While reading 1901: A Steam Odyssey, I pictured author Lionel Bramble chuckling as he wrote it. How could he resist? The story is infused with such glee and charm that an avuncular twinkle had to be lurking in his eyes.
Admittedly, I'm a huge fan of steampunk, so I'm inclined to enjoy the iffy science and fantastic elements. It's rare that I see a book that embraces the surreal feel of early science fiction classics though. Imagine, if you will, Georges Melies version of From the Earth to the Moon (Based on Jules Vernes story) or perhaps the music video that it inspired, Tonight, Tonight by Smashing Pumpkins mated with the penny dreadful of the Victorian age, with a healthy dose of the Perils of Pauline and a smidgeon of A. N. Roquelaure's Sleeping Beauty trilogy, and you might come close to 1901: A Steam Odyssey, but why torture your imagination when you can simply buy this rollicking tale?
But, of course, this is a review of the erotic content, and why you're most likely to pick it up. From the opening scene in which our heroine, Directorate agent Lady Cheyenne Easterling, her lover James Steerforth, Directorate agent Miss Olive Ravenswood, and Major Bernard Lewis have taken a room at the Thunder Child Inn for an evening of fun with sex toys that they don't quite understand. The Martian invasion of earth (in the War of the Worlds) has been quelled successfully, and it's time to relax. At least, it is for the ladies, who delight in using the magnetic cock rings they've slipped onto their gentlemen's cocks to keep the men in a state of unrelieved arousal.
From there on, it's tit for tat, with the men tormenting/pleasuring the ladies as they split up on Directorate orders. Miss Ravenswood and Steerforth head out in search of disappeared Directorate agents in the Antarctic, while Cheyenne and Major Lewis head to Venus. Of course they're captured by the formidable seductress and turncoat Directorate agent, Lady Jane Moonstone, who has allied herself with the Marshies (the Martians)! And oh, the sexual jeopardy they constantly find themselves in! Thank goodness for the British stiff upper lip, and even stiffer cock, that the gentlemen wield with fortitude and honor in the face of every conceivable sexual challenge. Our ladies are no less intrepid in their zeal to do whatever or whoever, it takes to see their mission to a successful end.
I read this story as an ebook on my computer, so I can't say that I couldn't put it down as I never picked it up in the literal sense, but the same sensibility applies. Not only is the premise fresh, but it is superbly executed. There isn't a false step anywhere. Inventive, imaginative, saucy, naughty; 1901: A Steam Odyssey is all that and more. Two thumbs way, way up! (Mr. Bramble, please feel free to write more. Your adoring fan. KB)
Jeff Mann’s A History of Barbed Wire is a Lambda Literary Award winning collection of short stories and a novella titled "The Quality of Mercy". In May, 2007, at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, I went to a reading of Lambda Literary Award nominees. After Jeff read part of his novella, I turned to his publisher, Greg Wharton of Suspect Thoughts, and said, “I want to review that.” What I meant was, “Where can I get my hands on this right NOW.”
How does Jeff make it seem so effortless to write such longing? I want to pour over these stories again to figure out how he makes brutality beautiful. Make no mistake, many of these stories, especially "The Quality of Mercy," are brutal, absolutely dripping with masculine power, raw with scent and ferociously wild, almost beyond the point of comfort, and yet they’re too compelling to turn away from.
"Snowed in with Sam" is a shorter, kinder version of "The Quality of Mercy." Admitting it’s all fantasy, Mann enjoys the company of a captive country singer he lusts after. Is his boy comfortable bound and gagged? Of course he is. It’s fantasy. Dishes shoved off the kitchen table in a fit of passion magically disappear without leaving a mess on the floor. It’s BDSM with a wink and a nudge.
"Captive" heads for darker territory and a recurring theme of Mann’s work in this collection – a sadistic top and a remote country cabin. But not just remote geographically, the real world is pushed far away by chains, gags, rope, sex, and servitude – sometimes willingly given, sometimes forced. The captive is given a choice though, and with little to pull him back out into the real world, he opts to remain where he knows he’s wanted.
Several stories in this collection explore the problem of kink and vanilla relationships. Vanilla is the steady, loving relationship filled with the unrelenting tedium of domesticity, kink is what’s missing. How they’re reconciled varies. In "Dionysus Redux," he gives into libido and cheats with a former student who is everything he secretly wishes he’d become. Bound, bent over a motorcycle, he lets rope take responsibility for his decision. While in "Daddy Dave," his vanilla lover not only witnesses a long, bruising scene with an experienced top, but finally, maybe, hopefully, begins to understand and even enjoy giving his lover the sexual experience he desires.
"Balsam Poplar Buds" speaks directly to the shame of desire. Having been raised fundamentalist Christian, I can understand how bondage can absolve the submissive of sin – another recurring theme in these stories. Once the rope is removed, though, that’s where this story shines. The guilt is heartbreaking, and like the narrator, you want to take the boy in your arms and protect his heart.
"The Quality of Mercy" redefines the term mercy fuck. While it brought to mind "Beauty and the Beast" and "Phantom of the Opera," the monster here is more frightening because he’s so real. This isn’t an easy read. It pushes way past safe, sane, or consensual. It’s erotic horror, veering far out of many readers’ comfort zones. Mann offers the darkest fantasy of Master and slave. Few writers, or publishers, would dare go there. But don’t deny that in the darkest corner of your soul, you haven’t thought how very hot this would be if only you could get away with it.
This book features a long forward by Patrick Califia. I was tempted to say, “Yeah, what he said,” as my review, but you probably expect more from me. I wish I’d read the forward after I read Jeff’s stories though. Not because it detracted from them, but because afterwards I wanted to talk about them with someone, and reading Pat’s forward would be the closest I could come to that. A collection like this makes me feel almost evangelical – fired up to spread the good word. The highest praise I ever give to a book is two statements: It kept me thinking for days, or, The stories stayed with me. This book did both.
The first time I saw Trebor Healey, we were in a master class at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. I’d just read his wonderful novel Through It Came Bright Colors, and I was too intimidated by his talent to talk to him. He laughed when I told him that later. While the intimidation is gone, the awe remains.
Not every story in this collection is erotic, but I have to mention “A California Death” and “A Boy and His Dog” as truly fine examples of the art of the short story. Not to be missed.
In the title story, “A Perfect Scar,” the narrator is drawn to the Vietnamese hood Tran for reasons he can’t explain other than faith. Tran doesn’t identify as queer, but that doesn’t stop him from fucking the narrator. Melancholy and fatalistic, the narrator sees clearly that Tran burns too bright to last long, but Tran’s charisma is inescapable.
Gilberto, conceived in a desperate attempt to save a marriage, is a beautiful boy. Then puberty hits. He’s disgusted by the changes he’s going through, and worse, he’s affecting people around him. Girls erupt into spontaneous orgasms. Pregnancy rates in his high school soar. Even his patient, saintly mother gets it on with a co-worker. When horns sprout from his skull and shaving his hairy legs three times a day fails to keep the fur in check, he runs for the hills, where he finally meets another “Faun” who can explain and accept. Anyone from Los Angeles may snicker as I did at the end when it turns out that Gilberto’s fled to Arcadia.
Deftly comedic, “Housesitting” is an irresistible tale of an anarchist who tries in vain to keep his politics from infringing on his cushy stint as a house sitter. If he were to examine his sex life closely, he’d probably see that he’s as opportunistic and callous as the people he despises, but of course he’s rationalized everything. That lack of insight isn’t limited to sex. He embraces anarchy while trying to contain it to convenient moments in his life. As events spiral out of his control, an anarchist should appreciate the beauty of the chaos, but he doesn’t. Adding insult to injury, he becomes a pop culture icon, his image emblazoned on t-shirts.
This collection was a true pleasure to read. I keep picking up the book and rereading passages, mesmerized. Thumbs up, but it deserves higher praise than that.
Full disclosure: Torquere has published my short stories, novellas, and novels.
After I read this work, I was a bit surprised to see that it ran one hundred eighty four pages, which puts it at a full length novel. When I read it, it struck me as a novella and I was going to review it as such, but that's a bit of a moot point.
Above the Dungeon is a m/m BDSM story told from three points of view. Roman is the Master in a lifestyle couple and a professional Dom with a dungeon in the basement of a gay bar. Jeff is Roman's slave. Dare (Adair) is a straight guy who gets a job as a bartender at the gay bar.
When Dare runs away from his intended bride and country club life, he runs to Maddox, the gay cousin he's never had much of a relationship with. Maddox gets Dare a job tending bar at a BDSM themed gay bar. The opening scene flows quickly without much setting to anchor the reader into a time or place, then whisks the reader and Dare off on a clothing adventure designed to humiliate, and within pages has him working his first night at the club and meeting Roman. It was probably that pace that made me feel as if it were a novella that wanted to get to the action right away rather than a novel.
Roman is interested in Dare for some unexplained reason and offers him a tour of the dungeon in the basement. It's not just a tour. One of Roman's clients is down there, and Roman straps Dare into a chair and makes him watch the scene. The next day they meet for coffee to talk about it, but we don't get to listen to the conversation.
The narrator shifts at that point to Roman's slave, Jeff. Roman and Jeff have been together for years. They occasionally "cheat" on each other and get through it. For people who have negotiated a Master/slave contract, not negotiating an open relationship when they obviously want one seems a bit silly, but since when are people entirely logical? Jeff likes to fall in love, and he's tried to bring his lovers into the relationship with Roman, but it never works.
Roman has had a few side lovers too, but he's not as active as Jeff in his pursuits. That is, until he sets his sights on Dare. He pushes Dare into more extreme scenes every time they meet and even has his nipple pierced. Jeff gets a bit jealous at the idea of Roman being interested in someone else and doesn't want another slave in the house, but he and Roman agree that Jeff has no say in the matter. The story ends with a big public scene where Jeff finally accepts that Dare will probably come live with them and Dare accepting that he's... I don't know... either gay-for-you situation or that he's been in denial about his sexuality.If you're okay with borderline non-consensual scenes and the idea of a Dom being able to read the soul of a guy he's just met, then this might be your kind of BDSM tale. Rating this is a bit problematic for me because of those issues, but other readers may be very into it. I would have liked more description of the setting, more character development through the story, a stronger sense that Dare really wanted and enjoyed what happened to him, and clearer indications when the narrator changed. So I'll give it a sideways rating and leave it up to you to decide if you'd like to give Above the Dungeon a read.
Saskia Walker's Along for the Ride is an erotic romp with a touch of romance. University student Georgie is picked by art professor Cal to model for his classes as well as private modeling for his work. Their attraction is mutual and soon Cal invites his photographer friend Jason to join them in a threesome. Georgie is bothered by a persistent ex, but it's Jason's cousin Gregory who plays the villain of the piece. Gregory knows that Jason's ex-girlfriend is a hot pop star and that Jason took nude photos of her. It all works out, of course, with everyone extremely well fucked (the bad guys in the bad sense of the term) by the end.
Since this is a romp, there's not a lot of depth here. Everyone is constantly horny and they act on it immediately. The more the merrier seems to be the guiding principle of their existence. If voracious sexual appetites are what you seek, then you'll find it in this story.
However, if you want erotica that holds to the same standard of writing as other fiction, you might find the constant telling rather than showing a bit annoying. Two of the characters fall in love but I never felt it. I was simply told that they were falling in love. Sex moves the plot in erotica, but it isn't characterization. Lacking any depth, the characters came off as exactly that - characters, not people. I'm still unable to figure out why the trio bothered to visit Georgie's home other than to set up a sex scene with food. That entire chapter did nothing to move the story forward or develop the characters.
The story is told at a breathless pace as it races from sex scene to sex scene without giving the story any time to develop. If it isn't sex, it's glossed over with a few lines of narrative.
I'm clearly not the audience for this story. The full fashion report at the beginning of many scenes bored me. No character mattered to me and their plights struck me as dull plot devices. Maybe this book was meant to be quickly devoured and quickly forgotten by voracious readers who plow through a lot of books in search of sex scenes. You'll certainly find that in Along for the Ride. But if you're looking for a quality literary experience, wait for the next bus.
In Animal Attraction, editor Vincent Diamond offers stories about men brought together by animals. This is a great theme that the writers freely interpreted as best fit their talents. House pets aren’t the only animals to be found on those pages. From an elephant refuge in Thailand to a jaguar who might be a goddess to raptors, livestock, bears, and elk, there’s plenty of wildlife too.
Torquere is known for its authentic southwestern roots, and these show in many of the stories. The cowboys of BA Tortuga’s "Brahamas and Pitbulls," the Thoreau Scholor and Game and Fish warden in Elazarus Wills’ "A Hound, a Bay Horse, and a Turtledove," and the photographer and ecologist in Sarah Black’s very good "White Mountain" are all part of the modern world while still holding on to the admirable code of the historic West.
Kiernan Kelly’s "Chasing Sampson" uses the mercurial nature of house cats to great effect. Anyone who has ever had a cat knows the frustration of searching the neighborhood for a wayward cat who would never deign to come to the call of, “Here, kitty, kitty.” Luckily for Keene Gray, someone else answers the summons, and he looks so damn good in that uniform.
"Horseplay," by Sean Micheal isn’t exactly what you’d think. This isn’t randy college boys playing around. Micah owns a riding stable and Byron brings patients there for therapy. They’ve been eyeing each other for a year, neither making a move. Once they make the move though, things get hot and serious fast.
In several of these stories, dogs help owners connect. A therapy dog in J. Rocci’s "Puppy Tax" attracts a cute doctor to the owner of a doggy day care center. In Neil Plakcy’s "Canine Connection," the dogs mirror their owner’s personalities. A rather uptight Yorkie takes a while to warm up to a fun loving Golden Retriever. The dog’s pet parents get along a lot better until the dogs, and their differing styles, almost tear them apart. After a little break, they all decide that a little give and take is worth it.
I’ll admit that part of my bias for "Gerbil Falls in Love" by Dianne Fox is the title, but I also loved that the hamster’s life and the narrator’s mirrored each others. Both had been solitary for too long; both took some time to adjust to a new companion. While I’m all for a rush of passion, it was a nice change of pace to read about guys who dated a bit before getting into bed. Once they did though, things heated right up.
While several stories in this anthology touch on the emotional healing pets can bring, "What We Leave Behind" by Shanna Germain is absolutely stunning. Not only does she show the healing power of pets, but also sex. It is beautiful and sad and hopeful – a difficult combination to deliver, but Ms. Germain deftly crafted a winner.
