A few things really stood out when I read Selena Kitt’s Colors. One, I was surprised – pleasantly – to find a mix of straight and gay stories in the anthology. This may be far more common than I’ve encountered myself, but this was a nice surprise for me (especially being a gay fella). Two, the range of the stories was a heady mix; some of the stories were sweat-soaked and down and dirty, some were a bit more romantic, one was a spec fic piece, and one walked the line near paranormal horror.
All in all, Colors was unexpected.
I was a bit worried that a collection with this focus – interracial stories – might somehow descend into trope or racial stereotypes, but Kitt didn’t snag that sort of tale for the collection. I enjoyed all the stories, and never really bumped into anything that made me squirm except for the M.E. Hydra story, but that made me squirm for a very different reason.
Though it’s hard to call any of the stories “traditional,” some were closer to a down to earth feel than others. Kitt’s own “Shorn,” which had an unusual pairing of an older woman with a younger man in a scenario that practically hummed with frustration. This is a woman who knows what she has is not going to last, but the fierceness of her emotions felt all the more real for it.
“Honey Trap,” by Giselle Renarde has a fun feel to it – a woman trying to use sexual blackmail to get something she wants ends up with more than she bargained for. This was a fun story with a twist ending that made me smile.
For those enjoying some submission, “Harvey’s Bargain” by Tristan Cole was a hot gay tale with a distinctly submissive twist – the character in question has always had an attraction – and a desire to submit to – black men. Added to that a difficulty in saying “no” to anyone, and Harvey soon finds himself tangled in a deal that grows more and more extreme, but may just be everything he’s ever wanted. Cole walks right up to the edge of a fantasy that’s just shy of taboo, and the story is all the more enjoyable for the journey. For those who prefer their submissive stories involving men and women, “A Most Extraordinary Orgasm” by Samantha Jones had a wonderful narrative path – a woman hired to be a submissive for the evening is puzzled by the lack of interest her master seems to be giving her – and the end result was another one that made me grin.
The two biggest surprises for me in the collection though were M.E. Hydra’s “The Skinning Knife” and “Jungle Bunny” by D. B. Story.
The former is a tale that is borderline horror – having read M.E. Hydra’s succubus tales, I went into “The Skinning Knife” cringing a bit and waiting for a tragic ending, but was surprised – if a bit squicked-out – by where the story went. I’m pretty sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the story was solid and well crafted. A mixed race couple who are getting grief from both families decide to take a very dangerous – and mystical – path to potentially being together forever. But if they fail... Well. You’ll see.
D.B. Story’s “Jungle Bunny” was probably my favourite of the collection. Despite the racially charged title, the story itself managed to use speculative fiction – in this case, a robot designed with the appearance of a black woman – to discuss more than itself. I love speculative fiction, and to have this mix of a clever story, erotic content, and some wonderful character development (especially in the form of the robot herself) was just such a welcome surprise. Definitely worth the read, and I’ll be looking for more D.B. Story.
All in all, my impression of “Colors” was one of surprise. I liked the freshness of the tales, as none really felt particularly “been there, done that.” Even the few stories that were more-or-less traditional weren’t stale, and the mix of stories that crossed boundaries (or genres!) had a wonderful effect. I really enjoyed this, and my time with the collection.
It has been said that a three-legged stool and a three-person relationship are both unstable—likely to rock, shift and change position. And a relationship of two men and a woman or two women and a man is hard to classify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or kinky, since it can be all of the above. At best, a threesome or ménage involves three distinct one-to-one relationships. At worst, the three come to realize that a former couple has been divided for no good reason. Or an interloper, like a robber bridegroom, has seduced a formerly-faithful spouse, leaving her/his mate outraged or heartbroken. Whether threesomes result in bliss or heartache, they are fascinating to read about. You never know where everyone will be when the mattress cools.
Threesomes are the theme of this anthology, edited by Selena Kitt and published by her company, eXcessica. However, there is nothing self-indulgent about these stories. All of them pay equal attention to each major character, and all the stories work on some level. Some have the complexity of real life, and some are classic sex fantasies.
