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?