Doug Harrison’s “Smooth and Slippery” gives us a sympathetic and totally frank picture of how an aging man with age’s usual drawbacks maintains his own confidence and his much younger lover’s devotion, knowing the value of experience and expertise. He also broadened my education with detailed instructions on the use of a dick-pump, something of which I’d been only vaguely aware.

Tzaurah Litzky’s “Tony Tempo” is deeply touching, with perhaps the most memorable character of all, who says, I never thought I’d end up like this, in the Crescendo Home for Aged and Indigent Musicians—I, Tony Tempo, once known as the trumpet king of swing. I’m heading towards that last command performance. But he and his trumpet do still have at least one more command performance, thanks to a night nurse who’s old enough to remember when he was famous, and appreciates the man he still is.

There are too many more stories worth mentioning for me to go into as much detail as I’d like to. There’s fine work by Donna George Storey, Bill Noble, DL King (as soon as I saw her title, “Mr. Smith, Ms Jones Will See You Now”, I knew we’d be treated to one very well-seasoned dominatrix), Evvy Lynn (a jaguar of a lover—yum!), Cheyenne Blue, Rae Padilla Francoeur, Johnny Dragona, Erica Manfred (who won my heart with her My answer was a resounding yes, yes, yes, yes. A Molly Bloom of a yes--it’s a James Joyce thing--and Sue Katz. If I didn’t have a deadline I’d happily expound on any of these at length. In fact, as I scan the table of contents again and recall something of each story, I realize that any piece in this book could easily be someone’s favorite, or even mine, if I happened to be in the right mood at the right time.

If you, like me, have wondered whether you really want to read erotica about older people (whatever your definition of “older” may be). don’t worry. Age in these stories is a feature, not a bug, and you can take comfort in knowing that, like love, sex abides.

Alison's WonderlandAlison's Wonderland
Edited By: Alison Tyler
ISBN: 0373605455
July 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Within erotic fiction, the genre is constantly struggling against the restrictions imposed by societal taboos.  The three classic taboos in the genre are: incest, bestiality and underage relationships.  There are other taboos.  Non-consensual sex is a no-no.  Scatological sex is unwelcomed by most publishers (certainly, as written material, I’m not sure what most publishers get up to in the privacy of their own boardrooms).  Necrophilia comes under the heading of ‘illegal activities.’  The list could go on.  And it does.

And I mention it here because I’ve known publishers refuse fairy tale stories because, thematically, the idea broaches dangerous territory between adult material and that aimed for a younger audience.

This is, of course, all bullshit. 

It’s bullshit for several reasons.  If no one ever wrote about incest we would never have had a story like Wuthering Heights.  If no one touched on bestiality or necrophilia the concept behind the Twilight novels would be dead in the water.  If we all adhered to the strict rule regarding non-consensual sex, it would be near-on impossible to write a BDSM story of reluctant submission.

And, when publishers have told me that ‘fairy stories are for children, and erotica is for adults,’ I have bristled with righteous indignation at the stupidity of that notion. 

Historically, fairy stories are NOT for children.  Fairy tales are an integral part of our history of storytelling.  Stories have been in existence since before we began to learn to write or read.  The oral tradition of narratives (oral, as in spoken – not oral as in the fun way) has been an integral part of our literary heritage.  Camp elders would sit around tribal fires, mesmerizing audiences with stories that broached fantastic subjects and reinforced important moral and philosophical points.  These were the original fairy stories and they were never intended for children. 

Unfortunately, some publishers are too stupid to be aware of this distinction.  Fortunately, Spice Books and Alison Tyler seem to understand that fairy tales have always been intended for adults.

Not that Alison Tyler is alone in this understanding.  She’s managed to find more than two-dozen authors who share her kinky sense of fun.  In Alison’s Wonderland there are twenty-seven scintillating stories of fairy-tale shenanigans to set your red shoes tapping and make you wonder what might happen if you go down to the woods today. 

It should be noted here that, in excess of 100,000 words, Alison’s Wonderland is the largest collection of erotic stories that Alison Tyler has ever published.  It should also be noted that this one, possibly more than any other, contains some of the most celebrated names in the world of erotic fiction.

The collection opens with Nikki Magennis’s “The Red Shoes (Redux).”  Nikki Magennis is the author of Circus Excite and The New Rakes, and far too many short stories for me to list here.  “The Red Shoes (Redux)” is characteristic of her style for making the commonplace uncommonly sexy, and delivering sultry, poetic prose. 

This is quickly followed by Shanna Germain’s “Fools Gold”: a clever riff on the old story of “Rumpelstiltskin,” and Sommer Marsden’s witty re-imagining of a classic story with “The Three Billys.” Germain writes raw sex appeal that consistently excites and satisfies.  Marsden excels at blending humour and hedonism in this contemporary revisit to classical territory.  Both authors contribute to the superb quality of this collection and make it easy to brand the book as unputdownable.

The fairy queen in Portia Da Costa’s “Unveiling His Muse” reminds us that Da Costa has always had a command of short fiction despite her recent years producing novels.  In “Unveiling His Muse” she combines narrative and sexual tension to an incredible erotic effect.

And, in “Managers and Mermen,” Donna George Storey (author of Amorous Woman and innumerable erotic shorts) shows that she possesses an unrivalled mastery of erotic fantasy. 

This collection is a have-to-have anthology for every connoisseur of erotic fiction.  The table of contents reads like a who’s who of contemporary erotic writing and the quality of the stories in unsurpassable.  If you don’t already own Alison’s Wonderland, rush out and buy the book now.  This is one that you’re going to treasure for a long, long time as you enjoy your happily ever afters.

American Casanova: The New Adventures of the Legendary LoverAmerican Casanova: The New Adventures of the Legendary Lover
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Contributions By: M.Christian, Michael Crawley, Carole Ann Davis, O'Neil De Noux, Stella Duffy, Sonia Florens, Mike Hemmingson, Vicki Hendricks, Thomas S. Roche, Mitzi Szereto, Lucy Taylor, Matt Thorne, Mark Timlin, Sage Vivant, Molly Weatherfield
Thunder's Mouth Press
ISBN: 1560257660
May, 2006

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

What happens when you begin an erotic novel with a fascinating and provocative premise, and then invite some of the most prominent authors in the genre to serially contribute individual chapters? The result could be inspired chaos, a kaleidoscope of erotic visions and fractal views of the main characters through the lens of each writer's unique style. Alternatively, the novel could end up as an incoherent and annoying muddle. Unfortunately, American Casanova is more the latter than the former, though it does offer occasional flashes of brilliance.

Maxim Jakubowski sets the stage and introduces the protagonist in the intriguing first chapter. Giacomo Casanova, burdened by the decrepitude of old age and the bitterness of lost loves, drifts into deathly sleep in Venice in 1798 and awakens in 2005. Reveling in his renewed vigor and youth, he immediately resumes his old ways by seducing an apparently innocent Italian girl who works at the local cafe. Christiana mentors him in the strange and outrageous ways of the modern world, as well as regaling him with the pleasures of her flesh. She accompanies him to a mysterious private party where the sexual excess of the guests shocks even his debauched sensibilities. It is here, at this lascivious ball, that Casanova first glimpses the intoxicating woman he calls Athena, leashed and collared, clearly a slave, yet with a beauty and presence that pierces even his jaded heart. As Athena disappears, he vows to find her and make her his own, thus beginning the quest that will drive (albeit in fits and starts) the novel to its conclusion.

The first few chapters unwind themselves in a reasonably consistent and satisfying fashion. Christiana helps Casanova discover the source of his invitation to the ball, the enigmatic Power Company. When he makes his way to their headquarters to confront them, he is drugged and abducted. He wakes on an enormous ship, a sort of floating dungeon, where he is forced to watch Athena being abused and debauched, even as he himself provides perverse entertainment for the ship's passengers. Christiana reveals herself to be no innocent, but a lustful slut who tops and bottoms with equal zest.

The ship docks in Key West, where Casanova escapes and nearly drowns. By the time he makes land, he finds that Athena (or O, as she turns out to be named) is being auctioned to a vicious punk rocker, Toby Faith. Along with D, one of the slaves from the dungeon ship, and with the help of a local cowboy, Casanova pursues Faith's caravan, driven by his need to possess O.

At this point, the narrative begins to fall apart, careening wildly from Key West to New Orleans to Seattle to San Francisco and finally to New York. Each subsequent chapter introduces new minor characters, who pop in and out of the story, changing roles and tugging the flow of the tale out of its main channel and into weird, distracting eddies.

Mark Timlin's chapter begins the dissolution by starting to tell the story from O's point of view. Before too long, there is also a thread narrated from D's perspective. We lose the pleasure of seeing the modern world and its sexual extremes through the eyes of Casanova, a cultured gentleman from another era as well as a sexual predator, and with that loss, much of the grace and intrigue of the tale.

Mitzi Szereto violates the perfect image of O by turning her into an idiot. She sends O on a benighted quest for enlightenment, seeking a God that she identifies with Kurt Cobain among bemused drug addicts and religious fanatics in Seattle. Then Michael Hemmingson's chapter layers on the wretchedness, filth and degradation in his characteristic neo-Beat style.

The plot thickens to the consistency of sludge as new chapters introduce yet another secret society, The Order, which exists to liberate and rehabilitate slaves from the clutches of the Power Company. D, Christiana, and various other characters reveal themselves to be double, or perhaps even triple agents, in this worldwide battle for flesh and souls. Casanova (who has by this time become almost passive, suffering lust and torment as he again and again catches up with O only to lose her) realizes that he has been brought back to life by the Power Company for some obscure purpose. This intriguing concept, alas, is never elucidated, although we discover by the end of the novel that O is also a revenant, the famous submissive of Roissy who has been brought to life in the new millennium after an untimely death in the 1950's.

Maxim Jakubowski makes a valiant attempt to tie up loose ends in the final chapter, which includes dark echoes typical of his writing. The final scene returns to Venice, with satisfying unity that is sorely lacking in much of the book.

As a single narrative, American Casanova lacks coherence and focus. On the other hand, from such an assemblage of erotic luminaries I would expect some beautiful, disturbing or evocative writing, and I was not wholly disappointed. Thomas S. Roche delivers an arresting chapter in which an aroused and conflicted Casanova chastises O and wins her devotion. John Grant's chapter includes one of the most intense sex scenes in the book, a coupling between Casanova and Croy, the in-your-face black DJ/chauffeur/body guard who works for the Order. And Sage Vivant's chapter, early in the book, provides a deliciously ambiguous encounter between Casanova and a woman who might, or might not, be a resurrected ex-lover from his own time.

I was ultimately disappointed by American Casanova. I can't help but wonder about the motivations of some of the authors as they fashioned their chapters. Building on someone else's plot twists and characters must be quite difficult, but I know from past reading experience that these writers could have done better. I had the sense that some contributors were playing a game in which each tried to outdo predecessors in offering ever wilder and more outrageous characters, events and interpretations. Certainly, in many cases, there seemed to be little consideration paid to the narrative as a whole.

Although the cover glosses the book as "An erotic novel directed by Maxim Jakubowski", it's clear that he exercised very little direction over his contributors. The result is a novel that I suspect is quite different from what Maxim imagined, based on the glimpses provided by his initial and final chapters. That novel, I think, I would have greatly enjoyed.

Anything for You: Erotica for Kinky CouplesAnything for You: Erotica for Kinky Couples
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448133
August 2012

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

With the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey, it's inevitable that new fans of erotica will start looking around for more BDSM to whet their appetites. (Not that BDSM and kink are the same thing, but let's not get too pedantic) Anything for You is the kind of book I hope they'll pick up. Interesting characters, kink of all kinds, and yes, even a touch of romance because the focus here is on couples who play well together, in a very naughty sense.

When I open a book and see this sort of line up of contributors, I know I'm in for treats. 

Like Riding a Bicycle • Lisabet Sarai
Borrower Beware • Heidi Champa
Anything She Wanted • Neil Gavriel
Tails • Deborah Castellano
Teppanyaki • Janine Ashbless
Greasing the Wheels • Madlyn March
Interview • Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde
I Tend to Her • Justine Elyot
Apple Blossoms • Emerald
Big Night • D. L. King
The Guest Star • Sinclair Sexsmith
Exposure • Elizabeth Coldwell
New Games on a Saturday Night • Teresa Noelle Roberts
Notes from Her Master • Kathleen Tudor
Lap It Up • Kay Jaybee
What If • Angela R. Sargenti
Petting Zoo • Rachel Kramer Bussel
Normal • Charlotte Stein
Everything She’d Always Wanted • Ariel Graham

Look at these writers! Lisabet Sarai, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussell, Chalotte Stein, D.L. King, Emerald, Janine Ashbless, Heidi Champa, Kay Jaybee, Sinclair Sexsmith... It's like picking an all-star team roster from the erotica hall of fame. Or is that infamy? 

But that presents a quandary as I usually talk about a couple stories in an anthology that stood out, when every single one of their stories is worthy of mention. So do I talk about the names I recognize, or do I feature names I don't know as well or are new to me and talk about their equally wonderful work? Sorry all-stars. You know I love and admire your work, and your stories in this anthology were all examples of why I seek out your names. But let's be honest, many of you are my friends or at last friendly acquaintances and none of us like the feeling of a closed club, especially when it comes to shout-outs in reviews. So here are the writers I'll be looking for in the future:

“Interview”by Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde isn't written as a regular prose story. A slave and his mistress trade off sections where they talk about their relationship. You get the story of how they met and how their relationship evolved. What I enjoyed the most though was how healthy this relationship comes across. Anyone who thinks BDSM is abusive would have second thoughts after seeing the affection between these two. Toward the end of the story there's a revelation that shocks the slave, but from everything that came before, you know it isn't going to change the core of this solid and loving relationship.

“Anything She Wanted”by Neil Gavriel started with one of the best opening lines in this anthology and just got better from there. I love a story with a sparkling sense of wit. From later in the story:

It’s one thing to fantasize about it, to dream of what your girlfriend would do with your ass if she could only read your dirty mind, but it’s another when you’re faced with seven inches of pink reality strapped to her pelvis. 

Hah! Now you have to read more, don't you? The power dynamic between this couple is sexy and fun as they discover and experiment together.

Some of you are going to have a lovely time reading Elizabeth Coldwell's “Exposure.” Older woman, younger man. She's clothed, he's naked. And her friends are over for drinks. It isn't my fantasy, but it's sure a fun one. Who wouldn't want a buff young stud to rub your feet when you get home from work? Hmm. I may have to rethink that "not my fantasy" bit.

“Tails” by Deborah Castellano features a couple with sexual fluidity that's refreshing and just genderqueer enough to pique my interest. “Greasing the Wheels” by Madlyn March is a revenge tale, sort of, with a few twists. “I Tend to Her” by Justine Elyot has light medical play, a very nice and welcome bit of kink just when I thought every story in the anthology was going to be BDSM. “Notes from her Master” by Kathleen Tudor is sort of Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the woods – if the woods is an airplane, the crumbs are notes from her master in the sub's book and carry on, and the witch's house is... Okay, it's not Hansel and Gretel at all but it is a high-flying fantasy. If you're into the art of the slow tease, and some near-food fetish, then “What If”by Angela R. Sargenti is going to be a story you relish. (I really didn't write that terrible pun on purpose.) And for those of you who can't get enough of collared slaves being pushed to their limits by a master, read “Everything She’d Always Wanted”by Ariel Graham.

You know those car commercials where they say things like "Professional driver. Do NOT try this at home?" Yeah. About that. Many of these stories have something you could try at home with your lover. So if you find yourself squirming over a passage in a good way, maybe you should. And who better to play with than your other half, your significant other, your willing and obedient slave?

Appetites: Tales of Lesbian LustAppetites: Tales of Lesbian Lust
Edited By: Ily Goyanes
The Liz McMullen Show Publications
ISBN: 0692363688
February 2015

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

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.         

Baby Got Back: Anal EroticaBaby Got Back: Anal Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449628
September 2013

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Q: What’s the difference between oral sex and anal sex?
A: Oral sex can make your day. But anal sex can make your whole week.

OK. I know it’s an old gag. But it still makes me smile. And I reiterate it here because this anthology, depending on how quickly you read, is likely to make your whole week. Maybe even your whole month.

The book comes from Cleis Press – market leaders in producing well-written erotica for discerning readers. The book has been edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel – an editor who knows how to collate, edit and balance a collection of dedicated erotic fiction. And the content has been written by some of the most respected names in current erotic writing, including DL King, Tenille Brown, Emerald, Erobintica, Thomas S Roche and Laura Antoniou (amongst many others).

Ordinarily I’d dip between stories in an anthology and share a little from this one and a little from another. But, rather than spoil any surprises, I thought it would be more appropriate to consider a single story. Randomly, I selected ‘Everybody Knows’ by Giselle Renarde.

You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?

That’s me, sitting on this faux-velvet seat, smelling like come and feeling so conspicuous I could hang myself. The scent doesn’t go away. It sticks to your hair, doesn’t it? And your skin.

Sex is in my aura, gossiping with other passengers, telling them things that aren’t true. I’m not a slut or a whore, though I’ve been called those names too many times to count.

There’s a guy all in black standing by the doors. I know he’s looking at me while I pretend to read subway posters. Every so often, I glance his way, really subtly, catching outlines of his bulky body. I imagine shouting, “What are you staring at, motherfucker?” but I second-guess myself. Maybe he’s not looking at me. Maybe I’m wrong. Hey, it happens.

I loved this opening. Renarde’s narrator is directly addressing me, the reader, which suggests an elevated level of intimacy – ideal for a story that touches on the elevated levels of intimacy associated with anal erotica. The characters are well-drawn. The backstory, although only present in allusion, is lingering here from the opening lines. “You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?”
The quality of the writing continues to excite and intrigue. This is a description of Asher, being observed by our narrator Stephanie:

There’s so much pain in his storm-gray eyes. He’s huge, and still he seems beaten down, like the world won’t stop trampling him. I don’t really know what to say, or how to make him feel better, so I kiss him.

He pulls away, and I feel like an ass.

My heart is pounding in my ears, and I stare at the swirls of chocolate sauce on my fancy-ass latte. I always move too fast with guys. I jump in with both feet—except with Yaro and Mike.

Renarde is setting us up for a delightful anal romp later in the story and the cues are all here. More importantly, we get a convincing sense of Asher, with the storm-gray eyes and beaten down by a world that won’t stop trampling him. Even that unemotional refusal of Stephanie’s kiss makes this character compelling and vivid and wholly believable.

Then there’s the sex.

His skin tastes like anxiety. It’s a vibration between us. I wish I knew how to put him at ease, but I don’t so I keep sucking his fingers until his breath grows shallow and his eyes burn dark.

He pulls his fingers from between my lips and kisses me. Now I’m the one who can’t breathe. I always imagined him kissing me softly, but this isn’t soft. He cups the back of my head in one big hand and crushes my mouth with his. I can’t catch my breath. His tongue is battling mine.

There’s a warmth in my belly and it moves down my thighs as Asher backs me into his bedroom. He’s neat and tidy and he doesn’t smell bad, and I love that about him. I love everything about him.

“His skin tastes like anxiety.” There’s poetry in this description that elevates this writing from above the mechanical to something that reminds us that sex is a revered act. Renarde’s narrator describes intimacy with the skill of an expert storyteller who has gained the trust of the reader with an honest and credible voice from the opening lines.

The standard of writing through this anthology remains consistently high. The focus on anal intercourse is made clear in the title and subtitle. And each writer delivers content that is exciting, competently presented and a pleasure to read.

Bad Romance: Bad Romance:
Edited By: Robin Wolfe
Freaky Fountain Press
February 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

These days romance rules the publishing world. Romance is the fastest growing segment of the industry. Every day, it seems, a new romance e-publisher opens calls for submissions, hoping to cash in on the romance bonanza. I just read (I'm writing this review in May) that has announced their very own romance imprint.

The romance genre has diversified and matured, admitting explicit sex, kink, GLBT characters, ménage and more. It has become far less stereotyped and constrained than it was even a decade ago. However, one firm requirement remains, written more or less in stone. All romance must have a happy ending. The protagonists must overcome the obstacles that separate them and have at least some prospect of a delightful future in each other's arms. 

Of course, in the real world, relationships aren't necessarily like that. Furthermore, erotic intensity isn't necessarily linked to that sort of happy connection. Freaky Fountain's outstanding volume Bad Romance explores love affairs that would make the average romance author throw up her hands and run away screaming.

The contributors to this  collection aren't afraid to explore the darkest aspects of desire. They break taboos left and right. The book includes incest (both consensual and non-consensual), rape, physical abuse, humiliation, drugs, cutting and castration, as well as more conventional BDSM scenarios. It's not for the faint of heart. I do not believe that the authors were aiming at shock for its own sake, though. As suggested by the sub-title, these stories actually do focus on the relationships between the characters. The relationships may be painful, twisted, frustrating, even deadly, yet they still fulfill some need. The characters know they should walk away, but they don't. Lust, and sometimes love, overwhelms reason and they find a kind of release in spite of all the darkness.

Practically every story in the collection is exceptional in both conception and execution. Jeanette Grey opens the book with the amazing “Bleeding Red,” the story of a painter and his former model, how they devour and destroy each other but cannot let go:

There's the sound of glass on the pavement, the ground littered with tiny shards. I can still see them on the back of my eyelids as they close, and then instead of ice, there's heat. Groaning into a kiss I know will only hurt me, I stare into blackness and taste hot skin. I feel tongue and teeth, and I bite down on his bottom lip, exulting at the tang of copper salt.    

More subtle, but equally devastating, is Chris Guthries “Three Days in Summer.”  It begins with a woman begging for a man's attention and ends with her discarding him. Over the course of the story, the power shifts, as the woman satisfies her yearning to be abused and the man becomes dependent on her submission.

“Maleficent” by Lydia Nyx is probably the most depraved tale in the collection and yet one of the most arousing, in spite of its violence and copious bodily fluids of every sort. The story is a compelling reversal of the vampire-meets-soulmate trope so popular in normal romance. Homicide detective Darius is seduced by an infinitely cruel and kinky dancer in a club. In Jordan's presence, under his tutelage, Darius discovers how savage and perverted he can be. The bloody finale is horrible yet compellingly erotic.

Jordan dropped to his knees in front of him. A dull blue light shone down from somewhere up above – blue, like they were under water, drowning. The light gleamed on Jordan's hair and filled his freakish eyes...The light glinted on the silver rings Jordan wore – a skull, a cross, a jagged winged dragon. He watched Jordan's tongue slide around the head of his cock, the tip hard and pointed under the ridge, the flat caressing the rest, then all of it sliding past his lips, into the molten recess of his mouth. All sensations were amplified almost to the point of pain.

Not every story in Bad Romance reeks of this sort of drama and evil. Some, like Anya Wassenberg's “The Affair” and S.L. Johnson's “Love Letters” focus on the banal but very real pain of attraction in the face of incompatibility – the way we sometimes seek out exactly the wrong person. “Sam and Jessie” by Ben Murray is a funny tale of two lovers who fight constantly despite their mutual affection and lust, each striving for the upper hand. It remains humorous even when the real nature of their relationship is revealed. Maxine Marsh's “Coma” portrays a “relationship” between a bereaved doctor and a woman who is immobilized but retains some level of consciousness – a truly extreme case of being unable to communicate with one's lover. Ryder Collins' “Her Heart is a Screen Door, Too” is a strange, almost poetic description of a woman who is always victimized yet remains open to love:

These are the things that Homegirl remembers from that night; these are not the only things that happened and some of them may not have even happened because Homegirl's been so drunk she's hallucinated from the drink like Toulouse-motherfucking-Latrec at least twice before that night. So it's possible that some of it's all made up.

It's possible, but I know it's not made up.

One feature of this anthology that I particularly enjoyed were the “afterwards.”  Each story is followed by the author's bio, plus some comments on the genesis of the stories. I found some of these almost as fascinating as the tales themselves.

Bad Romance will not be to everyone's tastes. It will offend some readers, not only because of the extreme scenarios it portrays but also because it most definitely does not qualify as “sex-positive” erotica. I'm not really comfortable myself writing the sort of violent, dystopic tales featured in this collection. Actually, I feel a bit guilty that I enjoyed the book so much. But I couldn't help it. Bad Romance is both outrageously hot and a literary treat.

Bedding Down: A Collection of Winter EroticaBedding Down: A Collection of Winter Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
ISBN: 0061560634
December 2008

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Oh the weather in this book is frightful, but the romance is as warm as hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire. This collection of stories by seven mistresses of erotic romance would be an excellent Valentine’s Day present for the right reader, preferably accompanied by roses and chocolates.

These stories are all competently written, and the sex scenes are plausible and arousing. This reviewer wouldn’t expect anything less from the writers assembled here. However, the theme tends to restrict the plots of these stories, each of which focuses on a woman in love with a man – in some cases, since childhood.

In several stories, the heroine is conveniently trapped with the man of her dreams in a confined space by the fury of nature. Having to face each other forces the hero and heroine to reveal their true feelings, which include mutual, irresistible desire. Several of these stories end with a promise of marriage, one ends with an agreement about childbearing, and several end with a hope that geographically-challenged lovers will agree to live together in one place for the rest of their lives.

To a large extent, these stories are driven by the romance formula rather than by the characters. Personal misunderstandings keep the lovers apart until a climactic moment, while most social and political conflicts in the real world are kept out of the world of the story. Monogamy is an unquestioned ideal, and heterosexual identity is taken for granted.
Responsibility for housework and disagreements over money are nowhere to be seen.

My favorite story of the bunch is the whimsical “It’s Not the Weather” by Alison Tyler, whose erotic stories are often set in Los Angeles, in and around the unreal world of the movie biz. The heroine here is a weather girl (meteorologist) who first works with, then lives with, a moody scriptwriter from New York who prefers the four distinct seasons of the U.S. east coast to the endless sunshine of southern California. The weather girl is so tired of revolving-door relationships and so determined to make this one work that she goes far out of her way to help her boyfriend feel at home and ready for sex, even after she learns that he is using her as comic inspiration. In due course, she gets the happy ending she deserves.

This story shows a witty approach to the seasonal theme of this collection and to the broader theme of heterosexual romance, yet it doesn’t break the conventions. Alison Tyler’s characteristic light touch prevents the heroine’s dilemma from descending into melodrama.

Subterfuges and plot devices that show the hand of Fate are too prevalent for my taste in several of the other stories. In “One Winter Night” by Kristina Wright, Susannah returns to her home town for her sister’s wedding after having left in a blaze of scandal, several years before. She protects her pride by pretending to be respectably married, even though she is divorced.

Susannah’s strategy makes sense when she arrives in town, wondering if the other townsfolk still see her as a Scarlet Woman who has returned to cause trouble. However, the revelation that Susannah (neat use of the name of a slandered Biblical heroine) is able to form a “legitimate” relationship with her former lover, now single and determined to win her back, only occurs near the end of the story, when it is too clearly intended as a means of removing the last barrier to a happy ending. Why Susannah would continue keeping her secret when she has every reason to admit the truth is unclear and unconvincing.

In “Hidden Treasure” by Sophie Mouette, a security guard and a tour guide in period costumes are conveniently trapped by a storm in an historic mansion. So far, so promising. However, two clownish intruders break in to retrieve the “treasure” promised to one of them by his deceased grandmother. When the “treasure” influences the budding affair between the guard and the guide, the reader’s credibility is stretched to its limits.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Marilyn Jaye Lewis and “Northern Exposure” by Isabelle Gray are both grittier stories about clashing desires in marriages based on love. In Lewis’ story, a chronic disagreement about when (whether) to have a first baby gets neatly resolved, and the reader can only hope that there will be no long-term resentment as a result. Isabelle Gray’s story is probably the most heartbreaking in the collection, and it looks like a serious response to Alison Tyler’s story about lovers who each want to live in a different physical and cultural milieu.

“Six Weeks on Sunrise Mountain, Colorado” by Gwen Masters is literally a cliff-hanger. The plot premise (celebrity recluse rescues the journalist who tracked him down in the wilderness) is one of the most unusual and dramatic in the book. Here is the first meeting of the hermit on the mountain and the woman who has risked her life to find him:

He found the woman at the foot of the ravine. Even in the moonlight, she looked pale as a ghost. Blood covered her forehead and a bruise was already flowering under her right eye.

Luckily, healing of various kinds takes place during six weeks of hibernation in a snowbound cabin, when the man and woman come to know each other. 

“Sweet Season” by Shanna Germain includes the most creative sex scene in the book, in which seduction accompanies a hands-on lesson in turning sap into maple syrup. The sights, sounds and smell of the setting are almost palpable. The author’s bio explains: “Shanna Germain grew up in upstate New York with a pitchfork in her hand, maple syrup on her tongue, and more first loves than she can count.”

This collection would certainly appeal to lovers of traditional romance with explicit sex, but it is uneven. Unfortunately, the restrictions of the genre result in some awkward and predictable writing strategies. The diverse and changing nature of heterosexuality in the real world provides plenty of raw material for fiction. The static world of romantic cliché leaves me cold.

Best Bondage Erotica 2011Best Bondage Erotica 2011
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344426X
December 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Rachel Kramer Bussel offers this year's best bondage erotica in an anthology sure to excite your senses.

If you're a fan of female submission, there are many stories here for you. “The Long Way Home” by Elizabeth Coldwell leads off the anthology. “His Little Apprentice” by the UK's fabulous Jacqueline Applebee, “Foreign Exchange” by Evan Mora, “Closeted” by Emily Bingham, “Vegas Treat” by Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Cartographer” by Angela Caperton, “How the Mermaid Got Her Tail Back” by Andrea Dale, “Stocks and Bonds” by Rita Winchester which is a delightful story of a couple at play, “The Rainmaker” by Elizabeth Daniels, Teresa Noelle Robert's tactile and sensual “Do You See What I Feel” will all thrill fans of that scenario. “Truss Issues” by Lux Zakari closes out the book. One or many of these are sure to please anyone into female submission.

Janine Ashbless offers an interesting tale where the man is bound, but he still manages to get inside of the head of a young woman on the verge of discovering her sexuality in “The Ingénue.” “Reasoning” by Tenille Brown is a stand out story of a woman simply fed up with her boyfriend's behavior. Lisabet Sari's “Wired” is another tale of a woman dominating a man, with some ingenious use of workplace items for bondage. In the “Lady or the Tiger” by Bill Kte-pi, who is dominating who is up for you to decide. Jennifer Peters finds an inventive use of saran wrap in the delightful “Sealed for Freshness.

There are a few lesbian tales in this anthology, including Dusty Horn's “Subdue,” “The Apiary”by Megan Butcher, and my favorite offering, “Helen Lay Bound” by Suzanne V. Slate.

For fans of voyeurism and male on male action, Emerald offers “Relative Anonymity.”  

There's a little of everything here for fans of bondage. I recognized many of the contributors and found some new names to look for in the future, which is always a joy. From traditional restraints - stocks, corsets, and shackles - to everyday items turned to exciting and inventive uses - saran wrap, wire cables - there's a lot here to get your kinky mind whirling on the possibilities.  

Best Bondage Erotica 2012Best Bondage Erotica 2012
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447544
December 2011

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Best Bondage Erotica 2012 is a sizzling collection of twenty one exciting, erotic bondage stories from a plethora of talented authors.  Familiar names include the incredible Elizabeth Coldwell, the wonderful Kay Jaybee and the sensational Teresa Noelle Roberts.

It’s a superb collection that contains something for everyone from those who are new to the idea of bondage through to those who are seasoned professionals with a length of rope and a willing partner.

This is from “Melting Ice” by Shoshanna Evers.

Amanda stripped off her slacks and cotton button-down blouse, kicking off her low heels. Sitting tucked away in her underwear drawer was her favorite toy: a pink dildo with rolling beads in the perfect place, and an attached clit vibrator that looked like a bunny, the long bunny ears buzzing to life and the entire dildo rotating enticingly as she flicked on the wireless remote, checking the batteries. She shut it off. Save it, she thought. For the bondage.

There was no need for lube; she was so wet the length of the dildo slid inside her easily even as it stretched her. Next she pulled her tightest jeans over her naked cunt, trapping the vibrator in place against her flesh. Holding the grey wireless remote in her hand, she brought it with the handcuffs over to the bed.

Amanda in this story is eager to experiment with solitary bondage. Not knowing Evers as a writer, and because this story is first in the book, I thought there was an air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with the narrative. To me, it felt like the same air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with any bondage encounter.

Is this going to end well? Will Amanda be safe and satisfied? Rather than answering those questions and spoiling the tension of the story, it’s enough for me to say I shall now be looking out for more of Evers’s work.

This is from “Cumaná” by Helen Sedgwick.

First he lifted my left hand. I felt rope tighten against my skin. He pulled my arm up to the top corner of the bed, securing it somehow. I held out my other hand obediently, and he guided it toward the other corner, fastening more of the rope around my wrist. I lay there, waiting, tensing against the knots that secured my hands above my head. One by one he took my ankles and pointed my feet to the corners of the bed, spreading my legs wide open. Moving slowly, deliberately, he tied them down. I strained against the rope, but it was tight. He made no sounds, no more movements. My heart was racing.

Aside from illustrating the exquisite quality of writing, both these examples show that the core appeal to bondage is the relinquishment of control. Bondage is about an embracement of helplessness. Bondage is an investment in the trust of a sexual partner to deliver satisfaction. This is a recurrent concept illustrated in the following example from Valerie Alexander’s “Insurrection.”

I waited breathlessly for it then. Instead he walked around me, studying my body. Then he pulled up my bottoms, untied my wrists and tossed my bikini top at me, walking away before I’d even put it on. I showed up at his cottage that night and begged him to fuck me. Begged for real for the very first time, shameless, desperate and horny.

He’d just shrugged and smiled like sure, he’d do me a favor, and tied my hands behind my back. Then he pushed me face first into his sofa, lifted up my miniskirt, and fucked me from behind while I bucked and screamed with the hardest orgasm of my life.

And the theme of control is illustrated equally well in the psychological bondage demonstrated in Billey Thorunn’s excellent story “Pawns.”

She was his for two hours. No quickly checking her email, no getting a glass of water, no nothing without his permission or instruction.

So now she was in the kitchen, wearing red patent-leather pumps and a checkered blue apron over a clingy black teddy. She’d done up her makeup as she would if she was “getting slutty to go out,” and Gabriel had done her hair that morning, standing in front of her while she lay on her back in bed. He’d pushed into both her and the mattress, back and forth until he came, leaving both her hair and the sheets sweaty and disheveled.

Every story in this collection is hot, passionate and exciting. Each of them explores a facet of bondage in a way that makes the whole idea of sexual torment and restriction sound irresistible and appealing. For anyone who has never experimented with the thrill of restraint, this collection of stories provides a taste of every risk you’ve been missing.

In the foreword to this book, Midori asks:

But what’s life if not lived with some risk? Behind every reason for avoidance of erotic adventure and sensual fulfillment lies fear. What do you fear? Does the thought of unbridled pleasure frighten you?

If the thought of unbridled pleasure does frighten you, then avoid this book at all costs. If however, you’re intrigued by the prospect of relinquishing control and enduring unbridled pleasure, Best Bondage Erotica 2012 could be the ideal way to start the New Year.

Best Bondage Erotica 2013Best Bondage Erotica 2013
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Contributions By: Graydancer
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448974
December 2012

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

In the wonderful introduction to Best Bondage Erotica 2013, Graydancer promises truth – truth that can be embarrassing or uncomfortable as well as thrilling, truth that transcends the overt activities of bondage and discipline celebrated in this collection. I gave a mental nod, understanding the point exactly. I know, from personal experience, how deliberately choosing restraint can shatter fears and defenses, deliver new insights, rearrange reality. I was eager to dive into the book, anticipating more than just the clever and creative kink Ms. Bussel reliably delivers in her anthologies.

Best Bondage Erotica 2013 partially fulfills Graydancer's promise. Some of the tales touched me deeply. Some of the others left me feeling a bit cheated, focused as they were more on the actions of bondage and submission than on the emotional impact.

Of course, after the introduction, I had, perhaps, unrealistic expectations.

I particularly appreciated Valerie Alexander's “The Moons of Mars,” about a non-traditional relationship between a charismatic gay astronomy professor and his female assistant, who is hopelessly in love with him. Their strange accommodation partially fulfills the fantasies of each, and in the process binds them more closely to one another than most lovers.

I also loved“Public Spectacle” by D.L. King, an exquisite vignette that provides an inner snapshot of a female dominant using her slave in public, highlighting the love and trust that illumine the humiliation and pain.

I can sense the people around us. I know they can feel the transformation too. They have seen the plain Jane you wouldn't look twice at on the street transformed into an object of desire. As her submission deepens, she will become even more desirable, and I will become even more desirous of her.

Evan Mora's “You Can Look...” is another deliciously depraved F/f tale in which the most important bonds are the ones that connect the dominant and submissive protagonists.

“Tying the Knot” by Tiffany Reisz, in which a dominant fiancé is summoned on the eve of the wedding to remind his frantic and nervous betrothed what's really important, uses humor to expose the way submission can be a mechanism for coping. 

War is a terrible truth. Three of the twenty two stories in the collection have military themes. All deal, in different ways, with the healing power of BDSM.  In “This is Me Holding You,” by Annabeth Leong, a female soldier struggles with guilt, fear and incipient despair as she prepares to return to duty. Andrea Dale's moving tale “Steadfast” features a heroine trying to reawaken the desire for dominance in her wounded, Iraq-veteran husband. Louise Blaydon explores the out-of-time quality of BDSM encounters with her story “Interlude for the Troops,” in which an Army captain seeks the solace of surrender with one of his comrades.

Peter says nothing, but then,Tom doesn't expect him to. They both know that. His hands are bound at the small of his back with a length of rope that rasps at the skin, and the position thrusts his shoulder blades up and out painfully, like thwarted stubs of wings. The floor of Tom's little medic's hut is hard and unyielding under his knees and yet, somehow, these are comforting pains, compassionate hardships. Tom controls them, after all. It is out of Peter's hands.

The original bondage in Giselle Renarde's “Tree Hugger” involves bungee cords and a huge, rough-barked tree trunk. Ms. Renarde's vivid descriptions pulled me into the story, even as the sensations bring her protagonist into a new kind of communion with nature, and her lover.

“Passion Party Purgatory” by Logan Zachary stands in a category of its own. This totally filthy, over-the-top fantasy (that's a compliment!) features a sadistic and highly inventive host (Charles) who “entertains” the husbands of his wife's friends in his basement recreation room while the women are upstairs enjoying a Tupperware-type sex-toy party. Is there truth here? I suppose the fact that the Charles' straight-as-an-arrow victims discover that they're aroused by bondage, pain and homoerotic activity might count as a revelation. Anyway, the story definitely made me sweat.

The editor's own story “Foot and Mouth” concludes the collection. Rachel Kramer Bussel paints a chilling but arousing portrait of deep masochism and its perverse satisfactions.  

It's not the wealth of lovers he's had before me on whom he's honed his Dominant skills, either. It's that he wants each time to be better than the last. He wants it to matter. He wants me to feel it not just on the tender surface of my skin but inside, deep down, all the way, where it counts. When he takes out his knife and traces it along the swell of my breast, he wants me to wonder, even for a split second, if he'll be careless – or, worse, careful – and break the skin. He wants me to wonder, when he tells me he's bringing guests while I'm all trussed up, if he really is, and how many. He wants me to be uncertain whether he'd actually try to get his gigantic fingers insight my tight but eager ass without lube.

Ms. Bussel's truth is uncomfortable indeed – both literally and figuratively – and yet in it's own way transcendent. I couldn't identify with the particular physical torments her Dom inflicts, but I definitely recognized the emotions.

Overall, Best Bondage Erotica 2013 offers BDSM aficionados a wealth of kinky fun – with sufficient instances of deeper insight to satisfy even a picky reader like me.

Best Bondage Erotica 2015Best Bondage Erotica 2015
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780890
February 2015

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Left to my thoughts, my arousal subsides some when I think about how close my body is to where the chairs are placed. The table is rather small; all they would have to do is reach over slightly to touch me. I am chained up, completely adorned, and any number of men are coming to sit at the table that I am the centrepiece of. He has bound almost every part of my body.

My anus and nipples burn but the feeling spreading through my body from those places is amazing. I feel like I am on fire in the best possible way. If the gag weren’t in my mouth, they would hear my harsh pants when they arrive. I remind myself to breathe slow and steady.

“The Centrepiece”, Erin Spillane

From reading the title it would look like there are three good reasons to purchase a copy of Best Bondage Erotica 2015

The foremost reason for making this purchase is that it’s erotica – and erotica is always worth purchasing. It’s a genre of fiction that depends, for success, on arousing a physical response from readers through the descriptive passages of text. There is no other genre that does this as effectively as erotica.

Secondly, and probably of equal importance to the first point, the book focuses on bondage.  If you’re going to have a sexual deviance, bondage is currently in vogue thanks to the alleged BDSM undertones of Fifty Shades of Grey. (This is not to detract from the pleasures of bondage by associating it with that particular book.  If someone asked me whether I’d rather be tied up and violently fucked, or read FOSG again, I’d be holding out my wrists and offering to share my knowledge on knots).

Thirdly, and again of equal importance to the other points, this collection showcases talents that are rightly presented as THE BEST.  This is why the book is called Best Bondage Erotica 2015.

Christie stared at the hook in her skin, clenching tight to Mac’s hand, watching the man slide the shiny curve into position in the freshly pierced hunk of flesh before moving on. She came back to herself after a moment, looking around as if she’d just woken, her whole body tingling with a mix of pain and excitement.

“Doll,” Mac leaned in, “are you okay?”

“I…” Christie watched, rapt, as the other attendant did the same, popping the hook through her skin so she was symmetrical again.

“You what?”

Christie looked at him, a slow smile spreading over her face, a tightness spooling in her chest, identical to the winding beginnings of arousal. She bit her lip and fought the urge to grind her naked cunt against the plastic-covered seat. “I thought there’d be more blood, that’s all.”

“In Suspense”, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

Best Bondage Erotica 2015 contains lots of familiar authors as well as a handful of names that are less familiar. Once again it shows that, when Cleis chooses to do something properly, they can do it very well. The book also pushes boundaries with some very daring choices that move mainstream erotica up to the next level.

Someone raised his hand. “Four thousand!” the auctioneer said, pointing into the darkness beyond the lights. “Do I hear forty-five? Forty-four?”

More slaps against poor Sheila’s cunt. “Forty-four! Do I hear forty-five? Listen to those screams, folks. That could be yours! Forty-five! Forty-six?”

Sheila’s body was quivering, shaking from her sobs, but she stayed put.

Mistress Anna stopped her whipping, looked out toward the audience. She reached to Sheila’s upheld breast and wiped her finger across it. She held it up to the crowd, wet from Sheila’s tears, and placed her finger in her own mouth, tasting it. She seductively drew the finger from her lips. She lowered her hand to Sheila’s crotch, and showed her finger to the crowd again. It was glistening wet. Now she licked it, tongue extended, not taking it into her mouth this time. She stepped behind Sheila, and whipped her across her ass, hard, harder than she’d whipped either her tits or cunt. Sheila cried out accordingly, a loud, open mouthed moan, with her hands still supporting her breasts.

“It’s five or nothing, ladies and gentlemen,” the auctioneer said, and hands went up. “Five!

Do I hear fifty-five hundred?”

“Auction, In Quotation Marks”, LN Bey

If you love erotica, good writing and bondage this is the title you need to buy.

Best Fantastic Erotica: Volume 1Best Fantastic Erotica: Volume 1
Edited By: Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press
ISBN: 1885865600
November 2007

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Fantastic has several meanings.  In the context of Cecilia Tan's new anthology, the word refers to fiction which has elements of the supernatural or the futuristic.  At the same time, “fantastic” also serves as a superlative, a synonym to “wonderful,” “exceptional” or (in today's parlance) “awesome.”  I have no hesitation in using the word in its second sense to describe this collection.  Cecilia Tan and Circlet have winnowed down a set of more than five hundred submissions to present eighteen of the best erotic science fiction and fantasy stories that I, at least, have read in a long time.

This anthology is noteworthy both for its originality and its diversity.  The tales range from Arinn Dembo's exquisitely lyrical “Monsoon” to Thomas Roche's hilarious satire, “The Night the New Hog Croaked, Or the Lascivious Dr. Blonde: A Romance”.  Kal Cobalt's “The Lift” is pure cyberpunk, set in a world in which the lines between human and machine have become tragically blurred.  “The Caretaker,” by Fauna Sara, offers a deliciously traditional fantasy world inhabited by unicorns and their virgins.  “The Bridge,” Connie Wilkins' contribution, gives us a war-scarred veteran who encounters the mythical Green Man, while Catherine Lundoff's “Twilight” presents a sassy, modern half-vampire who meets her match in the sexy descendant of a legendary vampire slayer.

Several of the stories contemplate the distance, or lack thereof, between man and animal.  In Robert Knippenberg's “And What Rough Beasts,” a faddish treatment that allows humans to become part animal results in the gradual disappearance of homo sapiens. Jason Rubis' enigmatic and disturbing “Circe House” considers transformation from human to animal, from male to female and back, as a sort of extreme fetish.

Any contemporary volume of erotica is likely to include some BDSM, and this collection is no exception.  However, in the hands of these Circlet authors, the themes of surrender as a gateway to freedom; pain as a precursor to pleasure, become newly exciting.  Corbie Petulengro's “The Harrowing” concerns an evil sorceress who exacts a ransom of sexual servitude from a brave female warrior, teaching her young slave how to accept her craving for submission and suffering.  “Marked,” by Cody Nelson, one of my favorite stories in a book full of candidates, presents an odd plague that confers heightened sensuality and sensitivity upon its sufferers while at the same time condemning them to horrible pain if they touch each other.

“Zach forcefully unclenched his teeth and slowed his shallow breathing.  He rubbed his aching cock against the mattress and felt its steady throbbing.  He moved his hips rhythically under Brendan's hand.  He let the pain wash through him, felt its circuit flow from point of contact to point of contact, butt to belly to breast to arm to hand.  He felt the electric pricks and tingles and bites.  And he relaxed his mind and invited the pain in.

Something changed then.  The pain didn't go away and didn't abate, not one bit.  But it was no longer something to be feared and shunned.  It was searing and gorgeous and wonderful, and Zack found his body racked with laughing sobs at the joy of it.”

In the end, Zack is cured – only to realize that he still wants the lust and the pain that he has left behind.

There are many more wonderful stories in this volume.  “Music from My Bones,” by Anya Levin, explores a different kind of submission, in which a woman allows her body to be played as an instrument in a performance of sexual ecstasy.  Jean Roberta's “Smoke” entertains the notion that Lucifer was a woman, with all the attendant implications.  “Nocturnal Emissions,” by Joe Nobel, is a delightfully sensual chronicle of an elderly Christian priest in the sixteenth century who comes face to face with the old gods and his own suppressed carnal desires.

“The Gantlet,” by B. Lynch Black, offers a parable about the dangers of too much control, set in a classic sci-fi dystopia.  Renee M. Charles' “Opening the Veins of Jade” gives us oriental magic and feminine power.  Argus Marks' “Copperhead Renaissance” is a creepily erotic picture of mutual addiction.  “Venus Rising,” by Diane Kepler, takes us into the familiar territory of android sex toys, but adds an ironic twist.  Last, but hardly least, Carolyn and Steve Vakesh offer the clever, funny “Capture, Courting and Copulation: Contemporary Human Mating Rituals and the Etiology of Human Aggression”, part of the dissertation research of a young dragon sociobiologist.  (“We are educated, politically correct dragons.  We do not eat humans anymore.”)

Normally when I review anthologies, I don't mention every story.  Usually there are at least one or two that are better left in the dark.  Often I want to allow the readers to discover some of the tales on their own.  In the case of this collection, every author deserves a mention, for all of the tales are exceptional for their craft as well as their creativity.

Best Fantastic Erotica is, indeed, fantastic.  I'm hardly surprised, since every Circlet anthology that I have read or reviewed deserves the superlative.  For Cecilia Tan, every Circlet Press book is a personal labor of love.  It shows.

Best Gay Bondage EroticaBest Gay Bondage Erotica
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443166
June 2008

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I’ve been reviewing erotica for more than six years. During that period, I’ve probably read and passed judgment on at least fifty titles. (I’ll know exactly one of these days, when I finally find the time to update the publishing history page on my web site!) I wouldn’t be surprised if a quarter of these titles began with “Best”. Sometimes I wonder whether anthology editors or publishers just lack originality. Wouldn’t “Worst Bisexual Alien Leather Erotica” attract more attention?

Seriously, though, when I open another “Best” collection, I tend to do so with a barely suppressed sigh. Rarely, in my experience, do erotica anthologies deserve the superlative. Most commonly, erotica collections will have a few stories that are stellar, a few that are appalling, with the remainder being predictable and workman-like but unmemorable.

Richard Labonté’s collection more or less fits this pattern.

On the positive side, the stories in this anthology are surprisingly diverse given the narrow theme. Bondage includes rope, leather, silk, latex, hand-cuffs and even live snakes (more on this below). The essence of bondage is constraint, whether self-imposed or inflicted by another. The authors in this collection explore the broad limits of this definition. There are several tales – Larry Townsend’s giddy “My Eighteenth Birthday” and Simon Sheppard’s uncharacteristically light “The Man Who Tied Himself Up”– in which the main characters accomplish some amazing feats of self-restraint. Then there’s Doug Harrison’s sweet and satisfying tale, “The Harness”, which demonstrates that bondage isn’t just for bottoms.

My favorite tale in this collection is Shanna Germain’s “And Serpent Becomes Rod”. (I notice that Ms. Germain has received top kudos in several of my recent reviews.)  The protagonist in this story, a wealthy submissive so jaded that he has become impotent, treks through the jungle to the summit of a volcano in order to meet the shaman-master whom he hopes will cure him. The shaman lives in a shack lit by hundreds of candles and inhabited by dozens of snakes. The snakes bind the man while the master takes him and makes him new.

When he stepped back, I tried to follow. The snakes held me there with a raised head, the slip of a tail along the curve of my balls. Everything drew up tight. Still. I bowed my head as much as I could without losing my breath. I waited for the man that I knew would save me.        

...Something flickered at the crack of my ass. Snake tongue? Man tongue? I moaned, low in my throat.

The story is vivid, intensely physical, and unrelentingly arousing. What impressed me, though (other than the creative notion of using snakes as bonds) was the clear connection between sex and spirit. This acknowledgment that bondage might mean something, might be something beyond a mechanism of arousal, is missing in most of the tales in this collection.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Hot, anonymous sex is great, and gay fiction especially seems to like to celebrate it, as illustrated by Bill Brent’s enjoyable contribution, “Keeping It Under Wraps”:

We catch our breath, staring at each other and grinning like idiots. Soon we will leave this couch and become separated by ever-growing number of men, miles, days, years — but right now we’re just two blissed out guys, happy to be together in this room, no longer horny.

Bondage can be dangerous, though. It’s not the sort of thing one wants to undertake at the hands of a stranger. Bondage can also be a route to enlightenment, but few of the authors in this collection seem to view it this way.

A disturbing number of tales in the collection feature non-consensual sex and bondage. Perhaps the most extreme is “Marking Territory” by Sean Meriwether, about a petty criminal being pissed on, beat up and sodomized as punishment for double-crossing the boss. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone would find this arousing — not because of the acts themselves (hey, I’ve fantasized about golden showers) but because of the absolute cruelty with which these acts are inflicted. Then there’s “The Taking of Brian Krowell”, which details a carefully planned rape. I have to admit that even though this story by Shane Allison left me queasy and uncomfortable, I was also aware that its remarkable portrait of a man driven to violence by frustrated lust made it one of the better stories in the collection.

His dick tensed in my mouth, beyond my tenacious lips, cum surging through his black body, willing or not... I left him stained with his cum, my cum, my spit, his jelly. Done. His never was my now.  

TruDeviant’s “Number Twenty-Four” offers a similar scenario, a neglected and abused fag obsessed with a baseball player. In this tale the rape, though vivid and visceral, full of sweat-soaked uniforms and locker room odors, is nevertheless only fantasy. Does that change things?

At some level, all fiction is fantasy, though in some cases this is more obvious than others. Certainly the sex slave in the temple of the Owl Goddess in David Holly’s slightly ridiculous “A Gift to the Rising Dog Star” is pretty transparent, as is the world-weary dirty old man in “Norceuil’s Garden” (Andrew Warburton). In many cases, the fantasy aspect of these tales subordinates the story. There’s no real plot. The characters exist only to act out the author’s fetish. I might find a story arousing, but afterwards, when the tale releases me, I’m empty.

Some of the stories in this collection are well-written. A few show noteworthy originality. All in all, though, this anthology does not, in my opinion, completely merit its title. “Gay Bondage”? Certainly. “Erotica”? In some cases. But “Best” would be better reserved for a collection that more consistently challenges the mind and stirs the heart, as well as exciting the senses.

Best Gay EroticaBest Gay Erotica
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Contributions By: Larry Duplechan
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447536
December 2011

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

I suppose it was bound to happen. I review Best Gay Erotica nearly every year, and I've always enjoyed it. This year, meh. It feels a little flat to me. It also seems a bit short at twelve stories and a graphic.. hmm. Can't call it a graphic novel. A graphic short story, perhaps?

Anyway, let's hit the highlights.

Simon Sheppard is a reliable writer, which sounds like an insult but isn't meant that way. His stories always grab me with wit, great writing, and deliciously raunchy scenes. His “Your Jock” is - deep inhale - evocative. You can almost smell it. And yeah, I'm a girl, but this is raw nerve erotica that makes my writer's eyes green with envy.

I'm waffling on “Sunday in the Park” by Jamie Freeman. On one hand, it's well written and interesting, but on the other hand, it seemed to lack that male energy I anticipate. But maybe you don't want your sex hyped up and in your face. Maybe you like it a bit more laid back. In that case, you might want to dive into Shaun Levin's “Foreigner's in Stiges” too, which is all kinds of lovely, lyrical, and melancholy.

“Translations” by Roscoe Hudson hits hard on the brutish German in uniform fantasy, but it hits that mark well. Intellectual, but rough too. If I ever meet Roscoe though, I'll have to ask him if you'd really use the more formal Sie instead of the more familiar du when a guy is ramming your ass. Yes, that's the kind of strange thing I muse over while reading erotica. 

The rest of the anthology isn't bad, not by a long shot, but I've been spoiled by years of incredible stories all jostling for my attention. Maybe I just read too much erotica. However, while on a personal level I might give this a sideways rating, Best Gay Erotica remains one of the most anticipated anthologies of the year for a good reason. Just because all the stories didn't hit the right note for me doesn't mean they won't work for you. So I'm going to give it thumbs up, even if those thumbs aren't fully erect.

Best Gay Erotica 08Best Gay Erotica 08
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Contributions By: Selected and introduced by Emanuel Xavier
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443018
November, 2007

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Cleis Press’ annual Best Gay Erotica anthology has a unique approach. Editor Richard Labonté culls the submissions and sends the first cut on to a guest judge, insuring that there will always be a fresh perspective on the selection. This year poet and novelist Emanuel Xavier puts his stamp on this consistently outstanding anthology series.

When Emanuel first contacted Erotica Revealed about a review, the request came to my email rather than our usual submissions address. Thinking swiftly, I shouted DIBS! and snatched it out of the queue before anyone else even knew it was available. I suppose I should feel a twinge of guilt for that. Let me check. Nope.

Arden Hill’s “My Boy Tuesday” was a good choice for the first story. Yes, it’s a hot BDSM tale guaranteed to get your attention in all the right ways, but what I enjoyed the most about it was how fresh the character was. This was no stereotypical leather daddy. He wears his fingernails long and painted and has a closet full of drag clothes. Make no mistake though; this genderqueer top is in charge. This story puts you on notice that what follows won’t be predictable or part of the same old erotic routine. It also shows that despite the reputation of this genre, writers of erotica produce quality stories that can make you think as well as get you off. Be prepared for both.

Tickle torture is one of the BDSM variations I rarely see in lesbian or heterosexual erotica, but it crops up in gay erotica occasionally, so there must be an audience. My cousin once sat on me and tickled me until I got sick. (All over him. Hah! Served the bastard right.) so I know how sadistic ticklers can be and how quickly a victim can be rendered helpless. Obviously that killed any erotic potential for me, but Wayne Courtois’ “Capturing the King” will probably fascinate anyone into extreme tickling.

Horehound Stillpoint captures the essence of online cruising - the frustration with flakes and picture collectors- in “Donuts to Demons” with breathtaking precision. Yeah, I’ve heard the litany of complaints about CraigsList personals from friends, but never distilled into prose like poetry. Although I’ve seen Horehound’s name many times before, I had to flip back to his bio to verify that hunch. Ah yes, he’s a poet too – it shows in his writing- although he quotes dear friend Trebor Healey’s work instead of his own. But after this sharp, funny intro, the story takes a meditative, bittersweet turn into memories of the real man who got away, or who was too elusive to be caught. This may be the story that had Emanuel Xavier “...curling into bed with my cats.” Deftly delivered, this was one I went back to after I finished my initial reading.

One of the frustrations of reviewing an anthology is picking just a few stories to highlight even though there’s a lot to talk about in this offering. Charlie Vazquez’s “Rushing Tide of Sanity” is an incredibly hot BDSM scene. Tim Miller’s “Sex Head” has me vowing to catch one of his performances. (He’s listed a guest at the Saints and Sinners Literary Conference in New Orleans this May. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see him there.) I first read Jeff Mann’s “Snowed In With Sam” in his collection A History of Barbed Wire. If you haven’t read Jeff’s work, this is a good introduction. If you have, you’re probably a fan too. Shane Allison’s “Confession Angel” is a series of short scenes that flow together beautifully to create a larger picture in a mosaic of memory. Jason Shults’ “Minimum Damage, Minimum Pain” is about the guy who, thank god, got away, but oh, how his boy energy lingers in the mind late at night when you reach for the lube. In “Funeral Clothes” by Tom Cardamone, it’s a sad race to see who can abandon the relationship first. And if you like a story dripping with summer sweat and the heat of public sex, Andrew McCarthy’s “Underground Operator” is sure to get your pulse racing.

One of the strengths of this year’s Best Gay Erotica is the depth and breadth of characters that reflect gay lives not often featured in stories. I’m sure this is due in part to Emanuel Xavier’s guidance. These are not token tales, though. Each one had to make Richard Labonté’s first cut. As Emanuel points out in his preface, it’s difficult to prove any anthology truly contains the ‘best’ work out there, but in my opinion, this edition is pretty damn close.

Best Gay Erotica 09Best Gay Erotica 09
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Contributions By: Selected and introduced by James Lear
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443344
December 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

James Lear, author of Palace of Varieties, The Back Passage, and The Secret Tunnel serves as the guest editor for this year’s edition of Best Gay Erotica. The guest editors are perhaps the strength of this series. While a reader can expect well-written erotica every year, the selection of stories reflects the guest editor’s interests, making each year unique.

So what do you have to look forward to this year? Desire, cross-dressing, poetry, and hot fantasies, but mostly, a lot of longing for what was or what will never be.

The anthology opens with “The Changing Room“ by Bradley Harris. Kyle is seventeen, gay, and lonely. He goes to the mall in search of a pair of sexy red underwear and finds an admirer in Joe, a store clerk. Kyle returns to the store to try on clothes and underwear in the changing room while Joe watches him. They play out a long seduction, discussing in detail what they’ll do when Kyle turns eighteen. The sex talk is just an excuse though. They both need to feel wanted, and inside the changing room, they are. It’s probably the best sex that never was.

When I read Tulsa Brown’s “Temporary,”it reminded me of a line from the movie The Sting. “I'm the same as you. It's two in the morning and I don't know nobody.” An ex-con dishwasher and a pre-op MTF chanteuse are two lonely people thrown together in a moment of danger late at night in a closed restaurant. Afterward, out of relief, or maybe just because they both want company, they treat each other with tender sympathy. Beautifully done.

Jamie Freeman’s “Don’t Touch” is a wonderfully told story. The narrator sees his crush everywhere, but it’s never really the man he wants. When he hooks up with another man, it seems he’s trying to relive that one perfect, painful moment where his crush let him almost have what he wanted.

In“The Opera House” by Natty Soltesz, Britt and Cody either don’t want to admit it, or can’t come to terms with their attraction to each other. As they inch toward a sexual relationship, they reassure each other that they aren’t like the fags who live a couple blocks away. But when Britt starts to hang out with another guy, Cody is jealous, and baffled. A bit of push and shove a few nights later evolves into wrestling, and the boys finally cross the last boundary. The aftermath is more confusion and anger. This story will ring true to anyone who’s struggled with their identity.

There are other excellent stories in this anthology. Jeff Man always delivers a great tale. Xan West, Gerard Wozek, and Simon Sheppard also contribute wonderful pieces. Year after year, the Best Gay Erotica series delivers on its promise of quality erotic fiction without ever being the same as the years before.

Best Gay Erotica 2010Best Gay Erotica 2010
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443743
December 2009

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

In his forward, Richard Labonte comments that this is his fifteenth year editing The Best Gay Erotica. It’s my third year reviewing it for Erotica Revealed. He states that his goal is to present stories blending sexual intensity and literary craftsmanship. Our goal at Erotica Revealed is to review erotica as literary fiction. Every year, this makes for some of my favorite reading.

Hank Fenwick’s “Holiday from Love” is a bittersweet look back at what might have been but never could be. Beautifully executed story with so much truth to it that you’ll inevitably think back to something like it in your own life. Regret was never so sexy.

The title of “I Wish” by Richard Hennebert makes it seem like fantasy fulfillment, although it’s reality for some. The narrator breaks free of mind-numbing domesticity for a night out with the lads that ends at a sex club where his wish is fulfilled.

Simon Sheppard switches between the points of view of an older couple and the hustler they pick up in “The Suburban Boy.” People get off on all kinds of weird stuff, but resentment is a new one for me. And yet it was so skillfully done that this was one of the stories I thought about well after I’d finished the book, and re-read several times.

Sometimes, sex is all in the mind. In Jimmy Hamada’s “fifteen minutes naked,” a man poses naked for a photographer. The photographer reflects nothing back – no desire, not even hints on how to pose. He lets his mirror do that. The model tries to get a response but only manages to turn himself on.

Every reviewer has writers they look forward to reading. Jeff Mann and Trebor Healey are friendly acquaintances as well as favorite writers. “Smoke and Semen” (Mann) and “Frazzled” (Healey) made my writer’s heart pang with envy, but as a reader I was, as always, in awe.

Contributions by Natty Soltesz, David May, Robert Patrick, Shane Allison, Tommy Lee “Doc” Boggs, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Thom Wolf, David Holly, Jamie Freeman, Jonathan Kemp, Rob Wolfsham, and Jan Vander Laenen, fill out this anthology. Each is worthy of a read, or two, as you find something that speaks to you. 

Best Gay Erotica 2011Best Gay Erotica 2011
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Contributions By: Kevin Killian
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444243
December 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

In the preface and the introduction to Best Gay Erotica 2011, the two editors explain how much the publishing market for male/male "porn" has changed since this annual anthology debuted in the 1990s. Consulting editor Kevin Killian claims:

I came of age in a different world. How different was it? It was so long ago that I wrote a pornographic book without having previously read one, and I acted in a porn film without having ever seen one. I didn't know what I was doing in either case, but thinking about it now, I suppose early on I conflated sex with representation or vice versa.

 Killian goes on to quote theorist Jean Baudrillard that in the current age of the internet, “there is no longer any pornography, since it is virtually everywhere.”

Series editor Richard Labonte comments on the demise of raunchy print magazines for gay men, some dating back to the 1970s, where at least one generation of gay-male erotic writers (or writers of gay-male erotica) first aired their fantasies in print.

Both editors ask whether there is still a need for anthologies such as this one in a world where (in Killian's words) "gay sex is fashionable and mainstream." Killian also points out that "sex sells," and it is used to sell every product on the market while distracting the public from social issues such as war and poverty. Both editors come to the conclusion that there is still a place for a book of sex stories that can be privately enjoyed by individual readers.

Amidst the loving descriptions of men's bodies (ripped, powerful or boyish) and cocks (long and slim, short and thick, monstrous, curved, veiny, with and without foreskin), there is actually a lot of discomforting contemporary reality. Although Kevin Killian claims that the U.S. war against Iraq haunts these stories as AIDS haunted gay-male erotica of the 1980s and '90s, the persistent homophobia of mainstream American culture is a clear theme in the stories by American authors, and it heightens the contrast between American culture and that of the stories set elsewhere.
Most of these stories reveal a society in which male-on-male lust is both widespread and denied, where real and virtual male bodies are easy to access (especially on-line or in porn videos), yet where a conservative establishment seeks to force all non-heterosexuals back into the closet, or (preferably) out of existence. While the technology in these stories is different from that of the 1970s, the fear, secrecy and distrust seem unchanged.

"Attackman" by Rob Wolfsham and "Bodies in Motion" by Johnny Murdoc both deal with the sweaty, homoerotic world of school sports. In "Attackman," a skinny skater-boy named Alex likes the crude attention of Max, the star attackman of the school lacrosse team. (Alex is supposedly a nineteen-year-old, but the dynamics between the two boys, the interest of their male English teacher and the constant presence of a Greek chorus of other jocks all reek of mid-adolescence.) Eventually the attackman attacks the school Gay-Straight Alliance in a semi-literate letter to the school paper before attacking Alex, once more, for being a "faggot" and for getting him in trouble with the school administration, which penalizes hate speech. Max can't leave Alex alone, and his motives become clear even to him.

"Bodies in Motion" looks at the love-hate relationship between a school jock and a school geek when both of them return to the same school as a science teacher and an assistant coach. This time, the geek is cautious and distrustful, and the jock feels rebuffed until the two men have an honest talk.

The most gripping depiction of this type of relationship is in "Saving Tobias" by Jeff Mann, a kind of modern-day Walt Whitman who sings the praises of the untamed men of the Virginia mountains. The Tobias of the title is both charismatic and repulsively self-satisfied:

His name befits him. Tobias. It's Hebrew for 'God is good.' God has been good to him indeed. So far. Handsome blond giant, wealthy, talented, powerful, he's as magnificent as Oedipus must have been a few hours before the truth, before the kingly fool thrust the pin of his mother's brooch, his wife's brooch, into his eyes. The truth can do that, certainly. Put out the eyes, splinter the soul, castrate, eviscerate, shatter. The truth is what I bring tonight.

So who is the "I" who stalks Tobias, a homophobic Republican senator? A vampire from the Scottish highlands whose lover was killed before his eyes in 1730. Derek the vampire is a kind of avenging angel who wants to save Tobias from his own ignorance and hatred while showing him the suffering for which Tobias is responsible. And while he's at it, Derek wants Tobias' blood and his ass.

Tobias is horrified when he realizes that his gun can't save him from bondage and worse. The violation of his flesh appears to dramatize Tobias' worst fear, but he eventually reaches the peace he has been unconsciously seeking. Of course, he expresses his surrender in Christian terms.

The theme of an encounter with a beloved enemy continues in several other stories.

"I Sucked Off an Iraqi Sniper" by Natty Soltesz (the title says it all) and "Hump Day" by Dominic Santi show the universal vulnerability of working-class men (however butch they may be) to political and economic forces beyond their control. In both these stories, lust and empathy transcend cultural differences.

In "Shel's Game," the young narrator was originally lured into a Dominant-submissive relationship by the balding, stocky, middle-aged Shel who used a sexy young man as bait. The narrator's first scene with Shel leads to many others which are both humiliating and thrilling. The narrator comes to realize that Shel, whom he ignored at first meeting, knows a few things about how to get him off.

In "Closet Case" by Martin Delacroix, the narrator explains his aversion to hypocrites:

Call me a jerk, but I have a problem with closeted guys, these so-called 'bi-curious' men. Deep inside most are gay, I believe, but they're scared to admit it. So they lead the straight life, looking down on us poor faggots. When the urge strikes they'll sneak off and slum with the queers, but an hour later they're back with the wife and the kids, safe and happy.

When the narrator, who has a fully-equipped "sex room" in his house, picks up a man who claims to be both married and inexperienced with men, the outcome seems predictable. However, there are several twists in this story. Both characters prove themselves to be untrustworthy but more compatible than they first appear.

Limited space does not allow me to describe every story, but each one is memorable in its own way. There are stories by Shaun Levin, Simon Sheppard and Shane Allison here, as well as a disturbing tale by Boris Pintar, translated into English from Slovenian. Remember "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, a classic of southern-gothic fiction often taught in college lit. classes? This story is a gay-male European version.

The anthology begins and ends with two strong stories. It opens with "Beauty #2" by Eric Karl Anderson, about a bug-chasing fan and an AIDS-infected Dom who remains dignified and resolute in decline. The concluding story, "The Last Picture. Show" by James Earl Hardy is a fascinating look at the career of an African-American porn star, seduced away from his original dream of writing the Great American Novel. Instead, he becomes a tragic hero who finds love only to lose it too soon.

The sex is this book is fully-described, but it is not a distraction from bigotry, injustice, generation gaps, power-struggles, or misunderstandings. These stories (including Jeff Mann’s vampire story and Shane Allison's dream-montage) tackle reality in all its complexity.

Best Gay Erotica 2013Best Gay Erotica 2013
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Contributions By: Paul Russell
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448958
January 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

Opening up an anthology from Richard Labonte is like snuggling into a comfortable blanket you’ve had for years. I know exactly what I’m going to get – a quality anthology with solid narratives (and spicy moments, if it’s the yearly Erotica anthology). I was a little surprised to find the introduction – by Paul Russell – talking about editing the anthology. Then I remembered to put my trust in Richard, and read through Paul’s introduction, and was left with the impression I was in for a treat.

Paul Russell’s introduction was wonderful – a reminder of how furtive and lost we gentlemen of a certain age were before the grand invention of the internet. Finding anything gay used to be so impossible. Physical books, magazines, and actual films projected on actual screens were miles away from where many of us were, and even if we were in the grand metropolitan areas we still had to be so careful.

Now the digital gay offerings are huge. Easy. So, Russell asks, why would we still bother with print?

The answer – and the story, and the memories from that story – was a minor delight that was unexpected from an introduction (and I won’t ruin it). Unintentionally or not, the bittersweet tone of the introduction set up a vibe for me that carried throughout the anthology. Not in a bad way – I’m of the opinion that a bittersweet romance (or a bittersweet erotic romance) is one of the harder things to pull off well, but all the hotter for the admixture of potential loss. There’s also a great sense of triumph in the stories – often coming first from a more forlorn place.

I’m not saying that Best Gay Erotica 2013 was sad. There were definitely some fun and flirty stories (“The Farmer’s Son,” by Karl Taggart, made me giggle at its own self-efficacy), but it was in the tales that had that bittersweet yearning that I really found the collection gained cohesion. It’s not often you can say an erotica anthology was moving, but this one was.

No surprise that Jeff Mann’s “Daddy Draden” was so erotically charged with a BDSM flare that walks the line between poetic and visceral – but the aching tone of probable dissolution in the story was stunning.  I had to pause and reflect after the story, and felt – as always – a little in awe of Mann’s ability to take his tales to so many different emotional places.

The first story, “The Pasta Closet” by Davem Verne, had a kind of sad victory to it. Again, this didn’t cheapen the story at all – quite the contrary – instead infusing it with a powerful image of those grown men who live in the closet, and those who find ways to give them release.

Not bittersweet, but still on the theme of the passage of time and how things change was Larry Duplechan’s “Big Chest: Confessions of a Tit Man.” I adored this short biopic, and the glimpse into the life of an (to be quite frank) incredibly hot fellow that had more of that sense of triumph to it.

Tom Mendicino’s “A Little Night Music,” and FA Pollard’s “Game Boyz” and Erastes’ “Drug Colors” move through different times and places and – again – these aren’t exactly joyful tales, but they’re erotic, and well put together.

I’ve often said that one of the things about living my gay life openly, of which I am most proud, is being one of the walking wounded. None of us are unscathed, and though I’ll quibble with the oft-spoken “that which does not kill you” platitude, I will say that there’s a real sense of coming through as well as coming out to all of these tales, and I’m glad to have read them. I may need to go find something fluffy and light now, but I certainly don’t regret the time with this anthology in the least.

Thank you, Richard and Paul – that was a great collection.

Best Gay Erotica 2014Best Gay Erotica 2014
Edited By: Larry Duplechan
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780017
January 2014

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

It’s fair to say that most people see change as something inspiring nervousness at the least, or outright fear at the worst. People don’t often do well with change, and people like things to stay the way they are. I think that’s something we queer folk can understand – the oppositions we face are generally built upon that fear: different is scary, change is unwelcome.

So allow me to tell you that there’s a major change with Best Gay Erotica 2014, and that you shouldn’t fear anything.

Richard Labonté is a literary hero of mine. The man has been at the helm of the Best Gay Erotica titles since 1995, and I’ve long known that any anthology I pick up where Richard has had a hand involved is going to be a good one. More, I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a few times, and every time his guidance as an editor has been fantastic. Cracking open a Labonté book is a happy habit, and one I’ve grown accustomed to.

Richard has hung up his hat for the series as of this anthology.

I read that in the introduction by Larry Duplechan with my mouth a bit open. In my head I was still stuck at the notion that Richard Labonté wouldn’t be leading me through the anthology, and it took a bit to get past. I gave myself that moment, then read the rest of the introduction.

And relaxed.

I’ve read Larry Duplechan in more than a few anthologies, and I know to expect great things from his stories, and by the time I got into a few of the tales in the anthology, that knot of worry about change had unraveled, and I was happily enjoying the collection that Duplechan has built. Moreover, the judge for the collection is none other than Joe Mannetti, which definitely strikes the right tone, no?

This anthology, like the many Best Gay Erotica titles that have come before, has a solid mix of well-known writers and new (or new-to-me) authors. There’s a real range present, and I was quite happy to see that range get some really fresh takes.

“The Piñata Conquest” springs to mind here. Boot LS puts together a really fun scenario here, and fans of spanking and bondage will all have a good time with this story of a fellow who is made to endure the gang-spanking (and reward thereafter).

Some of the stories drive a straight line (pardon the pun), such as “The Power Man,” by Lee Hitt, which involves a blackout and a hot electrician flipping all the right switches, but even those straightforward tales of men hooking up in moments of kismet are enjoyable and well-written.

In fact, I found myself smiling through many of these stories. There’s even a lovely conversation-free comic mid-way through the book, “Everybody’s Doing It,” by Dale Lazarov (script) and Jason A. Quest (art) that is sure to make you smile – the ending is nigh upon heartwarming.

Similarly, my day-job in the mall made Huck Pilgrim’s “Five Finger Discount” chuckle-worthy, with a hunk of a mall-cop and a petty thief getting his come-uppance in more ways than one. If only the mall-cops in my mall looked that edible.

None of these stories are misses. Fans of threesomes (and moresomes), bondage, hairy fellas or smooth fellas, hook-ups and long-term relationships, and lovers of a fine range of kink are all going to find something here, and it’s all done with a strong eye for flow and cadence of the tales in the greater whole.

Am I sad to say goodbye to Richard Labonté? Of course. It feels like the end of an era to me, and if it wasn’t for Richard championing the first collection in which I ever had a story printed to Cleis Press, I doubt I’d have even begun my own writing career. I’ll probably always have a wee pang at the lack of his name on the cover of this beloved series. But change doesn’t have to be scary or a bad thing at all. And Larry Duplechan proves that beyond a doubt with his debut turn at Best Gay Erotica 2014.

Give him a hearty welcome. It’s obvious he cares about the job.

Best Gay Erotica 2015Best Gay Erotica 2015
Edited By: Rob Rosen
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780904
December 2014

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

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.)  

