I’ve always loved collections of single-author works. For one, short-fiction junkie that I am, it’s certainly easier and more cost-effective than tracking down all the stories individually (not that that has stopped me from doing so before, many times, with authors I particularly enjoy). For another, if I haven’t read that person before, a collection of their short fiction is a wonderful way to get to “know” them from pieces they have written throughout their career.
A Love Drive-By is a perfect example of this. I’d not read Susan St. Aubin before, but the stories included in this collection come from publications between 1985 and 2010 – that’s a twenty-five year progression, and the end result is a wide-angle view on a really enjoyable author.
In almost every way, this book draws upon full ranges rather than narrow fields of view. For lovers of kink, there’s more than a few different – and lesser seen – glances to be had. In particular, I think the first story in the collection, “Hands,” does a brilliant job of painting a character whose fascination with the hands of others in a fascinating (and erotically charged) light. As the first story, it also keys in the reader to expect the unusual, but not be overwhelmed by that. No matter the kink, the style of the story and the erotic tone of the telling will work together to satisfy the reader, and this first character – who is bisexual, fluidly aware of the simplicity (and error) of viewing the world in gendered binary, and who has this fascination with hands – is a perfect example of the depth of character St. Aubin seems to effortlessly craft.
For those of us a little tired of the perfect-bodied heroines of a young age, yes, another range is also explored throughout the collection. Here, “Afterlife” – the final story in the collection – really shone for me. A woman with many years under her belt is exploring new avenues of sexuality – including shifting from being with a woman to being with a man. That her partner of many years has died is one facet of the story, and it’s handled lovingly and yet doesn’t detract from the heat of her time with this new man. And again, the kink involved (bondage and more than a little bit of sexual release denial) doesn’t distract from the sensuality of the characters.
Age, body type, kink, personality, sexual fluidity – St. Aubin doesn’t linger in one place long before moving to another, and in all cases, the destinations and the journeys are well written, smart erotica that leaves the reader with something to think about. There are even a few stories – “Live Action,” and “This Isn’t About Love,” spring to mind – that play with the reader’s preconceptions before shifting suddenly sideways and ending on a note sure to make you stop and consider. In “Live Action” the notion of exhibitionism and voyeurism is taken in a different direction by virtue of a woman who sees what others aren’t seeing. And “This Isn’t About Love” has the most incredibly hot (and absolutely non-fetishized) encounter with a man with physical disabilities I’ve read. Both pack more of a surprise punch at the end than I’d imagined when I started them.
As erotica, these are good. But it’s safe to say that as literature, these are just as good. This is a rare collection that has such strength of narrative that I – for one – was really captivated throughout the entire journey. I think fans of literary erotica will be just as taken in by St. Aubin’s turns of phrase and storytelling prowess.Certainly, short fiction junkie that I am, you can bet I’ll be looking for more from St. Aubin.