Beyond Desire: A Collection of Paranormal Stories features many well known writers and a few who are new to me. The cover promises that “Ghosts, vampires, shape-shifters, succubae, demon lovers… there is no end to the mysteriously exciting ways the paranormal force of human desire defies reason – and death – by fearlessly embracing the eternal nature of love and the darkly potent power of sexual lust,” and that, “Between the covers of Beyond Desire, the paranormal is not fiction as it honors the undeniable real way desire dares to transcend all limits.” This rather verbose prose, bordering on the purple, unfortunately reflects some of the writing to be found in this anthology. Thankfully, several stories are much better than that.
Bonnie Dee’s story "Three Wishes" made me laugh. A woman discovers a genie in a bottle. Knowing how wishes can backfire, she matches wits with the genie to get exactly what she wants, and maybe a little more.
"Tropical Temptress" by Sage Vivant celebrates the goddess that lies within women. While the main character sees erotic situations, the real driving force comes from her imagination and her will. Call it magic influence or simply recognition of her own nature, it’s a refreshing change when a character seizes the power of her sexuality instead of passively waiting for someone to bring it out in her.
M. Christian’s "The Tinkling of Tiny Silver Bells" is a difficult case. As with many of his stories, it’s brilliantly written and a delight to read. But is it erotic? I didn’t find it particularly so, but on the other hand, I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t really care.
"When Aborigines Dream" by Michele Larue, translated from French by Noel Burch, is simply incredible. A dream plague robs white men of their sexual vitality. The rich, distant wife of a victim goes in search of a cure and finds instead a developing hunger for sex that she never had before. This is the kind of story I can read many times and never tire of. I’d love to read more from this writer.
The paranormal is a popular theme in erotica because it can deliver an experience rich in sensuality. Unfortunately, this anthology is hit and miss. Several stories bordered on purple prose, recycled romantic erotica clichés, or simply failed to use the sensual trope of horror and erotica to elicit even a frisson of interest. Sex isn’t sexy just because someone comes. It has to get under the reader’s skin and rev up the libido. While no one is going to like every story in an anthology, I had hoped to find more to enjoy.