This anthology was a pleasure to read. Vincent Diamond did a great job picking stories with a range of styles and emotions that will appeal to many readers, and overall the stories are well written. Recommended read.
With the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey, it's inevitable that new fans of erotica will start looking around for more BDSM to whet their appetites. (Not that BDSM and kink are the same thing, but let's not get too pedantic) Anything for You is the kind of book I hope they'll pick up. Interesting characters, kink of all kinds, and yes, even a touch of romance because the focus here is on couples who play well together, in a very naughty sense.
When I open a book and see this sort of line up of contributors, I know I'm in for treats.
Like Riding a Bicycle • Lisabet Sarai
Borrower Beware • Heidi Champa
Anything She Wanted • Neil Gavriel
Tails • Deborah Castellano
Teppanyaki • Janine Ashbless
Greasing the Wheels • Madlyn March
Interview • Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde
I Tend to Her • Justine Elyot
Apple Blossoms • Emerald
Big Night • D. L. King
The Guest Star • Sinclair Sexsmith
Exposure • Elizabeth Coldwell
New Games on a Saturday Night • Teresa Noelle Roberts
Notes from Her Master • Kathleen Tudor
Lap It Up • Kay Jaybee
What If • Angela R. Sargenti
Petting Zoo • Rachel Kramer Bussel
Normal • Charlotte Stein
Everything She’d Always Wanted • Ariel Graham
Look at these writers! Lisabet Sarai, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussell, Chalotte Stein, D.L. King, Emerald, Janine Ashbless, Heidi Champa, Kay Jaybee, Sinclair Sexsmith... It's like picking an all-star team roster from the erotica hall of fame. Or is that infamy?
But that presents a quandary as I usually talk about a couple stories in an anthology that stood out, when every single one of their stories is worthy of mention. So do I talk about the names I recognize, or do I feature names I don't know as well or are new to me and talk about their equally wonderful work? Sorry all-stars. You know I love and admire your work, and your stories in this anthology were all examples of why I seek out your names. But let's be honest, many of you are my friends or at last friendly acquaintances and none of us like the feeling of a closed club, especially when it comes to shout-outs in reviews. So here are the writers I'll be looking for in the future:
“Interview”by Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde isn't written as a regular prose story. A slave and his mistress trade off sections where they talk about their relationship. You get the story of how they met and how their relationship evolved. What I enjoyed the most though was how healthy this relationship comes across. Anyone who thinks BDSM is abusive would have second thoughts after seeing the affection between these two. Toward the end of the story there's a revelation that shocks the slave, but from everything that came before, you know it isn't going to change the core of this solid and loving relationship.
“Anything She Wanted”by Neil Gavriel started with one of the best opening lines in this anthology and just got better from there. I love a story with a sparkling sense of wit. From later in the story:
It’s one thing to fantasize about it, to dream of what your girlfriend would do with your ass if she could only read your dirty mind, but it’s another when you’re faced with seven inches of pink reality strapped to her pelvis.
Hah! Now you have to read more, don't you? The power dynamic between this couple is sexy and fun as they discover and experiment together.
Some of you are going to have a lovely time reading Elizabeth Coldwell's “Exposure.” Older woman, younger man. She's clothed, he's naked. And her friends are over for drinks. It isn't my fantasy, but it's sure a fun one. Who wouldn't want a buff young stud to rub your feet when you get home from work? Hmm. I may have to rethink that "not my fantasy" bit.
“Tails” by Deborah Castellano features a couple with sexual fluidity that's refreshing and just genderqueer enough to pique my interest. “Greasing the Wheels” by Madlyn March is a revenge tale, sort of, with a few twists. “I Tend to Her” by Justine Elyot has light medical play, a very nice and welcome bit of kink just when I thought every story in the anthology was going to be BDSM. “Notes from her Master” by Kathleen Tudor is sort of Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the woods – if the woods is an airplane, the crumbs are notes from her master in the sub's book and carry on, and the witch's house is... Okay, it's not Hansel and Gretel at all but it is a high-flying fantasy. If you're into the art of the slow tease, and some near-food fetish, then “What If”by Angela R. Sargenti is going to be a story you relish. (I really didn't write that terrible pun on purpose.) And for those of you who can't get enough of collared slaves being pushed to their limits by a master, read “Everything She’d Always Wanted”by Ariel Graham.
You know those car commercials where they say things like "Professional driver. Do NOT try this at home?" Yeah. About that. Many of these stories have something you could try at home with your lover. So if you find yourself squirming over a passage in a good way, maybe you should. And who better to play with than your other half, your significant other, your willing and obedient slave?
Rachel Kramer Bussel offers this year's best bondage erotica in an anthology sure to excite your senses.
If you're a fan of female submission, there are many stories here for you. “The Long Way Home” by Elizabeth Coldwell leads off the anthology. “His Little Apprentice” by the UK's fabulous Jacqueline Applebee, “Foreign Exchange” by Evan Mora, “Closeted” by Emily Bingham, “Vegas Treat” by Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Cartographer” by Angela Caperton, “How the Mermaid Got Her Tail Back” by Andrea Dale, “Stocks and Bonds” by Rita Winchester which is a delightful story of a couple at play, “The Rainmaker” by Elizabeth Daniels, Teresa Noelle Robert's tactile and sensual “Do You See What I Feel” will all thrill fans of that scenario. “Truss Issues” by Lux Zakari closes out the book. One or many of these are sure to please anyone into female submission.
Janine Ashbless offers an interesting tale where the man is bound, but he still manages to get inside of the head of a young woman on the verge of discovering her sexuality in “The Ingénue.” “Reasoning” by Tenille Brown is a stand out story of a woman simply fed up with her boyfriend's behavior. Lisabet Sari's “Wired” is another tale of a woman dominating a man, with some ingenious use of workplace items for bondage. In the “Lady or the Tiger” by Bill Kte-pi, who is dominating who is up for you to decide. Jennifer Peters finds an inventive use of saran wrap in the delightful “Sealed for Freshness.”
There are a few lesbian tales in this anthology, including Dusty Horn's “Subdue,” “The Apiary”by Megan Butcher, and my favorite offering, “Helen Lay Bound” by Suzanne V. Slate.
For fans of voyeurism and male on male action, Emerald offers “Relative Anonymity.”There's a little of everything here for fans of bondage. I recognized many of the contributors and found some new names to look for in the future, which is always a joy. From traditional restraints - stocks, corsets, and shackles - to everyday items turned to exciting and inventive uses - saran wrap, wire cables - there's a lot here to get your kinky mind whirling on the possibilities.
I suppose it was bound to happen. I review Best Gay Erotica nearly every year, and I've always enjoyed it. This year, meh. It feels a little flat to me. It also seems a bit short at twelve stories and a graphic.. hmm. Can't call it a graphic novel. A graphic short story, perhaps?
Anyway, let's hit the highlights.
Simon Sheppard is a reliable writer, which sounds like an insult but isn't meant that way. His stories always grab me with wit, great writing, and deliciously raunchy scenes. His “Your Jock” is - deep inhale - evocative. You can almost smell it. And yeah, I'm a girl, but this is raw nerve erotica that makes my writer's eyes green with envy.
I'm waffling on “Sunday in the Park” by Jamie Freeman. On one hand, it's well written and interesting, but on the other hand, it seemed to lack that male energy I anticipate. But maybe you don't want your sex hyped up and in your face. Maybe you like it a bit more laid back. In that case, you might want to dive into Shaun Levin's “Foreigner's in Stiges” too, which is all kinds of lovely, lyrical, and melancholy.
“Translations” by Roscoe Hudson hits hard on the brutish German in uniform fantasy, but it hits that mark well. Intellectual, but rough too. If I ever meet Roscoe though, I'll have to ask him if you'd really use the more formal Sie instead of the more familiar du when a guy is ramming your ass. Yes, that's the kind of strange thing I muse over while reading erotica.
The rest of the anthology isn't bad, not by a long shot, but I've been spoiled by years of incredible stories all jostling for my attention. Maybe I just read too much erotica. However, while on a personal level I might give this a sideways rating, Best Gay Erotica remains one of the most anticipated anthologies of the year for a good reason. Just because all the stories didn't hit the right note for me doesn't mean they won't work for you. So I'm going to give it thumbs up, even if those thumbs aren't fully erect.
Cleis Press’ annual Best Gay Erotica anthology has a unique approach. Editor Richard Labonté culls the submissions and sends the first cut on to a guest judge, insuring that there will always be a fresh perspective on the selection. This year poet and novelist Emanuel Xavier puts his stamp on this consistently outstanding anthology series.
When Emanuel first contacted Erotica Revealed about a review, the request came to my email rather than our usual submissions address. Thinking swiftly, I shouted DIBS! and snatched it out of the queue before anyone else even knew it was available. I suppose I should feel a twinge of guilt for that. Let me check. Nope.
Arden Hill’s “My Boy Tuesday” was a good choice for the first story. Yes, it’s a hot BDSM tale guaranteed to get your attention in all the right ways, but what I enjoyed the most about it was how fresh the character was. This was no stereotypical leather daddy. He wears his fingernails long and painted and has a closet full of drag clothes. Make no mistake though; this genderqueer top is in charge. This story puts you on notice that what follows won’t be predictable or part of the same old erotic routine. It also shows that despite the reputation of this genre, writers of erotica produce quality stories that can make you think as well as get you off. Be prepared for both.
Tickle torture is one of the BDSM variations I rarely see in lesbian or heterosexual erotica, but it crops up in gay erotica occasionally, so there must be an audience. My cousin once sat on me and tickled me until I got sick. (All over him. Hah! Served the bastard right.) so I know how sadistic ticklers can be and how quickly a victim can be rendered helpless. Obviously that killed any erotic potential for me, but Wayne Courtois’ “Capturing the King” will probably fascinate anyone into extreme tickling.
Horehound Stillpoint captures the essence of online cruising - the frustration with flakes and picture collectors- in “Donuts to Demons” with breathtaking precision. Yeah, I’ve heard the litany of complaints about CraigsList personals from friends, but never distilled into prose like poetry. Although I’ve seen Horehound’s name many times before, I had to flip back to his bio to verify that hunch. Ah yes, he’s a poet too – it shows in his writing- although he quotes dear friend Trebor Healey’s work instead of his own. But after this sharp, funny intro, the story takes a meditative, bittersweet turn into memories of the real man who got away, or who was too elusive to be caught. This may be the story that had Emanuel Xavier “...curling into bed with my cats.” Deftly delivered, this was one I went back to after I finished my initial reading.
One of the frustrations of reviewing an anthology is picking just a few stories to highlight even though there’s a lot to talk about in this offering. Charlie Vazquez’s “Rushing Tide of Sanity” is an incredibly hot BDSM scene. Tim Miller’s “Sex Head” has me vowing to catch one of his performances. (He’s listed a guest at the Saints and Sinners Literary Conference in New Orleans this May. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see him there.) I first read Jeff Mann’s “Snowed In With Sam” in his collection A History of Barbed Wire. If you haven’t read Jeff’s work, this is a good introduction. If you have, you’re probably a fan too. Shane Allison’s “Confession Angel” is a series of short scenes that flow together beautifully to create a larger picture in a mosaic of memory. Jason Shults’ “Minimum Damage, Minimum Pain” is about the guy who, thank god, got away, but oh, how his boy energy lingers in the mind late at night when you reach for the lube. In “Funeral Clothes” by Tom Cardamone, it’s a sad race to see who can abandon the relationship first. And if you like a story dripping with summer sweat and the heat of public sex, Andrew McCarthy’s “Underground Operator” is sure to get your pulse racing.
One of the strengths of this year’s Best Gay Erotica is the depth and breadth of characters that reflect gay lives not often featured in stories. I’m sure this is due in part to Emanuel Xavier’s guidance. These are not token tales, though. Each one had to make Richard Labonté’s first cut. As Emanuel points out in his preface, it’s difficult to prove any anthology truly contains the ‘best’ work out there, but in my opinion, this edition is pretty damn close.
James Lear, author of Palace of Varieties, The Back Passage, and The Secret Tunnel serves as the guest editor for this year’s edition of Best Gay Erotica. The guest editors are perhaps the strength of this series. While a reader can expect well-written erotica every year, the selection of stories reflects the guest editor’s interests, making each year unique.
So what do you have to look forward to this year? Desire, cross-dressing, poetry, and hot fantasies, but mostly, a lot of longing for what was or what will never be.
The anthology opens with “The Changing Room“ by Bradley Harris. Kyle is seventeen, gay, and lonely. He goes to the mall in search of a pair of sexy red underwear and finds an admirer in Joe, a store clerk. Kyle returns to the store to try on clothes and underwear in the changing room while Joe watches him. They play out a long seduction, discussing in detail what they’ll do when Kyle turns eighteen. The sex talk is just an excuse though. They both need to feel wanted, and inside the changing room, they are. It’s probably the best sex that never was.
When I read Tulsa Brown’s “Temporary,”it reminded me of a line from the movie The Sting. “I'm the same as you. It's two in the morning and I don't know nobody.” An ex-con dishwasher and a pre-op MTF chanteuse are two lonely people thrown together in a moment of danger late at night in a closed restaurant. Afterward, out of relief, or maybe just because they both want company, they treat each other with tender sympathy. Beautifully done.
Jamie Freeman’s “Don’t Touch” is a wonderfully told story. The narrator sees his crush everywhere, but it’s never really the man he wants. When he hooks up with another man, it seems he’s trying to relive that one perfect, painful moment where his crush let him almost have what he wanted.
In“The Opera House” by Natty Soltesz, Britt and Cody either don’t want to admit it, or can’t come to terms with their attraction to each other. As they inch toward a sexual relationship, they reassure each other that they aren’t like the fags who live a couple blocks away. But when Britt starts to hang out with another guy, Cody is jealous, and baffled. A bit of push and shove a few nights later evolves into wrestling, and the boys finally cross the last boundary. The aftermath is more confusion and anger. This story will ring true to anyone who’s struggled with their identity.
There are other excellent stories in this anthology. Jeff Man always delivers a great tale. Xan West, Gerard Wozek, and Simon Sheppard also contribute wonderful pieces. Year after year, the Best Gay Erotica series delivers on its promise of quality erotic fiction without ever being the same as the years before.
In his forward, Richard Labonte comments that this is his fifteenth year editing The Best Gay Erotica. It’s my third year reviewing it for Erotica Revealed. He states that his goal is to present stories blending sexual intensity and literary craftsmanship. Our goal at Erotica Revealed is to review erotica as literary fiction. Every year, this makes for some of my favorite reading.
