I adore mythology. When it comes to the Greek or Norse myths, I could read and re-read for hours, especially since so many of the tales have been written – or re-written – in so many different voices. Interpretation, so often key in any historical pursuit, is everything, and where different tellings of the “same” tale can go can astound me. So I had high hopes for Seducing the Myth, and maybe that came into play a little bit too much, but the end result was a mixed bag. In her introduction, Felthouse says it was a close call between doing a mythology anthology and a paranormal anthology – and I have to agree, except that’s how I felt about Seducing the Myth.
It’s not that the myths the authors chose to tackle in the anthology were uninteresting – I actually found the range of myths quite intriguing, and many of the ideas were very clever. But there was an unevenness that crept in a bit too often – many of the stories read more paranormal than mythological.
The opening tale, “Djinn and Tonic” by Lexie Bay, was quick to illustrate that we weren’t going to be playing with just the typical Greek myths. I liked that – but then I found that I sincerely disliked Laura, the main character of the story. She likes her man more or less – it’s hard to tell if she loves him – but gosh if he isn’t just sad in the sack. But, he’s rich and he loves her and he’s a nice guy, so she’ll make a go of it – even if she does think he has a weak chin. When she thinks to herself that she’s being a bitch, I whole heartedly agreed, and had to struggle through the rest of the story. The erotic contents of her journey with her mother-in-law’s djinn – which she’ll inherit along with the house when she marries her husband – left me more annoyed than aroused. It’s not that the sex wasn’t well written – it was, and the author had a lot of fun with the wish-granting djinn – it’s just that this horrible woman was going to end up with everything. At no point did I have the slightest wish for her to end up happy.
Fulani’s “Andi in Chains” follows – and tackles the myth of Andromeda by turning everyone involved into crime families on a modern day coastal city. This story was my favourite of the anthology – taking the bare bones of the myth, twisting it perfectly into a contemporary setting, and heating up the temperature to a high pitch. When Perseus (a ruthless gun for hire) comes across Andi all trussed up for some pirates due to a turf war gone bad, well, things happen. I loved the retelling here – crime families, drug cartels – and it sizzled as well as being an incredibly clever idea.
Some of the stories show this same cleverness (Medusa in K.D. Grace’s “Stones” and the wonderfully done “Aspara” by Burton Lawrence, which tackled South Asian mythology), some less so, though they did grant some well-written erotic prose (“The Weary Traveller” by Indigo Skye, for example, is sexy but didn’t really reinvent the wheel). Some stories were good but didn’t really hit on a particular myth – they’re more magical realism or urban fantasy. Again, that’s not a bad thing – “Logan’s Treasure” by Lisa Fox had a decent plot – a captain finds a treasure that leads him to an island of bliss that might come with a terrible price – but I spent a good amount of time wondering if there was a myth I was forgetting or just missing. Was this supposed to be Theseus, maybe? Mermaids, the Undead, Fairies, Lost Seductive Souls – I kept struggling.
Similarly, “Beltane Fire” by Hawthorn – a really solid story, scorching sex, and as someone who has always loved watching the wheel of the year turn, I was very happy to see Beltane get some representation. This was another story I really thought was well-written and engaging, and wonderfully sexual in a very affirming way – but mythological? I’m not sure.
“The True Folly of Icarus” by Saskia Walker, “Saving Orpheus” by Indigo Skye, “A Temple for Hera” by Maxine Marsh and “In the Springtime” by Elizabeth Thorne are probably the stories that are the most like what I was expecting. These are myths re-told with an erotic lens. Others, like “Blooming April’s Flower” by Jillian Murphy, straddle the line a bit between paranormal and mythological.It’s this sometimes lack of focus that left me a bit befuddled with the anthology. There are some seriously strong stories here – again, I really enjoyed what Fulani did to the Andromeda myth – but overall, there was a lack of cohesiveness. If you read Seducing the Myth as a loose collection of erotic stories with some mythology, some magic, some spirits, and some paranormal, then I think you’ll have a good time. But for every two mythology stories, I felt like I bumped into one that fit more the paranormal niche instead.
Freedom. Sensuality. Unsullied nature. Deliciously tacky bars and souvenir shops. Succulent fried fish and icy beer. Scalding sun, gritty sand, salt on the breeze and on your skin. A sense that everyday rules are suspended, that almost anything can happen.
This is what I think of, when someone suggests a seaside holiday. After reading this delightful erotic collection, I know I'm not alone. Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse have assembled more than a dozen luscious tales that celebrate life and love alongside the ocean – tales of temptation and transgression, self-indulgence and sweet release.
Most of the authors in the book are from the U.K., and at least half the stories are set in British ocean resort towns like Scarborough, Brighton and Bridlington, with their boardwalks, fun fairs, and ice cream parlors. Lexie Bay's “Last Chance Summer” chronicles a young woman's torrid fling with a well-muscled carnival attendant, who gives her a ride she'll remember all her life – even as she moves to London and into the adult world. In “Ice Cream Kisses,” M.A. Stacie's harried heroine enjoys a thrilling, sticky encounter inside an unconventional ice cream vendor's closed kiosk. There's more ice cream, of an Italian flavor, in Slave Nano's “One Scoop or Two”. I don't normally find food sex arousing, but imagining a cold stainless steel ice cream spoon being smoothed over hot, sensitized breasts definitely did the trick.