Best Lesbian EroticaBest Lesbian Erotica
Edited By: Kathleen Warnock
Contributions By: Sinclair Sexsmith
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447528
December 2011

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Maybe I’m jaded from reading so much erotica for so many years. Or maybe the Best Lesbian Erotica series, compiled every year since 1995, has set me up to expect every story to be brave, experimental, poignant or multi-faceted.

Whatever it is, the latest edition seems to have an excessively high ratio of sex scenes to plot, character development and settings. Of course, you could say. It’s erotica. In all fairness, these stories are well-written. In this sense, the series consistently lives up to its title of Best Lesbian Erotica, if “best” means written by competent professionals to produce the desired effects.

Here is my beef, as far as I can explain it in words: things have changed.

When the series was launched in the mid-1990s, graphic descriptions of lesbian sex were harder to find than descriptions of sex between men and women, or men and men. Sex involving transgendered folks was rarely even imagined. (To a large extent, this is still true.) As Tristan Taormino, original series editor, explained in her first introduction, references to lesbian sex before that point were characterized by euphemistic lines like the famous description of the consummation of a lesbian love affair in The Well of Loneliness (1928):  “And that night, they were not divided.”

In 1995, detailed accounts of what could be done to stimulate, tease, torment or satisfy women’s most sensitive parts were a fairly radical thing even in a heterosexual context. When the graphic sex was woman-to-woman (or when it involved more than two female bodies), it was downright revolutionary. Anyone who remembered the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s was blown away by the vulgar, joyful, “male” (according to some feminist definitions) energy of this stuff, yet it was clearly not written by males. For one thing, the erotica in the Best Lesbian Erotica series showed a knowledge of female anatomy that few male writers (who are not also medical doctors or transmen) seemed to have. This writing looked like a message straight from the clits of the Amazon Nation. Or maybe from the g-spots.

The high-energy, high-impact quality of the erotica in this series has been maintained, but erotica has diversified since the 1990s. Probably more to the point, explicit sex has slithered into relatively “mainstream” fiction, including lesbian novels and short stories. “Mary fucked Sue” (and/or vice versa) is no longer the kind of plot which would get a lesbian writer kicked out of every lesbian-feminist community as well as her blood family.

I love the Best Lesbian Erotica series, and I have felt deeply honored to have my stories included in past volumes (in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009). However, it becomes painfully obvious over time that there are only so many ways to describe female plumbing and the things that can be done to or with it. Lesbians have sex, and we also have lives. My favorite lesbian fiction is the kind that acknowledges what sex is like in a complex, real-world context – or on Planet X.

In short, I would like to see a little more depth and diversity in the lesbian erotica of the second decade of the 21st century. I’ve probably been spoiled.

To give an example of the sexual descriptions in this collection, here is part of a scene from “Hot Yoga” by Anne Grip, a story that moves from a yoga session to a sex club: 

The next thrust was so deep it made her scream. Or sing. Or cry. Tears poured down her face. Or snot. Or lube. Or come.

The theme of we-shouldn’t-do-this-but-we-can’t-help-it runs through several stories, including the ironically-named “Vacation” by Ali Oh, in which the lovers must be discreet in an overcrowded family home:

She doesn’t do this, not in her mom’s house. After a whirlwind of movement, I’m perched on the counter tiles, boxers on but stretched to allow her mouth. She wrenches my legs apart and pushes me against the cabinets. Her head is between my legs and I grab a handful of her hair as my blood heats up, and I feel myself get wetter as her tongue circles my clit, as she flicks languidly up and down, over my slit.

In story after story, women burn, melt, thrust, gush, gasp, stretch and scream. Reading this book is like watching a sex show combined with an opera. As in past editions, several contributors to this one are performance artists, and it shows.

The most memorable stories in this volume contain something besides (or instead of) uncontrollable lust. The opening story, “Touched” by Amy Butcher is a brilliant take on a standard “coming out” trope: the schoolgirl crush. There is no sex at all here, if “sex” means genital contact, yet one girl feels as touched by divine energy as Saint Teresa of Avila, and the reader believes her.

“Blood Lust” by Giselle Renarde features a mysterious woman whose back is as covered in graffiti as a bathroom wall, all cut into her flesh. She shows the narrator how to add her own mark without leaving a single drop of blood on the carpet. This scene looks like an acting-out of the impossible deal in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: the merchant owes the moneylender a pound of his flesh as collateral, but the merchant’s clever female lawyer (disguised as a man, of course) points out that the contract doesn’t allow for the spilling of blood. In the world of Renarde’s story, pains morphs into pleasure, and the unbelievable becomes real.

Speaking of female blood, “Skin Deep” by Anna Watson is a realistic look at that touchiest of lesbian characters: a butch having her period. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but her understanding friend-with-benefits knows what she needs.

There is a refreshing amount of humor in some of these stories. “The Produce Queen” by Michelle Brennan is a lightweight anecdote about a woman’s fondness for raw vegetables. It’s not a new topic, but the author has a deft touch.

“Maid for You” by Deborah Castellano and “On My Honor” by D.L. King are entertaining scenes starring service submissives. In Castellano’s story, the “maid” is a friend-of-a-friend who shows up unexpectedly like a fairy godmother who materializes to relieve the narrator’s stress after a day of work, and in D.L. King’s story, the submissive has gone to a sex club on “uniform” theme night dressed as a Girl Scout.

“Never Too Old” by DeJay is the last story in the book, and it perfectly complements “Touched.” In DeJay’s hilarious romp, a sixty-year-old butch is taken aback when her “wife” of over thirty years discovers the world of sex toys.

On a more serious note, Sharon Wachsler’s “When You Call” is a subtly heartbreaking story about a disabled woman’s realistic fear of being left (again), and the patience of her committed lover. “How He Likes It” by Xan West, “Envy” by Lulu Laframboise and “Neck Magic” by Nancy Irwin are meditations on the emotional complexities of BDSM.

But if you like your lesbian erotica focused on a steady, uncomplicated climb to an earth-shattering orgasm (or several), there are plenty of hot quickies here. The one-handed stories work perfectly well. They might even work better for some readers than the more nuanced stories I prefer.

This annual anthology remains the gold standard of the genre.

Best Lesbian Erotica 08Best Lesbian Erotica 08
Edited By: Tristan Taormino
Contributions By: Selected and introduced by Ali Liebegott
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344300X
November, 2007

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Best Lesbian Erotica is an annual anthology first launched by Cleis Press of San Francisco in 1995 to fill a gap in the published erotica of the time. This year’s edition includes fresh stories with the hallmarks of the series: much sensory description, including juicy metaphors and a high concentration of explicit sex, gender-play, and more-or-less realistic plots (few fairy godmothers or other supernatural elements and no guaranteed happy endings).

As this year's guest editor explains in her introduction, these stories are a departure from a certain school of lesbian erotica, especially poetry, which sprang from the lesbian-feminism of the 1970s and was loaded with "tons of dolphin and mango imagery." There is not a dolphin or a mango in sight here, nor do any of the characters in Best Lesbian Erotica resemble cats or flowers: two other worn-out cliches in lesbian written and visual erotic art.

Several of these stories blend intense sex (often with a Dominant/submissive flavor) with vividly-described physical and cultural settings into a gestalt which is greater than the sum of its parts and which seamlessly combines plausible action with symbolism. Certain stories feature specific settings which are integral to the general effect.

Catherine Lundoff's "Spoonbridge and Cherry" (reprinted from her own lesbian story collection, Crave: Tales of Lust, Love and Longing) is about a three-dyke sexual adventure on a whimsical, giant sculptural image of a spoon with a cherry, designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen for an outdoor sculpture garden in Minneapolis.

Isa Coffey's "The Bridge," despite having an over-used title, is a fiercely distinct description of an encounter in a car on the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego, which seems to have a magically aphrodisiac quality. The two women in the car are a white femme and a black butch who passionately explore each other’s limits before they learn each other’s names, and they are soon joined by a police officer and two interested onlookers. The excessiveness of the multi-woman pileup on the bridge is made convincing by the narrator's response to the sounds of traffic, the full moon above and the restless water below.

Aimee Pearl's ironically-named "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" is about the allure of rubber and leather at the Folsom Street Fair in September in San Francisco. In keeping with the setting (a daytime display of fetish and BDSM paraphernalia, available to all onlookers), Pearl’s story is about playful exhibitionism and experimentation, not high-stakes challenges or compulsions.

"And the Stars Never Rise" by Missy Leach takes place in the media-conscious culture of West Hollywood; it involves being stalked, “hosed” (secretly photographed without one’s consent) and photographed in a sexually-compromising situation as punishment. It would work well as an X-rated episode of “The L Word”, the lesbian soap opera set in Los Angeles.

D.L. King's "A New York Story" is a haunting tale (literally), set in a brownstone in the Greenwich Village of yesteryear, and it refers to a history of closeted lesbian desire. The building, which feels like home to a single woman who lives there for most of her adult life is essential to a relationship which could actually last forever, in extreme contrast with the immediate, get-it-while-you-can flavor of the tricks in many of the other stories.

Peggy Munson's "The Storm Chasers" is set in an atmospheric small town where Pennsylvania meets Ohio, where Amish teenagers plunge into a "storm" of extreme sexual experience during "Rumspringa ('running around'), described as: “the window of time when they can break the Amish rules before deciding if they want to get baptized."

Munson's stories have appeared in Best Lesbian Erotica every year since 1998, and her style has come to seem characteristic of the series. Here she demonstrates her ability to capture characters in a few deft sentences by describing Ellie, an Amish girl hell-bent on worldly knowledge, from the viewpoint of the baby dyke who wants her:

". . . suddenly, she puts the tip of her sneaker over mine, rubbing the rubber together. Burn, I think. Burn rubber. I'm thinking about masturbating in my bedroom with the plastic handle of this big pink makeup brush I fuck myself with, listening to albums she has never heard: I want to bring her into my world. But we just stay there, poured into molds of ourselves hardening, our breathing startled by its perpetuity."

These girls are simultaneously rebellious and representative of their generation and their backgrounds. Like the other characters in this volume, they want more than simple sexual release, and they are more than their demographics.

As usual, several other veterans and rising stars of lesbian erotica are here: Rachel Kramer Bussel, Radclyffe (owner of Bold Strokes Books, a lesbian press), Betty Blue, L. Elise Bland (Mistress Elise, former pro-domme and stripper from Texas), D. Alexandria, Shanna Germain, Jacqueline Applebee, Alicia E. Goranson, Roxy Katt, Tamai Kobayashi, A. Lizbeth Babcock, Valerie Alexander, Anna Watson. Amazingly, several other stories in this volume are first publications by novice erotic writers with talent. Each story has its own appeal, and all deserve to be carefully read—assuming that readers can be intellectually pleased by the kind of fiction which is intended to distract the mind.

Best Lesbian Erotica has spawned imitative series from other publishers and helped to inspire the cross-fertilization of lesbian fiction in various genres (erotica, romance, mystery, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, history, biography, etc). These stories can’t satisfy every taste or adequately address every issue that arises in real-life lesbian social space, and some readers would undoubtedly have made different selections from the mass of submissions which pour onto Tristan Taormino’s desk every year. However, the series continues to be innovative and genuine, and the stories tackle the raw, messy stuff of lesbian life with exceptional literary skill. Ya gotta read this stuff.

Best Lesbian Erotica 09Best Lesbian Erotica 09
Edited By: Tristan Taormino
Contributions By: Selected and introduced by Joan Larkin
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443352
December 2008

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Best Lesbian Erotica ’09 is to be the final collection of lesbian-focused erotica to come from under Tristan Taormino’s editorship.  Taormino founded the Best Lesbian Erotica series back in 1995 and has repeatedly thrilled readers with short stories from a collection of gifted writers who can best be described as world-class.  Best Lesbian Erotica ’09 is no exception and, once again, she presents an anthology of stories that are hot, heady and filled with all the thrills that readers have come to expect.

The anthology kicks off with Jean Casse’s splendid story “The Virgin of G.”  “The Virgin of G” explores a relationship between a couple from different religious backgrounds.  Ordinarily religion can drive a couple apart but Jean Casse uses it in this vibrant and vivid story to bring her protagonists closer together.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Velvet” is a wicked tale of attraction and satisfaction at a software convention.  Lisabet has the ability to bring her characters to life and present them in glorious and rich detail.  This story of headhunting, seduction and burgeoning romance is as typically exquisite as is to be expected from the divine Lisabet.

The inimitable Shanna Germain, “On Snow-White Wings,” is equally capable when it comes to pushing all the right buttons.  “On Snow-White Wings” is the bittersweet story of love found and lost and replaced by hope.  Powerful writing.

Jean Roberta does not usually approach her erotic scenes in a way that can be described as “gingerly.”  However, with her excellent story, “The Placement of Modifiers,” it’s fair to use that word as a vague description without giving too much away.

Teresa Noelle Roberts’, “Tough Enough to Wear a Dress,” reveals a tender story that remains hot and horny whilst addressing the artificial differences we all employ through our choice of clothes. 

The thing that always startles me with these collections is that they are such an undiscovered talent of treasure.  I have had many friends say to me, “Why are you reading a book of lesbian erotica when you’re not a lesbian?”  (NB – They don’t use these exact words.  I’m paraphrasing for the sake of clarity).

Most of the people I’ve encountered (that is, those people who haven’t read any of the Best Lesbian Erotica anthologies) assume that the stories within are either a collection of lurid masturbatory fantasies or a canon of extreme feminist propaganda.

The truth is, the Best Lesbian Erotica series is (and has always been) a collection of outstanding stories told by outstanding storytellers.  It’s true that the focus is on lesbian relationships and the erotic content is invariably arousing.  It’s also true that the stories lend themselves to positive feminist criticism because the absence of traditional male roles in these erotic stories leads to a direct usurpation of the stereotypical male taking over his supreme position in the narrative’s patriarchal hegemony.  But that doesn’t mean the anthologies are nothing more than lurid sex stories.  And no honest connoisseur of these collections could dismiss them as pro-feminist propaganda.

If you’re unfamiliar with Best Lesbian Erotica, rush out now and order your copy.  If you are familiar with the series, convert a friend by buying them the latest edition.  Good storytelling is always an absolute.  Good storytelling transgresses the arbitrary conventions of typical gender roles.  Best Lesbian Erotica ‘09 shows exactly what good storytelling looks like.

There is an awful lot contained within the pages of Best Lesbian Erotica ’09.  This is a wonderful collection of girl-on-girl stories that will warm the winter for every reader and start 2009 with a very enjoyable bang.  The only problem I can see is that Taormino has raised the bar pretty high for when Kathleen Warnock takes over this series with Best Lesbian Erotica ’10.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2010Best Lesbian Erotica 2010
Edited By: Kathleen Warnock
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443751
December 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This annual anthology, originally edited by Tristan Taormino and a consulting editor, is now edited by Kathleen Warnock and a consulting editor. This year, the guest editors are the three members of an all-female band, BETTY. As Kathleen Warnock explains in her introduction:

How did I get here? I knew Tristan when we were both starting out as writers, and on the downtown New York city queer and women's rock/literary/whatever scenes. I bought copies of her 'zine Pucker Up, and thought I might try to write some of that lesbian erotica stuff. . .
In that monumentally creative downtown scene, I sometimes ran into Tristan at a popular lesbian rock party called Fragglerock, where woman-fronted and all-girl bands were featured, and fabulous musicians played in all-star pickup bands, doing tributes to their godmothers and godfathers. One night, I watched Elizabeth Ziff of the band BETTY lead a Queen tribute that included about forty people doing a cover of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' with a full chorus.

Ya had to be there, I'm sure. Series editor Kathleen goes on to explain why she invited BETTY to choose the stories for this edition of Best Lesbian Erotica:

Songwriters have the task of telling a life or a moment in a couple of dozen lines. It's a form that requires form, as well as style, craft, tempo, rhythm and talent to pull it off successfully. So I approached Elizabeth (who had moved on to work on a television show you may have heard of: The L Word), and she told me she was being treated for breast cancer, and recommended her sister, Amy. And, well, if you've got Elizabeth and Amy, you've got to have Alyson.

Later in the introduction, the editor notes

a strong international wave of submissions this year: this volume contains the work of writers from Ireland, Australia, Sweden, France and Germany (as well as someone who lives in my neighborhood).

Introductions like this always leave me with mixed feelings. Incestuous relationships among creative types who are all in the same "scene," however defined, shouldn't shock anyone. And lesbians who have been "out" for more than one relationship are aware of belonging to an army of ex-lovers; sometimes it seems as if every one of us is less than six degrees (i.e. six dykes) away from every other one of us.

But still, can a New York editor who inherited the position from another New York editor and who shared the honor with a local band honestly claim that the series has an international scope?

When Kathleen Warnock first experienced BETTY in the 1980s, much of the soundtrack of this reviewer’s life was provided by a three-woman band from the Canadian prairies, where I live. They were/are known for their beautiful harmonies, and their song, "The Woman Warrior," was at one time an anthem for Canadian lesbian-feminists. But it seems unlikely that they will ever be asked to guest-edit an anthology such as Best Lesbian Erotica. I’m just saying.

Now I've said all that, I'll admit that no one's taste is objective. By definition, taste involves discrimination. The stories in this year's BLE are all competently-written, as usual, but otherwise they are a mixed bag of cliches, poetic but porny descriptions of sex with a near-absence of plot, fabulous topical humor, witty fantasy, insightful realism, and spiritual allegory.

My favorite stories in this collection are by previous contributors to the series. "Jubilee" by Betty Blue is an atmospheric piece about a backwoods preacher, a "passing" butch who attracts women as honey attracts bees. Ruby, a juicy blonde damsel in distress, asks the Reverend for salvation, and her prayer is answered. The plot twist at the end surprises both the reader and the Reverend, who is reminded (like us) that everyone has a secret.

Probably the most memorable story (because it is the most unusual in this context) is "Uppercasing" by Charlie Anders, a San Francisco writer who chronicles (or satirizes, if that's possible) the local genderqueer/postmodern performance art scene. This story first appeared in Fucking Daphne: Mostly True Stories and Fictions (Seal Press, 2008). In this comic story, a farm girl from New Jersey named Daphne Gottlieb goes to San Francisco to find "herself," and finds a performance artist by the same name who takes her under her wing.

The more famous Daphne explains "uppercasing" to her protegee:

'We're all born with normal capitalization, but our task in life is to create the block-caps versions of ourselves. And most people never even try. Most people stay mostly lowercase, their whole lives.'

The narrator (the more lowercase Daphne) asks "if she had succeeded in becoming DAPHNE GOTTLIEB. . . But she said no." 

In order to help her namesake achieve an uppercase identity, the narrator consents to be tattooed, exposed, bound and fucked in various public places as a kind of doppelganger or other-half of her mentor. Daphne the mentor, however, teaches the narrator to expect the unexpected.

"Self-Reflection" by Tobi Hill-Meyer is a powerful fantasy about a transwoman's encounter with her future self. The catalyst that brings the future self into the present narrator's life isn't explicitly described, but by the end of the story, it seems clear that the narrator is less likely to commit suicide. While relationships between aspects of the same person are often presented as dangerous expressions of narcissism, this one is literally life-saving.

On a slightly more realistic level is "Blood Ties" by Alex Tucci, about a lifelong, near-incestuous attraction which is finally consummated after a wise mother-figure has written a prophetic letter to be read after her death.

"Lives of the Saints" by Holly Farris is a hilarious surrealistic look at a sexual fetish which is parallel to a traditional Catholic fetish for virginity as a sign of spiritual purity. On the feast day of an obscure female saint, the saint and her lover/tormentor show up in the kitchen of a troubled modern dyke to give her a message.
These are the stories I will probably remember long after writing this review. Then there is a set of lush, lyrical sex fantasies on familiar themes: sex at different times of day ("The Rendezvous Series" by Colleen C. Dunphy), first-time lesbian encounters ("In the Sauna" by Stella Watts Kelley and "Tasting Chantal" by D.L. King), a fantasy in Home Depot about a handywoman ("The Kitchen Light" by Nicole Wolfe), multi-person trysts ("Shameless" by two authors, Kymberlyn Reed and Anais Morten, "Thanksgiving" by Molly Bloom), a travelogue about dykes-on-bikes before Stonewall ("Girona, 1960" by Stella Sandburg), a tale of seduction in a library by a wheelchair-bound narrator ("Pinup" by Vanessa Vaughn), a story about the eroticism of hair ("Brush Strokes" by Elizabeth Cage), one about a kind of role-reversal ("Ridden" by Natt Nightly), one about sex on camera/film ("Flick Chicks" by Allison Wonderland), and one about a mysterious woman who could be a stalker, a phantom or a hallucination ("The Purple Gloves" by Gala Fur, translated from the French).

"From the Halls of Montezuma" centers on the narrator's intense, immediate reaction to a butch stripper who performs in the uniform of the U.S. Marines with a more traditionally femme counterpart in a club before turning her attention to the narrator. This fantasy is well-paced, well-written and satisfying for all the characters, including the narrator's supportive friends.

Like other stories set in specific locations or cultures, however, this one seems to need a footnote. I wonder how many readers outside the U.S. would recognize the title as part of the anthem of the United States Marines ("From the halls of Montezu-uma/To the shores of Tripoli/We will fight our country's ba-attles/On the land and on the sea").

Erotic stories with very specific references have their own charm; they can appeal to readers who have been there as well as to those who haven’t, and who therefore find the setting, the culture or the kink exotic. People have specific kinds of sex in particular contexts, and the context can be crucial. However, the references need to be clear to the intended readership.

The two stories I would have eliminated from this anthology are "Sexting: One Side of a Two-Way" by Kelsy Chauvin and "Amy's First Lesson" by Dani M. The latter is a traditional classroom fantasy in which a young university instructor shows her baby-dyke student the ropes. This story shows promise, but this ground has often been covered before, and with more style (if the fantasy is obvious wish-fulfillment) or more complexity (if the story is presented as realistic). "Sexting" is essentially one side of a generic telephone conversation. Future editions of BLE might well include evocative stories of encounters or relationships told in text-messages, but this one looks like a script that simply falls flat on the page.

Best Lesbian Erotica continues to be one of the better annual "best of" anthologies. As a series, it is still deliciously ground-breaking (as in "the earth moved") and trendsetting, but not everything in it meets the same standard.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2011Best Lesbian Erotica 2011
Edited By: Kathleen Warnock
Contributions By: Lea DeLaria
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444251
December 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Where to start discussing this collection of goodies?

Normally, I review the Best Gay Erotica release and Jean Roberta reads Best Lesbian Erotica, but this year we switched to keep things interesting. While Jean probably has some nice things to say about Best Gay Erotica, I'm so glad that I got to read this.

As I read through an anthology, I bend down the page of a story that interests me. When I read the final story of Best Lesbian Erotica, nearly every story was marked by a bent page. That should tell you that Best means something in this case; it's not just a title. I read a lot of erotica. I get burned out. And yet, page after page in this book is marked.

So again, where do I start to discuss this anthology? Do I mention the anticipation of reading the contributions by Xan West (“My Precious Whore”), Sinclair Sexsmith (“A Quick Fuck in a Shadowed Corner”), or Catherine Lundoff (“Tree Hugger”) when I see their names in the table of contents? And oh, how they delivered. Xan and Sinclair each have a talent for powerful sexual imagery in hot dominance scenes. Catherine's forest ranger was the right balance of authority and down to earth sensuality, but the narrator got a huge smile from me for keeping her focus on what mattered to her.

As mentioned in the forward, many of the stories in this year's anthology feature butch/femme couples. Is there anyone as endearing as a sweet butch under the spell of a hot femme? Giselle Renarde's “Pointed Nails and Puppy Dog Tails” is laugh out loud funny with some hot foot worship by a rockabilly goddess, while in DL King's “Walk Like a Man,” it's the rockabilly boi who gets taken for a ride in his cherry 1958 Mercury Park Lane by a femme who knows what she wants.

In Kiki DeLovely's “The Third Kiss,” a woman uses social media to seduce the woman sitting across the table from her in a coffee shop. Is this a comment on how we're losing the ability to look someone in the eyes and talk to them? Or is this just the latest spin on the fine art of love letters? Is standing under a balcony really all that different from sending an instant message? Maybe the language changes, but in the end, conquest is conquest.

I must mention Betty Blue's “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” In a short story, it's hard to build a fantasy world, but Betty Blue manages to do it in style with a tale of a cross dressing girl and the exotic dancer she loves to watch. Rich in detail, with a hot sex scene, this tale will enthrall lovers of the fantasy genre and maybe convert a few readers too.

Do you want more? Yes, there's so much more. Artists, women in uniform, a tantalizing glimpse into life in India, basketball, ex-sex, latex, desire, love, and lust. How can you not love this book? Two thumbs way up.

Contributions by Renee Strider, Anamika, Xan West, Kiki DeLovely, Betty Blue, Sinclair Sexsmith, Kristy Logan, Kenzie Mathews, Giselle Renarde, Charlotte Dare, D.L. King, Theda Hudon, Nairne Holtz, Catherine Lundoff, Gala Fur, Sarah Ellen, Rachel Charman, Erica Gimpelevich, Heidi Champa, and A.D.R. Forte.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2013Best Lesbian Erotica 2013
Edited By: Kathleen Warnock
Contributions By: Jewelle Gomez
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448966
December 2012

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Oh, I am a happy reader tonight! Best Lesbian Erotica 2013 sits on my Kindle, just finished, and I’m in the warm afterglow of some great stories. How to choose which ones to talk about?

I’ll admit to being a flat out sucker for stories like “La Caida” by Anna Meadows, “Homecoming” by Anamika, and “Crave” by Fiona Zedde that take me to other landscapes so rich in sensual delights that I can smell the air and the food. I share a longing for older butch women as the narrator in Sonya Herzog’s “I Have a Thing for Butches,” or younger butches with active imaginations as in Penny Gyokeres’ “Morning Commute.” 

If you’re in a more reflective mood, “She Never Wears Perfume” by Sid March is lovely. “The Invitation” by Maggie Veness also evokes longing, but not quite as melancholy. “Daffodils” by Sally Bellerose is sort of also about lost love but the part that enchanted me was the recognition that even comfortable sex with a longtime lover can be renewing.

As much as I enjoyed the offerings in BLE this year, my two favorite stories were, surprisingly, paranormal tales. It’s so difficult to world build in a short story but both “Woman-Time,” by Rebecca Lynne Fullan and the unusual but effective “Underskirts” by Kirsty Logan managed to create wonderfully evocative tales. 

Every year I wonder how the Best of Collections are going to measure up, but with the guest editors helping to choose stories a theme always emerges that makes it a very different experience each time. Once again, Kathleen Warnock has brought together an anthology worth your attention.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2014Best Lesbian Erotica 2014
Edited By: Kathleen Warnock
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780025
December 2013

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

One of the wonders of Best Lesbian Erotica is the range of women depicted in these stories:  Desi, black, white, femme, butch, cancer survivors and disabled, skater girls and knitters – even skater girls who knit. What unites this disparate group of folks is desire and hot sex.

Since this is a Best Of anthology, there’s really no such thing as a bad story here.  It depends on your taste. Do you want an unlikeable narrator who gets hers? Try Sharon Wachsler’s “Imaging.” Like BDSM? Xan West’s “What I Need” is intense, while  DL King’s “Big Lesbo Cupcakery” is told with a lighter heart. Or maybe you like intense longing of the heart along with the sex, in which case I recommend “Run, Jo, Run” by the always good Cheyenne Blue or “Stich and Bitch” by A. L. Simonds.

I’ll admit I was hesitant about the last entry, “Mommy Is Coming” by Sarah Schulman and Cheryl Dunye because it was in screenplay format, but it’s more readable than I thought it would be and it definitely evokes visuals.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2015Best Lesbian Erotica 2015
Edited By: Laura Antoniou
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780912
December 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

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.

Best of Best Women's Erotica 2Best of Best Women's Erotica 2
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443794
February 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since Marcy Sheiner published the first Best of Best Women’s Erotica.  “Best of the Best” is one hell of an accolade to foist upon anyone’s shoulders and I honestly don’t envy Violet Blue having to judge which stories from the Best Women’s Erotica series should be placed in the compilation title Best of Best Women’s Erotica.  Yet Ms Blue has managed this task with style and aplomb and I can’t see any stories in this collection that don’t deserve such elevated praise.

The collection is prefaced by a highly personal introduction from the editor, which is as arousing and well-paced as any of the stories included.  It then moves onto Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Animals”: a tour-de-force encounter that celebrates the physicality of sex in a powerhouse rush of literate erotica.  This is followed by Kristina Wright’s “Call Me,” an obscene phone call that successfully uses dialogue to impart conflicting ideals of taboo-breaking and arousal.  And then there’s Teresa Noelle Roberts’ “Voice of an Angel” which imbues a deliciously unreal sexuality and passion to baroque opera.

I could go on, listing author after author, and producing an incredibly dull review that is the antithesis to an incredibly exciting collection.  Instead, I want to focus on two stories that highlight the diversity of this anthology whilst illustrating its phenomenal power to consistently arouse.  The titles are “Heat” by Elizabeth Coldwell, and  “Chill” by Kathleen Bradean.

“Heat” is a story of sultry, smoldering passions.  Coldwell writes with graphic intensity that hurtles the reader toward the satisfying conclusion of this sweat-fuelled fantasy.  The simmering tension between the central characters is exemplified by the following extract:

When I think of Ian, I think of heat.  The heat of the sticky days of summer and sweaty sheets.  The heat of the flame that draws in the moth.  The heat of passion, and shame.  I think of that sultry August night, and the things he did tome, and I still hate him—and I still want him.

Coldwell’s story is written to inflame.  The story produces a warmth of welcome arousal as well as the uncomfortable glow of embarrassment.  It’s an erotic encounter that many will find reminiscent of tasting forbidden fruits: a discovery that the flavor is so delicious it should be forbidden.

This contrasts with Bradean’s treatment of arousal in “Chill.”  Here the story dwells on a single and uncommon fetish.  The fetish, as suggested by the title, includes an extensive use of ice cubes and an emotional distancing that enhances the story’s powerful premise.

It wasn’t healthy, this thing, this need.  I’d go for months without it, and then I’d be on the phone with a client, or at dinner with friends, and I’d yearn for the cold.  Thinking about it would make my breasts ache.  I’d cross and uncross my legs, and fidget in my chair.  Sometimes, I’d take an ice cube from my drink, put it into my mouth, and excuse myself to the ladies room, where I’d rub the cube against my clit until I came.  Then I’d smooth down my clothes and take my seat, and no one would ever guess.  But it was never a really good orgasm.  It was a shadow, a knockoff, a little something to see me through.

Bradean’s use of language is as cold and clinical as the fetish that drives her protagonist.  The story employs such intense description it blends the heat of arousal with the chill of the fetish, accumulating in unprecedented peaks and troughs of physicality.

And I mention these two stories because they show the perfect balance Violet Blue has achieved in this anthology—selecting stories that can warm the reader, or chill them to the core—without losing sight of the focus that these stories are written to arouse.

There are other stories in this collection, and a collection of respected names from the genre including Kristina Lloyd, Donna George Storey and Kay Jaybee, all of whom deserve their place in a collection entitled Best of Best.  If you don’t regularly subscribe to the annual collection of Best Women’s Erotica, you’d be foolish to miss out on the Best of Best Women’s Erotica 2.

Best of Best Women's Erotica 2Best of Best Women's Erotica 2
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443794
February 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This is the second compilation of stories from five years of the annual Best Women's Erotica series. Considering the flood of story submissions that are sent to the editor each year, and the number of published stories that found their way into all the volumes from 2006 through 2010, choosing stories for Best of Best Women's Erotica 2 must have been a challenge.

In general, these stories are polished and effective in delivering sexual frisson in a variety of styles. However, this reviewer prefers two editors to one for anthologies like this: a series editor for continuity and a consulting editor for a different viewpoint. Two heads together would have interpreted “best” less subjectively.

The anthology opens with "Animals" by Rachel Kramer Bussel. In this story, the female narrator tells the man in her life that she wants to be treated like an animal. He responds beyond her expectations:

With just his bare hands, he became an animal for me, one who wouldn't take no for an answer because he didn't even speak any language, let alone English. He became exactly what I hadn't known I needed until then, his paws digging at me, burrowing deep inside, stretching not only my pussy but my boundaries as he bit and dug and pinched and thrust.

This story sets the tone for the collection, which is not exactly leather or noir but is beyond sweet romance. Kathleen Bradean's story, "Chill," is one of the more extreme fantasies here, since it focuses on necrophilia. (Luckily, no characters are actually killed in this story.) It is told by a female narrator who wants to be the succulent corpse herself, if only temporarily.

"Call Me" by Kristina Wright and "Voice of an Angel" by Teresa Noelle Roberts are both about the erotic appeal of the human voice. In "Call Me," a woman who thinks she is making an "obscene call" to her boyfriend learns that she is seducing a stranger. The mutual attraction between her and her "wrong number" seems likely to create complications in her formerly monogamous relationship.

In "Voice of an Angel," the female character is a costume designer who must design perfectly-fitting breeches for a male opera singer, a countertenor with the kind of high but powerful voice that used to be characteristic of castrati, singers who were mutilated as young boys to prevent their voices from deepening. Despite stereotyped assumptions about men with high voices, Daniel the singer is attracted to Jessie, the costume designer who must touch him during fittings. While she is thrilled by his sexual attention, she can't reach the release she wants until he sings for her.

The fine-art theme continues in "Just Watch Me, Rodin" by Cate Robertson, in which an artist pushes his model further and further for his art, and she shows him that she can deliver all that he could want. In "Amy" by Heidi Champa, a Dominant man torments his former lover by sending her DVDs that record the submission of other women.

In "Rear Window" by Scarlett French, (a reference to the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock thriller by the same name) a woman who has just moved into a new city apartment is inspired by the sight of two men in another apartment. Apparently they are tricks, not established lovers, and the thrill of discovery extends to the witness, or voyeuse. In "The Upper Hand" by Saskia Walker, an older woman discovers that a group of young college-age lads has been spying on her, and she resolves to make them pay.

On the theme of voyeurism, or one-sided fantasizing, "Another Assignation with Charles Bonnet" takes a woman's fascination with a man she doesn't know to the ultimate extreme. She is determined to find him again by his smell alone, and she succeeds. 

On the theme of literary or cultural allusion, "Fly" by Valerie Alexander is a brilliantly sexual interpretation of that classic children's story, Peter Pan. In this version, Peter is an irresponsible boy who kidnaps the virginal Wendy from her bedroom, watched by Tiger Lily, a completely different kind of girl, the one he has overlooked. By kidnapping Wendy, (who really doesn't mind) Tiger Lily is able to lure Peter into a confrontation. The magic trick of "flying" in the original story takes on another meaning:

What I want, she [Tiger Lily] thinks, is to fly. And then it's happening, his cock pushes into the initial tightness of her pussy, demanding and inexorable yet torturously slow.. . Already she's beginning to throb as they start to thrust, his heat and his hardness driving her up and up into blinding wet bliss, and then they're really fucking, faster and faster until at last Tiger Lily is flying.

Erotic punishment is predictable in a collection like this. "Becky" by Kay Jaybee is a classic BDSM fantasy about an office where female employees are spanked by their male boss. "Penalty Fare" by Jacqueline Applebee is a more unusual story about a rushed, clandestine encounter on a train, the female passenger's penalty for boarding without a ticket. "Cruising" by Lee Cairney is an atmospheric story about anonymous sex in the dark woods where a woman is not supposed to invade the local gay-male "cruising" area.

My least favorite story (based strictly on personal taste) is "Heat" by Elizabeth Coldwell. If "Becky" is a fun fantasy about erotic pain and humiliation on the job, Coldwell's story is a grittier and more realistic version. In this story, the narrator is working in a pub during an unusually hot summer. In the absence of the easy-going owner, a hardass manager arrives and immediately warns the two barmaids that he will not tolerate any slacking off, and he will be watching them. As the heat and the tension mount, they both come to hate his contemptuous scrutiny, yet the narrator can't help wishing he would fuck her. When she gets her wish, nothing changes between them. He is still the boss, and he makes it clear that he doesn't consider her special. He doesn't give her any promises (or contact information) before he leaves, yet afterward, she seeks him out in all the places where he might be working. Urggh. This story is all too believable, and this is a tribute to the author's descriptive skill.  

Another story that disappoints, although it is effective in its own way, is the mysterious "Lost at Sea" by "Peony." The narrator begins with questions:

Has it been that long? The clocks and the calendars are conspiring once again. Surely not? Have I been wandering, trapped in this haze, paralyzed by the thought of you? What day is it?

None of these questions are really answered as she seems to be submerged in an altered state of consciousness brought on by sexual surrender to an unnamed "you."

In general, this volume is guaranteed to appeal to fans of the series. Besides the stories mentioned, it includes work by Alison Tyler, Donna George Storey and Kristina Lloyd, among others. The passion can almost be tasted.

Best of Singapore EroticaBest of Singapore Erotica
Edited By: L.Q. Pan
Contributions By: Richard Lord
Monsoon Books
ISBN: 9810553013
January, 2006

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Anyone who is at all familiar with Singapore, in reality or reputation, will find the concept of Singaporean erotica rather difficult to believe. Who could be publishing erotica in prudish, politically restrictive, cleanliness-obsessed Singapore, where one can be fined for chewing gum or not flushing the toilet, where I once saw a movie ("Cave Girl" with a young, nubile Daryl Hannah) so severely censored that characters showed up in the credits that I'd never seen on the screen? In fact, the publishers of Best of Singapore Erotica received special permission from government censors to produce and sell this book, with the stipulation that it had to be sealed in cellophane to protect those who might be offended or corrupted by its salacious content. It was with considerable curiosity that I tore off the wrapper and began to sample what the authoritarian city-state had to offer in the way of sexy writing.

What I discovered was a collection of stories, essays and poems that help clarify why Singapore has a sex-hostile reputation. Legal restrictions on homosexuality and other "deviant" sexual acts are only the beginning. The obstacles to satisfying sex in the city-state appear to be many and formidable: ferocious upward mobility and a punishing work ethic; shortage of affordable housing, which leads to young adults living with their parents in situations with little privacy; traditional values that favor security over romance; and finally, a complex, multi-racial class hierarchy with social distances that are near-impossible to bridge.

In spite of, perhaps even because of, all these barriers, some of the authors represented in this volume do succeed in creating arousing and emotionally involving tales that I would classify as erotica. One of my favorites is Ricky Low's "Clean Sex," in which a successful young Chinese businessman falls in love with an Indonesian housemaid, only to lose her when she's accused of stealing the expensive presents he has bought for her. Another highlight is "Naked Screw" by Alison Lester, which portrays an initially confrontational but ultimately sensual encounter between a free-spirited ex-pat who likes to walk around her apartment without clothing, and a traditional South Asian laborer who claims that her nakedness offends him. Meihan Boey's "A Dummy's Guide to Losing Your Virginity," in which she chronicles her methodical approach to finding and bedding her first lover, is a clever comic gem:

"Feel free to fit us both into any convenient category of human behavior. Rest assured, I will not complain. Complaining, I find, is the refuge of the weak and unimaginative who have neither the courage to put up with shit nor the wherewithal to get out of it."

"And Then She Came," by Jonathan Lim, is a creepy yet unquestionably sexy story of a helpless student "not sober enough to be superstitious," who attracts the attention of a voracious female ghost. Aaron Ang's "A Perfect Exit" is a sweet, sentimental and finally surprising story of geriatric lust. I also enjoyed "Self-Portrait with Three Monkeys," by Chris Mooney-Singh, although it is more a character study than a story, the heroine a middle-aged career woman who consoles herself for her loveless couplings with an orgy of art. Another notable contribution is Weston Sun Wensheng's "An MRT Chronicle," a wry commentary on the trials of being young and horny in a society that offers no privacy at all.

Some of the other stories in this collection, however, made me suspect that the authors had not had much opportunity to sample currently available erotic literature. Some entries like Robert Yeo's "What We Did Last Summer," Gerrie Lim's "Walking the Dog," and Emilio Malvar's "Expeditions in the Twilight Zone," are dispassionate essays about sexual topics that are moderately intriguing but hardly engage the senses or emotions. Other tales like "Do You Have a Toothbrush?" by Lee Lien Mingmei, Rachel Loh's "Body Drafts," and Felix Chong's "Dancer from the Dance," are little more than descriptions of sexual encounters, with little if any plot. I suppose that in Singapore, the impact of simply having sex might be enough to make a story seem worthwhile, but for a reader who has been spoiled by the likes of M.Christian, Alison Tyler and Marilyn Jaye Lewis, just sex is not sufficient. Finally, there is Richard Lord's "The Phoenix Tattoos," which has the makings of an incredibly intriguing story, but which simply ends without resolution, intensely frustrating, for this reader at least.

Best of Singapore Erotica also includes a handful of poems. Most are, in my opinion, undistinguished, however Jonathan Lim's Speedo Dream is an exception, a sleek, streamlined homoerotic meditation:

i could not breathe
air whispered thinly around me
whispered sins that sounded like heaven

i longed to lick the salt off that skin
coat the smoothness with mine

All in all, Best of Singapore Erotica is uneven, but worth reading, not only for sensual thrills but also for cultural education. Although some contributions seem amateurish, the editors deserve respect for making an attempt to foster the development of erotic writing against considerable odds.

I noted that the book is available online from I can't help but wonder if it arrives securely wrapped in cellophane.

Best Women's Erotica 08Best Women's Erotica 08
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442992
November, 2007

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

What do women want?  Freud’s perennial question recurs again and again in my wanderings as a reviewer through the thickets of contemporary and classic erotica.  Violet Blue’s latest anthology of erotic fiction by women, and presumably for women, offers a possibly surprising answer.  Women want the thrill of an anonymous encounter, the sensual high of breaking taboos, the peak experiences of pleasure or pain without the complications of a long-term relationship.  Almost all the stories in this excellent volume fall into the category of sublime quickies with near strangers.  One might almost call the anthology “erotic non-romance.”

Violet Blue sets the tone with her compelling introduction, “For All the Johnnys.”  She begins by telling us that introductions are boring, but then treats us to a smoldering and possibly true account of sharing a lap-dancer with her fuck buddy and maybe-lover, Hacker Boy.  “I never saw Johnny again,” she writes, “but I wish I could read this entire book to her.”  The tale reeks of alcohol and come, garnished with tattoos and desperation, but it is sexy as hell.

Jacqueline Applebee’s “Penalty Fare” offers a furtive blowjob in the cramped bathroom of a train, an exchange for a deliberately lost ticket.  Jordana Winters’ “Peekaboo” gives us a plain Jane who discovers at a sex club how much fun it can be just to watch.  Saskia Walker’s lovely “Winter Heat” offers a bit of sweetness as a woman reminisces about her first orgasm, but still, it’s at the hands of a young man chance met at a bus stop.  EllaRegina’s prize-winning story, “The Lonely Onanista” is an original account of a woman who lives inside the Washington Square Arch and screws any passerby who knows how to find her.

One of my favorite stories in the collection, probably because it taps into my own fantasies, is Xan West’s “Please.”  The narrator meets an intriguing guy in a bar, and he fucks her, body and mind, in the bathroom.

“Here are the rules.  I do what I want to you.  You don’t touch me without permission.  If you want me to stop, you say ‘stop.’  That is the only word that will stop me, but if I hear it, I will stop immediately.  I won’t do anything to harm you, but I may want to hurt you a little, and I definitely want to fuck you.  Are you game?”

Imagine hearing these words from a stranger, and then discovering, at this stranger’s hands, the purest pleasure, the truest release, that you’ve ever known.  In a sense, this story distills the essence of what Violet Blue is trying to present – the intoxicating notion that the ultimate sexual experience waits for you, just around the corner, in the most unexpected places, with people that you haven’t met but who are destined to fulfill your dreams.

Of course, there are some stories in Best Women's Erotica 2008 that don’t exactly fit this mold.  In “Strangers in the Water,” R. Gay’s narrator returns with her uncomprehending American husband to her native Haiti, to the river where her grandmother conceived her mother in a furtive tryst with a fugitive.  Alison Tyler’s “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” is a high-spirited romp that will make you want to return to college.  Donna George Storey takes us back to the Japan of her novel, Amorous Woman, in the elegantly sensual story “Wet.”  “You Can Do Mine,” by Cerise Noire, gives us a couple who have been living together for a while, pushing their limits.  And then there’s A.D.R. Forte’s deftly-written tale, “Mercy,” about three co-workers whose pair-wise relationships meld into a scorchingly original ménage.

“Picture the cast of characters:  Rhys — dark hair just a little too long at the neck, tie loosened slightly because it’s hot here at the hotel bar, pretty-boy mouth set in that unintentional but totally fuckable pout so at odds with his seriousness; Kyle — half a head taller than every man in the room, blue eyes, wearing the power suit to end all power suits; charisma and control in different ways.

And me, staring at both of them over my glass of cabernet, my mind so deep in the gutter I’m afraid I’ll need scuba gear to find it and drag it out again.”    

Finally – well, not finally, because I haven’t covered every one of the excellent stories of the book since I want to allow you to discover some by yourself – still, I have to mention the strange and poetic “Lost at Sea,” by Peony.  This story is hazy and potent, like a dream; I read it three times and I still wasn’t sure that I understood it all:

“You.  A synapse fires inside my head.  Somewhere near the surface I can see a faint glow fractured by surface ripples.  I must be a long way under.  We shouldn’t have.  We did.  It’s done and cannot be undone.  We’re on the other side of that which had grown so large between us, the lust that devoured us, swelled fat from the absurdity of it.” 

In a way, this tale echoes the exhilaration and desperation of Violet Blue’s introduction.  This is what lust can do, these stories say: strip you naked, rip you open, leave you with scars that you will finger longingly in the future, when your lover of the moment is long gone – remembering.

Best Women's Erotica 09Best Women's Erotica 09
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443387
December 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Best Women’s Erotica is an annual anthology offered by Cleis Press. For the past several years, the editor has been Violet Blue. I believe this will be her last BWE. While the strength of this series may be partially due to the occasional change in editorial vision, I’ve enjoyed Violet Blue’s years at the helm. If this is indeed her last BWE, she’s chosen to go out on a high note.

In a Best Of anthology, you’d expect every story to be well written, and Best Women’s Erotica 09 delivers on that promise. So the stories that work for you are going to be the ones that speak to your desires. Lucky for you, there’s a wide range of fantasies covered here – finding joy in her body, pleasuring his, taking control or giving it up, forbidden fruit, and role playing.

“On Loan” by Lauren Wright and “Fast Car, Not For Sale” by Trixie Fontaine are at opposite ends of the forbidden fruit spectrum. In “On Loan,” the woman goes to a hotel room for a tryst set up by her husband. The man waiting for her turns out to be her father’s best friend. Wright handles the reality of the awkward situation believably, and then lets the characters use that to make the fantasy even more forbidden and tasty. In “Fast Car, Not For Sale,” the character seduces a barely legal boy with the assurance of a woman who can handle turbo-charged power.

“Switch” by Vanessa Vaughn is a sweet, hot look at gender play. At home, gender roles often reflect tradition rather than the contemporary mores of society, and Vaughn uses this to her advantage.  

Exhibitionists and voyeurs will enjoy Elizabeth Coldwell’s “Live Bed Show,” “Waiting for the River”by Kris Adams, and “Decorations” by Sommer Marsden.

If power exchange is your thing, “Lucky” by Xan West, “The Bitch In His Head” by Janne Lewis, “Good Pony” by Scarlett French, “The Girl Next Door” by Kay Jaybee, or the “Secret History of Lust” by Donna George Storey will fulfill that need.

And for those looking for just some good, hot, sweaty sex, “Snug Designs” by D.L. King, “Cardio” by Elisa Garcia, and “What If” by Cheyenne Blue are a good place to start.

One of the things that impressed me most about this anthology is how varied women’s expressions of desire have become. Sometimes I wonder if we’re daring to have wilder fantasies, or just getting bolder about sharing them. I think it’s the latter. Somewhere in this anthology, you’re bound to find a story that either grabs you by the libido or gently strokes it to wakefulness. Either way, you’re going to enjoy yourself.

Best Women's Erotica 2010Best Women's Erotica 2010
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443735
November 2009

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

According to the introduction of Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica 2010, editing anthologies is a lot like professionally tasting chocolate.  I can embrace this opinion because I’ve worked with some editors who seem equipped with nothing more than the skill to masticate, and most of those types often appear to have a mouth that’s filled with brown stuff. 

Not that all editors are like that.  I can name at least three I’ve worked with who aren’t like that.  Four, if you include Violet Blue with whom I don’t think I’ve worked, but who has always struck me as a dedicated and competent professional.  And Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica 2010 shows (as always) that she is capable of producing a world -class anthology of high octane erotica brimmed to bursting with exciting explicit fiction.

Alison Tyler’s “In a Handbasket” is a witty tale of ostensibly mismatched lovers finally finding each other.  Kay Jaybee’s “Equipment” is a raunchy yarn of one woman switching roles on her partner.  Emerald in “Shift Change” is tempted by an Apple and shows that computer repairs are not always interminable drudgery.  I could go on and praise the abilities of Sommer Marsden, Angela Caperton, Kristina Lloyd or Rachel Kramer Bussel and a host of other sensational authors.  This really is a wonderful anthology of highly-charged stories that are filled with surprises, sex and scintillating scenarios.  

So, call me a curmudgeon, but I always wrinkle my nose with disapproval when I see the words ‘women’s erotica’ on the cover of an anthology.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing else annoying about the title.  The word ‘best’ deserves its place.  The date 2010 (even though I’m reviewing this title at the arse end of 2009) is close enough to be accurate.  But I have to shake my head with dismay at the words “women’s erotica” and wonder if this isn’t an anachronistic holdover from an antiquated age.

As I say, the stories in this anthology deserve the word “best” because they’re all bloody good.  But why do we need to differentiate between ‘women’s erotica’ and other erotica?  (Notice there that I didn’t say “men’s erotica.”  There are no titles out there that I can find that market themselves as ‘men’s erotica.’  There are some books listed as ‘erotica for men’ but that is semantically and pragmatically different.  Presumably the reason there is no ‘men’s erotica’ is because it’s a known fact that men can usually tug off to nothing more erotic than the memory of partially glimpsed underwear in a launderette).  But referring to a collection of world-class erotic stories as “women’s erotica”strikes me as labeling for no good reason. 

In the publishing world it was once commonplace for people to discuss “women’s fiction” as a separate genre.  The term referred disparagingly to romantic stories, usually with ubiquitous purple prose and an obligatory “Happily Ever After.”  The term was seldom used as compliment and even Ms Blue, in her introduction to BWE 2010, suggests that the sight of too much florid euphemism is enough to send her heading to Harlequin HQ with a pitchfork, a can of gasoline and a road flare. Which makes it all the more puzzling as to why the term “women’s erotica” is so warmly embraced. 

Could it be that this collection is only for women?  Admittedly, the possessive ‘s’ in the title would suggest as much (in the same vein as the words women’s clothes in clothing stores and women’s studies in academic disciplines) but I personally think this is unlikely.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading BWE 2010 and I’m guilty of being very male.  I’m so male I drink beer, never go shoe-shopping and drive a Ford with a stick-shift.  That’s how very male I am.  If I had any interest in competitive televised sports I’d be exceptionally male but I can only honestly carry a stereotype so far. 

Admittedly,  the stories in BWE 2010 have all been written by women, but does the author’s gender ever make a difference to the style or quality of the story?  Literary theorist and philosopher Roland Barthes famously said, “the author is dead.”  Barthes assertion has been used predominantly in literary criticism to indicate appraisal of a text from the reader’s interaction solely with the words, rather than a mystical relationship between the reader and the distant (and invariably unknowable) author.  It’s an attitude that makes sense to me.  It also circumvents issues of whether the author is a man, woman or kangaroo. 

As I say, it’s hard to understand why such a wonderful book of stories should be blighted by such anachronistic and arbitrary labeling.  Nevertheless, I would urge every aficionado of erotica to overlook the title and simply rush out and buy a copy of the book now.  It’s good writing and won’t disappoint any woman (or man) who enjoys quality erotic fiction.

Best Women's Erotica 2012Best Women's Erotica 2012
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447552
December 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Using the superlative “best” in an anthology title sets the bar high. Picking up this volume, a reader has the right to expect every story to be exceptional – in concept, in craft and in emotional impact. Some of the tales in Best Women's Erotica 2012 definitely deliver on this promise. Others, however, do not.

The collection begins with the sensual and original “Drought,” by Olivia Glass. A woman driving through the parched hills north of San Francisco while fantasizing about her lover is brought to a halt by traffic jam. She pulls over, abandons her car and climbs to the summit, where the physical world, as well as the inner world of desire, take on a new perspective.

The blades prick through the thin fabric of her shirt. The breeze whispers to her, across her.  She slides her skirt up her legs and settles it around her hips. The wind teases her, gently. Her left hand drifts across her breasts, slowly stroking her erect nipple.

She has never been so awake or alive; her nerves are naked wires, her skin the wet pavement during a lightning storm. Her mind frees itself, expands. She feels as if a fault line along her breastbone has come apart, and now she is open to the air, her lungs expanding like slick balloons into the dusty ozone, her heart throbbing.

“Drought” is both gorgeously written and deliciously hot, a perfect pick to lead off a collection of “bests.”

“Tweetup,” by Louise Lush, comes next, a light-hearted, clever tale about the latest variety of cyber relationships.

He smiled. “I like your tweets.”

I laughed. “Now there's a twenty-first century compliment!”

The heroine encounters an on-line admirer and despite her real-world shyness, finds herself living up to the racy identity she's adopted in her forays into the Twittersphere. The story, though simple, satisfies with its good-natured, unpretentious lustiness.

K.D. Grace comes next, with her outrageous voyeuristic fantasy “Eddie's All Night Diner.”  Ms. Grace's heroine gets her kicks sitting panty-less on her bench at Eddie's, watching the other customers flirt and more:

What starts as the old I'll-let-you-taste-mine-if-you-let-me-taste-yours ploy rapidly evolves into oral sex on a fork, tongues darting, lips smacking and teeth just barely grazing the flash of stainless steel as they devour sweet tart creaminess. A generous dollop of meringue topples slo-mo off his fork down into his colleague's generous cleavage.

One night a stranger invites himself into her booth and subtly dares her to become an actor instead of a spectator – with his enthusiastic participation. Not since the sixties movie “Tom Jones” has food been made so sexy!

Next in the book is the astounding “Pleasure's Apprentice” by Remittance Girl. In measured, polite, almost distant prose, the author introduces ex-college student Rebecca, who's found work in a traditional company that repairs and sells silver artifacts. Working under the tutelage of taciturn, authoritarian Mr. Pierce, Rebecca learns to polish spoons and make tea for the sales staff. It turns out that her gruff, forceful supervisor has other things to teach her as well:

It seemed to Rebecca that he held her like that for an eternity, but it couldn't have been more than a few seconds. She had the sensation that somehow, she'd just stepped off a ledge and into thin air. It lingered until, with her ass pressed tight against his hips, she felt the slow and strangely frightening press of his cock as it came alive. With his free hand, he covered her breast easily. At first the pressure was warm, gentle, but it grew into something demanding and raw. He squeezed until she squirmed, and, when she did, his other hand pushed down the front of her skirt, massive fingers wedging into the space between her legs and cupping her roughly.   

“Pleasure's Apprentice” captures the gradual build-up of sexual tension better than anything I've read in years, as well as offering a fresh take on the nature of dominance and submission. 

These first four stories raised my expectations for more of the same. Most of the other tales in the collection don't come up to the same standard, though. They are, for the most part, quite competent stories (although two tales which I won't name exhibited an alarming lack of control over POV, and one had me quite confused by just whose voice we were hearing). They include plenty of sex, including voyeurism, BDSM, ménage, and even a bit of gay eroticism. I enjoyed many of them. But they were far from the best erotica I've read, even the best I've read this year.

Two exceptions are Amelia Thornton's “Dolly” and Zahra Stardust's “Lolita.”

The former is a stunning first person narrative by a submissive whose “Daddy” has given her a real live doll to “play” with. The tale is shocking, even cruel, but I found its evocation of interlocking fetishes incredibly compelling.

The latter has the luscious, hazy sensuality of an opium dream. Like “Dolly,” it explores the eroticism of complementary fantasies, in this case those of a young woman and a much older man.

Now Lolita is sitting on a couch opposite a man in a hostel in Tehran. He is watching her eat watermelon that is wet and heavy as a swollen clit. The juice is leaking down her chin and she is spiting out the seeds, but they are landing on her top, already carelessly stained with juice, or on her bottom lip.

He is watching her curl those lips into a half smile to the side of her mouth, which is a bleached pink, and how somehow this makes her cheeks glow. He watches her undress him with her eyes, lazily exotic in a way that is impossibly beautiful. 

Probably I am judging this collection too harshly. Many of the stories I haven't called out as appropriate to the title are nevertheless worth reading. The book includes tales from many of my favorite authors - Elizabeth Coldwell, Kay Jaybee, Tsaurah Litzky, Sommer Marsden, Jacqueline Applebee – as well as entertaining contributions from authors new to me, such as Chaparrita and Valerie Alexander. If you buy this book in the hope of reading some engaging, sexy stories to be consumed and then forgotten, you will get your money's worth.

If, on the other hand, you take the title literally, and open the book seeking erotica that truly stands out from the crowd, erotica that is extraordinary, you might, like me, be a bit disappointed.

Best Women's Erotica 2013Best Women's Erotica 2013
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448982
December 2012

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In short:

Good book. Great stories. Must buy.

In long:

Cleis Press make a quality product. The content is skillfully selected and meticulously edited by a competent expert in matters erotic. The stories themselves are written to the highest standard by authors of renown.

Best Women’s Erotica 2013 is no exception.

Including stories from the likes of Janine Ashbless, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler and Charlotte Stein, it’s a collective of respected names and powerful, passionate prose.

I’ve been fortunate enough to review several Best Women’s titles over the years. Having enjoyed each of these books I thought that this time I would dip into the work of an author I hadn’t previously encountered.

Thank you Violet blue for introducing me to the writing of Krissy Kneen.

Krissy Kneen’s story, "Susanna" first appeared in Triptych; an Erotic Adventure, published by Text Publishing Australia. It’s a complete story that deals with one young woman’s association with the erotic world through Auslan – the Australian sign language used by the deaf community.

I happen to be fascinated by sign language, so this story hooked me instantly. I am intrigued by the relationship between hand movements and cognitive understanding. To some extent I suppose this is a non-verbal extension of the Saussurean relationship between the sign and signifier. But, in truth, I’m simply fascinated by the idea of communicating silently and studying an interlocutor with the rapt attention I normally reserve for Shakespearean plays or high quality porn.

Kneen’s story seems to accommodate this level of prurient interest.

David was a good lover, expressive. His fingers demonstrated to her what he could not say. His mouth, passive throughout the day, was put to better use in the evenings. His lips formed shapes that spoke to her body as words could not. His tongue found ways to express his desire without the use of vowels and consonants. She learned from him a language of love that was as utterly different from the general machinations of sex as Auslan is different from English itself.

It’s an innovative approach to an erotic story, made all the more powerful because it makes the reader focus on the content of communication rather than way communication is expressed.

And, because verbal communication is such an integral part of our sexuality, the following is far more visualised, as the reader is shown the physicality of this powerful scene where Susana loses her virginity.

He seemed amazed by her, amazed by her virginity and her body’s impatience to be rid of it. His face so close to the part of her that no one else had ever seen, watching her. He made the sign for slow down, both hands held out as if to measure the surface of something reclining, the right hand tilting up as if to halt her progress. Slow down, slow down, but even the act of signing was too much of a pause for her. Susanna lifted her hips, taking the stop sign of his hand and pressing it into herself. So much slipperiness. So much sensation, the joy and pain of it fused, too much to bear, her blood slick on his fingers, his body quickly pressing forward into the path that they had newly discovered. He shifted; the gorgeous pressure of his pubic bone pressing where only moments before his tongue had been. Blood on her chest where he took her breast in his fist, blood on her face where she kissed him. She opened herself to him in a pact of spilled blood and when he came there was a second tearing, the condom destroyed, the pact sealed with the jet of his seed finding its way into her, a glorious tragedy, and they remained fused like this, slippery with sweat and blood and ejaculate and every movement of his hips fed her hunger again.

There’s a lot of damned fine writing in Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Susana is only one of eighteen sensational erotic stories that make this anthology a perfect way to start the new year.

Or, as I said at the start of this review: Good book. Great stories. Must buy.

Best Women's Erotica 2014Best Women's Erotica 2014
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780033
December 2013

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

What makes an erotic story memorable? You know the stories I mean, the ones that stick with you long after the book is closed (or your ereader is turned off). The stories that you recall days or weeks later with a frisson of arousal or a glint of joy, even when you can't quite summon the title or the author's name. What is it about those haunting, persistent tales?

For me, it takes something special. An original and surprising premise. Unusually intense, believably evoked emotion. An atmospheric environment that mirrors and amplifies the nature of the characters or the events. Or particularly creative and skilled use of language, the sort of consummate craft that triggers delight, admiration and envy, quite independent of the story content.  

It's not the sex. Let's face it, even in real life, the thrills of physical stimulation and release, no matter how exquisite or overpowering, fade quickly from memory. What stays are the psychological, affective and spiritual aspects of the experience – the sense of connection or of transgression – the bittersweet knowledge that pleasure is always fleeting – the terrifying flare of understanding as you discover truths you'd always hidden, even from yourself. The stories that manage to capture these complexities and consequences of sex are the ones I'm most likely to appreciate when I read them, and to recall later.

The latest volume in the Best Women's Erotica series includes a few of those stories.

Please don't misunderstand me. Every tale in this collection is well-written and at least moderately hot.  If you're looking for two or three hours of stimulation, I recommend this book highly. Both Ms. Blue and Cleis Press are known for producing high quality anthologies. (The explicitly labeled “Uncorrected Proof” I received had far fewer errors than many of the published ebooks I've had inflicted on me lately.) But for the most part, I found these stories to be mere diversions, tales of fantasies fulfilled that may well get you off, but which won't hang around tickling your imagination later.

Which tales will I remember from this book? Certainly I'd have to include Lucy Debussy's unusual  “Mary Lou,” which features a woman masquerading as a man and working as a stoker on a steamer. I found the gender-bending premise as well as the unabashed sensualism of this story delightful, even if it strained the bounds of plausibility a bit.

Then there's “Her Forest, Her Rules,” by Laila Blake. The heroine in this tale is a member of a club that enacts fantasy scenarios each weekend, rather like the Society for Creative Anachronism. In the midst of the forest, where her group normally plays, Amy – or Amariel, as she calls herself, when acting her chosen part as an elf-woman – is taken captive by a guy with a sword, a man she's never seen before. Their banter and their connection are just delicious, a reminder that role-playing frequently reveals much about our true selves. The setting, tone and characters of this tale are all enchanting.

Another favorite was Sommer Marsden's “Gentleman's Valet,” a BDSM tale involving a married or at least long-associated couple. Looked at in one sense, there's nothing very remarkable about this story. I've read dozens of scenes with the same elements – paddles, alligator clips, and a viciously hard fuck. What distinguishes it, in my mind, is the portrayal of the dominant's emotions. D/s stories frequently focus on the sub – her fears, her paradoxical desires, her satisfaction. Ms. Marsden's story reminds the reader that doms are in it for their own satisfaction as well as for that of their subs – and that the sweetest experience a Dom can offer his submissive is the knowledge that she has pleased him.

In the gorgeous writing category, my top pick goes to Rose de Fer's  “Nyotaimori.” I'm quite certain I've read at least one story with same premise: a woman bound upon a table and used as a presentation platter for food – in this case, sushi. (It's possible that I'm thinking of this exact tale, although it's not listed in the credits for previously published work.) However, this author brings the scene to life with painstaking and mouth-watering sensory detail.

My eyes betray nothing but gratitude for his offering as he places the tiny soft egg against my lips. With only the slightest movement I part them just enough to taste the salty juice with the tip of my tongue. It is heavenly. I close my eyes as I slowly draw the egg inside my mouth, bursting it with my teeth. It's only one little taste, one tiny bit of flavor, but it makes me sigh with pleasure. It mingles with the delicious scents all around me. The fish, the ginger, wasabi and soy sauce, his wife's perfume.... I feel myself growing even damper against the flask of sake, and I clench my inner muscles to intensify the sensation.

Reading this story, I was reminded of my first taste of sushi, after a lover had described it to me as “an orgasm of the palate.” I also loved the pan-sexual quality of this tale, the way eroticism seeps into every sensation and desire expands to encompass every act and every gender.

Speaking of gender, I want to mention Nikki Adams' story “Chrysalis,” which chronicles an encounter between a high-achieving, domineering, lesbian lawyer and a sexy, feminine, pre-op transsexual. I found this story intriguing, although a bit overwritten. One doesn't encounter trans characters very often in Cleis' female-focused collections. The story is memorable because of its differences, not to mention the way the experience shatters the main character's self-confidence.

Finally, I loved Alison Tyler's “Close Shave.” Ms. Tyler's tales are always a guilty pleasure for me. More than any other story in the book, this one – where a cheeky girl wanders into a barber shop and demands that the studly young barber shave her pussy – pushed my personal buttons. Having recently reviewed Ms. Tyler's erotic memoir Dark Secret Love, I saw new depths in this barely-disguised fantasy, echoes of actual events and real people who made a difference in her life.

Rereading this review, I see that I've mentioned six standout stories. Out of a total of seventeen, I guess that's actually pretty impressive. Every anthology has stronger and weaker contributions. Every reader will resonate with different tales, depending on her own preferences and kinks. Not every story in this collection will stay around to haunt you. But I'd be surprised if you didn't find at least one or two that will.

Best Women's Erotica 2015Best Women's Erotica 2015
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780882
December 2014

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

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.”

“She will.”

“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.

CU Thurs.

“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. 

Beyond Desire: A Collection of Paranormal StoriesBeyond Desire: A Collection of Paranormal Stories
Edited By: Maria Isabel Pita
Magic Carpet Books
ISBN: 0977431134
September, 2007

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Beyond Desire: A Collection of Paranormal Stories features many well known writers and a few who are new to me. The cover promises that “Ghosts, vampires, shape-shifters, succubae, demon lovers… there is no end to the mysteriously exciting ways the paranormal force of human desire defies reason – and death – by fearlessly embracing the eternal nature of love and the darkly potent power of sexual lust,” and that, “Between the covers of Beyond Desire, the paranormal is not fiction as it honors the undeniable real way desire dares to transcend all limits.” This rather verbose prose, bordering on the purple, unfortunately reflects some of the writing to be found in this anthology. Thankfully, several stories are much better than that.

Bonnie Dee’s story "Three Wishes" made me laugh. A woman discovers a genie in a bottle. Knowing how wishes can backfire, she matches wits with the genie to get exactly what she wants, and maybe a little more.

"Tropical Temptress" by Sage Vivant celebrates the goddess that lies within women. While the main character sees erotic situations, the real driving force comes from her imagination and her will. Call it magic influence or simply recognition of her own nature, it’s a refreshing change when a character seizes the power of her sexuality instead of passively waiting for someone to bring it out in her.

M. Christian’s "The Tinkling of Tiny Silver Bells" is a difficult case. As with many of his stories, it’s brilliantly written and a delight to read. But is it erotic? I didn’t find it particularly so, but on the other hand, I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t really care.

"When Aborigines Dream" by Michele Larue, translated from French by Noel Burch, is simply incredible. A dream plague robs white men of their sexual vitality. The rich, distant wife of a victim goes in search of a cure and finds instead a developing hunger for sex that she never had before. This is the kind of story I can read many times and never tire of. I’d love to read more from this writer.

The paranormal is a popular theme in erotica because it can deliver an experience rich in sensuality. Unfortunately, this anthology is hit and miss. Several stories bordered on purple prose, recycled romantic erotica clichés, or simply failed to use the sensual trope of horror and erotica to elicit even a frisson of interest. Sex isn’t sexy just because someone comes. It has to get under the reader’s skin and rev up the libido. While no one is going to like every story in an anthology, I had hoped to find more to enjoy.

Big Book of Bondage: Sexy Tales of Erotic RestraintBig Book of Bondage: Sexy Tales of Erotic Restraint
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449075
January 2013

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

It’s a real joy to read well-crafted bondage stories. There are many to choose from in The Big Book of Bondage, exploring female submission, male submission, and some same sex pairings. If you like group sex, threesomes, slut-shaming, and other kinds mixed with your bondage, you’ll find a story here for you.

One thing I enjoy so much about Sommer Marsden’s work, and in particular her story “Butter the Bird,” is how well she captures everyday life. There’s real craftsmanship going on here that it may take a writer to appreciate, but readers will enjoy how this slice of life heats up to a nicely decadent tale.

“Cute Boy gets Squeezed” by D.L. King explores the erotic potential of vacuum beds (although I can’t fathom another reason for using one). I’ve always been fascinated by them and she certainly makes it sound fun. This is a different kind of bondage than rope or handcuffs. If you like rubber or latex you’ll really like this kinky, fun tale.

I can’t think of a single Alison Tyler story I haven’t liked. She’s one of erotica’s rock and roll stars for a reason. Her “Burned” has amazing imagery and gets under your skin in a good way.

Kristina Lloyd’s “The Bondage Pig” was a little weird, but I was so fascinated I just had to see what would happen next. Then it got really interesting. Such an imagination!

Those are only a few of the worthy contributors. From Donna George Storey to Thomas Roche, many names are well-known in erotica. With twenty-five stories, this anthology is a little longer than most, but there wasn’t a single weak story.

Big Man on Campus: Fresh Gay EroticaBig Man on Campus: Fresh Gay Erotica
Edited By: Shane Allison
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449679
September 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

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.

Bitten: Dark Erotic StoriesBitten: Dark Erotic Stories
Edited By: Susie Bright
Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0811864251
July 2009

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

The very name Susie Bright would seem to thumb its nose at the whole notion of literary substance, but then there’s that other nom de plum, e.e. cummings.  They share in common the ability to elevate and rarify a fairly hoary literary form to create a work that belongs among the literary canon of the last decade.  In this instance, I refer to Ms. Bright’s Bitten, an anthology of “dark erotica” that exceeds any work of this kind that I have read since the inception of Erotica Revealed.

In every story, the authors have taken some cliché of fiction, usually gothic in nature, and turned it out with a new lining, a new feel and entirely penetrating sense of style.  Humor balances gracefully with cutting surreal horror in “The Resurrection Rose” by Anne Tourney.  What is more, as is generally the case in this volume, the narrative has a genuinely erotic effect on the reader.  Partly that is a matter of how the subject is manipulated, but equally important is the elegant and sexually fluid style.

To my delight the book itself is an oddly sensual object to handle even in paperback.  The cover art is a dark and sensuously raised representation of a snake in greens and purples.  The edges of the pages have been burnished with some sort of charcoal silver substance that makes them smooth to the touch and easy to turn.  Those who can remember 19th century books, which were often leather bound and burnished at the edges, will take tremendous pleasure in just touching this book.  It is silky, slick and has an interesting texture.

It may seem odd to extol a book ‘as object,’ but if you have occasion to handle lots of less thoughtfully wrought texts, as we all do in the age of the computer, the feel of this book is worth noting.  Plaudits indeed should go to Chronicle Books.  What’s more, why not?  I read erotica primarily for pleasure.  Why shouldn’t the caress of the book itself be as pleasant as the fantasies it creates?

The authors in this book have an amazing ability to connect the sense of touch with the experience of reading.  Sera Gamble’s “The Devil’s Invisible Scissors” is the best case in point.  What more innocuous cutting tool is there than scissors, especially a tiny pair of shears?  But have you ever caught your skin in scissors and felt their bite say while grooming a pet or cutting something thick and hard to penetrate?  The cuts can be both painful and surprisingly incisive.  The shears in the story nestle between two delectable breasts, so the libidinous imagination hums into gear at the contrast of textures.  You want to see these little scissors and touch them, but in the back of your mind, you surely know better.  That is real dramatic tension in fiction because it invades the body of the reader.

None of these stories fail to engage the reader even though they do so at a widely divergent set of levels. In “The Witch of Jerome Avenue” Tsaurah Litzky perfectly captures the unique and sea driven atmosphere in that part of Brooklyn, the borough in which I live.  She has blended the voice of its streets with the nuanced character of her heroine.

The most outlandish offering in Bitten is “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan” by Ernie Conrick in which the hero, Mr. Morgenthaler, has decided that, “he wanted to forgo their usual dinnertime rituals and have a sudden, impolite encounter that ended with the fertilization of Mrs. Morgenthaler’s esophagus.”  It is a tale of downtown Manhattan; an area where I lived for many years and apparently so has Mr. Conrick. 

His version of life there has a hilarious murderous tension that all New Yorkers feel when waiting for the “F” train to come and wondering if there will be a square inch of room for them to squeeze inside.  So dense is life for us in Gotham, and so bizarre the mix of people, that it does not seem outrageous at all that the laws of physics might be set aside and some totally new cosmic mayhem unleashed by our pent up sexual desires.  I will not spoil the story by giving more specific examples.

I think it fair to say that all the stories are strong and unique in this book, and thus something is there for every erotic or literary taste. You may even develop some new ones. 

Black Fire: Gay African-American EroticaBlack Fire: Gay African-American Erotica
Edited By: Shane Allison
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1602822069
February 2011

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I just came back from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, and while there I finished reading my review copy of Black Fire - oddly enough, right around the time I was gearing up for a panel about reviews.

One of the points that came up during the panel was how important it is to emphasize why something doesn't work for you, given that it might be a plus for someone else.  I'll use the same example I used then: I can't handle gory scenes. Medical thrillers will never be my thing if I have to hear about the viscera. They're also incredibly popular, and people love them.

I like my erotica with a big helping of story.  For me, much - in fact most - of the titillation is in the lead-up and foreplay.  Scene erotica doesn't often work for me. It's a dive, rather than a slow wade.

So when Black Fire began with Landon Dixon's "Fitting Room" I'll admit I was a bit worried. It's not that the scene doesn't scorch - by no means is that the case - but the scene between a clothing clerk and a well-hung and fashion-conscious customer was immediate. I wanted more from the characters before the blowjobs and sweaty sex began. The sex is hot, the men were hot, but I didn't manage to connect. But if you're one who likes your erotica to launch from the springboard, you'll likely enjoy this piece just fine.

That said, the very next story, "Alex's Adventures in the Land of Wonder China Emporium" was as fun as it was hot, and the characters were incredibly well woven. Jamie Freeman has a whimsical re-telling of the Alice tale here, complete with musclebears Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Alex's attempt to head on back home is amusing - and hot - throughout. I'm a lover of the retelling of tales, and Freeman's erotic retelling is a blast. Definitely one of the more memorable stories.

"Mutinous Chocolate" by Tom Cardamone is another standout. Blurring the lines with a paranormal twist via magical chocolates that managed to titillate as well as deliver a bittersweet - pardon the pun - tale that was as moving as it was erotic. The sheer variety of the magical chocolates as they deliver sexual release to the character on a slow spiral of a breakdown is great. I want a box of these chocolates, and I hope Cardamone knows where I can place an order.

The theme of the erotica collection itself - Gay African-American Erotica - is presented in a range that doesn't shy away from some of the stereotypes, but doesn't wallow either. S.J. Frost's "Like a Dream" was my favorite of the collection. It's a great story of second chances and conveys a deft sense of the extra depth the closet often holds in the realm of the black male. There is a sense of the romantic, often lost in erotica. Garland Cheffield's "Tomorrow" gives us a club-culture snapshot, and delivers a wry and sexy story of a couple meeting in the frenzy of dance and music. But there's more - clandestine sex parties, boot fetishes, master-slave, college seduction and sex on the down-low. There's range.

The stories that had fleshed out plots were strong and definitely kept my attention. There's enough in here if you're like me and prefer your erotica to hold a tale while delivering the tail. If you're a fan of shorter, in media res scene erotica, then I think this collection will be all the stronger for you. It's a mix - like many anthologies - but didn't fall and stay trapped in cliché - a risk this theme might have easily presented.