Hank Fenwick’s “Holiday from Love” is a bittersweet look back at what might have been but never could be. Beautifully executed story with so much truth to it that you’ll inevitably think back to something like it in your own life. Regret was never so sexy.
The title of “I Wish” by Richard Hennebert makes it seem like fantasy fulfillment, although it’s reality for some. The narrator breaks free of mind-numbing domesticity for a night out with the lads that ends at a sex club where his wish is fulfilled.
Simon Sheppard switches between the points of view of an older couple and the hustler they pick up in “The Suburban Boy.” People get off on all kinds of weird stuff, but resentment is a new one for me. And yet it was so skillfully done that this was one of the stories I thought about well after I’d finished the book, and re-read several times.
Sometimes, sex is all in the mind. In Jimmy Hamada’s “fifteen minutes naked,” a man poses naked for a photographer. The photographer reflects nothing back – no desire, not even hints on how to pose. He lets his mirror do that. The model tries to get a response but only manages to turn himself on.
Every reviewer has writers they look forward to reading. Jeff Mann and Trebor Healey are friendly acquaintances as well as favorite writers. “Smoke and Semen” (Mann) and “Frazzled” (Healey) made my writer’s heart pang with envy, but as a reader I was, as always, in awe.
Contributions by Natty Soltesz, David May, Robert Patrick, Shane Allison, Tommy Lee “Doc” Boggs, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Thom Wolf, David Holly, Jamie Freeman, Jonathan Kemp, Rob Wolfsham, and Jan Vander Laenen, fill out this anthology. Each is worthy of a read, or two, as you find something that speaks to you.
Where to start discussing this collection of goodies?
Normally, I review the Best Gay Erotica release and Jean Roberta reads Best Lesbian Erotica, but this year we switched to keep things interesting. While Jean probably has some nice things to say about Best Gay Erotica, I'm so glad that I got to read this.
As I read through an anthology, I bend down the page of a story that interests me. When I read the final story of Best Lesbian Erotica, nearly every story was marked by a bent page. That should tell you that Best means something in this case; it's not just a title. I read a lot of erotica. I get burned out. And yet, page after page in this book is marked.
So again, where do I start to discuss this anthology? Do I mention the anticipation of reading the contributions by Xan West (“My Precious Whore”), Sinclair Sexsmith (“A Quick Fuck in a Shadowed Corner”), or Catherine Lundoff (“Tree Hugger”) when I see their names in the table of contents? And oh, how they delivered. Xan and Sinclair each have a talent for powerful sexual imagery in hot dominance scenes. Catherine's forest ranger was the right balance of authority and down to earth sensuality, but the narrator got a huge smile from me for keeping her focus on what mattered to her.
As mentioned in the forward, many of the stories in this year's anthology feature butch/femme couples. Is there anyone as endearing as a sweet butch under the spell of a hot femme? Giselle Renarde's “Pointed Nails and Puppy Dog Tails” is laugh out loud funny with some hot foot worship by a rockabilly goddess, while in DL King's “Walk Like a Man,” it's the rockabilly boi who gets taken for a ride in his cherry 1958 Mercury Park Lane by a femme who knows what she wants.
In Kiki DeLovely's “The Third Kiss,” a woman uses social media to seduce the woman sitting across the table from her in a coffee shop. Is this a comment on how we're losing the ability to look someone in the eyes and talk to them? Or is this just the latest spin on the fine art of love letters? Is standing under a balcony really all that different from sending an instant message? Maybe the language changes, but in the end, conquest is conquest.
I must mention Betty Blue's “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” In a short story, it's hard to build a fantasy world, but Betty Blue manages to do it in style with a tale of a cross dressing girl and the exotic dancer she loves to watch. Rich in detail, with a hot sex scene, this tale will enthrall lovers of the fantasy genre and maybe convert a few readers too.
Do you want more? Yes, there's so much more. Artists, women in uniform, a tantalizing glimpse into life in India, basketball, ex-sex, latex, desire, love, and lust. How can you not love this book? Two thumbs way up.
Contributions by Renee Strider, Anamika, Xan West, Kiki DeLovely, Betty Blue, Sinclair Sexsmith, Kristy Logan, Kenzie Mathews, Giselle Renarde, Charlotte Dare, D.L. King, Theda Hudon, Nairne Holtz, Catherine Lundoff, Gala Fur, Sarah Ellen, Rachel Charman, Erica Gimpelevich, Heidi Champa, and A.D.R. Forte.
Oh, I am a happy reader tonight! Best Lesbian Erotica 2013 sits on my Kindle, just finished, and I’m in the warm afterglow of some great stories. How to choose which ones to talk about?
I’ll admit to being a flat out sucker for stories like “La Caida” by Anna Meadows, “Homecoming” by Anamika, and “Crave” by Fiona Zedde that take me to other landscapes so rich in sensual delights that I can smell the air and the food. I share a longing for older butch women as the narrator in Sonya Herzog’s “I Have a Thing for Butches,” or younger butches with active imaginations as in Penny Gyokeres’ “Morning Commute.”
If you’re in a more reflective mood, “She Never Wears Perfume” by Sid March is lovely. “The Invitation” by Maggie Veness also evokes longing, but not quite as melancholy. “Daffodils” by Sally Bellerose is sort of also about lost love but the part that enchanted me was the recognition that even comfortable sex with a longtime lover can be renewing.
As much as I enjoyed the offerings in BLE this year, my two favorite stories were, surprisingly, paranormal tales. It’s so difficult to world build in a short story but both “Woman-Time,” by Rebecca Lynne Fullan and the unusual but effective “Underskirts” by Kirsty Logan managed to create wonderfully evocative tales.Every year I wonder how the Best of Collections are going to measure up, but with the guest editors helping to choose stories a theme always emerges that makes it a very different experience each time. Once again, Kathleen Warnock has brought together an anthology worth your attention.
One of the wonders of Best Lesbian Erotica is the range of women depicted in these stories: Desi, black, white, femme, butch, cancer survivors and disabled, skater girls and knitters – even skater girls who knit. What unites this disparate group of folks is desire and hot sex.
Since this is a Best Of anthology, there’s really no such thing as a bad story here. It depends on your taste. Do you want an unlikeable narrator who gets hers? Try Sharon Wachsler’s “Imaging.” Like BDSM? Xan West’s “What I Need” is intense, while DL King’s “Big Lesbo Cupcakery” is told with a lighter heart. Or maybe you like intense longing of the heart along with the sex, in which case I recommend “Run, Jo, Run” by the always good Cheyenne Blue or “Stich and Bitch” by A. L. Simonds.I’ll admit I was hesitant about the last entry, “Mommy Is Coming” by Sarah Schulman and Cheryl Dunye because it was in screenplay format, but it’s more readable than I thought it would be and it definitely evokes visuals.
Is it time for this anthology already? How the year flies. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because Best Lesbian Erotica is a consistently good collection of work from a diverse group of writers.
Once again, I am a happy reader. So many compelling characters and good stories. And oh yes, hot sex, but that’s such a personal thing that I don’t even try to pick out the hottest stories for readers anymore.
If you’ve read my reviews over the years, you know that I generally pick out three or four stories from an anthology to talk about. That strategy doesn’t work for me this time. Each story was well-written. The more time I spend away from them, in the hopes that only a few are memorable, I find myself recalling almost every tale.
Okay, so there are a few that stayed with me. I like to compare the wonderful Fiona Zedde’s “Kiss of the Rain Queen” with Catherine Lundoff’s “Arachne,” because both are tellings of myths the way they probably used to be before the flesh and blood was stripped away to leave us with dry bones. “Kiss of the Rain Queen” evokes such a lush world full of spiritual beauty where “Arachne” speaks to the beauty of art. And yes, the sex is hot, but what stayed with me were the themes of personal worth. Arachne is confident in hers, but Hasnaa from “Kiss of the Rain Queen” has constantly been told that she’s worthless. Once she is with a lover who values her, she’s able to soak in the comfort and love.
I’m not usually a fan of stories told in the epistolary form (traditionally as letters, but nowadays commonly as a series of emails), but Lee Ann Keple and Katie King pulled it off well in “A Knock At the Door” as two women work through a fantasy where each gives the other multiple choices for where it might go next. It ends with a knock on the door, and you know these two lovers are ready to take it to the next level.
What do you want to read? Seasoned lovers helping youngsters who have lost touch with themselves? How about Sacchi Green’s “The Bullwhip and the Bull Rider” or Anna Watson’s “My Visit to Sue Anne?” Like a threesome? Deborah Jannerson’s “Andro Angel” or Nan Andrew’s “Learning to Cook” might be your thing. Okay, technically “Learning to Cook” isn’t, but neither is “Still Flying” by Andrea Dale, but there is another woman involved to get things going.
You really can’t go wrong with this anthology. It amazes me that every year they manage to find so many great stories, but they do. The stories are varied. There’s some BDSM, but there are also more vanilla stories, if that’s more to your liking. There’s sweetness and nasty, naughty sex too. Whatever mood you’re in, you’ll find something to entertain you here.
Best Women’s Erotica is an annual anthology offered by Cleis Press. For the past several years, the editor has been Violet Blue. I believe this will be her last BWE. While the strength of this series may be partially due to the occasional change in editorial vision, I’ve enjoyed Violet Blue’s years at the helm. If this is indeed her last BWE, she’s chosen to go out on a high note.
In a Best Of anthology, you’d expect every story to be well written, and Best Women’s Erotica 09 delivers on that promise. So the stories that work for you are going to be the ones that speak to your desires. Lucky for you, there’s a wide range of fantasies covered here – finding joy in her body, pleasuring his, taking control or giving it up, forbidden fruit, and role playing.
“On Loan” by Lauren Wright and “Fast Car, Not For Sale” by Trixie Fontaine are at opposite ends of the forbidden fruit spectrum. In “On Loan,” the woman goes to a hotel room for a tryst set up by her husband. The man waiting for her turns out to be her father’s best friend. Wright handles the reality of the awkward situation believably, and then lets the characters use that to make the fantasy even more forbidden and tasty. In “Fast Car, Not For Sale,” the character seduces a barely legal boy with the assurance of a woman who can handle turbo-charged power.
“Switch” by Vanessa Vaughn is a sweet, hot look at gender play. At home, gender roles often reflect tradition rather than the contemporary mores of society, and Vaughn uses this to her advantage.
Exhibitionists and voyeurs will enjoy Elizabeth Coldwell’s “Live Bed Show,” “Waiting for the River”by Kris Adams, and “Decorations” by Sommer Marsden.
If power exchange is your thing, “Lucky” by Xan West, “The Bitch In His Head” by Janne Lewis, “Good Pony” by Scarlett French, “The Girl Next Door” by Kay Jaybee, or the “Secret History of Lust” by Donna George Storey will fulfill that need.
And for those looking for just some good, hot, sweaty sex, “Snug Designs” by D.L. King, “Cardio” by Elisa Garcia, and “What If” by Cheyenne Blue are a good place to start.One of the things that impressed me most about this anthology is how varied women’s expressions of desire have become. Sometimes I wonder if we’re daring to have wilder fantasies, or just getting bolder about sharing them. I think it’s the latter. Somewhere in this anthology, you’re bound to find a story that either grabs you by the libido or gently strokes it to wakefulness. Either way, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
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.
It’s a real joy to read well-crafted bondage stories. There are many to choose from in The Big Book of Bondage, exploring female submission, male submission, and some same sex pairings. If you like group sex, threesomes, slut-shaming, and other kinds mixed with your bondage, you’ll find a story here for you.
One thing I enjoy so much about Sommer Marsden’s work, and in particular her story “Butter the Bird,” is how well she captures everyday life. There’s real craftsmanship going on here that it may take a writer to appreciate, but readers will enjoy how this slice of life heats up to a nicely decadent tale.
“Cute Boy gets Squeezed” by D.L. King explores the erotic potential of vacuum beds (although I can’t fathom another reason for using one). I’ve always been fascinated by them and she certainly makes it sound fun. This is a different kind of bondage than rope or handcuffs. If you like rubber or latex you’ll really like this kinky, fun tale.
I can’t think of a single Alison Tyler story I haven’t liked. She’s one of erotica’s rock and roll stars for a reason. Her “Burned” has amazing imagery and gets under your skin in a good way.
Kristina Lloyd’s “The Bondage Pig” was a little weird, but I was so fascinated I just had to see what would happen next. Then it got really interesting. Such an imagination!
Those are only a few of the worthy contributors. From Donna George Storey to Thomas Roche, many names are well-known in erotica. With twenty-five stories, this anthology is a little longer than most, but there wasn’t a single weak story.
By the second chapter of this novel, understanding dawned. What I was reading was really manga without the artwork rather than a traditional novel. A graphics-less graphic novel, if you will. That explained the bizarre addition of extensive character profiles at the beginning. It also explained the strange ‘not the US, not Europe, not Japan’ feel of the setting and culture, and why everyone acted like they were in high school rather than college-aged young adults.
I read a lot of manga, so in a way I’m okay with this weird hybrid. Once I saw it in that light, I could almost forgive some of the narrative issues with this work. However, there were many other issues that were unforgivable.
Who, other than a twelve-year old, constantly refers to breasts as melons? It was just embarrassing. At one point, the writer called a woman’s genitals her “vag.” We’re writing about grown-up stuff, so let’s use our grown-up words, okay?
Call them editing errors, typos, or just sloppy work, there are far too many mistakes with this work. I almost listed the long list of examples I had set aside, but why should I work for free as their copy editor? Someone needs to take a heavy red pen to this prose. Also, providing detailed character profiles does not absolve the writer of having to write characterization into the novel itself. If this had been an actual manga, artwork would have helped me to differentiate between the far too many two-dimensional characters, but they were just a blur of useless names after a while. I didn’t care enough to bother referring back to the dramatis personae.
But of all the problems with this novel, the worst was the rampant misogyny. The “hero” states that: “Girls are all about the money. Asian girls are really all about the money.” Boom! Not only a palpable hit with that old time religion of ‘women are greedy and evil,’ but also drops the casual racism bomb and just keeps going. (I can hear the author protesting: “Oh, but he was Asian too, so it’s all right.” No, it isn’t. Nothing in that comment was okay.)