Lucy Felthouse takes us back to the fun fair with “Dodging”, in which a gal sneaks away from her friends, determined to seduce the God-like bumper car attendant. Tanith Davenport's story “I Like It Wet” is another Scarborough romp, this time among the waves. Victoria Blisse shows us Scarborough in a less sunny, more pensive, but equally sensual mood, in “A Proper British Seaside Holiday,” with a rainy tryst atop an open-air bus. In “Of Moon and Sea,” Cassandra Dean paints an image of Scarborough in an earlier time – perhaps Victorian or Edwardian. Heroine Olivia throws propriety to the winds as she surrenders to her new husband.
In counterpoint to these classic holiday romps, K.D. Grace offers a haunting portrayal of an encounter between a woman and a selkie in her exquisite tale “Skin”. This is perhaps the most serious story in the collection, ripe with mystery and bittersweet echoes of loss. Another delicious oddity is Cynthia Rayne's “Communing with the Mighty Neptune,” an arch fantasy about a woman and a very well-endowed merman. I loved this funny but very sexy story.
Paying tribute to a pagan god is never an easy task. It's not like a simple Christian ceremony where you have to go to the local church, pray, and you're all set. No, there's always a ritual that needs to be translated from some archaic language. Then there is the obscure ingredient list. Of course the ritual must be done at just the right time on just the right night. And then there's the outfit that must be worn, or rather, lack of outfit.
“Swashbuckling,” by Lily Harlem instantiates one of my personal favorite fantasies: running off to sea with a black-haired, virile, and very kinky pirate. Surfing idyll “Against the Current,” by Heidi Champa, breaks the mold as the only gay story in the collection as well as the only one clearly set outside of England. It's a bit too sandy for my tastes, but sultry nevertheless. Finally Justine Elyot's “Love in the Low Season” is a pitch-perfect invocation of a Tom-Jones-like crooner on a downward slide who gets a second chance with a former one-night stand.
Although I associate Victoria Blisse and Lucy Felthouse more with romance than erotica, many of the stories in Smut By The Sea celebrate the intensity of brief encounters as opposed to long-term relationships. Indeed, holidays by the sea often have the quality of stolen time, a reality separate from the drab world of work and commitment. The ocean constantly changes. You can't hold on to the tide. And the love you find on the beach is meant to be savored and then released.
This was my first experience with a book published by House of Erotica. I was favorably impressed by the production. The pages were tinted a creamy peach color, which actually made them easier to read. Victoria Blisse leads off with a lively introduction, expounding on the book's vision and defending the term “smut.” Author bios follow the stories. I always enjoy finding out more about the people behind the tales.
Another round of copyediting would have improved the book further. I did notice some typographical and grammar errors. However, they weren't sufficiently common to really interfere with my enjoyment of the book.
In summary, Smut By The Sea is a light-hearted celebration of life, sex and salt water. If you can't get to the beach in reality, it's the next best thing.
What is it about a uniform that gets our imaginations turning in delightfully wicked directions? Maybe it's the authority, or the anonymity, that we respond to. I'm not sure if people in uniform feel sexy when they're in their professional garb, but they have to be aware by now that no matter what they do, someone is looking at them and thinking, "Hot." If you've ever caught yourself dreaming about what's underneath, this this may be the anthology for you.
Lucy Felthouse of the Erotica For All website brought together contributors for this charity anthology to help benefit the UK charity Help for Heroes. Most of the stories have a decidedly UK flavor to them, so for those Anglophiles out there, two hot buttons are going to get pushed.
“Fireman's Lift” by Rebecca Bond features a fireman after a long day at work and his neighbor trapped in an elevator. In “Love and War” by Lexie Bay, a young German girl protects a crashed Russian pilot from her family and neighbors in the barn. Victoria Blisse puts the uniform on the woman in her story “Dirty Deeds” as an office cleaner in a pink overall piques the interest of a hard working professional. If you like spanking, this one, “Strictly No Parking” by Elizabeth Coldwell, and Lexie Bay's “Taken By Consent” all feature spanking scenes.
Like a man in a tuxedo? In Lucy Felthouses' “Just Couldn't Wait,” a woman likes the looks of a waiter and pulls him into a quiet side room for a mid-party bit of fun. “Crest of a Wave” by Shermaine Williams features a sailor.
My favorite stories were “In Sin City” by Rebecca Bond, where a female cop gets her man after a chase, but rather than take the perp in, they... well, I wouldn't want to ruin your fun. Another favorite was “The Captain's Persuasion” by Delyth Angharad, which had a science fiction twist. And “The Weight of Duty” by Madeline Elayne, with the hottest female character in the anthology - a drummer in a pipes and drum military band - and a soldier at a Tattoo.
If you've ever wondered how the guards at Buckingham Palace keep a straight face, or what it takes to break them, enjoy “Guard Mounting” by Justine Elyot. On the other end of the spectrum, what's so hot about a waiter's uniform? What if the two restaurant workers have been flirting forever and now they've worked themselves up so much that the only way to relive the tension is to give into it, as they do in “Circling” by Cassandra Carr. Or maybe tempting a priest into breaking his vows is more your style of wickedness, as it is in Indigo Skye's “True Confession.” “Venus” by Hawthorn is a shipboard romance between a porter and a recently divorced woman. Two soldiers take refuge out of the rain in Jack Delaney's “On Manoeuvres,” where in Craig Sorenson's “Lingua Acutus,” a female drill sergeant and a smart-mouthed recruit find that off duty, they can get along very well.
Truthfully, I had some trouble picking a rating for this anthology. The writing was decent, but only a few selections shone. Pet peeves raked like fingernails on a chalkboard through some stories, but those are things that bother me, and not necessarily other readers. These stories aren't literary erotica with conflict and a story so much as they are long sex scenes. Some readers may prefer that. So I'm on the borderline between a thumbs up and a sideways rating. As I prefer to err on the side of the positive, I'll say thumb's up.