Blood Sacraments: Gay Vampire EroticaBlood Sacraments: Gay Vampire Erotica
Edited By: Todd Gregory
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1602821909
November 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In fictional worlds it appears that vampires are becoming endemic.
Etymologically we could trace this back to the folklore fuelling Lord Byron’s Giaour (1813), which, purportedly, was one of the many elements influencing Polidori’s Vampyre (1819).  Polidori’s Vampyre was a catalyst for myriad vampire projects, including stories by the likes of Nikolai Gogol and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Bram Stoker and his archetypical vampire story: Dracula (1897).  We could follow the vampire’s rise in success through the twentieth century until, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, literary vampirism had become ubiquitous across the majority of representational media.
The Vampire Diaries and True Blood are just two of the vampire-related TV shows that now take over from where Angel and Buffy used to reside on our TV screens.  No doubt you, dear reader, would be able to suggest others.  Similarly, the Box Offices are groaning under the weight of the successful Twilight films.  Franchises like the Underworld movies continue to produce entertaining narratives.   And, I believe, The Count still patrols Sesame Street.

Or, if we remain with the written word, we could contemplate Anne Rice’s consistently well-received output with The Vampire Chronicles, (Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, etc.), Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse stories (which have been popularised as the aforementioned True Blood series on TV), or Laurell K Hamilton and her stories of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, etc.).  Or we could go back to the phenomenal success of Stephanie Meyer’s previously referenced Twilight saga.

As the title of this month’s reviewed book suggests, Blood Sacraments (Gay Vampire Erotica) is an anthology of erotic gay vampire stories.  And the existence of so much vampire literature raises the question: why are we so obsessed with vampires?

It’s argued that vampire stories are appealing because they suggest a willing surrender to dark but pleasurable forces.  Vampires are renowned for advocating and endorsing illicit pleasures (late nights, excess, indulgence, voracious promiscuity, life without responsibility, etc.).  These activities are elements we, as civilised members of society, are supposed to eschew in favour of their responsible alternatives (early nights, moderation, temperance, judicious and selective sexual relationships, etc.).  However, if a character indulges in illicit pleasures because they are under the thrall of a vampire’s spell, it means they have a legitimate excuse for their errant behaviour: “I didn’t want to have all those pleasures.  It was the peer pressure of being a vampire that made me do it.”

But if this vapid excuse is the subtext beneath why we read vampire stories, what does it say about us as a society?  Ignore the implications of avoidance.  If the original trope of the vampire novel has always been a sanction allowing the reader to succumb to forbidden pleasures, does the ubiquitous nature of current vampire literature suggest that this condition has become near-universal?  Does this mean that we’re all prey to the same desire to enjoy forced pleasures?
It’s a worrying question.  But, I suspect, the answer is comparatively simple.  I believe we read vampire stories because they offer a familiar landscape of entertaining escapism.
It used to be that the first half of a vampire story would be a lengthy exposition: a treatise where the author attempted to convince the reader that the concept of vampires was a tenable possibility.  The propagation of this suspension of disbelief has diminished over time so that such enormous exposition is no longer needed.
In most cases readers accept the vampire fantasy more easily than the author.  Authors fret over the credibility of the world they are building and the balance of belief against bullshit.  But, as a reader, all we need are a couple of subtle clues (‘Did you see the Count flinch when I showed him my crucifix collection?’ or ‘Did you see the Count lick his lips when I cut myself shaving?’) and we know we’re in vampire territory.  For those of us who are fans of the genre it is a delightful situation.  We’ve accepted the existence of vampires as soon as we read the word in the title and pick the book from the shelf.  We are in a position where we can enjoy the pleasure of the maximum amount of vampire story with the minimum need for setting the reader up to accept that, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

This means, in an excellent anthology such as Blood Sacraments, edited by Todd Gregory, the reader can enjoy the indulgence of a lot more vampire narrative and a lot less expository text.  Todd Gregory exploits this development to maximum effect.

With this being an anthology I don’t want to ruin the reader pleasure of any story.  It’s fair to say that Gregory has selected wisely and the anthology represents a broad range of contemporary talent, all of whom are capable of producing thrilling vampire stories balanced with a sufficiently gay erotic content as to make them appropriate for the title.
Xan West provides a powerful and passionate account of vampirism and BDSM in "Willing."  In "The Morning After," Lawrence Schimel provides his usual blend of wit and seductive prose as he skilfully introduces an ingredient of humor.  And in "Kells," the inimitable Jay Lygon twists the familiar story of unrequited infatuation into something darkly amusing and adorable, all at the same time.

If the vampire myth is really our society’s subversive urge to be forced to enjoy illicit pleasures, then Blood Sacraments is one illicit pleasure that is well worth enjoying.  A good anthology, populated by some excellent writers.  In short: it’s bloody brilliant.

Bound for Trouble: BDSM Erotica for WomenBound for Trouble: BDSM Erotica for Women
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780270
July 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

In her introduction, Alison Tyler informs us that Bound for Trouble is the tenth bondage-themed anthology she has edited for Cleis. It's hardly surprising that this collection sparkles with kinky energy and glows with heat. Ms. Tyler definitely knows what she's doing. At this point in my editing and reviewing career, I'm fairly difficult to impress, but I believe Bound for Trouble will delight anyone who finds D/s content arousing.

What's so great about this book? Diversity for one thing. Almost every story attacks the theme from a different direction. There are M/f, F/m and F/f tales in almost equal proportion and even one M/m contribution. Some authors write about long-established couples, some about casual playmates, some about  just-met strangers. Meanwhile, the bondage mechanisms explored range from classic ropes to robots to symbolic chains made out of paper.

Ms. Tyler's own story, “Sitting Pretty,” keeps the reader guessing. For the first few pages, you have no idea about the identity or even the gender of the narrator. Only at the end do you begin to understand who he is and what he wants. This tale is both beautifully crafted and deliciously transgressive. Who would have imagined that allowing one's hair to be cut could be an act of submission?

“Magic Boots” by Amy Dillon offers one of the most insightful takes on fetishism that I've encountered in a long time. To arouse and entertain her foot-worshiping husband, the narrator secretly buys a pair of expensive, outrageous high-heeled boots they've both admired. As she wears the boots around the house before revealing them to her spouse, trying to break them in, she discovers her own perceptions and desires changing.

Complementary fantasies play a key role in several of the tales. In Benjamin Eliot's exquisite “Unwinding Alice,” the female of the title enjoys being tightly bound and locked in a closet for hours. Her husband confines her in order to please her; he finds the notion far scarier than she does. Meanwhile, he lives for the sight of the rope marks her trials leave behind. Their kinks are distinctly different, but interlocking, providing satisfaction and peace to both.

She flings her arms above her head, and I see the lines on her skin flow north with the motion. She's striped and crossed and dotted with the evidence of my control and I groan. Because seeing that evidence robs me of my current control. I'm powerless against the unwound Alice. I'm humbled by her strength.

The healing potential of dominance and submission is another common theme. Annabeth Leong's  “Paper Chains,” Theresa Noelle Roberts' “Ropenosis,” K.Lynn's “Business Wear,” all feature submissives wound tight by worldly responsibilities or hidden fears. Paradoxically, bondage sets them free.

Sommer Marsden's brilliant story “What She Has” struck me as one of the most realistic in the collection. The subtleties she portrays in the relationship between the submissive narrator and her Master, the ebb and flow of envy, anger, fear and love, amazed me. How can love and cruelty be so closely intertwined?

In contrast, Giselle Renarde's delicious fable “It's Not a Scrunchie” is pure play, a man's wildest fantasy made manifest in the person of a voluptuous, uninhibited gal who just happens to like tying guys up.

The mood in Bound for Trouble is lighter than in some of Ms. Tyler's anthologies (her Love at First Sting comes to mind as an example of darker, more ambiguous BDSM), but these authors don't spare the rope or the rod. Nearly all of the stories are entertaining. And a few will linger in your mind, long after you've closed the cover or turned off your e-reader.


Boy Crazy: Coming Out EroticaBoy Crazy: Coming Out Erotica
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443514
June 2009

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I always enjoy reading collections assembled by Richard Labonte. He has a finely honed literary sensibility, and tends to choose stories for their emotional intensity as opposed to their physical extremity. He views the gay world with compassion and wisdom, revealing its complexities to outsiders like me. Boy Crazy is sweet, hot, occasionally silly, and on one occasion, brutal, but always respectful of the challenges faced by gay men in a het world.

This anthology is subtitled “Coming Out Erotica” but I think “Initiation Erotica” would have been more appropriate. Most of the stories feature young men—in their teens or twenties—finally experiencing the homoerotic intimacies they have imagined for so long. While a few of these boys—the bookish cello player in Dale Chase's “Army Brat,” the “lumpish, clumsy” hero in “Larry and His Father” --go through the painful experience of admitting their sexual orientation to their family and friends, most of these tales are concerned with more private revelations.

Being a teenager—constantly horny, eternally insecure, perpetually misunderstood, at odds with family and the world—is hell for most of us. Being a gay teenager must be far worse. On top of everything else, there is the isolation, the inability to share one's fantasies with anyone for fear of being rejected, ostracized or even beaten up. These stories make that isolation real for non-gay readers. In both Michael Rowe's evocative “August” and Martin Delacroix's lusciously detailed “A Beautiful Motorcycle,” the boy is forced to endure the torture of seeing the object of his affections in the arms of his self-involved older sister. In “Paperboys,” by Natty Soltesz, two boys in lust pretend that they are just kidding around as they share their bodies. The heroes of these stories insist that they are not interested in men, even when they are dying to touch and be touched by one.

In some sense, there's only one story here: boy meets boy, or boy meets man, and is recognized, accepted, usually fucked and changed forever. As with a fairy tale, the reader knows how the story will end, but that doesn't diminish the pleasure of reading. The emotions make it all worthwhile, the unendurable longing and the incredible intensity of that first touch, when the longing is finally satisfied. These stories are a celebration of requited lust, and sometimes love.

One of my favorite tales in the collection is Alana Noël Voth's “Sundelin”, in which a college kid is obsessed with the barista at the local coffee shop. One reason I loved this story was that, paradoxically, it included no sex other than the narrator's outrageous fantasies. (It's also the kinkiest story in the book, since those fantasies are submissive in the extreme.) Ms. Voth leaves the reader to imagine what will happen next.

Another standout is “Game Boyz” by F.A. Pollard. In this incendiary tale, the narrator is swept off his feet and into the back alley by a gorgeous tough guy named Zen, only to be discovered in flagrante by his straight roommate.

Nearly all the stories in the collection are told from the perspective of the “boy” being initiated. The one exception is the amazing “The Pasta Closet”, by Davem Verne. Verne's narrator lusts for years for the hairy, meaty body of Gino, his childhood friend in Boston’s Little Italy. But it's Gino, the local Italian Stallion, who is ultimately forced to realize that he craves men as much as or even more than women.

A review of Boy Crazy would not be complete without a mention of the peculiar, outrageous, silly and entertaining tale “The Dolphin Temple”, by David Holly. This story, set in Crete under the Minoans, postulates a religious cult in which the primary ritual is mutual masturbation. The young hero Androgeous (!) is literally initiated into the mysteries of the Dolphin God by Phaeax, his boon companion and the object of his nocturnal fantasies.

The “brutal” story is William T. Hathaway's “Coming of Age”, which includes a gut-wrenching description of two hippie guys on their way from Kansas City to San Francisco being raped by a bunch of red-neck military men. Overall, I found this story a bit distancing, especially when it skipped over two decades of gay history in a few paragraphs, but the earlier scenes hammered home the pain faced by boys who love boys, but who can't or won't admit it.  

Overall, this intelligent and moving collection offers a sympathetic and exciting perspective on first times. Its unabashed sentimentality balances the anonymous physicality that I see in some gay erotica. Readers, gay or not, will identify with the boys in this book.

Can't Get Enough: Erotica for WomenCan't Get Enough: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Tenille Brown
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780343
July 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

“Too much is never enough.” That's the title Tenille Brown chose for her introduction to this anthology, and it sums up the theme quite nicely. This is a book of stories about sexual insatiability, about lust that can't be denied and sometimes can't even be satisfied, for more than a few minutes at least. The characters in these stories get plenty of sex, plenty of pleasure, sometimes plenty of delicious pain as well, but it's never sufficient.

How well do the tales in this volume explicate this theme? As usual, some are more effective than others. At the top of my list is Preston Avery's  amazing “Won't Last the Week.” The narrator meets the woman of his dreams at a party. They spend the night on the beach, so entranced by one another that they forget to exchange phone numbers.

She isn't skinny like the girls I usually go for, like my ideal “on paper” woman, but curved and soft and she fits me just right. Her breasts are big with a delicious slope to them, and I know they will overflow my grasp. I could bury my face in the valley between them and never come up for air. I could have seconds and thirds and fourths of her and die a gluttonous happy man. She does everything I lead her into. I don't ask – words are still lost to us. The first time I lower one of my hands to those gorgeous mounds, hidden between a thin blue cotton shirt, she doesn't protest or push me away- she arches into me, into my touch, and makes the most beautiful noise in her throat. That moment, those moments, are all that I can feel. The future is as unreal to me as a unicorn on the planet Saturn. That place where names and phone numbers matter is at least a world away.

As the week goes on, dreams and fantasies of the lost woman consume the narrator's life. Will he somehow manage to find her? Or will he go mad with need and frustration? The beautiful urgency of this story left me in wet wonder.

Another highly apt contribution is Kissa Starling's cautionary tale “Blue Balls.” A young man too busy with his career to pursue a relationship receives a pair of mysterious blue balls from the gypsy he consults for advice. The balls provide instant orgasms, of such intensity and delight that the protagonist soon finds himself neglecting all other aspects of his life in the quest for ever-increasing pleasure.

“Before They Burn” by Beatrix Ellroy is a delicious tale of power and surrender, as a party guest teaches the hostess in the kitchen just how much she loves to be dominated. As he brings her down from her orgasm and allows her to take the cookies from the oven, he tells her: “Next time, Orya, I will take my time with you.”

In Giselle Renarde's exquisite “The Girl on Your Skin,” a lesbian couple with an explicitly open relationship discover that the scent of a casual lover on one of their bodies creates a virtual three-some, kindling a whole new kind of desire.

The editor's own contribution, “Famous Last Words,” is notable for its clever and insightful portrayal of “break up sex.” It's not necessary to love someone, or even to like them, to be swept away by lust for their body. In fact, one of the aspects of this entire book that I particularly liked was the fact that not all its stories end happily. Stupendous orgasms are not necessarily the key to long-term happiness.

On the other hand, they're not something to be rejected, either.

Given the title, I expected Ms. Brown's story to be the last in the collection. However, that place belongs to Annabeth Leong's incredibly perverse “Objects of Desire.” Once again, Ms. Leong articulates sexual complexities that few other authors would even recognize. This tale of shame, need and kitchen utensils is one of the kinkiest – and most insightful – things I've read in months. It made me squirm, which I have to believe was the author's intention.

I've only mentioned the stories that particularly grabbed me, but overall, Ms. Brown has assembled a solid collection of erotic fiction, with considerable diversity in tone, content and gender pairings. I believe this may be her first time editing an anthology. She can afford to be proud of the result.

Carnal Machines: Steampunk EroticaCarnal Machines: Steampunk Erotica
Edited By: D. L. King
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446548
April 2011

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

To me, “steampunk” has always brought to mind Victorian idealism – and repression – blended with a lovely mix of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne.  It’s often a tough combination to do well and adding erotica into the mix seems like it would be quite difficult.

Happily, D. L. King gathered a group of authors up to the challenge.  In the introduction, King describes this lovely contradiction of the Victorian culture – so incredibly wound up, so guarded and hidden between such lovely – and tight – clothing; and yet they give birth to some great erotica.  Whether that’s despite or due to the Victorian culture of women’s hysteria and gentlemanly actions, the reality is those Victorians definitely had their thoughts about sex.  Shall we add in steampunk creations and see where this takes us?  Yes, please.

The collection is aptly titled Carnal Machines.  It would be easy to get lost in the devices of this ersatz era – they could so easily steal the show – but it is that the tales don’t do this that makes the collection shine.  I’m a firm believer in the strength of narrative in erotica, and it’s obvious the authors in this anthology are cut from similar cloth.  The devices are indeed carnal, but it’s the characters who take you there.

Case in point, the opening story, “Human Powered.”  Teresa Noelle Roberts gives us a woman inventor who believes she has found a way to store the power created by sexually frustrated women, but the device needs tweaking. Unfortunately, a woman of the times can’t go about discussing such matters, and so she brings it to the one man she feels she can trust – her late husband’s former engineering partner.  The slow boil between the two characters – and our heroine’s desire – tells a story perfectly set in this time period, and has a wry smile to deliver at the end alongside the sex.

“Sleight of Hand” by Renee Michaels, gives us a lady thief. Cassie is a character that’s wonderful to read, coming up against a style of lock that challenges her skill set, and leaves her at the clutches of a man she knows all too well – her husband.  The uncovering of the reasons behind her fall to thievery and their broken marriage parallel his seduction of her with his clever inventions, and the end result is satisfying on both levels.

I daresay my favourite of the collection was Tracey Shellito’s “Lucifer Einstein and the Curious Case of the Carnal Contraption.” Here we have a fantastic heroine in Lucifer and her silent sidekick, Earnshaw, who read as a kind of Holmes and Watson of a cheekier bent, and who come across a mystery in a series of devices designed to mete out pleasure for those most in the need – but who could be the one behind these gifts, and what could be the motive?  This story was laugh-out-loud enjoyable for its banter, and the series of steampunk devices – each more tuned to the individual’s needs than the last – was teasingly delightful.

The machines themselves, however, aren’t limited to steampunk dildoes – and here is where the cleverness of the authors D. L. King has collected is obvious.  Kathleen Bradean’s “Lair of the Red Countess” leads a gentleman explorer to a device designed to bare his soul to the phenomenally wicked lady of the house.  “Infernal Machine” by Elias A. St. James was somehow tender, funny, and sexy all at once, as a pair of young men try to figure out what a particularly complex chair-based machine might do. While Elijah worries that his Sasha might be leaving, he focuses his efforts on the confounding chair, to delightful – if unplanned – results.  In “The Treatment” D. L. King gives us an ever so slightly darker story, where a woman has found a unique way to use the vigour of young men to her own ends, and the dialog here is witty and sharp.   And in “The Succubus,” Elizabeth Schechter gives us a delicious voice – the device itself – which operates as an entire floor of a brothel and definitely yearns for company of the most erotic sort.

I have nothing but admiration for how well the authors in this anthology carried off the theme.  There’s no real sense of repetition – each story is a fresh taste – characters ranging from thieves to sky-ship captains and even Dr. Watson pays a visit; settings run the gamut as well, from trains to brothels to space; and the journey is a worthy one to take. 

D. L. King has gathered stories from a world I’d love to visit.  If only I could find my ornithopter...

Edited By: Selena Kitt
August 2012

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

A few things really stood out when I read Selena Kitt’s Colors. One, I was surprised – pleasantly – to find a mix of straight and gay stories in the anthology. This may be far more common than I’ve encountered myself, but this was a nice surprise for me (especially being a gay fella). Two, the range of the stories was a heady mix; some of the stories were sweat-soaked and down and dirty, some were a bit more romantic, one was a spec fic piece, and one walked the line near paranormal horror.

All in all, Colors was unexpected.

I was a bit worried that a collection with this focus – interracial stories – might somehow descend into trope or racial stereotypes, but Kitt didn’t snag that sort of tale for the collection. I enjoyed all the stories, and never really bumped into anything that made me squirm except for the M.E. Hydra story, but that made me squirm for a very different reason.

Though it’s hard to call any of the stories “traditional,” some were closer to a down to earth feel than others. Kitt’s own “Shorn,” which had an unusual pairing of an older woman with a younger man in a scenario that practically hummed with frustration. This is a woman who knows what she has is not going to last, but the fierceness of her emotions felt all the more real for it.

“Honey Trap,” by Giselle Renarde has a fun feel to it – a woman trying to use sexual blackmail to get something she wants ends up with more than she bargained for. This was a fun story with a twist ending that made me smile.

For those enjoying some submission, “Harvey’s Bargain” by Tristan Cole was a hot gay tale with a distinctly submissive twist – the character in question has always had an attraction – and a desire to submit to – black men. Added to that a difficulty in saying “no” to anyone, and Harvey soon finds himself tangled in a deal that grows more and more extreme, but may just be everything he’s ever wanted. Cole walks right up to the edge of a fantasy that’s just shy of taboo, and the story is all the more enjoyable for the journey. For those who prefer their submissive stories involving men and women, “A Most Extraordinary Orgasm” by Samantha Jones had a wonderful narrative path – a woman hired to be a submissive for the evening is puzzled by the lack of interest her master seems to be giving her – and the end result was another one that made me grin.

The two biggest surprises for me in the collection though were M.E. Hydra’s “The Skinning Knife” and “Jungle Bunny” by D. B. Story.

The former is a tale that is borderline horror – having read M.E. Hydra’s succubus tales, I went into “The Skinning Knife” cringing a bit and waiting for a tragic ending, but was surprised – if a bit squicked-out – by where the story went. I’m pretty sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the story was solid and well crafted. A mixed race couple who are getting grief from both families decide to take a very dangerous – and mystical – path to potentially being together forever. But if they fail... Well. You’ll see.

D.B. Story’s “Jungle Bunny” was probably my favourite of the collection. Despite the racially charged title, the story itself managed to use speculative fiction – in this case, a robot designed with the appearance of a black woman – to discuss more than itself. I love speculative fiction, and to have this mix of a clever story, erotic content, and some wonderful character development (especially in the form of the robot herself) was just such a welcome surprise. Definitely worth the read, and I’ll be looking for more D.B. Story.

All in all, my impression of “Colors” was one of surprise. I liked the freshness of the tales, as none really felt particularly “been there, done that.” Even the few stories that were more-or-less traditional weren’t stale, and the mix of stories that crossed boundaries (or genres!) had a wonderful effect. I really enjoyed this, and my time with the collection.

Come Again: Sex Toy EroticaCome Again: Sex Toy Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627781250
April 2015

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

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.


Coming Together Presents: Robert BuckleyComing Together Presents: Robert Buckley
Edited By: Lisabet Sarai
ISBN: 1451560737
February 2011

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ve been a fan or Robert (Bob) Buckley’s work for many years now. The man is capable of penning a solid story and keeping his eroticism credible, relevant and entertaining.

There aren’t many authors who can claim such a mastery of the genre.

Buckley, as you may or may not know, has been a familiar presence at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association since the days before the internet was available on computer.  His standing as a celebrated author, editor and general literary jack-of-all-trades has never been in doubt.  However, for those who may have wondered about his abilities, proof of his genius is now available in the anthology: Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley.  This is Bob’s second title of collected erotica. 

This collection is darker than Buckley’s previous work but not unpleasantly dark. The stories have an edge that gives their content a racy quality.

Take, for instance, the first story: “Fortune’s Fool.” The reader is introduced to a journalist who’s been doing the right thing and is suffering the consequences of such actions.

Personally I believe that no good deed will ever go unpunished so I can sympathise with the plight of the unnamed narrator in this story. This is a reporter who is trying to expose a football-playing philanderer. This is a reporter who has finally uncovered the dirt on the NFL’s biggest dirtbag. And, as a reward, his bosses have canned him.

Unemployed, and then blighted by a debilitating RTA, the narrator looks like he’s hit rock bottom. However, the one good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one direction to continue.

This is from “Fortune’s Fool.”

"Damn it, Tracey," Joann snapped. She ran to the door to see if anyone had heard. "It's all clear."

Tracey sank into the corner of the room. She had finished herself off.

Now Tianna climbed onto the bed. She straddled my head and eased her heart-shaped ass down grazing my lips with her pussy. Delicate, coiled hairs tickled my nose and I almost sneezed. Then I felt her pouty lips lock around my cock. Her tongue flicking about my shaft was in stark contrast to the nuclear-powered suck that Joann gave me. Tianna was all tease and finesse. I felt my jism begin to boil again. Her pussy aroma was all musk and citrus and my tongue eagerly sought entry. I slurped along her vaginal walls then back to seek out her love button. I began to tease her as much as she teased me.

I was getting close and so was she. Now she rapidly reversed direction and lowered her cunt onto my cock. She rolled those hula hips while holding her hands above her head. Her pretty little tits jiggled and bobbed sensuously. I envisioned a rocket launch and my cock exploded inside her. Her belly convulsed as she cried, "Oh, yes, baby, baby, baby...

This is first-rate erotic writing, written with a distinctly masculine voice. The stories are entertaining, well-paced and thoroughly arousing. Proceeds from Buckley’s title go to benefit Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (, which is a worthy cause in and of itself. However, getting the chance to enjoy Buckley’s writing is also a worthy cause because I think we all deserve to enjoy literature of this calibre.

Coming Together: Girl on GirlComing Together: Girl on Girl
Edited By: Leigh Ellwood
ISBN: 1491286180
August 2013

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

The Coming Together series is a worthy project headed by Alessia Brio, with the proceeds going to benefit various charities, in this case the National Center for Lesbian Rights. I’ve contributed stories to a couple of the anthologies, and feel a bit guilty for not doing more, so you can understand why I approached reading the book for this review with some trepidation. Nobody wants to be less than supportive of such a good cause.

I shouldn’t have worried.

I have to admit that I’d only read the two volumes my stories are in, but those were both excellent, so there was no reason to doubt that this one would be just as good. My only real complaint, in fact, is that the table of contents lists the stories’ titles, but not the authors’ names. If I’d seen those names right away I’d have known I was in for a treat. Most of the authors are familiar to me, several have written for my own anthologies, and they’re all in top form here.

As with anthologies in general, not every story will appeal equally to every reader, which isn’t a bad thing. Variety may be even more important in erotica than in other genres. Some of these pushed my buttons harder than others, but my buttons are on the jaded side, and I tend to like a story to be about more than sex, or about sex in new and complex contexts.

This (plus the masterful writing) is why Lisabet Sarai’s “Sundae Bloody Sundae” was the standout here for me, or at least the piece that sticks in my mind the most. Can a Dominant/submissive relationship be expanded to deal with problems like eating disorders? How far can dominance in a sexual context go to counteract a submissive’s self-destructive tendencies? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of deliciously hot sex on the way to answering that question.

Salome Wilde’s “The Princess’ Princess” appealed to me in a different way, with a fairy-tale aura but believable characters, and lush, vivid imagery. Kate Atwood’s “The Same But Different” is memorable for the imagery of D/s sex against a TV news background of raging fires in Australia; some of this worked for me, and some of it didn’t, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. The first story in the book, “Angel” by Ms Peach, was well-done and fit the book’s theme of “girl on girl” in the sense that the phrase is subtly different from saying “lesbian.” One of the characters is pretty clearly straight and fooling around with the other just as a reaction to breaking up with her boyfriend. But (personal taste again) I was happy to find that all the rest of the stories came down clearly on the lesbian side of the spectrum. I was also happy to find such a wide range of erotic scenes, vanilla to kinky, heartfelt to one-shot, and of settings, including an art gallery, a hot air balloon, and outer space.

The outer space story, “Fair as the Moon, Clear as the Sun” by Laurel Waterford, also one of my favorites, was already familiar to me from Women on the Edge of Space published by Circlet Press. Another reprint that I loved the first time around and enjoyed revisiting was the highly original “Winner Take All” by Andrea Dale, first encountered in The Harder She comes: Butch Femme Erotica edited by DL King for Cleis Press. I’m fine with reprints—in fact my two stories for Coming Together anthologies were reprints—and there may well have been more than I noticed, but my first reaction was that I wished there had been a list of where they had been previously published. On second thought, though, I understand the necessity of keeping expenses as low as possible when charities are getting the proceeds, and every page saved counts, which also applies to the lack of author names on the t able of contents. I shouldn’t complain.

There are things to praise in all of these stories, and I highly recommend the book as a whole. In fact I expect that the entire series of Coming Together books is well worth reading. Where else can you get so lucky while doing good?


Coming Together: In FluxComing Together: In Flux
Edited By: Nobilis Reed
ISBN: 1466440279
October 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Most of the anthologies I review have fairly concrete themes. During the past year, I've tackled collections on the topics of lesbian lust, dysfunctional romance, one night stands, female submission, and gay sex in the afternoon. Indeed, one sees calls these days for stories focused on particular sexual events: anal sex, oral sex, orgasms, spanking. Books like these target specific audiences who want to know exactly what they can expect from the stories inside. 

When I picked up ComingTogether: In Flux, a charity anthology on the slippery topic of “transformation”, I had little idea what I would find within. Having finished the book, I find myself astonished by the myriad creative ways the authors of these tales have interpreted the theme. About the only things these stories have in common are originality and exceptional craft.

The book begins with Angela Caperton's “Lawman”. An aging, retired member of an elite cadre of morality police enjoys the first blow job of his life as he tries to let go of the craving for the chemicals that made him a superman, but denied him desire. Even with a stranger, the experience of unfettered sex changes everything.

“Final Note” by Shanna Germain comes next – a wrenchingly honest portrayal of a woman whose long-time partner lies dying.

“Clara, Clara, Clara.”

My name slips from her lips, caw-cawed as though she is a dying creature on a sidewalk and not a full- grown woman. Not an adult, not a lover, not the former fabulous Raven Freemont. Just a fragile thing, wings crushed, beak croaking out the only word it can still remember. I need to end it.

The darkness of this tale is relieved by startling passion, as Clara burrows into the body of another woman to soothe the pain she can scarcely admit.

After this difficult story, editor Nobilis Reed transforms the mood completely in “Actual Size”, a bawdy tale featuring hypnotism, ménage and self-expanding breasts. He takes the anthology theme more literally than many of the other contributors, balancing philosophy with raunchy physicality. His other story later in the volume, “Explosion”, features psychological transformation, as the fallout from a mysterious blast turns women into insatiable, demanding dominants.

In Xan West's “Ready”, an uncertain young man trusts his rough but loving Daddy to take him where he needs to go. I'd read this story before and loved it. I found it every bit as intense and poignant upon rereading.

Ann Regentin's “Meltdown” is more an essay than a story. In luminous prose, she draws an extended comparison between the ruined, twisted environs of Chernobyl and her own experience of sexuality mutated by disability. Defying expectations, she paints her life as fundamentally changed but not necessarily diminished.

I, too, have stabilized, and I think I seem asexual to most people, just as Chernobyl seems quiet under its concrete lid. Who would imagine a disabled woman otherwise?

But in solitude, I have gone feral, able to give in to every desire, and fiercely defensive of my territory. Female sexuality is a powerful force, one that most cultures put enormous time and effort into controlling, and mine is now unchecked. It can go anywhere it wants, burning through what was supposed to contain it, consuming everything manmade and transforming into something no one has ever seen before, including me.

Several of the stories feature science fiction themes. Peter Tupper's “Upgrade” envisions an increasingly depopulated world as humans elect to “upgrade” their consciousness, transferring their memories and cognitive processes to a sort of group mind. Two late adopters – strangers - come together for a last, wistful coupling before relinquishing their physical bodies and their separateness.

“Feast of the Incarnations” by Gayle Straun is a wildly imaginative political fable of corrupting power and liberating sexuality, where the ruling class do nightly backups of their consciousness so that they can be reincarnated in the event of their assassination.

The book includes several stories about shape shifting: ancient vampires in Skylar Sinclair's “Love Everlasting,” werewolves in Mildred Cady's “Three Moons,” finned and scaled mer-creatures in Jhada Addams' “Water Shaman.” Meanwhile, Kissiah Aiken's “Transformative” deals with a real world shape shift, as the narrator crosses genders from female to male – and then realizes this is only the first stage in her change. 

Possibly the most erotic tale in the mix is the lovely “Unlock My Heart”, by R. Taylor, about a female automaton, created as a servant for humans, seeking her one true mate.

She knew her lock by heart, having examined it with mirrors and fingers often. It was set low in her abdomen, decorated with silver filigree that stood out against the deep purple of her ceramic skin. It had a rounded upper opening extending to a long rectangular hole, seven tumblers waiting inside to be depressed by the properly-shaped key. The man gazed at her lock as his key extended with a small grating sound. It seemed to be a match, with its curved top and oblong base, and crenellations that looked as though they would fit into hers. But only the test would tell.

The ending of this story took me by surprise – but then, pleasurable surprise was a common experience for me while I was reading this volume.

If you're looking for a whole book full of stories about the specific kinks that push your buttons, you might find Coming Together: In Flux a disappointment. If you're more like me, capable of being aroused by a novel premise or a stunning sentence, buy this book.

All profits from the sale of Coming Together: In Flux benefit the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance.

Coming Together: In VeinComing Together: In Vein
Edited By: Lisabet Sarai
ISBN: 1479125555
December 2012

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

In her introduction, Lisabet Sarai begins with a statement that I had to chuckle over.

“Not another vampire book....”

I have to say: every time I spot another vampire on the cover of a book I have the same sinking sensation. The “here we go again” of vampires does tend to wear a bit, and when you bump into the same old vampire tropes over and over (and over) again, it’s enough to make you swear off blood-suckers for good.

Which is why Coming Together: In Vein was such a pleasant surprise. It’s obvious that Lisabet Sarai is well aware of the tropes and has gone out of her way to collect stories that take at least a step (but usually two or three) away from the usual vampires – did I really just say ‘usual vampires’? – and bring something fresh to the collection.

Before I delve into the stories, I’d also like to take a wee moment to point out that this collection of stories gives you something you don’t see often in erotica – a good deed. Funds from the book go to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctor’s Without Borders) – so this is a collection worth scooping up for more than just the quality included.

And just to be clear? There is quality included.

Right from the get-go, we find ourselves in refreshing new territory with “Nixie’s in Love” (C. Sanchez-Garcia) who gives us a foul-mouthed German vampire on perhaps the narrower edge of sanity, whose human lover has found a novel solution to the blood-drinking, and is attempting to bring a normalcy back to their life (and a very fun dose of role-play and hunter-and-prey to their sex life).  It’s fun, and lively (if you’ll pardon the pun) and a wee bit manic. Definitely not your typical vampire erotica.

Of a different tone is “The Taste of B Negative” (Cheyenne Blue), which is dark, full of an ethical snarl, and has a conclusion that left my inner revenge-glutton feeling fully sated. Lovely.

I’m also starting to learn you can always count on Xan West to bring you a phenomenal story that steps to the side and then trips up your expectations. “Willing” is brutally brilliant, a mix of sex, BDSM, and boundary pushing that leaves the reader breathless and unsure of the possibility of a positive outcome. “Willing” deliciously defies expectations.

“It’s Lovely, It’s Horrible” by Kathleen Bradean is another bravura performance in defying expectations from the reader and mixing up dichotomies. Fear and sex, lust and desperation, captive and hunter – the spin of this story is dizzying, leaving the reader so tied up in the chase that there’s little hope for escape. This is a story that turns “vampire” on its head – and satisfyingly so.

Lisabet Sarai’s own story, which concludes the anthology, “Vampires, Limited,” left me with just the right tone for the collection. A mix of blithe and dark, “Vampires, Limited” tells the tale of a woman who has been using the Vampire mythology to sell magazines – and turn a tidy profit.  She is presented with the reality when hunting for a new cover model, and finds that there’s a reason it’s called mythology.

Coming Together: In Vein was a very welcome surprise. None of the stories felt familiar or typical (some even crossed into speculative fiction territory) and it was a very welcome reminder that given the right authors, even something that feels as “done” as vampires can – pardon another pun – gain new life.

Coming Together: Through the StormComing Together: Through the Storm
Edited By: Nicole Gestalt
Coming Together
ISBN: 1494982056
January 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

On November 8, 2013, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded slammed into the southern islands of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan created a storm surge as powerful as a tsunami, a giant wave that more or less wiped the city of Tacloban off the map. Over six thousand people are confirmed dead, with many people still missing and bodies still being found, months later. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless and without resources. The Philippines is a poor country, compared to the U.S., Europe and even the Southeast Asian state where I live. Haiyan's victims started with little, but many now have nothing.

In response to this catastrophe, Coming Together, the original home of altruistic erotica, rallied the faithful to put together a brand new anthology, Coming Together: Through the Storm. Edited by Nicole Gestalt, this volume collects thirteen tales exploring the erotic possibilities of weather. Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms and heat waves serve as the backdrop for a delightfully varied range of sexual adventures.

Teresa Noelle Roberts has two stories in the book, and they're both among my favorites. In “Storm Surge,” a couple who share a dangerous addiction to difficult weather head out to Cape Cod to experience the fury of a Nor'easter – and their own passion. “Country Pleasures” takes its protagonists to a country castle in rainy Ireland, where they discover the sensual aspects of rubber – as in rubber raincoats!

Spencer Dryden's “Storm Across the Prairie” unfolds in Tornado Alley, where the narrator rescues a stubbornly independent young lady in a tent from the ravages of a “Nebraska gully washer.” This was the only story in the collection taking a male point of view. The narrator's voice is wry and engaging.

There's nothing that gets me in the mood for sex like the sound of rain on the roof of a motor home.

“Everything gets you in the mood for sex,” my wife Linda chimes, hearing me trying to dictate a story with this new fangled device.

“Thunder,” by Karenna Colcroft, gives the theme of storm-enhanced arousal a bit of a paranormal twist, while Skilja Peregrinarius creates an entire new world wracked by vicious winds in the richly detailed fantasy “Inside the Eye.”

Several luscious lesbian tales add to the mix. Annabeth Long's “Sinkhole” is about getting muddy, letting go, and learning to trust yourself and your desires. Ice barely helps to cool Brantwijn Serrah's heroines who escape to the roof “In the Heat of the Night.” “Duet” by Lady Grey portrays the deliciously ambiguous coming together of two very different women as rain pummels their roof.

Appropriately, two stories focus on the devastation and disorientation wrought by a hurricane. Leigh Ellwood's “And Lily Makes Three” illustrates how the passions of nature can inflame those of her creatures. “Take Me Like a Hurricane” by Naomi Bellina takes place after the wrath of nature is spent, when electric power is spotty, food, water and air conditioning are scarce, and tempers are short. A man and woman both claim the last available motel room and end up sharing more than just accommodation.

Of course, authors have often used weather as a metaphor for human emotion. Like weather, sexual passion can be violent, disturbing, even frightening. Both can irrevocably change the world. This collection captures that truth.

All proceeds from Coming Together: Through the Storm support the Mercy Corps, one of the charities working in the Philippines and elsewhere to help victims recover from natural disasters. However, this arousing collection would be worth buying even without the altruistic motivation.

Crossdressing: Erotic StoriesCrossdressing: Erotic Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Contributions By: with a forward by Veronica Vera
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442887
August, 2007

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Sexy outfits are an important element in much modern erotica, especially in stories that focus on fetishes. Leather and lace abound in that genre, and they have been named in book and song titles. (Readers of a certain age could probably hum along with me.) So does Rachel Kramer Bussel's latest clothing anthology unpack the same old wardrobe of push-up bras, thongs, tight pants and stilettos? Not exactly.

This collection of "crossdressing" stories is really more about gender-based role-playing than about clothing as such. The power of the clothes in these stories to make characters think, feel and behave differently than they usually do recalls stories about enchanted garments such as Cinderella's ball gown conjured out of spider webs by her fairy godmother, the "sorting hat" in the Harry Potter novels, cloaks that make their wearers invisible and battle-wear that makes them invulnerable. "Crossdressing" as defined in this anthology is a traditional concept, based as it is on the notion that men and women live differently, and that dressing as a member of the "other" gender is akin to shapeshifting. This book is about the deeply erotic implications of "drag."

Stories about males dressed as glamorous women could be expected in this book, but there are less predictable scenarios here as well. Despite the revolution in women's fashion which has made it acceptable for women to go almost anywhere in pants (trousers) and every other item of dress formerly reserved for men, the women in these stories who deliberately dress "as men" for specific purposes find that the experience changes their consciousness as well as their image. In Elspeth Potter's fantasy story, "The Princess on the Rock," the hero who comes to rescue the princess from a fearsome sea-monster is a woman dressed in the garb of a fairy tale soldier-of-fortune. Needless to say, the hero gets the girl, especially since making her less "pure" (and thus attractive to the monster) is part of the rescue strategy.

Several of these stories play with the notion that a relatively butch woman (especially a dyke) who puts on feminine dress is in "drag." In Andrea Miller's story, "Tori's Secret" (reprinted from Best Lesbian Erotica 2006), the narrator carries out an elaborate revenge scheme by pretending that she has always been a butch in disguise in order to outdo her ex-lover in the art of casual seduction. In "Tough Enough to Wear a Dress," by Teresa Noelle Roberts, a lesbian progresses from being a closeted teenager in a ruffled 1980s prom dress to "coming out" in college in leather and ragged denim to dressing up in a custom-made man-tailored suit to going out on a hot date in an ultimate gender-bending ensemble.

In the daring "Beefeater," by Lisabet Sarai, a heterosexual English girl fulfills her lifelong desire to wear the historic uniform of her uncle, a Yeoman of the Guard, by promising to give her cousin Phil the sex he wants in exchange for his help. The invasion of Uncle Geoff's closet for several illicit purposes excites both young lovers to fever pitch.

The stories about men who dress in feminine frills range from light and sunny (Rachel Kramer Bussel's "A Cute Idea," in which a young man agrees to wear his girlfriend's silky underwear) to poignant ("Higher and Higher" by T. Hitman, in which a frustrated man in a dead-end job and similar marriage finds the "dudette" of his dreams) to tragic ("The Sweetheart of Sigma Queer" by Simon Sheppard, in which a crossdressing young gay man is sexually used by a succession of men who regard him as a joke).

The theme of sneaking into forbidden places wearing "inappropriate" garb continues in stories about men, since "women's" clothing is generally more taboo for men than vice versa. In "More Than Meets the Eye" by Stephen Albrow, a businessman loves wearing women's lingerie under a suit. After defeating his corporate rival in a ruthless takeover bid, the character shows his alter ego, "Suzy", by taking off his masculine business armor in the men's lavatory, where the rival is allowed to "win" sexually.

In "Down the Basement" by Ryan Field, the narrator explains:

"One Halloween night during my senior year in college, I went to a costume party in a broken-down frat house, dressed as a character I'd been inventing for months--years, if you really want to get technical. I looked like any normal guy in college by then: short, sandy blond hair, blue eyes, white polo shirts, and khaki slacks . . Most people would never have guessed that I was gay or that I had a secret passion for lipstick, earrings and very high heels."

The narrator is invited to descend literally into an underworld of drunken frat boys who all seem to think he is a sexually-available girl. He worries about what they will do if and when they discover the truth, but one of them already knows.

Several of the stories deal with complex currents of lust among three or more characters, both crossdressers and their significant others. In a story about another Halloween party, two heterosexual couples explore their gender-variant sides when a husband and a wife change genders for the evening. Helen Boyd, the author of this story, also wrote two autobiographical books (My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married) about her crossdressing husband.

Several stories deal sensitively with the fear and hostility shown by characters whose sense of sexual identity is shaken by a partner's fantasy or by the attractiveness of a fellow-partier in drag. In the final story in the collection, "Some Things Never Change," a lesbian in Vancouver (the Canadian version of San Francisco), learns to accept the two spirits (butch and femme) in herself and in her girlfriend. Each persona has its own wardrobe, and both are equally valid. One of the themes of this anthology is the well-worn saying that before you can judge another person's actions, you must walk a mile in his/her shoes.

Throughout this collection, clothing is the tangible symbol and entrance-point into various states of mind and soul. These stories show that "drag" still has the power to shock the most sexually experienced observers, and to work magical transformations on everyone involved.

Cruising: Gay Erotic StoriesCruising: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Shane Allison
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447862
April 2012

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

There’s a wonderful Walt Whitman poem I love so that includes the following lines: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” If that seems like a stuffy and odd way to introduce a review of Cruising, by Shane Allison, just bear with me for a bit.

Cruising is a collection of just that – erotic encounters where strangers negotiate quick trysts with the flick of a glance, the tap of a foot, or any other myriad signals that have evolved between men trying to hook up with other men for some quick relief. There’s often something of a dichotomy at play here – these are marginalized men (as Shane points out in his introduction) who haven’t got the typical outlet that straight society has – these are men resorting to the stink of a dirty highway bathroom, tea room, or dark bookstore stalls. There’s the edge of desperation here, as well as the shiver of anticipation of finally – finally – having some fun with whichever random stranger comes along. It’s dirty. From the outside, it seems empty and sad – but in the hands of the right authors, it can be all the more titillating for the rushed danger of it all. And in some cases, it’s only the outside appearance after all.

The “empty and sad” does have its place, and in the opening tale by Bob Vickery, “School Queer,” the overwhelming presence of this isn’t entirely unwelcome. The one boy that everyone knows is queer – but blows the straight boys behind the boathouse – carries this mix of pride and outcast status perfectly. This is what Pete can get right now, and he’s damned good at it. When something “more” appears – in the form of popular and handsome Bill, who is taking an odd amount of interest in Nick, another boy Pete services, there’s a tangle of power that starts to unravel a bit.

I look up into his face, but his eyes are trained on Nick’s spit-slicked, fully hard cock. Bill’s the big man on campus, and I may be the queer boy with zero status, but tonight the tables are turned.

I think this was a major part of “getting” the anthology for me in terms of theme. I’m not sure if I found something that wasn’t put there on purpose, but there’s a projection of power and freedom in many of these stories – especially from the characters most trapped and powerless – that breathes a freshness into what otherwise might have been an anthology like many others: eyes meet, clothes fall, orgasms happen. Instead, in many of the tales, there’s a sense the characters are claiming these moments and making their lives their own – even if that happens in a seedy bathroom stall.

This is not to say there is no danger. Anytime Jeff Mann’s name pops up, I sit up and pay attention, and with his tale, “Keeper,” a young trucker bear is about to learn the dangers of taking unknown cargo for some extra cash. In this case, an innocent cruising at a truck stop could lead to murder. Fans of Mann will know they’re in for a great piece of erotic prose with that edge he manages so well: bondage, rope, deprivation, and perhaps an end very final. Mann’s ability to leave you unsure until the last few moments plays out as strong as ever. It’s dangerous, violent, bloody and terrifying; all these things should not be erotic, but in Mann’s hands they rage. Again – the sense of contradiction so prevalent in the anthology.

I have to also mention “The Tuggle Muggs Magic Cave Ride” by Jonathan Asche as an amusing favourite in that it has a lighthearted and amusing tone throughout. Trapped with his sister and nephew at – horrors – an amusement park, here the narrator makes eye contact with a handsome stranger, and takes a quick trip to a closed amusement park ride to find some relief. The occasional sounds and theme park music overlaying the enjoyment the two men find inside the cave is funny, and I had a few good laugh out loud moments with this one. It brought a less seedy fell to the anthology.

Mark Wildyr’s “Bully” bothered me in a different way. It’s not to say that the erotica wasn’t well written, but more that the main character’s evolution left me feeling nauseous. From bullied to bully – especially over a smaller, more innocent character who never does anything wrong to him – Toby generated no empathy from me, and I was left more disgusted than anything else. This could easily be a case of “too close to home” though, in that having your face kicked in generally leaves you unable to connect with bullies thereafter.

The settings vary more than I’d thought they might. Beyond Mann’s truckstop, Asche’s amusement park, and Vickery’s boathouse, we’re also treated to Shaun Levin’s cemetery, Donald Peebles Jr.’s subways, Jeremy Anders Windsor’s greenhouse – there’s a good mix of age and body types, as well. And in a funny retelling of “Little Shop of Horrors” Gregory L. Norris gives us the “Little Shop of Hummers.” Another laugh-out-loud fun story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Cruising. Dirty anonymous sex, sure, but how could an entire book of those stories continue to be interesting? Well, put in the hands of capable authors, it can be done. These are not endless married men on the down-low (though some of their tricks might be), these are guys getting off incognito, and mostly doing so with a sense of empowerment I honestly hadn’t really considered before. Cruising is definitely worth a toe tap or two.

Curvy Girls: Erotica for WomenCurvy Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580054080
April 2012

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Who is “overweight?” Who is “plus-sized?” These loaded terms are more culturally-specific than many people seem to realize. This anthology contains no precise definition of “curvy,” but the fact that women’s clothing in Size 14 and up is usually only available in “plus-size” stores (at least in North America) neatly serves to divide women on the basis of size in much the same way that apartheid once divided people on the basis of skin colour.  Despite famous paintings of full-figured women and even famous centrefolds of the likes of Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, the current belief that gorgeous equals painfully thin seems to permeate Western culture.

This anthology not only aims to restore the self-esteem of “plus-sized” women, it aims to show why they are and always have been sexy. In these stories, fat-phobia is unpacked as a form of prejudice that is no more rational than racism or sexism. In fact, the equation of “overweight” with poor health is deliberately overturned on the first page of “Champagne and Cheesecake” by A.M. Hartnett: 

She called them her ‘victory tits.’

A whole year without smoking, and Sylvia had packed on thirty pounds, but she was no longer sorry for a single ounce of the blubber. In fact, now that she was staring at her reflection in the full-length mirror of the luxurious hotel room, she was feeling pretty good about the added girth.

Of course the hotel room where Sylvia has planned a tryst with two of her men friends is luxurious. Effective descriptions of sex, including scenes of mutual attraction and sexual tension, have always included delicious excess:  extravagant settings, luxury items, feasts, multiple partners, extreme sensations (including pain so intense that it transmutes into pleasure and vice versa), explosive orgasms. The message of this anthology that fat can be beautiful is consistent with the traditional exaggerations in much erotic fiction.

Several of these stories combine esthetic excess with references to past periods when the ideal woman was imagined as plumper than the models of today. In “Wenching” by Justine Elyot, Ginny is dressed as a peasant wench of the 13th century to serve at a medieval feast, where she meets her modern-day prince, and he explains to her why she should never feel ashamed of her body:

Think of all the words associated with a bit of extra flesh. Generous. Ample. Voluptuous. Bountiful. Beautiful, sensual words. Contrast them with their opposites. Mean. Insufficient. Meager. Miserly.

Ginny and her admirer sneak off to a hideaway where he shows her in the most convincing ways that he adores her generous flesh.

“Before the Autumn Queen” by Angela Caperton focuses on a nineteenth-century painting of “Autumn” as a majestic woman who seems to be offering herself to a lover. A modern-day male art-lover notices the resemblance of a woman who works in the art gallery to the painting that graces one of its walls. The resulting seduction seems like a threesome which involves the man, the woman, and the eerily life-like image.

Most of the couplings in these stories are heterosexual, and the man’s admiration for a woman with ample curves enables her to see herself through his eyes instead of through the self-punishing lens of the fat-phobic media.  Two of these stories (Hartnett’s “Cheesecake and Champagne” and “Appetite” by Elizabeth Coldwell) involve threesome scenes in which the woman shows her generosity and her appetite for pleasure by taking on two men. In at least one story (“Excuses”), the man-woman relationship is interracial, and the white man shows that he admires the beauty of a woman who is neither blonde nor skinny.

Three of these stories feature f/f sex between women who have defined themselves as lesbian for some time, and therefore their relationship with mainstream culture is different from that of women who have never lived anywhere else. In “Recognition” by Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai, two women exchange glances in an airport and recognize each other as having something important in common despite their differences in race, culture, occupation, relationship status and home city (one lives in Atlanta, one New York). Their brief hookup in the cramped space of a lavatory is not meant to be repeated, but it seems likely to affect them both for a long time. In “At Last” by Jessica Lennox, a pair of long-term friends finally act on the attraction which has been simmering for years. “What Girls Are Made Of” by Evan Mora is more of a prose-poem than a narrative, and it sings the praises of a “dapper butch woman with a little substance to her.” These stories encourage me to hope that lesbian culture will never adopt the degree of fat-phobia which causes too many heterosexual women to see their bodies as asexual and repulsive. 

The two male-Dominant BDSM stories, “Big Girls Do Cry” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “Marked” by Isabelle Gray, make a necessary distinction between desire and contempt. In these stories, a man goes to extreme measures to take ownership of a curvy woman while assuring her that he is not punishing her for any “flaws” of body or character. 

The story which moved me the most, “In the Early Morning Light” by Kristina Wright, is told from the viewpoint of an exhausted mother of a newborn baby, not her first. The narrator dreads the thought of having to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs while she feels that her body is bloated and hideous. His gentle touch is miraculously effective at reawakening her old desire for him. By the end of the story, their relationship has shifted profoundly for the better.

While some of these stories are predictable, some challenge conventional assumptions with confidence and wit. In general, this is a collection of well-told tales that would especially appeal to women who have been bullied because of their size, and the ones who love them.

Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of RomanceDarker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance
Edited By: Mitzi Szereto
Tempted Romance
ISBN: 1940550009
December 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Madness. Darkness. Death, and what might lie beyond. Gothic fiction takes us to the edge of comfort, icing our wonder with a blast of cold terror as we confront the unknown – including the unplumbed depths of our own own hidden desires.

Mitzi Szereto’s latest anthology marries the tropes of the Gothic genre with graphic erotic content. The results are surprisingly varied, transcending the clichés of windswept moors, haunted mansions and buried crypts to provide some impressively original tales.

Possibly the most startling is Benji Bright’s “Blood Soup.” An exacting master chef concocts daily feasts for his reclusive noble employer, whom he has never met. The extraordinary repast he concocts from cow’s blood brings a summons, a moment of shared release and the revelation of secrets. I loved the twisted logic in this tale, laced with somber power.

Another standout tale is “The Wildest Spirit,” by Sacchi Green. Two beings on the edges of society, both scarred by their wild abilities, find common cause and unexpected passion when they try to stop the deliberate slaughter of coyotes. With its simple, concrete language, this eloquent story has some of the flavor of a fairy tale, but it’s not at all clear a happily-ever-after awaits the characters.

Ms. Szereto’s own contribution, “The Dracula Club,” is a delight. 

I knew early on that my calling to the Old Country was not the result of some youthful fancy, which was how my family, schoolmates and teachers had always dismissed it. There’s not a huge amount of interest in Transylvania where I’m from, nor is there a huge amount of interest in Goth culture. Everyone thought I was crazy to be working all hours answering phones in a grubby warehouse office in the daytime (where no one had to look at me), then serving up greasy fast food and watery ice cream at the Dairy Queen in the evening (where I could be seen, but the country bumpkins and hot-rodding juvies were usually too drunk on cheap beer to care).

But I had a plan—and it was to save up enough money to fund my trip to Romania and have a bit left over to keep me going until I figured out how to earn a living. What did I care what the local yokels thought of me or my goals? I’d always been an outcast with my dyed black hair and my face and body piercings, my heavy black eye makeup and weird black clothes. The only people back home who dressed in black were the Amish—and they sure as hell weren’t Goth.

In a grimy Transylvanian pub, the narrator meets two gorgeous Gypsy boys – Dragos and Bela – and gives herself completely into their hands – both literally and figuratively. Their smutty, uninhibited three-way couplings are among the most erotic scenes in the book. Meanwhile, bit-by-bit, the beautiful Gypsies lead the transplanted Goth girl toward her dark destiny. She’s more than willing to follow.

T.C. Mills’ “The Wicked Wife” provides a fevered modern-day reading of Bluebeard that definitely got my blood boiling. “Reynolds’s Tale” by Adrian Ludens features Edgar Allen Poe as a character, and is written in a style reminiscent of that master of horror. Rose de Fer’s “Moonfall” gives us a Victorian werewolf, incarcerated in an asylum for the insane by her evil husband and rescued by her mortal lover. “Zapada Alba” by Tracey Lander-Garett is another shape-shifting tale, told in lush, sensual prose.  Gary Earl Ross’s “Sister Bessie’s Boys” is a surprisingly sweet ghost story with a strong sense of place.

I would not, by the way, call this collection romance, at least not in the modern sense – but I guess that’s necessary these days to sell books. In perhaps half of the stories, requited desire leads to the promise of a future as a couple. The others are, thankfully, far more ambiguous. 

Darker Edge of Desire offer vampires, were-creatures, demons and succubi – but don’t expect them to follow the rules of popular fiction.  Overall, Mitzi Szereto has assembled a strong and diverse collection that showcases the creativity of her contributors.


Deep Waters 2: Cruising the StripDeep Waters 2: Cruising the Strip
Contributions By: Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker
Bold Stroke Books
ISBN: 1602820139
May 2008

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Cruising the Strip is a very entertaining anthology of lesbian lust stories by Karin Kallmaker and Radclyffe that take place on the Strip in Las Vegas.  Both authors are well known and widely published with a very loyal following. One can see why. It’s the sex, and the sex is good.  Vegas itself is largely incidental except for the occasional mention of gambling and an atmosphere of, “We’re here, so why not?”  It’s an attitude that gives presence and sass to many of the characters.

Otherwise the city is one big hotel that supplies some desultory bourgeois delights and some gambling.  That may be an apt description. These stories follow a fairly rigid formula of girl meets girl after which they encounter minor Plautine, collapsible obstacles.  These are soon overcome or ignored – it is Vegas after all -- and the lovers climb, fall, or throw each other lushly, wetly, hotly and sublimely into bed.  Well why not?  They’re on holiday in the city of sinless sin.

I am not going to cite individual stories.  These authors are not after narrative invention although Radclyffe is nominally better at it with her female lustlorn security guards, butch poker players, and lady lone-wolf anesthesiologists.  Kallmaker is more interested in the “pneumatic” female form – as John D. MacDonald used to call them – on lipstick lesbians, a term I first came upon in Robert Campbell’s detective series about Chicago.  I mention these two guys because they wrote to a formula too, and that was a great part of their appeal.  Their editors were a little better which I will come to shortly.

These stories have two strong points the first being that the sex is truly very sexy because all the mechanics are there, but the sex, more importantly, engages all the characters senses.  No matter how experienced they are, sex for these people is like the discoveries children make at the beach.  Everything tastes, sounds, feels and especially smells newly exciting.  So the authors get at the real chemistry of eroticism. 

That makes sense when you consider that you are reading your way through a delicious firmament of pussy and sundry other female body areas of delight.  The book is also instructive, up to a point, for the heterosexual male who yearns, as many of us do, for ever more information about how women’s bodies actually work,  It is an interesting counter to the inscrutable explanations most ladies supply. Apparently it is simpler than we all, women included, think.  It also involves a lot of stamina. These two writers should know given their lists of publications.

Over recent years of reading erotica/porn, I have come to the heretical conclusion that sex is pretty much sex.  The idea that gay sex, lesbian sex, bdsm sex, or sex with Austrian osteopaths is somehow different than other sex, is essentially nonsense except by degree.  The mind responds to another person, situation or thing that makes it go, “zing.”    Interest quickens and the body follows suit.   Then the mechanics may vary but the result is either satiety or not, which for the most part is in your head.

That is, I suppose, what makes lesbiana so erotic. I think women remain more aware during sex and so they are more attuned to their sensual tastes and possible variations to get there. As described in Cruising, they are numerous and lively, but they all lead back to orgasm which is no surprise, nor should it be.  Often that is affected by means of a prosthetic cock.  At times you get the impression that the authors feel men are simply an unsatisfactory version of women despite possessing these appendages.  The point is made early and often that a rubber, steel, wood, glass, or even latex lover does not get tired, go limp, or fall asleep after coming.  Of course the dildo never actually comes, but who cares?  It is an unusual view though.  I have never read a story where a gay man found a vagina to be a second-rate replacement for a male anus.

As Cruising the Strip shows, the cock is a shape, a thing, not a personality trait, as many men would like to believe of their own strutting members.  Thus the right shape in rubber, plastic, leather, or metal will do its job when wielded with the right knowing female authority especially if it is strapped firmly to her broad and luxurious hips. Whatever these authors think about male sexuality is unknown. as it never appears except in the form of an alien gender that exudes obsessive lust.  I will grant that male sexuality is more a matter of frenzied intoxication than female.  The male mind is overwhelmed by the senses. I am not sure that means that all humans with testicles are knuckle draggers. It doesn’t matter much here as men are not so much reviled as dismissed as irrelevant in these stories, which creates a rather odd version of the hairy, gold-chained, testeronic Las Vegas we come to know from the movies.

Having read a good deal of gay and lesbian erotica as well as other sexually 'specialized' fiction, the sex seems here just like vanilla hetero sex and its presentation is either good or bad depending on the insight and talent of the author as reflected in their sense of narrative structure and writing style.

Both authors – or their editors – have very distracting problems with indefinite antecedents to pronouns so that it is easy to lose track of what, ‘she is doing to her while she is doing something else to her and some other part of her.’  No sentence in the book is quite that bad but they come close at times.  This lack of mastery of basic English skills tends to doom a lot of erotica to a transient status even when authors have more to offer than their errors suggest.

I also worry about character names that are so pat that they ring as synthetic and thus inter-changeable like Amber, Pepper Keri, Marcie, Harmony, and Sally.  I was pleased to note that no one is named Kitty or Kitten amid all the talk about pussy.  On the other hand, Radclyffe has a female character whose first name is Saxon.  That shortens alarmingly to the phallic icon, Sax.  It seems to me that is exactly like naming your daughter Ostrogoth which then turns into “Ossy”.  Eek and Eiiiuuwww , it just doesn’t work.

All that apart, there is a lot of wonderful sex here that is absolutely enthusiastically female and well worth your time if that appeals.

Dirty Girls: Erotica for WomenDirty Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580052517
February 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

After reading the stories in Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, I had to ask myself why I expected stories about “bad” women when Rachel Kramer Bussel’s intro made it clear that these were stories about women who could be dirty and sweet at the same time. Take her words to heart. These stories are not about femmes fatale, but about women who embrace their sexuality.

Perhaps I read too much erotica. It takes a lot to get me to sit up and take notice. The well-worn conventions, unless delivered by a master story-teller, leave me yearning for the story that could have been. Strangers knock it out, but here’s the twist at the end, they’re husband and wife role-playing. It’s only a twist if I haven’t read it a hundred times before. Every time, I wonder what’s so hot about it. Then there’s the mysterious stranger who quickly humbles the confident sex-goddess by dominating her and forcing her to accept the submissive role she was always secretly yearning for. Um. Right. Next? And of course, there’s the high-fantasy BDSM scene of the slave girl kept in sexual torment all night while she services her Master and his friends. That was covered ad nauseam in the Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure and hasn’t become any more interesting since then.

Despite my dissatisfaction with a number of the stories in this anthology, there were also some amazing treasures. The lead-off story for this anthology is “Fucking Around” by Marie Lyn Bernard. It set the bar high for what was to follow, unfortunately. Sure, as an Angeleno, I wasn’t thrilled by Marie’s representation of LA, but at least she made it clear it wasn’t somebody from here. But I’ll admit I laughed aloud at Boston’s self-absorption, so we all enjoy a well-placed tweak of another person’s hometown. Call it regional schadenfreude. The pay-off with New York was priceless. I hate to describe this story beyond these comments because you deserve the delight of discovering this one on your own. Sexy? Maybe. Erotic? Questionable. One hell of a good read? Absolutely.

Shanna Germain is a master at bittersweet stories. Sometimes, what we’ve lost can never be replaced, no matter how much we gain. The narrator in “Until It’s Gone” can only get off from being choked by a belt and longs for the lover who knew how to do it for her. Her loving husband tries, but can’t bring himself to hurt her, so she fakes sexual fulfillment and tries to convince herself that her life now is worth the sacrifice. The sex in this story passes the border from dirty into kinky without so much as a kiss blown to the customs agent, but as always, it’s the emotional resonance of Shanna’s stories that stays with me for days, even weeks, after I read her work.


I could almost feel the swelter from Rachel Kramer Bussel’s story “Icy Hot,” and wanted that damn ice as bad as her character Doris did. When the last bag of ice for sale at the local bogeda is taken by a hot guy, Doris challenges him for it. He agrees to share it, but in his apartment. The sex scene that follows is as sizzling as the city sidewalks in summer.  I know when my nipples pucker at the same time the character’s do that the story is going to have its way with me, and I’m enthusiastically along for the ride.

Some stories that also deserve mention are Catherine Lundoff’s “Just Another Girl on the Train” that appealed strongly to my voyeuristic side, and Alison Tyler’s “Like a Good Girl.” Alison’s stories always have a moment that turns me on in a big way, and this one was no exception. 

Whether a story works or not is a mystical thing. Shortly after reading Rachel’s “Icy Hot,” I read Carol Queen’s “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!”  and had quite a different reaction to strangers rushing into immediate sex. Maybe it was because Rachel’s Doris seemed streetwise enough to take care of herself that I took it on faith that she’d follow a stranger to his apartment and they’d get it on. But in “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” I couldn’t make that leap that it was in character for Abby to simply go off with strangers who admittedly had been stalking her. I also couldn’t quite figure out the – to me – non-sequitur that if a person is a bibliophile, she is also into a three-way with strangers in a booth at a peep show.

It’s not the set-up, it’s not the setting, and it’s not the scenario that makes a story erotic to me. Sex is a given, so even that isn’t enough. And maybe that’s the problem here – in too many of these stories, sex portrayed in graphic detail is supposed to be enough to turn me on, except that it often isn’t. I need interesting characters to grab my libido and not let go until we’re panting together through the closing words. I wanted to like this anthology more than I did. Yes, there are a few really good stories, but in the balance, not enough.

Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb
Mischief HarperCollins
July 2013

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

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.

Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex StoriesDo Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443441
March 2009

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Hotels and sex are natural bedfellows.  We go to hotels for sex.  Admittedly there are occasionally other reasons – business meetings, holidays, the necessity of travel etc – but, as a general rule of thumb (not to mention those other important parts of the anatomy) we go to hotels for sex.  Which is why it is only natural for the inimitable Rachel Kramer Bussel to link hotels and sex in her latest anthology: Do Not Disturb

I regularly go to hotels for sex.  And not just because people pay me.  (I don’t mean people pay me to go to their hotel rooms for sex.  Usually my wife gives me £50 and tells me to fuck off to a hotel for the night). 

Hotel sex is better than regular sex because hotel rooms already have a bed in them, so there’s no worrying about where the gear-stick might go, or what to do with your hat or your sandwiches.  Hotel sex is also good because, when you turn up at the hotel with your partner, the obviousness of the situation means you might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says: WE’VE COME TO THIS HOTEL TO LOCK OURSELVES INTO OUR ROOM SO WE CAN SPEND THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE HAVING WILD MONKEY SEX.

Even if that’s not the intention.  Even if your wife has actually destroyed and disposed of your T-shirt (which bears the aforementioned slogan) and privately warned you that you are not allowed to touch her with a ten foot barge-pole or any other part of your anatomy: everyone still thinks that’s why you’re there.  And, in this day and age of visual cues, if people think it’s happening then, whether it’s happening or not, it’s definitely happening.

So, we’re all agreed?  Hotels and sex go together.  If you’re still not convinced, go out and pick up Do Not Disturb

The anthology begins with Amanda Earl’s “Welcome To The Aphrodisiac Hotel.”  Aside from writing saucy, sultry stories, Amanda Earl is also a poet and people watcher.  Her people-watching prowess comes to the fore here as her story’s persona watches the occupants of a hotel lobby bar.  The idea is deliciously simple and, in Amanda’s skilful hands, the story comes to life in an enchanting, effective and erotic fashion.

Are you more interested in the honeymoon suite?  Madlyn March’s “Heart-Shaped Holes” is a pithy blend of pathos and the prurient as she introduces a confused new bride, a callous new husband, and the sympathetic ear of a neighbouring hotel guest.  Madlyn March’s story is a bittersweet sojourn with a conclusion that should warm the coldest heart.

Fancy trying something wicked?  They don’t come much more wicked than Kristina Wright’s “The Other Woman.”  Hotels are there to fulfil our fantasies.  Five Star hotels are there to fulfil our richest fantasies.  And the characters in “The Other Woman” get to fulfil their fantasies, even though things don’t work out quite as everyone expected.

In “Talking Dirty,” Shanna Germain’s characters use their hotel room as an escape from reality – or maybe an escape from unreality.  Whichever the reader decides it might be, the overall verdict will be that this story excels as a sympathetic and poignantly rendered tribute to deviance and dysfunction.

Saskia Walker leads us to the Kilpatrick in London where the waiting staff bend over backwards to satisfy their customers.  They also bend over forwards too in “The Lunch Break.”  Saskia Walker knows how to write smouldering hot fiction and “The Lunch Break” is no exception. 

And then there’s Lisabet Sarai’s “Reunion.”  This is a story that is powerful in its sexual content and equally profound in the depth of the relationship shared by the two central characters.  Written with a simplicity that is stylish and sexy, “Reunion” is one of those narratives that lingers with you for days after as you brood on the characters’ futures. 

If Do Not Disturb were a hotel it would a 5 star hotel with the luxury of 24/7 entertainment available.  The anthology includes authors of such renown as Thomas S Roche, Maxim Jakubowski, Elizabeth Coldwell, Donna George Storey, Alison Tyler and, of course, Rachel Kramer Bussel. 

If, like me, you know that hotels are there for sex and sex only – you will adore this book and the collected stories.  If you have any doubts about the purposes of hotels, buy the book and let Do Not Disturb change your mind for the better.

Dressed to Impress: An Erotica CollectionDressed to Impress: An Erotica Collection
Mischief HarperCollins
August 2013

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

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.

Erotic Interludes: Road GamesErotic Interludes: Road Games
Contributions By: Stacia Seaman
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1933110775
May, 2007

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Reading this anthology of lesbian erotica is like riding a rollercoaster or speeding down the highway in a vehicle that lets in a lot of fresh air. The theme of “road games” is broadly interpreted: some of these stories are about the brief ecstasy of long-distance lovers when they get together, some are about being stranded on the road by extreme weather, some are about taking one’s show on tour, and some are about games of chance in exotic locations. Kinesthesia, or the experience of movement, is important in these stories, which are all focused on immediate experience. Each of them involves a journey which is geographical as well as emotional, and a devilishly creative sexual game.

The plot of the story "Free Fall" by Julie Cannon seems characteristic of the collection as a whole. In this story, the lesbian narrator’s fairly humdrum life is interrupted when her friends send her on a tour for her fiftieth birthday. During an island stop, she impulsively chooses to go skydiving for the first time. The voluptuous female skydiving guide (who seems to be everything that the tourist is not) tells her: “I know exactly what you want and I’m going to give it to you. You are going to scream with desire and come so hard your body will explode. And then you’ll go home and tell all your friends what a wonderful time you had in my country. Am I right?”

To the narrator’s amazement, the guide fulfills her promise while secured behind her during the few minutes that both are in free-fall. The narrator’s feeling of weightlessness seems to combine seamlessly with her growing excitement as the guide strokes her body through an opened zipper in her suit. The pacing of the description matches the narrator’s sense of distorted time. After she has landed, she feels transformed:

“With one last knowing smile I turned and walked toward the hangar, knowing that I would never again be the woman I was before I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.”

The compromise between wish-fulfillment and plausibility in this story is characteristic of this generous collection of 31 stories, only one of which can be clearly identified as sci-fi. Not all of them end as happily as “Free Fall,” nor do they all affirm that impulse decisions are usually wise. In the stories about long-distance relationships, the lovers must face a decision to go their separate ways or make a commitment which will inevitably involve sacrifices.

The importance of careers in these stories looks like part of the gestalt of lesbian life in our time. The use of particular sports, games or professional roles as sexual analogies in these stories seems to be part of a trend in lesbian erotica.

Road Games is the fifth anthology in the Erotic Interludes series from lesbian publisher Bold Strokes Books. This series looks parallel to the annual Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press, which apparently started the trend in 1995, and a copycat series, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica from Alyson Books. Lesbian websites, magazines such as "On Our Backs" (no longer in print) and video companies have helped give rise to the current availability of lesbian erotica, as distinct from the lesbian romances of yesteryear, which coyly referred to sex by means of predictable erotic imagery: women who purred and stretched like cats, desire between women as a tide, a pool or a river.

The steady growth of lesbian erotica since the mid-1990s is parallel to the influx of women into a variety of professions since the 1970s. Women’s jobs now show up regularly in erotic stories as essential elements in the plot and in the characters’ sexual magnetism.

For instance, Road Games includes a story about musicians on tour by a writer who actually sings and plays guitar in a band, and stories about other artists (professional dancers, a wannabe-actor-turned-masseuse, a magical chef), athletes (golfers, basketball players, martial artists), blue-collar workers (a trucker, a cop, a demolition expert, a “repo” woman), business owners, computer-savvy librarians and a “gigola.” The skills and working personas of the characters are described as erotically as their curves, and these can be biceps as well as breasts or hips. Similarly, the authors of stories which would probably have been unpublishable twenty years ago now attract enough fans to keep the genre alive and growing.

In the final story, "Test Drive," by Radclyffe, publisher and editor, a prospective car-buyer and the saleswoman who takes her out for a test drive seduce each other in double-entendres:

’Do it,’ she whispered, and pressed down on the gas pedal.

The force of the engine accelerating surged through me, and I drew the slip of silk aside with one hand and stroked my swollen slit with the other.

‘Zero to sixty,’ I gasped, letting my head fall back against the window as I started to come. ‘In. . .oh, God. . . right now.’

Blaze laughed and reached across the space between us to caress my cheek softly. ‘That’s what I call high-performance.’

‘It’s not the engine,’ I murmured drowsily. ‘It’s the driver.’

There is a thin line between wit and camp in some of these stories, and that is part of their charm.

A thin line which seems more problematic is suggested by the three stories in this volume which were written by Radclyffe and the one by her co-editor, Stacia Seaman.

All four stories are diverse, entertaining, and well-constructed. However, an editor who also writes seems unlikely to have the same perspective on her own stories as she could have on the work of other writers.

Admittedly, the names of popular writers of lesbian erotica are guaranteed to pop up regularly in the same places. As a case in point, veterans Karin Kallmaker, Crin Claxton and Therese Szymanski all have stories in Road Games, and their novels and stories are also widely available elsewhere. And Radclyffe is certainly not the only editor who has arranged for the publication of her own work. Perhaps I tend to split hairs, but I can’t help wondering when the links between players in the same field become a conflict of interests. In fact, this type of ambiguity is one of the themes in the book under discussion!

Hair-splitting aside (unless hair-splitting is your pleasure), this book is exhilarating to read. It certainly isn’t your grandmother’s Oldsmobile.

Erotic Tales 2Erotic Tales 2
Edited By: Justus Roux
Erotictales Publications
ISBN: 0977778886
May, 2007

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Not just erotic tales. Also erotic poetry. And, when I say erotic poetry, I mean the good stuff. Not the little rhyming quatrains I’ve been known to compose in the bath.

She was beautiful, bare and breathless,

My prize at the end of the hunt,

She lay on her back with her legs in the air,

And I played around with her mobile phone.

See? I can never get that final end rhyme. It always eludes me. This other one I started also tripped me at the same final hurdle.

Topless, we sit on the pier,

The sun on the lake’s surface ripples,

I daub my ice cream cone, twice, on your chest.

Then spend the day licking your décolletage.

Which is one of the reasons I have nothing but respect for the skilled poets who have contributed to this title. Writing poetry is never easy. Composing odes that venerate the tension of a single erotic moment, or the physical bliss of a passionate union, is a rare talent. Yet Justus Roux has managed to include works from fourteen different poets who each bring their own unique skills to the blend. From accomplished and multi-published poets, like Lawrence Schimel and Karen L Newman, to the clever wordplay of up-and-coming talent like Gia Anderson, the poetry in this anthology is intelligent, erotic and arousing.

But this book is called Erotic Tales 2 so I need to make some mention of the prose as well as the poetry.

The short fiction in Erotic Tales 2 is an eclectic blend of stories that embrace a wide panorama of sexual tastes. The balance is slanted toward the heterosexual, but the contributions also include homoerotic narratives with arousing stories that have a core of gay and lesbian sex.