I originally meant to save this as an example of the clunky writing, but it’s another example of the many misogynistic throw-away lines fouling this book like dog poo on a hiking trail: “Because when they looked at a guy, girls naturally calculated potential long term future and assessed potential status and dollar signs.” Just try to maneuver around that sentence. It’s like a verbal obstacle course with a huge muck pit of girl-hate in the middle.
According to this story, lesbians are man haters who secretly want to have a penis. VERY LONG SIGH.
There’s lots of creepy non-consensual touching and voyeurism – by the “good guy.” The “hero” alters a woman’s body magically so it will fit his masturbatory needs, and this is supposedly a woman he thinks of as a sister. Someone he loves. He makes another woman do an erotic striptease and give another guy a lap dance in class so she’ll be humiliated. Consensual? Screw that. Women are here to give this guy pleasure. And everyone else too, because gang-rapes are disturbingly routine after about the halfway point of this story. Then at the end, the author makes all the females in this story agree that the guy who did it was really a nice guy despite his few mistakes and they kind of liked being anally raped by him. Gross.
That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. Not erotic. Just gross. Not the worst writing I’ve read, but you deserve better. Thankfully, better is out there for your reading pleasure. Go find it.
Brit Boys: On Boys is a kissing book. Yet another publisher slipped in an erotic romance rather than literary erotica, despite there being oodles of other sites happy to review that genre.
This is not my cup of tea. I tried to get out of writing this review even though I read the entire book, but I was asked to pretty please try to say something nice.
The spelling was impeccable and the grammar perfectly acceptable. When I rolled my eyes, it was because the embarrassingly stupid characters doing idiotic things, but never because of the general level of writing. I’ve seen worse cover art. And oh dear god this thing was long. 540 pages. Page after page after page. As unending as a Russian winter when the internet is down. So you’re going to get your money’s worth.If you enjoy reading about men in love (ostensibly. I know hundreds of men, gay ones too, and none of them act like these guys, but whatever) and like male on male sex scenes, you might enjoy this book.
I had so much fun reading Buccaneer Island. As Winston Churchill is often accused of saying (though he denied it), the traditions of the British Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash. Since this story wasn’t about the British Navy, I can only promise you two of those. (Spoiler: This novel didn’t have much rum in it.)
Edmund, third son of an English lord, is caught sucking the stable boy’s cock. His father sends him away to become an overseer at a Louisiana plantation. Everyone on the ship knows why he’s on board. When the teasing gets too much, he attacks a cabin boy. The captain punishes him and Edmund finds out he likes it. Before he can beg the captain to bugger him, a storm comes up and he’s washed overboard.
Edmund comes to on Buccaneer Island in the care of Mathew who lives alone in a shack near the shore. Mathew decides to force feminize Edmund, so he pays a “witch” to give Edmund herbs that will make him grow breasts. He gets women’s clothes for Edmund to wear and expects Edmund to behave as a lass. Edmund seems okay with the situation until he finds out Mathew means to leave him for a while in the care of the witch who has spoken of cutting Edmund. He doesn’t want to lose his balls, so he escapes from Mathew.
During his escape, he’s taken prisoner by a small community of rough men who decide to whip Edmund and have a gangbang. Edmund rather enjoys it, but he again escapes, only to fall into the hands of yet another man who takes him to be the sex slave of a smart, handsome creole pirate. Things happen, then finally Edmund’s past catches up to him and he has to bid a fond farewell to all those men who have humiliated, buggered, and soundly spanked him.So basically this is a BDSM novel with pirates. Some plot points had me rolling my eyes, but when you’re reading a ripping yarn, sometimes you just have to go with it. So I did, and I had a rollicking time.
It’s summer, which means I’m in the mood for some fun, naughty reading. Lucky for me, it came in the form of Sommer Marsden’s Calendar Girl. This is the perfect beach read, as long as you don’t mind getting a little wet while you sunbathe.
Merritt comes home from Christmas shopping to catch her husband Drake in bed with a man. She divorces him by New Years Eve (yeah, yeah, summer read, let it go). While discussing her state of affairs with her best friend, Jeffery the gay drag queen, they come up with a plan for her to move past her current situation. Well, Jeffrey comes up with it. He proposes a new man every month for her: a no strings attached, no expectations, no commitments celebration of her freedom. Merritt doesn’t think she can pull off the Calendar Girl plan, but next thing she knows, she’s in the spare bedroom being finger fucked into a state of bliss by another party guest.
Merritt has a lot of fun with Mr. January, but by the end of the month, she’s ready to move on. Each of the men she meets fills a need, and they treat her pretty well. Each has a kink or two that she explores. It’s sort of a Goldilocks situation though – none are just right. Not that she cares. The idea is to keep moving and have fun, not to settle down with anyone.
Then she meets Penn. Merritt is a professional organizer; Penn is need of some organization. He’s aware that she’s working her way through the calendar, and he knows that she doesn’t sleep with clients, but he can’t get her off his mind. He has to go out of the country, but they keep in touch over the phone.
Merritt’s schedule starts to wear on her. She’s grateful when Mr. May (I think) mends things with his ex-girlfriend. Besides, she has a lot of other stuff going on – her brother just came out and her mother isn’t taking it well, and her ex-husband wants to get back together. Finally, she’s had enough, and she decides to stop being the Calendar Girl and just spend some time sorting things out. But the first of August is coming soon, and Penn is penciled in as Mr. August.Calendar Girl is a breezy, quick read. It’s more erotic romance than literary erotica, but if you’re looking for something fun to read, you’ve found it.
Coming Together has produced some of the most interesting collections of the erotic short story available. These are charity collections to raise money for various causes chosen by the author. Teresa Lamai chose Amnesty International, a cause that holds deep personal interest for her.
Editor Lisabet Sarai mentions in her forward that she first encountered Teresa Lamai on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (ERWA) site. I also had the good fortune to read Teresa's early work there and many of her stories stay with me. Of all the erotica writers I've read, Teresa's stand out as luminescent, even though the subjects she often illuminates are the darker places in our souls. Teresa was a dancer, so many of her characters are too. But it's not the beauty that the audience sees that she portrays. It's the pain and suffering behind the art. Jealousy is a common theme. Desire, more consuming than passion, in her characters is so ravenous and destructive that it makes the reader slightly uncomfortable, yet the language is so compelling and beautiful that the reader can't look away.
I've read many of these stories before, but years ago. Teresa vanished. She became one of those memories erotica writers spoke of with wistfulness. Where did she go? Then, as time passed, we stopped asking as frequently. I never truly forgot her stories, but so many writers stop producing work for so many reasons that I regretfully accepted it. Then this collection came into my hands for review and it all came rushing back. Yes, I'd read many of these stories, and their impressions lingered, but what a delight to get to read them all over again. Words don't go stale, thankfully. Hers never lost their vibrancy.
Usually, I pick several stories to comment on, but in this case, it's better to let the writer's words speak for themselves:
The craftsmanship is enough to make another writer jealous. This is exquisite art. Like Remittance Girl, who also has a Coming Together collection, Teresa Lamai delves deep into sensuality and delivers flawlessly every time.
I don't bother turning away when I light my third cigarette.
By now I almost want them to see me. Or at least to suspect that someone's out here, watching.
It was surprisingly easy to get up on the warehouse roof. The rusty nitrogen tank has a nice little ladder. I can see downtown Portland from here, sparkling scarlet and sugary white across the river. The moss-scented mist settles, fine as cobwebs, over my cheeks, my hair.
I lean back and watch my old apartment.
The window glows, poppy-bright in the wet darkness. The front room is exactly the same, amps and mixing boards stacked to the ceiling. Jed sits at the tableau's center, guitar in his lap. His black eyes are trained on the music stand, his brows furrowed. He's let his hair grow out, wavier, glossier, almost long enough for a ponytail.
Fuck it. I should know by now that I'm going to cry every time I look at him. The stinging starts in my eyes and then fills my head.
My friends keep telling me how much happier I am without him. I haven't eaten in days. I live on coffee, cold air, and the anxious thrum of waiting, watching. I couldn't tell you what I'm looking for; I just find myself here every night. My life has shrunk around this bright, oblique conviction that if I wait long enough, if I watch hard enough, these barriers of glass and time will dissolve.–I'll be back inside.
After reading the stories in Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, I had to ask myself why I expected stories about “bad” women when Rachel Kramer Bussel’s intro made it clear that these were stories about women who could be dirty and sweet at the same time. Take her words to heart. These stories are not about femmes fatale, but about women who embrace their sexuality.
Perhaps I read too much erotica. It takes a lot to get me to sit up and take notice. The well-worn conventions, unless delivered by a master story-teller, leave me yearning for the story that could have been. Strangers knock it out, but here’s the twist at the end, they’re husband and wife role-playing. It’s only a twist if I haven’t read it a hundred times before. Every time, I wonder what’s so hot about it. Then there’s the mysterious stranger who quickly humbles the confident sex-goddess by dominating her and forcing her to accept the submissive role she was always secretly yearning for. Um. Right. Next? And of course, there’s the high-fantasy BDSM scene of the slave girl kept in sexual torment all night while she services her Master and his friends. That was covered ad nauseam in the Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure and hasn’t become any more interesting since then.
Despite my dissatisfaction with a number of the stories in this anthology, there were also some amazing treasures. The lead-off story for this anthology is “Fucking Around” by Marie Lyn Bernard. It set the bar high for what was to follow, unfortunately. Sure, as an Angeleno, I wasn’t thrilled by Marie’s representation of LA, but at least she made it clear it wasn’t somebody from here. But I’ll admit I laughed aloud at Boston’s self-absorption, so we all enjoy a well-placed tweak of another person’s hometown. Call it regional schadenfreude. The pay-off with New York was priceless. I hate to describe this story beyond these comments because you deserve the delight of discovering this one on your own. Sexy? Maybe. Erotic? Questionable. One hell of a good read? Absolutely.
Shanna Germain is a master at bittersweet stories. Sometimes, what we’ve lost can never be replaced, no matter how much we gain. The narrator in “Until It’s Gone” can only get off from being choked by a belt and longs for the lover who knew how to do it for her. Her loving husband tries, but can’t bring himself to hurt her, so she fakes sexual fulfillment and tries to convince herself that her life now is worth the sacrifice. The sex in this story passes the border from dirty into kinky without so much as a kiss blown to the customs agent, but as always, it’s the emotional resonance of Shanna’s stories that stays with me for days, even weeks, after I read her work.
I could almost feel the swelter from Rachel Kramer Bussel’s story “Icy Hot,” and wanted that damn ice as bad as her character Doris did. When the last bag of ice for sale at the local bogeda is taken by a hot guy, Doris challenges him for it. He agrees to share it, but in his apartment. The sex scene that follows is as sizzling as the city sidewalks in summer. I know when my nipples pucker at the same time the character’s do that the story is going to have its way with me, and I’m enthusiastically along for the ride.
Some stories that also deserve mention are Catherine Lundoff’s “Just Another Girl on the Train” that appealed strongly to my voyeuristic side, and Alison Tyler’s “Like a Good Girl.” Alison’s stories always have a moment that turns me on in a big way, and this one was no exception.
Whether a story works or not is a mystical thing. Shortly after reading Rachel’s “Icy Hot,” I read Carol Queen’s “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” and had quite a different reaction to strangers rushing into immediate sex. Maybe it was because Rachel’s Doris seemed streetwise enough to take care of herself that I took it on faith that she’d follow a stranger to his apartment and they’d get it on. But in “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” I couldn’t make that leap that it was in character for Abby to simply go off with strangers who admittedly had been stalking her. I also couldn’t quite figure out the – to me – non-sequitur that if a person is a bibliophile, she is also into a three-way with strangers in a booth at a peep show.
It’s not the set-up, it’s not the setting, and it’s not the scenario that makes a story erotic to me. Sex is a given, so even that isn’t enough. And maybe that’s the problem here – in too many of these stories, sex portrayed in graphic detail is supposed to be enough to turn me on, except that it often isn’t. I need interesting characters to grab my libido and not let go until we’re panting together through the closing words. I wanted to like this anthology more than I did. Yes, there are a few really good stories, but in the balance, not enough.
The worst thing about reviewing a thriller is that almost anything I say about the plot may be a spoiler. The best thing is that I love thrillers, and Don’t is a pretty good one. This is what I like to see in erotic fiction – a solid story with decent writing. Period. If it fails there, the sex scenes aren’t going to help it. It’s also so refreshing to step outside the cookie-cutter Dom/sub mansion training secret society high fantasy world. Okay – there’s a mansion and a secret society, but that’s not the main focus, and the dynamics of the relationships are more compatible with real life than the way they’re portrayed in many other novels.
Let’s see if I can give you an idea of the plot without giving anything away.
Jack owns a garage but he also works as a mechanic there. His need for order and cleanliness is challenged every day. He has OCD and a few other issues that are best kept under control when he has a Dom to help him through things. One of his other issues, however, is in direct opposition to being a sub: his first impulse is always to disobey. So when he gets a mysterious email that begins with the order “Don’t,” he does exactly what it says not to do. He doesn’t know who is sending these messages, or apparently how this person got such direct personal access to him. Then Mr. Perfect Vanilla comes into his life. The messages start coming more frequently and weird things begin to happen. Whoever is sending the messages is getting closer, and his demands are getting more intense. Mr. Perfect Vanilla is finding out more about Jack and he’s not sure he can handle all of Jack’s issues, but he tries. As Jack tries to balance his secrets, his love life, and the escalating creepiness of the mystery man, everything falls apart.
This is a long novel, and as I read the second half, I wished it had been split into two stories. It began as a captivating psychological thriller and it would have been nice if that had remained the focus. It could have been amazingly intense. The second half with the complications of a relationship between a very vanilla guy and a man who really needs a Dom would have made a compelling stand alone novel. Instead, neither premise is used to its full potential.
While the copy edit on this novel was very good, some intense story-level editing was needed here. There were far too many secondary characters without much to make them stand out. After reading several paragraphs devoted to a woman at Jack’s dojo, I expected her to become relevant in the story, but she was never seen again. A good edit would have deleted those useless paragraphs. That’s just one example, but there were many problems like that. Easily twenty percent of the word count could have been cut and not changed the core of the story(ies). The narrative needed to be clarified and tightened. And I was extremely disappointed in the reveal. You may think that means I don’t recommend the book. That’s not quite true. There’s a lot to like about this book. I just wish it had been either a thriller or a story about a difficult relationship and spent time exploring either one of those worthy themes. It’s evident from what I read that the writer has the talent to do it, and do it well.
