If you’ve ever made a bet and realized that you were going to lose, then you’ll have no trouble connecting with the characters in this wonderful – and absolutely sexy – set of stories written by Darcy Sweet. If you’re not the betting type, don’t worry – you’ll still get suckered into anteing up by Sweet’s clever and fresh approach to what could otherwise have been a tired repetition of a romantic trope.
The series of bets with their winners and losers moves from the artsy subculture to the world of journalistic one-upmanship, and from campus life to corporate wheelers and dealers. There’s very little sense of repetition in Wanna Bet? In most anthologies with a tight theme, I find I need a break between the stories.
Wanna Bet? I gobbled whole.
I credit this to Sweet for delivering a very different flavour of tale from story to story but holding to her theme throughout. The five stories sizzle on the page and offer a wide variety of pleasures. My favourite of the bunch, the phenomenally told “Hypothetically Speaking,” has a gem of a set-up; the two girlfriends of some rambunctious college studs finally agree that they’ll do what they’re asked to do to each other by their boyfriends – but only if their fellas also do the same to each other. “Hypothetically Speaking” is just plain hot, and after the steam settled, the story delivered a punch-line that made me laugh out loud. The ménage and exhibitionism crackle with sexual energy in the first story, “Painted Into a Corner.” Inara, the heroine discovering that the cost of losing a bet is going to be a fairly public display of her painted body, evolves from timidity to a luscious sensuality as the story. And in “Told You So,” I found one of the most masterfully written scenes of a woman delivering dominant oral sex I’ve ever encountered – again, after the heroine has a personal evolution.
The core strength to Sweet’s work is in the way her characters grow – they aren’t simply erotic puppets putting on a quick peep show for you, these are fully developed individuals on a journey. In every story, you watch at least one of the characters develop sexually, usually crossing a new boundary or discovering a new sexual appetite. They’re vulnerable, or jaded, or yearning in some way, and much of the joy in these stories comes from seeing them get in touch with something more. Add to that the sheer dirty heat that Darcy Sweet pumps into her stories, and you’ve got a great compilation with something sure to please everyone. The author bio at the end of the anthology says Sweet “has a head full of wicked stories.” This is good news indeed for erotica readers.
One thing’s for sure: losing a bet has never been so good.