I’ve written a few erotic short stories in the past, as well as a handful of erotic novels. (Well, it’s about two-dozen erotic novels but I’ve got large hands – and you know what they say about us guys with large hands? That’s right: we need large gloves.) It always surprises me when people say, “How can you write about so many variations on sex? Surely it’s the same all of the time?”

This question, which exposes so much about the innocent who has raised the point, can be answered in a number of ways. “Fuck off and stop talking to me!” is one of my personal favourites, although I have been known to say, “You shouldn’t be reading that, Mother.” However, it only takes a quick glance inside an anthology like Erotic Tales 2 and any reader can see that erotic encounters are seldom the same on any occasion and variety and deviation are at the heart of imaginative and well-written erotic poetry and prose.

Erotic Tales 2 covers a broad spectrum of erotica. And, just as the oeuvre is eclectic in the sexuality of its erotic content, it is also equally diverse in the approaches each writer has assumed in their take on what makes a story sexually exciting. From the heady passion of Gwen Masters "Better Than Brazil," which is quickly followed by the foursome frolics of Lynne den Hartog’s "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor," the anthology shows that sex can be loving and luscious and playful and powerful – and, invariably, a lot of fun.

There are some outstanding writers in this anthology. Justus Roux’s own contribution, "Sarah’s New Beginning," is a tautly told tale of a newly wed woman’s need to submit. Michelle Houston’s "Nice Kitty Kat" is an inventive and intoxicating introduction to the world of (amongst other things) public spanking. H.L. Berry’s "Nightgirl – The Prisoner of Brenda," is a hilarious romp in the companionship of a wannabe super-heroine who encounters her arch nemesis.

There really is a lot to enjoy in this collection. There is certainly enough to ensure that every reader will find something to satisfy their personal appetite and, perhaps, encourage them to savour the flavour of something a little different to their usual fare.

Justus Roux’s previous anthologies include Erotic Tales, Erotic Fantasy: Tales of the Paranormal, Bosslady and Who’s Your Daddy? Erotic Tales 2 continues Justus’s tradition of collecting well-written erotica from a range of venerated veterans and very-promising virgins.

And, just to remind you all again that the poetry presented in this collection is not as easy as these talented folks make it seem, I’ll finish with another of my painstaking attempts at verse. Again, the more literary minded of you might notice that end rhyme is just not quite working for me.

Naked we lay in the bedroom

I called you “The Sexiest Lass.”

And then, when you’d knelt in the doggy position,

I buried myself deep in Justus Roux’s Erotic Tales 2

Ashley Lister

NB – It should be noted that the poetry quoted above is the work of Ashley Lister alone and is not (nor does it resemble) the poetry published in Justus Roux’s excellent collection.

Erotika: Bedtime Stories Erotika: Bedtime Stories
Edited By: Marcus Shockley
Sensorotika Press
ISBN: 0977769437
May 2007

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

At first glance, the title of this book (Erotika: Bedtime Stories) and the name of the publisher looked vaguely sinister to me, like "Amerika" as used by the counterculture of the 1960s. In its context, this term seemed to suggest that the current United States was a version of Nazi Germany, with KKK-flavored racism. However, none of the stories in this anthology include BDSM scenes representing organized persecution.

So perhaps the alternate spelling of "erotica" and the term "sensorotika" (Sensual erotica? Is there another kind?) were meant to suggest a witty, sophisticated European sensuality, as distinct from the gauche American prudery that springs from fundamentalist Protestantism. However, none of the stories in this collection resemble Les Liaisons Dangereuses or the song "Lili Marlene" or any other cherished expression of European retro-sex.

The title of this book is especially misleading if it is meant to suggest that these stories are excitingly different from ordinary erotica. They are also not excitingly varied. One contributor, P.T. Cielo, has five stories in the book, Gwen Masters has four, Escarlata Cisneros and Ralph Greco Jr. each have two. Altogether, there are only twelve contributors.

This book is notably short on bells and whistles. No information is provided about contributors, and there is no introduction. No editor is named, so the reader is left to guess that every submission got into the book, exactly as written. Not all the page numbers in the table of contents are accurate. Twenty-one brief stories about sex are displayed like peaches in a makeshift fruit stand because there's a market for the stuff.     

The better stories in the anthology make good use of a limited word-count. "Love Rain on Me," by the prolific P.T. Cielo, describes a woman's erotic reaction to a storm at night:

"The air was electric. I drove to the freeway and floored it. I felt alive and beautiful. I reached up, pulling the band from my hair. Immediately my hair flew around my face, neck, shoulders and back. I laughed, feeling so good and happy."

After returning home, soaked to the skin, the narrator masturbates in front of a mirror as lightning lights up the room and thunder rumbles overhead. She watches the storm "roll away," then goes to her bed, "knowing that I had been touched, that I had been loved."

Gwen Masters also has a memorable female masturbation story in the collection. In this story, "Passing the Time," Amber consoles herself for the pain of waiting for a promised telephone call from a boyfriend who seems to be losing interest. She happens to notice her little red box, which contains "a variety of adult toys, from vibrators and dildos to pearls to clamps." Her mood changes quickly:

"First she got sad.
Then she got angry.
Then she got busy."

In general, Masters' stories are believable and centered on likeable women who overcome disappointment and get what they want without harming others. The happy endings are a little too predictable for my taste, but the stories are fun to read.

Cielo's "Control" and T.S. Knight's "The Airport" both deal competently with arrogant men who are outwitted by dominating women. "The Airport" is more detailed, complex, and carefully thought-out. It also has a much more drastic outcome for the male narrator who originally steps into a trap by arranging a Dominant/submissive trick while traveling without his fiancee. 

Despite some well-written surprises, most of the stories in this book need polishing. In "The Charade" by Sebastian Wallace, a sexy young woman tries to seduce wealthy men by pretending to be in their league. When she meets a suave, handsome stranger, his glance sends her into a fit of purple prose:

"She almost gasped, but somehow prevented losing her composure--at least externally. Deep within her body, a burst of heat ruptured, ignited by his stare of possession. He did not look at her, but within her. And her intense desire for him suddenly overwhelmed her."

"The Professor" by Cullen Dorn is based on a promising although well-worn premise: beautiful, seductive coed awakens the senses of a middle-aged male professor, as she has already done for his married colleague. However, the current professor's epiphany is described in a way that seems guaranteed to kill the reader's interest:     

"He did not go out to lunch as was expected that day. Instead he sat at his desk pondering his future. Ironic, how he should now look to a piece of time that had been nonexistent for him. All his life he dwelt in a past that gave him succor. Now he was compelled to realize his permanence in the reality of now, and of the world with all its dynamics and beauty that he must embrace." 

Two snappy "lesbian" stories are simply unconvincing because they lack a realistic social background. "The Proposal" by Peter Rosier is essentially a one-line joke in which a female narrator describes her romantic date with "Alex," who proposes marriage. The narrator responds: "My darling Alexandra, of course I'll say yes." Before this point, there is no indication that both characters are women or that they live in a place where same-sex marriage is both legal and socially acceptable.

In "The Fruits of Mark's Confession" by Ralph Greco Jr., a self-described "gay woman" joins her best friend Mark, a submissive heterosexual man, for a masturbation session as he recounts his latest scene with his dominant Mistress. The narrator claims: "It was many a time I fantasized Dorothy getting off on the fact that I succumbed to my lusts, in front of a man, for Christ's sakes!" So why has the narrator never contacted Dorothy directly, or proposed a threesome? If this story is set in an era when the term "gay woman" was current, where is the social climate of intolerance, fear and secrecy in which all "perverts" once had to live? If the narrator is really "gay," where is her social life with other lesbians? This story is certainly imaginative, but even a fantasy needs to work on its own terms.     

Other stories in this collection seem more like mood-pieces than actual stories, and the style isn't always adequate to establish a mood. Luckily, this slim book would be easy to slip into all sorts of carrying-bags. It could provide light entertainment on the beach or in a tent far from any well-stocked bookstore or library.   

Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Stories for WomenFairy Tale Lust: Erotic Stories for Women
Edited By: Kristina Wright
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443972
July 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

When I was young, I read every fairy tale and folk tale I could find in the library. I loved the Chinese version of "Beauty and the Beast" where the “beast” was a stove. Is it the stories or the Russian folk art in the illustrated versions that make Russian folk tales so wonderful? My favorite movement from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky is "Hut on Fowl’s Legs" ("The Hut of Baba Yaga").  "Fox Spirits," "The Snow Queen," even "Nag and Nagina" from Rikki Tiki Tavi were favorite companions to curl up with. So you’d think I’m a natural audience for erotica fairy tales. I’m not. “Ye Old Tymey” language makes me cringe, and it’s rare that someone produces a story that strikes the right feel of a folk tale and is able to balance it with the erotic element. Right now, you’re probably expecting a negative review, but there’s a lot to like in Fairy Tale Lust. If you have the same reservations I did, you might also be pleasantly surprised.

Craig Sorenson is on his way to becoming a recognized name in erotica, with good reason. His Ugly Duckling tale, "Duckling," is a wonderful tale of a woman “of a certain age” who might not have become a swan, but she finally sees that she’s a hot duck.

I’ll admit that I have a tiny bit of a boot fetish, so Louisa Harte’s "Ellie and the Shoemaker" was bound to appeal to me. I loved how horny Elle was, and how comfortable she was with that. If you dislike the traditional wilting princess who does nothing, here’s a heroine who goes out and gets what she wants.

You’ll recognize "Sleep Tight" by Janine Ashbless as a Sleeping Beauty tale, but you won’t expect the ending. I sure didn’t see it coming. That’s all I’ll say. Nicely executed.

Shanna Germain delves into the traditional, dark side of Celtic fairy mythology in "Her Hair is a Net, Woven." Allison Wonderland’s "Mind Your Peas and Qs" was deftly funny. We all need a fairy godmother like Saskia Walker’s in "All in a Day's Work." I'm not sure that Charlotte Stein’s "The Return" is truly a fairy tale, but it’s nicely told, and has a happily ever after ending that even I liked.

So the verdict is Thumbs Up. I wasn’t prepared to like this anthology as much as I did, but I’m glad I read it. With contributions from Delilah Devlin, Andrea Dale, Justine Elyot, Alegra Verde, Kristina Wright, Jeremy Edwards, Aurelia T Evans, Carol Hassler, Alana Noel Voth, Michelle Augello-Page, and A.D.R. Forte, you’re bound to find a gem or two, and no trolls. I promise.

Fantasies I: Four Tales of Erotic FictionFantasies I: Four Tales of Erotic Fiction
Contributions By: Alessia Brio, Leigh Ellwood, Bridget Midway, Ann Regentin
ISBN: 1594265569
March, 2007

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Short stories can be frustrating. Just when you're getting interested in the characters, really eager to discover what happens next, the story ends. Sometimes, too, a short tale can produce sexual frustration; there's rarely enough space for more than one steamy scene, and who can really be satisfied with just one?

Fantasies I, an eBook published by Phaze, offers a solution. This volume is comprised of four multi-chapter erotic novellas, each about sixty pages long, by four woman authors. Each can be read in a single sitting; each offers a generous helping of sexual shenanigans along with more plot and character development than could be crammed into the word limits of a typical short story.

Alessia Brio leads off with "¡Pura Vida!", a sizzling exploration of polyamorous, pansexual relationships. Charlie hasn't seen Stormy in a while, but has white-hot memories of their previous encounters. When his travel business brings him to Costa Rica to consult with Stormy about an advertising campaign, she meets Charlie at the airport with her handsome Latin assistant Pietro in tow. She makes it clear that Pietro is her lover as well as her business associate, but that doesn't bother Charlie - if anything, he finds it exciting. He's used to sexual groupings that are flexible with regard to both gender and partners, since his company back in the States is made up of individuals who tend to mix business with pleasure. In the course of this story, we don't meet Jess or Sam, while Mia and Richard are just voices on the phone, but we're told that:

"If intimacy was the sun, they orbited it like planets – each independent, but influenced by the pull of the others...While their interactions might seem seedy and tabloid-worthy to the unfamiliar, within their ranks they functioned much like a Heinlein family."

The reference here, of course, is to Heinlein's classic exposition of free love, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Stormy, Charlie and Pietro embark on a quest that takes them through the exotic landscapes of Costa Rica, trying to capture the essence of what makes the country so special as a travel destination. At the same time, they explore the sexual territory of their mutual interactions. Ms Brio treats the reader to a variety of couplings and menagés, including an intelligent, realistic and arousing scene in which Charlie and Pietro help Stormy to truly release control and simply allow her body to react. The tale climaxes with an incandescent male-male scene that is no less intense for its inevitability.

I grew up with Heinlein. I find nothing sexier than mixed gender, multi-person menagés, where inhibitions and prejudices drop away and nobody is jealous because everyone is sexually and emotionally satisfied. Hence, Ms Brio’s story strongly appealed to me. However, I felt that it suffered from excessive description and too much backstory.

Costa Rica provides an appropriately exotic backdrop for this amorous tale. Sometimes though, the author seems to forget that this is just the setting. I think she's personally in love with the place, and it shows. However, I occasionally found myself getting annoyed at all the cultural details. I wanted to focus on the action.

This story is clearly part of a series involving the same characters. There are too many references to these past adventures, including allusions to events that seem irrelevant to the current tale. It may be that Ms Brio is trying to influence her readers to go back and read the other installments. Personally, though, I think this made the current story less coherent and compelling.

The second tale in Fantasies I is Leigh Ellwood's "Midnight Passions". Colleen is a divorced single mother who's trying to balance her own sexual needs with the desire to be a responsible parent to her pre-teen daughter. Her self-centered boyfriend Daryl doesn't make life any easier, but he turns Colleen on so much that she doesn't dare to complain. She endures his crassness and sexual selfishness, until the night she discovers that he's also seeing other women. As she tries to throw him out, her rented duplex begins to rattle and shake and the air is filled with a menacing voice, ordering Daryl to leave. He scuttles away, terrified, clutching his jeans in front of his genitals.

Naked and dazed, Colleen steps out onto her front porch to survey the damage from what she supposes is an earthquake. But all is quiet. Just as she realizes that anyone in the neighborhood can see her nude body, her neighbor and landlord, Professor Spence, steps up and offers her a luxurious satin robe to cover herself. Thus begins a series of erotic surprises that ultimately bring Colleen more love and fulfillment than she had ever dreamed of.

The delightful and unexpected twists in this story are one of its best points, so I won't spoil the experience by revealing any more of the plot. All I'll say is that it involves literature, magic, and lots of sex. "Midnight Passions" turns out to be a genuinely fantastical story. The outrageous events later in the story, and its sexy fairy tale resolution, contrast sharply with the painfully mundane but realistic description of Colleen's relationship with Daryl. In fact, if I hadn't been working on a review, I might have given up the story in the face of Daryl's churlishness and Colleen's insecurity. They were just too real to be enjoyable. I'm glad that I kept reading.

"Service Recall" by Bridget Midway is the third story in this collection. This is more of a conventional romance; an impoverished, discouraged and sex starved divorceé meets the man of her dreams when she calls for a plumber to unplug her sink. Although this is familiar territory, the story is engaging and well written. Unfashionably voluptuous Carla is convincingly needy but has a bit of sass. Duke is competent, solid and warm, middle-aged attractive and believably unsure of himself. Their torrid couplings will raise your temperature, and you're guaranteed to despise cruel and sarcastic Roy (Carla's ex) and the cold, upwardly mobile Allyson (Duke's previous girlfriend).

The final tale in this volume is Ann Regentin's "Midnight Conversations". Although it includes romantic elements, this story is also a beautifully crafted exploration of individual and societal attitudes toward sex, as well as a sensitive portrayal of the effects of emotional abuse.

The story begins in the middle of a conversation between two unidentified voices:

"'He was amazing in bed. That's why I married him.'"

"'Tell me,' I said. I needed to hear as much as she needed an audience."

The story of seduction continues, the speaker and the listener both find release, and we still do not know the participants in this conversation.

Gradually Ms Regentin reveals the truth about the voices, ghosts in a house left vacant for thirty years because of its haunting. Little by little we get to know the narrator Cass, a frightened and angry woman pursued by her own ghosts. As Cass works on the old house, strips the wallpaper away and rips up linoleum to expose hardwood floors, we slowly learn more about Cass and her past and why it is so difficult for her to trust anyone. Meanwhile, the ghosts converse with her in the night, sharing their experiences of sexual highs and lows: audacious seductions, impossible attractions, extramarital affairs and forbidden loves.

Gradually, too, Tristan Millman, the former owner of the house who originally refused to sell it to her, woos Cass, tries to show her how the future could be different from the past. She resists him every step of the way, despite being drawn to his generosity, calmness and self-confidence. The story is over before the two of them actually climb into bed together. Still the growth of their mutual attraction mirrors the intensity of Cass' midnight conversations, and the result is a story at least as arousing as the three more explicit tales that precede it.

Together, the four tales in Fantasies I offer a welcome relief from short story frustration. I look forward to reading other offerings from Phaze.

Fantastic Erotica: The Best of Circlet Press 2008-2012Fantastic Erotica: The Best of Circlet Press 2008-2012
Edited By: Cecilia Tan
Contributions By: Bethany Zaiatz
Circlet Press
ISBN: 1613900449
August 2012

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Circlet Press. Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve ever written for them before. Every time I read one of their anthologies I’m struck with a serious case of writer’s envy and reader’s delight. Fantastic Erotica was enough to send me into green-eyed rapture.

Fantastic. We tend to use it as a superlative, and that fits this anthology, but fantastic, according to the free Dictionary, is also “Quaint or strange in form, conception, or appearance, OR unrestrainedly fanciful; extravagant.” That fits too. Each of these stories introduces you to the other, where the other is a world, a people, a person. Some are similar in many ways to our world, but the one where we took a left at Albuquerque, fell out of the rabbit hole rather than into it, and stepped through a looking glass. Science fiction and fantasy loving me was spellbound.

Normally I pick three or four stories in an anthology to talk about, but this is near to impossible as it seems that every story was in my top picks. South sea pirate adventures! A sentient sex automaton. Near future dystopia! The fae. Space and other vast reaches of nature. Vampires. Magic and technology, viruses and things that bump and grind in the night! Miss Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice is the heroine of her own story? Oh yes, please! A rift jumper who dies many times and lives to tell about it. The Eldritch Horror sitting at a bar! (okay, confession, I do have a favorite, and this one is it. Blame my love of the weird and things that make me cover my eyes but peer through spread fingers) Call those incongruous but it seems entirely consistent to me to love well-crafted stories. And the great thing is that you too can read and enjoy each of these and maybe love one a little more than the others and you won’t be wrong.

Table of Contents:

The Beauty of Broken Glass by Frances Selkirk 
The Succubus by Elizabeth Schechter
Enslaved by Kierstin Cherry
Lawman by Angela Caperton
The Pirate from the Sky by Sacchi Green
Rescue Wounds by Kal Cobalt
A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment by Elizabeth Reeve
Navigator by Kathleen Tudor
At The Crossroads by Monique Poirier
Catch and Release by Sunny Moraine
Mirror by Clarice Clique
A Vision In X-Ray and Visible Light by Nobilis Reed
Wood by David Sklar
Devil’s Masquerade by Michael M. Jones
Fences by David Hubbard
The Many Little Deaths of Cicilia Long by Shanna Germain
The Dancer’s War by N.K. Jemisin
Ink by Bernie Mojzes
Ota Discovers Fire by Vinnie Tesla

Fast Girls: Erotica for WomenFast Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443840
July 2010

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

When I was in high school, “fast girl” was a barely polite term for a slut—a girl who'd do anything with anyone, at any time. Unlike “slut,” however, the term carried a hint of admiration. Fast girls didn't worry about their reputations, at least not when that conflicted with their pleasure. Fast girls were brave and bold. They went places and did things that the more timid, good girls, might only dream about.

Rachel Kramer Bussel's collection Fast Girls pays tribute to this image of the girl (or woman) who is not afraid to defy convention in the quest for her own satisfaction. The theme is evocative without being too constraining. The stories that Ms. Bussel has assembled take a variety of perspectives on the concept of  “fast.” Some authors, like Jennifer Peters in “Confessions of a Kinky Shopaholic” or Kayla Perrin in “Temptation,” give us women who are willing to act on attraction to a stranger.  Others—Jacqueline Applebee in “Five-Minute Porn Star,” Tenille Brown in “Speed Bumps,” Charlotte Stein in “Married Life”—show that it's possible to be “fast” in the context of a committed relationship or even a marriage.  Angela Caperton's “Playing the Market” and Rachel Kramer Bussel's “Whore Complex” explore the forbidden allure of playing the prostitute. Kristina Wright, on the other hand, creates a heroine who gets her kicks playing on the right side of the law in “Chasing Danger.”

The Table of Contents includes many familiar names, and practically every story is worth reading. I thought I'd mention my personal favorites.

Tristan Taormino's “Winter, Summer,” the only lesbian tale in the anthology, is an exquisite tale of a bar pick-up that turns out to be much more. The unnamed femme narrator tells us at the start that her motto is Get close enough to get off. No closer. Yet the dominant butch who claims her manages to break through her frosty shell.

It was as if she had diligently studied my body and knew all its curves and tender spots by heart, like she knew the pool table: hands gliding, stroking, pressing until my soft flesh relaxed into warmth and wetness underneath her, ready to go into whatever deep pocket she was pushing me. She pulled back from me and stood studying my body with her acute, extreme eyes. Her concentration and the quietness that surrounded us were terrifying. Electric.

Stunningly beautiful and lewdly intense, this is the story that will stay with me the longest.

Another exceptional contribution is D.L. King's femdom fantasy “Let's Dance.” I have to admit that one reason I loved this tale was the fact that I know D.L. King personally—and this is a very personal story.  The narrator, an author of erotica, notices a cute guy dancing, discovers (through some first-hand exploration) that the boy's genitalia are shaved, and decides (with his enthusiastic agreement) to take him home, tie him up and flog him. The scene in Eve's loft is explicit and arousing, but what sets this story apart is the humorous, natural dialogue and the way it shows off Eve's fast girl attitude.

Once in the cab, I said, “Hey, Cute Boy, who shaved your boy parts?”

A blush began at the top of his ears and traveled to his cheeks. “Uh, I did,” he said.

“What made you decide to do something like that?” The blush spread to his forehead and neck simultaneously, and he looked at the floor of the cab. “Aw, c'mon, you can tell me.” I rested my hand on the inside of his thigh and gave him a good-natured squeeze. […]

“Well, see, I was reading this book...and the guy in it—I guess it was a dirty book...” He looked out the window at the Manhattan Bridge.  “Where do you live?”

“Brooklyn. Go on.” […]


“Don't worry about it. It's not a foreign country,” I said.

A third tale that touched me is the breathtaking D/s saga “Lessons, Slow and Painful” by Tess Danesi. The terrifying sincerity of the heroine's submissiveness struck a deep chord.   Ms. Danesi takes the “fast” in the anthology title literally. Her master punishes her for taking shortcuts, doing things too quickly.

“Beg me to cut you, Tess,” he whispers darkly. “Beg me, bitch.”

I don't hesitate. I can't pretend I don't want this. “Do it, Dar. Do it. Go on and just do it,” I reply.

“And you expect me to do it hurriedly, Tess? I don't think so,” he says, accompanied by a cruel little laugh that chills me.

And lest visitors to Erotica Revealed wonder why all my favorite stories appear to involve BDSM, let me also mention Donna George Storey's lively and intelligent “Waxing Eloquent.” The narrator, house sitting at her brother's Manhattan Beach condo and trying to break up for good with her married professor lover, ends up falling into bed with the television actor who lives next door.  She decides to get her pussy waxed in order to have the full L.A. experience (“I guess in L.A. a woman is supposed to look like Barbie with her clothes off, too.”) and discovers that the reported heightened sensitivity of a bare pubis is only the beginning.

As I ride him, slowly, then faster, I realize I am much more sensitive down there. It’s as if my time on the salon table was a kind of rough foreplay, priming me for his cock. Cody’s wiry curls chafe my tender lips, and I feel as if I’m straddling not just him, but a knife’s edge—one side is pleasure, the other sweet pain.

Okay, there's that familiar pleasure/pain dichotomy, but I swear, this story does not involve any bondage or discipline!

Cherry Bomb's brief but eloquent contribution “That Girl” seems to sum up the entire collection.

I’m a promiscuous girl…only not the way you think. Oh, I know what they say about me. I hear them back home, clamoring in judgment, their whispers. They don’t even wait until my back is turned anymore. I know what they think of me, which is why the second that you show any interest in me, any desire to get to know me, they will come to you with the same words on their lips:

“Watch out for her. She’s dangerous.”

And I guess I am. What else would you call someone like me? Someone so emotionally reckless, a dangerous fuck. I am the girl that wants everyone and everything, the girl with the uncontrollable lust and insatiable hunger.

--This is what it means, to be a fast girl. But it's not as simple as it sounds, as the authors in this collection demonstrate.

Rachel Kramer Bussel has what is likely to be another success on her hands with Fast Girls. For its variety, intensity and quality of writing, I have to give the collection two thumbs up.

Flying High:Sexy Stories From the Mile High ClubFlying High:Sexy Stories From the Mile High Club
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780424
March 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Ah, the fabled Mile High Club. Talk about an extremely narrow theme for an anthology. You've got your airplane bathroom - even in first class, it's a place where people void their bowels - or your seat, which is about as comfortable as those hard plastic desk seats in high school. Oh yeah, and the cockpit. Not much there to work with fantasy-wise, and it shows in the lack of diversity. I also wondered if this anthology was a reprint because I've read several of these stories before. However, I suppose if joining the Mile High Club is a huge fantasy for you, you might want this anthology.

The well-written contributions are by veterans of the erotica scene. In Alison Tyler's “Planes, Trains, and Banana-Seat Bicycles,” a couple is offered a trip to a remote island by her richer sister. Nothing about the trip appeals to them, but he uses it as an excuse to playfully torment her. It's so nice, so romantic, to see a couple in sync with each other. They know who they are, and that’s sexy.

“When Your Girl Friend Wears a Very Short Skirt,” by Thomas Roche, shows how a master at the genre can take the same scenario and make it transcend the others. He's such an entertaining writer. His characters leap off the page.

I know I complained about sex in the bathrooms, because ick, but Stan Kent's Aisle Seat did the best job of making me forget stagnant water pooled on the floor and the sickeningly sweet scent of airplane hand soap. Stan is the author of the (in)famous Shoe Leather series, and his continuing appreciation for fine women's shoes shows in this piece, as well.

Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian DesireForbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire
Edited By: Cheyenne Blue
Ladylit Publishing
ISBN: 9881363705
September 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Ooh, I’m practically giddy! I must have been one very good girl this year, because I got to read, back-to-back, two excellent anthologies of lesbian erotica. Or I’m just incredibly lucky, but the best part is that you, too, may share in this luck by buying these anthologies. (BLE 15 from last month and Forbidden Fruit this month) This is the time of year when naughty and nice get batted around a lot, so it’s fitting that these tales of “Unwise” erotic encounters should end up in your stockings, or whatever you wear to entice your gift-giving amour.

From page one, there is so much to love about this anthology. Rebecca Lynn Fullan’s “Our Woman” starts it off with an amazing near-future dystopian tale that Margaret Atwood would have been proud to pen. The depth of the world she evokes shows true craftsmanship. It isn’t easy to put that much story into a tale of this length but keep it… well, light isn’t the right word, but sparse isn’t either.  Maybe deft fits it. It definitely take a deft touch when writing about sex with a slave. Consent can be a warped idea when you’re talking about actually owning another person, but it’s clear here that it isn’t that sort of situation.

There are so many forbidden fantasies to touch on. The daughter of your first crush, a student, poaching a more experienced lover right under her girlfriend’s nose, or the mother of your former lover. These all get a treatment in this anthology.
The girl doesn’t always have to be bad for a tryst to be a mistake, but Jean Roberta shows how sexy a truly bad, bad person can be in her story “Shelter.”  When a former classmate shows up out of the blue—and freshly out of prison—at her door, a sensible woman cautiously goes wild for a few hours. And speaking of bad girls, you know anyone named Miss Scarlett (“The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlett” by Emily L. Byrne) is going to be wicked. A cop senses something isn’t right about the woman in red leading her on a chase, but by the time it clicks that she’s a thief wanted around the world, the cop is in no shape to pursue the matter.

 If you like historical fiction, “The Clinton County Horse Thief Society” by Axa Lee might appeal. Now that the men are all gone to war, a young woman takes up her father’s job of tracking down horse thieves. People might talk that she’s brought back the horse but not the thief the past few times, but she doesn’t care. The horse thief is her guilty pleasure. Until she finds out the thief has double-crossed her. Bad might be tempting, but no young woman who hunts down horse thieves is going to be stupid. (This may not be what the writer intended, but because the publisher is based in Australia, I enjoyed the idea of this being set there rather than in the US.)

This anthology was a delight to read. It has many well-written stories that will appeal to many different interests. The theme is good with imaginative takes on what it means by the talented contributors.  I strongly recommend this.

Frat Boys: Gay Erotic StoriesFrat Boys: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Shane Allison
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447137
September 2011

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

Oh super. More frat boys. Just what the world needed.

Okay, that sounds harsh – and I suppose there’s some bitter in there, too – but in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my own personal experiences with a frat were anything but erotic. Frustrating, discouraging, and outright mean would be closer to the truth. It will likely surprise no one that in the long run I didn’t end up in a frat – though to be fair I made some good friends in the process. But when I got a copy of Frat Boys, I cringed. To me, frat boys are about as sexy as Big-C Conservatives (which are Canada’s answer to the republicans).

Now, I’ve definitely been one to have my preconceptions slapped around before, so I opened the book – and tried to do the same with my mind – and delved in.

First story? Jeff Mann.

There’s nothing like finding a story from Jeff Mann to make me sit up and pay attention. If you haven’t read Fog – his most recent erotic novel – I insist you stop reading this review and go order it somewhere first. I’ll wait here.

Ordered? Okay, good.

That novel you just ordered is full of Mann’s astounding ability to pull erotica from violence, bondage, or the edge of things usually left to the realms of fear and pain. So imagine my surprise when I read his story, “Blue Briefs,” and found myself suffering from a bittersweet heartache and the sniffles. It was the perfect way to lead off the anthology – a story that brought me to a place I’d never expect to end up in an anthology about frat boys: somewhere bittersweet (after a brief stopover in the world of sublimely sweaty and hairy bondage, of course). The ending was startlingly unexpected, and all the better for it.

As was the collection. It’s in these surprisingly fresh tales that Allison’s anthology shines.

Gavin Atlas brings forth another of his trademark style: a tale of an insatiable bottom who struggles with how he enjoys the humiliation and dominance of his frat brothers in “The Laius League.” This is another story where I wasn’t sure where the author was taking me, and even though I know and love Gavin Atlas stories, I didn’t quite see the ending coming. Again, that’s a good thing.

Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Stripped” was another great story – a pledge colliding with a she-male stripper that the frat has hired mostly to humiliate him, and the dawning self-worth and self-realization that the meeting inspires. I loved this story, not the least of which for turning the usual frat boy tale on its head and slapping it around with some gender fluidity. Thank you Rachel Kramer Bussel.

That said, there are also some well-written stories that delve in the more typical arenas of the frat boy trope. Hank Edwards gives us “Old Glory” – named for a glory hole “stall” the frat has set up in the basement where the guys bring their very drunk ladies for some through-the-hole pleasure. That the young man in the tale ends up inside the booth is no surprise, but the story itself teases in just the right ways. C.C. Williams steps outside the frat for his main character, Noah, who has been watching frat boy Jerry from afar in “The Pickup Game.” The sparks – and the meddling of Noah’s friends – had a genuineness to them that was charming. “Lessons in the Library” by Rick Archer tells us the story of a young man who came out – and the fallout was terrible from the frat he was pledging – and how the scars might heal. “Lessons” showed a more plausible side, from my experiences, and I appreciated its inclusion.

All this to say that I was surprised – pleasantly surprised – by Frat Boys. There are some very original ideas in the book, and even those stories that aren’t exploring new ideas are told with verve and definitely sizzle. For the Jeff Mann-Gavin Atlas-Rachel Kramer Bussel trifecta alone, this anthology is a worthy grab, but the rest of the tales aren’t filler, either. It’s a sexy book, with some great surprises, and an overall variation to the theme that keeps it from being just another collection alongside Daddies, Jocks, and Twinks.

And when you’re done, you’ve already got Fog on order, too.

You’re welcome.

Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden SexFrenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344331X
November 2008

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex is an excellent anthology of short stories edited for Cleis Press by Alison Tyler.  The book revels in hot, quick sex.  Erotica is particularly suited to short forms because brevity can build a real sense of anticipation that would grow flaccid at greater length; witness Elspeth Potter’s “Unlimited Minutes” at not quite half a page. 

In fact, shorter is usually better for most erotica because the author can avoid those mechanical sexual descriptions that are so often interchangeable from one work to the next.  These descriptions present techno-matic sex.  They neither set up the reader for any real titillation, nor are they exciting in themselves.  Such descriptions are often excruciating searches for sufficiently exotic modifiers to make the penetration seem piquant even when it isn’t.

Whether erotica that is simply fucking is enough for you, would seem a matter of personal inclination.  I require more and this book delivers. Sometimes the pleasure of a fuck is its seedy location such as in D. L. King’s dank Brooklyn bar in “Hard Wet Silk.”  Or it is a moment in time as in Casey Ferguson’s “Field of (Day)dreams” that makes a dalliance sublime.  It seems to me that to be interesting as a subject for fiction, fucking needs to contain some element of play as one finds in Tara Alton’s brief but tasty “Mute Witness.” 

Otherwise fucking is very like mowing grass.  It is a good, hot, and even potentially productive exercise.  You make a lot of unusual noise, and probably sweat a lot. It’s satisfying when done.  But then you are ready to take a shower, have a cold beer, and think about something less exhausting.  You certainly don’t need to read about it.  Then again, being put on sexual hold can be a form of grinding but exquisite erotic torment as is the case in “Waiting” by Jen Cross.

In your twenties -- when you hardly know what is happening during sex -- much less remember much of it after it’s over, a book that gives you the details of what you just did might be both illuminating and get you ready for round two, or even three.  After thirty, you are supposed to know what you are doing, and you should by then have developed an entertaining line of patter to go with your “moves.”  By forty, most of us are contented with our own little depravities and enjoy them fully, as is the case in Carl Hose’s “Her Room” where the hero is cheerfully up to no good.

Frenzy suffers only occasionally from techno-matic sex.   When the short forms are used with éclat and real severity, they are bright and entertaining gems of understatement that create a much larger and more lush sense of authentic pleasure precisely because they excite by inference.  The obvious comparison is well-executed haiku, which leave the subtle imprint of nature in a few syllables.  Like Haiku, Nikki Magennis’s “Sweets” which makes short, but thorough, work of the erotic potential in sucrose.

Short forms make it impossible to hide literary flaws and stylistic laziness. They can be used to encrypt a deeper message so that what is really a very complex statement about the human experience, looks like a simple joke.  During the Soviet era, virtually all political humor in Eastern Europe was buried in sexual jokes.  Dirty jokes fit bad government when it is hard to tell who is fucking whom, and who is actually getting paid for what.  “Appetite” by Shanna Germain captures the pleasures of post-modern excess as the heroine embraces a new obsession with sex for her previous lust for carbs.  Such an excess of riches in a starving world, eh?

I don’t think it is going too far to say that the unflinching directness of Frenzy, as a product of the Bush era, shows that urgent search for balance between graphic “truth” and the galling lies of constant misdirection from the media, industry and government.  I site here Ann Rosenquist Fee’s “Cock Lobster” as an example.  However, if that is true of Frenzy, it is ghost effect.  Frenzy is primarily about fucking, and it is very good at sticking to the point.

Geek Love: An Anthology of Full Frontal NerdityGeek Love: An Anthology of Full Frontal Nerdity
Edited By: Shanna Germain
Contributions By: Janine Ashbless
Stone Box Press
March 2013

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Good evening, everyone. My name is Lisabet, and I'm a geek.

Myopic as a mole, I started wearing glasses when I was seven, but, unaware of the physical requirements, I still wanted to be an astronaut. In junior high school, I won a state-wide televised science quiz show. In high school, the smartest guy in the class dumped me because he said I made him feel inadequate. For years I made my living designing and writing programs (and fixing mistakes in code written by others). Now I teach a new generation about software, trying to show them its magic – how pure ideas, expressed in a formal symbolism, are transformed into artifacts that change the world.

Shanna Germain and Janine Ashbless might very well have assembled their magnificent collection Geek Love especially for me. With more than 250 pages of erotic tales and artwork, the book  celebrates the glories of nerditude in its many guises.

We geeks may not be famous or popular, or even socially accepted, but we're not going to remake ourselves just to fit in. We may prefer books to people upon occasion. We may be obsessed by numbers or machines. We enjoy playing games, both intellectual and carnal, and we're interested not just in reality but in possibility. And although I don't  have any objective data to support this claim, my personal experience suggests there's a correlation between geekiness and kinkiness. Certainly the stories in Geek Love could be viewed as evidence for my theory.

The many dimensions of nerdity make Geek Love fabulously diverse, while still providing a general thematic unity.

Kristina Lloyd kicks off the book with “Black Gold,” an ironic tale set in a post-fossil-fuel civilization where coffee is forbidden but BDSM scenarios can be ordered off a menu more complicated than any Starbucks. Despite its hardcore action, the tale has a romantic slant that suggests some things may never change.

I've never had any personal interest in exploring the “furry” subculture, yet for some reason I found “Goodness, Her Tail,” by Camille Alexa, to be one of the most arousing stories in the book. Suzanne's mundane existence as an office girl is just a facade. She's only truly alive at night, when she dons her ears and whiskers and frolics in the park with her furry friends Mowse and Rattatle Pie. A glimpse of her co-worker Mellie's peachy-pink tail turns her world upside down, and may very well turn you on in the process.

Peter A. Smalley's “The Journey of Mary Freder” begins as a steampunk parody. In classic Victorian epistolary style, a brilliant and talented female lab assistant writes in her journal of her eagerness to prove herself to her illustrious mentor  - Dr. Sextus Halifax, an expert on pneumatic processes and electrical phenomena “recently returned from a Continental sabbatical with that Teutonic colossus of science Herr Doktor Deitrich von Grossenschaft.” The story takes a darker turn as young Mary becomes obsessed with the well-oiled brass-and-clockwork female automaton that is Dr. Halifax's life work.

In “Raid Night,” by James L. Sutter, a woman's patience with her online-game-obsessed partner finally snaps, and she finds herself taking what she wants from him – to his surprise and ultimate delight.

M. Christian's affecting and insightful story “The Hope of Cinnamon” imagines an extra-dimensional world called Stonewall, where men are free to enjoy life and one another without fear or constraints. Gen is a Helper, dedicated to assisting the Rescued –  gay men snatched from the nightmare persecution of Nazi Germany – in their adaptation to Stonewall society. His role requires him to be a mentor, a teacher, and when necessary, a lover. But  Bissou, his latest client, has important lessons to teach him in return.

“Electric” by Wendy N. Wagner is a brief, vivid peek into the mind of celibate genius Nikolas Tesla – a universe of passionate connections shot through with lightning.

Michael M. Jones conjures a geeky gal who inherits her crackpot uncle's hopelessly disordered comic books store in “The Secret Life of Ramona Lee.” Irene, a fugitive AI originally developed by the government, offers organizational assistance – incarnated as a curvy, blue-eyed brunette whom Ramona finds difficult to ignore.

“The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Is Extinct,” by Bill Nobel, offers up a trio of bio-geeks: three horny academics crammed together in a bird watching blind seeking some evidence of a rare species. I won't mention the gender of the characters because, as in many of the well-warped tales in this volume, it hardly matters.

Shanna Germain's  contribution to the collection is original, dark and haunting. One character in “Saving the World” is a transgendered amputee superhero rock star. The other is a craftsperson, a dominant, a lover, whose gender is never revealed. The action in this tale is hot violence laced with devotion. The language is lyrical, raw, and achingly beautiful:

The band behind her, they've got capes over their jeans and t-shirts. But no cape for her. It gets caught in her heels, she says, but you know it's because it covers too much of her. She likes to show off those hot-damn hips, that fine-as-rain-ass, those missing legs that end in something different every show.

Tonight  they're steel filigree from her knees down; leaves and flowers and a hundred tiny metal creatures tucked into the empty spaces. She's got a thing for whimsy wrapped in an enigma tucked into a weapon. Her legs, her feet really, end in six-inch knifed heels that could kill a man. Probably have killed a man. I don't ask most times, because I don't need to know. Sometimes she tells me anyway. And that's when I have to buy a bottle of fine-ass whiskey and walk away from her, go down to the strip where the boys play ball in corner pockets and they're all-too-happy to wield a fist to a face, a paddle to a place where the ass meets the mind.

“Downtime” by Tanya Korval would be at home in many contemporary erotica anthologies, but it fits in well enough here. A couple of young PC techs forced to work late, one a jealous dominant, the other a glutton for punishment, especially when exhibitionism is involved... use your imagination. They do.

“The Pornographer's Assistant” by A.C. Wise is another mesmerizing tale about the word made flesh. A robot amanuensis buried in a desert bunker awaits her long-dead master, whose tales of fleshly excess she used to transcribe. Instead, a desperate, broken girl finds her way to the pornographer's hidden lair and is healed by the power of the pen. 

Craig Sorensen's “Opening Juicy Lucy” includes no robots or electronic marvels, just a geeky college guy who receives an unexpected and intimate request from the cheerleader queen he thought barely knew his name. Like most of Craig's stories, this one features complex and believable characters that make it a joy to read.

A.L. Auerbach conjures shades of Cthulhu with a lesbian slant in “A Great Old Time.” Fans of tentacles will not want to miss this story.

“Binary – consisting of, indicating, or involving two” is Preston Avery's light-hearted evocation of horny gal with a head for math. She meets her match in a guy who can turn a computer programming assignment into a love – or lust – letter.

I read “Morphosis” by Jak Koke three times, and I still didn't fully understand it, at least at an intellectual level, but it moved me nevertheless. According to the author's notes, this story sprang to life fully formed from a dream. Given its shifting imagery and emotional nuances, I find this plausible.

Andrea Task contributes “Who Am I This Time?” a definitely sexy power exchange tale influenced by “Choose Your Own Adventure”. The ties to the geek theme are less strong than in some other tales in the collection, but I'm certainly not going to complain about any well-written story featuring a D/s threesome.

“Voyeuristic Beauty” by Elise Hepner puzzled me, mainly because I couldn't see thematic relevance in this re-telling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of an enchanted mirror that watches her over her hundred years of slumber. Nevertheless, I liked the deviations from the classic fairy tale. In this version, Aurora doesn't need to wait for her destined prince to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.

J.A. Shirley's “Fuck the World” is a lot of fun, a conspiracy caper in which two female scientists posing as call girls infect the world's leaders with a virus intended to alter the course of history.

In “At the Faire,” Andrea Dale celebrates a rather neglected corner of nerdiness, namely historical reenactments and creative anachronism. As someone who has personally experienced the earthy influence of a Renaissance Faire, I strongly identified with her heroine, the lusty Mistress Maggie.

Janine Ashbless, like her co-editor Shanna Germain, slips to the darker side in her contribution “Grinding,” which relates a hapless gamer's encounter with an electronic succubus. I loved her opening:

Time was, when humans guarded their souls. They'd fence them about with prayer and rabbit's feet, with four-leafed clovers kept in a pocket or medallions of the saints. In those days, it was only when they slept, and their souls wandered away from their bodies, that I could find them and feed.

It's so much easier now. 

“Command Prompt” by Ed Grabianowski, provides an original take on BDSM and remote control. Harry Markov's “Pages and Playthings” envisions a book that actively alters the consciousness of the reader – and hence reality. “Player Characters” by Lucia Starkey offers new uses for dice.  “Ho Pais Kalos” by Molly Tanzer is narrated by a sentient phallus from ancient Greece, who observes and ultimately participates in the unplanned coming together of two young men studying archeology. Alison Winchester's delightful “RJ-45” offers a wonderfully fresh voice, focusing in alternation upon a savvy female “code monkey” and a lowly IT support gal with a fondness for kink. “F-RPG” by Vivienne Ashe explores the multiple identities players build in role playing games, and the truths hidden beneath those choices.

I enjoyed all the tales above, but three stories in the latter part of the book particularly impressed me. Kirsty Logan brilliantly captures the loneliness of modern Tokyo in her gorgeous lesbian tale “The Purpose of Tongues”:

In the electric city of Akihabara, nothing has a taste. There are endless promises: girls dressed as maids offering tea and cream cakes, girls done up like cats offering bowls of flavored milk, girls plastic-wrapped and LED-eyed with lips like strawberries.

Girls, girls. All delicious. All tasteless.

Then there's Jesse Bullington's funny, insightful “Porn Enough at Last,” set in a post-apocalyptic future where people huddle in isolated bunkers, fearful of contamination, poring over censored hentai porn. The hero (or is it heroine? The author very cleverly avoids telling..) has artistic talent and spends his/her time restoring the pixellated dirty parts and selling the results. The creativity and craft in this story made me grin in admiration.

And the final tale in the collection, Sommer Marsden's “Magdalene,” left me close to tears. A genius misfit fashions the perfect robot companion, the ultimate love-doll, and accomplishes more than he knows. Magdalene must hide her feelings from her Sir, even when he decides to “put her to sleep” after getting involved with a human woman.  

Normally, when I review an anthology, I'll mention half a dozen of my favorite stories. With Geek Love, I just couldn't choose. While some tales impressed me more than others, the collection as a whole left me with a feeling of awe.

Hence this lengthy review, which has already run to four pages – and I haven't even mentioned the cartoons, drawings, paintings and photos yet. Or the fact that this remarkable volume was funded by donations on Kickstarter, made by people who thought the world really needed some geek love.

I don't have space to say much about the artwork or the exquisite visual design – you'll have to buy the book and see for yourself. However, I did want to mention the extensive authors' and artists' notes that conclude the book. Many were as much fun to read as the stories themselves. I'm always curious to learn where other authors' stories come from. Geek Love allowed me to indulge that voyeuristic tendency.

In the author notes, a number of contributors said that they'd actually written their story years ago. These tales had been submitted and rejected multiple times, judged as just too weird for publication, until Geek Love came along – the perfect home for them. Like all of us nerds, scorned and ridiculed, dismissed as clumsy, queer or overly brainy, they were just waiting for the right audience – people who appreciate intelligence, unconventionality, and of course, sex.


Editor's note: This book is not available on Amazon. If you want to purchase an electric copy, click on the cover and join the site. I do not know how print books may be purchased.

Getting Even: Revenge StoriesGetting Even: Revenge Stories
Edited By: Mitzi Szereto
Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 1852429615
October, 2007

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I have to say before I begin this review that I don’t approve of revenge.  Revenge is the selfish face of subjective justice.  Revenge is the acceptable justification of an unacceptable vendetta.  Most importantly: revenge is just too bloody time consuming.

I speak here with the voice of experience.  To quote directly from Gilbert and Sullivan:  “I’ve got a little list.” 

Actually, my list isn’t that little.  If I bothered to print it out I expect it would look like the Oxford English Dictionary – the twenty volume, 750,000 word edition.  Many people have pissed me off throughout my time on this planet.  And I’m petty enough to carry grudges the way a boy scout carries badges of merit.

I’ve also taken the trouble to list my nemeses alphabetically and by individual category.  And I’ve also cross-referenced both lists.  Former bosses take up quite a large category on their own.  The boss that didn’t know how to flush the lavatory in the small office we shared – he’s on the list.  The boss that told me he couldn’t afford to give out pay rises because he’d just bought a new BMW – he’s got a special place on there.  The boss who tried to sue me after I’d left his company, because I owned the copyright to his company’s website – that worthless little tosspot has his own category. 

But part of my problem is that I don’t have the time to exact revenge on these cretins.  More distressingly: I don’t have the imagination to plot the appropriate revenge.  I stress this latter point because I sincerely believe that all revenge should be poetic.  The Bible tells us we should seek “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  I know Jesus came along after that part, and suggested some pacifist bullshit about turning the other cheek, but that sentiment only appeals to pussies who are too weak to get the job done properly.  Turning the other cheek is for those mere mortals who don’t want the powerful satisfaction that comes from exacting a cruel and sadistic (yet wholly justifiable) revenge. 

However, whilst I know my last employer needs to suffer a payback appropriate for the sleight he has made against my reputation, my gut reaction is to simply kick the little bastard in the balls. 

Of course, this plan is hampered by the fact that he doesn’t have a pair.  But, if he had a pair, I would don my steel toecaps and that would be my first option as a course for revenge.  Yet it wouldn’t be poetic – and a good act of revenge needs to be singularly apt.  It’s a rule that seldom applies to justice but it always applies to revenge: the punishment must fit the crime.

Getting Even: Revenge Stories contains some exquisitely poetic revenge stories.  Editor Mitzi Szereto has compiled a collection of stories that are clever in their execution, stylish in their composition, and wicked in their eventual denouements. 

I should state here that this anthology is not the collection of erotic stories one would usually expect from Mitzi.  There are some erotic elements, granted, but with this anthology Mitzi has focused strongly on the theme of revenge.  The content of each different tale varies through various levels of payback.  The stories are always exciting, often devious, and sometimes sexy, but they seldom venture into the lurid or pornographic. 

However, whilst the anthology isn’t erotic, it is extremely compelling and certainly makes for powerful and unputdownable reading. 

The Spanish say that revenge is a dish that’s best served cold.  Of course the Spanish would say this.  Spain is a fairly hot country and most dishes are best served cold over there to counterbalance the risk of dehydration.  Personally, I think revenge is best served steaming hot with a side-serving of smouldering passion.  Cold revenge can be seen as plain vindictive – boiling hot revenge is the sort of delicacy that leaves you sated, drained and wholly satisfied.  Getting Even contains recipes for revenge that are hot enough to make a volcano blush. 

I have favourites from this collection.  I adored the clever turnaround in Becky Bradford’s “More Than Skin Deep,” the tale of a philandering tattoo artist and his mistreated partner.  I also loved Stella Duffy’s genius catalogue of retribution from “Payment in Kind.”  Danutah Reah’s “Glazed” is a wickedly inventive way of beginning the anthology and Jean Lamb’s “Esprit de Corpse” is a wonderfully dark and twisted way to bring about the conclusion.  I was also enamoured by Tony Fennelly’s genius methodology in “How to Kill an Aries” as well as Mitzi’s own devilish contribution to this anthology: “Hell is Where the Heart is.”

In short: it’s impossible to find fault with this collection. 

I think everyone looking at this page, if they’re honest, will have harboured thoughts of revenge at some point in their life.  Forgiveness may be divine but forgiveness doesn’t give the gut satisfaction of revenge.  Whether it’s pain, purgatory, misery or murder: we’ve all contemplated payback and Getting Even shows how revenge can work at its best in fiction.

It’s said that revenge is sweet: it should be noted that Getting Even is even sweeter.

Girl Crazy: Coming Out EroticaGirl Crazy: Coming Out Erotica
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443522
June 2009

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Academics will tell you that the title of the book is the most important part of the text.  This is the area of the book that a reader first encounters.  The title initially catches the eye of the reader – sparking their interest or otherwise – and suggesting a flavour of what is to come within the pages of the text.

And so it seems a shame that Girl Crazy!, an otherwise exemplary anthology from the marvellous Cleis Press Inc, is flawed by its title. 

Yes the anthology includes some intensely exciting tales.  All of them are well written and every one – without exception – is designed to stimulate the brain as well as other vital organs.  The over-riding theme of the anthology is erotic exchanges between women and other women: some lesbian, some bisexual, some just too curious and horny for their own good.  The anthology includes authors who most readers will have encountered previously (such as Sommer Marsden, D L King, Jean Roberta, Jacqueline Applebee, Kristina Wright, Catherine Lundoff, Cheyenne Blue and Sacchi Green).  There are also less nefarious authors – I’m including here those whose fiction I haven’t personally encountered before – all of whom provide outstanding narratives that are erotic, exciting and eloquently executed. 

Yet the book’s title leaves a lot to be desired.  I am aware that there has been a Gershwin musical of the same title, which opened on Broadway in 1930 and was committed to film in 1932 and 1943.  I also know that the pop band Hot Chocolate released a single with this title which got to #7 in the UK pop charts in April 1982.  However, Girl Crazy! in the context of a title to an anthology of erotic fiction doesn’t seem to be an intertextual reference to either of those items.

I’m assuming here that Girl Crazy! takes its title from the modern usage of the word ‘crazy’ suggesting enthusiasm, infatuation or mild obsession (rather than straitjacket insanity or the taking-your-pet-goldfish-for-a-walk-type of mental illness).  I’m OK with this vernacular terminology, even though I sincerely believe this idiomatic employment of the adjective reached the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  What I’m not comfortable with is the reductive use of the word ‘girl’ to describe women who are mature enough to be in control of their sex and explore their sexuality. To me, this just sounds derivative and somewhat demeaning. 

You may be reading this and thinking: “Take the stick out of your arse, Ashley.  It’s just a title!”  However, if I began to review this article and cheerfully referred to the authors as a bunch of “crazy girls,” I would be (deservedly) pilloried for:

Which all sounds like I’m having a rant – and that’s most likely because I am. 

However, I have never come across a Cleis anthology I didn’t enjoy and I only stress my distaste for this book’s title because I don’t think it’s worthy of Cleis’s distinctive brand of top quality, balanced erotica.  I also think the title is especially not fitting for this collection of intense and arousing well-structured stories.

Take, for example, Sommer Marsden’s beautifully stimulating story “Spitting Seeds.”  Sommer is a fantastic author who never fails to blend beautiful prose with a lyrical ability to excite.  “Spitting Seeds” manages to capture the erotic thrill of daring to do the forbidden without making this oft-visited scenario seem either trite or gratuitous.  “Spitting Seeds” is a fantastic story, yet the characters, although presented as alluring young females, could not reasonably be described as ‘girls’ unless they were being spoken about by some leering old uncle.

D L King’s “Tasting Chantal,” is an intense encounter in the New York BDSM club the Whip Handle.  The mature dominant protagonist, Neela, finds herself in the company of the delightfully submissive Chantal.  The dialogue is sharp; the intimacy is passionate and powerful; and as Chantal is 23 years old and Neela is her senior, it would only be the most condescending misogynist who described either of these characters with the epithet “girls.”

Please note – none of this is being said as an indictment against the contents of the book.  The fiction in these pages is outstanding and exciting.  The compassion and sympathy in Jean Roberta’s “Getting It” is beautifully realised, gloriously stimulating and truly heart-warming.  The humour and verve in Kristina Wright’s “Muddy Waters” is refreshing and a pleasant contrast to the intensity of passion and emotion in her characters’ erotic exchange.  The realistic characterisation in Catherine Lundoff’s “Wine-Dark Kisses” will leave the reader sure they know Janeece and Ingrid more thoroughly then they knew their last lover. 

In short, Girl Crazy! is a wonderful book and well worth buying: it’s just burdened with a terrible title.

Girl Fever: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex for LesbiansGirl Fever: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex for Lesbians
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447919
June 2012

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This big collection of very short stories provides all the standard scenarios of lesbian sex, and many that are non-standard. The characters have fast but orgasmic hookups in all sorts of moving vehicles, on their way to somewhere else. They also do it in various cramped spaces and luxurious surroundings. The number 69 is a witty reference to a sexual position (or activity) which can function like speed-boil on a stove.

If you’ve ever read any lesbian erotica, you are guaranteed to recognize some of the names of contributors. The following have contributed more than one story apiece:
Cheyenne Blue, Shanna Germain, Sacchi Green (the editor), Roxy Jones, Jessica Lennox, Catherine Paulssen, Giselle Renarde, Sharon Wachsler, Fran Walker, Anna Watson and Allison Wonderland.

The beauty of this book, of course, is that if you don’t like one story, you can move quickly on to the next, which might have just the ingredients you crave. Something here is likely to appeal to everyone who has ever been sexually attracted to a woman.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I have a story in this collection, “Signature.” My piece, of course, is like a drop of water in the ocean. Even if I hadn’t been honoured to have a brief vignette of lesbian life accepted for this volume, I would have been honoured to review it.

These stories include a surprising amount of detail and suspense, which quickly gets resolved. In some cases, two women have to get it on within minutes before something else happens: before they are discovered, before they have to appear onstage, or (in one story) before they marry each other in a public ceremony.

Despite the social acceptability of lesbianism in some of these stories, the theme of sudden sex seems to work best in a context of secrecy and rebellion against the norm. Cheyenne Blue sets the tone in the first story, “Look at Me Now, Your Holiness!” The narrator thinks:

If only the pope could see me now.

My face is mashed so far into Christie’s pussy that my world consists of curls of hair and bitter salt.

The pope continues to be an imaginary witness to the scene until Christie and the narrator are both satisfied.

The theme of being watched by disapproving observers continues in “She Writhes Beneath Me” by Roxy Jones. Here the narrator describes what she and her sweetie “don’t notice:”

When we finally venture downstairs, eyes blinking in the light craving coffee and day-old pastries, we don’t notice the glances of our shocked, sleepless neighbours at first as they pick at their Frosted Flakes, but then it swells up behind us like massive waves of jealous whispers and their hollow eyes betray the hours they lay still, listening with cold, blue envy. They wonder, I imagine, how we were entwined, whose sweaty skin slid on sheets, whose knees were spread and held, whose face met the sky with a growl and a whimper as we arched up off the bed like we had learned to fly.

Most of these stories are plausible descriptions of sex-on-the-fly, whether the participants are long-term lovers or momentarily compatible strangers. The characters meet, greet, shed their own and each other’s clothes and make sexual contact with admirable efficiency.

Several of these stories are mini space-operas based on the reliable plot premise of an all-female crew in the close quarters of a space ship. In “Oh Captain, My Captain” by Cha Cha White, the captain of a group of space pirates discovers that the vessel they have boarded runs on sexual energy. To get things moving, of course, someone has to come.

“Floating in Space” by Dena Hankins begins claustrophobically: The airlock hatch bumps my shoulder, trying to close. I swallow at the sight of Cyfal’s asscheeks bisected by the safety harness’s straps. The two women manage to work around the physical awkwardness of their situation, as do many characters in more realistic stories about plane and train travel.

Few of these stories take place in fantasy worlds, probably because brief stories about “sudden sex” don’t allow much room for worldbuilding. Nonetheless, “In the Sculpture Garden” by Cha Cha White, which begins with the different reactions of a man and a woman to a beautiful female statue, moves quickly to a conclusion that seems to come from Greek mythology.

In a parallel story, “Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes” by Lucy Felthouse, another female statue in a garden attracts attention and arouses lust, but in this case, the character transformation is more believable.

Several of these stories could be classified as erotic jokes. In “Autocorrect” by Evan Mora, a text-message conversation between an employee and her supervisor goes awry due to modern technology or some higher power:

Hi, Cris, are you coming to the meeting at 4?

I’ll be there!

Great. Please meet me in my office in 5 minutes so we can have a brief cunnilingus beforehand.

Excuse me?

I have no words. I typed conference and my phone changed it. I am so sorry.

I’m on my way.

The mortified narrator thinks:  I’m going to be fired. No – first I’m going to be brought up on sexual harassment charges, and then I’m going to be fired. Luckily, what happens in the office is much better than the narrator dared to hope for.

A few of these stories, such as Sacchi Green’s “Snowbound,” are about sex as a means of staying calm in a crisis. As in the real world, fear and suspense make each minute seem longer than it would seem otherwise.

Altogether, these stories produce an impact out of proportion to their length, possibly because they seem to occur in real time; it takes approximately as long to read one as it takes the characters to reach nirvana. These stories are ideal for reading in brief intervals or waiting-periods, or for sessions of mutual reading-aloud.  So much for the old assumption that women’s lust – unlike men’s – has a long, slow fuse.

Girls Who Bite: Lesbian Vampire EroticaGirls Who Bite: Lesbian Vampire Erotica
Edited By: Delilah Devlin
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447153
September 2011

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Vampire fiction has been a growth industry since Anne Rice changed the terms with her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, in 1978. Lesbian vampire fiction has a history that even predates Dracula. In the nineteenth century, fantasy female bloodsuckers were associated with the “femme fatale” that was featured in so much art and literature of the period.

Now that vampire fiction could take up a long shelf in the horror section of your local bookstore (or on-line bookseller), are lesbian vampires as scary as they used to be? Yes and no.

The title of this book is either disappointing or meant to be provocative. Feminists of the 1970s objected to the use of “girls” to define women of all ages, and sometimes reacted by avoiding the word completely (as in “Congratulations on the birth of your baby womon”). “Girl” as a designation for every female is parallel to the racist use of “boy” for every African-American male, and “garcon” (boy/servant) for every waiter in a French restaurant.  

Girls Who Bite as a description of scary women who feed on the life-blood of others sounds trivializing. This is probably the point, meant to be ironic. The central characters in a collection of lesbian vampire erotica are supposed to make the reader squirm. They are supposed to seem threatening, even creepy, but also sexy as hell. The BDSM dynamics are too obvious to need an explanation.

The cover of this book is just right: deliberately theatrical, suggestive of twincest and dopplegangers, it shows two pale, almost identical blondes wearing red lipstick, eye shadow and fingernail polish. They face each other, closing in for a kiss or something fiercer.

One of the themes in these stories is the interchangebility of "good girls" and "bad girls," or the difficulty of knowing which is which. In "Bloody Wicked" by Vivi Anna, a witch goes into the woods to cast a spell, propelled by her sexual energy. Soon afterward, a male deputy sheriff appears at the witch's door with Alexa, the new sheriff in town. The sheriff's grilling of the witch about a dead man is a thin cover for mutual seduction.

The world of law enforcement is also the setting for "Dark Guard" by Karis Walsh. Lisa is a cop assigned to investigate a series of killings, supposedly committed by "Marginals," despised supernatural beings who live in ghettoes. She is paired with a member of the "Dark Guard," Aurica the vampire. Lisa is appalled, especially because Aurica is so attractive. Lisa wonders why her male Chief would do this to her, but she soon discovers that Marginals in general are not the enemy.

Lesbian vampires appear in several of these stories as avenging angels who punish abusive men. In "La Caida" by Anna Meadows, the narrator is growing up in a Latino family of Naguales, women who can survive on blood, supported by their ordinary male relatives. The narrator refuses to feast on the blood of rapists or wife-beaters until she discovers a naked woman who is actually a fallen angel who needs to be rescued. Although the alarming number of "disappeared" women in Mexican border towns (especially Juarez) is never mentioned in this story, the existence of real-life cultures in which men may feed on the "blood" of women with impunity suggests that Naguales could actually make their communities safer. In the story, the family of blood-drinkers is accepted by their neighbors.

In "Dark Angel" by Paisley Smith, a closeted lesbian in 1930s Germany who married a Nazi to "cure" herself of her "unnatural" desires is attracted to a strange woman in a nightclub. Just after her husband shoots her in a nearby alley, a seductive voice asks her if she wants to die or to live. Her answer changes her future.

In "Red Horizons" by Victoria Oldham, Eleni the charismatic vampire is a passenger on a cruise ship run by Captain Jayne, a mortal. When Jayne goes ashore to satisfy her sexual itch, the vampire protects Jayne from those who might really harm her.

“The Crystal Altar” by Adele Dubois is an almost-satirical story about a strange “makeover.” The narrator’s geeky, unpopular cousin has gone to Europe and returned transformed – and she brought a coven of glamorous European girlfriends with her. When cousin Angela asks to have her birthday party in a crystal cave at night, the narrator wonders what is really going on.

In "Pet Door" by Angela Caperton, the vampire appears at the door of a diva as a stray dog, and the vampire remains in character as a submissive pet even when she has resumed her human form. The woman musician who orders the vampire to use the pet door (not the one intended for humans) is clearly in control, much like a dope dealer who controls an addict because she has what the addict needs.

"Bound Love" by Christine d'Abo is a parallel story about Maili, a vampire who craves the discipline that only her mortal Mistress can provide. Here Maili suffers from a desperate need for her next fix:

Being out of control was something she couldn't afford, not with the bloodlust riding her so close, so hard. She was too old, too tired, and if she let herself slip into the oblivion of the lust, Maili knew it was a pit she wouldn't be able to emerge from. The fine line between feeding her hunger and becoming a ravenous monster was one she dared not cross.

Several of these stories focus on one-to-one lesbian relationships which never grow stale. In "Al Dente" by Delphine Dryden and "Madeline" by A.E. Grace, long-term vampire lovers enjoy hunting mortal men together. The immortal female predators enjoy men as playmates and as food, but there is nothing like the companionship of a sister-immortal.

"Impundulu" by Regina Jamison is about an unusual woman from South Africa who recognizes the narrator, a woman who has apparently been Impundulu's soul-mate through the ages. The narrator is appalled by an image of herself participating in a threesome with a woman who has willingly offered herself as a blood sacrifice. Impundulu, representative of the African past, shows the narrator who she really is and reminds her that they will be together as long as one of them "remembers."

Two of these stories are set in museums, shrines to the past. In "Beloved" by Shayla Kersten, the vampire is an Egyptian warrior goddess, Sekhmet, who eternally seeks union with her opposite and lover, the goddess Hathor. According to the writeup for an exhibit:

Hathor personified love, motherhood and joy and was usually depicted with the horns of a cow framing a sun disk. Some legends show the two as a single goddess or aspects of the same one; others have them as separate entities. However, all indicate their destinies were intertwined. 

"Night at the Wax Museum" by the editor, Delilah Devlin, draws on existing vampire literature. Mina Harker, a character in Dracula, appears as a figure in a coffin that seems to be made of wax. She is part of a Halloween display in a museum, guarded by Krista, a military woman who is recovering from the trauma of war in Afghanistan. Krista discovers why several male guards have disappeared, and she learns that Mina still has a reason not to like men armed with wooden stakes.

In "The Gift of Lilith" by Myla Jackson and "She Knows I am Watching" by Rebecca Buck, the "vampires" don't seem to survive on human blood at all, but on energy, and their interest in mortal women is mutual. Their lure is palpable. Read this collection only if you want to be seduced.

Girls Who Score: Hot Lesbian EroticaGirls Who Score: Hot Lesbian Erotica
Edited By: Ily Goyanes
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448257
August 2012

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Warning: this anthology is about women athletes who score with women as well as scoring on the field, the track or the rink. Why the warning? Because if you’re a writer like this reviewer, you probably had a love-hate relationship with jocks when you were growing up with your nose in a book. If I’m not mistaken, most of the contributors to this book grew up the same way.

Female athletes seem sexy by definition: strong, graceful, self-confident. In their youth, they seem to be the winners in the undeclared war between the Jocks and the Nerds. Yet girls who are good at sports rarely grow up to be professional athletes. And the few who do have a limited time in which to prove themselves. There is something bittersweet about any female athlete at the top of her game.

This anthology of sixteen diverse stories about sporty dykes captures their mystique. The sports described include relatively non-competitive activities such as long-distance running and scuba diving as well as team sports and hand-to-hand combat. However, competition is a major theme in almost every story. As it turns out, sports fans and nerds compete just as much as do sporty dykes, only less openly.

Each of these stories works in its own way, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be “No, Tell Me How You Really Feel” by the editor, Ily Goyanes. The narrator is a college student, an artsy type in black eyeliner, who tries to hide her crush on Julianne, a volleyball star, by insulting her intelligence whenever possible. After an encounter in the library, the narrator tells the reader that she went home, cried her eyes out, then I fucked myself silly with my purple vibrator, reliving the close-up shot of her eyes on my face and the feel of her large, strong hand wrapped around my tiny wrist. When the narrator follows the team to an out-of-town game, Julianne finally discovers her secret. The undeclared war that so many of us remember from adolescence has rarely been described so hilariously.

The second-funniest story in the book is “Out and a Bout” by Allison Wonderland, a pun-filled, slapstick description of a reluctant roller-skater’s introduction to the rink by a more seasoned skater in a roller derby. This story is among several that explore the erotic implications of a relationship between a coach or mentor and a fledgling athlete.

In “Chairs” by Sommer Marsden, a basketball star helps the narrator, a losing player, develop her thigh muscles by doing “chairs,” an exercise which sounds harmless but is actually an excruciatingly extended squat. The narrator’s crush on Chevy, her mentor, enables her to bear the torture for a whole minute:

I watch the anorexic second hand sweep the standard-issue clock and when the final fifteen seconds starts to rush toward me, Chevy leans on my trembling thighs with her forearms and presses down.

I make a noise like some dying thing and she grins at me, white teeth flashing in the fluorescent lighting.

Luckily, improved strength is not the narrator’s only reward for following orders.

In “Boot Camp” by J.T. Langdon, a woman in her forties who wants to firm up some of those places that had been squishy for so long signs up for a workplace exercise class taught by a very fit and sexy woman instructor. The class is so strenuous that the student almost drops out, but the instructor’s special, after-class encouragement persuades her to keep going.

In “Goddess in a Red-and-Blue Speedo” by D.L. King, the narrator takes a certification course for scuba-diving from Lorna, the “goddess” of the title, who makes it all worth her while.

In some of the mentor-student stories, the relationship is explicitly Dominant/submissive. “Cymone’s Dominatrix” by Paisley Smith is set in ancient Greece and describes the yearning of the gladiatrix prima for darker pleasures of the flesh after she has won a fight.

The most poignant stories in the collection are told by middle-aged women revisiting their youth as sporty girls who missed a chance. In “Facing the Music” by Kiki DeLovely, the narrator warily attends her long-term lover’s 25th high school reunion at a “very conservative, very Catholic” school where Nic, the lover, finally acts out a locker-room scene which was only a fantasy when she was a star athlete at the school. “Hail Mary” by Shanna Germain shows a former tennis player unexpectedly finding her old lover in the sports store where she brings her daughter to buy a good tennis racquet. The “Hail Mary,” an almost unbeatable serve, is a metaphor for the ending of a relationship which once seemed likely to last a lifetime.

In “Run, Jo, Run” by Cheyenne Blue (reminiscent of a 1959 story and film by British writer Alan Sillitoe, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner”), a woman runs to escape her past, her emotional baggage, and the hell of other people. But then she meets her counterpart, another woman runner, in an open stretch of unspoiled English countryside.

Coming out as a lesbian is shown to be scary enough for teenage girls, even the ones who excel at sports. For professional athletes, the risks are much greater. As the narrator in Sacchi Green’s figure-skating story, “The Outside Edge,” explains:

 Being gay wasn’t, in itself, a career-buster these days. Sure, the rumourmongers were eternally speculating about the men in their sequinned outfits, but the skating community was united in a compact never to tell, and the media agreed tacitly never to ask.

Until the last paragraph of the story (and the last moment of the performance), the reader/viewer can’t be sure whether the narrator and her lover will reveal their true feelings in public.

Space doesn’t allow me to describe every story in detail, although each one is worth reading. The theme of insults or taunts as thinly-disguised flirting in a sports setting runs through several stories. In the over-the-top “Blood Lust” by Gina Marie, two female boxers face off:

Marinda moved in close and grabbed Rae’s ass, not once removing her dark, vicious gaze from Rae’s reflection in the mirror.

“I know what you want from me, Sugar Rae.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, I’ve been around.”

“Don’t fuck with me, Marinda.”

“It’s Lucinda to you, Miss Cherry Pie a la fucking mode.”

“Fine. Don’t fuck with me, Lucinda.”

“Oh, I will fuck with you. I will fuck with you till you can’t take it anymore. But you won’t get it that easy.”

In a surprise ending, both these characters—who address each other as “whore” and “bitch”--are shown to have a romantic streak. As they begin to get better acquainted after the match, they both show all the endearing awkwardness of two dykes on their first date.

This anthology about the sexuality of sporty dykes and the ones who want them is likely to become a classic. It probably won’t be the last work of erotic fiction on this theme.

Going Down: Oral Sex StoriesGoing Down: Oral Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447897
May 2012

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Can I be honest here? There are not many advantages to being a book reviewer.

The hours are terrible. I say that because I’m writing this whilst the rest of the world is asleep.

The money is abysmal: this month’s reviewing salary won’t pay the price of a tank of gasoline. (That said, with the way fuel prices are rising at the moment, I suspect there are some bankers and lottery winners who won’t be able to afford a tank of gasoline this month).

There are also times when I’m expected to read and review books that are an insult to the concept of publication. This used to be fun in the days of printed books, when I could angrily toss a book across the room and watch it smack against the wall; or when I could occasionally burn a paperback in my own homage to the historical mentals who have burnt books. But there are serious ramifications to personal cost when I do this with a Kindle.

Being a book reviewer doesn’t give me any street cred or kudos. People don’t come up to me and say, “Wow! Ashley, I hear you review books. What a sexy occupation. Please tell me all about that whilst I lavish you with pleasure and other sociological or psychological benefits.”

Yet there is one advantage to being a book reviewer. And that one advantage happened this month. This month I happened to be one of the fortunate ones who got an early chance to read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology Going Down: Oral Sex Stories.

To show you how lucky I am, here’s a short piece from the opening story, “Pretty Dull.”

She didn’t think his wife or her husband were very giving and receiving sorts of people.

But oh, he was. His hand went to the side of her face, when she finally took him in her mouth. He didn’t push or force, however, or grasp a handful of her hair. Instead he cradled her face tenderly, as though he wanted to thank her through a touch.

It burned more deeply than the feel of him, all thick and too-hard in her mouth. Her clit jumped inside her already-wet panties, and when he carded his fingers through her hair she grew slicker still. Her cunt bloomed beneath no touch at all, and when she swirled her tongue around the glossy head of his gorgeous prick, the urge to touch herself grew too great.

She resisted, however. He’d resisted. She’d never seen him stroke himself, as he licked her pussy. He’d focused entirely on her, and she wanted to give him the same. She wanted to suck strong and fierce until his taste flooded her mouth—strangely sweet, in a way other men had never been—and moan in that exact way he had.

“Pretty Dull” is written by the eminently readable and talented Charlotte Stein. Charlotte knows how to write erotic fiction and she introduces characters who are living and breathing people. This story works as a piece of erotica as well as an emotional journey where exploration and generosity are contrasted against conservatism and repression.

This is, I think, a point of view which echoes the sentiment voiced in the introduction by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

I thought I knew, if not everything, quite a bit about the fine art of oral sex until I started to read the stories that came in for Going Down. In them, giving and receiving head became its own, if you’ll pardon the pun, head trip, and showed me that there is plenty for even the most seasoned connoisseur to learn and enjoy about an act that brings pleasure to so many.

Not that all of the stories in the collection focus on alternatives for repression or approaches to banish the dysfunctional. Jeremy Edwards, “Bubble Gum,” produces a piece of fiction where the narrative is less important than the tremendous physicality of the description. Similarly, Lucy Felthouse, “Clean/Dirty,” relates a first person narrative with the focus on the pleasure of oral sex between consenting adults.

But, as Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, this is an anthology that does not simply show oral sex occurring. The stories in this collection touch new areas and stretch the boundaries. One of my favourites in this category is Shanna Germain’s pragmatically titled short, “Sucking Casey’s Cock.”

“Danny, who taught you how to go down on a woman?” He laughed, and then it was his turn to blush a little.

“You.” It was true—when he’d gotten his first real girlfriend at eighteen, I’d been the one he’d gone down on first. He was the only guy I’d ever had between my legs, and I’d been surprised to discover that if you closed your eyes—and ignored the scratch of his teenage beard—tongues felt a lot alike no matter the gender. He’d made me come—twice, in fact—and I’d discovered something about myself, too. I liked having the power of telling someone what to do. I was a little lesbian domme in the making.

This is another stellar anthology from Cleis Press. The standard of writing is high and the depth of the subject matter is seldom short of thought-provoking. If there was ever a reason for a book reviewer to boast of an advantage to their job, then it’s being one of the first to read this delightful collection.

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden SexGotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446475
March 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

He was already two knuckles deep into my cunt, so asking for his name was kind of pointless.

