Those who remember the American TV sit-com named "Cheers" know the appeal of a home-away-from-home "where everybody knows your name." It’s a place where the regulars provide a comforting sense of familiarity and new customers prevent the series from growing stale. A bar, a nightclub, an apartment building or a hotel as the physical embodiment of a community or a "scene" as well as a unifying device for a series of episodes is not a new concept, but there are so many possible variations on this device that it still has charm.
In Broadly Bound, a new club named Broad Horizons is launched by its anxious owner, a lesbian Domme named Dani, who worries about losing her submissive femme girlfriend Maryanne because the club (like many new businesses) has taken over Dani's life, forcing everything else, including her relationship, into second place.
The first story in the collection, "Broadening Our Horizons" by Beth Wylde, introduces us to Dani and Maryanne, who have poured all their hope and all their money into this new venture, which is meant to be a home for the intersection of the queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or genderqueer) and BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadomasochistic, Dominant/submissive/fetish) communities in a town which might not be large enough to support it. In the culture of a medium-sized town in the eastern U.S., many members of sexual minorities can't afford to be "out" in public, and therefore they are hard to count. Dani must take it on faith that if she builds a place for them, they will come (in every sense). If they don't, she will be metaphorically screwed.
Dani's anxiety and Maryanne's touching faith in her seem characteristic of the general mood in a time of Recession as well as repression. In fact, the risk that they both take by investing in the club seems more extreme than the sex scene in which Dani shows Maryanne that she hasn't lost her sexual focus. Part of the risk they take involves the private invitations that Dani sends out to her friends for her opening night. No one without an invitation will be allowed in, and this way Dani can assure her “people” that they are in a safe space. Since the reader gets to enter the club on opening night, each of us is presumably one of the chosen.
The next story, "The Leash Has Two Ends," by Syd McGinley, is a study of another same-sex couple with realistic, contemporary baggage. Jake is a Dom by nature, but he has been disabled in war, and his damaged hand is more of a psychological disability than a physical one. Matt is submissive, but he is also Jake's landlord, and he has the challenging job of trying to restore Jake's faith in himself. The Grand Opening of Broad Horizons seems like a golden opportunity to Matt, if only he can persuade Jake to go. The author’s portrait of Jake as a man who is still attractive but shaken by self-doubt and a sense of failure looks like a realistic response to all the stereotyped military hunks in gay men’s erotica.
In D.L. King’s “Family,” that word has layers of meaning. At the heart of the household in the story is Ali, a Domme who lives with her submissive “wife” Glenda, a professional cook. Their “girl,” Missy, is a tattoo artist who dresses like a bratty goth schoolgirl. Their “boy,” Matt, does cleaning and odd jobs. Although Matt is good at his job, there is really no sexual role for him in the household, since he likes to bottom for male Daddies. The reader is told that Matt had to apply for the job, and was chosen over numerous other applicants who were clearly unsuitable, mostly because they were more interested in getting their own desires met than in what they could contribute. What makes Matt tick? He clearly enjoys being of service, and he might have been looking for the peace that can come from being removed from sexual temptation. Yet Ali, as the head of the household, has a responsibility for him.
Opening Night at Broad Horizons is the perfect occasion for play in various forms. Ali reserves a private room for her “family,” including Matt and two other men. An opening needs to be filled, so to speak, and the right person to fill it shows up. In this story, three different concepts of a non-biological “family” are neatly conflated, since the characters in this story are a group of friends, a group of friends with queer identities, and a group of queer friends for whom Dominance and submission are essential.
Kathleen Bradean’s “Opening Night” focuses on a pair of performance artists, the submissive femme Carrie, who tells the story, and the androgynous Zell, who demonstrates shibari (Japanese rope bondage) on Carrie, the model, for the crowd at Broad Horizons. The relationship between the two performers is intimate in a sense, since it involves trust and co-operation, but Carrie wants a more personal relationship with Zell, and she is not sure Zell wants the same thing. Here the author explores the complex relationship between life and art, or reality and fantasy, as well as the social ambiguity of a relationship between a “lesbian” and a person who is not female-identified.
Carrie tends to arrive late for rehearsals for reasons she herself doesn’t seem completely aware of. She is afraid that Zell might notice her sexual reactions to Zell’s touch and guess how Carrie feels about hir [the gender-neutral pronoun used in the story]. She is also afraid that Zell doesn’t return the feeling. Zell’s gender ambiguity seems like part of the impenetrable mask of a competent Dom, and on some level, Carrie wants to provoke a spontaneous reaction from hir. By the end of the story, the two performers have reached a new understanding, and they share their news with the crowd.
At first glance, “Trust” by Cassandra Gold has nothing to do with Broad Horizons or BDSM in general, and everything to do with clashing expectations in a gay-male relationship. Zach is attractive enough to attract men wherever he goes in the line of duty as a dedicated cop. His current fling, Lane, is satisfied with the sex but not with Zach’s refusal to let anyone get to know him well, which he can always justify on grounds that police work is confidential. Can this relationship be saved? Apparently not, as the reader discovers when Zach rushes to see Lane after spending six weeks cracking a case. Zach assumes that the weeks of silence from him have not changed Lane’s feelings, and that Lane will immediately fall into bed with him. Instead, Lane offers a cup of coffee and a chance to talk. When Zach refuses to discuss his feelings, Lane tells him gently that he can’t accept a relationship on those terms, and breaks it off.
