I love the retelling and re-imagination of old tales, and I think I’ve mentioned here at least once that I adore it when someone can take something that’s been pushed almost to the edge of total saturation and turn it sideways. I also love – via this gig at Erotica Revealed – how I get to so often find anthologies that I never would have bumped into otherwise, and likely wouldn’t have picked up for one reason or another (most centrally that in the world of erotica, so often you don’t know what’s out there, let alone where to get it and which title might be worthy of a gamble). I have read so many things in the months – wait, are we at years yet? – I’ve been on board that I likely would have put aside as “not my kink.”
Leather Ever After hits all those points, dead center. These are not the tales that the Brothers Grimm gathered, but they bear resemblance enough to the original stories that you’ll find yourself grinning at where the authors send the characters you’re used to imagining in far more innocent surroundings.
When I say these retellings turn a tale sideways, I mean the stories like “Each Step For Him,” by Lee Harrington, which begins where the Little Mermaid ends, giving her a brother, and envisioning a version of the story where this young merman falls hard for a leather man and faces a similar trail: what must be given up to live on land with the man he loves? The clever twist to the “every step the pain of a thousand knives” and the ultimate scene of the tale left me grinning and tantalized with a view of a community I don’t know well.
I also mean “Hair Like Gold,” by Nalu Kalani, where Rapunzel’s beautiful hair is used to bind and tease, and whose freedom can only be bought through release of a different kind. Cynthia Hamilton likewise takes a staple and kinks it up with “The Mistress and the Pea,” wherein it’s the Prince who is seeking some discomfort, and what happens on the top of the huge pile of mattresses is an exchange of power and submission.
The anthology itself has common fairy tales retold – Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood – alongside some others that are less obvious or less often seen in these types of collections. D.L. King’s revision of “The Seven Swan Princes” was fantastic – nettles have never been used to build such tension, and the trails to restore her beauty at the hands of her goth prince all but cracked aloud. The almost tangential retelling of the Frog Prince in Karen Taylor’s “Iron Henry” is another favourite – cleverly set up, and executed with a rich style. And the gender fluidity of “Cinderfella” – which also has my favourite ending of the whole collection – has put Sossity Chiricuzio dead center on my radar.
And I should mention when I say that it’s anthologies like this that expose me to stories I would have put aside as “not my kink” in the past, I definitely picture “House of Sweets.” – “House of Sweets” has needle play – something that would frankly send me racing from a room in double time. And yet even when faced with something that leaves me personally ready to bolt, Miss Lola Sunshine keeps an erotic edge humming, and every dimple of flesh at the tip of a sharp needle is a moment of pain and pleasure wrapped into one package of torment that still tantalizes. It’s no small thing to accomplish keeping a reader interested when he’s cringing. I can imagine fans of needle play would salivate here.
That’s my overall impression, actually: there will be something in here for everyone, and for those of you with edgier tastes, I think you’ll be even more pleased. Leather, bondage, rubber, the aforementioned needle play, whipping, shoe worship, knife play... The range is quite wide. It’s a rare collection that dares to step a bit further away from the gamut of what could be called mainstream kink (if that’s even a classification I can beg you to consider), but Leather Ever After takes that risk and successfully spins straw into gold.