Thus begins Kathleen Bradean's wonderful contribution to Gotta Have It, entitled "A Good Stiff One." I start my review with Ms. Bradean's story not only because it's one of my favorites, but also because it captures the essence of Rachel Kramer Bussel's new collection of flash fiction - stories that turn on the heat from the very first sentence. The subtitle of this book is definitely appropriate. With no more than 1200 words available, these stories tend to race into the clinches, leaving both the characters and the reader a bit breathless.

The best tales in Gotta Have It, however, are more than just fast and furious sex scenes. I was extremely impressed by the depth and originality some of these authors managed to pack into a small package. Ms. Bradean's story is a case in point. It captures all the awkwardness, the inwardness, of fucking a stranger at a party - the lack of emotional connection even as you're being propelled into the sensual stratosphere, the judgments one can't help oneself from making.   

Consider Carmel Lockyer's lesbian lust-fest, "Pink Satin Organza." "Here's the problem; Sonya isn't even my friend," the narrator begins, guilt-tripped into acting as a bridesmaid for her sister's best friend. The bride's stern aunt provides some rough consolation, though. By the middle of the tale, "Her red lipstick is being equally shared between her mouth and mine."  The characters in this story could easily sustain a much longer piece. I'd love to see the narrator and the aunt at the next "fitting."

Gotta Have It offers considerable variety in orientation, kink, mood and even explicitness. There's the high octane collision between two women on the leather seats of a vintage Corvette in Evan Mora's "My Femme," the improbable but irresistible M/M butt-fuck at 35,000 feet in Mike Bruno's "The Copilot," the deserved punishment of the deliberately clumsy waiter in Sommer Marsden's "Laugh," and the unabashedly naughty exhibitionist in Jeremy Edwards' "No Blame, No Shame" ("Even the hum of the ice machine sounds libidinous.") Shanna Germain offers up an ironic woman Bible teacher in "Genesis" ("I don't hunt them down. They come to me.").  D.L. King serves up a sizzling version of the stern librarian fantasy in "Punishment Befitting the Crime." In "Intersect," Burton Lawrence gives us a zero-G liaison between two space freighter captains that's constrained by physics to no more than seventeen minutes.  "After Ten Years" by Christen Clifford masterfully conveys the complex joys and disappointments of sex after a decade of marriage. And Salome Wilde wins hands-down in the category of originality (or possibly bizarreness) with "Too Wondrous To Measure," about the love affair between a human woman and Godzilla. (I'm not kidding!)

Of course, given who I am, I was particularly drawn to some of the BDSM-themed stories. Mike Kimera's chilling "Need-Leash" manages to be arousing and disturbing with no actual sex at all. "My nipples stretch the silk the way my desire for you stretches my morals," says the nameless female narrator, only too aware of her own abasement. "Over His Shoulder" by Maximilian Lagos is a more light-hearted tale about the erotic power of the written word. Teresa Noelle Roberts' story, "Laughter in Hell," highlights the paradoxes in a power-exchange relationship. ("My cane still makes her wet and her laughter still makes me hard." Possibly my favorite BDSM tale was Valerie Alexander's "Don't Struggle," which gives us a peak into the thoughts of a manipulative but appreciative Dom. The insights in this story will stay with me. (I read it at least four times.)

Of course, with sixty nine stories, I can't begin to mention all the stories I enjoyed. This is a huge book - over three hundred fifty pages. Overall, Ms. Bussel has done a great job assembling work by both familiar and new authors. Having edited anthologies myself, I'm in awe of the amount of effort that must have been required, managing communications with sixty-eight contributors. (The collection includes one of the editor's own stories as well.)

The depth and breadth of Gotta Have It means that there will be something here for every reader. If you're in the mood for a quickie, I highly recommend this book.

H is for HardcoreH is for Hardcore
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442860
July, 2007

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the introduction to this book, Alison Tyler says, “I don’t want nice and clean. I don’t want good and kind. I want hot and fast. Dark and dirty. Basically, I want hardcore.”

It’s a sentiment I’ve echoed myself, although it’s seldom a successful way to start job interviews.

H is for Hardcore is the latest anthology in Alison Tyler’s erotic alphabet. It might be worth mentioning here that H is also for HORNY and HARD-ON. H is also for HOT, HOTTER and HOTTEST. This collection of twelve short stories comes from a pantheon of erotic authors who have gleefully produced fiction that meets Ms Tyler’s original remit. This is hardcore at its horniest.

Mathilde Madden, Gwen Masters and Radclyffe. John A Burks Jr, Jean Roberta and Sophie Mouette. Chris Costello, Rakelle Valencia and Shane Allison. Teresa Noelle Roberts, Michael Hemingson and the inimitable Ms Tyler herself. The combined talents of these authors have been used to produce an anthology that is graphic and gratuitous: sordid, sexy and splendid. The content is extremely hot and exceptionally fast. The stories are wonderfully dark and deliciously dirty. The anthology is, in a word: hardcore.

Hardcore is a peculiar word to define. One person’s definition of hardcore is another person’s idea of tame. Or another person’s version of too extreme. To illustrate this point, I was recently eavesdropping on two friends who were discussing hardcore. One friend claimed she liked some hardcore activities, and these included using the F-word – although she drew the line at the C-word. The other friend said that no cunt had ever told her what the C-word was, and her definition of hardcore started with rusty barbed wire and at least four pairs of nipple clamps and it invariably ended with a scream.

Yet this collection of shorts manages to consistently deliver fiction that can only be described by that single word: hardcore.

Mathilde Madden opens the collection with a first person narrative of bondage and teasing to outrageous excess. Gwen Masters follows with a torrid tale that plays with the power balance between a protector and the protected. Radclyffe then takes the reader into the darkened corners of a BDSM world and blends male terminology with female anatomy in a disconcerting meld of the boldest and most brutal sexuality.

John A Burks Jr. has written a satisfying story that introduces the reader to a powerful man who, at the beginning of the narrative, can best be described as “anal.” Jean Roberta, always a pleasure to read, stuffs her tongue in her cheek as her characters mix role-playing with bondage. Sophie Mouette takes bondage to the next level as her characters are bound together in an inevitable climax.

These are forceful stories that evoke passion with a capital P. Every one of them is hauntingly hardcore. Each could be adequately described as hotter than hot.

Chris Costello tells a tale of girl meets girl, but with a wealth of kinky twists to keep the reader riveted. Rakelle Valencia’s characters rope and ride an unsuspecting rancher. Shane Allison gives us a homoerotic taste of full-on, fantastic foot fetish.

All of these stories are written by authors who know how to excite. The sex scenes are gloriously graphic. The erotic content is constant and consistent in its strength.

Teresa Noelle Roberts writes about a woman with a passion for knives. This rarely written kink is perfectly exploited in "On a Knife Edge" and, after the tour de force of the anthology’s previous stories, manages to introduce the reader to a delicious and deviant new delight. Michael Hemmingson’s, "The End of Celibacy," presents a girl who has been looking for love in all the wrong places. The stilted dialogue between the characters perfectly matches their stilted relationship. The delicious twist to this story is wicked, wild and wonderful. Alison Tyler’s "Ashes and Diamonds," raw passion embodied in three short but intense pages, concludes this collection in a powerful and satisfying climax.

H is for Hardcore is undoubtedly the strongest of Alison Tyler’s alphabet series to date. The focus is fixed firmly on erotic extremes. Ms Tyler asked for hot and fast. She asked for dark and dirty.

The result is the sensational H is for Hardcore.

He's On TopHe's On Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442704
March, 2007

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.


Hot Daddies: Gay Erotic FictionHot Daddies: Gay Erotic Fiction
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447129
August 2011

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Daddy is an evocative word. Father has a cold, formal connotation, but a daddy sounds warmer. Some might even say hotter. It's a thoroughly masculine identity - a role model, a task master, a lover, a giver, a teacher, and a guide who cares. It's also recognition that there's something very sexy about a mature man. Not necessarily old, as many of the stories in this anthology show us, but comfortable in his skin and in control of his life.

In Jamie Freeman's “In His Time,” a married man who gave up cruising to keep his vows is accused of cheating one too many times. He heads to the bookstore where he used to go to hook up. Each glance in a mirror reminds him that time has passed and maybe he's too old now. He doesn't want to be the old creep, and he doesn't want to be a daddy either, but when the right guy makes him feel all right in that role, he realizes that it's time to embrace who he is.

Sometimes a boy just wants a Daddy, or several of them. In Landon Dixon's wonderful “Men of the Open Road,” a hitchhiker doesn't want to go anywhere in particular. He's just along for the ride. He knows exactly what he wants and how to get it.

If you like your BDSM on the brutal side, you can always count on Xan West to deliver. In “It's My Job,” the boy says "Right now my job is to take him into me, to be a good quiet hole for Daddy's cock. And there's grace in that." Jeff Mann's “Daddy Draden” is BDSM laced with bittersweet memories of a cub who can only visit his master a few times a year. They're aware that their paths may spin them apart, so they make the most of their times together in scenes that are as emotionally charged as they are physically intense.

Some of the stories in this anthology are rescue tales. Gavin Atlas's “Daddies in Damian” is about a porn performer looking for a way out and the fan who wants to help him. In “Pop Tingle” by David Holly, a sugar daddy picks a street kid to be his new sex slave, and the kid is all right with that. To me, the sissy trope and women's clothes forced on the kid smacked of creepy straight guy playing sex tourist in Thailand fantasy, but maybe there are gay men into forced feminization, so if you enjoy that, here's the story for you.

Or maybe you're in the mood for a good round of horseplay with a father and son (and cousin) team. If so, Jack Fritscher's “Father and Son Tag Team (That Summer! That Camp! That Cousin)” is going to be the perfect, almost over the top, but so fun you won't care choice in this anthology.
Obviously, it helps to be into the daddy/boy dynamic to appreciate these stories, but they aren't all about age play. Some of the daddies are younger men. Contributors Kyle Lukoff, Mark Wildyr, Dominic Santi, Dale Chase, Doug Harrison, and Randy Turk each have a different take. More than a few are bound to appeal to you. Thumbs up.

Hungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for WomenHungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1940550041
August 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

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.

Hurts So Good: Unrestrained EroticaHurts So Good: Unrestrained Erotica
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443289
October 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

After reading Hurts So Good, I’m thrilled to report that it’s still possible to find an erotica anthology with more than one or two good stories. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder.

It used to be anthologies were strictly segregated by sexuality. Not anymore. The pansexual offerings may partially explain why this anthology was so appealing to me. But what made Hurts So Good stand out was the consistent literary quality of the contributions.

Before I finished reading the second paragraph of the lead story, I turned down the corner of the page, indicating that I planned to reread it. In “The Sound of One Hand Clapping” by Nikki Magennis, a woman finds clarity in bondage and a spanking. Exquisitely crafted, this is easily one of the best short stories I’ve read this year.

“Turnaround” by A.D.R. Forte did something few short erotic stories has ever done, and that’s truly surprise me. A schoolteacher is accidentally rung by another woman’s cell phone. She knows she shouldn’t listen in, but the D/s scene between her idol and her idol’s husband is too compelling to hang up on, especially when she hears her name. She fills in the scene from what she’s hearing. Hot? Oh, yes. As I was reading, I was gritting my teeth for a cliché twist ending, but A.D.R. Forte took it in a different direction that made me grin.

Xan West is a name I’m seeing more often and always with a story that speaks to me. According to his bio – yes, someone does read those – he’s a BDSM and sex educator with a love for boots. It shows. In “First Time Since,” a Sir pushes himself back out into the world after his boy has left him. This story is rough leathersex served up with a bittersweet tang. That’s probably why I liked it so much. Too many Sirs are portrayed as automatons, or worse, jerks that have conned someone into bowing down to them. The emotional vulnerability of this Sir gave “First Time Since” depth that’s missing from far too many BDSM stories.  

“Toying With Lily” is one of Mike Kimera’s signature pieces. A Rauxa Prize winner for erotic fiction, he unfortunately announced recently that he was withdrawing from writing. When you read this story of a man stealing time away from his overly scheduled life to be with a married woman, you’ll understand what a shame it would be if this were the last of his stories to be published. Mike’s characters are always flawed, but almost beyond judgment, as they are so very human.

There are a few other stories in Hurts So Good that I feel I must mention briefly. Stephen Elliot’s “My Mainstream Girlfriend” is, I believe, a chapter from his novel My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. It was the first book I reviewed for Erotica Revealed back in May 2007. This chapter reminded me why I loved that novel so much. “Provocation” by Jay Lawrence is a delightful discipline and humiliation piece. “Flick Chicks” by Allison Wonderland was a fun spanking piece.

So many stories in Hurts So Good were pleasant surprises that it renewed my faith in erotica anthologies. Maybe I’m jaded, or my taste runs to the harsh side of dark, but few of these stories were intense BDSM scenes. That isn’t a bad thing. It makes these stories accessible to people who are squicked by hardcore, and I’d like to see this book in the hands of as many erotica fans as possible, because it shows what erotica can aspire to.

I Do--An anthology in support of marriage equalityI Do--An anthology in support of marriage equality
Edited By: Kris Jacen
MLR Press
ISBN: 1934531707
January 2009

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

The mark of a second rate culture is its willingness to create second-class citizens.  That is especially the case when it is done in the interest of advancing party supremacy, enforcing economic privilege, or institutionalizing religious humbug.  Starting with Reagan, we just completed thirty-plus years of that behavior.  If you are gay in America, you must be pretty fed up what with Prop 8 sitting in the middle of the brand new Obama vista.  Enter I Do, an anthology of stories about gay and lesbian coupling that in large part is both entertaining and should work well for its stated purpose as a way to raise funds to defeat Prop 8.

By and large these stories are entertaining, written well, and make a convincing agitprop case against Prop 8 and for the right to gay marriage.  The stories are sometimes truly subtle and articulate such as “The Lindorm Twin” by Tracey Pennington, which employs the device of the fairy tale to create a political parable about the destructive force of bigotry against gays, or anyone for that matter.  It has the sort of ironic insight one finds in Yevgheny Shvarts’s “The Dragon” in which myths of the normative both serve and distort human self-understanding. 

There are several stories that fit the best model of literary romance. In Lisabet Sarai’s “Making Memory,” two women achieve discovery and redemption in a brief, passionate encounter.  Each surrenders a part of herself to her lover, and in so giving, gains redemptive renewal. “Desire and Disguise” byAlex Beecroft is a warm-hearted story of a relationship that is simply growing stronger.  I am unable to say whether the pleasure of reading Beecroft’s story lies more in its generosity of spirit or in the author’s fluid and pleasant English.  At any rate the story shows a mastery of complex sentences, the subjunctive mood, and a command of compound tenses that one rarely sees in English prose these days.

Romance has come to mean fiction laced with conventional bourgeois sentiment in place of actual feeling.  It may dabble in swashbuckling and a sort of pristine prurience, but it is, finally, politically correct feeling leading toward a comfortable resolution of discord.   Everyone winds up with a lot of self-esteem. That sort of romance has its origins in the 18th century bourgeois novel, the plot of which was usually based on the misfortunes of a good-hearted, virtuous, and naive hero, like Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield, who suffers more than he deserves.  Rip all the bodices you like, the romance novel is simply a disguised form of its milder predecessor. Goldsmith, of course, did not have to compete with reality television.

The real meaning of romance is heroic love of such magnitude that it is redemptive.   We recognize the intrigues of As You Like It and Love’s Labour’s Lost, wherein the characters realize that love offers rewards beyond the mash notes and the first stolen kisses. In fact, romance need not be between lovers or spouses at all because the ultimate test of love in romance is sacrifice.  Hence, Miranda’s future is redeemed by Prospero’s surrender of his magic powers.  Cordelia is honored in death and defeat by Lear’s rediscovery of his love for her and their filial bond.  That bond is the true arc of romance, that the power of the relationship is greater than the sum of the lovers. 

“I Do” presents us with the kind of love that leads to marriage.  Marriage necessarily leads to continuity beyond death.  The point is that this sort of love is so great that even the inevitability of death is not an obstacle to its fruition.

As the stories in I Do grow steamier and less based in affect, they lose some of their energy.  That’s not because of the subject matter, though that does tend to become redundant -- how many ways can you swallow a mouthful of cum and still say something interesting about it?  The problem is the writing becomes rigid and unnatural. “Finally Forever” by Jeanne Barrack launches a story composed of lumpy badinage between two Jewish men preparing for their wedding.  That would be fine if the dialogue were not such an enforced exercise in merriment that you wind up gritting your teeth. Worse still, the characters find themselves cute.  These two guys would be delighted to stay locked in Stacy and Clinton’s 360-degree mirror for days on end. 

“Code of Honor” by Marequesate presents a different problem in which sentences are often as rigid and awkward as the principal characters, two lover-studs in the French Foreign Legion where being gay, we are told, is strictly forbidden. I understand on good authority that is indeed the case as in most military organizations for reasons of their own perceiving.  Given its enforced centrality to the story, however, this secrecy seems a literary contrivance of the sort that porn often employs for hyperbolic effect.

One can forgive a certain repetitive militancy among a portion of the stories, as the authors’ collective case is legitimate.  Nonetheless, one does have to ask oneself, “What is the cause here?” 

Like all political art, there is the danger of being arch rather than reaching for the profound. The net result is that the characters in some of these stories speechify about the condition of being gay almost as though it were an abstract moral state of being.  From there they move on to a fundamental error: they extrapolate to the rather pathological assumption that all gay people should want to be married and that, as such, they are not being true to themselves or their gayness if they don’t.  Whereas the real point is that all people, regardless of their particulars, should have the right to be married – with all attendant benefits and privileges – if they so desire.

The history of marriage is the history of property rights.  It was only an issue for the propertied classes because they had something to lose in matters of inheritance, and whose numbers grew exponentially from the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Thus what had been a system of feudal contracts for the nobles became a way of cementing financial relationships for the bourgeois.  The notion of romantic love connected with marriage is largely a literary conceit of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

While that all went on, Christianity attempted to annex sexuality/love even if it still finds these impulses carnal, distasteful, and spiritually degrading.  The marriage license was a rubber stamp for the soul by making sex legal.  Prior to modern psychology in the 20th century, everyone pretty much assumed sex was just inexplicably there in the human construct just as it is in rabbits.  It was probably clearer thinking and caused less general suffering than the average therapist, despite being far less profitable.  In short, marriage doesn’t make much sense beyond issues of property whether you are gay, straight, or somewhere in between.

Therefore, who and what is protected by making marriage the exclusive preserve of heterosexuals, is not only moot, but also inarguable tribal nonsense, a point which I Do makes well.  The stories assert that marriage should not exist as a weapon for class and economic exclusion.  What is more, being a married heterosexual should no more "give you the conch" in passing judgment about the sanctity of this or that sort of relationship than being homosexual should take it away.  In law, marriage is about on a par with the significance we attach to owning a house.  It is either one’s principal liability or asset depending on how you look at it.  To see it as more than that, clouds the issue.

We harm all Americans when some of us are legally reduced from being full citizens.  That is especially true when the majority winds up serving the peculiar economic aims and religious whims of factions like the Republican rightwing as they did with Prop 8.  When we make any class of citizens less than any other class of citizens, we all become less than we can be and therefore less than we should aspire to be.

The ultimate wrong done by Prop 8 is that it denies all Americans their rightful pursuit of liberty and justice.  What is just is neither absolute nor fixed.  Like our notion of liberty, it must evolve as our understanding of the world and others evolves.  Therefore, the sound claim against Prop 8 is not one of special pleading for a minority, for they alone are not the ones wronged.  It is at the heart our democracy that no man or woman is less than any other even if tradition has made it seem so. We grow by outgrowing our traditions, not by being slaves to them. 

Editor's Note:

As per the publisher, all proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Lambda Legal Defense to fight Prop 8 in support of marriage equality for all.

I is for IndecentI is for Indecent
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443050
February 2008

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This pocket-sized volume of fifteen stories is adorned with a radiant cartoon pinup girl on the cover, complete with a World War II-era sailor’s cap. This little book is part of Alison Tyler’s alphabet series, beginning with A is for Amour, B is for Bondage, and so forth. Each volume contains fewer stories than the average erotic anthology, but the whole collection will eventually include quite a range of styles, plots and sexual flavors.

Alison Tyler is a prolific editor as well as a writer of stories and novels which have been translated into various languages and circulated all over the world. Besides editing anthologies for Cleis Press, she runs her own small company, Pretty Things Press. She is a kind of one-woman industry, and her “brand” (to use a popular buzz-word) is usually easy to spot. The sex in her stories tends to be offbeat, spontaneous, fun and heterosexual. Her male characters sometimes mislead her female characters, or vice versa, but Tyler describes disappointment in a light and witty way. No one seems to get seriously hurt. If any of her characters have dark nights of the soul, these happen off the page.

This book is quirkier, stranger and darker than any of her other anthologies that I know of. These stories answer the question: Is anything considered indecent these days, even by those who consider themselves sexually free? (Or, to paraphrase a line from the 1980s music that Tyler loves, what would it take to make a pro blush?)

Several of these stories deal with exhibitionism in public places. Showing off in itself doesn’t seem shocking in works of erotic fantasy, but the characters in these stories deliberately risk violence, injury, arrest and unexpected emotional transformation. In “That Monday Morning Feeling” by Lisette Ashton, Mandy consoles herself for having to go to a boring office job by flashing her shapely butt and pressing herself against men in the London tube. “Have a Nice Day” by Mike Kimera carries the break-from-work theme further: an emotionally-detached male narrator sends his girlfriend a package at work containing a large dildo which she is ordered to stuff into herself before going to a “meeting” with a strange woman who ushers her into the narrator’s stretch limo, which seems equipped for every conceivable sexual activity.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Crowd Pleaser” describes a happy couple visiting New Orleans for their anniversary during Mardi Gras. Nothing about them seems unusual until the general revelry inspires them to have sex in a place where they are caught by television cameras before escaping from security guards.

In “The Installation” by Michael Hemmingson, a financially desperate young woman in graduate school agrees to perform sexually as part of an art exhibit. Her only reward, supposedly, is a fee which will get her out of debt. The older, experienced male artist who hires her awakens her capacity for pleasure and endurance. The change in her feelings, from grim resignation to the self-centered thrill of performing for a snobbish audience that loses interest after awhile, could have led to an ironic role-reversal. Would the artist simply forget his “object” after opening night? Would she contact him again, after resisting the impulse to do so during the lead-up to the public performance? The author doesn’t say.

In “Wet” by Janine Ashbless, a middle-class woman on a date with her husband searches in vain for an open public lavatory until she loses control of her bladder. Her public embarrassment leads to a passionate response from her husband, despite the presence of passers-by.

In “A Genuine Motherfucker” by Sommer Marsden, a female narrator tells the reader that she specializes in discovering the most shameful fantasies of the men she dates, and rubbing their noses in them (so to speak) when the men are most vulnerable. Parallel to this strategy for breaking down any semblance of dignity or self-esteem is the elaborate violation scene in “The Things You Do When You’re in Love” by Mathilde Madden, in which a domme seems to abandon her male pet in a rundown gas-station urinal after securing him to the plumbing. The scene is consensual enough in the context of a Dominant-submissive relationship, but it is hardly decent by any standards.

In “Daddy’s Pillow” by Rita Winchester, a more conventional male Dominant-female submissive encounter takes place via long-distance telephone call, and the physical absence of “Daddy” gives the narrator’s story of rapturous release a certain eeriness.

In “Waif” by Alana Noel Voth, an angry man who has been fired by his embezzling boss is approached by a young male prostitute who seems even more powerless than the unemployed corporate pawn. The story raises questions about corruption and responsibility while showing two wounded males warily responding to each other. The developing relationship between the hustler with nothing left to lose and his reluctant john shows a glimmer of hope for humanity in general, but the punch line removes any trace of sentimentality.

Thomas Roche’s black comedy, “Death Rock,” is an uncomfortably amusing look at a certain gay goth sub-community of young men who are literally in love with death. The ending, which mimics that of Romeo and Juliet, is both melodramatic and too plausible for my taste.

In “From Here to Indecency,” Stan Kent refers to a romantic movie about wartime lovers while satirizing Hollywood conventions in general. In a slapstick climax, three people who are far from glamorous are thrown together in the ocean off the coast of California. The looney-tunes romance which follows shows that Mother Nature is the best script-writer.

“Guilt” by Tsaurah Litzky is both gritty and bittersweet. The narrator’s situation suggests a line sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl: “Would a convent take a Jewish girl?” The breaking of sexual vows, whether to a human spouse or to God, seems indecent to all those who believe that promises should mean something. The dilemma of the guilt-ridden man in the story is that he has already proven himself a hypocrite, and he can’t do the right thing by his own standards without hurting himself and the woman who confronts him.

The stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel (who has co-edited anthologies with Alison Tyler) and Tyler herself seem downright sweet and innocent compared to most of the rest. In Bussel’s story, “The Secret to a Happy Marriage,” the “secret” is revealed to involve sex outside the marriage—and outside the heterosexual “mainstream.” The narrator’s encounter with a lesbian couple seems to be exactly the outlet she needs to remain faithful to her husband in her fashion. In Tyler’s story, “Milk and Honey,” a charming man meets a woman in a coffee shop and persuades her to drink her coffee differently than before. The delicious new flavors of sex that he introduces her to lead her to hope that something long-term might be developing between them. She learns that whatever seems too good to be true probably is.

Donna George Storey’s “The Cunt Book” also involves a dishonest man and the woman who is enchanted by his imagination even when she knows he is not telling her the factual truth. The photographic evidence of his seduction of her (or of her exhibitionist streak) suggests the woman-centered art and photography of lesbian artist Tee Corinne, which foreshadowed The Vagina Monologues some twenty years earlier.

These stories take risks and leak out of a predictable marketing niche. They could inspire you to find the sides of yourself that you’ve kept hidden from the light of day, desires which still feel indecent.

Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian EroticaIridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica
Edited By: Jolie Du Pre
Alyson Books
ISBN: 1593500041
June, 2007

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

The contributors to Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica will probably be familiar to fans of lesbian erotica. Fiona Zedde, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jean Roberta, Jolie du Pre, and many others are known for their sensuous, hot, delightful, and thought-provoking work. This wonderful collection of stories shows why.

Like many of these stories, Tenille Brown’s "Waiting" highlighted the problems of a cross-cultural relationship, but it’s the personal distance that gives this story its edge. Lucinda has her life set in neat, distinct categories that suit her needs, and she makes it clear that Gabriela isn’t invited to step outside that boundary. When Gabriela does, Lucinda is unwilling, or unable, to give her some-time lover any emotional respect. Gabriela’s longing for more than her defined role is heartbreaking.

Nan Andrew’s "The Portrait" touches on skin color more than any other story, but not in terms of race. An artist, inspired by Freda Kahlo’s work, tries to paint a portrait of a woman she’s attracted to, but can’t make it work. Every time she looks at her soon-to-be lover, the complexity of skin color, with all the underlying tones, frustrates her. She can’t seem to capture it. Only after the artist experiences her model beyond the surface can she paint the person. This story encapsulates the theme of this anthology – race and culture influence perspective, but it’s what lies beneath that ultimately matters.

Fiona Zedde’s "Night Music" is lush, but playful. Likewise, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s "Two Strippers in Love" is upbeat and oh-my-is-it-getting-hot-in-here sexy. Jean Roberta’s "For All My Relations," and Jolie Du Pre’s "Monisha" are about loves that can never be again, and how the bittersweet knowledge of that can only be held outside for so long before reality creeps in. Lisa Figueroa’s "Enchanting Evalina" and Cheyenne Blue’s "Glory B" show that sometimes finding the prefect lover takes a touch of the mystical.

The stories in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica feature women of Caribbean, Native American, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Mexican, and interracial backgrounds. They are photographers, mechanics, musicians, barkeeps, strippers and sex workers. Refreshingly, none of these women are fetishized. They are real, smart, sexy, and a pleasure to read about.

Kinky Girls: An Xcite Collection of Women on the Wild SideKinky Girls: An Xcite Collection of Women on the Wild Side
Edited By: Miranda Forbes
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1907016562
May 2011

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Kinky Girls, published by Xcite books, is a collection of short stories from a variety of celebrated erotic fiction authors.  The following extract is from Justine Elyot’s “Just Watch Me.”

“Well, well.” His voice was a little unsteady, trying too hard for detached amusement. “What have we here? James and Shar sitting in a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Please don’t mind me – carry on.”

So we did. Carried on clinching on the sofa until my top was off and my skirt down.

“What do you think, Craig?” James broke off from sucking my nipple to throw the question over to the armchair. I looked over at him; he had released his cock and held it in a fierce fist. His face was pink all over, and looked bloated, his eyes reduced to piggy slits of lust.

I’ve reiterated this part because, whilst I was reading it, I realised it was brilliant. It’s stylish. It’s credible. And it’s arousing. Justine Elyot is an established tour de force in erotica. Elyot has written for Black Lace, Cleis, Xcite and many other respected publishers of adult fiction. And the reason why Elyot has been published by the stalwarts of the industry is because she’s damned good at delivering the goods. You want an erotic story? Pick up something written by Justine Elyot and you’re sure to be reading an erotic story.

Or take this example from Sommer Marsden’s “You’re My Toy.”

Aaron decided to play dirty. He took a bright blue ribbon from the floor and tied me to the back of his mother's antique chair. Heavy dark wood carved with smiling moons and shooting stars. The thing weighed a ton and I was powerless to get at him. He pulled free of me as my body vibrated with urgency. I was right there on the crisp paper edge of coming and he was leaving me!

Sommer Marsden is well-known and deservedly respected in the world of erotic fiction. She writes hot, exciting fiction that sizzles with erotic anticipation. Her characters are vivid and horny and eminently likeable. And her stories are compelling and satisfying the way that arousing erotic fiction needs to be satisfying.

And then there’s this piece from Penelope Friday in “All About the Sex.”

It's all about the sex. It's all about his hands on me, ripping my clothing off me with bodily force, snarling in my ear that he wants me, that he wants me to beg, that he'll take me any and every way he fancies and I'll just beg him for more. It's all about that, because it's true. I want him to hurt me. I want to feel his fingernails digging into my flesh; his teeth gripping my shoulder like an animal. I want to feel his cock burning its way inside me so I'm aware of every single millimetre of him. I want him to pull my head back by the hair and bite my neck, vampire-like.

Penelope Friday is erudite, stylish and cohesive. But don’t let that put you off. She is also capable of telling a powerful erotic story that keeps the reader entertained and excited from the first word through to the last.

The constant theme running through King Girls is supposed to be that the heroines involved are all kinky. I suppose most of us had already figured that out. However, whilst that might be one of the major themes, it’s worth acknowledging that there is another constant theme. Each one of these stories is powerfully arousing.

Another constant theme is that all of the stories have been written by competent authors who know how to please their readers. 

If you’re looking for exciting adult entertainment that delivers a powerful erotic punch, you don’t need to look any further than Miranda Forbes’s Kinky Girls. This really is a stunning collection of first rate fiction presented by authors who know what their readers want.

And, if that means this reader wants Kinky Girls, I’m not going to argue.

L is for LeatherL is for Leather
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443085
February 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

L is for Leather is the latest offering by Alison Tyler is her successful line of alphabet anthologies. From the quotes before the table of contents to the editor’s bio, this book is packed with more leather than a vendor booth at the Folsom Street Fair. Thirteen writers explore the smell, taste, look, and versatility of leather.

Radclyffe’s “Skin-Flick Sex” offers up a hot, tasty tale of sex in the dark with a stranger – the holy grail of we girls who fantasize of women only sex clubs and the dark labyrinths of anonymous sex within. Add to it a touch of voyeurism, the threat of discovery, almost public sex, and a woman packing a cock she knows how to use, and this story hit a lot of my hot buttons.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of Thomas Roche’s stories. While doing the FedEx delivery guy/girl is a staple of office sex fantasies, he brings so much humor to this tale in “Venus in Uniform” that it charms instantly. His observation of how women can nice each other into sexual catatonia is sharply delivered. Then he deftly swerves into a bit of boot worship and what happens when girls stop playing nice, and that’s when things get really interesting.

Through the Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Mike Kimera’s stories for years. “Other Bonds Than Leather” is unusual in this collection in that leather doesn’t figure in the character’s arousal or in the sex, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in this anthology. Mike’s strength has always been his characters. In this story, a middle-aged woman meets with a man who may become her Dom and he shows her his dungeon. Her reactions are so spot-on that I can imagine saying those same things myself. Even though this is a dungeon scene and about power play, the sex is gently passionate.

For the title alone, Lisette Ashton’s “Truman Capote Was Wrong” had me wondering what it was all about. About leather, of course! How it feels against the skin, how it smells, and how turned on this young woman gets by her movie inspired wardrobe. She’s over her Matrix coat and is moving on to Underworld wear. She enjoys good tailoring, and her tailor enjoys watching her enjoy his work. I’m not much for fashion, but I’ll admit that there is something about those kick-ass femmes in head-to-toe leather that makes even me sit up and take notice of what they’re wearing, so this story hit a few guilty-pleasure chords with me.

Kate Pearce’s “Sunday Service” is a bit of historical erotica. If you like cowboys, and especially if you’ve ever looked at a saddle horn with less than honorable intentions, this BDSM story of a widow and a ranch hand is for you. Sommer Marsden’s “How He Likes Me” is another power-play story with a pair of black leather gloves. In “Cleanup On Aisle Ten” by Sheri Gilmore, leather takes the form of a dog collar and leash. Madeline Moore explores the power of the legendary “Little Black Dress,” a wardrobe basic, but this one is leather. In Shane Allison’s “Dangerous Comfort,” a black leather jacket provides cover for some public indiscretion.  For Michelle Houston in “Tempted,” it’s a pair of black leather pants over a fine ass that leads the narrator astray. I’m a bit of a boot junkie, so I could sympathize with Jude Mason’s Max in “Those Boots” as he stands transfixed at a shop window by a pair of especially arousing boots. In Tsaurah Litzky’s “Love Is Long,” the narrator is out for an ego-boosting quicky, and comes away with a newfound appreciation for leather in the form of masks. Rounding out the anthology, editor Alison Tyler adds her take on the joy of leather in “Hide.”  The owner of a leather clothing shop in LA keeps the cheap junk up front for the Melrose crowd, but the good stuff is in the back, waiting for just the right customer who can appreciate it. Leather pants, leather jackets, leather boots, leather gloves, they all come into play here as a connoisseur of fine leather clothing meets up with a connoisseur of fine women.

Leather is a surprisingly versatile material. It can be warm; it can be cool. Touch it, and the texture can arouse a wide variety of feelings. Wearing it can make you feel powerful, or protected. It can be soft and comforting, or it can de harsh and unrelenting. A leather jacket can make the wearer look both hot and cool at the same time. It has an animal scent that makes your nostrils widen as you draw in a deeper breath. It’s one of the few materials that we associate with power.

These stories delve into all of those associations, and more.  Not every story in this anthology is BDSM, although many are. That’s not surprising given how leather and kink are closely linked in our psyches. I was pleasantly surprised by how many lesbian stories there were. If you’re not into power play or lesbian tales, I’d still recommend you give this anthology a chance simply for the level of writing. 

Leather Ever After: An Anthology of Kinky Fairy TalesLeather Ever After: An Anthology of Kinky Fairy Tales
Edited By: Sassafras Lowrey
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: 1607779285
January 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I love the retelling and re-imagination of old tales, and I think I’ve mentioned here at least once that I adore it when someone can take something that’s been pushed almost to the edge of total saturation and turn it sideways. I also love – via this gig at Erotica Revealed – how I get to so often find anthologies that I never would have bumped into otherwise, and likely wouldn’t have picked up for one reason or another (most centrally that in the world of erotica, so often you don’t know what’s out there, let alone where to get it and which title might be worthy of a gamble).  I have read so many things in the months – wait, are we at years yet? – I’ve been on board that I likely would have put aside as “not my kink.”

Leather Ever After hits all those points, dead center. These are not the tales that the Brothers Grimm gathered, but they bear resemblance enough to the original stories that you’ll find yourself grinning at where the authors send the characters you’re used to imagining in far more innocent surroundings.

When I say these retellings turn a tale sideways, I mean the stories like “Each Step For Him,” by Lee Harrington, which begins where the Little Mermaid ends, giving her a brother, and envisioning a version of the story where this young merman falls hard for a leather man and faces a similar trail: what must be given up to live on land with the man he loves? The clever twist to the “every step the pain of a thousand knives” and the ultimate scene of the tale left me grinning and tantalized with a view of a community I don’t know well.

I also mean “Hair Like Gold,” by Nalu Kalani, where Rapunzel’s beautiful hair is used to bind and tease, and whose freedom can only be bought through release of a different kind. Cynthia Hamilton likewise takes a staple and kinks it up with “The Mistress and the Pea,” wherein it’s the Prince who is seeking some discomfort, and what happens on the top of the huge pile of mattresses is an exchange of power and submission.

The anthology itself has common fairy tales retold – Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood – alongside some others that are less obvious or less often seen in these types of collections. D.L. King’s revision of “The Seven Swan Princes” was fantastic – nettles have never been used to build such tension, and the trails to restore her beauty at the hands of her goth prince all but cracked aloud. The almost tangential retelling of the Frog Prince in Karen Taylor’s “Iron Henry” is another favourite – cleverly set up, and executed with a rich style. And the gender fluidity of “Cinderfella” – which also has my favourite ending of the whole collection – has put Sossity Chiricuzio dead center on my radar.

And I should mention when I say that it’s anthologies like this that expose me to stories I would have put aside as “not my kink” in the past, I definitely picture “House of Sweets.” – “House of Sweets” has needle play – something that would frankly send me racing from a room in double time. And yet even when faced with something that leaves me personally ready to bolt, Miss Lola Sunshine keeps an erotic edge humming, and every dimple of flesh at the tip of a sharp needle is a moment of pain and pleasure wrapped into one package of torment that still tantalizes. It’s no small thing to accomplish keeping a reader interested when he’s cringing. I can imagine fans of needle play would salivate here.

That’s my overall impression, actually: there will be something in here for everyone, and for those of you with edgier tastes, I think you’ll be even more pleased. Leather, bondage, rubber, the aforementioned needle play, whipping, shoe worship, knife play... The range is quite wide. It’s a rare collection that dares to step a bit further away from the gamut of what could be called mainstream kink (if that’s even a classification I can beg you to consider), but Leather Ever After takes that risk and successfully spins straw into gold.

Leathermen: Gay Erotic StoriesLeathermen: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Simon Sheppard
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443220
September 2008

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

The cover of this anthology (complete with a moody photo of a dude in a leather harness over smooth, muscular flesh) looks both obvious and subject to interpretation. What is leather? Literally, it’s the treated skin of cattle, a substance with a variety of textures and a certain presence which distinguishes it from synthetic imitations.

Symbolically, leather can signify the range of activities summed up as bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism. “Leather” has been called a lifestyle, a code of honor and a culture with roots in outlaw gangs as well as in all-male military organizations. “Leather” as a deep-down urge to dominate or to submit is suggested in the negotiation scene of a story in this collection, “Willing” by Xan West. A topman describes his conversation with a breathless “boy:”

“His brown eyes stay fixed on the knife as I move toward him. I tease his lip with the tip of it and then speak softly.

‘How black do you flag?’

His eyes stay on the blade. He swallows.

‘Very black, on the right, Sir.’”

A black handkerchief on the right signals a desire to submit to extreme play—in this case, blood sports.

Few of the stories in this collection are “very black” in an SM sense, but actual leather appears in every one. In some stories, leather signifies masculine self-reliance, as in pioneer communities, and in other stories, it is the uniform of a 21st-century urban crowd with its own language and territory.

Simon Sheppard, as editor, shows his characteristic wit, both in his selection of stories by other authors and in his own poignant, post-AIDS leather-initiation story, “The Village Person.” Usually I have qualms about editors who include their own work in an anthology, but in this case, the editor’s story deserves to be in good company.

“Exposed,” the first story in the book, describes a gay man’s first submissive experience in a leather bar. It was written by the legendary Aaron Travis a.k.a. Steven Saylor, and first published in 1987, when it probably looked more groundbreaking than it does now. Initiation stories about “coming out” into a new sexual identity have become a well-worn tradition, but most of the stories in this collection tweak the leather code in new ways.

If the editor—whose essays are as engaging as his erotica—had explained the influence of Aaron Travis as a kind of “daddy” to a later generation of writers in the field, the relationship of the stories in this book would have been clearer. As a reviewer who can never get too much of Simon Sheppard’s writing, I would have liked to read an introduction summarizing this anthology.

All the stories in this book are competently-written, but some are airbrushed fantasies featuring characters who could have been drawn by Tom of Finland, while others are slices of real life featuring flawed, touchingly-honest men. Several of the stories describe the nonconsensual but well-deserved punishment of “bad boys.” Some describe male-on-male leathersex as emotional therapy.

A note on cocks: there are many of them in this book, as any reader might expect. Most are permanently attached to their wearers, but not all. (There is a transman here, as well as various phallic toys.) The loving descriptions of the definitive male sex organ indicate its various moods and significance. The cocks in these stories suggest intimidating power as well as sensitivity and vulnerability. Two cocks together, especially when exposed to each other for the first time, seem to trigger a shifting combination of empathy and rivalry. Often described as “meat,” these organs can only be ironically compared to sausages on a plate. Each one in this meat-market has its own personality.

Several of these stories are notable for their local color. These include Simon Sheppard’s, Bill Brent’s and horehound stillpoint’s tales of San Francisco as a gay-male mecca, Shane Allison’s story of an interracial encounter in a “southern gothic” house, Elazarus Wills’ story of a dusty but magical small town in Kansas, and Jeff Mann’s ballad of very closeted leathermen in rural Virginia, a kind of response to Brokeback Mountain.

Shaun Levin and Thom Wolf play with British stereotypes. Levin’s “master” is an impeccable English gentleman, while Wolf’s “rent pig” is a scruffy young man who grows up on the wrong side of the law.

Wolf’s story, “Community Punishment: The Story of a British Rent Pig,” is a first-person revenge fantasy told by a probation officer who first meets Callum when he is a “sixteen-year-old fuck-up, one of the first cases allocated to me in the Young Offenders Department.” Callum disappears from the narrator’s care, only to reappear as a “rent boy,” available to any man for a price.

The narrator’s cold-blooded lust is more disturbing, at least to me, than that of any other character in the book:

You dumb, horny, desperate fool, I thought as I fed him the juices of his rectum on my fingers. That single act was enough to convince me that this was a boy who would do absolutely anything to survive. He probably had, hundreds of times before. . . The notion thrilled me. I could do anything I wanted to this screwed-up cunt and he’d allow it.”

The narrator’s hunger to punish a broken young man seems bottomless, so to speak. By the end of the story, he is just getting started.

“Bootlegger” by Thomas Roche also describes a young hustler facing his comeuppance at the hands of older and tougher men, but the tongue-in-cheek tone suggests that there is no real hatred here. What happens in “the leather bar’s upstairs office. . . furnished in Late Post-Sleaze” seems to satisfy everyone involved.

“Capture, Test and Sell” by Christopher Pierce is another nonconsensual fantasy, as the title suggests, but the captured “prey” turns out to be more willing than his captor expects when he first picks him out of a crowd.

One of the stories about leathersex as a form of healing is by the only woman in the book, Alana Noel Voth, who also has a BDSM story in I is for Indecent (reviewed here previously). Voth’s story in Leathersex, “Salvation,” begins dramatically:

“Life, like death, came with a bang. With one laced-up black boot, this guy kicked a door open, then barged into a public bathroom, bleeding on the floor.”

The bleeder, who introduces himself as Steely Dan because he supposedly has balls of steel, seems at first to be more of a victim than the narrator, who was traumatized before Steely Dan burst into his life. By the end of the story, these two have formed a quirky and surprisingly nurturing bond.

The authors of these stories clearly know the score, and several of them satirize a too-rigid approach to “leather” as the lifestyle of Real Men without trashing the culture in general. In “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?” by Karl von Uhl, three older leathermen discuss changing times:

“’These younger people, they confuse everything,’ said Master Richard.

‘And none of them want to join the clubs,’ said Terry.

‘No, of course not, they can’t be bothered,’ said Master Richard.

‘The clubs will always be there,’ said Wade.

‘Not if nobody joins them,’ said Terry.”

The older men agree that educating novices is the way to keep leather culture alive. Meanwhile, they take turns “making a man” of an eager sissy-boy by blindfolding, shaving, plugging, paddling and flogging him.

This book could appeal to readers who “flag” in a variety of colors and positions. The culture of gay leathermen seems to have evolved over time, and most of these stories show a refreshing maturity

Lesbian Cops: Erotic InvestigationsLesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446513
April 2011

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

The whole world is a bad neighborhood. Shit happens. Someone has to clean it up. And sometimes unexpected pleasure serves as a consolation prize.

This is the message of the stories in this collection, each featuring a lesbian police officer and a willing female civilian or rookie cop. It would be very easy for the contributors to a collection with this theme to write over-the-top fantasies about unstoppable woman warriors with bullet-proof flesh who rock-and-roll all night with sultry suspects, ignoring professional ethics. Luckily, none of the stories in this book is that kind of cartoon.

In "Dress Uniform" by Teresa Noelle Roberts, the narrator is a lesbian cop whose girlfriend has asked her to wear her uniform to a fetish fair. The narrator controls her temper, then explains:

I'm not a fetish, Lisette. My uniform isn't a cos-play outfit or a vest and leather pants. Every time I've spanked you, you've been spanked by a cop. By me. By a woman you say you care about. And if that's not good enough for you, if you need the fucking uniform, I don't know what to do, because I can't treat it like fetish gear.

The narrator feels used and misunderstood, but then she reflects on the nature of sexual attraction:

Sure, we happened to fit each other's fantasy look, but a lot of relationships started based on nothing more substantial than having an eye for curvy African-American women or redheads or tanned blonde athletes or whatever. Just because we each had a fetish for what the other wore didn't mean we didn't connect on other levels. We'd work this out somehow.

Lisette apologizes for pushing the narrator to accommodate her fetish, and the narrator finds a way to "work this out." She buys a "police uniform" in a fetish-wear store to wear for sex-play. In some sense, she agrees to play the role of sexy cop to please the woman in her life when she is not actually doing her job.

Several of these stories deal with the stress on family members, especially spouses, of police work. In "A Cop's Wife" by Evan Mora, the narrator gets anonymous telephoned threats for her wife Patrice, a Canadian cop who has captured violent sex offenders. As Patrice reminds her wife, the threats are a part of her job. Under the circumstances, sex between the two women is a life-affirming refusal to surrender to fear.

In "Raven Brings the Light" by Kenzie Mathews, another relationship story set in a harsh northern climate (Alaska), the schoolteacher narrator is shaken by a TV news announcement about the murder of a young woman she knew. The teacher's partner, a cop, "didn't want to talk about it when she finally came home."

The narrator explains her partner's background:

In Thomasane's family, no one ever dared to laugh or smile, much less talk.

The narrator even talks to her beloved rescue dogs. The two women bridge the gap between their communication styles by sharing traditional First Nations stories about Raven, a trickster figure who found a way to steal the precious light of the sun, moon and stars and throw them in the sky. It's a story of hope, and it's enough to convey the flavor of their relationship.

Another realistic story about an established relationship between a cop and her partner is "Chapel Street Blue" by R.V. Raiment. In this story, the cop is blessed or cursed with movie-star glamor, and she has to deal with a garden-variety horndog, the male cop she works with, while investigating the murder of a young sex worker by a more violent man. The cop's partner, the narrator, offers her the distraction of sex which ends dramatically:

A sudden surge and we are sliding sweat-soaked and laughing from the gorgeous peak, my lovely law-woman and I.

But that's not the end of the story, which concludes with a revelation about how this perfect partnership began.

The story with the grittiest emotional tone in the collection is "A Prayer Before Bed" by Annabeth Leong. Once again, the murder of a woman by a violent man is the catalyst that kicks off the plot. In this case, however, trust is in short supply between the woman cop investigating the case and the woman witness who knows she is instrumental to it. Sexual attraction is a spark between them from the moment they meet, and emotional intimacy follows slowly.

"Officer Birch" is about a woman cop whose "professional" distance breaks the heart of the lonely young lesbian who reaches out to her for recognition and guidance. In a bittersweet sequel to an unequal relationship formed in a high school, the officer responds to a love-note twelve years after it is pressed into her hand. The young dyke who has never forgotten her says bluntly: Whatever we are, whatever this is, is not a friendship. Whatever it is is intensely sexual.    

Stories that feature BDSM scenes (as distinct from rough sex) include "Hollis" by Jove Belle, set in boot camp, and "Riding the Rails" by the editor, Sacchi Green, set on a train on which the spoiled fourth wife of a sultan must be escorted to Washington DC by a woman cop who encounters a woman she has known for years, a fellow-officer. In a claustrophobic, rhythmically-moving environment that no one can escape until the train stops, who will do what to whom else? The suspense builds to a climax.

In "Undercover" by Ily Goyanes, the narrator resents her assignment:

A lesbian rookie vice detective going undercover as a hooker. . . who woulda thunk?

The narrator has no desire to arrest johns when more violent offenders are at large. When a car pulls up and a woman with an air of command asks for the narrator's services, the undercover cop faces a dilemma: to keep the wire that will secretly record their conversation, or remove it and risk her career in law-enforcement. As things turn out, both women get what they want, and no one would dare penalize either of them.

In the humorous "Torn Off a Strip" by Elizabeth Coldwell, a woman officer is called to a party where a young amateur stripper deserves punishment--not for showing her body or for selling sex, but for supplementing her income with theft. The sex is hot, and the ending is happy.   

Stories by Delilah Devlin, R.G. Emmanuelle, Andrea Dale and J.L. Merrow are gentler accounts of the routine stresses of police life and the challenge of a civilian who wants to seduce a cop.
In "How Does Your Garden Grow?" by Cheyenne Blue, a lush garden grown by an eccentric woman in the Australian outback is investigated by a policewoman who is really more interested in a different kind of bush than in digging up anything illegal. "Healing Hand" by Lynn Mixon features a woman in the witness protection program and the woman cop who wants to ensure her safety. In this case, the healing is mutual.

These stories vary considerably in tone, but all are memorable. This anthology is about sex for grown-ups, and about the nature and price of power.

Just don't steal it. You never know who might be watching you.

Edited By: Lindsay Gordon
Virgin Black Lace
ISBN: 0352345160
June 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Black Lace, an imprint of Virgin Publishing in the United Kingdom, now owned by Random House, is erotica by women for women. The stories contain a lot of sexual description and are mostly heterosexual romances with happy endings. The themes of the anthologies are broad and fairly conventional by now. Unlike quirkier collections from smaller publishers, these stories belong to a recognizable brand: well-written, effective as one-handed reading, but light on character development and philosophical analysis. These stories challenge the persistent double standard of sexual morality which still limits women's sexual choices, and they deserve to be read for this reason alone. Fiction which seriously challenges or illuminates the status quo needs to be found elsewhere.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. The Black Lace novels and anthologies continue to occupy a worthy niche between traditional “porn” (badly written and edited, cheaply produced, intended to be used once and thrown away) and literary erotica which thoughtfully probes, as it were, the significance of sex in the complex context of life. Black Lace books generally seem free of clunky prose, grammatical or technical errors, and they are attractively produced. I think of them as a verbal equivalent of Devon cream: an English treat which is irresistible, though not especially nutritious. Sex fantasies don’t get much better than this.

The theme of Liaisons is secret or uncommitted sex: trysts between lovers who are married to other people, lightning-strike attraction between new acquaintances, the consummation of seemingly hopeless crushes. This is a fruitful topic for both fantasy and tragedy, but all the stories are contemporary and realistic, loosely speaking, and all the characters seem to benefit immensely from their liaisons.

The jolly stories of adultery feature devoted, trusting husbands who never seem to guess how they are being deceived by their horny and clever wives. There are also several stories about the traditional male teacher-female student hookup, although in one case, the heroine's encounter with a younger, lustier and more honest man enables her to realize how her older, married lover (formerly her tutor) is exploiting her. In the cleverly misleading "Men" by Charlotte Stein, a woman "confesses" to her current lover that she has had memorable affairs with a variety of very different men -- yet the lover has no reason to feel jealous. "A Stroll Down Adultery Alley" by Portia da Costa is not about adultery at all, and the sexual attraction between the unlikely hero and the divorced heroine looks like a sign that they were made for each other.

The voyeuristic thrill of fantasizing about a mysterious stranger before acquiring carnal knowledge of him is evoked in two memorable stories: “The Woodsman” by Charlotte Stein, and “Glamour” by Carrie Williams. “The Woodsman” is set in a contemporary English forest, but it evokes hairy, half-wild men (or the “Green Man,” the spirit of the woods) in traditional tales and artwork, as well as the unspoken prohibitions in them. (The narrator knows that if she spies on her strange lover, or invades his privacy, she will be punished.) In “Glamour,” a young Polish immigrant to London earns her living as hotel maid although she is actually a musician from a country that is too full of them. Her life is lonely and frustrating, but she relieves the tedium by fantasizing about the important man whose room she is assigned to clean, and who never seems to be there. Eventually, Marta learns what makes him tick, and why he needs her as much as she needs him.

“Archeogasms” by K.D. Grace and “Junking” by Alison Tyler are very different stories, but in some sense they each deal with the fascination of the past. In “Archeogasms,” a woman archaeologist leads a team of researchers who are exploring a cave which is rumored to be the site of ancient fertility rites. She is surprised to learn that the man and woman in her team who grope each other in semi-public places enjoy watching her watching them, but the central scene in this story is not a threesome. When a curious male journalist interviews Dr. Allegra Thorn, she invites him to join her in the cave on the Summer Solstice, where they are both enlightened in several ways.

“Junking” by Tyler, the perky chronicler of sex in Los Angeles (“El Lay”), is about a distinctly American kind of historical research in the form of bargain-hunting for the artefacts of retro pop culture. Fiona the heroine runs a second-hand shop for which she is always seeking out merchandise while she lives with her yuppie boyfriend, a man who neither shares nor understands her passion for “junk.” He remarks: “There’s a fine line between ‘broken in’ and broken down,’” and this statement applies to his relationship with Fiona as well as to her former taste in men, who always turned out to be missing important parts (honesty, loyalty, job skills, a plan). On her search for good, well-preserved items, Fiona meets another “junker.” He is a good, well-preserved Dom who is outfitting a garage “dungeon” with used items that can be adapted to other purposes. Fiona has met her match.

“Advanced Corsetry” by Justine Elyot is a more elaborate and tightly-laced BDSM fantasy told by a  custom corset-maker who loves her craft. She is approached by a man who orders a corset for his “wife,” a woman who seems to be under orders never to speak. Following the “husband’s” instructions, the corset-maker is able to arouse the “wife” in unmistakable ways, but a disturbing question about the consensuality of the “fittings” hangs in the air. When the corset-maker is almost excited enough to ignore her own concerns, the “wife” breaks her silence to reveal her true motives. This story is essentially a lesbian romance to which a man has been added as window-dressing.

The best and most intricate of the lot, in my opinion, is “Table for Three” by A.D.R. Forte, in which two men and a woman explore their feelings for each other at a beach resort. The shifting currents of visual attraction, jealousy, exhibitionism and self-discovery are convincingly and poetically described in sections which jump from one character’s viewpoint to another’s. Eventually, the reader becomes intimately familiar with all three characters as the woman character learns that she can watch the interaction between male lovers without being shut out of a “gay” scene. Here she has the last word:
“It’s over. But it’s just begun.”

This anthology only includes thirteen stories, but it is a rich smorgasbord. And when you’ve finished devouring it, there are guaranteed to be more Black Lace anthologies available, both forthcoming and backlisted.

Like a Breath of Flame: Erotic Tales of DragonsLike a Breath of Flame: Erotic Tales of Dragons
Edited By: Cosmin Alexander
Contributions By: Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press
November 2012

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

As Cosmin Alexander says in the introduction to Like a Breath of Flame, dragons are everywhere:

Not literally, of course, that’s silly. But if you look across ancient human cultures, the presence of dragons is near universal. Europe, of course, had its famed fiery beasts, living representations of the power of nature, often associated with the devil and the powers of darkness. East Asia instead had their glorious and wise creatures of rain and river and earth: powerful, capricious, and dangerous, but also knowledgeable and noble. That isn’t all, though. Australia had the Rainbow Serpent, a creature of rivers and life, while the Aztecs had Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, lord of the Morning Star. Then there’s modern fantasy: it seems you can barely turn around without running into a dragon, as though it’s a requirement that fantasy novels, games, and movies have one.

Like a Breath of Flame is collection of short erotic stories from Circlet Press with a pronounced draconine content. Needless to say, because the collection comes from Circlet Press, the quality of the material is consistently high. With contributions from Dominic Santi, Dean Scarborough, Kennan Feng and KJ Kazba, it’s no surprise that the standard is superlative on every page.

And I think it’s fair to say that dragons are different for every reader and every writer. Julian Oliver-Fenn “The Last Whisper of Killitch,” writes here with a mythic reverence for the subject matter. Kimber Camacho, “Sleeping with Dragons,” writes with a rich palate of descriptive affluence. These are stories with dragons at their centers – but each told by a poignantly different author.

Nobilis Reed, “Prince Lovely and the Three Dragons” approaches this genre with a blend of humour and storytelling that is reminiscent of a child’s fairy tale written for an adult audience.

Prince Lovely shivered. The hilltop he stood on wasn’t particularly cold—in fact, it would be a pleasant day, if circumstances were at all different—but he was dressed in nothing more than a dress of sheer samite. Well, to be perfectly honest, there was also a garland of daisies in his hair and a jeweled necklace, but those offered even less protection from the cold, and the stone at his back still retained a good deal of its nighttime coolness.

The fact that he was bound to that stone, waiting for a dragon to eat him, made the situation doubly shiver-worthy. It didn’t help that the gown looked absolutely terrible on him. They could have at least put him in one of the dresses with less décolletage; he simply didn’t have the right kind of chest for this one. The red velvet one, with the fur around the hem, that would have been particularly nice, and well suited to the weather, not to mention his coloring.

These are the words that start the final story in this collection and it’s a tale that has wit, eroticism and a handful of delightfully deviant twists. This is what happens when Prince Lovely becomes acquainted with Princess Wise:

Lovely sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He took Wise’s slender wrist and laid it as gently as he could in the iron clamp, and fitted the hook that would hold it in place. There was no lock, just a latch that the victim would not be able to open by herself.

He picked up the bottle and pulled the stopper. A pleasant smell, spice and musk and herbs, diffused into the room. “How much is a minim?” he asked.

“About as much as will fit in the palm of your hand,” said Wise. “Hurry.”

Lovely found his hand trembling as he poured, and the first rush of liquid spilled over his wrist rather than pouring over his hand. He steadied himself and brought his hand to Wise’s body, smearing it down from between her breasts down to her belly. The fragrance became even stronger.

“Wow,” said Wise. “That actually feels pretty good.”

Altogether this collection is entertaining, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. The writing is top quality and the stories never fail to satisfy.

Like A Corset UndoneLike A Corset Undone
Edited By: J. Blackmore
Circlet Press
ISBN: 978-1885865878
September 2009

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Like a Corset Undone is an anthology of steampunk erotica that has the undeniably lush, pungent, laciness of upper crust Victorian stroke fiction a la The Pearl.  A fair number of quasi-feminist buckles are swashed as ladies in stays and bloomers get the upper hand over lubricious tumescent men. Male readers, however, will not feel either slighted or abused by their dainty victories. The sex here is as steamy as the era it represents, one in which the superhuman power of gargantuan machines still dazzled enough to make the mechanistic release of steam feel orgasmic.

 Some of the ladies as in “Adventures Underground” by Cartmine Bligh connive prettily to suffer the lash, as is their secret wont, and there is a general sense of extremely naughty, if not piratical, fun about the entire book.  These stories are to my mind more Edwardian than Victorian.  They take place after the actual Industrial Revolution when people began to contemplate the larger meaning and possible refinement of machines, not just to create more of them.  The prose style is universally suited to about the year 1900, and as such is usually a cut above our contemporary grunt and scratch style of the early 21st century.  These writers know about gerundives and the complex sentence.  So basically, the news for readers is good.

This is my first adventure in steampunk. The challenge of this new and rather unformed genre is that the author is obliged to create a double anachronism.  Some concept of present or future technology has been displaced into the past prior to its actual creation or refinement.  Thus airships (dirigibles?) may dominate the skies in the hands of cross-dressing pirates who use electric pistols, (which seem to be sort of hyper stun guns) as in “The Sky Dancer” by R. E. Bond and “Skyway Robbery” by Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks.

This latter story has a Munchausen quality in that Robin Hood’s descendent has taken up piracy in an air ship as he battles the Edisonians, another corps of techno-pirates.  Once a raid on the enemy airship is successfully completed, Robin hungrily falls to a lengthy and detailed rimming and buggering of Will (Scarlet?).  That happy event is interrupted by the entrance of Robin’s girlfriend, Marian. She intrudes upon the scene in drag, nether parts still dripping from the excitement of the fray.  Thus she is ready to join in celebrating the Captain’s captivating cock.  It is reported in fact to be larger than Little John’s fighting staff – a likely story, eh, girls?

The trick of doing steampunk well is to make all these temporal collisions both necessary to the story, and exciting inclusions.  Steam engines per se are pretty dull unless you get off on such things, no matter what they are attached to or whatever bizarre function they are set to perform.  The danger lies in simply writing Victorian porn with some murky science fiction thrown in for effect or to meet the editors’ Call for Submissions.  Good and bad examples appear in this volume.

Then too all these airships and sundry other machinery that populate these fictive skies must be belching massive quantities of carbon fuel exhaust, a problem that seems not to trouble these authors at all.  In short, it is as though they find the Industrial Age a sort of divine intervention in human affairs, with none of the demonic effects we now know to be the case.  They forget that it took half of the 20th century to clean up a fair portion of the soot left in Europe from the 19th.

One area that seems particularly irksome is the tendency to explain all sorts of anomalies by the fact that character X is from an alternate universe and thus able to do and think all sorts of things ordinary Victorians do not.  Without some explanation of how or why this person is around, the effect is that of a bad deus ex machina, a simple cheat to get the problem off stage.

The other pitfall of steampunk is applying the mental habits of the late 20th Century to that of the late 19th.  Few of these writers seem to have made it to the 21st. While I am perfectly willing to accept the post-modern dictum that history is not the study of group think, I am also aware that economic conditions and oppressions of empire impel people into certain point’s of view.  I am all for the exception in such matters but the author has to justify his/her choices, not just post them like surprise counterindications about the past.  It’s a tricky problem.

Some authors here solve the anamolies very well, like Roxy Katt, who describes her voluptuous female characters as the literal embodiment of the zeppelin in “The Zeppelin Raiders””

Ah, but the feature of the suit that had immediately arrested Constance’s attention was not the voluptuousness of breast and buttock, nor the claustrophobic cocooning of the suit’s design, but the tightly armored groin covering which was a kind of metal dome  or codpiece – an enormous one – tightly fastened to the form fitting suit.  “Mother ,”Constance had said, “if I may be so bold, “ she gestured between the legs of the suit not quite managing  to suppress an involuntary giggle, “What on earth…? 

Probably the best way to look at these stories is as outsized fantasy – erotic fairy tales -- with a nod to science fiction for the fun of it.  I don’t see how anyone can go wrong with Like a Corset Undone as the title alone is an invitation to the most luscious fantasy. It just requires that the reader take it as that, and not demand too much in the way of actual history or science as its basis.

Like a Queen: An Anthology of Lesbian FairytalesLike a Queen: An Anthology of Lesbian Fairytales
Edited By: Cecilia Tan
Contributions By: Rachel Kincaid
Circlet Press
ISBN: 978-1885865830

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

As the title suggests, there are queens in this anthology: imperious women who expect to be obeyed and who openly seek carnal knowledge of wenches and princesses. What damsel could refuse them, and what man would dare intervene? However, the most fascinating characters in these stories are the witches, magical women who bend reality to their will and who recognize other women like themselves. There are some witch-queens here who combine characteristics of both, but in any contest of Who Is Sexiest of Them All, the resourcefulness of the witches beats the regal panache of the queens hands down.

This mini-collection of erotic fairy tales from Circlet Press is a companion volume to Like a Prince, a gay-male counterpart. Both these e-books have almost-identical introductions by editor Rachel Kincaid, who explains the special appeal of stories in this genre:

These stories are fun and sexy and clever, but they are also important. The original Grimm's fairytales were set without exception in a world of compulsory heterosexuality; even worse than being ostracized or punished, queer people didn't even exist. These stories are our way of writing ourselves back into our cultural consciousness; of making sure that the values that we're imbibing include us and our desire in a positive light -- a practice that's necessary no matter how many times it's already been done.      

These stories are all deliciously twisted versions of familiar stories, some featuring compelling characters and some with clever plots that wind their convoluted way to a happy ending. My favorite character of the bunch is the witch/stepmother in "Mirror" by Clarice Clique. In this story, the magical mirror that shows the beauty of Snow White to her jealous stepmother has become a metaphor for the similarities between the witch, self-exiled from the world of men, and the motherless girl who has always been aware of the witch in herself.

After the witch in this story has sought out Snow White's father, the king, and bewitched him into marriage, she leaves him drugged by a potion and seeks out Snow White in her bedchamber. To her surprise, the girl doesn't panic at the sight of the terrifying stranger at her bedside. Snow White explains:

"I try, every day, I try so hard to be good, to earn the praise and acceptance of those around me. But I've always known what I really am. That's how I know what you are. We are the same. I'm not scared of you. I'm scared of myself."

This Snow White, who doesn't hesitate to become the playmate of all seven dwarfs before the witch, her nemesis, catches up with her yet again, is far from a passive maiden. She can give pleasure as well as accept rough treatment. In some sense, she is wiser than the witch, who comes to realize that love is not her undoing; it is a newly-discovered source of power.

"Queen's Jewel," by A.D.R. Forte, features a similarly resourceful young woman who couldn't bear to be given to an old man in an arranged marriage. Her first-person account begins when a queen is directing her maids to help transform the narrator into a gowned and coifed seductress after she arrived, lost and bedraggled, at the castle door.

As the center of attention for a curious, sympathetic court, the narrator steals the heart of the queen's son, a wilful prince who has never found a princess to his taste. Will the strange visitor settle for marriage to a young man instead of an old man? Not exactly. But her presence in the castle gives the queen a perfect excuse to "test" her guest in ways that satisfy them both. 

"Gretel's Dilemma" by Kaysee Renee Robichaud is a more playful story, written in a breezier style. In this version of "Hansel and Gretel," Hansel is a clueless twin brother who manfully tries to "rescue" Gretel from a Mistress-and-servant relationship that thrills her to the core. As annoying as he can be, Hansel is her blood kin, reminder of the only family she has ever known. Like many a modern-day woman, Gretel thinks she must choose between the love of her family and a new relationship in which Gretel discovers a new sexual identity. Needless to say, the witch's desire to "eat" the tender flesh of children in the traditional story is turned into a sexual joke in this one.

"After the Hunt" by Michael M. Jones is a romantic comedy that combines elements from several folktales. Set in the Black Forest of Germany, it involves a fractured kingdom, a tomboy princess with eleven female attendants who can all pass as huntsmen in the service of a king, an inconvenient fiancé, and a droll, talking lion who turns out to be under a curse. King Matthias finds himself engaged to two women: to Princess Sophie, who still wears the promise ring he gave her when both were children, and to Princess Tatiana, whom he promised to marry for political reasons. As everyone else in the situation can see, however, he doesn't really want to be married to a princess at all. And the apparent rivalry of the two women barely disguises other responses. What to do? The solution becomes clearer as the story winds to a climax (or several), and all the loose ends are tied up in a way that looks impressively uncontrived.  

"The Stepmother's Girl, a Cinderella Story" by Quatre Grey is an intense BDSM fantasy which focuses more on the dynamics of a relationship between a Dominant older femme and a submissive younger butch than on the dysfunctional family of the original story. In this first-person version, the "Cinderella" character sees herself reflected in the eyes of her new stepmother soon after she arrives:

Lips the color of a dried rose curl at the edge as you smile, intrigued by this new toy, young, pure, boyish and eager. What servants are needed when a strong girl is willing to do the work?

The narrator wants nothing more than to please her Mistress, and stepmother is delighted as her servant passes increasingly harder tests of loyalty and endurance.

These stories vary considerably in style and tone, and each casts a different spell. Tales of strong women subverting predicted outcomes never grow stale. If woman/woman sex appeals to you at all, this collection is sure to enchant. 

Like a Wisp of SteamLike a Wisp of Steam
Edited By: Cecilia Tan
Contributions By: J. Blackmore
Circlet Press
March 2009

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Steampunk. If the word conjures up nothing in your imagination, then you probably don’t read many graphic novels or follow trends in science fiction. The definition is a bit hard to pin down, although editors J Blackmore and C. Tan do a fine job in their intros to this anthology. Rather than restate what they’ve said, I can give examples: Wild Wild West, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the flashback scenes in Torchwood. Generally set in the Victorian Age, steampunk often includes anachronisitc (out of its time) scientific devices.

What’s so hot about that? We think of the Victorian Age as being a time of great sexual repression, and it was, but Queen Victoria was a randy old gal (guess who a Prince Albert cock piercing is named after?) and her subjects followed suit – using extreme public prudery to mask rather deviant private lives. In direct contrast to that, Victorian Age machinery (usually steam driven, thus the term steampunk) didn’t cover up its inner workings. All the power and thrust of the cogs and pistons were on display, the porn of raw industrial might.  

Peter Tupper’s “The Innocent’s Progress” is set in the theatrical world of the Commedia, where roles are strictly defined and stories never change. A woman auditions for the part of the innocent, a role that calls for a cute young thing. Despite her acting ability, she’s too old, too tall, and too big to play the part of the innocent. Refusing to accept that, she leaves the company in search of a role that fits her. While this story is well written and interesting, the sex scenes have nothing to do with the main story. They are asides, populated by characters that only existed for those scenes. I suppose they were tacked on to fulfill the erotica prerequisite, but they detracted from the story rather than enhancing it. That’s a shame, because the rest of the story was wonderful.

“An Extempore Romance” by Jason Rubis reminded me of the Cottingley Fairies photographs. Only in this story, the fairies are real, sort of. In this alternate history line, science has produced chimeras – something we would call a highly advanced robot – that can resemble a human, or a fairy, or any other creature. During a photo shoot with chimera characters from her novels, a writer is worked up into a sexual lather by a swarm of fairies. Following the shoot, she, and her chimera maid, go to a brothel that caters to women. Did I mention that the chimeras could be in any form? How about a lovely model called a Raphael, “a dark-skinned boy of nineteen with an obscene mouth and obsidian eyes?”

“Hysterical Friction” by Thomas S. Roche may read like science fiction, but there’s more truth to his tale than not. In Hysterical Friction, a woman is diagnosed with hysteria. It was a common diagnosis for unhappy women at the time, with an odd array of symptoms. No doubt much of it was untreated depression. Rather than ask the woman about her problems, the doctor discusses her with the husband while she waits in another room. What the wife needs, really, is sex, but her husband has no interest in touching her. The doctor figures that out and explains to the husband that he has a new device that’s just the sort of thing she needs. The device turns out to be a vibrator. This is historically accurate, although in Roche’s deft hands, it’s a rather funny scene. You see, they didn’t have batteries, so they had to generate the power somehow. The doctor’s buxom assistant is more than willing to help out. I can’t explain any more than that without ruining it for you. Let’s just say that the woman is quite calm at the end of the treatment, but she’s willing to come in for appointments three times a week, as her doctor suggests.

“In the Flask” by Vanessa Vaughn is in the vein of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Aubrey and his lab assistant, Nicholas, are trying to develop a compound that will repress sexual urges. No doubt the urges they’re trying hardest to repress are the type they feel for each other. Nicholas is left in charge of the experiment late one night. He falls asleep, and when he wakes and realizes he’s missed the last addition of a chemical, quickly pours in the contents of the nearest flask. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the wrong one. The resulting mixture has an interesting effect on the lab rats that Dr. Aubrey discovers when he returns. By no accident, the doctor releases the mixture in the lab, giving the men an excuse to give in to their desires.   

Kaysee Renee Robichaud’s “Steam and Iron, Musk and Flesh” is set in the American West. The story begins with a great scene in a skyship, when Trista is caught with the Dean’s daughter. That leads to Trista working as an engineer in a traveling show where she maintains one of the star attractions, a clockwork man. The other star attraction, Maggie, a trick shooter, becomes Trista’s lover. While the show is in Arizona, the local bandit holds the troupe hostage while he forces Trista to use the clockwork man to break into the local bank. That’s a plot right out of Wild, Wild West.

These stories aren’t hard science fiction, where the story is about the technology. Instead, there’s a sense of wonder about science, giving it an almost magical aura. That is one of the hallmarks of steampunk, and this fine collection of well-crafted tales delivers on that promise. A very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Like Slipping Undercover Erotic Spy FictionLike Slipping Undercover Erotic Spy Fiction
Edited By: Bethany Zaiatz
Circlet Press
January 2014

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll hold my hand up here and admit that I didn’t enjoy Like Slipping Undercover: Erotic Spy Fiction. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book. Maybe I’m going through the male menopause or just behaving like the Easter version of the Grinch. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me.

The stories are adequately executed. If I’d been editor on any of these shorts they would have been different. But I’m not the editor. Does this sound like I’m trying to make an obscure point? I hope not. I’m trying to be constructive here and I’m making this observation because, oftentimes, I’ll read through a story, encounter a jumbled clause or a piece of awkward dialogue, and I’ll be wrenched from the story I’m reading.

Keep in mind that it’s the short story‘s job to create and maintain a sufficiently robust storyworld. I say it’s the short story’s job because the division of labour in a published work falls between the writer and the editor. The storyworld those two have constructed needs to be so sufficiently robust that a reader can experience the physicality of the fiction and get to the end of the narrative without remembering that they’ve been experiencing an unreality.

I struggled to achieve the physicality of the fiction with most of these works.

This first example I’ve got here comes from ‘The  Masterless Man’ by T C Mill.

Allen Keir knew how very rare he was: an artist whose lifestyle was more interesting than his work.

Not that traffic photography wasn’t a groundbreaking study; a strange and sometimes charming way of looking at something as invisible as the country thoroughfare. Allen wouldn’t have created these sorts of pictures if he didn’t believe in their value to his clients. That was because he couldn’t afford to offer anything but the best, having only clients and not a patron. Allen Keir was a Masterless man.

He lived from show to show, and for the past seven years it had kept him from needing Charity. Not as if many of the Charities would be willing to take him in anyway. Where Masters looked for talent and obedience, Charities would only support those who kept to certain codes of conduct, and there, too, Allen’s lifestyle was rather atypical.

I’m not going to criticise this passage for the unexpected capitalisation in the second and third paragraphs (Masters/Masterless, Charity/Charities). I’m not going to harp on about the intrusiveness of colons and semicolons in genre-fiction. I’m not even going to point out that an expository opening that includes references to traffic photography does not strike me as the most compelling hook I’ve ever encountered in fiction.

I’m just going to say that this didn’t float my boat.

Like Slipping Undercover is juggling two separate genres. In the first instance it’s trying to do something erotic with each story. This is to be expected in erotic fiction. In the second, it’s trying to combine the erotic element with spy fiction – a genre that’s nefariously been associated with jingoism and that sense of ‘otherness’ that is invariably discussed by those dealing with post-colonial literature studies.

In spy fiction the reader can often associate with the main character because that character is confronted by the frightening aspects of a foreign culture. This is a sex scene from ‘Not Exactly Dead’ by Chris Amies.