My favorite in the bunch is “Crossroads” by Elliott Mabeuse, about extramarital temptation as a spiritual trap. The narrator is a collector of rare old blues records, and the story title refers to the legend that bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for musical talent at a crossroads before being killed by a jealous husband in the 1930s. The current-day narrator, James, can’t resist Ellen, co-owner of an antique store who shares his love of vintage blues, although her husband is an acquisitive and possessive type. The haunted atmosphere of the antique shop is almost tangible.
Several of these stories are about hauntings or reincarnation: past desire that is strong enough to draw lovers together over and over. “Break Neck Hill” by Jack Osprey is set on an isolated stretch of icy road in New England, where an attractive woman real estate agent is stranded in her car at night until she is both menaced and rescued by a pair of bikers who offer to keep her company. The suspense never ends until the reader discovers that the three have a very old, unbreakable bond.
“Dream Lovers” by Dakota Trace is an erotic romance about time-travel on native land in Ontario. A pair of sisters, Orenda the seer and Onatah the healer, see their village burned to the ground by the English in 1816, but they are both destined to reappear in 2010. A pair of male cousins, Ragtow and Jack, are Onatah’s lovers, and they must mate with her in the twenty-first century to save their people in some undefined way. The connection of the three-way consummation with the resurrection of the Iroquois Confederacy is not clear enough to satisfy a fan of historical fantasy, but the sexual-initiation scenes are well-paced and hypnotically described.
Several of these stories offer more familiar fantasy ground. In “Wife Sandwich” by Giselle Renard, a high school girl has an affair with an older, married man, and serves as the catalyst that enables his busy-executive wife to relax and learn to enjoy sex. Presumably, the reunited couple won’t need the younger girl after they have left the girl’s house together, arm in arm.
Another story about the healing power of a threesome is "I’ll Be Your Superman" by the editor, Selena Kitt. Like D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 erotic novel Lady Chatterley`s Lover, this story is about a disabled man and his able-bodied wife, and her need for more robust sex than he can give her. Unlike Lawrence’s novel of adultery, however, Kitt’s story is about three loving, generous people who find a way to satisfy each other. The references to the late Christopher Reeves, the real-life Hollywood star who played the role of Superman before becoming disabled, make this story especially poignant.
In “Jackie’s Boys” by Bekki Lynn, a married woman enjoys her husband and his twin brother—who was her boyfriend first. The lack of jealousy in this story seems almost miraculous to me, but it is a woman’s fantasy about earthy, domestic life in the country, featuring all the male attention a woman could want.
“He Started It!” by Willsin Rowe is a messier story about a family ménage. In this one, Nicole is a 36-year-old divorcee who is visited by her ex-husband’s nephew and his friend who is still grieving for his late mother. The volatility of the feelings of two young men, one of whom has a crush on the other, and a mature woman who has been sex-starved for years, is convincingly shown. Somehow it all works in the present, but there is no guarantee that peace will prevail.
The musical theme that begins with “Crossroads” continues in “I Am Nobody’s” by Emma Hillman, a wry and droll tale of the emotionally confusing role of the girlfriend of a musician who seems to dump her onto his male bandmate because he wants to be rid of her. She bounces from one rocker to the other until everyone’s real motivations come out.
In “A Beautiful Friendship” by Will Belegon, a young man in a band is awed and somewhat intimidated by both his kick-ass girlfriend (a martial-arts instructor) and his “older woman” crush, his former supervisor who is a young widow with a child. The sexual attraction between both strong women seems almost inevitable once the narrator discovers it. Best of all, both of them want to share the stud-muffin between them.
Body-art is featured in “The Chocolatier” by Saskia Walker and “Painted into a Corner” by Darcy Sweet, two stories in which a woman is coaxed out of her clothes to be literally turned into a work of art for the delight of the artist and a witness.
“Threesome” by J.M. Snyder is about a male hustler who lures a gay-male couple into an encounter in the men’s room of a bar. In the hands of some writers, this tale could have reeked of booze, piss, sweat, jism, grit and the soullessness of an anonymous pickup, but in Snyder`s hands it turns out to be almost sweet. The scene is exciting for everyone involved; the two lovers become more intimate, and the hustler does a brisk business.
The theme of this collection allows for a variety of flavours, activities and outcomes. Menage seems likely to be popular for a long time to come.