Extraordinary Deviations is a collection of short stories featuring transgendered characters. The first several stories seem to have been written by someone who heavily fetishizes transgendered people while simultaneously loathing them, which made it uncomfortable going in the beginning. Thankfully, that tone seemed to change in later stories.
Honestly, I almost set aside the collection during the first story, “Only Fate,” due to the rampant misogyny. Only by reminding myself frequently that it was the character, not the writer, speaking, was I able to wade through the bitterness. Unfortunately, “Lover of the Whore of Babylon” was pretty much along the same lines. A collection is in trouble when the first two stories inspire long, deep sighs and glances at a watch, but then lo! A miracle occurred. The third story, “Opening,” was actually interesting. Good world development and well-drawn characters. “Gallae” was about being obsessed with transgendered folks as sexual objects, which is problematic, and the story wasn’t that interesting, but at least by then I wasn’t dreading the next story as I had been after the first two.
“Thief of Dreams” had an excellent premise if you’re not too picky about consent, invasion of privacy, and things like that. A hacker taps into interactive porn and participates. The other person thinks it’s simply a program while he pushes them to fulfill his fantasies. Then someone with revenge in mind tracks him down and hacks into his feed. He can’t escape. He isn’t sure he wants to. I give this story a huge recommendation if you like edgy.
I also have to give recognition to the story “Jack-A-Roe” for recognizing that some sexual fantasies are simply too much for some people. A woman is bequeathed a mask and other items from her aunt that she uses as part of a costume. The spirit in the mask leads her into a rather wild time that overwhelms and scares her, so she puts it aside. Respecting your personal limits is just as important a message in sex-positive stories as the “try it, you’ll like it” spin.
If you’re into the fey and other woodland supernaturals, “One Hundred and Twenty-Two Petals” might be a tale for you. Not my thing, but by now I was just grateful that the creepy fetishizing established at the opening of the collection had simmered down into decent storytelling, so I have no complaints about this one.
In “Bridge Over Shifters Chasm,” beta mutants in an alpha superheroes world find each other. This is one of the stronger stories in the collection, and a good way to close it out.
When I was young, I read every fairy tale and folk tale I could find in the library. I loved the Chinese version of "Beauty and the Beast" where the “beast” was a stove. Is it the stories or the Russian folk art in the illustrated versions that make Russian folk tales so wonderful? My favorite movement from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky is "Hut on Fowl’s Legs" ("The Hut of Baba Yaga"). "Fox Spirits," "The Snow Queen," even "Nag and Nagina" from Rikki Tiki Tavi were favorite companions to curl up with. So you’d think I’m a natural audience for erotica fairy tales. I’m not. “Ye Old Tymey” language makes me cringe, and it’s rare that someone produces a story that strikes the right feel of a folk tale and is able to balance it with the erotic element. Right now, you’re probably expecting a negative review, but there’s a lot to like in Fairy Tale Lust. If you have the same reservations I did, you might also be pleasantly surprised.
Craig Sorenson is on his way to becoming a recognized name in erotica, with good reason. His Ugly Duckling tale, "Duckling," is a wonderful tale of a woman “of a certain age” who might not have become a swan, but she finally sees that she’s a hot duck.
I’ll admit that I have a tiny bit of a boot fetish, so Louisa Harte’s "Ellie and the Shoemaker" was bound to appeal to me. I loved how horny Elle was, and how comfortable she was with that. If you dislike the traditional wilting princess who does nothing, here’s a heroine who goes out and gets what she wants.
You’ll recognize "Sleep Tight" by Janine Ashbless as a Sleeping Beauty tale, but you won’t expect the ending. I sure didn’t see it coming. That’s all I’ll say. Nicely executed.
Shanna Germain delves into the traditional, dark side of Celtic fairy mythology in "Her Hair is a Net, Woven." Allison Wonderland’s "Mind Your Peas and Qs" was deftly funny. We all need a fairy godmother like Saskia Walker’s in "All in a Day's Work." I'm not sure that Charlotte Stein’s "The Return" is truly a fairy tale, but it’s nicely told, and has a happily ever after ending that even I liked.
So the verdict is Thumbs Up. I wasn’t prepared to like this anthology as much as I did, but I’m glad I read it. With contributions from Delilah Devlin, Andrea Dale, Justine Elyot, Alegra Verde, Kristina Wright, Jeremy Edwards, Aurelia T Evans, Carol Hassler, Alana Noel Voth, Michelle Augello-Page, and A.D.R. Forte, you’re bound to find a gem or two, and no trolls. I promise.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Circlet Press. Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve ever written for them before. Every time I read one of their anthologies I’m struck with a serious case of writer’s envy and reader’s delight. Fantastic Erotica was enough to send me into green-eyed rapture.
Fantastic. We tend to use it as a superlative, and that fits this anthology, but fantastic, according to the free Dictionary, is also “Quaint or strange in form, conception, or appearance, OR unrestrainedly fanciful; extravagant.” That fits too. Each of these stories introduces you to the other, where the other is a world, a people, a person. Some are similar in many ways to our world, but the one where we took a left at Albuquerque, fell out of the rabbit hole rather than into it, and stepped through a looking glass. Science fiction and fantasy loving me was spellbound.
Normally I pick three or four stories in an anthology to talk about, but this is near to impossible as it seems that every story was in my top picks. South sea pirate adventures! A sentient sex automaton. Near future dystopia! The fae. Space and other vast reaches of nature. Vampires. Magic and technology, viruses and things that bump and grind in the night! Miss Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice is the heroine of her own story? Oh yes, please! A rift jumper who dies many times and lives to tell about it. The Eldritch Horror sitting at a bar! (okay, confession, I do have a favorite, and this one is it. Blame my love of the weird and things that make me cover my eyes but peer through spread fingers) Call those incongruous but it seems entirely consistent to me to love well-crafted stories. And the great thing is that you too can read and enjoy each of these and maybe love one a little more than the others and you won’t be wrong.
Table of Contents:
The Beauty of Broken Glass by Frances Selkirk
The Succubus by Elizabeth Schechter
Enslaved by Kierstin Cherry
Lawman by Angela Caperton
The Pirate from the Sky by Sacchi Green
Rescue Wounds by Kal Cobalt
A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment by Elizabeth Reeve
Navigator by Kathleen Tudor
At The Crossroads by Monique Poirier
Catch and Release by Sunny Moraine
Mirror by Clarice Clique
A Vision In X-Ray and Visible Light by Nobilis Reed
Wood by David Sklar
Devil’s Masquerade by Michael M. Jones
Fences by David Hubbard
The Many Little Deaths of Cicilia Long by Shanna Germain
The Dancer’s War by N.K. Jemisin
Ink by Bernie Mojzes
Ota Discovers Fire by Vinnie Tesla
From the title alone, I assume that The Cross of Sins is the first in a series. Fathoms Five refers to the five gay nuggets (sexy boys) who work for the blind Professor Maximillian Fathom: Jake Stone – Indiana Jones, Eden Santiago – Brazilian doctor and biologist, Will Hunter – Batman, Luca daRoma – Italian art expert, Shane Huston – cowboy. The Cross of Sins refers to the artwork they’re trying to find before a rival group of Catholic fanatics called the Crimson Crown destroys it. If you’re thinking this sounds like an action adventure genre novel like Di Vinci Code and Ocean’s Eleven, but with some explicit sex scenes, you’d be right.
The story opens with Jake Stone climbing into the guts of a volcano to retrieve a diamond idol of a wealthy French collector. Jake barely escapes with his life from the erupting volcano, only to have the idol taken from him by the French collector’s henchmen. Left for dead, he’s hauled out of the water by a local fisherman and the Brazilian nugget – sorry, Eden – who was sent to fetch Jake for the Professor. Jake doesn’t want to join the group, but he grudgingly goes along when tempted with a chance for revenge.
The team splits up to go in search of clues that will lead them to the hiding place of the historically and artistically significant or sacrilegious - depending on your point of view - Cross of Sins statue. Danger lurks everywhere. Since you can’t keep a good nugget down, the boys make time for some hot sex despite being pursued by the murderous Crimson Crown cronies (Knight calls them minions, but I like the alliteration). The opposing forces meet at a masked ball in Venice as they’re both trying to steal an important artifact from the French collector. As the body count and stakes crank higher, both sides race to the Cross of Sins statue, and the big showdown.
You’re either the kind of person who can enjoy an action adventure yarn, or you’re not a fan of the genre. I like a page-turning adventure. I love it when things blow up, and a truly despicable villain is one of the great guilty pleasures in life. I’ll suspend my disbelief pretty far for fast-paced action and stomach-clenching suspense.
What can’t be suspended though are the rules of good writing. Some of the characters needed to be fleshed out more. The action sequences were harmed rather than helped by frequent and redundant sentence fragments. In the big action scene near the end, overuse of the word minion pulled me out of the story. What this book needs, and deserves, is a great editor. The pieces are there for a really good genre read. They simply need to be put together better. For those reasons, regretfully, I can only give Cross of Sins a sideways review.
Ah, the fabled Mile High Club. Talk about an extremely narrow theme for an anthology. You've got your airplane bathroom - even in first class, it's a place where people void their bowels - or your seat, which is about as comfortable as those hard plastic desk seats in high school. Oh yeah, and the cockpit. Not much there to work with fantasy-wise, and it shows in the lack of diversity. I also wondered if this anthology was a reprint because I've read several of these stories before. However, I suppose if joining the Mile High Club is a huge fantasy for you, you might want this anthology.
The well-written contributions are by veterans of the erotica scene. In Alison Tyler's “Planes, Trains, and Banana-Seat Bicycles,” a couple is offered a trip to a remote island by her richer sister. Nothing about the trip appeals to them, but he uses it as an excuse to playfully torment her. It's so nice, so romantic, to see a couple in sync with each other. They know who they are, and that’s sexy.
“When Your Girl Friend Wears a Very Short Skirt,” by Thomas Roche, shows how a master at the genre can take the same scenario and make it transcend the others. He's such an entertaining writer. His characters leap off the page.
I know I complained about sex in the bathrooms, because ick, but Stan Kent's Aisle Seat did the best job of making me forget stagnant water pooled on the floor and the sickeningly sweet scent of airplane hand soap. Stan is the author of the (in)famous Shoe Leather series, and his continuing appreciation for fine women's shoes shows in this piece, as well.
Ooh, I’m practically giddy! I must have been one very good girl this year, because I got to read, back-to-back, two excellent anthologies of lesbian erotica. Or I’m just incredibly lucky, but the best part is that you, too, may share in this luck by buying these anthologies. (BLE 15 from last month and Forbidden Fruit this month) This is the time of year when naughty and nice get batted around a lot, so it’s fitting that these tales of “Unwise” erotic encounters should end up in your stockings, or whatever you wear to entice your gift-giving amour.
From page one, there is so much to love about this anthology. Rebecca Lynn Fullan’s “Our Woman” starts it off with an amazing near-future dystopian tale that Margaret Atwood would have been proud to pen. The depth of the world she evokes shows true craftsmanship. It isn’t easy to put that much story into a tale of this length but keep it… well, light isn’t the right word, but sparse isn’t either. Maybe deft fits it. It definitely take a deft touch when writing about sex with a slave. Consent can be a warped idea when you’re talking about actually owning another person, but it’s clear here that it isn’t that sort of situation.
There are so many forbidden fantasies to touch on. The daughter of your first crush, a student, poaching a more experienced lover right under her girlfriend’s nose, or the mother of your former lover. These all get a treatment in this anthology.
The girl doesn’t always have to be bad for a tryst to be a mistake, but Jean Roberta shows how sexy a truly bad, bad person can be in her story “Shelter.” When a former classmate shows up out of the blue—and freshly out of prison—at her door, a sensible woman cautiously goes wild for a few hours. And speaking of bad girls, you know anyone named Miss Scarlett (“The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlett” by Emily L. Byrne) is going to be wicked. A cop senses something isn’t right about the woman in red leading her on a chase, but by the time it clicks that she’s a thief wanted around the world, the cop is in no shape to pursue the matter.
If you like historical fiction, “The Clinton County Horse Thief Society” by Axa Lee might appeal. Now that the men are all gone to war, a young woman takes up her father’s job of tracking down horse thieves. People might talk that she’s brought back the horse but not the thief the past few times, but she doesn’t care. The horse thief is her guilty pleasure. Until she finds out the thief has double-crossed her. Bad might be tempting, but no young woman who hunts down horse thieves is going to be stupid. (This may not be what the writer intended, but because the publisher is based in Australia, I enjoyed the idea of this being set there rather than in the US.)
This anthology was a delight to read. It has many well-written stories that will appeal to many different interests. The theme is good with imaginative takes on what it means by the talented contributors. I strongly recommend this.
Author of the lauded Neptune & Surf, founder of the Erotica Authors Association, and poplar anthology editor Marilyn Jaye Lewis offers another wonderful erotic tale in her latest novel Freak Parade.
Singer/songwriter Eugenia Sharpe calls herself a one hit wonder, but it was a full album of songs that took her to the height of fame. Then, she quit. She thought she did it for love, but when she finds her record producer boyfriend’s photo album of his sexual conquests while he’s out of town, she realizes she’s been fooling herself. In an incredibly refreshing turn (I’ve read too many books where the first thing the woman does is take a bubble bath) Eugenia goes to stay with her lesbian best friend/ former lover Wanda and enjoys a night of passionate, hot fuck-buddy sex with Wanda.
I read a lot of erotica. I write a bit too. Call me jaded, but it takes a bit to get my attention these days. Marilyn Jaye Lewis had me at that scene. I’m not sure if it was the realistic details, or the way Genie finally focused on her lover’s pleasure that did it for me, but who wants to deconstruct the mechanics of a scene when it turns you on?
Genie’s been a recluse for five years and doesn’t handle the real world well. Since she squandered away her earnings from her album, and Darryl (the cheating bf) owns everything, moving out isn’t so simple. Wanda offers Genie a job in her thrift store and a couch for as long as she needs it. She obsesses over being recognized and having to explain why she’s a lowly store clerk now, which isn’t exactly endearing. She seems almost incapable of taking care of herself. However, as most erotica novels are journeys of self-discovery, it’s pretty clear that her task is to become a functioning adult.
Moving back to the poorer part of Manhattan takes Genie back to her creative roots, which Darryl sneeringly calls the freak parade. It also surrounds her with old friends and lovers. Some of those people are good support, others are a lesson waiting to be learned. Genie might not identify as bisexual, but she has no gender hang-ups, so as she moves through her old haunts there are plenty of sexual escapades with men and women. She even gets off listening to her gay roommate dominate a closeted movie star. Not all of her experiences are positive, but they force her to grow up more.