They kissed again, a collision of mouths, tongues flickering over one another’s. He tried to move away from her mouth and kiss her face, but she brought him back to centre. Then she disengaged from him, took her T-shirt hem in her hands and pulled the shirt off over her head. Her pale-skinned body, firm high breasts bare, came so well to his arms.

“Let’s have sex,” she said.

“Now,” Will said, “you put it like that...”

Emma Kessler laughed and tugged at Will’s shirt. He got the clue and took it off. Standing up, Emma removed the leggings and her lacy, peach-coloured knickers, placing them on a side-table. Her pale body seemed too fragile for this place with its musty curtains and peeling walls. She led him by the hand, a naked nymph at her play, to her bedroom. White curtains at the windows, a low double bed.

She stopped, turned to him. He undid his belt, took off his jeans, eased his underpants over his proud erection. Then he went to his knees on the thin blue carpet. She stepped forward.

“You’ve done this before,” she said in a while, her hands caressing his head, fingers in his hair.

Again, I’m not going to criticise. There’s a dangling modifier in the opening sentence of this passage. There’s such a pervading sense of the mechanical in the descriptions of character movement and interaction that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is robot sex. But the story didn’t excite me.

I’ll say here that this story is one of my favourites in the collection. I thought the overt Britishness was endearing in its reliance on stereotypes. In this scene we have knickers, pale skin and characters called Will and Emma. It’s hard to get more British without having poor orthodontics and a cup of tea. Also, by this point in the story we’ve had references to BRIT awards and later on we get mention of the queen and the rest of the royal family, as well as those quaint folk who make up the British government. It really is rather a spiffing reminder of how those quaint souls in Great England go about their rumpy-pumpy.

However, I digress. There might be something in this collection to titillate the desires of the most ardent reader. This is from ‘Knife, Gun, High Explosive’ by Reina Delacroix. Just read the passage. Don’t bother dwelling on the dialogue.

She ran her hand over his stomach in the same way she had his chest, as if preparing him for something.

And then she leaned farther over and ran her tongue down the front of his half-hard cock to the base, with the same slow pace as she had used the knife earlier to cut cloth. He twitched his hips in reaction, unable to see what she was doing but feeling hotter and harder every second as he stiffened erect.

She stopped and leaned upwards, and he felt her draw the cold back edge of the weapon across his stomach, then hold it flat with a light pressure against his belly.

“Don’t move,” she added.

He froze, desire and fear battling in his head.

“If I wanted you active, I would have left you free to act. Just as if I wanted you to talk, I would have left you free to speak.” Her voice wasn’t harsh or angry, more the long-suffering patient firmness of someone who is, finally, fed up.

“There is one thing you do have to do, though,” she added more softly but no less firmly, and he felt her left hand cupping his balls in a weighing, assessing manner. He strained not to react too strongly in either need or fear, and the strain came out instead in a soft groan that was half-strangled by the gag.

Long story short. I didn’t care for this collection. I thought the editor had done the writers a disservice by not being more scrupulous in the selection and presentation of the stories. However, it could just be that I was in a prickly mood when I read this collection. Other readers, particularly those who savour the tropes of spy fiction, might get more satisfaction.

Lipstick on Her Collar and Other Tales of Lesbian LustLipstick on Her Collar and Other Tales of Lesbian Lust
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Contributions By: Rakelle Valencia
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122980
April 2008

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

There are a number of effective ways to remove lipstick stains from a collar.  The most popular method is to dab against it with a moist cloth.  Don’t rub – this only makes the stain more difficult to remove.  The correct action should be similar to “blotting.”  If the stain proves stubborn, moisten the cloth with alcohol and then repeat the “blotting” action.  Pre-washes are advised (fabric permitting) for those marks that have become ingrained between wearing and laundry day.  If the mark proves really stubborn (and again, fabric permitting) it’s suggested that a dishwasher detergent is used because these contain powerful de-greasing agents.  Failing all of the above, a specialist cleaner needs to be brought in.

Of course, the most effective way of dealing with lipstick stains on a collar is to educate the woman you’re kissing to put her lips on flesh rather than fabric.  It’s not that difficult and examples of this fabric-friendly practice occur with pleasing frequency throughout Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia’s Lipstick on Her Collar

In case the title hasn’t given it away, I’ll explain here that Lipstick on Her Collar is an anthology of lesbian erotica.  Coming from those clever people at Pretty Things Press, including 22 scintillating short stories from an impressive collection of authors, Lipstick on Her Collar is one of those books that offers something new each time you slide between its pages.

At the beginning of this book, Cecilia Tan introduces the short stories as though she is guiding the reader around a party and this is possibly the most apposite way of looking at this collection.  The anthology begins with a warm welcome that is provided by Cheyenne Blue’s sensitive and witty “The Hairy Matchmaker.”  Cheyenne Blue’s short fiction is invariably hot and she draws characters with a realism that makes them live and breathe.  Julia Talbot, with “Straight Seams,” narrates an entertaining yet intense story that shows how two women come together through their interest in looking breathtakingly beautiful.  The stories in this collection are as diverse as the guests at any well-planned party.  They vary from the exquisite literariness of Andrea Miller’s “Holy Fruit” – which shows that vanilla does not have to be synonymous with mundane – through to the commanding thrill of Jean Roberta’s “My Indentured Slave” – a story that shows the most acceptable and fulfilling way of exchanging goods for services. 

The consistent motif through these stories repeatedly shows femmes and butches interacting in the way that femmes and butches best interact.  That said, as anyone who has ever read an anthology from Pretty Things Press should know, all of those interactions are deliciously varied in their dynamics, mechanics and execution.

The title story of this anthology comes from Sacchi Green’s own contribution to the collection.  “Lipstick on Her Collar” (the short story) is set in Vietnam at the end of the sixties.  Following Ms Green’s typically efficient narrative, the story introduces a femme journalist to a butch WAC sergeant and allows their relationship to develop.  Sacchi Green is clearly conscious of the era’s climate in relation to this story.  The sixties was not the most inclusive time for anyone who operated outside the boundaries of heterosexuality.  That undercurrent of homophobic hostility tightens this story and its tension comes from a combination of the malevolent dangers posed by the VC and the more subversive threat to individual freedoms that epitomised this non-inclusive era.

All of which lends credibility to the background against which the two central characters meet.  It gives their developing relationship an edge of nobility as the reader begins to appreciate that these women are fighting their own battles for freedom – separate and unsupported by those exchanging bullets in the battles around them.

Lipstick also appears on the collar of Rakelle Valencia’s protagonist in “That’s Horse Breakin’.”  This short story returns to the familiar territory of the previous Green/Valencia anthology Rode Hard Put Away Wet.  Valencia writes butch cowboys with an authenticity that could leave a studious reader saddle sore – and smiling because of it.  This bittersweet tale of a butch woman, who can control the most powerful beasts but can’t control a flirtatious femme, combines innate eroticism with humour and pathos. 

If I was to write about every story in this anthology worth reading, I would just be reiterating the table of contents and spoiling all the surprises contained within a damned fine book.  Aside from those I’ve mentioned previously, Lipstick on Her Collar also includes fantastic fiction from the wonderful Shanna Germain, the talented Teresa Noelle Roberts and the ever-glorious Rachel Kramer Bussel.  There’s a lot in this anthology and, because of their exceptional quality, the stories are likely to remain with the reader a lot longer than any lipstick mark – regardless of where that lipstick mark has been placed.

Literotica 2: The Very Best of Literotica.comLiterotica 2: The Very Best of
Edited By: Bill Brent
Contributions By: Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Black Books
ISBN: 1892723174
January 2009

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

S. Adrian of Fearless Reviews says that “ is one of the most popular and diverse sites presenting fiction by thousands of different authors.” In her introduction, Marilyn Jaye Lewis states that there are imaginative stories written by new voices and without predictable plotlines. That sounded promising.

In “The Thingy” by Cockatoo, the narrator finds an object stashed away with his Grandfather’s old possessions. Intrigued by the weird device, he keeps it. As he carries it around, he realizes that it reacts to some women, and in a different way for each one. When it starts ringing for a woman on his bus, she hears it. They end up in her apartment, where they explore a lot more than the device.

In Molly Devlin’s “Troll Bridge”, a woman has been cursed with the name Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty). While she lives in a modern city, she encounters fantastic creatures. While crossing a bridge in the park one day, she’s grabbed by a troll. Briar Rose is a lot smarter than he is, and being a savvy lady, finds it easy to convince him that he means to eat her out instead of eating her.

In “Rent” by Parris, Kate is waiting for her soon to be ex-husband to show up with divorce papers. Hours later, she’s still waiting. Frustrated, she fantasizes about Marlon, the boy she’s renting out a spare room to. Marlon walks in on her as she’s playing with herself. She seduces him, and they spend the next few hours working off her pent up sexual frustrations. That’s when the ex-husband shows up. A hot, fun story.

Fans of f/f BDSM will probably enjoy “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Natalie Nessus. It’s more vignettes from a relationship than a traditional short story, but it’s well done. It flirts with snippets of humiliation and hardcore scenes without getting deep enough into them to push buttons for the squeamish.   

 Alas, “The Thingy” and “Troll Bridge” were the only two stories that came even close to MJL’s promise of unpredictable plotlines. I suppose you could add Killer Muffin’s “Absolution for Gretta MacClain” to the short list. This story was probably picked for the anthology because it was “edgy” - edgy meaning that it shows rape in a positive light as a healing experience . . .

Overall, there wasn’t too much to get excited about in this anthology. Euphemisms like honey pot and pulsating manhood belong in bad purple prose, not well-written erotica. Some stories were so clichéd that I had to grit my teeth to get through them. However, Literotica has a huge following, so maybe that’s what some readers want. If you demand better quality writing, you might want to skip this one.

Love at First Sting: Sexy Tales of Erotic RestraintLove at First Sting: Sexy Tales of Erotic Restraint
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344281X
June, 2007

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

If I had noticed Love at First Sting on the shelf at a bookstore, I probably would not have picked it up. The main title is awkward and derivative, the subtitle makes the book sound like frothy porn, and the olive drab cover, featuring a blurry, corset-clad torso, is hardly compelling. If I hadn't been asked to review the book, I probably would not have read it. This would have been a shame, because this collection is one of the best erotic anthologies that I've encountered in a long time.

I read a lot of BDSM, partly from personal interest and partly because as a reviewer I've been pigeonholed (accurately, perhaps) into the "kinky" category. Alison Tyler's new volume is a refreshing contrast to some recent anthologies that focus on the more recreational aspects of spanking, bondage, and other perverse sports. The stories in this collection (with a few exceptions like Lisette Ashton's frisky "Bound to Kill" and "The '76 Revolution," a sweet tale by Nikki Maggennis) concern themselves with the darker side of dominance and submission. Temptation, obsession, guilt, fear, ecstasy and revelation - these stories crackle with serious emotion. These are not about "play parties".

In Teresa Lamai's breathless "Small Windows," a man and a woman are drawn together by mutual needs that neither can fully understand, or control.

"I have one cell phone just for his calls. When it vibrates, I drop everything. I feign sickness if I have to. I once left court and ran twenty blocks in the fog because there were no taxis. I thought my heart would burst.

Each time he opens the door the fugue starts again. I know once I see him I'll feel the shock in the solar plexus, the painful flash of heat behind my pubic bone that sears out all other questions, that cauterizes my mind until it's closed and quiet. With Josh I'm a starfish, spread flat and writhing gently, mindless and swollen and tingling."

James Walton Langolf's raw and lyrical "Abraham" begins:

"She is his Isaac laid out on the hood of his Ford - open, bared to his blade."

The tale continues, a fierce conflagration of a fuck between a man who's lonely and a woman who's desperate, but all the roughness ends in redemption - "the rain is washing her clean."

In the quieter darkness of Alison Tyler's "The Kiss," a master deliberately traps his sub in an impossible situation by forcing her to disobey him, and then makes her suffer the consequences.

Vida Bailey's "Torn" features a severe older woman and the disobedient young man whom she's tutoring. She tans his hide to improve his motivation, but the focus here is not on this classic situation, but on the dominant tutor's reactions and regrets:

"She watched his back; his long legs walking down the lane, away. His stride was more careful than the one he had come with. He was tender. Tears rose in her eyes. If she could she would keep him tied, to her bed, to her body, to move within the circle of his warmth and have him smile a smile that was for her only, secret, teasing and possessive."

Silence is Golden is perhaps the best story I've ever read by the prolific Rachel Kramer Bussel. When she is bound and gagged, a talkative woman learns to really pay attention:

"The silence rang in my ears as I came, the absence of sound coaxing me over the edge as saliva pooled in my mouth, my burning wrists took the imprints of the rope, and I reveled in his fast, hard, hammering thrusts. When we were done, there was no need to speak."

Two other tales that deserve special note are Sommer Marsden's "She Looked Good in Ribbons," and Brooke Stern's "The Art of the Suture." The former is a beautiful, intense account of two strangers meeting for the first time to fulfill their most cherished fantasies. The latter is a highly original pseudo-historical tale which may be the most perverse in the entire collection, even though it includes no graphic sex.

My favorite piece in this book is Donna George Storey's "Blinded." A woman and her lover stumble together into an escalating series of games involving a blindfold. Their physical communion masks the misunderstandings between them, which climax when he seems to be threatening to kill her. The story is an amazing roller coaster of emotions: lust, terror, uncertainty, silence, anger, love. I was shaking when I finished reading it.

Dominance and submission have been claimed by popular culture, and tamed into bedroom games played with fur-lined cuffs and whips made of feathers. Undiluted, in its original form, though, BDSM is strong stuff. A few stories in this collection were too rough, too cruel, for my personal tastes. Overall, though, Love at First Sting recaptures the thrill and the terror of genuine power exchange. Readers who have no experience with BDSM may find it confusing and disturbing, or possibly enlightening. Initiates are likely to recognize themselves in these stories.

Love Notes: A Music and Sex AnthologyLove Notes: A Music and Sex Anthology
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: 978-1607770688
February 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This collection of 22 stories has a kind of silent soundtrack of all the songs that inspire overwhelming lust in a variety of fictional characters. This anthology could also be regarded as a textbook in how far a writer can go in referring to copyrighted material without being sued. Despite the warnings that have been posted in various writers’ loops (e.g. your characters can quench their thirst with “pop,” “soda” or a “soft drink,” but nothing more specific unless you can afford to pay a fortune to a large corporation for naming their product in print), the contributors to this volume name living artists and quote both song titles and lyrics. Here are a few of the story titles that made me gasp:  “Like a Prayer,” “Shania in the Chatroom,” “Cheerleading Zeppelin,” “Dancing Queen,” “Cherry Pie,” and “Simply Beautiful.” In case a reader doesn’t own a recording of a particular song and needs a memory prompt, there is plenty of “da-da-da-da-da- DUM,” and “oo-oo baby” in the descriptions.

In general, these stories do a remarkable job of describing something that is almost indescribable in words:  the effects of rhythm and melody on human psyches.  As the editor explains in the introduction, sex and music naturally go together. As she doesn`t explain, `playing` in one sense or another is hard to describe for anyone who isn`t in the scene at the moment. The references to real music are useful as a way to establish the mood.

The theme of this anthology is consistent throughout; every story uses music as an essential element of the plot. However, some of the stories read like catchy but quickly-forgettable pop tunes (a guy and a gal are moved by their favorite song to fuck to the beat) while some are more complex and worthy of experiencing more than once, like concept albums, fugues (consisting of several intertwined melodies), good jazz or musical comedies.

“The Main Events” by Eve Carpenter and “Musically Arousing” by Mariana Tolentino border on being groupie-masturbation fantasies. In each story, a female fan gets the thrill of a lifetime when a male musician responds to her breathless admiration. “The Main Events” is somewhat more believable, since the fan and her idol have met before, and the band isn’t wildly famous – yet. “Musically Arousing” is more of a classic Cinderella fantasy: famous rock star happens to meet girl-next-door when he stops at the gas station where she is stranded because her car broke down on her way to his concert. Of course, he finds her irresistibly attractive.

“Rock Star Baby” by Jocelyn Bringas is a variation on this theme. Roslyn, the central character, is a female rock star who snags a devoted male fan for the night. The symbiotic  effects of her talent and high-energy performance and his crush on her result in mind-blowing sex. In “Silent Crescendo,” a white male guitarist goes to hear the black female singer of his dreams and is amazed to learn that the admiration is mutual.

There is a variety of sexual pairings in this collection: het-male-dominant, het-female-dominant, female-female and male-male. The same-sex couples all have more-or-less equal power, and none of these characters is more famous than the one s/he hooks up with.

The theme of a fan’s obsession with a star (rock or otherwise) meshes perfectly with scenes of Dominance/submission to a soundtrack.  In “Closer” by Brandi Woodlawn, Reyna the dominatrix plays with her boy-toy, in a club, to appropriate music. In “Freedom” by Jincey Lumpkin, a woman who admires model Cindy Crawford drives herself to ecstasy while watching a video which combines Crawford’s luscious body and George Michael‘s song “Freedom.” In “The Special Fuck” by Graydancer, the male narrator plays the role of dastardly Captain Hook (from 1904 play Peter Pan and numerous later versions) torturing the Indian maiden Tiger Lily (his submissive playmate, bound to a St. Andrew’s cross) during a Halloween party. The recorded music for this event is hypnotic enough to enhance their sense of being in an alternative world. In “With Random Precision” by Emerald, the female narrator sinks deeply into sub-space while being bound with purple silk rope to the sound of a Pink Floyd classic, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

In contrast, “Dancing Queen” is not an homage to the group Abba. Not at all. A woman at a dungeon party is completely turned off by the squeaky-clean sounds of one of Abba’s signature songs, the choice of the party host. Before leaving, the woman arranges to hook up with the bartender later to play to a rougher beat. “She Loves to Hear the Music” by Delilah T. Jones is also about a turn-off or a disconnect between music and listener, as well as between a stripper/sex worker and the male customer she serves and dislikes.  The title is as ironic as the dialogue between the two characters.

Emotional discordancy between band members is also featured in “Breaking Up the Band” by Jack Stratton, in which general unhappiness resulting from one-way lust is the theme song of the day. The male narrator, the drummer, yearns for guitarist Kate, whose heart has been broken by band leader Stephen’s announcement that he is going to move in with his new girlfriend.  Can the band be saved? No, but their final performance is memorable.

In “Battle of the Bands” by J.M. Snyder, a fierce competition between two all-male bands perfectly captures the combination of lust and rivalry that can characterize same-sex attraction. The two bandleaders reach their own truce in a hot, spontaneous coupling. In “Barely Breathing” by Madlyn March, the emotional pain of the female narrator is almost palpable as she remembers Nadine, the lover who taught her the value of delayed orgasm, but who couldn’t be faithful.

I’ll resist the temptation to comment on every story in the collection. Suffice it to say that the ones I like best are the most unusual. “Bad Mother” by Elizabeth St. John is a lifelike portrait of the lesbian mother of a teenage daughter who doesn’t appreciate her mom’s heirloom 78 r.p.m. Mexican records, inherited from mom’s grandmother. Mom is called to the school to discuss her daughter’s behavior and meets a very attractive woman who enjoys Abuela’s sentimental music as well as old-fashioned school discipline.  If only motherhood were always this fun!

“Cheerleading Zeppelin” by Zack Lindley is also a kind of school story, set in 1977. Terry, rebellious male narrator, is thrown together with Lydia, a cheerleader and honors student. At first, the two seem to have nothing in common except their love for the band, Led Zeppelin. Then Lydia, lonely daughter of immigrant parents, drops a bombshell on Terry by telling him that he doesn’t “know shit” about her. She asks him (and the reader) to guess what “happens” when she is trapped at home with a predatory father and a mother who refuses to interfere. In spite of himself, Terry cares. The heavy-metal sound of Led Zeppelin captures both the despair and the hope of the two young adults on their way out of high school, and their story ends on a movingly upbeat note.

The editor’s own story, “Cherry Pie,” fits in well with this collection, despite my qualms about editors who publish their own work. It is sweet in every sense, and contrasts nicely with the darker pieces.  This anthology is guaranteed to get you moving, probably in the direction of your sound system and your music collection. Sex and music are such an obvious fit that I expect to see more anthologies on this theme in the future.

Luscious: Stories of Anal EroticismLuscious: Stories of Anal Eroticism
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447609
February 2012

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I reviewed the original version of this book six years ago when it was first released. Who would have thought that anal sex would still be popular six years later on? Here’s what I said about the original imprint:


“Luscious includes a foreword by Tristan Taormino where she tries to explain our cultural obsession with most things related to the anus.  Tristan is an intelligent lady, and an authority on this subject, and her eloquent explanation puts forward some viable theories.  However, if she had really wanted to help us analyse the erotic appeal of anal sex, she need only have said, “Read these stories!”

The thing that leaps from the pages of these stories is the sense of fun involved.  Tristan Taormino is correct in her assertion that anal sex does “…challenge societal norms…[and] …test the limits of the body.”  But the stories in this collection remind us the act is most often performed between consenting adults because it’s extremely enjoyable. 

Attitudes, expectations and approach differ greatly.  Bryn Haniver introduces a pair of cheeky protagonists in ‘Sometimes it’s Better to Give,’ while Alison Tyler’s curious heroine, Gina, goes on a path of discovery to find out if the forbidden act is ‘Worth It.’  Saskia Walker (who writes her narrative with a smutty grin on her lips) recounts the deliciously enjoyable details of ‘Edward’s Experiments.’

Luscious combines an eclectic blend of sexual preferences and brings them neatly together in this exciting and innovative anthology.  With a cast list that includes Kate Dominic, Ayre Riley, Greg Wharton, Sage Vivant and Jean Roberta (amongst many others) it’s an ASS-ET for anyone’s collection.”


And here we are six years later and they’ve managed to squeeze more inside this one than they did before. This revisitation to Luscious is bigger and includes two new stories: “The Missing Kink” by Sophia Valenti and “Anal Submission…or Not” by D L King.

I adored the first release of this anthology. The re-release is a masterful update of a classic anthology – particularly as this topic is such a culturally sensitive one.

Sex in itself is an act of trust. We are trusting our naked bodies in the hands of another. We are trusting our emotional and spiritual wellbeing with someone who may not necessarily have the vested interest of maintaining the balance of those delicate states. In short, we are placing our trust in the intimacy of another person.

And for some reason, contrasted against conventional sex acts, the act of anal sex heightens that level of trust.

We could argue here that this is because the act has connotations of greater intimacy than conventional sex acts. It involves a part of the anatomy that is normally omitted from polite conversations. We could make this argument but it wouldn’t be true. All sex acts, conventional or otherwise, carry connotations of intimacy.

We could argue that anal sex is taboo in many societies and even illegal in some – therefore making it a darker and more dangerous act with heightened echoes of risk-taking and potential punishment. Again, even though there are some cultures fatuous enough to try and dictate the sexual antics of consenting adults, the existence of people denouncing the act wouldn’t wholly explain the broad appeal of anal intercourse.

Personally, I believe it’s the heightened sense of trust involved in this act that has it hailed as a zenith of erotic encounters. And I believe my opinion is reflected in the content of Luscious.

Take for example the opening lines Shanna Germain’s wonderful “Cherry Bottom” which start the fiction in the anthology:

“You okay, babe?” Andrew’s voice above me was half sexual rasp, half concern. His warm, oiled hands had moved from the outside curves of my ass to the inside of my thighs, and they were resting there, not pulling or teasing, just resting against my skin. I kept my eyes and mouth closed and tried not to think about my naked ass in the air. I nodded against the pillow.

Notice here the concern that is being shown between the lovers in this scene. The first words are a question for confirmation that one character is comfortable. It’s an obvious act of profound concern and affection. Or ‘love’ as it might be more commonly known.

This theme of love returns frequently in this anthology. It’s a theme that returns more often than in other collections that focus on more conventional sex acts. Such as in this passage from “Trophy Wife” by Kate Dominic:

I couldn’t do romantic language for shit. I thought it was ridiculous. But for Sharon’s sake, I did my best. Hooking the ring at the end of the beads over my left middle finger, I picked up the smallest bead. “Relax your nether sphincter, my love. I am about to invade your delicate bottom passage.”

Charlotte’s wife may have been startled at her spouse’s forward ways, but my sweet, demanding wife knew exactly what she wanted. She smiled her appreciation at my literary attempts, shivering with delight as her anus seemed to reach out, relaxed and trembling, to suck the first bead in.


Or as in these lines from the opening of D L King’s “Anal Submission…or Not”

“So, is it?” I asked. “Is it a submissive act, when I tell you to fuck me in the ass? Or, is your doing it the submissive act?”

The thing is, I love anal sex. I mean I really love it. I love receiving it and I love giving it.

In short – if you love anal sex, then you’ll love Luscious. The anthology is well-written, exciting and entertaining. Moreover, it stays true to the theme of pleasurable shared intimacy that is inherent in this most intimate of sex acts.

Madder Love: Queer Men and the Precincts of SurrealismMadder Love: Queer Men and the Precincts of Surrealism
Edited By: Peter Dube
Rebel Satori Press
ISBN: 0979083826
May 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Sven Davisson and his Rebel Satori Press are my MySpace friends, which means we are not friends at all, but share affinities through several degrees of separation. I saw the call for submissions for this anthology and was intrigued by it, but decided that while I’ve written a few surreal stories I could never sit down and write one on purpose. So I skipped the call and let it slide from my mind. If I had not had my tenuous links to Rebel Satori via MySpace, I probably wouldn’t have been reminded that Madder Love had been released. That would have been a shame.

I knew this anthology wasn’t erotica in the traditional sense when I asked to review it. That’s a confession, not an apology. Even the editor seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to review his anthology of surrealistic queer literature for an erotica site. He probably wondered if I got what he was aiming for. Queer doesn’t equal erotic, but when a group is defined by sexuality, sex is always part of the landscape.
Erotica is a slippery slope of definitions. “I know it when I see it” sums up my view, but since you won’t be reading these stories through my eyes, I’ll add that any story that uses sex or sexuality to explore a character is erotic to me. If you’re going to read Madder Love, you’re going to have to get past the idea of a quick payoff. These are words to be savored slowly. Wait for the complete visual to form in your mind before moving on. It’s a different kind of reading, absorbing words instead of consuming them, as with poetry.

Shaun Levin’s “The Yorkshire Adonis”and Sven Davisson’s “Dim Star Descried” are the closest to traditional erotica in this anthology. Tom Cardamone’s “Yolk” moved from sex at its most emotionally sterile moment to the point where it has meaning. The story I enjoyed most, though, was Peter Dubé’s “Echo.” It crept under my skin and gave me an uneasy feeling, as if I couldn’t quite see enough, but couldn’t get a better look no matter how hard I tried. Even after a third reading, the story seemed to hang in my peripheral vision and disappear when I tried to focus. Absolutely stunning, and unsettling.

Madder Love isn’t for everyone. Want some pat story that takes you by the hand and leads you through the familiar plot structure like a docent at the kid’s museum? Then don’t even try. Want a quick wank? Not going to happen here. This anthology may be just too far out there for you. But if you’re willing to try something different and stretch your brain, you may find the erotic possibilities of surrealism.

Making the Hook-Up: Edgy Sex with SoulMaking the Hook-Up: Edgy Sex with Soul
Edited By: Cole Riley
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443832
March 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

In his introduction, the editor says:

My quest to create this anthology stems from a conversation I had some years ago with Calvin Herndon, author of the bestselling Sex and Racism in America, who told me, shortly before I attempted my first erotic story:

‘When Black people are allowed to indulge the usual sins, the customary fetishes, and all the regular vices humans are permitted, then they will have achieved total sexual citizenship.  Otherwise, they will remain trapped in the usual stale stereotypes and labels the world has assigned to us.’

So Cole Riley set out to collect erotic stories about (and by, as far as this reviewer can tell) people of African descent.

“All the regular vices” is a mixed bag.  If the editor’s goal was to collect a diverse set of stories, he more-or-less succeeded.  These stories vary in tone and subject-matter, although most are heterosexual.

Attraction between men only occurs out of sight, on the other side of a wall, in “Keeping Up with the Joneses” by Reginald Harris.  In this story, a married man who claims to be squicked by the mere thought of two men in bed together is inspired to enjoy more sex with his wife by the sounds of bed-thumping from the gay neighbors in the house next door.  In “Velvet,” Fiona Zedde (a brilliant world-builder) describes a bittersweet lesbian initiation.

Several of these stories are essentially “dirty jokes” (a brotha gets some from a sista, heh-heh).  In “Three Kisses” by Preston Allen, Docta Love decides to seduce a well-built female dealer in a casino by offering her a large amount of money for three kisses over three nights.  She insists that she is happily married with children, but she could use some help in remodeling her bathroom.  The deal goes far beyond three kisses, and the reader is clearly meant to be amused, but this one was annoyed.  Docta Love comes very close to the traditional stereotype of a black pimp, dripping with bling and false promises, and he persistently refers to his love-interest as a PR (Puerto Rican).  Not that she deserves more respect than he does.  So much for breaking out of stale stereotypes.

“Got Milk?” by Monica Elaine is an unbelievable story about a horny woman who opens the door to a strange white man while she is wearing a bathrobe and nothing else.  It seems he wants to borrow some milk, but he has a white fiancée who is both suspicious and attracted to the female narrator.  At some point, all three are literally sliding about in spilled milk.  Huh.

Then there are stories of apparently random but plausible hook-ups such as the relationship between Aden and Yanni in “Rain” by Kweli Walker, a union of intellectual soul-mates that started with a wrong telephone number.

In the poignant “For Nita” by Jolie du Pre, a downtrodden wife gets out of her marriage and improves her life with help from her best friend Nita, a successful psychiatrist.  But as in most such stories of transformation, the mentor can’t control her creature or protégée, and when the newly-empowered woman trusts her instincts and a pair of strangers to give her what she wants, Nita disapproves.  The saying that you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs seems relevant here.

In “Hung by Zetta Brown, a woman called to jury duty finds ways to cope with the frustration and boredom of being sequestered for weeks with other jurors, one of whom is definitely “hung.”  Of course, this term can be applied in a legal sense to a jury as a whole.  This sexual joke tickled my funny bone, since it implies that satisfaction can be found in the least likely places, in the midst of ambiguity and disagreement.

One of the themes of this anthology is the influence of Fate or serendipity in bringing the right two people together, and this theme can be found in almost any erotic anthology.  Then there are some themes that seem more specific to the African diaspora.  One is the attractiveness of women (especially) and men who would be considered fat by current  (white, mainstream) standards of beauty.  Lush, fleshy curves are described with enthusiasm in these stories.  As the male Master of two submissive women says in “Welcome Home” by Shakir Rashaan:

I’m a big man myself, so there’s not much that a petite girl can do for me but introduce me to her thicker girlfriend.  I’m sorry, but bones do hurt.

The mutual admiration and confidence of the full-figured characters in this book are a refreshing change from the images of anorexic fashion models that are often presented in the media as ideal women, in groups that usually include token featherweight women of color.

Another theme in this collection could be defined as “Roots.”  In these stories, characters discover, or rediscover, their sexuality by returning to their personal places of birth, or to the homeland of their ancestors, which seems both strange and familiar.  In some cases, characters heal themselves by revisiting an old trauma.  The best of these stories have a kind of magnetic power that suggests “roots” in the sense of magic, or kitchen voodoo.

In R. Gay’s “Strangers in the Water,” the female narrator brings her husband and twin sons from the United States to visit her grandmother in Haiti.  The narrator, unlike her mother, feels drawn to the scene of a crucial event:

I owe my existence to the frantic coupling of two strangers in 1937 in the shallow and bloody waters of the Massacre River that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic.

In the story that has been passed down, the grandmother mated with a fellow-refugee in the river, where soldiers on both sides were hunting them down.  Jean-Marc, the temporary lover, had already been killed when the grandmother discovered that she was pregnant, but he lives on in family lore as the husband she never had.  The narrator’s living husband helps her to pay homage to the past.

In “Sex and Chocolate,” the female narrator comes home from New York City to the island in the Bahamas where she grew up, a place that (like Haiti) seems closer to Africa than to the U.S.  There she meets an honest homeboy who is wiser and better for her than the shallow playboy who tries to get her into bed.

In “Lights on a Cave Wall,” Kira and Imbe, a kind of generic couple, seduce each other in Cuba, in a climate described as sexy by nature:

It was the kind of heat she’d only felt in private places, places only he touched. As she sat on the fine gray sand near the mouth of the cave, she could feel the sun awakening her to memories that made her body ache.

This story borders on melodrama, but Imbe’s story of two kindred souls who seek each other through several generations fits with the slow and hypnotic sex he shares with Kira in the cave, their natural home.  By the last paragraph, she is convinced that she loved him even before they “met” in their current lives.

In a sadder, parallel story, “When the River” by Leone Ross, the heroine meets “a man of integrity” in an old, romantic hotel somewhere in Europe.  Rosemarie and her new friend try to resist their mutual attraction.  Even though they seem to be soul-mates, he refuses to break his commitment to another woman.

The theme of a healing sexual journey gets an unusual treatment in the editor’s own road-trip story about a traveling preacher-woman and a desperate man with a gun who thinks he has nothing to lose.  They only have one night together, but it is enough to change their lives.

To sum up, I found this anthology extremely mixed.  The best stories in it are ht, compelling, emotionally honest and as powerful as the best literary fiction anywhere.  The worst make adequate one-handed reading, but they (like the “petite girl” disdained by the “big man”) are just too thin in comparison.

Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Constable & Robinson (UK), Running Press (US)
ISBN: 0762436336
January 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This thick collection of 41 stories is a banquet of sex in various forms and flavors, all predominantly heterosexual with a tiny amount of same-sex action sprinkled in for spice. The editor admits that his taste is "idiosyncratic." As a writer and bookseller of crime/noir fiction, he seems especially fond of erotica in those genres. He also has a fine eye for literary skill, so there are no clunker sentences or groan-worthy metaphors on any of the 460 pages of this book. (Not a single brooding detective in a rumpled raincoat meets a slinky dame, except in stories such as "Amour Noir" by Landon Dixon, in which an innocent traveler is bewildered, then aroused, then alarmed by characters in Iowa who seem out of touch with reality.)

Instead of relying on a select group of well-known writers to supply him with the year's best published erotica, Maxim Jakubowski has become famous or notorious for trolling the 'net for gems and republishing them with a minimum of communication with the authors. In fairness to him, the current general conception of "published" work includes anything posted in a public place, and Jakubowski seems to be pursuing authors more systematically now than in the past. A note in the acknowledgment for "Child's Position" by Dawn Ryan, first posted on the site "Sliptongue," claims: "Repeated attempts have been made to contact the author. Should she come across this volume, she should contact the editor c/o the publishers."

The results of the editor's treasure-hunt style of finding material (he also welcomes submissions) are impressive. In the introduction, he boasts: "Many names will be familiar to readers of past volumes, but I am particularly proud this year that eighteen writers appear in the series for the first time, and that a growing cohort of male authors also provides evidence that sexual sensibility is not just the domain of female writers."

Considering his professed open-mindedness, it seems ironic that he has not found any stories about sex between two men or two women worthy of publication, and the few stories about bisexuals (i.e. "menage" stories) emphasize the importance of male-female sex. There are no transgender characters in this collection that I could find.

The consistently high quality of this collection makes it hard to choose favorites, although as a member of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, I am always glad to find a good handful of stories from the ERWA website in this series. Probably the fairest way to describe the stories in this book is to identify general themes.

There is an interesting spectrum of Dominant/submissive relationships, although the kind of BDSM activities defined as "extreme" or "black-hanky" are largely missing. In "The Slave," the first story in the book, Julia Morizawa takes on the voice of a female character in a doomed D/s affair with a man who reacts violently to her complaint that he is "too gentle. . . Master." Love, as distinct from momentary lust, is the demon they both fear.

In "The Shoot" by D.L. King, eye-candy male submissives are arranged for the camera by their Mistresses. Like other stories of camera erotica, this story plays on the D/s implications of human models who can be dressed, undressed, painted and posed for photographers who capture the image of a moment for all time.

"Matching Skirt and Kneepads" by Thomas Roche is the closest to a gay/lesbian story in the book. A female submissive who spends much time on her knees is taken out by her Mistress, who introduces her to a pair of leathermen. The "girl" is recovering from a clit-piercing, but she is able to please Mistress' friends with other parts of her body. Her reward is a set of kneepads that match her skirt.

In "Incurable Romantic" by Lisabet Sarai, a male Dom with the female submissive of his dreams is able to learn some new things about his own desires. "Late for a Spanking" by Rachel Kramer Bussel is brisker and lighter, but it also plays with desires that could break the trust in a good BDSM relationship. Like the Dom in Lisabet Sarai's story, the man here knows he is lucky to have an almost-perfect female submissive, and he has promised to be faithful to her in his fashion, but a frisky girl who likes to be spanked is almost irresistible.

"The Unattainable" by Livia Llewelyn is an outstanding story in a book full of them. On the surface, this is a kind of country song about a one-night-stand between a woman who has returned to small-town Virginia and a hard-muscled rodeo rider who tells her that he "always wins." Below the surface, however, his deep, unexpressed desire to submit, and her desire to be "the thing he longs for most in all the world" can almost be felt by the reader.

"Victoria's Hand" by Lisette Ashton is an over-the-top scene of a marriage proposal in the Victorian Age. The suitor asks Victoria for "her hand." Enjoying his anxiety, she seizes her advantage and demands to see the goods before she will commit to anything. In an age when most women have few rights, she negotiates a marriage in which she will be in charge.  

D/s stories often overlap with fetish stories; the crucial difference seems to be that fetish stories focus on an object, a body part or a single activity rather than a relationship. Fetish stories in this book include: "Boot Camp" by Kristina Lloyd, a hilarious spin on recovery or detox centers. In this case, the narrator is a woman who loves to lick boots, and who has been sent to a camp for fetishists, supposedly intended to "cure" them. Not surprisingly, "Spitshine" meets a boot-wearer whose fetish is very compatible with hers. In "Supercollider" by Chad Taylor, a waitress meets a quirky customer who likes the same games that she does.

"I Am Jo's Vibrator" by M. Christian is a playful monologue by a vibrator who is thrilled to be brought home from the store to pleasure a young woman, and learns that he can also serve her boyfriend. In "Spin Dry" by Sam Jayne, a fiercely antisocial Englishwoman prefers the vibrations of her washing machine to the efforts of a man. When her washing machine breaks down, she must find a way to replace it. 

"Hair Trigger" by Nikki Magennis is a darker story about a woman who learns that her boyfriend, who will only see her at certain times, loves long hair more than he loves individual women. She takes revenge in an appropriate way. In "Slightly Ajar" by Jeremy Edwards, a woman and her husband discover the primal excitement of a woman pissing with the bathroom door slightly open. In "Glint" by Portia da Costa, a woman on vacation believes that the people in the next cottage are watching her and her husband on the beach, and the feeling of being watched transforms them both.

“Spider” by Donna George Storey features a seductive Japanese man who plays on an American woman’s fear of large spiders; he teaches her to enjoy being caught in a shibari web. “Paranoid Polly” is a more farcical story about a young woman who is equally surprised by the barely-hidden sexual relationship of two male co-workers and her own reaction to a stuffed toy when she accidentally sits on it.

Is incest a fetish? If so, the surrealistic “Narcissi” by N.J. Steitberger fits in with the other fetish stories. Joseph desires his twin and female alter ego, Josephine, but is she real? His (or their) mother doesn’t think so, but Mom is often in an altered state of consciousness.

On that note, there is a small but memorable group of fantasy stories in this collection, including “The Threshold” by Polly Frost, in which a high school virgin learns that supernatural beings from another realm have been attracted to her town by the freshness of her energy, on which they want to feed in an ancient ritual. And despite the bragging of her friends, male and female, she is far from the only unplucked rosebud in her school. “17 Short Films About Hades and Persephone” by Elspeth Potter is a powerful reworking of the ancient Greek myth about the god of the underworld and his abduction of his own niece, daughter of his sister, Demeter. “Sparklewheel” by Kris Saknussemm reads like a hellish acid trip through the modern industrial world undertaken by a man and woman who survive despite the odds.

The impact of disability on sex and sexual relationships might be considered anti-erotic, but it is brilliantly and sensitively dealt with in three stories. “An Early Winter Train” by C. Sanchez-Garcia is told by the husband/caretaker of a woman who has lost most of her memory. In “Objects of Meaning” by Savannah Lee, a female anthropology student gives a professor, who was accidentally mutilated years before, what he could not get from his fiancée. In “Skin Deep” by Kristina Wright, a man who must not overexert himself because he has a heart transplant meets a woman whose husband has been repelled by her mastectomy. In a poignant encounter which can never be repeated, they mirror each other’s beauty and strength.

Stories about heists, murder and contract killing include one by the editor himself, “L’Americaine,” about a cool American blonde who travels with two passports (much like this reviewer, except that I don’t do this for nefarious purposes) and who inadvertently rescues a young Italian woman from a sinister older man in Paris. “Murder Intermezzo” by O’Neil De Noux, set in New Orleans, is as dramatic as an opera. “Behind the Masque” by Sophie Mouette features the kind of surprise twist that is characteristic of this author.

The story which will probably resonate in my mind the longest is the chilling historical tale "Mr. Merridawn's Hum" by Cervo, based on a traditional ballad which has inspired other modern artists. (The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, an innovative folk-rock album recorded by the Incredible String Band in 1968, is one example, and so is the 1993 novel of the same name by Sharyn McCrumb.) The daughter of the hangman (whose presence at dawn brings anything but merriment) is a delicate flower whose grotesque sexuality seems logical for her circumstances:

She did, however, have a deep weakness for hanging owing to the fact that it so often befell the youngest and prettiest of men who were nimble enough to try -- but not to succeed -- at poaching, robbing the high roads, and sheep stealing. She would comfort them in the night by singing to them softly before they dropped away from the light at dawn. On more than one occasion she had noticed that despite all the unattractive results of hanging, many of these men were taken down with their cocks still hotly erect and they had clearly ejaculated at their final moment. This was for her a new discovery, and something to consider when thinking of a stiff prick. 

Desire, hope, mortality, greed, generosity, deception and illusion all mix together seamlessly in these stories, as does the comedy of sex and the tragedy of human loneliness. This is a book to be dipped into again and again.

*Editor’s Note:

Regarding the statement about Mr Jakubowski “trolling the 'net for gems and republishing them with a minimum of communication with the authors,”  he states that “In 15 years of publishing the Mammoth books, [he’s] only published 4 stories discovered online which [he] was unable to find the authors of, despite documented mails to editors of the websites where stories had initially appeared and all other possible sources.”  He further states “in ALL cases, bar the latest, authors [made] contact with [him] and were not only paid, but [were] delighted to be in [the] books.

Men of the Manor: Erotic Encounters Between Upstairs Lords and Downstairs LadsMen of the Manor: Erotic Encounters Between Upstairs Lords and Downstairs Lads
Edited By: Rob Rosen
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780661
October 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

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.

Middle Men: Gay Erotic ThreesomesMiddle Men: Gay Erotic Threesomes
Edited By: Shane Allison
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447935
July 2012

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

The best thing about an anthology for me is in enjoying the wide range of places a group of writers can go within a single theme. You can take something mundane and almost cliché – daddies, twinks, frat boys, jocks – but if you’ve got one of those great anthologies in your hand, you still end up with a surprisingly fresh collection of stories.

Variety – I imagined – was going to be pretty high when the theme opened up the collection from the typical boy-meets-boy duality. I went into Middle Men: Gay Erotic Threesomes looking forward to seeing what the authors had done, and the length and breadth of stories that Shane Allison had combined for this collection, and though I did like it some – mostly on the strength of specific stories – I wasn’t blown away.

I did like Middle Men, but it took me a while to read the whole collection. If that sounds like faint praise, I suppose it is. The problem I kept having was that the stories – for the most part – were about quick trysts. It felt like most of the stories had a similar set up - three ways happening spontaneously between guys meeting for the first time. I was a little surprised that there was only one story where the three men involved were actually involved in the sense of having a long-term trio relationship. I may be misremembering, but I think of the rest of the tales, only two (or three?) also had couples that were having a third (or in one case, fourth, and fifth and maybe sixth and seventh) join them for a dalliance.

It’s not that the erotica doesn’t burn and sweat in all the right ways. Most of the stories have scorch. It’s more that I felt a lack of set-up in many cases; most of the tales are very quick, and as I’ve mentioned before, I like my erotica to have a narrative lead-in, rather than be “scene” erotica.

There are exceptions to this in the anthology. I liked the clever set up and play of “Middle Man for Madam Blavatsky” (one of the stories where a couple are enjoying a playmate). Here a deck of tarot cards open up the door for a young fellow to realize that it’s going to take time to convince his partner that they could bring another fellow to their bed. “Grip” by Sleepy Lopez was another story with a couple – this one with a gritty urban take, and the gap between childhood friends who have grown apart while one has been in prison, and their reconnection thereafter.  The third couple story that stuck in my memory was “The One in the Middle” which was still somewhat a “scene” piece (we join the couple already having sex with at least two other men) but actually had a trace of kindness and sweetness between the couple involved: I was left with the sense that this couple’s relationship was built on a very solid love – and a love of being the guy in the middle. It probably was the single story that seemed to have nailed the theme of what I thought I’d find in Middle Men the most.

On the clever side was “Fox Goldman and the Three Bears.” This was the story where there is a three person relationship, and the play of a modernized Goldilocks and the Three Bears was as sly as the sex was hot – the “Goldilocks” gets to enjoy one of the home movies the bears have made while he lounges in their conveniently empty home.

I also liked “Dogging It” by H.L. Champa, who gave me a character whose desire for exhibitionism simmers with a realistic steam, leading to a public display in a park for all to watch.

Those five stories (out of the eighteen in the collection) stuck with me. If what you’re looking for out of Middle Men is some hot scenes where three guys get it on, then I think you’ve got an adequate choice here. I wanted to like this more, but I was left with a kind of foggy memory when it came time to look over the table of contents at the end of the book to write this review. Many of the stories blend a bit too much. Boy meets boy meets boy, followed by sex. Sometimes it’s rough, sometimes it’s escorts, sometimes it’s cops, sometimes it’s strippers, but there was a repetition in the stories that wore a little thin. I had to put it down quite a bit, and pick it back up again later. Again – that might be what you’re looking for, if you’re a fan of quick and dirty shorts with three men colliding by happenstance and riding their good luck out to the finish.

I just wanted a bit more variety.

Model Men: Gay Erotic StoriesModel Men: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Neil Plakcy
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447269
November 2011

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

The back cover of Model Men poses the question: Whether gazing at a billboard or flipping through a magazine, who hasn't felt a jolt of longing for the stunning male model who gazes back? Unfortunately, that person who hasn't is me. Since the idea of pretty men isn't an automatic turn-on the premise of this book is lost on me, so the stories I liked tended to be more about the characters than the idea of physical perfection. Fair warning.

If your kink is medical play, you're going to love “Medical Model” by Logan Zachary. As a favor to a doctor he likes to flirt with, a man volunteers to be a test patient for medical students. He receives a folder with a description of his problem and he acts it out with the intern. In the first scenario, he pretends to suffer from migraines. It's a breeze, right? But his doctor friend sets him up for a prostate exam with the hunky intern who walks in next, and then decides to lend a hand. Things get decidedly kinky from then on.

In “It's All About the Attitude” by Aaron Michaels, a model is failing at a photo shoot. He asks for a brief break and calls his boyfriend in a panic. After his boyfriend gets him into the right frame of mind, he returns to the shoot and delivers what the photographer is looking for. This one I liked for the (dare I admit it?) light romantic tone that follows the sex. It turns out the boyfriend likes being someone he'd turn to, and what was probably going to be a temporary relationship deepens into something permanent. (And this is probably the last time I'll ever admit - or feel - that the romantic side of an erotic story was what set it apart for me)

But never fear for my momentary lapse! Because “Head Shots” by Neil Plakcy was the next story to catch my eye. Sure, his characters have the looks to model, but this story isn't about ethereal male beauty. Nope. Just healthy, horny young naked men doing what comes naturally. Yes, someone is taking pictures of them while they enjoy themselves, but it's not about showing off or posing, and it's definitely not about the underwear they're supposed to be showing off.

“Beautiful. Dirty. Rich.” by Clancy Nacht deserves a special mention for being the ultimate fucking the unobtainable fantasy in this anthology. And in “Pink Cowboy Hat,” Gavin Atlas writes about the pursuit of beauty that few of us could afford. Yes, his narrator is shallow, but somehow endearingly forgivable.

If the thought of male models is enough to get you in a steamy frame of mind, you're probably going to enjoy this anthology. This is listed as gay erotica, but I noticed quite a few slash (M/M - and yes, there is a difference) stories. So this can appeal to both male and female readers. Given that this wasn't fantasy fodder for me, I still found stories I enjoyed, so I'm giving Model Men a thumbs up review. 

Naughty Spanking Stories From A to Z, Volume 2Naughty Spanking Stories From A to Z, Volume 2
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122700
October, 2006

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

There can be no question that this book is about spanking and that it gets at this activity with a serious intensity from as many angles and techniques as possible. As Rachel Kramer Bussel points out in her introduction, the spankings in this anthology explore a range of passions including, “love, anger, sublimation, awakening, desire, fulfillment, foreplay, fun, prodding, patience, surrender, exhibitionism, demand, pride, want, lust, punishment, reward, humiliation, power, surprise, daring, learning, lessons, teasing, and goodbye.” Phew! And I thought I was fond of lists.

For reasons best illuminated by the editor in the book’s introduction, more female bottoms are bared and smacked in this volume than male ones. That may seem a disappointment to some femdom devotees, but a fair amount of jockey shorts are jerked down, as well as arrogant butts unboxered. They are punished at length by an assortment of unforgiving female hands, whether equipped with an implement or descending by their own domme momentum.

What makes this book essentially a success is its frank, seriously painful, salivating, and intense focus on spanking the adult bare bottom for whatever reason or rationalization that pops into the spanker’s head. There are no excuses or half-witted psychologizing here. What’s more, a good, hard spanking is worth its weight in several volumes of blabbering romance novels. Spanking is the ultimate hanky panky as Madonna once observed, and it makes sense. Done right it is a complex form of love play while filling many other aspects of one’s life where appropriate. What more can love do?

There are three types of stories in this anthology all of them oriented to a very broad stripe of spanking tastes. The first is the dungeon spanking. Characters inhabit these stories in exotic outfits made of leather or rubber that would make most of us look like hopeless mistakes from central casting. You have to hit the gym twice daily to strut well in skin-tight. “Outing Isolde” by Anne Blakely is one of these. The spankings are delivered with high ceremony during which doms say things like, “Prepare yourself.” They are described while cropping a girl’s bottom as, “pushing her as he punished her, letting her show off the strength that she had within.”

Despite the dangling preposition, there is a place for these stories as the dream vision of those who attend BDSM clubs, or wish they did. All this Star Trek sort of gear and talk makes up for the desultory reality of such establishments. I find them so scripted that I am inclined to mutter to myself, “I can’t hold her, Captain, she’s going to blow!” with a Scots burr as I read them, even though I am not quite sure what I mean when I say it.

In the second type of story, shiny and polished characters looking (and sounding) like models glitter and squeal as the palm, brush, and cane lands. These are the perfect people of an earlier era of porn/erotica. They talk like some bizarre combination of Mary Worth and Danielle Steele. The plots are thin by design. The clothes always fit and cover super sexy underwear. We all wear that to the office every day, right? No grey jockeys here, or safety pinned panties marked “Thursday.”

The circumstances are improbable. How often do you think a Human Resources manager summons her male assistant to her office because she is desperately – if reluctantly -- in need of a very hard spanking? Kristina Wright’s story regards this scenario as one of the “Perks of the Job.” It’s a lovely thought. Who has not thought of spanking their pretty, overbearing, cranky little boss? Or better still, being spanked by her? How would she broach the subject of giving you, her strapping assistant, a dose of the strap? Out of sheer bossiness, one would hope.

The third variety of story is one that fixates on spanking as experience. One might call it la obsession rouge, for the redder the bottoms get, the more deeply the passion runs to further redden them to a deep aubergine. The strongest of these stories, not surprisingly, is Ms. Kramer Bussel’s own, “Queuing Up.” It is no surprise that it is a femme spanko’s heated confession of how she will gladly wait in line for ever more vigorous spanking accompanied by every sort of lubricious delight to heighten the experience of having her bottom blistered time and again. As the narrator says at the zenith of her ecstasy, “Our asses could take on the world,” which given the vigor and intensity of the story seems a reasonable assertion, if a rather disconcerting image.

This sort of story done well is like the litany of sexual delights that Wilde’s Salome offers Herod in payment for the head of John the Baptist. Another excellent example is Ashley Lister’s “Chippendale Library Chair” wherein an otherwise subdued couple test the merits of a particularly sturdy antique chair as spanking furniture. They do so in the recesses of an antique shop, which activity proves no end of delight to the proprietor who joins in on the spanking fun. Mr. Lister’s story is far more serene than “Queuing Up,” but that does not mean that the behind being so soundly spanked is not equally sore, or the pleasure any less intense.

Given that there are 30 stories in this volume, there is most certainly something for every spankophilic taste, need, desire, lust, and peculiar enthusiasm. They are not all of equal merit and so in the weaker cases, stories that focus on spanking as an activity can turn into a redundant list of whackings. Character and plot are never much of an issue here, but the book is clearly about naughty spankings so it endeavors to ‘get to the good part’ straight away. In fact the selection seems to eschew anything that might provide deeper context or character perhaps by design.

I think the key to this book lies in Ms. Kramer Bussel’s introduction to this volume, which speaks to her admirable dedication to spanking in her own life. She says, “In fact, right now as I write this, my ass bears bruises from my most recent spanking session, and I feel that special soreness every time I sit down. Editing this volume has only increased my interest in this topic.” One can only admire such a frank expression of appetite that is clearly reflected in her editing and writing. It is hard not to be drawn into such genuine enthusiasm. It is provocative, evocative and stimulating without apology.

Nice Girls, Naughty Sex: Twenty Erotic TalesNice Girls, Naughty Sex: Twenty Erotic Tales
Edited By: Jordan LaRousse
Contributions By: Samantha Sade
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580053432
February 2011

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Naughty is such a great word. It conjures up visions of being a little bad, but in a fun way. The contributors to Nice Girls, Naughty Sex take the idea of a good sexual romp and run with it, laughing and looking over their shoulder with a "follow me," look in their eyes. What can you do but follow along?

The anthology is separated into four sections: vanilla, dirty martini, licorice whips, and oysters. This suggests that Vanilla is just a hint of decadence, Dirty Martini is a little more, well, dirty, Licorice Whips are the BDSM stories, and Oysters are the bisexual and lesbian tales. If you want to go right to the style that you know turns you on, head for that section, but by all means peruse outside your usual tastes. After all, vanilla is fertilized by hand and fermented under the tropical sun, so it can hardly be called ordinary, and haven't you always wanted to peek under the Sapphic covers to indulge in sumptuous girl on girl action?

Sommer Marsden's “A Technicality” starts off the anthology with a bittersweet tale of a woman and man who meet at a hospice. His wife is dying; her mother is. They draw together in an emotionally turbulent time. He won't cheat on his wife, although their definition of cheating is a technicality. They know it, but in their grief, they're able to find a connection that keeps them going. Absolutely beautiful.

In Rosalia Zizzo's “Siesta and Spanish Leather Boots,” a woman who has enjoyed many flings decides that maybe she needs something more permanent. Hot sex scene, great evocation of time and place.

I have never read a story by Venerato Petronius before, but if this is the only pen name this writer goes under, I plan to keep an eye out for it. Patience is the key word here. This tale unfolds at a leisurely pace. That doesn’t mean boring though. A man and woman talk about how it was back when they were teens, and manage to recapture some of the joy of the forbidden by breaking into an abandoned house and making love. Delicious payoff, but even before that, a finely wrought tale.   

Jeremy Edwards is a name I recognize, with good reason. In “Eastern Daylight Time,” he proves that a writer's gender doesn't limit what he can write convincingly. His character Nancy is a lesbian who has just come out, and realizes to her dismay that coming out doesn’t equal a whole new life. She wants a lover but one didn't magically appear the moment she set foot out of the closet. When she's seduced by food and a woman who doesn’t fit any of her expectations of her first lesbian lover though, she realizes that she's exactly where she's meant to be. 
Oysters and Chocolate is a classy website that draws many well known erotica writers, so it's no surprise that they were able to assemble an amazing line up of contributors including many well-known names. There were many names I didn't recognize too, which is always a delight. You might discover the writer you want to follow from now on. I did.

No Safewords: A Marketplace Fan AnthologyNo Safewords: A Marketplace Fan Anthology
Edited By: Laura Antoniou
Circlet Press
ISBN: 1613900724
February 2013

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

The Marketplace series by Laura Antoniou has become a classic of BDSM fiction. Fans lovingly discuss the edition(s) they have and how worn they are. It’s a world unto itself with fabulous mansions, slaves, auctions, trainers, every type of service one could imagine (and a few new ones). It’s an amazingly complete fantasy where even the bureaucracy required to run it is fetishized. Turn a corner in this world and you won’t find a façade propped up by a few timbers. You’ll probably find a whole new area to explore. No wonder it’s so beloved.

I read a lot of erotica, much of it BDSM, and after a while most submissives and their dom(me)s blur into sameness, but while it’s been years since I read the Marketplace books, I recognized characters immediately. That’s one of the great strengths of the series. There are engaging characters of varying sexualities with different visions of what they want or need so that almost anyone can find someone to identify with, or at least to pique a reader’s interest in their story. The inclusiveness that’s been a hallmark of the series from the beginning, way back when nobody else dared mix hetero and LGBT sex scenes in a book, carries on with the cover of No Safewords. Call it daring, call it transgressive, call it post-whatever, you have to admit that’s one bold, beautiful picture. I have no idea what might frighten Laura Antoniou, but it certainly isn’t offending anyone’s delicate little PC feelings.

In her wonderful forward, Laura discusses her inability to trust others with her creation with charming frankness. With this anthology, she doesn’t give up control, but she allows aficionados to offer fanfic (I mean that term in the best way possible) that shows their love of the series and to expand the universe a bit. She retains control though, as shown in the comments preceding each story. That was a nice personal touch.

The anthology begins appropriately enough with “A Thousand Things Before Breakfast” by Marie Casey Stevens. More an essay than a story, it’s a good manifesto explaining why the characters pursue the lives they do.

“The First” by D. Alexandria explores a taboo most people in the United States wouldn’t have the guts to confront. A black woman ends up as the slave of a white man. Talk about a minefield of emotion, guilt, and history. Yet it is handled so well here without ever being preachy, angry, or apologetic. This isn’t a lesson; it’s a story that never flinches from saying difficult things, while also being quite erotic.  If D. Alexandria continues to write stories this bold, s/he will be an author always worth reading. 

I was so pleased to see one of my favorite characters in D. L. King’s “If You Try Sometime.” I was concerned about Robert ever finding his way, but with his new owner, as the title promises, you get what you need.

“Her Owner's Voice,” by Leigh Ann Hildebrand, intrigued me. A young woman inherits her father’s house, including a great many slaves, on her father’s death. She knows about being an owner, but until she finds her voice, the slaves run rampant over her. That’s not the part I found interesting. I loved the type of slave she wanted and the service she required. Fascinating idea.

It’s probably not much of a secret by now that I enjoy genderqueer characters. Sassafras Lowrey delivers an emotionally pleasing story of self-discovery and acceptance in “Hiding in Plain Sex.” My heart absolutely wrenched at the painful confusion over expectations and what it cost to put on that dress, but that’s what I want from stories.
Anna Watson’s “Delirious Moonlight, 1916: Mr. Sloan's Boy” takes readers back to the beginning days of the mansion. This slice of history will give fans some backstory. It was also interesting to see how this writer envisioned things might have been, back before the route to training was institutionalized. I can’t put my finger on exactly what made this story linger with me, but it did.

If you were worried that there wasn’t going to be a scene of intense punishment in any of the stories, “Pearls in the Deep Blue Sea,” by Jamie Thorsen, serves up what you might be looking for. In her intro to it, Laura talks about how it shows risks and consequences, and what happens when the necessarily secretive world of the Marketplace is endangered by careless words.

“Coals for the New Castle” is the second contribution to this anthology by Marie Casey Stevens. Maybe the prolonged ‘as you know’ parts of the conversation are references to stories further in the series that I have not read, or inside jokes. If that’s the case, fans might love references to events that had nothing to do with the story at hand. I found it a bit of a slog and lost interest.

“Getting Real” by S. M. Li is for any fans of psychological sadism.

Elizabeth Schechter’s “O, Promise Me!” closes the anthology with a period piece that demands a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it’s so fun you won’t mind being generous. If you love Victoriana and a dash of adventure, this slight twist on the tales of being held captive by a desert bandit (that’s only part of the tale. Ms. Schechter packs a lot of story into a small space - so to speak) will captivate you.

One Night Only: Erotic EncountersOne Night Only: Erotic Encounters
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447560
January 2012

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I don't have anything against happily ever afters. I write erotic romance myself, and I appreciate the appeal of a love that lasts, growing deeper and burning hotter as time goes on.

At the same time, I must admit a fondness for one night stands, both actual and literary - those intense, unexpected interludes where you suddenly connect with a stranger. In those few minutes or hours of startling intimacy, you become truly naked, your lust fully exposed to the gaze of your partner (or partners). Surprising epiphanies can emerge from what seems like a mere indulgence of animal appetites. Even when such encounters don't spark those sort of insights, the emotional high that comes from pushing boundaries, violating taboos or simply experiencing new peaks of pleasure can last long after the orgasms have faded away.

Violet Blue's anthology One Night Only celebrates the intensity, and the variety, of sex without strings. She has assembled a collection of exceptional stories that range from deliciously raunchy fantasy to  searing realism. 

Alison Tyler's tale "Seeing Stars" kicks off the book.

You've heard the clichés: The bells. The whistles. The flashes of bright light. Our connection was different.

The heroine, a student of astronomy who works nights at a Hollywood movie theater, gives in to impulse and takes off with a strange man who looks a lot like her, to couple on a roof under the stars. I'm used to raw kink in Ms. Tyler's stories. This one felt more tender, less subversive than many, but still provides the emotional honesty and physical heat for which she's renowned.

Does every woman have a man like this in her life? asks the narrator in Donna George Storey's contribution "Hole in My Pocket", a story about temptation and long-suppressed lust. The heroine has flirted with and fantasized about her colleague for years. When he passes through her town for a single night, she seizes the chance to act on her desires, though she knows he's claimed and the moment will never be repeated.

The first thing, if you were me, was that you didn't want to seem needy. Second, you didn't want to be uncool. And third, a cliché: you didn't ever want to be a cliché, but always extraordinary, not commonplace in any way. So I seemed together and in control, interesting and cool, up in my tower above it all and better than anything that happened to me. ... Confession: I was a needy, uncool cliché, and a really lonely girl.

Thus begins Daniel Burnell's astonishing tale "Breathing," in which the narrator finds herself on a couch, in the dark, at the tail end of a party, touching and being touched, breathing but not daring to speak for fear of breaking the spell. Mr. Burnell's delicate prose teases apart the tangled desires and motivations of his young, inexperienced heroine, allowing the reader to feel every brush of a fingertip and hear every sigh.

The three stories above approach the anthology theme from a moderately realistic perspective. At the other end of the continuum are fantasy tales like Kristina Wright's playful and outrageous "Just a Little Trim."

There was a reason I was the top stylist at the salon- the only thing hotter than sex is the temptation of sex. Temptation pays the mortgage, baby. Lulu's a pro when it comes to teasing her customers, but the well-muscled ex-Marine who books her services for a quick cut and shampoo induces her to make an exception to her policy of deprivation.

Then there's "Three Pink Earthquakes," by Thomas S. Roche, an over-the-top account of a woman's dalliance with an Italian tourist couple under the table in a San Francisco gay bar. There's no limit to what Molly's willing to do with, and to, Ilaria and Jeff, once she realizes that they're up for absolutely anything at all. I cringed a bit at Molly's description of the disgustingly sticky floor of the bar, but if you're looking for pure raunch, you'll find it in this tale.

Lily K. Cho offers another fantasy-fest in the "The Spoiled Brat," in which a woman gets picked up by a gay male couple who share their heat as well as their dildo and harness with her, while N.T. Morley provides a graphic account of a woman fulfilling her desires to be gang-raped in "Audience of One."

Perhaps the most erotic tale in the collection, in my view, is Cynthia Hamilton's "Performance Art." Tourists Julie and David meet at a Paris museum of erotic art, and before long find themselves surrendering to the lust on display all around them.

Thinking back later, she would be fairly sure that she was the one to cross the velvet rope, to pull him down on top of her on the mussed sheets, locking him against her with a leg hooked around the back of his thigh. ... But only fairly sure.

Before long, Julie and David have an audience, as other visitors to the gallery wander into the exhibit they've taken over for their coupling. Deliciously, though, this story is not about the kinky excitement of being watched, but quite simply, the thrill of being together in the moment.

"Not for them,' he breathed at her lips between humid, hard kisses. 'For us."   

I've highlighted a few of my favorite stories, but in fact nearly every contribution to this collection deserves praise. May Deva's steamy "Subway Subterfuge" proves that an erotic story does not need to include intercourse in order to arouse. In D.L. King's fabulous "Whore", a neurosurgeon is mistaken for a woman of the night, with wildly pleasurable results. Abby Abbot's original tale "Tournament" explores the interaction between competition and lust, demonstrating that sometimes you can be a winner even when you lose. In "Rock Star Rewards", Rachel Kramer Bussel channels a flame-haired giantess rock legend who consumes the tasty "boys" who adore her with genuine relish. And Heidi Champa's "Chasing Jared" gets my vote for the most creative location for sudden sex - inside the cramped confines of a hamburger vender's cart.

I loved this book while I was reading it - an activity I approached slowly, one or two stories at a sitting, wanting to savor each one. As I re-read some of the stories, seeking quotes for this review, I became even more impressed. One Night Only ranks as one of the best erotic anthologies I've read recently. While this may be partly due to my personal attraction to the theme, I'm certain the diversity and the quality of the writing are also significant factors.

If you like original, honest, seriously hot stories - and you don't require a happily ever after - get yourself a copy of this book.

Only You: Erotic Romance for WomenOnly You: Erotic Romance for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449091
January 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I first bumped into Rachel Kramer Bussel with her story in Frat Boys, and have since run into her stories or edited anthologies enough times to realize that I adore her. She has a fresh take on any theme she approaches, and so when I was given Only You for my January review, I breathed a sigh of prescient contentment. I was sure a great book was ahead.

After reading the introduction, I knew my intuition was going to be spot-on. One of the things I loved about Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Suite Encounters was how the stories selected told stories throughout such a range of people in a variety of places in their lives – coupled, single, older, younger – and I loved that – as a whole – the anthology was one that touched a larger range of themes than I’d ever expected.

Angela Caperton’s “Driven” begins the anthology, and deftly drops a parallel metaphorical start of a new relationship just ready to turn into something hot and ready. If you’ve got the remotest fantasy of enjoying a car ride in a more carnal sense, “Driven” will be right up your alley. I also loved that this story opened up the anthology with a couple that aren’t in their early twenties – this is an anthology for couples, and placing “Driven” first delivers the message that this will not be an endless parade of youth.

Similarly, “Forgotten Bodies” by Giselle Renarde touches upon the changes that come with age, and how we can disconnect from ourselves as we feel time’s pull – but how a reconnection can come with exploration (and maybe a nicely timed spanking).

Startlingly unique was “The Love We Make” by Kristina Wright. It has an edgy roughness to it that might take many readers aback, but I adored this story. The narrator here is fighting with the desire to be slapped by Paul, her boyfriend, and to discover if he wants to slap her. There’s a real deftness to this one, and it tells one of the more rare tales I’ve read.

“Married” by Abigail Grey is a mid-life tale, where jobs and comfortable clothing and Netflix have replaced the silk and lace and hot, sweaty nights. But a forgotten instant messaging system pings back to life, and Jane realizes that those long-ago days of exploration are still there for the conjuring. I loved this story.

Cassanda Carr’s “Saved” is the penultimate story in the anthology, and steers the reader towards the close with a perfect note. This is a relationship where a wife has realized her borders are widening – thanks to a generous helping of BDSM erotic romance novels – and now she is making the riskiest move – asking her husband to make some of these fantasies come true.

And finally Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us home with “For the Very First Time.” A clever story about the first time a couple are going to have sex, this story – of a woman in her forties and a young musician – has deft layers. Moving through the various steps that lead toward various “firsts” between the two is a kind of sexy joy, and has that fluidity of role and gender that I’ve grown to love from Kramer Bussel’s tales.

All in all, you will not find Only You remotely stale – the sex scalds, but the stories aren’t just sexy, they’re fully formed, richly descriptive relationship stories as well. I haven’t mentioned every story, but none were “duds.” The arrangement is purposeful and the progression from tale to tale was just shy of perfection. I was already a lover of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s tales and anthologies, as I mentioned before – but I fear I need to upgrade that to adoration. Hopefully she won’t mind.

Open For Business: Tales of Office SexOpen For Business: Tales of Office Sex
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443115
June 2008

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I've been looking forward to reading Open for Business for months, ever since the book arrived and took its place at the bottom of my stack of commitments. As I watched it move closer to the top of the pile, I admired its sassy cover - a conservatively dressed couple stretched out under a desk, obviously very busy. The book title is cleverly displayed in an uneven Courier font that looks just like the output of the old typewriter I used in college.

When I finally opened the book and read a few stories, however, I'll admit that I was a bit disappointed. The stories were sexy, fun, generally well-written, but they were so short! Each one was a hot little vignette, but there didn't seem to be anything other than sexual hanky panky to keep me interested. Characters were sketched lightly, with a very broad brush. Conflict was more or less non-existent.

Perhaps I'm too demanding, but even in a brief story, I want some meat, and I don't mean instances of the male organ. I’m looking for an original premise. I crave characters who are distinctive, with personal voices that make them seem real. I want some physical or emotional barrier that stands in the way of the consummation of their lust, or perhaps a plot twist that violates my expectations without being ridiculous.

Fortunately, as I read further, the stories began to come closer to meeting my admittedly severe specifications. "Headhunter," by C.B. Potts, was the first tale where I turned down a page, my method for reminding myself to mention a story in my reviews. A female exec from one investment firm takes a savvy lady from a competing company out for drinks. Of course they end up in bed, but on the way there's some wonderful repartee. These characters have substance, even though the story is short. And they are adversaries, at least at first, making the mutual seduction much more intriguing.

"You're making half as much money as you could be. We're familiar with Langston, and even with a generous year-end bonus, you're not going to earn fifty percent of what we're willing to pay you."

Cradling my glass between wide-splayed fingers, I said, "You're talking about half a million dollars."?
Meredith laughed. "Nice try. We're talking about three hundred thou--plus more chances for advancement than you'll ever get at Langston."

"Because I'm Chinese?" Sullyman's Pacific Rim division had been doing well lately. Very well.

"Because you're talented as hell. We watched the O'Hare purchase. It took balls to route that through Kenya. Not many traders would have sent that much money into Africa."

I smiled. "I have a soft spot for emerging market equity."

My next pick was Maxim Jakubowski's "In the Empire of Lust." There's no sex in this story, just the lustful imaginings of a manager with a corner office, about the various women who work for him. Well, actually, there is the narrator's lonely masturbation, but what brings the tale to life is the vivid, emotionally nuanced portraits Mr. Jakubowski paints of each of his subordinates.

I was quite enchanted by Rachel Kramer Bussel's "Secretary's Day." I normally enjoy her work, but this was the first story of hers that I'd read that was told from a male point of view. She managed to be quite convincing. "Secretary's Day" is a spicy exploration of female dominance, related by a young man who adores being used by a smart, powerful woman. There's even a lick of romance in the mix
Then there's the peculiar but engaging "One Cubicle Over," by Jeremy Edwards, about two people with nothing in common who nevertheless are sexually obsessed with one another. This tale of the triumph of pheromones over rationality is cleverly told, and despite its tongue in cheek tone left me with a big smile.

Savannah Stephens Smith offers "Lonely at the Top," the confessions of a female executive who fucked her way up the corporate ladder and enjoyed every minute of it. The narrator's no-nonsense voice and gutsy pro-sex attitude did not prepare me for the bittersweet ending, but then, I enjoy surprises.

Possibly my favorite story in the volume is "On the 37th Floor," by Tulsa Brown. Ms. Brown's characters are so sharply drawn, they cut you to the bone, and this story is no exception. She also has a sense of how where you come from influences who you are, a knowledge that plays a significant role in the plot of this sensual, celebratory F/F tale.

There are twenty two stories in this volume. Half a dozen of them really grabbed me. The remainder? They're not bad stories, not at all. The collection includes many acclaimed erotica authors. Lisette Ashton, Donna George Storey, Mike Kimera and Alison Tyler are all among my favorites. Alas, none of their stories in this anthology made me sit up in bed and go "Wow!" I enjoyed them, but I'm not all that likely to remember them.

Maybe I'm just reading too much erotica. Perhaps I've become jaded and overly critical. Or perhaps there are just too many anthologies coming out these days, and not enough stellar stories to fill them. I did notice, with some concern, that about a third of the stories in Open for Business were previously published in other anthologies -- including some by the same editor. At least one story I immediately recognized, and couldn't bring myself to reread.

Maybe we need some fresh blood. Or maybe we need to move away from the notion that the primary goal of erotica is to titillate or arouse the reader as opposed to telling a story or exploring some of the less obvious aspects of sexuality.

Or perhaps I should just get off my soapbox and finish this review, before I really offend my illustrious colleagues. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Orgasmic: Erotica for WomenOrgasmic: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444022
August 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the celebrated editor of countless anthologies.  Fast Girls, Passion, Please Sir, Please Ma’am.  The list of titles is incredibly long and the most recent to be added is Orgasmic.

As with all of Ms Bussel’s anthologies, Orgasmic is a polished collection containing first-rate examples of erotic fiction from a broad sampling of talented writers, all writing to the requirements of a specific theme.

This time the theme is orgasm.  As Ms Bussel notes in her introduction:

I did my best to capture an array of big (and little) Os, moments where the world feels like it’s exploding in your body, orgasms that rock more than just your world.  These stories capture the ferocity, intensity and power of women’s orgasms, however they’re achieved.  I couldn’t include every way women come in this book, or it would be much longer than it is now, but I wanted to include a varied look at what gets women off, which means it’s not always a man or another woman, or even a machine that does the trick.

I don’t think it will spoil the surprise if I say that Ms Bussel has accomplished this objective.  As with any themed anthology, the lure is always about the diverse range of stories.  I will be eternally entertained by the idea that a disparate group of authors can all be given the same remit for a story and each produce something so different.

To illustrate this point, consider two stories from the collection:  “The Big O” by Donna George Storey and “Belted” by the anthology’s editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Donna George Storey is the supremely competent author of the novel length erotic masterpiece, Amorous Woman, as well as a wealth of short erotic fiction.

“The Big O” is a first person narrative following the mindset of a protagonist influenced by a self-help article: The Sexercise Prescription: A Stronger Secret You in Six Weeks.  The narrator discovers the article at the beginning of a period when she is in the serendipitous state of being parted from her partner but desirous to have a pleasant surprise waiting for him when they are reunited in six weeks.  What better surprise could there be than sharing a secret on his return?

“Belted,” Ms Bussel’s second person narrative, similarly deals with orgasmic secrets.  The central character here gleans satisfaction from the specific sensation of a leather belt striking bare flesh.