Zach realizes that he no longer wants to flit from one man to the next, and that Lane is the best he ever found. He wants to win him back, but doesn’t know how until he visits his helpful younger sister (the go-between who introduced the two men in the first place) for advice. Luckily, Zach is still on speaking terms with his ex, Marty, who has a current boyfriend. And these two men received an invitation to opening night at Broad Horizons. When the invitation eventually reaches Lane, it is several times removed from the person for whom it was intended. Lane is intrigued but distrustful; why on earth would the man he rejected invite him to a BDSM club when BDSM was never part of their relationship?
The reader can guess that the two men will meet up again on opening night, and that something between them will be resolved. An unusual BDSM initiation takes place, and the risk-taking on both sides turns out to be worthwhile.
The sex is these stories is hot and consistent with the plots and the personalities involved. A mood of generous good humor prevails, regardless of how many hands and other implements land on how many bottoms. Although in some ways, Broad Horizons seems too good a place to be real, a sense of community is conveyed by the real-life teamwork of the five authors.
Paradoxically, the BDSM in this collection transcends gender, but it can enhance the “queerness” of same-gender relationships, loosely speaking. And the reader, regardless of sexual plumbing or sexual orientation, is welcome to join in. You won’t regret it.
This is GLBT month for Erotica Revealed. After reading the first chapter of Beth Wylde’s novella, The Big 4-Oh!, I was worried that I’d I miscommunicated with her and she’d sent me a heterosexual story instead. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to quote Jerry Seinfeld. The mistake would have been mine, however, so I kept reading, and found that the story included one of the oft-overlooked letters of GLBT: B, for bisexual. So it turned out happily after all.
Turning out happily is a good place to begin the discussion of this novella. The Big 4-Oh! fits under my definition of romantic erotica rather than literary erotica. One frustration I often have with reviews is when they dwell on what a story isn’t instead of appreciating a story for what it is, so I’m going to review this novella with the standards of romantic erotica in mind. (If you want to get into a long discussion about the difference between literary erotica and romantic erotica, email me.)
Abigail is a high-powered divorce attorney on the brink of turning 40. She’s not too happy about that. In fact, she’s in a rather pissy mood as this story begins, and her ire is directed at women who dare to be younger than she is. After the requisite long soak in the tub, she hops into the shower, only to be caught by her husband Dave in flagrante delicto with the showerhead. Lucky for Abigail, Dave is an understanding kind of guy. Rather than being upset about what she’s doing, he gets turned on. This trait is going to come in handy later.
Dave gives Abigail a piece of sexy lingerie that is described in minute detail, as is every other outfit worn in this story. While that may come off as a snarky statement, there are many readers who cherish lingering over the details of clothing in an erotic story. The rituals of donning stockings, garter belts, and high heels are a big turn-on. If you are among the legions of people who enjoy reading about sexy clothing, I promise that this story won’t disappoint.
Before Abigail can try on her new outfit though, she and Dave start talking about his friend Craig, his friend’s psycho ex-girlfriend Veronica, Abigail’s ex-girlfriend (now best friend) Candice and two other people. If that sounds like a lot of characters, you’re right. Too many are thrown in that don’t really belong in the story, and each is given almost a full background story. This story would have benefited from concentrating on the four major players. Another problem with this scene is that Dave and Abigail are discussing all these other characters during foreplay. If my partner got that chatty during sex, I’d be reaching for a ball gag. But that’s just me. Anyway, it turns out that Craig’s psycho ex-girlfriend Veronica is having a sex party at his house that night, and Craig wants Abigail and Dave to drop by to make sure things stay friendly, which is why Dave bought the sexy outfit for Abigail. Dave is turned on by the idea of watching Abigail get it on with one of the female party guests, which is why he wants to go. Plus, he’s a super pal for Craig – something that will also come in handy later. Abigail thinks it’s a bad idea, but she’s a sport, so she agrees to go.
It turns out that Abigail is right about it being a bad idea to go to the party. A cat-fight with psycho-ex Veronica (Craig’s ex, not Abigail’s ex) ensues. Craig, Abigail, and Dave flee the scene. Abigail feels bad about what happened (not the fight, but denying Dave the chance to watch her have sex with another woman) so she calls her ex Candice and sets up a three-way with Candice and Dave on her birthday.
On the day of Abigail’s birthday, she and Candice prepare a scene for Dave to walk into. Dave walks in, but with Craig along. Seems he was planning a little m/m/f action for her birthday. They work out a four-way solution - the guys watching the women together and then the women servicing the men – in a long sex scene. Eventually, the heterosexual couples pair off for a happy ending. (In both senses)If you’re bisexual, you may feel that this story perpetuates the stereotype that bisexuals are into in threesomes and swinging. But if you’re looking for a story with a loving married couple at the core who play with multiple partners, The Big 4-Oh! will probably appeal to you. This is romantic erotica, and hits every note that a fan of the genre expects. However, using a literary standard to rate the writing, which is what we do at Erotica Revealed, I can’t give this novella higher than a sideways recommendation.