Genie meets a Puerto Rican man named Eddie on the dance floor of a small club and is immediately enamored, but then he disappears. A week later, he calls and explains that he went out to buy flowers for her, and she was gone when he got back with them. They start an affair that wakes her muse. For the first time in years, she’s writing songs again, but even though she’s falling in love with Eddie, and the sex is great, there are problems. When they go out together, Genie’s eyes are opened to the real disparity between her poor but white world and his. His pride makes it hard for him to accept that she might be rich again after she records her new album. They can’t truly be together in New York. Either he’s treated like a criminal, or everyone speaks Spanish around her and leaves her out of the conversation. When he gets a job offer in Pennsylvania, she sees it as their chance to be together.There were some things that bothered me about this story, but they’re little nits. Genie’s friend Wanda, who was so important in the first few chapters, faded to the background. Genie’s self-absorption didn’t improve one bit in that regard from the opening chapter to the end. If she needed someone, she was all over them. If she didn’t… meh. But that’s how I saw the character. I also would have liked to have seen Genie’s realization of the disparity between white and non-white privilege lead to something other than fleeing the city to get away from it. (And how does a girl grow up in rural Kentucky without being aware of the unwritten racial rules?) Maybe it was asking for too much from Eugenia Sharpe. I know that this story is going to appeal to many readers, and the strong, macho, dominant Puerto Rican lover Eddie is going to make the closeted (and not so closeted) submissive girls of the world swoon with lust. The rest of you are going to love it because it’s everything you could want in erotic literature.
The difference between porn and erotica is all in your head, and mine. But since I’m the one writing this review, I’m going to go with my definition. Don’t think for a second that I sniff disdainfully at porn. Writing good porn is an art. Yes, porn often lacks character development. Yes, it often lacks plot. No one ever praises its strength though. Well-written porn can grab your libido in a couple sentences, have its way with you, and leave you panting. So where do I draw the line between the two? At telling everything instead of showing it and most important, a scene rather than a story.
We review literary erotica - erotica written in the style of literary fiction – at Erotica Revealed. Freedom is Slavery doesn’t meet that criteria. It is, by my definition, porn. However, I believe in looking at a book for what it is, not what it isn’t, which leaves me in a bit of a quandary.
This book is self-published, but generally well edited. I like the idea of including photographs with each entry, but the photos did nothing for me and the quality was probably hurt by the printing process. If the scenes get you off, you’re going to have a difficult time balancing the over-sized tome with one hand while you use the other.The scenes in this book explore many sexual fantasies from breast feeding to pegging to forced feminization. Many of the stories are femme dome. Some are polysexual. Honestly, these scenes didn’t do anything for me. I wasn’t drawn into any of the fantasies and found the book easy to set down with little incentive to pick it up again. That’s too bad as the writer touches on several of my kinks. I kept wanting a story, but never got one. My deepest criticism is that my libido was never engaged by any of the scenes, which makes this okay porn, but not great. However, I could see where some readers might enjoy it, and the writing is competent, so I’ll give it a sideways rating.
Helen Madden is one of the most energetic writers I’ve ever met. She sets incredible goals, and reaches them. She produces a weekly comic on her hugely popular Cynical Woman website, produces cover art and websites for publishers and writers, and produces a weekly webcast that demands a fresh story every week. Not only is her output amazing, but the quality of her work is enviable. With a strong base of stories to choose from, it came as no surprise that she was releasing a collection.
As the title of the collection suggests, Helen’s stories are speculative fiction. The collection begins with a flash fiction (ultra short) piece “Circus Circus” that serves as an introduction as well as a story. It sets the tone for what will come.
“Event Horizon” reminds me of the restaurant at the end of the universe in the HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A man is in a bar with a view of a star nursery nebula that is about to implode. There, he meets Shiva, who promises to show him how to go out with a bang.
If voting were ever like “The Voting Booth,” we’d have 100% citizen participation. Heck, I’d vote early, and vote often, if the candidates worked that hard to get my vote.
“To Birdman with Love” is set in the superhero universe. Ever wonder if those villains and superheroes running around in latex catsuits are a bit kinky? The line between bad and good was never so hard to draw, especially when they’re all writhing on the floor in a huge spandex orgy. You’ll be cheering for the sidekick who finally comes into his own.
“Husbands and Wives” is a melancholy tale set in an alternate universe that will linger with you for days. Lovely execution.
“Future Perfect” is the longest story in the collection. In this contemporary science fiction novelette, a researcher perfecting a line of sex toys begins to have visions while she and her submissive boy test her products. To her boy’s dismay, she immediately runs off to prevent her visions from coming true. That leads to a rift in their relationship. But the visions of danger don’t stop, and despite being apart, they are drawn back to the scene until the future finally plays out.All of the stories in this collection are good, so picking out a few to mention was difficult. The best thing about this collection is how diverse these stories are. Some are funny; some are sad. Sex is explicit and hot in a few; others linger on seduction. Some tales have happy endings; some don’t. But each one will give you something to think about. That’s my definition of a good story.
Hand and Glove: The Path is high fantasy gay BDSM. It follows the story of a smartass Mr. Leather title holder as he transforms from David Greenberg into ‘it’.
As David Greenberg, his life is a mess. He’s an undisciplined pretender to the role of a top, who harms submissives and is unpopular in the Leather community that he supposedly presides over. At a party, he meets a true Master who can see through his pretenses. Thinking that he’s hustling yet another trick, and that he can serve Master Hunter under his own terms, he soon learns that Master Hunter is the real deal.
Told to sell all his possessions except that which can fit into a tiny suitcase, and ordered to arrive at Master Hunter’s compound via bus, David fails his first test horribly. Instead of taking the bus, he drives his prized Red Corvette, and attracts the attention of the town’s sadistic Sheriff. Knowing that he’s probably blown his one chance with Master Hunter, David uses his one phone call to make a desperate plea for help.
Help does arrive, in the form of a lawyer, who has the trumped-up charges against David dropped. The next day, David is taken to the gates of the huge rural farm where Master Hunter reigns.
The farm is the original of a series of estates closely held by a group of Vietnam War veterans. It is self-sustaining, generating its own power, growing its own food, harvesting lumber from the woodlands, and quarrying limestone from a huge series of caverns it sits over. All of this is covered in great detail in the first chapter and again later on.
Rather than being taken to Master Hunter, David is collared, fitted with a harness, and brought down into the labyrinth underneath the complex where he begins his slave training. Over the period of several years, he moves through different slave tasks as a mule – one who performs physical labor – both underground, as a miner and a kitchen slave, to the outside world, where he is a pony boy and a lumberjack. Through that time, each rare glimpse of Master Hunter brings him hope, and a reminder of what he’s working towards.
To his dismay, he is sold at the slave auction to another master. He tries his best to serve, but kept confined in a small room in a filthy apartment, he falls into despair and attempts suicide. His new owner angrily returns him as defective merchandise.
As he is retrained by Handler Dan, who resembles Master Hunter in many ways, David begins the mental shift from I to it. Finally deemed worthy after over three years of reconditioning, ‘it’ is presented to Master Hunter as a birthday gift, to both men’s joy.
This is where the story ends. I understand that it is to be the first in a series of three.
There are several problems with this novel. The prolog and introductory chapters serve only as information dumps. They were probably tacked on with an eye to the entire series, but little of it was necessary to this novel and should have been cut. The writing does improve some after the introduction, but the habit of telling instead of showing continues throughout the novel.
What would have been the interesting parts of this story are relayed as mere anecdotal asides. Every moment of emotional connection between the men is hastily swept aside or happens at a distance. It says he fell in love with Master Hunter, and apparently Master Hunter loves it, but that’s never shown.
The jailhouse rape scenes add nothing to the story except to serve as a morality tale of what happens when a slave fails to obey his master. That point could have been made without being graphic to the point of tedium. That is, unfortunately, one of the weak points of this novel. Punishments are lingered over to the point of reader fatigue and they go beyond Safe, Sane, or Consensual. Yes, it is a slave, but it is also human and there are limits to what the human body or mind can endure.
This novel desperately needed firm editorial guidance. Hand and Glove does not compare favorably to other high-fantasy series such as The Marketplace and the "Sleeping Beauty trilogy."
Full disclosure: D.L. King is a good friend, and the mastermind behind Erotica Revealed. Part of why we get along so well (unless we’re in Las Vegas, in which case I am persona non grata since I radiate bad luck) is our shared interest in fem dom. I’ve read many of her stories over the years, but as she mentions in her forward, you forget how very good they are. I loved this chance to reread some and to see the ones I hadn’t read yet. One of the things that sets D. L.’s stories apart from some fem dom is the infectious sense of fun. Everyone is having a good time.
And they’re hot.
In the first story, "Let’s Dance," the narrator meets Cute Boy in a dance club and takes him home for some fun with ropes and suspension. In "Cute Boy Gets Squeezed," we get to see these characters again from Cute Boy’s point of view. “Hey Cute Boy, you should come over here. I got something fun for you.” What she has for him is a vacuum bed. There’s a sweetness to these romps that make them a delight to read.
"The Treatment" is a steampunk tale that originally appeared in Carnal Machines (Cleis Press). A woman – well, she expresses it best, herself, here:
The young Englishman has an extraordinary amount of untapped energy, waiting to be harvested. Due to societal propriety and his acceptance that the female of the species is to be cosseted and revered, most of the young men of the upper and upper middle classes have very little experience of the flesh, other than as practiced alone, furtively, under their bedclothes, in the dark of night. She writes in her journal.
She finds a way to tap that energy for her home, much preferring it to gaslight.
Is being fucked in ass a submissive act? What if the person being fucked is a dom and the person fucking her is her submissive? In "Anal Submission… Or Not," this is the question. Philosophical discussions are difficult with distractions like black latex gloves and spreader bars. You start to feel a little sorry for poor Christopher as he tries to keep up his end of the conversation, until you realize how much he’s enjoying himself.
If you like more intense stories, "Perhaps A Worthy Offering" is set in the same world as King’s Melinoe Project novels. If you want to summon a Goddess, no average offering will do. And if that goddess has a taste for pain, then you can be sure the scene is going to push your boundaries with hot wax, blood play, and a bit of sacrifice.
If you like fem dom, you’re going to enjoy this collection. There’s voyeurism, foot worship, extreme play and even a disciplinarian librarian, so you can get your other kinks on too. These women are stern but loving and give their boys what they want. Maybe you should get a little spanking from them too.
Daddy is an evocative word. Father has a cold, formal connotation, but a daddy sounds warmer. Some might even say hotter. It's a thoroughly masculine identity - a role model, a task master, a lover, a giver, a teacher, and a guide who cares. It's also recognition that there's something very sexy about a mature man. Not necessarily old, as many of the stories in this anthology show us, but comfortable in his skin and in control of his life.
In Jamie Freeman's “In His Time,” a married man who gave up cruising to keep his vows is accused of cheating one too many times. He heads to the bookstore where he used to go to hook up. Each glance in a mirror reminds him that time has passed and maybe he's too old now. He doesn't want to be the old creep, and he doesn't want to be a daddy either, but when the right guy makes him feel all right in that role, he realizes that it's time to embrace who he is.
Sometimes a boy just wants a Daddy, or several of them. In Landon Dixon's wonderful “Men of the Open Road,” a hitchhiker doesn't want to go anywhere in particular. He's just along for the ride. He knows exactly what he wants and how to get it.
If you like your BDSM on the brutal side, you can always count on Xan West to deliver. In “It's My Job,” the boy says "Right now my job is to take him into me, to be a good quiet hole for Daddy's cock. And there's grace in that." Jeff Mann's “Daddy Draden” is BDSM laced with bittersweet memories of a cub who can only visit his master a few times a year. They're aware that their paths may spin them apart, so they make the most of their times together in scenes that are as emotionally charged as they are physically intense.
Some of the stories in this anthology are rescue tales. Gavin Atlas's “Daddies in Damian” is about a porn performer looking for a way out and the fan who wants to help him. In “Pop Tingle” by David Holly, a sugar daddy picks a street kid to be his new sex slave, and the kid is all right with that. To me, the sissy trope and women's clothes forced on the kid smacked of creepy straight guy playing sex tourist in Thailand fantasy, but maybe there are gay men into forced feminization, so if you enjoy that, here's the story for you.
Or maybe you're in the mood for a good round of horseplay with a father and son (and cousin) team. If so, Jack Fritscher's “Father and Son Tag Team (That Summer! That Camp! That Cousin)” is going to be the perfect, almost over the top, but so fun you won't care choice in this anthology.
Obviously, it helps to be into the daddy/boy dynamic to appreciate these stories, but they aren't all about age play. Some of the daddies are younger men. Contributors Kyle Lukoff, Mark Wildyr, Dominic Santi, Dale Chase, Doug Harrison, and Randy Turk each have a different take. More than a few are bound to appeal to you. Thumbs up.
After reading Hurts So Good, I’m thrilled to report that it’s still possible to find an erotica anthology with more than one or two good stories. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder.
It used to be anthologies were strictly segregated by sexuality. Not anymore. The pansexual offerings may partially explain why this anthology was so appealing to me. But what made Hurts So Good stand out was the consistent literary quality of the contributions.
Before I finished reading the second paragraph of the lead story, I turned down the corner of the page, indicating that I planned to reread it. In “The Sound of One Hand Clapping” by Nikki Magennis, a woman finds clarity in bondage and a spanking. Exquisitely crafted, this is easily one of the best short stories I’ve read this year.
“Turnaround” by A.D.R. Forte did something few short erotic stories has ever done, and that’s truly surprise me. A schoolteacher is accidentally rung by another woman’s cell phone. She knows she shouldn’t listen in, but the D/s scene between her idol and her idol’s husband is too compelling to hang up on, especially when she hears her name. She fills in the scene from what she’s hearing. Hot? Oh, yes. As I was reading, I was gritting my teeth for a cliché twist ending, but A.D.R. Forte took it in a different direction that made me grin.
Xan West is a name I’m seeing more often and always with a story that speaks to me. According to his bio – yes, someone does read those – he’s a BDSM and sex educator with a love for boots. It shows. In “First Time Since,” a Sir pushes himself back out into the world after his boy has left him. This story is rough leathersex served up with a bittersweet tang. That’s probably why I liked it so much. Too many Sirs are portrayed as automatons, or worse, jerks that have conned someone into bowing down to them. The emotional vulnerability of this Sir gave “First Time Since” depth that’s missing from far too many BDSM stories.