And, perhaps, the contrast between these stories reflects the diversity and range within this collection.  The use of different narrative styles aside, Storey’s protagonist is spurred by an external source to achieve an internalised goal.  Bussel’s protagonist harbours an internal goal achieved through external stimuli.  There is an element of pragmatic spirituality in Storey’s fiction that is the anthithesis of Bussel’s vulnerable cynicism.  This is not to say either piece of fiction is better than the other; neither is superior nor inferior.  The difference is only mentioned to illustrate that writing about orgasms, just like the experience of them, differs for every individual.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed in this collection.  The anthology includes fiction from some of my favourite writers including Justine Elyot, Neve Black, Angela Caperton, Teresa Noelle Roberts and Elizabeth Coldwell.  If you’re wanting to treat yourself to an entertaining read for the start of the New Year, you won’t be surprised to discover this collection is Orgasmic.

Oysters & Chocolate: Erotic Stories of Every FlavorOysters & Chocolate: Erotic Stories of Every Flavor
Edited By: Jordan La Rousse
Contributions By: Samantha Sade
NAL Trade
ISBN: 0451226828
May 2009

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Reading Oysters and Chocolate edited by Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade makes me think of Paris.  The French have a peculiarly vivid understanding of how, why and when you should put things in your mouth.  These stories are bonbons, those being the plump round candies that are filled with assorted lush, sweet, mysterious flavors.  They are designed to surprise and intoxicate one a little. 

The bonbon – like each of these stories -- is made with French chocolate, which, unlike any other country’s chocolate, has a deeply complex, unique flavor invoking a wide range of tastes and senses.  It is not simply sweet, but arrogant in its defiance of the usual Nestle’s.  It is unapologetically a little bitter and can even bring a sensual sort of remorse for too much pleasure, while remaining inescapably delectable. Such is the nature of this book.  If you are not an epicure of sex, you might feel a little guilty for reading it.  If your erotic palate is cultivated, why then chow down, I say, with vigor.

Each story stands like a solitary oyster; it’s promise is discovered by the unraveling of its deep, moist, slippery folds.  They may have a familiar literary structure, but the saucy treatment is always unique.  The oyster at its best has the tangy bite of the sea and glides carelessly – if not recklessly – over the tongue on its way down the throat. Anyone cultivated in the eating of oysters will tell you that this unpredictable, slightly wild, eagerness adds greatly to the allure of consuming them.  These stories often finish with a fillip of unexpected spice.

The book is organized in a series of alternating narrative themes so that each presents itself to the reader as an unpredictable, but tasty erotic amuse-gueule of its own particular sort – gay, SM, lesbian even straight, what have you.  They all contain a highly charged level of genuinely artful sexiness which is made all the more appetizing by the presence of some small, subtle but powerful degree of irony.  The editors have made reading this book a delicious act of play very much like the experience of slow and patient dining with a lover.  Each heated thrust, spank, kiss and slurp is moistened by dewy grace notes of authentic wit.  Thus we may say of Oysters and Chocolate that we have here an offering for the erotic pallet that is truly for once, original.

One might venture to guess that part of that is the fact that the table of contents is populated by so many new voices in our sub-genre. Better still, we have what appears to be a new imprint on the scene in “Heat” from Penquin Books.  Those little well-dressed birds know what they are doing.

Peep Show: Tales of Voyeurs and ExhibitionistsPeep Show: Tales of Voyeurs and Exhibitionists
Edited By: Rachel Kramer-Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443700
November 2009

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Writing fetish stories is an art and a challenge. For this writer/reviewer, sex is a symphony of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and especially tactile sensations. Fetish stories isolate one aspect of the whole gestalt and describe it as a complete, satisfying experience which might not include genital contact -- or at least fucking (to put it crudely) is not the primary goal.

Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited (and co-edited) a whole spectrum of fetish anthologies, including collections about lingerie, rubber, feet/shoes, crossdressing, spanking, and previous collections about watching and being watched. The number of possible approaches to any particular fetish, as expressed in these anthologies, seems to be unlimited.

This anthology includes eighteen stories by an interesting mix of veteran erotic writers and newcomers to the field. Although none of the scenarios literally involves show biz, putting on a show (a planned display, intended to be watched by an audience) is one of the themes of these stories. The various show-offs and watchers, some of whom take great risks to get their kicks, shed light on the erotic basis of the performing arts.

Several of these stories are set in cultures that feature particular forms of sexual display. "Rosse Buurt" by Geneva King is set in the famous "red-light" district of Amsterdam, where sex workers lure passers-by from display windows. In this story, a female tourist is especially attracted to a particular woman in the window, but she has qualms:

My panties dampen, just a little.

I promptly feel ashamed. While I've had my share of one-time encounters, the thought of buying sex bothers me. To be honest, I probably did pay for it each time: a drink to loosen up the cute girl in the bar, dinner at a nice restaurant; all money out of my pocket and there wasn't even a guaranteed payoff at the end of the evening.. .

She [the woman in the window] widens her stance, so I get a good look at her body. You like? she seems to ask.

I like. I like it a lot.

On the last day of her trip, the narrator gives in to temptation.

"Clean and Pretty" by Donna George Storey (known for her stories of Americans in Japan) follows a white American woman who has been introduced by a charismatic Japanese businessman to a particularly "clean" form of prostitution: she masturbates in a shower for paying viewers who cannot touch her. "Clean and pretty" is described as a rough approximation of an almost untranslatable Japanese word, kirei

"Calendar Girl" by Angela Caperton is set in the late 1950s, a time when men could channel their interest in female bodies into amateur photography, and young women who loved being watched could model for them in "camera clubs." Desi, the heroine of this story, is inspired by the sight of a particular image in a "girlie" calendar in the garage where she works in the office:

All through that spring, sometimes when she was alone in her room at home, Desi stripped her clothes off and imagined posing. . .

Sizing herself up in the mirror, Desi thought she compared favorably to April [the image on the calendar]. Her breasts were bigger, with little dark nipples instead of pink points, and her waist was tight and curved, sexily, she thought, above the swell of her hips. From the back, her bottom was high and firm, rounded and symmetrical as a perfect olive, golden where the sun had never touched her. But what held her eye and tempted her fingers was the patch of silky fur that covered her treasure--Mom's name for her pussy.

A real girl, Desi thought, and slipped her fingers through the satiny moss, but a goddess too, sacred to men, naked and made to be worshipped.

This scene reminds me of the powerful moment in The Picture of Dorian Gray (thinly-disguised gay novel of the 1890s) when the formerly unself-conscious young man, Dorian, sees his own beauty in the portrait painted by his admirer, a male artist who magically transfers Dorian's soul to the canvas.

Most of the stories in this book feature male-female couples, but the eroticism of watching and showing off is complicated: the watcher can either desire or identify with the one(s) being watched, and the performers are usually not particular about who sees them. "Glass" by Nobilis Reed features a convoluted set of relationships among at least four people: Mira (a security guard who likes watching impromptu activity in a parking lot through the monitor), Lucy, Chris (a man), and an unnamed man who is Chris's fellow-voyeur in the bushes while two women (Mira and Lucy?) put on a show in a bedroom window. Each of the characters seems to have a fluid sexuality, which is not only triggered by watching, but by watching others watching them.
This story suggests a painting of a team of artists painting their own portraits. 

Several of the stories deal with the spread of modern surveillance systems. In “Audience Participation” by Elizabeth Coldwell, a female narrator named Kat explains her boss’s plan to bring a British company into the 21st century by setting up a webcam. Chris, the hot male techie whose job is to make this happen, invites Kat to join him in his own digs to watch the office after-hours. As Kat and Chris enjoy their mutual seduction, they are delighted to see something unexpected on the screen: their stiff-necked boss with his pants down.

Workplace seduction is also featured in “Superior” by Monica Shores, but in this case, the theme of watching and being watched seems less crucial to the plot, in which a classic lady boss torments and seduces her besotted male underling.  This is one of several traditional seduction stories in this collection. While not completely stale, these stories could as well have appeared in half a dozen other erotic anthologies.

Two of these stories, both well-written and memorable, seem especially off-theme. “Ownership” by Craig J. Sorenson is a grimly funny, realistic tale about a young man in the military who is itching to get laid, and is instead forced into the role of an observer who can watch but not touch anyone but himself. This story is as much about gender roles and miscommunication as it is about watching and performing. “Missing Michael” by M. March is a heartbreaking gay love story involving three good men who each get to tell the same timeless story from a different viewpoint. This story could be classified as m/m paranormal romance, and it is haunting on several levels. While it does involve watching and being watched, it is very different in tone from the surrounding stories.

In “The Theory of Orchids” by L.A. Mistral, a horticulturalist with the discreet charm of a male geek (like that of an authoritative voice-over) offers an attractive woman a presumably scientific explanation of the relationship between watcher and watched: live beings, including orchids, change in undefined but definite ways in response to being observed. Of course, the man and the woman, a budding exhibitionist, test this theory together and find it valid. They have each gone to Florida to get away from their ordinary routines, and they are literally showered with orchids when they attract attention from other tourists.

Each of these stories deserves to be read (or seen), but limited time and space prevent me from doing them all justice. The diversity of this collection is part of its strength. While few readers are likely to love all these stories equally, few fans of erotica would find all of them to be a waste of paper. For those who would like to understand the fascination of the theme – and perhaps, like a sensitive orchid, be coaxed into full bloom – this book would make a good instruction manual.

Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going DownPenthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down
Edited By: Barbara Pizio
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780939
October 2014

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the introduction to Penthouse Variations on Oral, editor Barbara Pizio says: “Penthouse Variations on Oral offers stories that are both entertaining and inspiring, giving you a taste of what can be if you release your inhibitions and indulge your appetite for passion.”

Whilst the claim might seem grand, it’s true. Consider this opening from Alison Tyler’s story, “Lickety-Split.” The story’s hero, Zach, has just said he would hurry back, “Lickety-Split.”

Once he’d set the last lid in place, Zach hefted the box to carry it to Jamie’s ad agency. I held the door open for him, and right as his well-muscled body was lined up with my own, I said, “When you get back, I have another type of split I’d like you to lick.”

I thought he was going to drop the coffee. I could actually see the Rorschach-like splatter on the tiled floor in my mind—regular two sugars blending with decaf with soymilk—but he caught himself and said, “Back in two minutes. Hold that thought.”

I held it. I held it as tightly as I possibly could, with my thighs squeezed together and my pussy positively clenched. Standing nearly frozen behind the counter, I willed myself to still my racing heart. As I exhaled, I looked at myself in the mirror over the fancy bronze coffeemaker.

I had my blonde hair up in a French twist, every hair in place. The pink in my cheeks hadn’t come from a cosmetic palette, but from my sexual excitement. Every sensual fantasy I’d ever had about Zach seemed to percolate in my head into one steamy concoction.

It’s an intense scene, described with Tyler’s usual flair and enriched with her focus on the excitement of sexual anticipation. As with all Tyler’s work, the story does not disappoint.

Equally, Justin Lewis with his short ‘Fine Dining’, gives the reader a pleasurable episode of cunnilingus followed by an intense explosion of fellatio.

Pushing her shirt up over her tits, I tongued her nipples through her bra, but then I pushed that up to suck the rosy flesh directly. While I did that, Sonia reached between us and massaged my cock through my pants. It was clearly time to start making my way southward, so I kissed my way down her stomach until I reached the waistband of her jeans. When I looked up, she nodded enthusiastically, so I popped the button, pulled down the zipper and, after she’d raised her ass, pulled the jeans off, along with her drenched-through panties.

The scent of her lust was potent, and I breathed in deeply as I lowered my head to her moist center. She spread her legs wider as I got closer to her crotch and the petals of her pussy peeled back, revealing the ripe berry in the center. I was tempted to zero in on it, but I knew that would instantly trigger her orgasm instead of letting her build up to a bigger, and more pleasurable, climax. Instead, I sucked gently at her labia and ran my tongue teasingly over her slippery folds. I put my hands on Sonia’s hips as she started writhing, and I lapped at her tender flesh, swallowing down my fill of her sweet-tasting juices.

There are many things that put this book above so many of the erotic anthologies currently flooding the market. The stories are exciting and well-rendered. The narratives are polished and presented with a clear focus. And, most important of all, each of these stories has been professionally edited.

Call me a whiny old grammar-Nazi if you want, you wouldn’t be the first. But one of the genuine pleasures I got from reading this title was the thrill of not having to wade through a crapload of spelling errors or try to make sense of a series of grammatical fubars. Too many self-published titles are missing this level of polish. Some of the allegedly professional published titles I’ve been asked to review have been lacking the smooth veneer of edited material. The completeness of polished, professional writing comes across beautifully in this anthology.

My one quibble with this title is the unnecessary subtitle: erotic stories of going down. To my mind it’s enough that the title includes the words Penthouse and oral. I don’t think it takes Sherlock Holmes to work out what will occur in the content. However, that’s a minor quibble and probably related to my aforementioned grammar-Nazi tendencies and a lifelong mistrust of tautology.

If I understand the literature I’ve been reading correctly, Penthouse Variations on Oral is the first in a series of planned anthologies. If the others are only half as good as this opening salvo of short erotica then the books will be well worth the investment. As Pizio says: “Penthouse Variations on Oral serves up more than twenty tasty tales of oral delights. These sexy stories run the gamut from the unrestrained passion of brand-new lovers to the uninhibited exuberance of devoted couples. These people understand that oral sex isn’t something to be rushed through or performed out of some sort of duty.”

Consequently, if you enjoy well-written oral sex, you should buy this one.

Playing With Fire: Taboo EroticaPlaying With Fire: Taboo Erotica
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443484
April 2009

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Sexual heat can run from a small, warm flame of comfortable arousal to a raging form of pyromania.  The point is not so much that one is crazy for love or even for the sex that may go with it.  It’s the heat itself that drives you nuts, the mad lust for warmth that centers your mind and body on immolation by sensual sensation.

Playing with Fire anthologized by Allison Tyler offers a brisk array of relatively short, hot stories on that theme.  They are not so much about the lust for fire itself, as they are narratives about the heat lust creates.  That theme is frequently interposed with the temptations of sinful sex, which includes the perverse, the self-denigrating, the adulterous, and the masochistic.  As every good Christian knows, fire is a moral purgative, or so they believe.  It cleanses the soul while excoriating the body by punishing wayward flesh.

Ergo, we get this sort of statement fairly often from characters who wish to expunge one act of sensual misbehavior through another.  Here is an example from “Trial by Fire” by Bella Dean:

I wait for Sean to order me and I do what he asks.  His tongue is foreign. Broader than my husband’s.  Wet and sweet and forbidden.  I am entering the territory of whore, leaving saint behind.  I broaden my stance and let him suck my clit until I grab his shoulders to keep from falling.  I come in a rush of shame and redemption.

Her husband it seems, who is now looking on, is both elated and exhausted judging from his audible exhalations.  It is hot stuff to be sure, but what it really has to do with purgations, whores and saints is decidedly unclear.  As in many of these stories, the characters are really playing fire games with each other because it gets them off.  They like the illusion of punishment along with the bounce of coming extra hard.

These stories work that notion very well, and I can’t see anyone but an authentic sourpuss niggling over the moral dichotomy between what the characters are telling themselves and what they are actually doing.  It would be like telling a geek in a funny suit at a Trekkie convention that he is not really going to, “boldly go where no man has gone before.”  He knows that.  He is getting off on the hype.

Some of these stories artfully allow the characters themselves to become wisps of erotic fire as in “White Heat, White Light” by Shanna Germain.  Her character describes herself thus:

I travel with the speed of light on winged sandals until I am there. In from of him, fierce and free in my summer dress.  In the wind, my hair whips around my head.  It makes untamable snakes with pretty patterns.

She is an ephemeral thing of passion that will quickly disappear as the fire in her abates. 

In matters of style this book ranges from the lustful to the lurid.  I am at a loss to know how you can be “fierce” in your summer dress, but “fierce” is a word that seems to have been co-opted of late by PC cant.  Kristina Wright in “Where There’s Smoke,” on the other hand, makes wonderful ironic use of erotic confession, where the outcome is a tasty reversal of the tiresome reconciliation we had at first anticipated.  The give away is that this possessive but less than thrilling male comes home early from the golf course.  How can men pursue this dreary polyester amusement when this amazing female furnace of delights is spread wide for him at home on the Barcalounger?  Short forms are used well here, the best of which is “Texas Hot” by A.D.R. Forte whose hot and humid effort is really one paragraph.

The balance of the stories are clit-stroking, cum-choking, hot and smoking fucking with an inordinate amount of cock sucking. One does wonder with all the complaining one hears these days about the politics of sucking cock and particularly swallowing cum, that it is so prominent and detailed a feature of these stories.  Nonetheless, all that suction does make for lively reading even if the outcome is always the same. That’s all perfectly fine, making Playing with Fire both steamy and fiery, as promised.

Please Sir: Erotic Stories of Female SubmissionPlease Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443891
May 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

“Breathe,” Dominic whispered again as he dropped his body onto mine, plunging into me and grasping my shoulders as his breath rushed against my ear. He thrust into me with rhythmic strength as I lay like a doll, sprawled powerlessly across the hard foam beneath me. Dominic pumped hard, holding my hips solidly. His breathing changed as he thrust just a bit harder and came inside me, my body like a deflated balloon, a beautiful, motionless receptacle for his come.

“Power Over Power” by Emerald

Please, Sir, Erotic Stories of Female Submission, is the latest anthology to be published beneath the skilful editorial hand of Rachel Kramer-Bussel.  Regular readers of erotica will be familiar with Rachel Kramer-Bussel’s substantial contribution to the canon of erotic fiction.  And those with good taste and sufficient savvy will probably already possess their own well-thumbed copy of this title by the time this review goes to print. 
If I had to pick a favourite subgenre of erotic fiction, female submission would undoubtedly be near the top.  There are other niches where my proclivities can sometimes stray.  But the concept of masculine domination and female submission works on an aesthetic level complemented by well-written prose.  The example from Emerald (above) illustrates this beautifully.  The piece below equally exemplifies the high standards of writing in this anthology.

Oh, fuck. I can no longer breathe, much less make a noise of want. This is what he does to me, every day: whips me into a frenzy of words that makes me miss him more than I have the power to say, that makes me so wet that if he were here, I’d fuck him right now, bent over this table, with all these people watching, groaning his name with every thrust. I’d be begging him to fuck me, beat me, make me come with the kind of orgasm that makes everything else disappear.

“Anticipation” by Shanna Germain

One of the key misunderstandings with female submission, as a genre of erotic fiction, is that it does not revolve around misogyny.  Admittedly, there may be elements of denigration, humiliation and subversion, all characterised by patriarchal authority: but these are invariably contextualised by the protagonist’s desire to suffer those abuses.   It is never power wielded for the sake of wielding power: it is only ever the imposition of consensual authority over a willing subordinate.

“I think that the first time I beat you, I should use a riding crop. Each stroke will hurt more than the last. The pain of a crop is sharp, searing, biting deep. Eating into you, body and soul. I’ll beat you into a lather, my little pony. Your ass will look like it has been barbecued. You won’t be able to sit down for days.”

I could see it all. I wanted it all, wanted it now. The delicate trace of his fingers on my flesh burned like the trails of fire he promised me. His silken voice made me weak with desire. My clit was a red-hot coal threatening to burst into flame.

“Touch yourself, girl. Show me how much you want to be my slave.”

“Stroke” by Lisabet Sarai

Lisabet Sarai is a supremely competent wordsmith.  Here she uses her abilities to bring dialogue to life combined with her razor-sharp knack for charging a scene with powerful eroticism.  The heroine in this story has a subordinate streak – complemented by the antagonist’s penchant for domination.  The whole union is perfectly realised beneath Ms Sarai’s exquisite penmanship.

There are a host of superb authors populating the pages of Please, Sir.  Not for the first time Rachel Kramer Bussel has proved her laudable ability to gather an international collection of the finest erotica authors and have them deliver stories that are destined to excite and entertain.  An essential addition to anyone’s bedside library.

Please, Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male SubmissionPlease, Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443883
June 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

In 1870, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch released his novel, Venus In Furs, in which the narrator admits his desire to submit to a woman. It’s a story within a story. The interior story is “Memoirs of a Supersensual Man” by Severin Von Kusiemski, which doesn’t end well. Severin finally decides that until women are educated and given equal rights, it’s best if women remain subservient to men. Now, theoretically, women have obtained equality. I wonder what his conclusion would be in the modern age, because equality isn’t what submissive men are looking for. Far from it, as the stories in Please Ma’am show.

In “I Live To Serve” by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Milady asks Leo to play butler for an evening. He envisions fun serving her and her other dominatrix friends, only to find out he’s to play the part for a formal business dinner. She keeps it interesting for him though, ad he is well rewarded for his services.

Charlotte Stein’s “It’s Not Me, It’s You” has an usual twist. The man has no idea who sends him cards at work with instructions. As he follows his secret mistress’s instructions, the demands escalate. At the end, he’s just about to meet her. Delicious workplace naughtiness.  

Andrew can’t stand that his sister’s friend Irina is immune to his charms, so he sets out to seduce her in Isabelle Gray’s “A Charmed Life.” She finally agrees to meet him, but he quickly finds out that everything will be on her terms, not his.

For those of you who enjoy high fantasy BDSM, “A Maze, and Grace” by Elizabeth Coldwell will strike the right note. A sub is left blindfolded and bound in the center of a hedge maze as a party prize. The first woman to find him gets to use him as she pleases. The Mistress of the estate, Lady Grace, isn’t above cheating a bit.
Remittance Girl’s “Inside the Pride” has a different take on domination. Professor Gordon is at the center of a group of male post-graduate students, but she encourages cooperative intellectual growth rather than competition. It is a thoroughly feminine story, even though the narrator is male.

When you read a lot of erotica, some names start looking familiar. Craig Sorensen is one of those writers I’ve seen more often lately and hope to see more of in the future. In his “Modern Major General,” Mason is unhappy that he has to report to a perky, much younger woman when they’re thrown together on a new project. He tries to assert himself, but finds out that she’s not having any of it.

In “Mr. February” by Madeline Elayne, Mark has finally admitted to his wife that he wants her to dominate him. It’s their twentieth wedding anniversary, the kids are gone away to university, he’s a buff, tough firefighter, but he’s scared to death to go home to her because he’s sure she’ll throw him out of the house. When he finally decides to face her, he finds out there’s a penalty for keeping his Mistress waiting.

There are a number of workplace dominatrix tales in this anthology. Considering the amount of time we spend at work, and the power dynamics inherent in corporate structure, it’s a powerful combination for fantasy. In A.D.R. Forte’s “Frozen,” a man wants the attention of the woman down the hall, but doesn’t know how to approach her. As they work late on a Friday night, she invites him into her office. She’s a beginner at domination, but he’s willing to guide her through the steps.

Sommer Marsden taps into two kinks in “Thrift Store Whore” – public sex, and forced feminization. For those of you not in the know, forced feminization is when a man is ordered to dress in women’s panties and a frilly dress. Coupled with public sex, this is a taut tale of humiliation. He loves every second of it. If this is your kink, you will too.

Speaking of familiar names, it’s good to see Dominc Santi’s name again after a long break from erotic writing. “Porch Swing” also features public sex. A couple on their front porch put on a show for appreciative neighbors and a horny pizza delivery girl.

There are a million kinks out there, but I’m always discovering new ones. In “Paypig” by Michael Hemmingson, a man finds a woman online who is willing to take his money. He’s not rich, but he can afford a little. She meets him in a public place, walks up to him, and demands money. All he seems to get out of it is a thrilling moment of humiliation, until she ups the stakes.

“The Crack of the Bat” by Heidi Champa is a good, old fashioned spanking story. Brian is an athlete with lucrative endorsement deals, but his public behavior is about to ruin that. His agent sends him to a client to charm his way out of trouble, but Ms Thomas feels punishment is in order.

“Dressing for Dinner” by Giselle Renarde dones’t feature forced feminization, since he loves cross-dressing. This couple has a Wednesday night ritual of dinner delivered in. He dresses for the occasion. After diner, she uses her strap-on to fuck him. This story is going to push all the right buttons for some readers.

“Living Rough” by Ariel Graham shows the downside of admitting the need to be dominated to a wife. Mitch’s wife divorces him. After losing his job too, he heads out on the open road. In Salt Lake City, he meets a woman who recognizes his need and takes him in on a trial basis.

Kinks abound in this anthology. It shows how multifaceted the desire to submit to a woman can be. In DL King’s “Pick a Color,” a man with a foot fetish gets a job in one of New York’s ubiquitous nail salons. The owner is suspicious of him, but his attention to detail earns rare praise, and an offer to provide a private pedicure, from the salon’s most demanding customer.  

It’s a bold boy who suggests that his Mistress is flawed, but after seeing the messy room surrounding his goddess during a webcast, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Houseboy” simply has to clean the place. After carefully planning how to approach his goddess, he gets a chance to tidy her place. It’s not just her approval he has to win, though.

Lee Ash’s “The Unhappy Table” was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. A submissive serves as his Mistress’s table while she and another dominatrix fool around on the couch. He’s turned on, but since he’s a table, he can’t move or take care of his hard-on. A truly funny story for the voyeur in you.

In Graydancer’s “I’ll Do It. For Her.,” a well-known Master submits to his wife. Deeply moving and personal, this is simply a wonderfully written tale of a couple in love.

Normally, I only pick three or four stories in an anthology to highlight. However, as you can see from the wide variety of stories here, male submission encompasses many specific desires and I didn’t want to omit the one that would speak to a potential reader. Something here is bound to excite or interest fans of male submission. Kudos to Rachel for putting together an anthology with such a broad mix. While these stories are all told from the man’s point of view, women who want to dominate a lover can gain insight to the many possibilities available to a fledgling goddess.

Pleasure Bound: True Bondage StoriesPleasure Bound: True Bondage Stories
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443549
July 2009

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

We're all guilty. All of us authors, I mean. We take a personal experience, an actual erotic encounter, and turn it into a story. We burnish it. We perfect it. Then we offer it to the world, usually pretending it is fiction when in fact it's the truth, retouched with fantasy.

Pleasure Bound purports to be a book of true confessions. I am not willing to go out on a limb and guess which stories are “real” and which are not. It's a continuum anyway. Every erotic story contains at least a germ of personal truth. Some of the stories feel more genuine than others, but that could reflect the author's craft as much as the reality of the experience.

So I'll treat all of the contributions in Ms. Tyler's volume as fiction and review them as such. As my husband often claims, “There's no such thing as reality.”  Especially when you are talking about erotica.

Possibly my favorite tale in the collection is Alison Tyler's own “Stickler for Details”. The author/narrator contacts a Dom for research purposes. He chides her for using capital “I” in her emails to refer to herself, and she's justifiably annoyed. When she finally meets him, however, his presence overwhelms her:

He was there, waiting, his silver hair brushed back from his forehead, his suit jacket open over a stark white shirt—no tie, no frills, crisp and smart as Courier font.  From his gaze, I realized that I no longer had to worry about my Is or my eyes, because the sense of submissiveness fell over me like a cloak.  I didn’t have to think about how to behave…I wanted to be his with a capital H… When I pulled up a chair at the table, when I said my greetings, when I brought out my notebook—every gesture about me whispered of my desires.  Every story I’d ever written had led me to this point.

Okay, I'll admit that I'm ready to believe this tale. It was too heartfelt not to be true.

Another standout is Teresa Noelle Robert's “Big Hands.”  It's one of the few stories in which the female is dominant—at least for a while. Jim is tall, dark, handsome and built so solidly that he was one loincloth and some archaic weaponry away from being a fantasy barbarian warrior, just the sort of guy to give a girl a spanking she'll never forget. But Jim has other ideas, and they turn out to be as arousing as the narrator's original notions.

Having maintained my own long distance BDSM relationship for more than two decades, I identified strongly with “The Visit” by A.D.R. Forte.

“How would you like to be fucked here?”

I was exhausted and filthy from traveling for more than a day. My back ached and my eyes hurt, and I hadn't eaten except for the lone hot dog in Chicago and countless bottles of caffeinated soda.

I looked at him and my breath caught in my throat.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes what?” he asked as he came to stand before me, and I took a deep breath. It scared me that it came so easily, that we'd picked up our old ways so seamlessly.

“Yes, Sir.”  And I was trembling as I said it. “Please.”

The emotion is genuine. Never mind the facts.

Other standouts include Shanna Germain's “Deal”. Ms. Germain paints a gritty portrait of  a last semester in high school, two couples playing cards, the narrator fucked and near strangled by the other girl's boyfriend and loving it all. “Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones Will See You Now,” by Malcolm Harris, gives us a blow by blow (literally) account of a man's visit to a dominatrix--a visit funded by his wife. The story succeeds in convincing the reader that BDSM is the road to physical as well as mental health, at least for some of us. Annette Miller's “Do I Look Like I'm Joking” is a humorous and arousing tale of a husband pushing his wife's limits. “Bound to Act,” by Brooke Stern, incorporates more extreme submission and suggests that in order to be an effective actor, you literally need to let go.  Thomas Roche's “Ghosts of the Wildflower” is smart and sharp and slightly wistful in its portrayal of a compulsive liar who happens to adore bondage.

One of the things that I appreciate about Alison Tyler's anthologies is her willingness to explore the darker side of BDSM. Some stories in this volume—Sophie Valenti’s “On the Mend,” Tess Danesi's “Tears of All Kinds,” Stephen Elliott's “Once More Beneath the Exit Sign”—dwell more on the sadism component in the acronym. I don't necessarily prefer stories of really rough sex myself, but I know that they're part of the power spectrum and I applaud Ms. Tyler's discernment in including them in her books.

I am not talking about a lack of consent here. Mercy isn't in Marc's vocabulary—and for that I'm thankful begins Ms. Valenti's story. That sums it up. Some people crave a level of pain beyond what I'd seek. For some, real fear is truly arousing. Ms. Tyler recognizes this, unlike some editors who shy away from the darkness and treat BDSM as a kind of game. 

Pleasure Bound is another exceptional collection of BDSM fiction--or is it fact?—from a daring and sensitive editor who clearly understands her topic from personal experience.

Power Plays: A Sex and Politics AnthologyPower Plays: A Sex and Politics Anthology
Edited By: Jamaica Layne
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: 978-1607771142
May 2009

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

“Power tends to corrupt”, wrote Lord Acton in 1887. When I opened the erotic anthology Power Plays, I was looking forward to a set of decadent and decidedly corrupt stories about the way that people in politics wield their power in the sexual realm. I rubbed my virtual hands together at the prospect of feverish trysts fueled by the charisma of a popular leader. I expected that some of the authors would bring together the notions of political power and the “power exchange” that is at the heart of BDSM. Perhaps I would see political potentates gladly surrendering to the erotic power of a master or mistress. Maybe some author would explore the implications of a seasoned Dom being elected as president or prime minister. 

For the most part, I was severely disappointed. As a group the stories in Power Plays do not exploit the potential of the anthology theme. They are mostly rather ordinary sexual romps in which the political affiliations of the characters have little impact on the conflict, the plot or the interactions. Several of the stories, notably “The Sanctuary” by Olivia London and “Changing Moon” by Angela Cameron, stretch the definition of “politics” well beyond what seems reasonable. Ms. London's story chronicles an affair between an office temp and her supervisor, with a passing mention of “office politics”. Ms. Cameron's tale is a sexy and atmospheric werewolf romance concerned with a leadership struggle within the pack, a sensual tale, but too far from the book's proposed topic to fit well.

“Filibuster” by Vanessa Vaughn offers a tasty ménage with a bit of an edge, but it hardly matters that female and male protagonists are both members of Congress. We might see these office antics in any company or organization. Victoria Lacy's “A French Tryst” gives us the first woman president, seduced in a museum by a classically sensual Frenchman. Their coupling is torrid but the scenario (a U.S. president, on her own without security?) is completely improbable. In any case, the heroine could be any high-powered businesswoman. There's sex here, but no power, no politics. “Board of Directors” by Jen Bluekissed, is set against the backdrop of a corporate election, but its main focus is sex and chocolate --always a popular topic, but not really related to politics and power.

A few stories save the collection from total mediocrity. Maryn Bittner's “Whatever It Takes” is a satiric gem. Set in Florida during the disputed presidential election of 2000 (and with artful references to the future election of 2004), the story is told by a savvy Republican mover and shaker, sent to guarantee a Bush victory. He meets a wealthy and distinguished man who promises to deliver just that – but at a carnal price.

“Voter Registration” by L.A. Mistral is also noteworthy for its original voice. Gorgeous and horny Tequila, the main character, is a power junkie turned on by the politicians she sees on TV:

The onscreen politician reached out to her and her alone from the high-def, quantum-leap megapixels of her TV. His sturdy, knowing hand reached out for support and for national unity. I want to support you, he said. I'm reaching out to you, he said. Tequila imagined his hand on her, holding her, supporting her. His four-square image and the conviction of his imagination spread over her pale body like a symphony, plucking every secret need and every unspoken melody. His words untied her diaphanous robe and let it fall away. Her red robe was so sheer, it was more of a whisper than a word. His face smiled over her body as she lay open for him, his eyes appreciating her favors, her rapt attentions and her pledge of support. Tequila did the rest.

Despite the occasionally mixed metaphors, the author manages to create a unique character here, one for whom politics is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

A third story with some unusual aspects is “Small Town Tastes”, by K.D. Grace. A randy congressman attends a small community's annual picnic and is captivated by the mayor's nubile daughter. We think we know the outcome, but in this story, nothing is quite as it seems.

Overall, however, this collection is far from outstanding. I found the editor's one-line commentary at the start of each story gratuitous and annoying. For the most part the production of the book is adequate, but for some reason the final story was marred by such serious formatting flaws that it was nearly unreadable.

I approached this book with a frisson of excitement. By the time I had finished, I felt like I'd been through yet another one of those electoral contests in which one votes for the lesser of multiple evils.

Rough TradeRough Trade
Edited By: Todd Gregory
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1602820929
August 2009

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

In his introduction to Rough Trade, editor Todd Gregory mentions that most people aren’t exactly sure what the term means. The easiest definition of rough trade is sex for hire, but it also evokes danger, violence, and the seedier side of the tracks. The contributors to this anthology have different takes on the theme, which keeps it interesting.

“The Fratboy and the Faggot” by Aaron Travis is one of two stories Gregory says he asked for. A sophomore has been watching his graduate student neighbor through the blinds. When he’s caught, the neighbor invites him over for a discussion about frathouse hazing. The tale of sexual sadism doesn’t scare him away, so the former fratboy invites a couple brothers over to act it out. Rough? Oh yes. Deliciously so.

“Daddy’s Boys” by Nic P. Ramsies, “Close to Home” by Adam McCabe, and “Under the Table” by Dale Chase are different twists on how guys got into the sex for hire game. Chase’s construction worker moonlighting as a sex worker identifies as straight, while the young guys in “Daddy’s Boys” and “Close to Home” aren’t as complicated.

In “Hiring David” by Jonathan Asche, a couple hires a hooker to help celebrate their anniversary. David ends up being more of a therapist for the couple than a hooker, but in the real world, most sex workers probably do. If your fantasies run to hookers who like their clients too much to charge, try “Giovanni” by Logan Zachary and “Wrestler for Hire” by Greg Herren. “Josh in Frisco” by Greg Wharton wins the proverbial heart of gold award.

If you prefer something a bit grittier and realistic, “Tricked” by Jonathan Asche has one of the best anger fucks I’ve read. If that doesn’t sound hot to you, well… read it.

Can guilt be as redemptive as love? In “Blueboy” by Kelly McQuain, Michael is slowly succumbing to AIDS. A new boy on the streets propositions him, but he admits he has no money. All he has to offer are donuts and orange juice. The kid, who he calls Blueboy, takes him up on the offer. From then on, every time Blueboy is kicked out of his brother’s house, he turns to Michael for shelter. When Michael turns the boy away, Blueboy commits suicide. Michael tries to die, but Blueboy’s spirit is either haunting him or trying to save him and won’t let him go.

Although the theme is rough trade, the stories in this anthology are varied enough that you’re bound to find something that works for you. Some keep the mood light and everyone has fun. Other tales are darker. A few cover kinks from wrestling to Master/slave dynamics. Anchored by outstanding stories contributed by talented writers, this anthology gets a strong recommendation.

Rubber SexRubber Sex
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443131
May 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Rachel Kramer Bussel at the opening night of the In The Flesh reading series here in Los Angeles last month. (The New York series has been running for several years. I read at it last May) Among the things we talked about was her latest anthology, Rubber Sex. We agreed that the cover looked much better on the book than it did online. If I would have read it by then, I would have told her what I will tell you – that this anthology has appeal beyond the rubber and latex aficionados. So even if this isn’t your thing, don’t be so quick to pass up this book.

I’m not a visual person. While I enjoy the sight of a dangerous looking woman in vinyl, leather, latex or rubber, it isn’t one of those short-cut cues to erotic arousal for me. Last autumn, D.L. King (Our fearless leader here at Erotica Revealed.) came out for a visit and brought her brand new rubber skirt to show to me. The moment I felt it, I understood part of the attraction of wearing it. The thin material immediately warmed in my hands. It felt like petting a dolphin. (She wasn’t in it at the time. Sorry to ruin that little fantasy for you.)  As soon as she saw how fascinated I was, D.L. said, “By the way, one of the books we have in the queue is a rubber sex book. Interested?” Of course I jumped at the chance.

A good editor knows to close an anthology with a strong story, and Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited enough anthologies to know what she’s doing. Tenille Brown’s “Breathing” was a great choice for the final selection. Last definitely doesn’t mean least. This story is so funny, sexy, and sweet that it’s impossible to not like it. Humor in erotica can be an iffy thing, but Brown delivers in style. From the opening words I was hooked, and it just kept getting better. Since I hate it when people tell me all the good lines before I have a chance to see them, I won’t even tell you the plot. Just trust me on this one. First your eyes will widen, and then you’ll giggle, and before you know it, you’ll be enchanted.

I read “The Balloonatics” by Gregory Norris a couple times as I tried to understand what he was aiming for. Then I realized it didn’t matter. Do Helmut and Vanessa get into role-play that deep? Are they a little bonkers? Or are they serious industrial agents in an alternate universe? Norris never winks and tells. Surreal, campy, or madcap? You decide, or don’t. “Balloonatics” is a glorious balls-to-the-wall, over the top, rubber clad, non-stop fuckfest of a caper. Like any fetish, don’t try to apply logic. Just dive in and enjoy it.

The opposite end of the caper spectrum is noir. Thomas Roche may have supplied a “spacey New Age shit,” soundtrack to his story “Butterfly’s Kiss,” but I heard a lone wailing sax and a voiceover right out of a gumshoe flick. The narrator heads into a special room in the rubber club he seems resigned, though unhappy, to be at. The scene he walks into is a Domme playing with her sub on a little slice of S&M hell called a vac bed. Completely encased in latex, the submissive breathes through a tube while the air is vacuumed out of the bed. Sealed in, unable to see, the submissive is completely at the mercy of her Domme. As the latex binds the submissive to the point where she can’t move, her sweat turns the latex translucent, and the narrator realizes he knows the sub. Fascinated, he doesn’t stand far enough out of the scene and is ordered by the Domme to use a dildo on the sub. While the bit about the tattoos wasn’t exactly clear to me, I gather the narrator and the sub ended their relationship when he didn’t give the sub the intense scene she craved, but with the controls of the vac bed in his hands, he finally does. Roche has the skill to write a story that will leave you gulping for air even while it turns you on. If you can endure being uncomfortable, enjoy the challenge this edgy story provides.

If you’re into the visual aspect of vinyl, “Lick of Pain” by Crystal Barela is the story for you. I hate to rob you of the pleasure of discovery by quoting from it, but it’s tempting because Barela provides so many wonderful lines. It’s a simple premise. A submissive is trying to peel off her Domme’s red vinyl dress without using her hands. But it’s not really all that simple, and you’ll relish the way this story is told.  It’s a very oral story, which leads me to this thought:  I should read this aloud to a special someone in bed, because I’ll bet those words sound just as luscious rolling off the tongue as they are in my head.

With stories by Shanna Germain, Alison Tyler, Radclyffe, Jean Roberta (one of our reviewers here at ER), Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rakelle Valencia, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tenille Brown, and Thomas Roche, this anthology features many well-known erotica writers. The names I recognized weren’t the only strong contributors though. I look forward to seeing more stories in the future from some of these new names (new to me).

Rubber isn’t just about the visual aspect. It’s about taste, scent, and feel. Engaging that many senses, and sometimes overwhelming them, is it any wonder there are so many fans? It’s also versatile. The stories in this anthology use everything from rubber bands to balloons to rubber underwear to a swimming cap to latex tape. People wear it, worship it, sniff it, shine it, lick it, and taste it. People feel sexy wearing it, or enjoy seeing others in rubber. Sometimes the wearer feels powerful, sometimes submissive, but always turned on.  Give this anthology a chance, and you might be too.

Sapphic PlanetSapphic Planet
Edited By: Beth Wylde
ISBN: 1466479086
February 2012

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

In the excitement of the ebook revolution, lesbian erotic fiction seems a bit of the poor stepchild. True, Cleis Press publishes a couple of high profile lesbian collections each year, and Bold Strokes Books continues to offer F/F books to a mostly lesbian audience. Still, lesbian erotica is dwarfed by the enormous popularity of M/M and M/M/F erotica and erotic romance. I know from personal experience that it can be quite difficult to find a market for lesbian stories. And as a reader who enjoys quality F/F fiction, I've discovered my options are surprisingly limited.

Beth Wylde founded the Sapphic Planet authors community to provide support, advice and visibility for writers of lesbian fiction. The Sapphic Planet anthology is the first full length product of this community. The book offers nineteen stories in a range of styles and moods. Overall it admirably fulfills its goal as a showcase for the group's talented members. For someone like me, hungry for smart, sexy F/F stories, the book was a real treat.

The women in these tales cover the gamut of humanity – intellectuals, hairdressers, cops, beauty queens, femmes, butches and bois. Some stories focus on the erotic interactions of established couples, while others explore the intensity of chance encounters. Every story, though, features great sex: hot, wet, and explicit, with plenty of tongue and not a few toys as well. Though some stories are gentler than others, there's hardly a euphemism to be found lurking in this collection.

Possibly my favorite in the collection was Fiona Zedde's gorgeous “Love, Zora,” a sensual imagining of an affair between a young Haitian waitress and author/anthropologist Zora Neale Thurston during the 1920's Harlem Renaissance. The incandescent glory of first lust and the thrill of a power differential make this tale one of the most erotic things I've read in a while.

“Do you like me?” she asks, but does not wait for my answer. Her taste is sweet, like a mango in the heat of summer, her arms and throat brushed with the fine fur of peaches. She slides her hand under my skirt and lifts it, chuckles when she finds me wet and ready. Her fingers slide into me and I watch her greedily pushing under my skirt, looking for a place to call home in the wet folds of my quim. She doesn't mind that I don't move, that my eyes only flutter half closed as she pleasures me. My breasts feed her thirst, pebble and tremble beneath her tongue and teeth as they jut past the gaping blouse and jacket.

“You taste like caramel cream,” she murmurs into my skin. I forgive her the cliché as her mouth suckles and milks and I shudder quietly in passion. Her fingers plumb deep inside with a noise of decadence and of want spilling into the quiet space. My heart races. My neck bows. The air inside the car is hot. I come with the sound of a thousand sighs.

She's timed it perfectly. As the car slows down in the front of the building she pins up my hair, re-situates my hat. She is sliding her own gloves on when the driver opens the door. I know the smell of pussy floats out before us, announcing our pleasure like red banner in the chill night breeze.

Another outstanding story is Jodi Payne's “Licked.” Her heroine is a confident dyke on a business trip who's looking for a one night stand in the local lesbian bar.

I'm going home with someone tonight. Yes, I'm always this sure of myself. Tonight, I didn't even bother with a hotel room. I am seeing someone regularly at home, but like I said, home is a thousand miles away. As a wise man once sang, 'If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with.’

Of course, anyone this arrogant is bound to get her comeuppance. The narrator finds herself intrigued, charmed and finally overwhelmed by a slight boi who's unexpectedly dominant. She doesn't regret it, even when she ends up being the one who's been taken, used, and dropped.

In Roxy Katt's irrepressibly kinky yarn “The Ungirdling,” a young office temp with a fetish for foundation garments seduces and subdues her matronly, girdle-wearing boss. The fact that this story is hilarious did not decrease its sexual charge, at least not for me.

Jean Roberta's insightful “Fame” turns on envy and hero-worship. The narrator thinks she's invisible to her famous-author neighbor, but she couldn't be more wrong.

Nan Andrews' story “Her Smile” is one of the longest tales in the book, recounting the gradual rapprochement of two very different women. Aside from its sympathetic heroines, I loved this story for its spot-on depiction of appearance-conscious Los Angeles:

The crowd at Jolene's was the hippest in town. All the right labels, all the right plastic surgery. It was surprising they ate or drank anything at all. No one here seemed larger than a size two. They sipped their neon-colored drinks, and I wondered why I'd come.

It wasn't for the food. Jolene's was known for having the most erratic menu in town. Raw food, foams, towering creations of air and straw; anything and everything as long as it was trendy. Some meals were truly inedible, but that wasn't why my agent wanted to meet here. It was to see and be seen. 

“Brotherly Love,” by Beth Wylde, is a warm-hearted tale of a woman who thinks her sapphic tastes are a secret – until her brother-in-law sets her up with the girl of her dreams.

I was delighted to see a story from Tenille Brown, the first (for me at least) in quite a while. Her “Taming Tildy” features a woman's discovery of how she can make her spoiled brat lover behave.

Dylynn DeSaint's “Haircut” is a very naughty tale of a woman's after hours encounter with her hairdresser. I loved Ms. DeSaint's description of her heroine's sensations as she dons her harness, inserts her cock and steps out into the streets of New York.

Allison Wonderland's “Bathing Beauty” provides a playful, arousing snapshot of a committed couple, proving that there's nothing better than getting wet.

These are just some of the book's highlights. Practically every story was sexy enough to be worth reading. My primary complaint about Sapphic Planet is that the majority of tales in this collection are too short for my personal tastes. The book is 280 pages long, but in the format I received, each page held only a couple of paragraphs. I suspect that most of the stories fell into the 2000-3000 word range – enough time for an intense sexual encounter, but not much leeway for complexities or character development. I'm not faulting the craft in the most of these tales, but I found myself a bit frustrated when story after story ended – just as I thought things were getting interesting.

If you're looking for lots of lesbian sex, though, in all its moods – sweet, hot, rough, desperate, moody, guilty, mysterious, bittersweet – you can't go wrong with this collection. Hopefully there will be other, similarly entertaining volumes coming from Sapphic Planet.


Say Please: Lesbian BDSM EroticaSay Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica
Edited By: Sinclair Sexsmith
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447854
April 2012

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

I have a confession: I don't enjoy reading about female submission. It annoys me.

Perhaps I should qualify that. I don't enjoy stories that feature female submission to a male, probably because I've met too many pathetic male "masters" who are inexplicably humored in their delusion of supremacy by their female partners.  I don't have the same intensity of reaction to f/f, m/m, or genderqueer/f/m/genderqueer BDSM, which made reading Say Please a lot more fun than most BDSM  anthologies I'm assigned.

So you may be wondering what I find to like in the lesbian BDSM tales of Say Please. I'm here to look at the quality of writing, not conduct a wetness test. Besides, what gets me off probably isn't what gets you off, so that's a useless way to look at these stories.

If you like your fantasy scenes on the rough side, you'll find plenty in this anthology. Purge by Maria See may be the most controversial as it includes forced vomiting, but it's worth a read even if that's a squick for you, simply for the insights to a top who has a hard time handling what she's done and needs aftercare herself. There are a few stories with hardcore slapping too. A Slap in the Face by Rachel Kramer Bussel, The Cruelest Kind by Kiki DeLovely, and Feathers Have Weight by Alysia Angel feature some hardcore slapping. As Sinclair Sexsmith mentions in the introduction, slapping can be a hard limit for many people. While you may not think of it as rough, public scenes can be a huge turn-on in fantasy that would leave you terrified in reality. A Public Spectacle by DL King lets you enjoy the fantasy from the safety of your reading nook. And if piercings make you squirm in good ways, be sure to read Unworthy As I Am by Elizabeth Thorne

There are lots of lovely gender play stories to choose from. Do you like domestic discipline? You'll love Housewife by Gigi Frost and Gentleman Caller by Sossity Chiricuzio. Or maybe you're into bending gender until it's undergone an origami transformation, in which case Black Hanky by Sassafrass Lowrey, Going the Distance by Elaine Miller, Not Without Permission by Sinclair Sexsmith, and Strong by Xan West are going to speak to you.

There's a lot here for the fan of BDSM. Is it lesbian? Yes, but there's wider identity here to embrace too. But no matter how you identify or how fluid the sexuality or gender of your fantasy lover is, I'm sure if you're into BDSM, you'll enjoy this anthology.

Seducing the Myth: Myths and Legends with an Erotic TwistSeducing the Myth: Myths and Legends with an Erotic Twist
Edited By: Lucy Felthouse
ISBN: 146622052X
September 2011

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I adore mythology. When it comes to the Greek or Norse myths, I could read and re-read for hours, especially since so many of the tales have been written – or re-written – in so many different voices. Interpretation, so often key in any historical pursuit, is everything, and where different tellings of the “same” tale can go can astound me. So I had high hopes for Seducing the Myth, and maybe that came into play a little bit too much, but the end result was a mixed bag. In her introduction, Felthouse says it was a close call between doing a mythology anthology and a paranormal anthology – and I have to agree, except that’s how I felt about Seducing the Myth.

It’s not that the myths the authors chose to tackle in the anthology were uninteresting – I actually found the range of myths quite intriguing, and many of the ideas were very clever. But there was an unevenness that crept in a bit too often – many of the stories read more paranormal than mythological.

The opening tale, “Djinn and Tonic” by Lexie Bay, was quick to illustrate that we weren’t going to be playing with just the typical Greek myths. I liked that – but then I found that I sincerely disliked Laura, the main character of the story. She likes her man more or less – it’s hard to tell if she loves him – but gosh if he isn’t just sad in the sack. But, he’s rich and he loves her and he’s a nice guy, so she’ll make a go of it – even if she does think he has a weak chin. When she thinks to herself that she’s being a bitch, I whole heartedly agreed, and had to struggle through the rest of the story. The erotic contents of her journey with her mother-in-law’s djinn – which she’ll inherit along with the house when she marries her husband – left me more annoyed than aroused. It’s not that the sex wasn’t well written – it was, and the author had a lot of fun with the wish-granting djinn – it’s just that this horrible woman was going to end up with everything. At no point did I have the slightest wish for her to end up happy.

Fulani’s “Andi in Chains” follows – and tackles the myth of Andromeda by turning everyone involved into crime families on a modern day coastal city. This story was my favourite of the anthology – taking the bare bones of the myth, twisting it perfectly into a contemporary setting, and heating up the temperature to a high pitch. When Perseus (a ruthless gun for hire) comes across Andi all trussed up for some pirates due to a turf war gone bad, well, things happen. I loved the retelling here – crime families, drug cartels – and it sizzled as well as being an incredibly clever idea.

Some of the stories show this same cleverness (Medusa in K.D. Grace’s “Stones” and the wonderfully done “Aspara” by Burton Lawrence, which tackled South Asian mythology), some less so, though they did grant some well-written erotic prose (“The Weary Traveller” by Indigo Skye, for example, is sexy but didn’t really reinvent the wheel). Some stories were good but didn’t really hit on a particular myth – they’re more magical realism or urban fantasy. Again, that’s not a bad thing – “Logan’s Treasure” by Lisa Fox had a decent plot – a captain finds a treasure that leads him to an island of bliss that might come with a terrible price – but I spent a good amount of time wondering if there was a myth I was forgetting or just missing. Was this supposed to be Theseus, maybe?  Mermaids, the Undead, Fairies, Lost Seductive Souls – I kept struggling.

Similarly, “Beltane Fire” by Hawthorn – a really solid story, scorching sex, and as someone who has always loved watching the wheel of the year turn, I was very happy to see Beltane get some representation. This was another story I really thought was well-written and engaging, and wonderfully sexual in a very affirming way – but mythological? I’m not sure.

“The True Folly of Icarus” by Saskia Walker, “Saving Orpheus” by Indigo Skye, “A Temple for Hera” by Maxine Marsh and “In the Springtime” by Elizabeth Thorne are probably the stories that are the most like what I was expecting. These are myths re-told with an erotic lens. Others, like “Blooming April’s Flower” by Jillian Murphy, straddle the line a bit between paranormal and mythological.

It’s this sometimes lack of focus that left me a bit befuddled with the anthology. There are some seriously strong stories here – again, I really enjoyed what Fulani did to the Andromeda myth – but overall, there was a lack of cohesiveness. If you read Seducing the Myth as a loose collection of erotic stories with some mythology, some magic, some spirits, and some paranormal, then I think you’ll have a good time. But for every two mythology stories, I felt like I bumped into one that fit more the paranormal niche instead.

Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal DesireSeductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire
Edited By: D. L. King
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448192
October 2012

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

When we pick up a book with a title like Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, edited by D. L. King for Cleis Press, we have certain expectations. When the cover blurb confirms that yes, this is succubus erotica, our expectations get ramped up as high as the libido of the traditional sorcerer summoning a sex demon.  “Sexy, immortal women with the power to steal what they need from human beings through seduction,” the editor promises in her introduction. At this point, the reader’s needs had better be met, as well.

Seductress does not disappoint. In some ways we get a better deal than the sorcerer, since we can share the pleasures of both the human and the succubus, and count on surviving. (My one quibble about the book as a whole is that there’s a bit too much surviving going on. Still, it’s a tricky business to draw a reader deeply into the persona of a character, as most of these stories do, and then polish him or her off abruptly at the end, so maybe it’s just as well.)

D. L. King wisely starts off with two relatively traditional pieces. The first, “Harvest” by Aurelia T. Evans, has just the right tone and atmosphere, and a most satisfying succubus (with an especially talented tail.) “’I will hurt you. But in the end...’ That predatory smile again, like the glint of a sharpened blade. ‘It will be more pleasure than you have known or will know again, made more potent by the fact it cannot kill you.’” Yes, that’s exactly where we wanted to go when we opened the book.

The second story, “A Surprising Summons” by Kaysee Renee Robichaud, has just as much of a traditional feel even though the seductress quickly adapts herself to the modern world of her summoner. Over three encounters separated by a good many years. The sex is just as intense as in the first piece, but more nuanced, and so are the characters. The ending is poignant, moving, and well-earned by what has come before. A nice variation on the ancient theme.

I’m a big fan of variations. However clear my expectations may be, there comes a point when enough of them have been met that what I want most is to see wildly different treatments of the theme, and the parts that stick longest in my memory are the ones that startled me.

What catches my attention could be a macabre, disturbing, yet lovely description of a setting, as when Kannan Feng says in “Before a Fall,”  “Last year, I attended a moon-viewing party over the River Nekane. A hundred skin lanterns floated in the water, throwing back ruddy, sullen shadows.” The story that follows is beautifully written and intensely erotic, though I did find myself wishing for more details of this particular world of demons.

Or the hook for me could be an imaginative set piece, like the submissive man cowering on the step below his mistress in a lavishly decorated department store as he rides with “The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator” by NJ Streitberger. This one was also quite satisfying in that the man was so easy to dislike.

All the stories here are good, each in its own distinctive way, and all deliver abundantly when it comes to eroticism. Since women are always in charge, and their needs are paramount, reading too many stories in a row too quickly may give an impression of repetition when it comes to the elements of sex, but that’s pretty much inevitable. The men certainly get everything they can handle, and then some. 

The stories that really blow my mind (and everything else) are the ones combining well-crafted writing with startling originality. Three in particular stand out in this respect. 

In Evan Mora’s “Star-Crossed,” the legendary lovers achieve an immortal life together, but at a price. Romeo has an accidental encounter with a vampire, and Juliet, in order to stay with him, makes a deal with the devil. But the vampire Romeo has no life force to feed on, and Juliet the succubus has no real blood in her veins.  “And that’s us in a nutshell: Romeo and Juliet, the star- crossed lovers, a pair of immortals who can’t give each other the very thing necessary for their continued existence. The Devil, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” That, of course, is only the beginning; the pair work out their system through several centuries, and eventually Juliet shares an episode when they go clubbing to hunt down a meal satisfying to both of them. A clever concept, developed with style and passion. 

Sasha Bukova delivers a memorable character in “Zach’s Last Ride,” a stunt-rider whose feats of speed and danger feed the lust for more than soaring through the air on his motorcycle can satisfy—until he meets the mysterious girl on a bike that’s “all big engine and wide tires with high, wide handlebars that resembled devil’s horns.” Both of these characters are larger (and darker) than life, but Bukova somehow makes them touch us deeply.

The final piece is Kate Dominic’s “Soaring.” Kate takes originality to unexpected heights, with a seductress who passes for a photojournalist embedded with American troops in Afghanistan. This succubus feeds on the sex-gorged dreams of soldiers far from their homes and loved ones, while bonding with them on very human terms, until a final twist raises the transfer of erotic essence to a whole new plane. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully realized.

So, yes, in case there’s any doubt, I liked Seductress very much, and quite a bit of it I loved. The fact that I’m a writer and editor myself is bound to affect my opinions, so take that into account. That said, I do think that anyone who is intrigued by the notion of succubus erotica will have their needs and highest expectations met here—and then some.   

SenSexual: A Unique AnthologySenSexual: A Unique Anthology
Edited By: Susana Mayer
SenSexual Press
February 2013

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

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,, 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.

Sensual Travels: Gay Erotic StoriesSensual Travels: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Michael Luongo
Bruno Gmunder Group
ISBN: 3867875219
May 2013

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

In his introduction to Sensual Travels, editor Michael Luongo comes close to calling these stories true reminiscences, the authors “revisiting them in their minds as they wrote them down for these stories.” The Publisher’s note, on the other hand, states unequivocally that “This book contains works of fiction,” and the rest of the usual disclaimer. I only mention this because some of the writers do seem to be writing in travelogue style, more a series of anecdotes than fully rounded fiction, but some of the best pieces could just as easily be weaving true adventures into fictional form because that’s what these writers do best.

Besides the travel theme, the editor makes a point of telling us that the book is “literotica,” not “just erotica,” and I wondered whether some of the writers had taken this a bit too much to heart. Not that I mind literary references, but I couldn’t help noticing how many names from art and literature were inserted into a few stories. Frida Kahlo and Hans Christian Anderson were referenced twice, in fact, although I couldn’t make up my mind whether the one where the narrator goes to an exhibition honoring Hans Christian Anderson and a performance of Mary Poppins before getting down to extensive raw, dirty sex was intended to be a bit tongue in cheek.  

None of this makes any difference to a reader’s enjoyment. The theme of the book is gay sex in the context of travel, and it certainly delivers all that. Some stories are a bit heavy on the travelogue-as-infodump front, but most of the local color and background is nicely—and sometimes exquisitely—handled. As to how well the sex is handled, well, that depends on one’s taste, but as a more or less objective observer I’d say that the erotic aspects won’t disappoint anyone with an interest in gay sex.

All of the stories are well done, in their own suitably various ways. The writers are all experienced at either travel writing or erotica, and sometimes both, so perhaps the editor can be excused for not taking too many pains with editing. The sort of errors my editorial eye catches are the kind of thing we all miss occasionally in our own writing, and it says more about my own tastes than any real problems that my list of notes was mostly about a few typos until I got to Lawrence Schimel’s “Water Taxi” and began to sit up and take notice. About time, too. I realize that my review has been altogether too bland so far.

Lawrence’s story is light, playful, and hot, with a committed couple in a public threesome on a pleasure boat off the coast of Spain, and plenty of erotic images. The one that really got my attention was the narrator’s comparison of his partner to the Colossus of Rhodes, imagining what it would be like “sailing between those massive thighs and gazing upward.” What can I say? I’m a whore for clever turns of phrase and ingenious imagery.

After that story, my notes overflowed with too many tasty bits to include them all here, and in any case readers with a more intense interest in the sex won’t care. Trust me, the sex is there, and so is sexual tension, as well as fleeting fantasies that sometimes can’t be realized, and never can be repeated. There are gay bars and sex clubs and bathhouses in Paris, Tokyo, Zagreb, and Bangkok, among others; there are hookups via the internet, romantic student encounters, train (and bus) sex, and a wide variety of scenarios both traditional and innovative.

I shouldn’t try to choose favorites among the stories, since I tend to get more of a charge from the sexy writing than from the sex, but I’ll do it anyway. Several of the writers were familiar to me already, and their work here was every bit as good as I’ve found it to be elsewhere. Felice Picano, Simon Sheppard, Lawrence Schimel, Trebor Healey, and Jeff Mann are folks whose work I admire no matter what they’re writing about, and they’re all in good form here. I have to say that Jeff Mann’s “Bondage Tape in Budapest” was also arguably the sexiest of them all; there may be someone, somewhere, who isn’t turned on by the image of a supremely strong man being tied and gagged and fucked, and reveling in his own helplessness, but even then it would be hard to resist Mann’s voice and style. Plus his rhapsodic description of Dobos torte, “rich, intense, and decadent,” is as sensual as the sex.

Of writers I hadn’t encountered before, I especially liked Sebastion V.’s clever voice in “Fantasy Night Train to Estonia,” with his reflections that “Traveling is all about letting go,” and “Fantasies and memories are soul mates, after all.” And Jay Davidson’s “Fest Noz” was both a charming ode to Brittany—“As much as I love Paris for its monuments and grandeur, I appreciated Quimper for its lack thereof,”—and a rueful memory of what almost might have been, but wasn’t.

My choices are really irrelevant, though. There’s something to enjoy in every story here, and someone whose buttons will be pushed by each one. If you have a taste for gay sex, good writing, and far-away places, it will be worth your while to see which ones take you where you really want to go. 

Sex and CandySex and Candy
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122999
November, 2007

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

The minute I started to read Shar Rednour’s Foreword to this collection, I realized that I was the wrong reviewer. I have an anti-sweet-tooth. At age two, family legend claims, someone gave me a lollipop and I didn’t know what to do with it. I could live for months without ever craving dessert. When I do want something sweet, it’ll be fruit, or crême caramel, or maybe ice cream, certainly not something gooey or chocolatey. Never (alas dear Rachel) have I yearned for a cupcake!

I’ve engaged in the traditional sexual experimentation with whipped cream. I’ve been as turned on as anyone by the famous eating scene in the classic film “Tom Jones.” For the most part, though, my personal sexual proclivities do not tend toward the sorts of sugary adventures portrayed in this book.

My overall feeling after finishing Sex and Candy is that the book is not up to the usual standards of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s collections – for instance the amazing He’s on Top: Erotic Stories of Male Dominance and Female Submission, which I just finished reading.

Even though Sex and Candy includes many of my favorite erotica authors, the majority of the stories felt superficial: sweet, sticky, sometimes nasty romps without much plot beyond the avid consumption of the focused confection. What I can’t decide is whether this is a realistic view of the collection, or whether it’s conditioned by my own personal tastes.

I’d suspect my subjectivity was the cause, except for the fact that the book does contain two completely wonderful stories that follow the theme, but take it much further and deeper than most of the contributors. Shanna Germain’s “Kneading” left me in wet, astonished awe. It is lyrical and tough, intense and original, featuring characters so far from the stereotypes that I guarantee you, too, will be amazed. The editors showed great wisdom in using a quote from this tale as the introductory blurb for the collection.

“At home, I don’t let her touch me. There is only this: my fingers tangled in her thin apron strings, cascade of cotton and flour against the floor, Macy’s dark arms iced with sugars and spice. My recipe is simple: Macy and me, hands and skin, kneading and heat. ‘The best recipes just taste complicated.’ This is something I plan to teach her.”

Equally fine, in a different way, is Donna George Storey’s “Six Layers of Sweetness.” The tale is as carefully constructed as the dessert in its title. Sharp, spicy layers of physical desire alternate with more subtle emotional flavors. Ms. Storey is an expert chef, and it shows.

A few other stories in the book have bent over pages, meaning that I felt they were worth mentioning. “Cling,” by Tenille Brown, is the delightfully tongue-in-cheek tale of a mature woman who can’t quite bring herself to give up her lover even though she knows he’s not “marriage material.” I enjoyed Bianca James “Green Chile Chocolate” largely because her “Chile man” so completely matched my image of male sexiness. R.Gay’s “Other Girls” is a carny romance, shot through with the wistfulness of a man who’s always just passing through. And Catherine Lundoff’s “Phone, Sex, Chocolate” offers a sticky, poignant look at a hopeless lesbian fantasy:

“We make plans for lunch next week and you sign off with some flippant comment about beauty sleep. I drop the phone, sending both hands between my legs to rub soft chocolate on my clit in tight, firm circles. I imagine you in your power suit, taking me on your desk with expensive chocolate dripping onto your memos and I come hard, my back arching against the couch.”

If you like sugar, if you think that having sex in a pool of fudge or on a bed of crushed cupcakes is hot, if you’re turned on by eating marshmallows from between your lover’s breasts, or sticking a peppermint candy cane into one of your lover’s orifices, then you’ll love this book. If you’re like me, someone who could live the rest of her life without caring if she ever tastes chocolate (and I realize this sounds incredible to some of my readers), Sex and Candy might leave you a bit hungry.

Sex and the Stranger: A Collection of Casual FunSex and the Stranger: A Collection of Casual Fun
February 2012

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

Sex with strangers isn’t the freshest theme for an anthology, so to some extent I went into Sex and the Stranger with a bit of a worried eye. Could the collection have anything new to share? I wasn’t really sure, and having finished the collection I’d say if there’s a flaw to Sex and the Stranger it’s that there were only a couple of “aha!” moments for me.

This isn’t to say those moments weren’t worthwhile. “The Only Man Worthy” by Aishling Morgan, for example, had a wonderful punchline to it that made me laugh out loud. In it, we find an incredibly driven woman who has secured the perfect husband for herself – but one she finds unworthy of fathering her children or taking her virginity, and so she seeks out a virile and handsome gene donor of her own volition. That she’s not including her husband to be in her plans makes her a little hard to like, but the resolution of the story is perfect.

Similarly, I think “Something Between Them” by Ashley Hind had the best mix of naughty and sweaty – a humid and hot train-ride on a packed train turns erotic, and the dirty talk between the couple sandwiching the very flustered – but very willing – heroine of the tale is superb.  The exhibitionist streak in the story (this is something happening on a crowded train, unnoticed by the other passengers) was a nice touch.

But it’s the last tale, “I Have You” by Charlotte Stein that was the one that offered the largest – and most skillful – surprise. Here a woman and the stranger are having sexual encounters that border on complete detachment, though she is slowly feeling her body warm and return to sexual releases. Her journey – from ice to fire – is as intriguing as it is erotic, and the big reveal was a swift, sharp, shock that left me more than a little impressed, and very surprised. It’s just that good. I enjoy when erotica goes to new places, and Stein did this wonderfully.

Of the ten stories, those three were the ones that I remembered after turning off my Kobo and letting a day pass. This isn’t to say the other stories were poor – I don’t think any of the stories were badly written, nor did they fail to titillate – they just didn’t have a lot of staying power once I was done.

On the basis of the three stories I mentioned above, I’m glad I read Sex and the Stranger (especially Stein’s story), but the rest of the collection as a whole isn’t breaking any new ground.  There are some fun moments, a character or two that might resonate more with you than with me, but I can only see myself revisiting this collection to share Stein’s tale with someone, or to re-read it myself when I need to remind myself how to push an erotic tale somewhere further than the usual.

Sex For America: Politically Inspired EroticaSex For America: Politically Inspired Erotica
Edited By: Stephen Elliott
Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0061351210
January, 2008

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Politics and the Body

This critique of Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica edited by Stephen Elliott is a long essay because that is the only way to do justice to a book as important as this one. It is a complex collection of short stories published by Harper Perennial. For those made impatient by length, this anthology is a definite thumbs up. For those who want to know why it is, the answer is neither simple nor brief. Let me say that I don’t always agree with the politics articulated in this book, but in the main I find the authors’ vision compelling if not haunting.

These stories are not charged by any standard ideology. The premises that fire these authors reflect the breadth of our time against the backdrop of art and culture. The stories rise from the deep passion, irony and thought that under-girds good polity. All the writers show genuine intellectual depth. It is revealed through deeply felt, organic insight rather than rhetoric or slogans. Their work resonates with myriad aspects of popular culture from music, comics, tattoo parlors, science fiction, romance novels, pornography, the ‘new’ journalism, and the sleazy Times Square sex shops with their sticky floors before they were made into shilling stations for hard core Disney. We are reminded that real democracy is messy.

At the same time these stories employ imagery evocative of artists such as Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg, or writers like Joe Orton, Kafka, Dick Farina, Margaret Atwood, and Dostoyevsky. Some of these stories sing with the enigmatic pull of Bessie Smith, Tom Waits, or Bob Dylan. They reach that far into the psyche because they explicate sexual behavior as a direct parallel to the way we treat each other as social beings. That juxtaposition is the natural fulcrum of politics. Sex for America is an absolutely unique work of political art, and demonstrates what is so sadly lacking in much of what passes for art now.

As such these stories may represent the first important American fiction of the 21st Century because they are written with the terrible clarity of writers who will allow themselves nothing less than to look at our wounded nation each day with new and open eyes. What they see is mostly a future landscape of betrayal, crime, and depravity brought about by the dominant political philosophy of the last thirty years. Yet they attack their work as writers with deliberately abrasive and deft humor, gritty acceptance, cynical hope, and a sardonic willingness to face the real perversity of modern America: tyranny.

No author here holds themselves as the righteous superior of the America around them. These are not Birkenstock liberals. That is the special power of these stories for they do not excoriate those in power without freely admitting that their characters put these leaders in charge and abetted them by their own indifference and timidity. In that sense, this is a very unforgiving book, and from my point of view, it’s about time. Unlike almost all other American erotica, it is not a retreat from reality but a brutal and imaginative advance into it. It is as hard and relentless as the people who made America what it has become.

All twenty-five stories have strength and strong merit. The quality of the writing varies but the presence of insight does not. Some of the writers are far better masters of style, but none is less than gifted. In some cases you can see that their talent has not yet fully caught up with their complex vision, or that their ideas have not gelled to full resolution. We have a right to expect such clarity from short forms, even if the story must resolve into ambiguity. On the other hand, these writers are tackling a complex task.

Complexity is the touchstone of this collection. The first story by Jerry Stahl, “Li’l Dickens,” is a grimly hilarious confession of a man who is hopelessly drawn to have anal sex with Dick Cheney in the backroom of a rural gun shop. In nauseating detail the narrator describes his arousal over the various aged, sagging parts and dysfunctional peculiarities of the Vice President’s body and mind. He is hypnotized by Cheney’s delusional will to power compared with the unprepossessing facts of who and what the Vice President really is. Cheney here is a Nietzschean monster – a clown version of Reinhard Heydrich -- obsessed with his own mythic destiny and his psychosexual right to control the fate of others. By the end of the story, the narrator is as awed by Cheney’s ‘testosteronic’ magnetism as he is revolted at having ever touched the Vice President with his fingers, much less his cock.

These stories are filled with necessary blood sacrifice, some sexual and some apocalyptic. In the recent film “Pan’s Labyrinth” we saw that once Fascism had taken root in the body politic of Spain, there would be no escape from the suffering of scouring out the disease. Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Sex for America shows that aim is not simply achieved. Mr. Elliott’s anthology delicately reminds us to be careful so that in killing a political monster we do not become him. Justice and honor cannot be conveniently set aside in the name of justice and honor. The Second World War led a generation to that elegant and terrible truth. Though we apparently learned nothing from Viet Nam, we may be getting the idea at last in Iraq.

In this book, the two wars in Iraq make clear that innocence, faith, hope, integrity, youth, courage, and honor cannot simply wash away the corrupting power of imperialism. Anthony Swofford’s, “Escape and Evasion” presents us with a gay Marine who is inexplicably compelled to rape other men because he has the skill, the training and the physical power to do so. He is charming, straightforward and even likeable as he recites his crimes with a fatalistic sense of inevitability. He does what he does because he can.

He in no way claims he is a victim, nor does he give the impression that he ever possessed the power to divert his own sexual violence. What he lacks is any awareness of the proportions of his crimes. He does not understand his moral violation of another’s individuality. He has turned his comrades in arms into his toys and targets.

Would he be this person had he not joined the Marines? Who knows? But the nature of war and soldiering certainly enabled him to become what he is. What is the basic political lie here? What we want of soldiers in war is not restored order. That is most particularly the case in wars of conquest. We want enough directed, ferocious anarchy to win. Justice is irrelevant. Those at home -- especially those in power -- deny this by sentimentalizing war. Those doing the fighting know otherwise, or they are the first to die. Victory washes away the victors’ sins.

All of these stories anatomize the growing American tendency toward fascism. Fascism rests on sentimental nationalism bolstered by unreason. That usually takes the form of Dr. Goebbels’s Big Lie, or one of such magnitude and arrogance that it is the hardest to refute. Witness for example, “Mission accomplished.” Fascism favors a glorious, mythic past that must be restored. It calls for heroic sacrifice so that we will ignore the unsatisfactory present. Fascism rides on dark mysteries and rituals that only the select are permitted to understand. Secrecy becomes the heart of national security. The aim of the individual is to be accepted by the few in power. The price of acceptance is intellectual submission, so the system builds on itself.

In Jami Attenberg’s “Victory Garden” we meet a teenage couple who are driven by a post apocalyptic system of bizarre totalitarian legal codes for social and sexual conduct. The background of the story is one of ruin and decay in which the fondest memory of the young, no matter how dimly understood or even remembered, is the gas driven automobile. It is the sacred totem symbolizing life. Like the boys worshipping the rotting pig skull in Lord of the Flies, it is utterly feckless, nihilistic misdirection.

Fascism is either evil because it is mindless, or mindless because it is evil. Either way it makes no difference on the ground. One thing this book makes clear is that fascism does not have to wear its name and bear its runes and sigils to be what it is. It can in fact be quite homespun and banal if not good fodder for comedy a la “Spring Time for Hitler.” Drums and martial threats may enhance Fascism, but it works by embracing unreason as an excuse to control even the most intimate regions of the body. As Beria and Karl Rove always knew, authority gains far more power from under your bed than from the bully pulpit.

Mr. Elliott’s anthology of short stories is a landmark of erotic art. It reveals the organic nature of our government’s erosion of our freedom and our constitution. The free market has replaced the social contract. Competition is virtue while cooperation is suspect. Iconic ideologies (religion, advertising, creationism, globalization, capitalism etc.) are held up as systems of moral ‘truth’ in order to obscure the meaning of truth itself.

The most damaging part of that cycle is self-delusion. “Measure A or B, or Me?” by Alison Tyler is told from the perspective of a politically indifferent wife who wants her local-issues obsessed husband to fuck her. They make a wager -- which she loses (or wins) and he hammers her with iron enthusiasm up the ass. It is a little more than she bargained for but a very lively fuck, and so they make another round of bets to keep on fucking. It is a disarming, playful piece.

However, Mr. Elliott follows it immediately with “The Candidate’s Wife” by James Frey in which a young liberal Capitol Hill staffer cannot resist fucking the wife of a right wing Republican in the reeking men’s room of the staffer’s local tavern. Even when it is clear that they are both in bed with their own personal devils, she will not break it off. She returns to the bar for more screwing to the tune of the urinals. Yet it is she, no matter how driven, who clearly has the upper hand. With each fuck she compromises him by the force of her awareness. Coercion is an easy by-product of her satisfaction. It is a useful bonus. He is rendered a moral cipher, a thing of pure appetite, a consumer.

The two stories together illustrate that innocence is no defense in politics precisely because it is self-delusion. What you don’t know can hurt you, and so not knowing is no excuse. Thus we are all responsible for the way things are. No matter how passive we may be; no matter how naïvely hedonistic, we are all guilty when we allow tyranny to overtake reason and obedience to transcend debate. Eventually, it is the nature of Fascism to demand control of our bodies, our passions, our thoughts and perhaps worst of all our dreams.

