This collection of lesbian stories by one author works like an anthology based on a fairly broad theme that allows for diversity. In this case, the title, Flesh and Bone, is spelled out in the titles of the stories: "F is for Fantasy," "L is for Love, "E is for Erotic," "S is for Sensual," "H is for Higher," "A is for Animal," "N is for Never," "D is for Daring," "B is for Beautiful," "O is for Orgasm," "N is for Naughty," "E is for Everlasting." The emphasis in each story is on sexual pleasure, and the sex is described in loving detail.
These stories are meat-and-potatoes erotica. There is nothing strikingly original here, either in the author's writing style or in the plots or the characters. Occasionally, the author writes a clunker sentence like this:
She looked at me with openness, with honesty, with her same consistent confidence.
However, Ronica Black handles a traditional range of lesbian fantasies with gusto and sincerity. The reader wants to know these women as well as they come to know each other. When Black's characters ignore their realistic fears to follow their passion, this reader admires their chutzpah and cheers them on.
The author's brief, breathless introduction borders on the cheesy, but it has its own charm:
Flesh and bone. What every woman is made of. Beautiful, daring, naughty, sensual. She has a fantasy, she wants to go higher, she searches for her own definition of love. She never says never, has her first orgasm, yearns for the everlasting. This is woman. You, me, the girl next door. We are all flesh and bone.
The drama continues in the suspenseful opening scene of the first story, "F is for Fantasy:"
I wait by the door, fists opening and closing as if I'm waiting for the director to yell 'action.' My heart thuds, but so does my clitoris, the small cock in my jeans pressing against it. Both cause my hands and knees to tremble.
The fantasy of the title clearly originated with the girlfriend who will come home to find the speaker waiting to grab her and to say: "'I'm going to fuck you hard and fast. I'm going to fuck you hard and slow. I'm going to fuck you like you've never been fucked before."
The arousal of the "victim" feeds that of the speaker, who finds that her girlfriend's fantasy is quickly becoming her own. When the scene seems to be over, the speaker wants reassurance:
“Was it everything you wanted?” I can't help but ask, my mind just as spent as my body.
A thorny look comes into her eyes. She picks up her panties and comes back to me, pushing me onto my back.
“It was, yes. But now it's my turn.”
This “flipping” scene seems likely to be replayed over and over between the lovers.
"L is for Love" is a hurt-and-rescue fantasy involving Gina, a writer who is scheduled to do a reading at the library where her idol, the head librarian, accidentally knocks Gina to the ground and then makes amends and confesses that she has admired Gina for awhile.
"N is for Never" has a somewhat similar plot: Professor Susan has no intention of ever admitting aloud that she has a crush on her bold student Tia, who reads part of a lesbian romance story to the class. But Susan has confided her feelings to her diary, which conveniently slips out of her briefcase and is retrieved by Tia, who reads it before going to Susan's home to return it. Tia must convince Susan that their forbidden attraction doesn't actually involve a conflict of interests. Student-and-teacher fantasies seem to have a perennial appeal, possibly because acting them out in the real world is usually more problematic and likely to produce messy results.
"E is for Erotic" is about an office seduction: woman in raincoat stalks into the building where Julia, her workaholic girlfriend spends too much time, and makes an offer that Julia can't refuse. "D is for Daring" is about another office romance, but in this case, the speaker secretly admires one of the higher-ups, an apparently heterosexual woman who is going through a painful divorce. The speaker wants her to feel loved, so she woos her anonymously with presents and letters. In due course, Emily responds and shows that she already knows the identity of her secret admirer.
"A is for Animal" is another poignant story about a trapped, seemingly "normal" wife. In this case, the setting is a southern farm where “the missus” meets her lover Catherine in the barn more often than is safe, whenever the "boss man" is away. The possibility of a tragic ending is implied when the two women are almost caught.
"H is for Higher" is another story about risk-taking, appropriately set "atop one of the largest hotel casinos in Vegas." A femme named Eve accepts the dare of a butch named Broderick by coming to her room, where a device like an exercise bicycle has been modified to provide extreme sensations.
"N is for Naughty" is another adrenalin-driven story. It seems less realistic than most of the others, but is one of my favorites. The narrator, Diem Rushton, is a female vigilante who puts the fear of the Goddess into a mad-dog pimp and is then rewarded by a glamorous waitress who does a lap-dance to Beyonce's "Naughty Girl." The waitress is working her way through graduate school and has steadfastly refused to "dance" (sell sexual services) for men. Dancing for Diem, of course, is a different case.
Sex work as a labor of love is also featured in "S is for Sensual." In this story, a young American woman has an unforgettable encounter with two professionals in Amsterdam, paid for by her good friend who knows what Camille needs to recover from her painful breakup with an unfaithful girlfriend. The professionals, Anna and Maria, guide Camille through an hours-long ritual which begins with a soothing bath and escalates to bondage, massage, tickling, flogging, hot wax, tongue teasing and dildo action, followed by refreshing sleep. By the time Camille's friend returns for her, Camille has been healed. She appreciates the bilingual pun of the name of the establishment:
Camille boarded her bike and they set off down the road. As the wind played with her hair Camille thought back to the words on the sign. “De Mender.”
Mending what is broken is a major theme in these stories. In several cases, visual art allows for the transcendence of limitations. In "B is for Beautiful," the speaker is impressed by Iris, the attractive woman she meets at a small-town gas station. She is surprised to discover that Iris is a blind artist who likes to sculpt clay images of her models after learning their bodies by touch.
In "O is for Orgasm," Lauren the photographer lures Therese into a photo shoot with two other models. The seduction which follows is actually what Therese needs to overcome the fear of intimacy which has previously kept her sexual responses -- and her relationships -- brief and unsatisfying. "E is for Everlasting" is a gentler story about a relationship between a woman who needs to heal from childhood sexual abuse and the resourceful lover who enables her to trust. This story concludes the book, and it implies that the two women will have a long future together.These stories make good bedtime reading, and could lead to sweet dreams. Read them and see.