“Toying With Lily” is one of Mike Kimera’s signature pieces. A Rauxa Prize winner for erotic fiction, he unfortunately announced recently that he was withdrawing from writing. When you read this story of a man stealing time away from his overly scheduled life to be with a married woman, you’ll understand what a shame it would be if this were the last of his stories to be published. Mike’s characters are always flawed, but almost beyond judgment, as they are so very human.
There are a few other stories in Hurts So Good that I feel I must mention briefly. Stephen Elliot’s “My Mainstream Girlfriend” is, I believe, a chapter from his novel My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. It was the first book I reviewed for Erotica Revealed back in May 2007. This chapter reminded me why I loved that novel so much. “Provocation” by Jay Lawrence is a delightful discipline and humiliation piece. “Flick Chicks” by Allison Wonderland was a fun spanking piece.So many stories in Hurts So Good were pleasant surprises that it renewed my faith in erotica anthologies. Maybe I’m jaded, or my taste runs to the harsh side of dark, but few of these stories were intense BDSM scenes. That isn’t a bad thing. It makes these stories accessible to people who are squicked by hardcore, and I’d like to see this book in the hands of as many erotica fans as possible, because it shows what erotica can aspire to.
The contributors to Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica will probably be familiar to fans of lesbian erotica. Fiona Zedde, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jean Roberta, Jolie du Pre, and many others are known for their sensuous, hot, delightful, and thought-provoking work. This wonderful collection of stories shows why.
Like many of these stories, Tenille Brown’s "Waiting" highlighted the problems of a cross-cultural relationship, but it’s the personal distance that gives this story its edge. Lucinda has her life set in neat, distinct categories that suit her needs, and she makes it clear that Gabriela isn’t invited to step outside that boundary. When Gabriela does, Lucinda is unwilling, or unable, to give her some-time lover any emotional respect. Gabriela’s longing for more than her defined role is heartbreaking.
Nan Andrew’s "The Portrait" touches on skin color more than any other story, but not in terms of race. An artist, inspired by Freda Kahlo’s work, tries to paint a portrait of a woman she’s attracted to, but can’t make it work. Every time she looks at her soon-to-be lover, the complexity of skin color, with all the underlying tones, frustrates her. She can’t seem to capture it. Only after the artist experiences her model beyond the surface can she paint the person. This story encapsulates the theme of this anthology – race and culture influence perspective, but it’s what lies beneath that ultimately matters.
Fiona Zedde’s "Night Music" is lush, but playful. Likewise, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s "Two Strippers in Love" is upbeat and oh-my-is-it-getting-hot-in-here sexy. Jean Roberta’s "For All My Relations," and Jolie Du Pre’s "Monisha" are about loves that can never be again, and how the bittersweet knowledge of that can only be held outside for so long before reality creeps in. Lisa Figueroa’s "Enchanting Evalina" and Cheyenne Blue’s "Glory B" show that sometimes finding the prefect lover takes a touch of the mystical.
The stories in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica feature women of Caribbean, Native American, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Mexican, and interracial backgrounds. They are photographers, mechanics, musicians, barkeeps, strippers and sex workers. Refreshingly, none of these women are fetishized. They are real, smart, sexy, and a pleasure to read about.
Just Say What’s On Your Mind by E.M. Hillwood is a self-published erotica novella. Don’t let that put you off. It’s as well written, maybe even more so, than some novels I’ve read, and the editing is quality too.
Mike and Angie are a married couple with three kids. Still crazy about each other, they find that their sex life as gotten a little stale. Then on a gals night out, Angie meets a man named Bennett who challenges her to talk honestly about sex. She’s intrigued and turned on by him, a confession that she shares with Mike.
Later, Mike and Angie go to Bennett’s home where they continue to talk frankly about sex. That talk leads to the bedroom, where Mike watches Bennett fuck Angie. Mike is turned on by the scene. He and Angie continue to explore this new side of their sex life with the help of Bennett. Since there’s no story without conflict, and all involved are okay with the situation, an old girlfriend of Mike’s shows up to play the heavy. Her scheming brings out jealousies. But with the help of Bennett, Mike and Angie work through the problem and set up a little revenge scheme against the old girlfriend.
On the downside: The sex scenes in Just Say What’s on Your Mind are fairly hot, despite their repetitive nature. If you think a cervix is sexy then the constant use of clinical terms might not bother you. Several snide asides about women just using sex to trick men into marriage and a white picket fence life, and the stereotypical eroticization of a man of color were unfortunate, as was the constant assertion that Mike wasn’t gay. (No one should EVER have to apologize for being gay, and if you’re straight, well then, that’s all right too.) None of the characters seemed to believe in an unexamined life and spent far too much time self-analyzing.
On the upside: This is a nice portrayal of a loving couple exploring their sexual fantasies together. Despite a bit too much talking, it was good to see them checking with each other through every step that they were both okay with what was happening – until the one time they didn’t as a dramatic device, which made no sense. All of the main characters were distinctive and well-rounded. While the story had no real climax or resolution, it leaves you with a feeling that this couple will continue to explore their fantasies happily together.If you’re into hot wife or cuckholding fantasies, then this book is probably perfect for you. The quality of writing is good. However, the mentality of the characters seems stuck in the 1970s when it comes it women, black men, and homosexuality. For that reason, I can’t rate this higher than sideways.
L is for Leather is the latest offering by Alison Tyler is her successful line of alphabet anthologies. From the quotes before the table of contents to the editor’s bio, this book is packed with more leather than a vendor booth at the Folsom Street Fair. Thirteen writers explore the smell, taste, look, and versatility of leather.
Radclyffe’s “Skin-Flick Sex” offers up a hot, tasty tale of sex in the dark with a stranger – the holy grail of we girls who fantasize of women only sex clubs and the dark labyrinths of anonymous sex within. Add to it a touch of voyeurism, the threat of discovery, almost public sex, and a woman packing a cock she knows how to use, and this story hit a lot of my hot buttons.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of Thomas Roche’s stories. While doing the FedEx delivery guy/girl is a staple of office sex fantasies, he brings so much humor to this tale in “Venus in Uniform” that it charms instantly. His observation of how women can nice each other into sexual catatonia is sharply delivered. Then he deftly swerves into a bit of boot worship and what happens when girls stop playing nice, and that’s when things get really interesting.
Through the Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Mike Kimera’s stories for years. “Other Bonds Than Leather” is unusual in this collection in that leather doesn’t figure in the character’s arousal or in the sex, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in this anthology. Mike’s strength has always been his characters. In this story, a middle-aged woman meets with a man who may become her Dom and he shows her his dungeon. Her reactions are so spot-on that I can imagine saying those same things myself. Even though this is a dungeon scene and about power play, the sex is gently passionate.
For the title alone, Lisette Ashton’s “Truman Capote Was Wrong” had me wondering what it was all about. About leather, of course! How it feels against the skin, how it smells, and how turned on this young woman gets by her movie inspired wardrobe. She’s over her Matrix coat and is moving on to Underworld wear. She enjoys good tailoring, and her tailor enjoys watching her enjoy his work. I’m not much for fashion, but I’ll admit that there is something about those kick-ass femmes in head-to-toe leather that makes even me sit up and take notice of what they’re wearing, so this story hit a few guilty-pleasure chords with me.
Kate Pearce’s “Sunday Service” is a bit of historical erotica. If you like cowboys, and especially if you’ve ever looked at a saddle horn with less than honorable intentions, this BDSM story of a widow and a ranch hand is for you. Sommer Marsden’s “How He Likes Me” is another power-play story with a pair of black leather gloves. In “Cleanup On Aisle Ten” by Sheri Gilmore, leather takes the form of a dog collar and leash. Madeline Moore explores the power of the legendary “Little Black Dress,” a wardrobe basic, but this one is leather. In Shane Allison’s “Dangerous Comfort,” a black leather jacket provides cover for some public indiscretion. For Michelle Houston in “Tempted,” it’s a pair of black leather pants over a fine ass that leads the narrator astray. I’m a bit of a boot junkie, so I could sympathize with Jude Mason’s Max in “Those Boots” as he stands transfixed at a shop window by a pair of especially arousing boots. In Tsaurah Litzky’s “Love Is Long,” the narrator is out for an ego-boosting quicky, and comes away with a newfound appreciation for leather in the form of masks. Rounding out the anthology, editor Alison Tyler adds her take on the joy of leather in “Hide.” The owner of a leather clothing shop in LA keeps the cheap junk up front for the Melrose crowd, but the good stuff is in the back, waiting for just the right customer who can appreciate it. Leather pants, leather jackets, leather boots, leather gloves, they all come into play here as a connoisseur of fine leather clothing meets up with a connoisseur of fine women.
Leather is a surprisingly versatile material. It can be warm; it can be cool. Touch it, and the texture can arouse a wide variety of feelings. Wearing it can make you feel powerful, or protected. It can be soft and comforting, or it can de harsh and unrelenting. A leather jacket can make the wearer look both hot and cool at the same time. It has an animal scent that makes your nostrils widen as you draw in a deeper breath. It’s one of the few materials that we associate with power.
These stories delve into all of those associations, and more. Not every story in this anthology is BDSM, although many are. That’s not surprising given how leather and kink are closely linked in our psyches. I was pleasantly surprised by how many lesbian stories there were. If you’re not into power play or lesbian tales, I’d still recommend you give this anthology a chance simply for the level of writing.
Leather Bound is a light BDSM (light by my standards) mystery.
Janine runs Leather Bound, a rare bookstore, with her friend, Lily. A mysterious, sexy man asks her to find a book that might not exist. He can’t give her the name of the author, and he doesn’t have the title. She turns him down, but there wouldn’t be much of a story if that were the end of it, so circumstances conspire to make her call him back and offer to find the book. Soon she’s on a journey through her own back yard, where she finds out there’s a whole lot going on that she never noticed before.
This is definitely one of those “switch off your critical brain and just go along for the ride” stories. It’s a fantasy, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Leather Bound is well written. The sex scenes are interesting and varied and should appeal to many readers. The BDSM wasn’t heavy into pain or humiliation, which was a refreshing change from books that have novices plunging into heavy scenes with only a mild protest, and then loving every second of it. Since this is BDSM, the real search in the story is for the heroine’s true self, not the book. By the end, she finds both.
I wish I could be more excited about this novel. I want to be clear that it was my reaction to the characters and a pet peeve with the plot that made it impossible for me to like it more. Many readers will love this story, and their opinion will be as valid as mine.
Steampunk. If the word conjures up nothing in your imagination, then you probably don’t read many graphic novels or follow trends in science fiction. The definition is a bit hard to pin down, although editors J Blackmore and C. Tan do a fine job in their intros to this anthology. Rather than restate what they’ve said, I can give examples: Wild Wild West, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the flashback scenes in Torchwood. Generally set in the Victorian Age, steampunk often includes anachronisitc (out of its time) scientific devices.
What’s so hot about that? We think of the Victorian Age as being a time of great sexual repression, and it was, but Queen Victoria was a randy old gal (guess who a Prince Albert cock piercing is named after?) and her subjects followed suit – using extreme public prudery to mask rather deviant private lives. In direct contrast to that, Victorian Age machinery (usually steam driven, thus the term steampunk) didn’t cover up its inner workings. All the power and thrust of the cogs and pistons were on display, the porn of raw industrial might.
Peter Tupper’s “The Innocent’s Progress” is set in the theatrical world of the Commedia, where roles are strictly defined and stories never change. A woman auditions for the part of the innocent, a role that calls for a cute young thing. Despite her acting ability, she’s too old, too tall, and too big to play the part of the innocent. Refusing to accept that, she leaves the company in search of a role that fits her. While this story is well written and interesting, the sex scenes have nothing to do with the main story. They are asides, populated by characters that only existed for those scenes. I suppose they were tacked on to fulfill the erotica prerequisite, but they detracted from the story rather than enhancing it. That’s a shame, because the rest of the story was wonderful.
“An Extempore Romance” by Jason Rubis reminded me of the Cottingley Fairies photographs. Only in this story, the fairies are real, sort of. In this alternate history line, science has produced chimeras – something we would call a highly advanced robot – that can resemble a human, or a fairy, or any other creature. During a photo shoot with chimera characters from her novels, a writer is worked up into a sexual lather by a swarm of fairies. Following the shoot, she, and her chimera maid, go to a brothel that caters to women. Did I mention that the chimeras could be in any form? How about a lovely model called a Raphael, “a dark-skinned boy of nineteen with an obscene mouth and obsidian eyes?”
“Hysterical Friction” by Thomas S. Roche may read like science fiction, but there’s more truth to his tale than not. In Hysterical Friction, a woman is diagnosed with hysteria. It was a common diagnosis for unhappy women at the time, with an odd array of symptoms. No doubt much of it was untreated depression. Rather than ask the woman about her problems, the doctor discusses her with the husband while she waits in another room. What the wife needs, really, is sex, but her husband has no interest in touching her. The doctor figures that out and explains to the husband that he has a new device that’s just the sort of thing she needs. The device turns out to be a vibrator. This is historically accurate, although in Roche’s deft hands, it’s a rather funny scene. You see, they didn’t have batteries, so they had to generate the power somehow. The doctor’s buxom assistant is more than willing to help out. I can’t explain any more than that without ruining it for you. Let’s just say that the woman is quite calm at the end of the treatment, but she’s willing to come in for appointments three times a week, as her doctor suggests.
“In the Flask” by Vanessa Vaughn is in the vein of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Aubrey and his lab assistant, Nicholas, are trying to develop a compound that will repress sexual urges. No doubt the urges they’re trying hardest to repress are the type they feel for each other. Nicholas is left in charge of the experiment late one night. He falls asleep, and when he wakes and realizes he’s missed the last addition of a chemical, quickly pours in the contents of the nearest flask. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the wrong one. The resulting mixture has an interesting effect on the lab rats that Dr. Aubrey discovers when he returns. By no accident, the doctor releases the mixture in the lab, giving the men an excuse to give in to their desires.
Kaysee Renee Robichaud’s “Steam and Iron, Musk and Flesh” is set in the American West. The story begins with a great scene in a skyship, when Trista is caught with the Dean’s daughter. That leads to Trista working as an engineer in a traveling show where she maintains one of the star attractions, a clockwork man. The other star attraction, Maggie, a trick shooter, becomes Trista’s lover. While the show is in Arizona, the local bandit holds the troupe hostage while he forces Trista to use the clockwork man to break into the local bank. That’s a plot right out of Wild, Wild West.These stories aren’t hard science fiction, where the story is about the technology. Instead, there’s a sense of wonder about science, giving it an almost magical aura. That is one of the hallmarks of steampunk, and this fine collection of well-crafted tales delivers on that promise. A very enthusiastic thumbs up.