These stories make various responses to that demand. Rick Moody’s “Notes on Redevelopment” posits an America that is divided by secessionists between those who want the narrow sexual confines of Christian fundamentalism versus those who seem to be driven to organized debauchery. Both are examples of the price of extremity, which twists the natural impulses of our sexuality into ideological tics and quirks.

Michelle Raymond’s “Milk” presents us with a woman who suckles enemy guerillas in a sweating jungle hut. She is a covert operative of the American government. She is feeding them poison milk from her own breasts, an act that gives her deep sexual satisfaction. In doing so she is also poisoning both them and herself. Her body has become a perverse sexual instrument of foreign policy.

She feels herself ennobled as a vessel of disease. Like Salome in Oskar Panizza’s play “The Council of Love,” her deep erotic appeal has been turned into a source of infection. Her seductive power is based on an emblematic maternalism. Ms. Raymond has created an excruciating take on “Mother, Home, and Apple Pie.” It is a relief that she blows aside some of the fog of sentimental nonsense, because it clears the way to see our lives anew.

In politics as in love and art, we are not the sum of what we have been, or even what we are. We are only and entirely what we can become. Thus we are limited essentially by what we can imagine. Those who glorify war and conquest become masters of empire. Thus those who would fulfill a fictive national destiny find the rule of law an intolerable encumbrance. They plead that only disloyal malcontents object, when the fulfillment of that destiny reaches beyond civilized or humane behavior.

Once tyranny takes control, the easiest course for most of us has been to turn away from the social contract, and -- emulating our masters -- become creatures of dumb appetite. Tyranny uses fear and isolation to produce cringing obedience and a smothering silence. One good way to do that is to harass the free expression of sexuality as the Bush Administration has religiously done. At the same time, they issue tacit permission to those who cooperate to indulge themselves as they like. Those are the methods of gangsters, pimps and insider traders. The individual simply disappears into the system.

Nowhere have I seen that better illustrated than in Nick Flynn’s “A Crystal Formed Entirely of Holes.” The premise of the story is that in some future dystopia, a cure is found for all the ills of the body from cancer to the bits of yourself you just don’t like. They can be literally erased by a crystal composed entirely of holes. The presence of this absence moves from a medical treatment to a mass fetish until the ultimate sexual charge is to be pierced through in so many ways that daylight shines through you. Your allure is the degree to which you are not there. You are no longer a body with various enticing and useful, sensual, fuckable holes. You are at last a hole surrounded by the remnants of your being.

No doubt Mr. Flynn is playing with the current fashion for piercing and hacking at ourselves to create erotic mutilation, Flynn’s story goes well beyond that. His characters engage in erotic worship of their lover’s disappearance, as well as their own. The less they exist, the more they love themselves. Visible corporeal beings have gone out of fashion. What more could a dictator want than a nation of the disappeared? They are still able to work and to breed, but essentially they are phantoms suited only to serve his/her narcissistic fantasies. What the tyrant really loves most is himself and by extension, the absolute imposition of his world view.

In “A Crystal Made Entirely of Holes,” penetration – not orgasm or procreation – becomes the ultimate sexual experience. Thus the most basic thrust is a celebration of annihilation. It is ritualized into inflicting a ceremonial wound, and it can be repeated again and again and again in the presence of your lover’s yielding absence.

In another age, these themes would have been better treated in a novel, but Sex for America makes use of the short story as the medium of delivery for our time. Erotica lends itself to short forms by its intense nature. Beyond that, however, this is a book of coherent but extremely jarring fragments. It presents American society as a horrific downward journey that began with Richard Nixon’s election. An obscene circus emerges populated by lies and distortions, blunders and crimes, until we have become the freak circus clowns dancing around the center ring at the end of Federico Fellinni’s “8 1/2.” A constant diet of unreason and artificial sentiment lead to total disconnection from reality.

It is at that point that we are tempted to say, “Ah, fuck it.” Why not just relax, service your own flesh, and get out of it what you can? Is it even possible to be worse than George W. Bush? Less articulate? More desensitized? Yes, of course it is, but it is hard to imagine. Like the authors of this book, it takes active thought and a fair amount of energy.

They show us that no matter how much you get used to the threats, bullying, terrorism, and constrictions of tyrants, their grip can always get tighter. Unopposed, those in power wrap their hands around the core of our being and slip their fingers into the secret places that make us who and what we are. They penetrate and violate what makes us human. We realize that we are disappearing as surely as our appetites and dreams have been coerced and perverted. We can, however, change the world. You can start by reading Sex for America.

Sex in the City: DublinSex in the City: Dublin
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Accent Press
ISBN: 1907016236
September 2011 (UK)

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Let me begin by admitting that I am at a distinct disadvantage in reviewing this book. Despite its literary reputation, I've never been to Dublin. The closest I've been to Ireland is Boston. I've read some Joyce but found myself confused at least partially because of his references to places and historical events with which I was totally unfamiliar. Hence, I'm not particularly well-qualified to evaluate whether the stories in this collection succeed in bringing the city in the title to life.

So I have to judge this anthology based on whether the stories created a distinctive world that I could clearly imagine - whether I'd recognize Dublin if I visited after reading these tales. Of course, the normal criteria for reviewing erotic fiction also apply. Is the story original? Is the writing competent? Are the sex scenes intriguing, arousing, emotionally involving?

Sex in the City: Dublin includes two exceptional stories that do all of the above and more.  Stella Duffy's "Of Cockles and Mussels" offers a lyrical portrait of an earthy fish monger named Molly Malone, who claims she fucked James Joyce and was the inspiration for Molly Bloom. Never mind the literary references, though. This gorgeous story evokes all the breathless intensity of first love, or first lust (it has never been too clear to me whether the two can be teased apart).

If there's one thing I know to be true about Molly Malone, it's that she was not sweet. Not sweet at all. She was wild and funny and exhausting to be with, she could be cruel too, had a mean temper and a hard jealous streak. But God she was good, to watch, to drink alongside, to play, to laugh, to fuck.  And definitely more salt than sweet. Alive, alive oh.

The story also paints a vivid picture of working class Dublin, in the rhythm of its language as much as its descriptions. The narrator is a dirt-poor, hard-working Catholic girl:

Middle child of five and all those boys, you know my mother didn't have anyone else to help her keep them all clothed, fed, washed, clean. I hated doing the laundry, all that endless scrubbing of filthy boys' shirts and underpants. My brothers are not the only reason I started with women, but knowing a little too much about the ways of men certainly did make a woman a more interesting possibility when I was just sixteen.

When she catches Molly's eye at the market and gets invited to visit, the narrator's  mother, surprisingly, doesn't raise a fuss. The mother understands that her daughter may be treading a different path than her own and is glad of it. That's only one of the joys of this story.

The other standout tale, for very different reasons, is "Picking Apples in Hell" by Nikki Magennis. In this sassy, sexy story, the narrator Niamh meets up with her old lover Frank, who has returned to Dublin for some undoubtedly dodgy purpose. Once again, the language catches the rhythm of Irish speech:

"So what's dragged you back, Frank?"

"Oh, c'mon now. Can't a man visit his home town without good reason?"

"Don't try telling me that you were missing the ole place," I said, keeping my voice nice and flat.

What I didn't say was: tell me you were missing me, tell me you couldn't forget me, tell me you'd cross the sea for one more shot of that filthy, mind-blowing fucking we used to do.

Niamh discovers that Frank is indeed involved in a dangerous and illegal game, but she can't help surrendering to her lust - and her nostalgia:

That mouth. It might have produced some of the filthiest lies you've ever heard in your life, but there's no denying that when Frank McAuley kissed you, it was enough to make St. Peter forgive the devil. He tasted of whiskey and wet nights on the town, he covered my lips with his own and devoured me, drew me forward so it felt like I was falling.

I loved this story for its colorful depiction of the seedy underside of the city as much as for the characters and the sizzling sex. The fact that Ms. Magennis pulls off a deft surprise ending was an unexpected bonus.

Compared to these two stories, the other contributions are at best workman-like but unremarkable. Ken Bruen's "Love is the Drug" is a wry, humorous piece about a regular guy from New Jersey who travels to Dublin looking for love, only to have all his romantic illusions about Ireland shattered. "Abstract Liffey” by Craig J. Sorensen offers complicated and ambiguous characters with whom you can identify - a hallmark of Mr. Sorensen's fiction - but as far as I could tell, the story could have been set anywhere.  Elizabeth Costello's "The City Spreads Startlingly Vast" is an eloquent tale of sex as an antidote to grief, but once again, did not seem particularly Irish. Several of the stories I actively disliked - but of course, that's only one reviewer's opinion.

This isn't a bad collection, but I will admit that after having read Sex in the City: New York, I was disappointed by this other volume in the same series. I'd chalk up my reaction to my unfamiliarity with Dublin, but the fact that two of the tales did succeed in making me see, smell, and taste the city suggests that the problem lies elsewhere.

Sex in the City: LondonSex in the City: London
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1907016228
April 2010

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Themed anthologies, I find, have you guessing at the contents before you’ve properly cracked the spine on the book you’re reading.  As soon as you read the title you’re predicting the content of some of the stories.

For instance, an anthology about sex and vampires had me thinking there would be stories about fluids being sucked.  An anthology about spanking made me think there would be bruised buttocks somewhere in the tome.  An anthology of sixty second erotica had me thinking that my wife was writing about our sex life.  (Please note, I’m not trying to brag about the sixty second thing.  The sixty seconds includes foreplay and lighting the cigarette afterwards).

Consequently, when I received my copy of Sex in the City: London, my mind began to predict the contents before I’d opened the front page. 

Sex in the City: London is one of four recently released titles from Xcite Books.  The others in the series are Sex in the City: Dublin, Sex in the City: Paris, and Sex in the City: New York

I can already imagine that Sex in the City: New York involves at least one story with sex in a yellow taxicab, or sex beneath the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.  I suspect Sex in the City: Dublin includes something seductive involving a pint of Guinness.  And I’d guess Sex in the City: Paris has a story with a woman who doesn’t shave her pits and a man who’s never brushed his teeth. 

But it’s Sex in the City: London I’m looking at and, before I glanced beyond the cover, I wondered if it might include sex with the queen (never going to happen), sex with the prime minister (even less likely with the current mob of fugly incumbents) and sex with someone called Big Ben.

Fortunately, my expectations were usurped when I began to read the stories.  Instead of taking characters roughly up the Old Kent Road, or riding a character’s tube until they’re snugly settled in the West End, the collection is credible, entertaining and literate.  The stories here are certainly erotic: but they each contain the essence of a city dweller’s grudging adoration for the place they call home.

And, perhaps that’s what makes each of these stories come to life.  Anyone who has ever lived in a city knows that the instinctive affection for home is tempered by a weary distaste for all its shortcomings: a duality of cognitive dissonance that is irresoluble and inescapable. 

Or, as Kristina Lloyd points out at the beginning of “The Caesar Society,”

I like Soho.  It’s horrible.  It used to be worse and I liked it better then. 

This duality extends to people, as Justine Elyot observes in “Thames Link,”

He’s a creep, he’s a sleaze, he’s a perve.  He’s my kind of guy. 

Or, as Maxim Jakubowski explains in “Woke up with the Hampstead Blues Again,”

There’s London.
Then there’s the real London.
And then again, there is the unreal London, a world of shadows, imagination and loneliness.

This is a collection to be savoured like a sightseeing tour.  The stories show imagination and excitement without once forgetting about their shared background. 

In “Monster” Francis Ann Kerr takes her readers to the nefarious Torture Gardens.   “The Tourist,” by Clarice Clique is a veritable whirlwind visit through the city, touching on the Tate Modern, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus and a handful of other venerable attractions.  In “What are you Wearing?” Matt Thorne appears to answer every visitor to the city’s question about what happens to all the luggage that goes missing form Terminal 5. 

As a writer, and as someone who also teaches creative writing, I think the most appealing element of this collection is that each author has provided notes on their inspiration. Elizabeth Coldwell talks about the influence of Soho, and how that dictated her narrative for “Rain and Neon.”  NJ Streitberger discusses the true incident that inspired the fictional account of “The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator.”  Kevin Mullins and Marcelle Perks explain the mechanics of their winning collaboration on “Strawberry Pink.” It’s a fascinating glimpse behind the thought processes that have created these compelling stories.

Perhaps the clever thing about these anthologies is that they’ve been edited by Maxim Jakubowski.  Anthologies need to be edited by someone who has a feel for the subject matter and it goes without saying that Maxim is well travelled: regularly jetting between New York, London and a host of other exotic places.  He is undoubtedly savvy to the nuances of each anthology’s destination – making him ideally placed to edit stories focused on specific locations. 

And Maxim also knows about sex.  As the presiding editor of the Mammoth Best New Erotica series, it’s acknowledged that he knows a good erotic story when he sees one.  In short: Sex in the City: London is a testament to Maxim’s abilities as an editor and it deserves to be a triumphant success.  The authors who have contributed know how to tell a story and how to convey the essence of a city.  And who could ask for more than that in a book?

Sex in the City: New YorkSex in the City: New York
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1907016244
July 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Maxim Jakubowski, editor of the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, offers a new line of anthologies with stories set in London, New York, Paris, and Dublin. I'm always excited to see what Maxim has to offer, with good reason. Sex in the City: New York was one of the best anthologies I've had the pleasure to read.

In addition to these wonderful stories, each contributor included a short non-fiction piece about their story. I'm one of those people who actually reads author bios in the back of the book, so to me, the essays were a stroke of brilliance. After reading this, I plan to read the other three in the series.

I've only been to New York City once. A friend who lives there met me at the train and showed me around. While she went to a business meeting, I sat in a small park and just let it sink in. That's the way I like to experience a city. It was only a brief taste, but it was enough to get a feel for the rhythm. Reading these stories brought that vibe back to me.

Usually, I pick a few standouts from an anthology to talk about in further detail, but each of these thirteen stories is so sophisticated and literate that it's hard to play favorites. I'll tell you what - you read this anthology, and then we'll go out for drinks (make it The Algonquin for the proper atmosphere) and have a friendly discussion about the top picks. I'll bet your list is different from mine, and I'll bet that you'll have a hard time narrowing it down to just three.

Sex in the City: New York
With contributions by
Donna George Storey, Maxim Jakubowski, Polly Frost, Jeremy Edwards, Tsaurah Litzky, Shanna Germain, Thom Gautier, D.L. King. Michael Hemmingson, Lisabet Sarai, Thomas S. Roche, Cara Bruce, and Ira Miller.

Sex in the City: ParisSex in the City: Paris
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Accent Press
ISBN: 1907016252
May 2010

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

What makes Paris unique -- apart from food and architecture, art and ambience, fashion and flowers -- is the French people.  What makes the people of France unique is their sense of appetite, which finds expression in everything their senses encounter, all of which would be null and void without l’amour.   The French connect sex and love in ways that English speakers can or do not.  Flirting is a not just a game, it’s a sport for which the French people wisely train all their lives.  Thus the French -- who often tend toward being dour, practical and frugal – create existential balance for themselves through love lives that thrive and grow throughout their life.

Parisians can afford to be fussy about what they eat and wear because they are always in training for their next affaire de coeur, even if it is with the same person they have been in love with for decades. All that and more is wonderfully reflected in a quirky volume of stories edited by Maxim Jakubowski as a part of his Sex in the City series published by Xcite books, which is devoted to love making in Paris.

Paris is at the heart of this studied Gallic devotion to the erotic. Any number of books have been written about Paris as the city of love.  Some are vastly better than others, depending on how well the authors have actually invested themselves with the living personality of Paris.  Hemingway, for example, in The Moveable Feast, was so interested in himself and his own feelings that he dealt with Paris from an abstract distance as though he were seeing it in a movie.  Orwell, on the other hand, climbed down into its gustatory bowels and heard its stomach rumble in Down and Out in Paris and London.

Such is the case with Sex in the City: Paris.  Those authors who actually have opened their minds and hearts to its nature truly get the city; those who do not, fail rather badly. That is especially true in instances where details of actual city life are botched or simply wrong. Paris has a strange but definite emotional embrace that it you either feel or don’t, regardless of how long you are there. For many people that embrace is almost instantaneous, just as it is for those who fall in love with New York City, even though she can be a very cranky mistress.

Three stories in this volume stand out in particular,  "Bellville Blue" by Carrie Williams is wonderfully written in a fluid, engaging style.  But what makes the story work best is that she has truly thought about the character of each sector and street of the city she describes.  The erotic encounter she relates is not merely plausible, but tangible to the senses. She knows the difference of the feel of each block as you walk along with your lover, and thus her balance of deftness and precision makes her writing a lovely amuse bouche to read.

Maxim Jakubowski’s own story, "An Unreliable Guide to Paris Hotel Rooms," offers his delightfully droll look at sex, with and without room service, in an assortment of Paris hotels. In truth these establishments usually seem to be expensive and dreary with claustrophobic rooms and a furtive staff. But as we all know, an assignation is often a way of making life beautiful despite the surrounding conditions, rather than because of them.  What this story captures so well is that transitory sex is often a matter of misdirection and substitution that produces as much irony as fulfillment. That is not to say that his story is without romance; it’s just not always between the two people who happen to be in bed at the time.

By far for me, however, the best story in this anthology is EllaRegina’s "The Red Brassiere," an homage to the film, "The Red Balloon," by Lamorrisse made in 1956. This story is a truly outrageous surreal fantasy about a flying red brassiere that magically becomes the seductress of all the men in the multi-national capitol of France. I will not spoil this story with further plot elucidation, but I will say that it is a work of delightfully playful story telling that authentically lifts the heart.  And that’s what makes it so perfect, because despite the endless struggles of urban life, Paris is a city that truly is available to the open heart when it is supported with élan, a little charm and a sense of humor. That short list also fairly well sums up the greater part of Sex in the City: Paris, as a lovely read.

Shakespearotica: Queering the BardShakespearotica: Queering the Bard
Edited By: Salome Wilde
Storm Moon Press
November 2013

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I once wrote a poem that explores the theme of Shakespeare’s sexuality. The opening stanza goes like this:

In Shakespeare’s day,
all the actors were gay
while the women all wanted it ruder
And the sluttiest old crone
Rested up on the throne
And her name was Elizabeth Tudor.

I mention this here so, from the onset of this review, you’ll be aware that my attitude toward Shakespearean studies lacks any of the reverence associated with bardolatory.

There are lots of Shakespearean theories thrown out for discussion:

The one obvious thing that the majority of these theories fails to take into account is that Shakespeare was a writer. Writers, by their nature, are mercurial. I’m a writer and, if I thought it would improve my chances for publication, prestige or promotion, I would happily describe myself as an earl of Derby and/or Oxford, or as a gay man or a dead contemporary playwright or a Jewish woman.

The authors who’ve contributed to Salome Wilde’s Shakespearotica: Queering the Bard, seem to appreciate this mercurial quality. The stories they’ve contributed to this eclectic collection of gay erotic Shakespeare appropriations demonstrate a diverse range of approaches to the bard.

This section, from Jean Roberta’s “A Well-Placed Pinch,” shows how one of the contributors has managed to compile something contemporary with a clever suggestion of Shakespearean gender ambiguity.

"I am intrigued, my lad," announced Olivia to an invisible audience. "What secret could you be hiding? Do you have some monstrous deformity under your clothes? If you want me to believe you are a trustworthy messenger and not a scoundrel or an ogre, you must reveal yourself as God made you."

Claire hoped Irene didn't really mean what her words suggested. She wondered if this was Irene's idea of a fair test, an ordeal that a suitor must survive to gain a lady's attention and respect.

"Rude boy!" exclaimed Rosie, tossing her hair over her shoulder and pushing out her chest. "My mistress wants you to take off your clothes."

Claire tried to think of a Shakespearean response, but words failed her.

"You know you want to," said Irene, clearly as herself, looking Claire in the eyes. Then, resuming her role, she went on. "I wish to see what is covered by thy rich doublet and cunning codpiece. What better way to display your courage and honesty than by showing me what you've got? If you do as I ask, I may grant you a favor in return." Irene bubbled with sensuous implications, but Claire noted she wasn't making any promises.

Then there’s this science-fiction adaptation from Tilly Hunter with “As We Like It: A Romance.”

Few people come to the biodome. It was my mother's favorite place, although she felt deep guilt over the amount of water it wasted while the villagers eked out muddy puddles at the bottom of their wells. She had a tender heart. People think her spirit haunts this oasis, and so they avoid it. My father had been unkind to her when it became apparent one daughter was all she would bear him, and some say her early death was hastened by her unhappiness.

Ross lifts my knee-length shift, a thing of flimsy mauve silk, worn to impress at the duke's table. The dye comes from a plant that grows only on Wilmcote, one of the forest planets that orbit a lesser sun in the outer reaches of our galaxy. It costs hundreds of ducats to color one dress. The shadow of my curves shows through in certain lights. I think Ross appreciates its femininity as a contrast to his own trousers and shirt, although I prefer plainer and more practical attire. He grasps my hips and bends his head to my pubic mound, his lips skimming over my belly.

Or there’s “Much Ado About a Kiss,” this modern interpretation from Caitlin Ricci:

Jack shrugged and smiled, showing his perfectly white teeth. "True. But at the same time, it's just a sex scene. And a fake one at that."

Alex bit the inside of his cheek. That was exactly the problem he had: a sex scene with the man he'd had a crush on since the day he'd tried out for the all-gay production of Much Ado About Nothing. "Yeah, but it should be believable, right? So, I thought practice might be good." His face was on fire as he looked away. "Might be less awkward, at least," he mumbled.

"Sure. It would have been fun to have one of the other scenes. The guy playing Beatrice gets all the fun lines, and our characters hardly ever talk," Jack said with a sigh.

Alex agreed with him instantly and was curious to know which ones Jack liked the most. "Like which lines?" he asked.

Jack shrugged. "I like the one 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.' It seems to fit sometimes."

Startled, Alex looked up at him. "That's a strange line to pick. Do you scorn love? Like Beatrice does in the play?"

"No. Not at all. If I could find it, I'd jump at the chance to have it for myself. But I’ve been told that far too many times in my life to believe every guy that tries," Jack replied with a shrug.

A lot’s been written about Shakespeare and a lot more will be written as writers re-imagine Shakespeare’s stories for this and future generations. This entertaining collection shows that today’s contemporary erotica writers are more than capable of being inspired by the bard’s stories to develop their own dramatic flair for the erotic.

She Shifters: Lesbian Paranormal EroticaShe Shifters: Lesbian Paranormal Erotica
Edited By: Delilah Devlin
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344796X
July 2012

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the Foreword to She Shifters, Kate Douglas says:

I write of the redeeming power of love and the need for us to love ourselves before we can freely love another. I write of men and women who have suffered, but have gone on to find the strength to believe in themselves, to believe they are truly worthy of love—and to choose partners who are worthy of their love. But most of all, I write about acceptance. That love in and of itself is what matters. Paramount in my stories is the concept that we are all worthy of love, that gender, race, religion, and all the other things society tries to throw in our way as barriers to love are foolish—though I have to admit, they do create wonderful themes around which to build our tales.

These are recurrent themes that are foregrounded throughout the sixteen excellent stories of lesbian paranormal erotica within this anthology: love, redemption and acceptance.

The genre of the paranormal has always been popular with those who believe themselves to be outside the limitations of whatever is perceived as normal. This is possibly why the genre has always had such an extensive appeal for teenagers (a demograph who invariably see themselves as outsiders). It’s an appeal, which we’ve seen evinced repeatedly over the past decade or so, with teen icons such as Buffy and Bella Swan creating a fantasy world of the paranormal where teenage angst is an acceptable form of expression.

But this is not a book for teenagers – this is aimed at a more adult market.

However, there are certainly echoes of the outsider striving for redemption and acceptance in stories like “Sneak” by Giselle Renarde where the common unity of a curse is found between a lesbian shape-shifter mouse and an unfortunate and unhappy sex worker.

Ah, Loralee, so unassumingly pretty underneath that thick foundation, the false lashes, the dark shadow. Her men only got to see her one way—made-up, falsified, cloaked in everything she wasn’t. Her skirts were small, but her hair was big—teased and sprayed to retain dimension. It wasn’t the real Loralee on that bed, just a body that looked like her. Cosmetics prevented the men, the adulterers and perverts, from seeing her true self. Loralee, pretty Loralee, was so vulnerable, so insecure…so like Bess. Bess looked on, unnoticed, as some reeking cowboy took Loralee from behind. His shirt was half-off, dirty denim around his ankles, boots grinding mud into the worn-down carpet. They were all so lazy, these dirty, grunting men. Loralee deserved better, but the poor thing was resigned to her fate.

And how, exactly, did Bess know all this? Well, people tend to talk when they think they’re alone. Loralee always talked to herself when the men had gone, while she stripped the bed. Poor girl always washed the sheets after a john had left.
“Sneak” Giselle Renarde


It’s argued that regular readers of the paranormal genre can often identify with the characters and familiar tropes found in this milieu of fiction. Some critics claim that regular readers of this genre see a reflection of their own personality in the personification of those outside the restrictions of society’s regular limitations.

I’m not sure how much of this is generalisation and how much is likely accurate but there are echoes of the outsider in many of the stories in this collection, including JL Merrow’s second contribution to this anthology: “Nine Days and Seven Tears.”

I found where the heat of her was centered, and as she opened for me like a sea anemone, she arched her back and hummed with pleasure. The scent and the flavor of her almost overwhelming me. I tongued that hard, crimson bud again and again, until Freyja shuddered and came, crying out softly in an ancient language I longed to understand.

“You make me so hot,” she whispered, but her white fingers felt cool on my heated skin, like the lap of the sea on a hot summer’s day. They rippled over me, bringing life and yearning to every part they caressed, and then they dove inside me, darting in and out with a touch that both burned and soothed.
“Nine Days and Seven Tears” JL Merrow

This is not to say, despite these stories sharing themes, that they are predictable. The stories in this collection are all exciting and well-written. Editor Delilah Devlin has picked a fine host of fiction for this anthology, each of which works as an exemplar of erotic fiction and together they collectively work to fulfil the promise of the title.

She Shifters explores a wide array of metaphors for female sexuality and lesbian intimacy and presents the reader with an accessible selection of stories that can be enjoyed for the surface pleasure of erotic fulfilment, or can be considered for the greater depth that they give to this genre.

She Who Must Be Obeyed: Femme Dominant Lesbian EroticaShe Who Must Be Obeyed: Femme Dominant Lesbian Erotica
Edited By: D. L. King
Lethe Press
ISBN: 1590211944
July 2014

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

As D L King points out in her introduction to She Who Must be Obeyed, the dominant femme is a mainstay of life and literature. 

The dominant femme has long been an archetype in life, as well as in literature. Butches, bois, women and girls look to her as the guiding force in life and love and, of course, hot, down and dirty, back-up-against-the-wall sex. And dominant women know, perhaps innately, that bois need a firm, guiding hand. The same holds true for butches of all stripes as well as girls and other women. It’s a universal truth that the dominant femme knows just where she fits and all others will flock to the aura of power surrounding her.

D L King, Introduction

One worries sometimes that an anthology with such a specific theme could be limited in the scope of its content. Surely, if the remit for authors is fixed to the one archetype, there isn’t much opportunity for originality?

But it’s a false assumption. King is an accomplished editor who selects stories for talent and originality. Yes, the archetype of the dominant femme appears in each story, but it’s an archetype realised differently by each writer, and existing in a different narrative form.

She walks out still in the black strapless gown and opera gloves.

She gives me that head to toe assessment again and then gives my shoulder a push downward.

“Get on your knees.”

So it’s going to be like that. Her earlier femme fatale act wasn’t just flirting. I pause, because even though I fantasize ruthlessly about being commanded and controlled by an aggressive femme, there’s a certain mercilessness in those green eyes. Suddenly I feel certain that this might end in a screaming orgasm or a plea for mercy, but it probably won’t end with a cuddle before brunch.

I get on my knees, the asphalt cold and damp through my jeans.

She pulls up her dress and shows me pale, shapely long legs and then the smooth seashell of her pussy. Of course she’s waxed bare. She’s the most flawlessly groomed woman I’ve ever seen.

She smiles down at me. “Get to work—and if you do a good job, there’s a reward in it for you.”

Valerie Alexander, "Noir"

Alexander’s dominant femme is appraising the narrator’s abilities. The story addresses a level of control and submission that are delightfully executed and speak to a desire for devotion to celebrity culture that is endemic within modern society. But this is not the only way dominant femmes are portrayed in this collection.

But then a curious thing happens. As she slowly thrusts more deeply into my ass, the pain lessens, and exquisite sensations rise up to mingle with the pain. She’s slowly but gradually increasing her pace, and sweat breaks out all over my body. My hips rise up to meet each thrust and I’m breathing open-mouthed moans into the bed in time to the rhythm of her fucking me. She’s making breathy sounds of her own, and I can feel her pleasure rising and I am lost, completely engulfed in sensation, sinking into it, time and place disappearing until there is only Her. Pleasing Her. Giving myself over to Her. She cries out suddenly, her body tensing above me as she reaches her peak, and I feel a pleasure, a gratitude, so intense that it transcends orgasm completely.

"Unchartered Territory," Evan Mora

Evan Mora gives us a powerful and explicit story of reciprocated devotion. Mora has a gift for language that makes every syllable count as she shares this intoxicating tale of passion and submission.

This is a collection that contains some of my favourite authors (D L King, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Sacchi Green, Theresa Noelle Roberts, Jean Roberta, to name a small few) and a handful of authors I haven’t previously had the chance to enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, D L King knows how to collate exactly the right material for an anthology. The works here are of the highest standard with the focus remaining balanced between narrative function and erotic content. Whether you’re enamoured by your own dominant femme, or simply curious about a world you don’t ordinarily occupy, She Who Must be Obeyed is essential reading material for those who enjoy well-written erotic fiction.

She's on TopShe's on Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442690
March, 2007

Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.


Show-Offs: Gay Erotic StoriesShow-Offs: Gay Erotic Stories
Edited By: Richard Labonte
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448176
April 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I’d like to posit that there’s a glorious case of pride involved in exhibitionism, and a deep well of desire – often unfulfilled – in voyeurism. I was recently at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, and one evening after a shockingly good dinner and a memory deadening cocktail known as Sazerac I found myself with some excellent company at a club where mostly naked fellows danced on the bar counter for the enjoyment of all.

Show-offs was actually quite fresh in my mind. When I review for Erotica Revealed, I will usually make sure I’ve read the book at least twice. While visiting New Orleans I was on my third perusal through the collection and the reality of the strippers in front of me was certainly helping cement my thoughts on the collection.

So, a confession. It turns out I don’t actually enjoy strippers that much. Something about their buffed and perfect bodies (seriously, is chest hair an offence?) and the crowd around them (who are so often seemingly made of the sad and lonely, though I could be projecting) doesn’t combine to titillation. The real world, as is so often the case, doesn’t deliver as well as fiction.

Which is to say, Show-offs delivers in full.

When Richard Labonte collects stories for an anthology, I know that he’ll put together a collection that has a mix of tales that bring the expected – to settle the theme solidly before the reader – and the unexpected to just as quickly unsettle the reader and bring a fresh take on the idea. The idea of watchers and those who are watched has what at first appears to be a pretty narrow window that is soon cracked wide by the authors in the collection.

“Vacancy,” by Jamie Freeman, doesn’t so much open the window as shatter it. Taking a vaguely guilty pleasure – watching a neighbour masturbate while he watches porn – and tying in something darker gives this story a real edge. Realizing that while he is watching his neighbour, he is himself being watched by someone who might be dangerous, the final few moments of the story leave a delightful shiver in the base of the spine.

“My Best Friend’s Dad,” by J. M. Snyder, ends the collection with a take on voyeurism that I wouldn’t have considered: hope. This is a cleverly designed tale of a young man who stumbles into a fantasy scenario that gives him a picture of what can happen in his future. Sort of an X-rated It Gets Better, only with more sweat and a decidedly happy ending. Kudos to Snyder for coming up with this angle, and for Labonte to place it so perfectly at the close of the collection.

Between those two brackets, the stories bob and weave between the usual scenarios (a hot man who knows he’s a hot man and likes others to watch him, in “Golden Shadows,” by David Holly) to some humorous beginnings that turn to something sexier in Rob Rosen’s “You’ve Been Spunked.” Of course, I’d be remiss to miss mentioning Dale Chase’s fasntastic “Chisholm Trail Boys” – every time I speak of Chase, I feel like all I can do is babble that no one does western erotica like Dale Chase, but it bears repeating, and spinning a voyeur/exhibitionist angle without breaking her trademarked earthiness is no mean feat. Similarly, Jeff Mann is once again in fine form, bringing a man with a real sense of verisimilitude to the topic – a man feeling the desires of other slip somewhat from his grasp, but who fills his fantasies with those who he has watched from a distance through his days. This tale, “Harem,” best captured the widest range of takes on the theme in one place, and of course didn’t skimp on the usual BDSM lens through which so much of Jeff Mann’s work is seen. And finally, “What Pleases Him Most,” by Thomas Kearnes, shone a harsh light on how love can be hard work, and how the predilections of one partner can leave the other pushing their limits for their love. That the result is successful was all the more stirring, given the young man in the tale who doesn’t really enjoy being on display, and his partner who likes to watch others be with him.

Show-offs surprised me in the sense of completeness I felt once I was done. The writing is sexy, and varied, and everything I knew to expect from Labonte’s work, but somehow this collection had more weight to it. The reality is that I can’t help but be wowed when I open a collection of erotica and discover pieces that are thoughtful and inspire revisiting notions I’d allowed myself to cement in my own mind. Voyeurism and exhibitionism as hopeful, as love-notes to a partner, as a rich fantasy that fulfills a place we cannot usually go were all things I hadn’t really considered.

Now I can watch differently.

Sixteen of the BestSixteen of the Best
Edited By: Sarah Veitch
Palmprint Publications
ISBN: 0953795357
October, 2007

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Palmprint Publications specializes in, appropriately enough, stories of corporal punishment. Sixteen of the Best is an anthology of sixteen prize-winning stories from their adult discipline competitions 2003 through 2006. As Sarah Veitch points out in her afterward, these stories won because the punishment was the focus of the story. No little smack on the bottom qualifies.

There’s something undeniably alluring about the ritual of punishment. The miscreant, the punisher, and the reader all focused on what is about to happen as the erotic tension builds. The young lady is pulled over a lap. Her sins are calmly recounted and the inevitability of her punishment is discussed while she is in this vulnerable position that only heightens her humiliation. Her skirt goes up and her knickers go down, exposing the bottom. Maybe she squirms and begs. Maybe she tries to maintain her dignity. Composure and dignity are the first things to go when the hand, paddle, or crop is applied firmly to the backside.

Not all of the stories in Sixteen of the Best are about women being punished. Nor are they all set in Headmaster’s office. Two are set in the Lucky Seven Saloon somewhere in the wild American west, one in a women’s jail, one in a police station, and many are domestic discipline.

I remember reading Tulsa Brown’s incredible “Goddess” when it was first posted to the Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association’s story time workshop. Then, as now, there was nothing to critique about this femme domme story. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but within a few sentences, it all came back, and I was overjoyed at the chance to read it again. This tale of a homicide detective reaching out to his pro-domme for help finding a killer still mesmerizes.

“Rubios – The Colour of Rubies” by Mark Ramsden was written with such sharp humor that I may have to search out his other work. His editor allowed him too many incomplete sentences, but how irresistible is this?

“She came into my life when I was looking for someone to kill my ex-husband. Too much information? Well, it was only a passing phase. I’d rather have him alive these days. That way he’ll suffer much longer.”

The narrator quickly decides that Svetlana isn’t Russian Mafia as she claims to be and that she should be punished for the lie. Svetlana’s backside is inured to harsh punishment however, and it just about defeats the narrator.

Anyone who belongs to the Kinky Teacher’s Club should know better than to steal from them. But the pressing need for a small loan to tide her over to her next paycheck proves to be too much temptation in Jean Roberta’s “How Not to Manage Debt.” Here we have the familiar idea of teachers meting out punishment, but not in a school setting, and on the bottom of one of their own. For someone who grew up in a time when teachers could still drag us into the coat room and take out their frustrations on us with a cricket bat, the idea of a teacher tasting a bit of the whip is a satisfying bit of fantasy revenge.

Several of the stories featured miscreants who obviously did not learn a lesson. In Kit’s “Disobedience a la Carte,” a woman carefully calculates each bit of willful disobedience against the punishment she craves.

“I calculate every stroke of my disobedience. It’s a little like counting calories, though more dangerous, more of a gamble and far more fun: place, time, means and method are all up to him, and hand action isn’t counted so I never know entirely what I’ll get.”

Similarly, in James Baron’s “Beloved Birch,” he deliberately commits an act of vandalism in front of a policeman to earn the birching he desires. The anticipation and planning is as much a part of his sexual fantasy as the punishment, and the only lesson he seems to have learned at the end was that it was worth it to have his fantasy fulfilled.

If you’re a fan of corporal punishment, this anthology is the perfect book for you. Every story centers on a bared bottom and the abuse it receives. The rituals are lingered over with lavish attention. No matter how much pleading and crying goes on, the punishment is carried out to its inevitable end.

Slave Girls: Erotic Stories of SubmissionSlave Girls: Erotic Stories of Submission
Edited By: D. L. King
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780327
May 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

It’s 5PM, it’s 92 degrees in my office, and we don’t have air conditioning. I am a tad grumpy, as you might well imagine. In Slave Girl land, that would be the cue for my Master to come drag me away from my computer for a scene. First I would be annoyed, then turned on, and finally, grateful. If that’s what the Master of your daydreams does for you (guaranteed better than a brand name bubble bath!), you’ll find it here in “Noise” by Evan Mora, and in “Hell-Bent For Leather” by Victoria Behn.

Or maybe you like to imagine being shared. “Out of Sight” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “Passing the Final” by Donna George Storey explore the delights of being blindfolded and at the mercy of strangers – but under the watchful eye of a protective man.

If your fantasy is the excellent movie Secretary with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, then “Serving Mr. Brown” by Veronica Wilde will probably push your buttons in all the right ways. “Day Job” by Deborah Castellano will also give you that workplace stern boss vibe, as will Lisette Ashton’s “Green’s.”

There are so many reliably good writers contributing to this anthology that you can hardly go wrong even selecting one at random. Thomas Roche, Alison Tyler, DL King, Giselle Renarde and others deliver tales that are in turns intense, riveting, and beyond the ordinary.

Slave to Love: Erotic Stories of Bondage and DesireSlave to Love: Erotic Stories of Bondage and Desire
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446505
April 2011

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Fans of BDSM know that Alison Tyler can deliver wonderful stories in an anthology, and Slave to Love is no exception. With stories featuring fem sub, male sub, gay, lesbian, and gender-bending lovers, there's a story in this book for everyone. I, as usual, have a few favorites, but you'll probably like other stories for other reasons. There's a lot to like here.

Nice and BDSM are words that most people wouldn't put together, but most fans of BDSM recognize that there's often underlying sweetness in many BDSM stories. There's nothing wrong with that. I (public confession!) like love, tenderness, and emotional connection. However, in the hands of a skilled writer, an edgy story is a welcome break from all the nice. Marilyn Jaye Lewis' “Daddy's Girl” was one of those stories that I felt a little guilty for enjoying so much while part of my brain was flashing "this is so disturbing" alarms. Michael Hemminson's “Betty's Bottom” wasn't quite as edgy, but it still had bite, and it wasn't at all "nice." Thanks to Alison for including these stories.

Fans of fem sub will find plenty to interest them from names they recognize, including Debra Hyde's “Ever on Edge” and Thomas Roche's “Under My Thumb.” I don't think I've seen Cate Robertson's work before, but after reading “Sonnet,” I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her stories in future anthologies. Fans of lesbian stories will enjoy Jean Roberta's literate “Down Below.” (I chose to put this with fem sub because the narrator is the sub, but there's a fem dom too, so fans of either scenario will be satisfied here.) “Everything That You Want” by C.D. Formetta, translated by Maxim Jakubowski, stuck a real chord for authenticity with me. I also enjoyed Mia Underwood's “The Real Prize.” Alison Tyler is a big name in erotica for good reason. She consistently delivers hot stories. Her contribution, “Well Trained,” is no exception.

Fans of male submission have several choices too. N.T. Morley's “Divorce Proceedings” is angsty but hot, while Xavier Acton's “Unlike the Others” captures the feeling of a crush very well. “Five Bucks a Swat” by Christopher Pierce features a gang spanking in a gay bar, for charity!  Props to Christopher for such cheeky fun. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

While you may be thinking that I must have already mentioned every story in this anthology, there's so much more by wonderful writers such as Saskia Walker, Shanna Germain, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Michelle Houston, R. Gay. Vanessa Evans. Julia Moore (there's a freaky little bit of naughty fun for you), Erica Dumas, Sophia Valenti, and Sommer Marsden. In sports, they'd call that a deep bench. In an anthology, I call it a "you can't miss" lineup of powerhouse talent.

Smooth: Erotic Stories for WomenSmooth: Erotic Stories for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444081
October 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Have you ever dreamed about being suddenly naked in unusual circumstances? The emotional flavor of such dreams depends on how much you dread exposure or how much you secretly or openly yearn to be seen -- and it depends on who sees you.

A theme of nakedness in an erotic anthology doesn't seem brilliant at first glance, since sex generally requires a state of undress. These stories, however, explore all the implications of being uncovered, laid bare, shown for who one really is, deprived of a familiar cloak or disguise. A few of these stories are about discovering someone else’s raw, naked truth. It's a surprisingly diverse theme.

In her introduction, the editor explains:

At the gym, in the shower, on the subway, at a tea party, the women in Smooth leave behind their inhibitions and go where many women have only dreamed about. Sexy, playful, sensual and celebratory, these nineteen stories will be sure to entice you as they reveal so much skin.

In the imaginary worlds of these stories, nakedness is often embarrassing in a titillating way, but never really dangerous. And a naked woman (like the bare-breasted Amazon warriors in Monique Wittig's feminist fantasy novel Les Guerrilleres) can leave the onlooker disarmed.

In "This Night" by Suzanne V. Slate, a deceptively simple Male-dominant, female-submissive scenario is repeated with the roles reversed, although the woman is naked in both versions. In the first, she is ordered to strip by her Master, who forces her to display herself to a stranger. In the second, the woman calmly opens the door in the altogether, while her boy-toy is helpless to stop her.    

"Eden" by Molly Slate explores the implications of the Biblical story in which Adam and Eve awake from a state of blissful innocence by realizing that they are naked, and feeling ashamed. (In Slate's version, shame is also the beginning of lust, or fascination with the exotic body of the Other.) The body of a deer reminds Adam of mortality, then Eve thinks:

His neck jerked up. He glared at me with that blinking accusation again, and then something happened--something new. His face cracked. It was waterless, but I stared in amazement before I realized that I had broken open, too, and something new was spilling out, something good and merciful, like balm. Its hand pulled and twisted in my stomach. This isn't mercy--it's the thing you got in the trade, the thing you're left with when mercy's fled. It was loud; it was chaos.

After mutual misunderstanding and emotional pain, the first woman and the first man reach a fragile agreement.

Several of these stories deal with tattoos as a means of covering or enhancing bare skin. In "Ink" by Jennifer Peters, a woman with a tattoo fetish meets the man of her dreams, but waits to reveal her own body art. She explains:

Maybe it's because my mother used to call my best friend with the abundance of body art Sideshow Barbie, or maybe it's due to the fact that a date once called tattooed girls 'major sluts,' but I like to keep my own ink to myself.

In due course, she shows her tattoos to the man who can appreciate them, and her.

In "Adornment Is Power" by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Mara and Joel, who used to date in their clueless youth, reconnect after they have each discovered BDSM and their own versatile natures as switches. Their current sexual knowledge and self-awareness are represented by their body art.

In Lisabet Sarai's story, "Clean Slate," a female former gang-member is getting her tattoos erased so that she can be a suitable wife for her upscale fiance. As the attendant Luisa lasers the ink off Ally's skin, Ally regrets giving up her favorite tattoo:

I called her Lilith. She had huge tits with red-grape nipples and a glorious fat ass. Her skin was black velvet. Her pomegranate lips parted to show pointed teeth that gleamed with my natural paleness. Lilith lounged naked on my chest, luxuriant jet curls tumbling across my shoulder, the globe of her butt coinciding with the meager swell of my own tit. Lilith grasped a steel-blue sword in one hand and a hank of chain in the other. Nobody fucked with Lilith.

Ally learns that Lilith, as her alter ego or guardian spirit, can still be with her even when the tattoo is gone. This story is powerful, and it is one of my favorites in the book.

"Live Action" by Susan St. Aubin is an atmospheric story set in a foggy city with streetcars (San Francisco?) in some past era when pounding a typewriter in an office was the default job for a typical young woman from a smaller town. Ellen, heroine of this story, develops "a fascination with windows," where anything or anyone could appear. In due course, she sees a man who needs an audience as much as Ellen needs to learn the secrets of a worldly city.

"Ivy League Associates" by Donna George Storey is an unusually realistic and entertaining story about the sex trade, in which a woman who went to Princeton goes to work as a call girl, theoretically because she is researching a book (actually because she is a starving artist who needs the money). The client who orders her to come to his house in a raincoat over bare skin abruptly changes his tone when he and she both realize that they have met in different circumstances. Being addressed by her real name makes Erica feel much more naked than she did en route. A sexual encounter between these two characters suddenly becomes less inevitable, and more satisfying for both than they expected.

"Loyly" by Angela Caperton is literally a steamy story about rebounding from heartbreak. A woman who goes to a bleak hotel alone in a Michigan winter is cheered to discover the hotel sauna. She is first surprised, then aroused by an unself-conscious fellow-tourist, a man from Finland who teaches her that "loyly" in his language means both "steam" and "spirit." He introduces her to the healing potential of the sauna, a traditional haven for those who live in harsh northern climates.

The rest of the stories are competently-written, good-natured and well-paced, but they fall into predictable categories. The editor's own piece, "Chilly Girl," could fit in with her other stories that make distinct fetishes comprehensible for those who don't share them -- or who haven't explored them yet.

This collection as a whole is as colorful and varied as other Cleis anthologies, including the annual series, Best Women's Erotica and Best Lesbian Erotica.

Smut Alfresco: Tales of Outdoor AdventureSmut Alfresco: Tales of Outdoor Adventure
Edited By: Lucy Felthouse
Contributions By: Victoria Blisse
House of Erotica
February 2013

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

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.

Smut by the SeaSmut by the Sea
Edited By: Lucy Felthouse
Contributions By: Victoria Blisse
House of Erotica
ISBN: 1782341811
September 2012

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Freedom. Sensuality.  Unsullied nature. Deliciously tacky bars and souvenir shops. Succulent fried fish and icy beer. Scalding sun, gritty sand, salt on the breeze and on your skin. A sense that everyday rules are suspended, that almost anything can happen.

This is what I think of, when someone suggests a seaside holiday. After reading this delightful erotic collection, I know I'm not alone. Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse have assembled more than a dozen luscious tales that celebrate life and love alongside the ocean – tales of temptation and transgression, self-indulgence and sweet release.

Most of the authors in the book are from the U.K., and at least half the stories are set in British ocean resort towns like Scarborough, Brighton and Bridlington, with their boardwalks, fun fairs, and ice cream parlors. Lexie Bay's “Last Chance Summer” chronicles a young woman's torrid fling with a well-muscled carnival attendant, who gives her a ride she'll remember all her life – even as she moves to London and into the adult world. In “Ice Cream Kisses,” M.A. Stacie's harried heroine enjoys a thrilling, sticky encounter inside an unconventional ice cream vendor's closed kiosk.  There's more ice cream, of an Italian flavor, in Slave Nano's “One Scoop or Two”. I don't normally find food sex arousing, but imagining a cold stainless steel ice cream spoon being smoothed over hot, sensitized breasts definitely did the trick.

Lucy Felthouse takes us back to the fun fair with “Dodging”, in which a gal sneaks away from her friends, determined to seduce the God-like bumper car attendant. Tanith Davenport's story “I Like It Wet” is another Scarborough romp, this time among the waves. Victoria Blisse shows us Scarborough in a less sunny, more pensive, but equally sensual mood, in “A Proper British Seaside Holiday,” with a rainy tryst atop an open-air bus. In “Of Moon and Sea,” Cassandra Dean paints an image of Scarborough in an earlier time – perhaps Victorian or Edwardian. Heroine Olivia throws propriety to the winds as she surrenders to her new husband.

In counterpoint to these classic holiday romps, K.D. Grace offers a haunting portrayal of an encounter between a woman and a selkie in her exquisite tale “Skin”. This is perhaps the most serious story in the collection, ripe with mystery and bittersweet echoes of loss. Another delicious oddity is Cynthia Rayne's “Communing with the Mighty Neptune,” an arch fantasy about a woman and a very well-endowed merman. I loved this funny but very sexy story.

Paying tribute to a pagan god is never an easy task. It's not like a simple Christian ceremony where you have to go to the local church, pray, and you're all set. No, there's always a ritual that needs to be translated from some archaic language. Then there is the obscure ingredient list. Of course the ritual must be done at just the right time on just the right night. And then there's the outfit that must be worn, or rather, lack of outfit.

“Swashbuckling,” by Lily Harlem instantiates one of my personal favorite fantasies: running off to sea with a black-haired, virile, and very kinky pirate. Surfing idyll “Against the Current,” by Heidi Champa, breaks the mold as the only gay story in the collection as well as the only one clearly set outside of England. It's a bit too sandy for my tastes, but sultry nevertheless. Finally Justine Elyot's “Love in the Low Season” is a pitch-perfect invocation of a Tom-Jones-like crooner on a downward slide who gets a second chance with a former one-night stand.

Although I associate Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse  more with romance than erotica, many of the stories in Smut By The Sea celebrate the intensity of brief encounters as opposed to long-term relationships. Indeed, holidays by the sea often have the quality of stolen time, a reality separate from the drab world of work and commitment. The ocean constantly changes. You can't hold on to the tide. And the love you find on the beach is meant to be savored and then released.

This was my first experience with a book published by House of Erotica. I was favorably impressed by the production. The pages were tinted a creamy peach color, which actually made them easier to read. Victoria Blisse leads off with a lively introduction, expounding on the book's vision and defending the term “smut.” Author bios follow the stories. I always enjoy finding out more about the people behind the tales.

Another round of copyediting would have improved the book further. I did notice some typographical and grammar errors. However, they weren't sufficiently common to really interfere with my enjoyment of the book.

In summary, Smut By The Sea is a light-hearted celebration of life, sex and salt water. If you can't get to the beach in reality, it's the next best thing.

Smut By The Sea Volume 3Smut By The Sea Volume 3
Edited By: Lucy Felthouse
Contributions By: Victoria Bliss
House of Erotica
July 2014

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Oh boy. The Thumper rule would apply, but I have to write a review.

Something strange is going on with the model’s upper lip on the cover of this anthology. That’s not the only visual problem with this pdf. The pages are dark tan. I suppose that’s supposed to remind me of the beach, but what it really did was make reading this anthology even more unpleasant.

I tried. I really did. I tried to read through each story and pick three that would appeal to readers, but these stories were such a chore to slog through that I couldn’t. It’s not that the writing is terrible, but it’s not ready for prime time either. I found myself skimming the sex scenes in almost every story then had to force myself to go back and read them. That’s never a good sign in erotica.

Obviously, I’m not the audience for stories that include huge backstory dumps in the first three pages, telling rather than showing, and clunky writing.  This is volume three, so presumably volumes one and two of this series were much, much better. Maybe you should try reading one of them instead.

Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme EroticaSometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica
Edited By: Tristan Taormino
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443824
February 2010

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

In her introduction to Sometime She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, editor Tristan Taormino states:

Butch/femme is a perfect centerpiece for erotica since it is recognizable and meaningful to many people. It’s also incredibly multilayered – creating opportunities for characters to play with gender in a sexual context, do unexpected things, challenge conventional wisdom and assumptions, and explore taboo desires.

A theme that comes up often in this anthology is that Butches are supposed to be stone, meaning that they don’t accept reciprocal sex, and that to do so is shameful. Alison L. Smith’s “Sometimes She Lets Me” explores this with such precision of craft that she’s able to deliver a deeply touching portrait in only two pages. When an anthology opens with a story that fine, expectations move up a notch.

If you fear that your fantasies make you a freak, reading about them in erotica can be comforting and liberating. In her story “Anonymous,” I felt as if Amie M. Evans peeked into my storehouse of frustrated desires. While I’m long beyond caring if I’m freak, it’s still good to know that other women long for, “No exchange of numbers or first-date sex; but rough, hard, no-name sex: the stuff of gay boy novels and urban myths.” Her femme narrator boldly sashays into a bar in search of just that, but not before a ‘laugh-out-loud and nod your head in recognition’ observation of how difficult it is for women to break past the real and imagined barriers to NSA (no strings attached) sex. Once the narrator shoves all that aside, she finds a butch with the same fantasy. From there on, things get hot and dirty, the way every good sexual fantasy should.

Lynne Jamneck’s “Voodoo and Tattoos” hit a few of my buttons – voyeurism, and two hot butches. The narrator works the bar at a conference as a favor for a friend. A power femme hits on her, but the scene that follows isn’t exactly what she expects. This story got me worked up in all the right ways.

In “Look But Don’t Touch” by Sparky, a boi watches a peep show. If the girls dancing for him know he’s passing, they either don’t care or like showing off for him. The glass that separates the girls from the boi works on a metaphorical level for the bittersweet envy of gender diaspora. Hot, and well crafted.

Elaine Miller’s “Fee Fie Foe Femme” hits the right balance between a great BDSM teasing scene and sexual frustration. The femme doesn’t want to kiss because their lipstick colors clash. You know at some point that glittery raspberry pink is going to get smeared, but like the femme in this story, you have to wait for it.

While it might seem that gruff butches have the power, femmes aren’t sitting around waiting for rescue, or sex. They’re boldly going after what they want. In “Gravity Sucks” by Skian McGuire, a butch is trapped under a car she’s working on as someone – she hopes it’s her lover -  yanks down her pants and uses them as a budget bondage device to good effect. The power dynamics are turned, or maybe that’s the truth behind this relationship.

Toni Amato’s words are so powerful that it’s difficult to discuss “Grand Jete” without quoting long passages from it. On the surface, it seems so simple. A genderqueer narrator is talking about his lover. But there’s nothing simple about this story. The vulnerability of Toni’s character is breathtaking, and the longing palpable.

There are many other wonderful stories in this anthology. Peggy Munson, S. Bear Bergman, Kristin Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Joy Parks, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizabeth Babcock, Isa Coffey, Jera Star, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith contribute to one of the most consistently strong anthologies I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time. Two thumbs way up.

Edited By: D. L. King
Logical Lust Publications
ISBN: 190509180X
September 2010

Reviewed By: Alison Tyler

Spank! starts off with a sexy little story called “Just a Spanking.”

“Excuse me?”

“Excuse you for what?”

“Where’s your lead? Don’t you want to write something like, ‘Spank! delivers a wallop’?”

“Have you been reading my review copies again?”

“You leave a book called Spank! with a sultry cover like that out on the nightstand, and I…”

“You what…”

“Well, I took the hint.” He cracks the spine and begins reading:

‘I guess I’ll just have to hit your harder,’ he says and follows through on his promise.

Thwack! Slap! Even he couldn’t possibly have the strength to keep this up. Agony stitches across my lacerated flesh each time his hand finds its mark.

“Oh, yes, that’s from the opener by Lisabet Sarai,” I say, remembering fondly.

“You had the page dog-eared.”

“For return visits.”

“You’re planning on returning to all of these?” He brandishes the book, with the multitude of bent-over pages.

“I like re-reading my favorites.”


“No, not usually. I tend to sprawl in the bed with the book in one hand and my Rabbit in the other.”

“Let’s try aloud.” He hands me the book. I open to the first bent corner selection, from a story called “Thin-Skinned” by Jean Roberta:

I wanted to spank her without mercy for making me worry so much about losing her….

“No, not like that.” I look at him. “Bend over the sofa and recite me the parts you marked. I’ll be doing some marking of my own.”

I should have known better. When D.L. King asked if I would read and review Spank! I ought to have requested a PDF, because here I am, attempting to write the review, but now forced to bend over for the man.

“I’m waiting.”

I make a big show of setting down my pencil and picking up the book. As I drag my feet over to the sofa, I wish like hell I’d put on long johns, fleece sweatpants, a flannel robe, a suit of armor—instead, I’m wearing the naughty nightie he gave me for Christmas, nearly translucent crimson silk, over matching panties. My husband waits while I get into position. I open the book to the second bent-over page.

“Name and title, if you please.”

“This one is from Anna Black, called “Elementary My Dear, Sir.””

“I like the sound of that.”

He slowly rubbed his hand over her rear, his smooth palm pressing hard against her flesh.

“Nice.” He does exactly what the book says. “Choose another.”

“This is from “Sugar” by Sommer Marsden.”

“Go on.”

My bottom burns, my pussy lets loose a warm and shameful slick of excitement, and he pushes his fingers into me again. ‘Jesus, Sheila. Look at you. Look at this.’ He holds his fingers under my nose and in the fairy lights that dot the ornamental trees, I see it. The wet evidence of how easy I am. I feel like the stars in the midnight velvet sky are watching us.

“I can see why you’d return to that clip,” he says, sliding his own fingers between my thighs.

Punishment first, forgiveness afterwards. Isn’t that the best way?

“You didn’t give title and author.” He spanks me once, hard.

“This one is called “Slippering” by Lee Ash.”

“Go on.”

Yes, darling,” she repeated. Jake turned to Duncan. “For modesty’s sake, I could slipper her like this, but I always think that the fabric of her knickers might cushion some of the blow.

“That is a problem,” Sam agrees, pulling my own knickers down. Fuck me for choosing that particular excerpt at that particular time. “Next.”

“This is… “Richard’s Reward” by D.L. King.” I’m stuttering over the words because Sam is punctuating each phrase with a stinging spank.

Poor Richard had a difficult time keeping his legs apart and each time he’d bring them together and clench his bottom, she’d stop and gently tease them apart with the head of the crop.

She paid special attention to the sweet spot where his thighs met his rear end. The cropping went on until he was rolling uncontrollably against her lap and she heard him sniffle.

Sam spanks me faster and harder now, so hard I can hardly read the next excerpt. But Sam being Sam, he doesn’t allow for excuses like crying. I wipe my eyes on my arm and continue. “This is from “What Jackie Gives Me” by Evan Mora:

‘Get yourself off, you dirty bitch.’

I moan then, already half lost in the crazy rush of pleasure-pain his words and his cock and his vicious, beautiful hands deliver, but grateful still for the permission he’s given. He could have denied me any kind of release; Jackie can be cruel.

“So can I.”

I know that, which is why I’m relieved and grateful when Sam runs one of his large hands under my body and begins to strum his fingers against my clit. I let the book fall to the sofa cushion and I close my eyes.

“You chose that last excerpt on purpose,” he says as I come.

“I didn’t,” I insist.

“You think this is a good time to argue with me?” I bite my lip and shake my head. “What will your review be?”


He grabs the book from my hand and gives me a solid ten strokes with the collection. “Good, bad, indifferent?”

“Oh, good,” I say, standing up and rubbing my sore behind. And it is good. A good, solid spank of a book (or a book to spank with solidly)—to dip in and out of in any manner you choose.           

Spankalicious: Erotic Adventures in SpankingSpankalicious: Erotic Adventures in Spanking
Edited By: D. L. King
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: B0078T675I
February 2012

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Does the world really need another anthology of spanking stories? When will the market for them become glutted? This was my first thought when I took my first glance at this one. Then I realized that spankings are no more similar than fucks. A spanking takes its meaning from the relationship in which it occurs (teacher/student, Dominant/submissive, etc.), it can involve more than two people (a witness/voyeur, spankee-in-waiting or assistant spanker can play a powerful role), and it can involve a wide variety of sensations.

This collection is different from the others I have reviewed. The cover image shows a woman from the back, her butt-crack exposed by a curved gap in her clothing which cleverly suggests the signature red “V” in the logo of the publisher, Ravenous Romance. This alone distinguishes the book from those produced elsewhere.

A surprising number of these stories involve threesomes; this seems surprising because spankings, by definition, seem to be a one-on-one activity. Even the stories with the most conventional plot premise (Dominant man spanks submissive woman) each have some unusual ingredient that raises the story above the level of cliché.

Like many other anthologies, this one combines stories written with different levels of skill and levels of realism. Helen Madden’s hilarious fairy tale, “The Unfair Maidens,” is a slapstick (literally) version of the revenge story (heterosexual male player gets what he deserves from the women he has played) as well as a parody of the kind of folk tale originally taken seriously. “The Birthday Boy’s Punishment” by Garland is a classic gay boy’s fantasy about getting spanked and fucked by a male teacher as soon as he turns eighteen. (Even in a daydream, it seems, all characters must be legally old enough to consent.)

“Dorm Room Disciplinarian” by A. Erin Golding is a parallel story about a male university student who finds the right female tutor. Instead of distracting him, her spanking focuses his mind so that he can learn better. In “Professor Kent’s Book Club” by Nina Tate Parker, a man who visits his academic mentor, Professor Kent, is amazed to learn that the professor has started a “book club” for submissive middle-aged woman who are not getting what they need from their husbands. The professor encourages Richard, his former student, to explore his own desires and to ask for what he wants.

The fantasy stories include two about the writing process itself. The one that entertained me best is “Inspired” by Martha Davis, a truly inspired study of the relationship of a woman who writes erotica and her devilishly handsome incubus-muse, Alexander, who must be spurred on to give her ideas. I’ve seen this concept embodied in erotic stories before; paradoxically, most erotic writers seem to need a charge of lust to be in writing mode, but writing is usually done best alone. Some versions of this plot are tragic: writer is so obsessed/possessed by fantasy lover (in some cases a ghost or evil spirit) that the writer is alienated from other humans.

In “The Roll-Top Desk” by T. Harrison, a pair of writers are determined to inspire and stimulate each other, even though their writing is not necessarily erotic. The male poet, who uses vintage writing tools (a refinished roll-top desk and an old manual typewriter), gets his girlfriend to read his latest poem aloud while he spanks her in rhythm. She suggests revisions, he literally tries them out on her, and both characters are thus recharged. Afterwards, they each return to their writing. This method could work.

Among the threesome stories are “His and Hers” by Ily Goyanes (a variation on the classic fantasy of a stern female librarian punishing a bad boy for breaking library rules), “Designated Hitter” by Big Ed Magusson (an initiation story about a husband and wife discovering the world of BDSM), “An Incentive for Penny” by Jade Alexander (about a submissive female employee and her Dominant female boss – but the submissive has been set up by her boyfriend) and “The Upper Hand” by D.L. King (in which a male Dom, who advertises for spankees in the newspaper, has a female assistant).

In a sense, threesome spanking stories seem very logical. Even in childhood, a real spanking (delivered by parents) is/was likely to be the result of a set-up: Child A tempts Child B to misbehave, thereby earning a spanking, or one authority figure (e.g. Mom) reports the child’s bad behavior to the designated punisher (e.g. Dad).

In several of the realistic stories, understanding friends or mentors play a key role in the initiation of newbies, some of whom don’t understand their own desires as well as others do. In “A Cure for Excess” by Annabeth Leong,  a young woman is devastated after being dumped by a boyfriend who complained that she was “too demanding” sexually. Her friend Rebecca, and Rebecca’s sexy boyfriend, offer to help spank this quality out of her. Of course, being part of a threesome was exactly what she needed.

In “The First Weekend” by Nan Andrews, a married woman (Miriam) lunches with her married friend Celia, who seems to be having much more fun than Miriam is. Then Miriam’s husband invites her to join him on a business trip, and he introduces her to the world of BDSM to spice up their marriage and bring them closer together. He spanks her even when she is pleading with him to stop, presumably because he knows that she needs an emotional catharsis. Feh. 

“Glass Slippers” by Leela Scott is about a married pair of ballet dancers who integrate spanking into their rehearsals. Both their dancing and their relationship are shown to be works of art which require much practice.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by George Glass is about a woman’s search for the right man; like Cinderella, she has to date many suitors who are not quite suitable until she finds the one whose desires mesh with hers. “On Switch” by Penelope Pruitt is a similarly realistic story about a young man who needs a spanking so badly that he knocks on his girlfriend’s door in the middle of the night, unable to rest until he gets what he wants; eventually, he discovers that he has to give something in return.  In “Little Boys” by Angela R. Sargent, men who crave the feeling of being boys again get when they want from a Domme.

Probably the most unusual story (and one of the best) is “Venus Callipige” by Cesar Sanchez Zapata, set in the Swinging London of the 1960s. The central character, a male clothing designer, is pestered by a model until he realizes to his amazement that his strait-laced persona and his efforts to brush her off are exactly what turn her on. While the happy ending stretches the reader’s credulity, both the style and the plot evoke a time when the energy of rock music seemed likely to transform the world.

Strangely enough, I was disappointed by the one convincingly lesbian story, “My Slutty Little Girl,” by Sinclair Sexsmith. The repetitious dialogue, which emphasizes the contrast of roles, is less sexy on the page than it probably would be in life. This type of pairing has often been described in lesbian anthologies, and it has been done better. 

Anthologies always include stories which will not appeal to all the members of the target audience. Spankalicious, however, includes enough gems to be worth checking out.

Spanked: Red Cheeked EroticaSpanked: Red Cheeked Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443190
July 2008

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In these politically correct times, it’s hard for me – as a heterosexual man – to write about spanking without coming across as a raving misogynist.  Just because I condone consensual spanking does not mean I’m a woman hater.  Nor does it make me one of those dimwits that tell gags like: “What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing you haven’t told her twice before.”  However, the moment I mention spanking with any form of approval, I’m immediately seen as a man who likes to hit women.

Of course, the difference between spanking and abuse is like the difference between good sex and rape.  One is a consensual pleasure for all involved – the other is an abhorrent crime. 

In some ways it’s a comforting thought that spanking remains so taboo.  It resides on the periphery of society’s acceptable behaviour and therefore it’s seen by participants as deliciously deviant behaviour.  Personally, I don’t think there are many things more arousing than the idea behind the words: “We shouldn’t be doing this, but…

Clearly Rachel Kramer Bussel agrees with my thoughts about the pleasure of spanking.  Spanking is one of the repeated elements in a lot of Rachel’s fiction, it was one of the main themes in Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z and Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z II.  Not surprisingly, spanking is also one of the main topics in her recent anthology, Spanked.

During a recent interview with Rachel (for ERWA), I asked her about her interest in the subject as a subject for fiction and she made this comment:

To me one of the greatest things about spanking, as a topic and activity, is there there’s such a vast range of motivations. You could watch, say, two men get spanked by two women. Both have their hands above their head, standing against a wall. Both women use the same black paddle. To an outsider, the scenes look the same, but maybe one is being “punished” by his mistress, and maybe the other has never been spanked before, and is curious. Or maybe he’s usually the top and they’ve decided to switch. You never know, and by telling the story in an engaging way, we can find out.

This eclectic attitude toward the diversity of motivations within spanking is fully reflected in Spanked

The collection begins with “Spanking You.”  This cleverly written short story, from the talent of ribald Rick Roberts, is a gentle introduction of a male hand against female buttocks.  This is followed by the wonderful Shanna Germain’s “Perfect Bound,” a pithy little story about a female spanker and her male subordinate. 

The collection includes Donna George Storey’s delicious tale,  “A Rare Find,” which brings a triptych of couples together for a cheek-reddening night of fun.  There is also Madlyn March’s wickedly entertaining “Reunion,” a punishing story of girl-on-girl retribution; Therese Noelle Robert’s naughty “Daddy’s Girl;” and the anthology concludes with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s stylishly dark denouement: “The Depths of Despair.”  

Obviously, there are other stories – all of them equally exciting and only overlooked here because I’m too lazy to read the table of contents.  But it’s sufficient to say that, as with all Rachel’s anthologies, the standard is fantastically high and every story manages to entertain, arouse and excite.

Spanked takes the time to consider a broad variety of approaches that can be used in this most pleasurable of sexual punishments.  From the traditional employment of bare hands on bare bottoms through to the innovative use of a trade paperback and even a cheese paddle, Spanked repeatedly shows that even if the mechanics of spanking are predetermined – the essence of spanking is always open to imagination and individual interpretation. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a marvellous editor, anthology compiler and erotic fiction author.  Spanked is one of the most entertaining compilations she has put together, including contributions from some of today’s most talented and celebrated erotic fiction writers.  It goes without saying: if you have the vaguest interest in punished backsides, you need to get Spanked.

Stripped Down: Lesbian Sex StoriesStripped Down: Lesbian Sex Stories
Edited By: Tristan Taormino
Contributions By: Introduced and selected by Eileen Myles
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447943
July 2012

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

This was the first piece of latex I ever bought, the first one I
ever tried on. Its tightness around my narrow waist, rounded
hips, and plump ass makes me look and feel space-alien exotic,
and draws attention to the fullest part of my body. Yes, my
butt has stopped traffic. Who doesn’t like to look at a black
diva in red rubber? 

From "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" by Aimee Pearl


When an anthology opens with a scene like this one from Aimee Pearl's "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," my contented sigh rolls across the room and I nestle into my chair because I know I'm not going to set the book down until I've read every tasty word.

So what comes next? "Jubilee" by Quinn Vertiz in which a daddy takes his boi to a brothel for his first time in a sweet, hot gender bending tale that's just pure delight from word one through to the end.


"Butches don’t do this. Butches DO NOT do

But apparently they do in "Butches Don't" by D. Alexandria, and you'll be glad they did.

At this point, I realized I was only three stories into this anthology and had marked each one as a story of note. That's a great sign for a reader, but a bit of a quandary for a reviewer since I usually only mention a few standout stories from each anthology I read. Would the anthology be able to keep up this pace of quality? Yes, absolutely yes. From the delicious twists and turns of "Tori's Secret" by Andrea Miller to the sensual overload of Jai T.'s "Detention" to the voyeuristic thrills of Lynne Jamneck's "A Case of Mistaken Identity," every story in this anthology was enough to spark my writer's envy. And I haven't even mentioned the many other incredible stories by Deborah Hyde, Jean Roberta, Kathleen Warnock, Peggy Munson...  Leaving anyone out feels like a slight because these stories are all wonderful. So here's the table of contents:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road • Aimee Pearl
 Jubilee • Quinn Vertiz
 Butches Don’t • D. Alexandria
 Tori’s Secret • Andrea Miller
 The Break • Cheryl B.
 The Plow Pose • Sinclair Sexsmith
 Ripe for the Picking • Kristina Wright
 After Lunch • Kathleen Warnock
 Touchée • Jean Roberta
No More Secrets • Chuck Fellows
The Woman Upstairs • Tara Alton
Only A Woman’s Touch • Debra Hyde
Detention • Jai T.
Clinical Trial • Radclyffe
Naked Rusted Plumbing • Eric Maroney
Bésame • Gina Bern
A Case of Mistaken Identity • Lynne Jamneck
Riding the Waves • Rose William
Puppy Slut • Michelle Brennan
Planet 10 • Catherine Lundoff
Phoebe’s Undercover Bon Voyage • Skian McGuire
Taking Steps • Thea Hutcheson
Phone Corrosion • Julian Tirhma
Gone • ViolyntFemme
Virgo Intacta • Anna Bishop
Into the Baptismal • Peggy Munson

It's like a greatest hits compilation by all your favorite artists. And if any contributor isn't a favorite yet, now is your chance to discover their work. Can you tell I'm still giddy with reader's delight? I swear it's like I'm drunk on words. Two thumbs way up.

Submission: A Treasury of Women Who Like to Give InSubmission: A Treasury of Women Who Like to Give In
Mischief, HarperCollins
February 2012

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Bondage, discipline, dominance and submission have always been popular themes in erotica. For years, discriminating readers of kinky fiction have relied on editors like Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler and Violet Blue to supply explicit, arousing, beautifully crafted stories of power and surrender.  The explosive success of The Book Which Shall Not Be Named, however, has dramatically increased the market for BDSM books. People who previously were unaware of or uninterested in D/s are looking for stories to feed their fantasies. Quite naturally, authors and publishers have responded by producing a flood of BDSM titles. Submission: A Treasury of Women Who Like to Give In is an example, an ebook-only short-story collection published by the new Mischief imprint of Harper-Collins.

I have to say at the outset that I was unimpressed by this book as a whole. With no introduction, no editor credited, no author biographies, it felt thrown together. Of course, Cleis collections like Please Sir: Erotic Tales of Female Submission and Love at First Sting: Sexy Tales of Erotic Restraint set the bar high, but I still try to judge each book on its own merits. As a long-time devotee of D/s erotica, I found Submission a bit disappointing.

For one thing, the contents do not uniformly reflect the title. A “treasury” suggests an abundance, an extensive collection, but this book contains only nine tales, none, I would guess, over 4000 words. Furthermore, several of the tales have little to do with female submission. As it happens, these stories are among the best in the book from a literary perspective – possibly because they are not burdened by the stereotypes of the BDSM subgenre. Primula Bond's The Ugly Duckling is a deliciously sensual story in which an awkward art student is seduced by her female teacher and mentor while touring the masterpieces of Italy. By my definition at least, there's no kink in this tale. I loved the honest and affecting You Already Know by Charlotte Stein, a tale of strange love between a shy store clerk and a dangerous-seeming hooligan. Once again, though, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with submission.

Meanwhile, some of the stories that adhere most closely to the theme suffer from over-familiarity. Of course, this is a risk one faces in writing in a popular genre replete with standard scenarios.  For example, “Best in Show” by Rose de Fer features puppy-play. The heroine allows her master to exhibit her to other owners of submissive “puppies,” and reaps the sensual rewards of being an obedient dog. I found myself confusing this fairly predictable story with another puppy-play tale in a different anthology I'm reading for review.

“The Usual Dress Code” by Elizabeth Coldwell employs another common premise – a younger woman in emotional thrall to an older, more experienced man, who dictates what she should wear (usually something suggestive or slutty). Despite the fact that I've met this basic outline many times, Ms. Coldwell's tale did arouse and entertain me because she so brilliantly evoked Matilda's inner life:

She can't believe that he's extended such an offer, but the word that would call a halt to all this remains unspoken. There's no point pretending she doesn't want this. She's always wondered quite how far she'd be prepared to go in following her master's instructions, and it seems to be quite a lot further than she'd ever believed. Why else would her fingers fly back to the hem of the skirt, ready to push it up further if Daniel accepts the invitation?

“There's no point pretending she doesn't want this.” This sentence succinctly expresses the essence of submission, for me at least. Ms. Coldwell's tale stands out for its insight as well as its finely-crafted language.

“Corporate Punishment” by Kat Black brings us into yet another favorite BDSM setting, the corporate boardroom, where business adversaries play out their rivalries in games of sexual power. Cate has won contract concessions from her opponent James Grey, knowing full well that she'll pay for them later, bent over her desk or on her knees swallowing his cock.

“Yours (A Letter to Willow Sears),” written by Willow Sears, is one of the more extreme and filthy stories I've read in a while. (I offer my congratulations to Ms. Sears.) It focuses on a lesbian submissive who is punished for daring to look lustfully at another mistress. The epistolary form gives Yours a distinctive and original tone, but its content may disturb some readers.

Chrissie Bentley's “A Different Kind of Tension” actually bothered me a lot more than “Yours”. The heroine is basically tricked into a bondage scenario by a couple who have relationship problems. The ménage scene that ensues left me cold, partially because of its superficial focus on the physical but more importantly because of the selfishness and dishonesty exhibited by everyone involved.

“The Game” by Kyoko Church is another older master/younger submissive tale, but with an unexpected homoerotic twist that made me smile.

Finally, Terri Pray's “Making Up is Hard to Do” deals with a woman who has left her long-time lover because she believes he has been unfaithful. When she returns to discuss the matter, he reveals himself to be a rampant Dom who wants to teach her several lessons – not only that she should trust him, but also that she adores being topped. I