This collection of lesbian erotica by Beth Wylde is a set of feel-good stories featuring exuberant sex scenes and happy endings. Each one is told from a first-person viewpoint. There is just enough realism in the plots to show women striving to survive in a world that is often hostile to them, but love and pleasure compensate for sexist bosses and homophobic parents.
In "Necessary Roughness," the narrator hopes to be promoted at work and bring the good news home to her wife, Lynette. The narrator, Trisha, has a history as a domme in the BDSM scene, but Lynette has refused to take part in "rough sex." Trisha not only loses the promotion to a rival, but gets fired by a male boss who criticizes her for "dressing like a man." When she arrives home, Lynette offers consolation by appearing in a clingy silver outfit and confessing that she has been "stupid." She explains further:
"I've done the very thing to you that I despise. There is no room in our relationship for prejudice. Our conversation on the phone made me realize that I'm no better than that piece of shit you used to work for if I'm not willing to at least try to understand your ways. I'm your wife. I should want to do the things that please you too. A little pain is nothing compared to your happiness."
The narrator is amazed and very willing to show Lynette what she has been missing. Trisha tells her to choose a safe word, and Lynette says, "bigot." Trisha gives her an over-the-knee spanking that results in an equal amount of pleasure for both women. Trisha finds that her unemployed state has been driven out of her mind for the meanwhile. (And in the words of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, "tomorrow is another day.")
The rest of the stories follow a similar pattern. The imaginary world shown here is one in which dreams come true, and the object of a crush is usually more available than she seems at first.
In "Saddle Up," the narrator is a lesbian rodeo star who is approached by a female fan who has followed her from one rodeo to another. The men in this macho world fade into the background.
"In My Skin" is one of several stories about being afraid to break new ground, and having to overcome that fear. The narrator of this story is involved with Melissa, a tattoo artist who runs her own shop. Melissa has tattooed the narrator's name on her skin, and the narrator wants to return the favor, but she is very afraid of needles. However, she loves anal sex.
Melissa seems to want nothing more than to seduce the narrator in her shop, but she actually has another plan:
"Before I could utter a protest, Melissa did two things at once. She thrust a well-lubed finger deep inside my ass and lowered the tattoo gun against my skin. As she traced the first line, I hollered out loud and long, caught in a vortex of sensation that rapidly alternated between pleasure and pain.... Every time the needle became almost too much to bear, she'd do something wickedly tricky with her finger to distract me."
Somehow, Melissa manages to keep a steady hand. Eventually, the narrator sees the design on her own bottom:
The largest part depicted an inkbottle tipped sideways with Melissa's name flowing out of it in a flowery script.
The narrator decides she has acquired an ink fetish.
"The Real Thing" is a more conventional story about a first-time meeting in real life between two women who hooked up on-line. They are even more compatible in person.
In "Love on the Line," two women who have lived together for five years are temporarily separated when one goes away on business. A naughty telephone conversation leads to a delightful surprise.
In "Aim to Please," a sexually inexperienced woman, suffering from her first lesbian breakup, goes to a sex-toy store to cheer herself up. There she meets a saleswoman who is pushy in the right ways and who offers to show her how the merchandise works -- after closing up shop, of course. The saleswoman turns out to be the owner, and Jane the newbie gets the education of a lifetime.
In "Worth the Wait," the butch narrator goes clubbing with friends, but she secretly has her eye on a femme bartender in a particular bar. The attraction turns out to be mutual.
"Switching Sides" is a lesbian-initiation story about young women in a college dorm. The narrator is surprised to find herself responding to Kara's seduction after being lured to a gay watering-hole by a male "date" who has no sexual interest in women. The narrator learns things about her own body that she never guessed, and she learns that Kara, while gifted with sexual knowledge and skill, is technically a virgin. Both young women cross a line into new territory, and know they can never go back.
"Better with Age" is a long story (or novella) in five chapters. The narrator had a love affair with Aleesha when both were seventeen and in high school. The narrator had conservative Christian parents, and her relationship was doomed. At the time, the two girls were powerless against parental pressure. The narrator found a boyfriend, got pregnant, was pressured into a shotgun wedding and was abandoned before she gave birth. Not wanting to find another man or another woman, the narrator has raised her daughter alone.
The narrator is the mother of a young woman on the brink of adulthood when Aleesha reappears in her life. Can the two mature women pick up where they left off? Will they need to become acquainted all over again, and will they each like what they find out? How will the presence of the narrator's daughter affect this process?
In this story, the most romantic of the lot, secrets are revealed and loose ends are tied up. Love of various kinds is shown to be the antidote to intolerance.
These stories all have the innocent, curious, enthusiastic flavor of coming-out sex. Although some of the scenes seem like ads for particular sex toys, the action is believable and exciting in its context. This is the kind of book that makes you want to take it under the covers and read by flashlight, almost hoping to be caught in the act.