S. Adrian of Fearless Reviews says that “Literotica.com is one of the most popular and diverse sites presenting fiction by thousands of different authors.” In her introduction, Marilyn Jaye Lewis states that there are imaginative stories written by new voices and without predictable plotlines. That sounded promising.
In “The Thingy” by Cockatoo, the narrator finds an object stashed away with his Grandfather’s old possessions. Intrigued by the weird device, he keeps it. As he carries it around, he realizes that it reacts to some women, and in a different way for each one. When it starts ringing for a woman on his bus, she hears it. They end up in her apartment, where they explore a lot more than the device.
In Molly Devlin’s “Troll Bridge”, a woman has been cursed with the name Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty). While she lives in a modern city, she encounters fantastic creatures. While crossing a bridge in the park one day, she’s grabbed by a troll. Briar Rose is a lot smarter than he is, and being a savvy lady, finds it easy to convince him that he means to eat her out instead of eating her.
In “Rent” by Parris, Kate is waiting for her soon to be ex-husband to show up with divorce papers. Hours later, she’s still waiting. Frustrated, she fantasizes about Marlon, the boy she’s renting out a spare room to. Marlon walks in on her as she’s playing with herself. She seduces him, and they spend the next few hours working off her pent up sexual frustrations. That’s when the ex-husband shows up. A hot, fun story.
Fans of f/f BDSM will probably enjoy “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Natalie Nessus. It’s more vignettes from a relationship than a traditional short story, but it’s well done. It flirts with snippets of humiliation and hardcore scenes without getting deep enough into them to push buttons for the squeamish.
Alas, “The Thingy” and “Troll Bridge” were the only two stories that came even close to MJL’s promise of unpredictable plotlines. I suppose you could add Killer Muffin’s “Absolution for Gretta MacClain” to the short list. This story was probably picked for the anthology because it was “edgy” - edgy meaning that it shows rape in a positive light as a healing experience . . .Overall, there wasn’t too much to get excited about in this anthology. Euphemisms like honey pot and pulsating manhood belong in bad purple prose, not well-written erotica. Some stories were so clichéd that I had to grit my teeth to get through them. However, Literotica has a huge following, so maybe that’s what some readers want. If you demand better quality writing, you might want to skip this one.
Sven Davisson and his Rebel Satori Press are my MySpace friends, which means we are not friends at all, but share affinities through several degrees of separation. I saw the call for submissions for this anthology and was intrigued by it, but decided that while I’ve written a few surreal stories I could never sit down and write one on purpose. So I skipped the call and let it slide from my mind. If I had not had my tenuous links to Rebel Satori via MySpace, I probably wouldn’t have been reminded that Madder Love had been released. That would have been a shame.
I knew this anthology wasn’t erotica in the traditional sense when I asked to review it. That’s a confession, not an apology. Even the editor seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to review his anthology of surrealistic queer literature for an erotica site. He probably wondered if I got what he was aiming for. Queer doesn’t equal erotic, but when a group is defined by sexuality, sex is always part of the landscape.
Erotica is a slippery slope of definitions. “I know it when I see it” sums up my view, but since you won’t be reading these stories through my eyes, I’ll add that any story that uses sex or sexuality to explore a character is erotic to me. If you’re going to read Madder Love, you’re going to have to get past the idea of a quick payoff. These are words to be savored slowly. Wait for the complete visual to form in your mind before moving on. It’s a different kind of reading, absorbing words instead of consuming them, as with poetry.
Shaun Levin’s “The Yorkshire Adonis”and Sven Davisson’s “Dim Star Descried” are the closest to traditional erotica in this anthology. Tom Cardamone’s “Yolk” moved from sex at its most emotionally sterile moment to the point where it has meaning. The story I enjoyed most, though, was Peter Dubé’s “Echo.” It crept under my skin and gave me an uneasy feeling, as if I couldn’t quite see enough, but couldn’t get a better look no matter how hard I tried. Even after a third reading, the story seemed to hang in my peripheral vision and disappear when I tried to focus. Absolutely stunning, and unsettling.
Madder Love isn’t for everyone. Want some pat story that takes you by the hand and leads you through the familiar plot structure like a docent at the kid’s museum? Then don’t even try. Want a quick wank? Not going to happen here. This anthology may be just too far out there for you. But if you’re willing to try something different and stretch your brain, you may find the erotic possibilities of surrealism.
I hate to say negative things about a book, but setting aside Making Him Wait wasn’t an option any more than twisting the truth was so, with reluctance, I’ll state my observations.
I won’t blame formatting errors on the author (quotation marks and apostrophes were mostly absent, and commas appeared in odd places) but even with proper punctuation, many scenes would have been difficult to follow. The need for an editor became more apparent as I read further into the text.
The phrase “the artist” rather than using her name, or a pronoun, seemed like an odd choice at first then quickly grew irritating. So did characterization that should have been shown rather than told, and didn’t need to be repeated several times through the story. A brief review of the difference between disinterested and uninterested would have been a good idea. I was amazed at all the swelling breasts. When I see that type of mistake I assume, rightly or wrongly, that the writer learned everything he knows about heaving bosoms from pulp porn novels.
Inexplicably, the main character would pick up her phone in the middle of a seduction and swap texts with another character. One example:
As she let Sara explore and abandoned herself to the exquisite touch, Maddie tapped out another message, her fingers misspelling things as her concentration began to fracture.
Maddie: There’s a par [sic] of bashful figers [sic] playing with my slit.
Theo: Fingers? – Tell me more
Maddie: She is exploring me
Theo: Feel good?
Despite the fact that the light on her mobile was again flashing to tell her Theo had sent another instant reply, Maddie put down the phone. Sara had brought her face so close to Maddie’s nub that the artist could feel the other woman’s gulps of air on her slit.
The flow of the scene and any sexual tension the writer created up to that point evaporated when the character grabbed her phone. The idea was good. Texting someone a blow-by-blow account of sex could add an interesting layer of voyeurism to the scene, but not the way it was handled here.
Adding to that problem was the head-hopping. The POV character frequently and abruptly switches mid-scene. In one rather mind-bending passage, a scene came to a screeching halt when the artist initiated a text conversation then head-hopped to the electrician’s (now I’ve started doing it!) POV for a few paragraphs so we could watch him drink tea and get a hard-on, only to jump back to the artist to finish the scene, all interspersed with text messages. Given the missing punctuation marks in the text, it’s possible that there was a scene break symbol, but why then return to the first character’s POV to finish the original scene?
Characters in this novel were more caricature than substance. The plot was an excuse to string together many sex scenes, none of which seemed particularly important to the meager story. Again, I’m sorry to be so negative, but the frustrating thing is that I’ve read several of Kay Jaybee’s short stories and they’re usually much better than this.
Clare London’s short story collection, Masquerade, is m/m erotic fantasy. Oh I know, what erotica isn’t fantasy? In this case, I mean science fiction/fantasy genre, so maybe speculative fiction is a better description, but other than geek girls like me, who uses that term? I was torn over classifying this collection as romantic erotica, but only two of the stories fit that description. So I’ll stick with m/m erotic fantasy.
Have you ever wondered what’s up with the m/m? The term ‘M slash M,’ or slash, comes from the world of fanfic. I’ve heard that the first slash stories were Star Trek universe with intimate pairings between Kirk and Spock, for example. I suspect that young Victorian ladies dreamed of Van Helsing and Dracula necking though. Heck, while Bathsheba was putting on a bathing beauty show for King David, she might have been indulging in Cain and Able slash. (Trust me – women don’t soak in a tub for an hour because they’re trying to get clean.) Like the term Yaoi, slash refers to stories generally written by women for women that feature male lovers. As in any genre, there’s a wide range of work out there. Some of it is hardcore erotica; some of it is sweet romance. Some of it’s even written by gay men. No longer confined to fanfic, the term slash now can apply to original characters and stories. It is the fastest growing corner of the erotica/romance world. Yes, straight women like reading sexually explicit stories featuring gay men. The secret is out.
Now that you know, back to discussing Clare’s collection for four short stories:
“Bonded” is the most romantic story in this collection. The narrator, Chariz, is full of his own importance and bored. So very bored. He will tell you this many times as he recounts his tale. A strange servant named Oriel is brought into Chariz one morning as Chiraz is recuperating from a night of debauchery, which is his usual custom. He quickly dismisses the servant as unimportant, but on close inspection, the man Oriel fascinates him. They end up in bed. Chariz, who is used to having many bed companions every day, and never the same ones for long, disdains all others and learns to love Oriel, who seems to soothe Chariz’s long buried angst. Oreil, however, has unusual powers and people who are jealous of him want him dead. They almost succeed, but Chariz, having now grown a heart, sacrifices his beauty and fortune to save the slave he loves. While the language in this one started off stilted, it eventually smoothed. I found myself wanting to see more of the world, but that’s more of a testament to Clare’s world-building ability than a complaint.
In “Trickery,” two young squires are trying to find the Prince they were supposed to follow on a quest. Everyone got separated during an attack by bear-cats, and at some point dragons too, but it was never clear if those were separate attacks or if the dragons and bear-cats were inter-species allies against questing Princes. The Prince hired a magician with a rather questionable reputation to help with the quest, but along with the Prince and the guards, the Magician has disappeared. The squires know that the Prince is looking for a tower, and they stumble upon a tower in the middle of the forest, so they climb it in hopes of finding their Prince. Near the top, they find many guards who have obviously been indulging in wild sex asleep as if deeply enchanted. In the room at the top of the tower, a person who appears to be their Prince is having his way with a servant boy. The older squire realizes it’s the magician in the guise of their Prince and slays the magician. This didn’t make a lot of sense to me. If the magician could cast an enchantment that made everyone want to bend over for him, why did he need to look like the Prince? And why did the magician have to die? But that wasn’t by far my biggest problem with this story. I’m not a fan of nonconsensual sex. Call it an enchantment or roofies, rendering a person incapable of saying no to sex does not mean they said yes. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have enjoyed this story a lot more. The language was much more relaxed than in the first story and the banter between the squires hinted at a growing relationship between them. I wished it would have focused more on that relationship and skipped the scene in the tower.
“Possession” is the Godfather meets Dracula. Lucas is about to lose the family business when a mysterious stranger named Mr. Arnaud makes him an offer he can’t refuse. As if he has a choice. Mr. Arnaud will allow Lucas to sell a priceless collection of rubies in exchange for Lucas’s body. Lucas has the hots for his assistant Valentine though. Ah, but Valentine wants to marry Lucas’s sister. What to do? Give in to one desire or another. That’s all Lucas can do. While Possession doesn’t add anything new to the vampire genre, it’s as lush as velvet.
The last story in this collection is “Threadbare.” The owner of a textile mill is drawn to a young man who works in his factory after the gruesome death of the young man’s friend on the factory floor. All the workers in the young man’s group are of the same clan/family/background, and during their spare time they work on a tapestry that captures the mill owner’s attention. I wanted the sex to be more explicit than it was, but if you like your erotica on the softer side, you might not mind. This story bordered on science fiction, but don’t let that scare you away.Usually, I have a strong conviction on my rating. This one, I’m waffling. On one hand, there were problems with the editing (italicized words for emphasis in dialog is a huge pet peeve of mine) and the writing in the first story was a bit stilted. Masquerade is definitely slash fiction with a softer focus on the sex. However, I enjoyed most of the stories. Since I’d rather go with my positive instinct, I’m giving Masquerade a thumbs up.
The publisher, Robinson, calls this a modern erotic classic. That’s a brand, not a promise.
I’ve read hundreds of books on my computer and ebook reader, and never had a problem until this one. The font is so small and densely packed that I imagined someone at the publisher thought they had to pay by the page in ebooks, and that cost per page was extremely dear.The difficulty in readability, alas, was not limited to the format of the book. Honestly, I tried to get out of writing this review because I don’t like saying things that will hurt a writer. Maybe instead I should blame the editor for acquiring this book. Maybe s/he was under pressure to put out anything that even remotely smacked of BDSM following the dizzying success of FSOG, but that’s a poor excuse for accepting a collection of short stories by a writer who wasn’t ready to be published. Nothing is shown in these stories, everything is told. That’s fine for fairy tales, but not modern literature. The dialog was utterly unrealistic, with strangers suddenly appearing to spout deep personal insights then disappear forever. I’m not sure why this collection was classified as erotica as there was nothing sensual or arousing about the stories. While reading it, I felt as if I’d been trapped in an airplane seat by a fellow passenger determined to share what they thought were deep insights into their life despite my attempts to put on my headphones and stare out the window. That’s the biggest sin in this collection. The stories are dull.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, this anthology of Upstairs/Downstairs trysts between the male servants and the men they do for is bound to pique your interest. While the exact years these stories take place aren’t mentioned, they seem to fall between 1900 and 1920. Most seem to take place in England although one is definitely set in the United States. Thankfully, with these stories, the term manservant actually refers to a man in the employ of a household and not part of a man’s anatomy.
So what were the lads up to back in the day? Apparently quite a bit. The threat of imprisonment or disinheritance hung over them in ways that are difficult for most people under forty to understand nowadays. Getting caught wouldn’t simply cause social embarrassment. It meant hard labor. It meant ruin. For them, secrecy was imperative, but for us looking back, the threat of it merely spices up the story.
Felice Picano is a masterful storyteller. I looked forward to his contribution and was not disappointed. Most of these stories take place in manor hoses, but this one shows the rougher side of London with wonderful imagery and such a deft touch with language that you’re bound to enjoy it as much as I did. In “Folly’s Ditch,” an actor lately dismissed from his troupe runs into a childhood chum at an inn near the riverfront. This friend introduces him to a lady who runs a doss house and teaches him how to ply his trade there.
Michael Robert’s “Manor Games” is a funny romp. When his master’s gambling debts grow too large, a servant comes up with a scheme to help him win at cards by creating a distraction. I’m not sure if he meant to make so many mistakes, but in the end it works exactly as he’d envisioned.
“Finnias Laredo,” by Alex Stitt, shows how close a man and his valet can be, even if the man doesn’t quite see it for far too long. How can someone who anticipates all your needs, and who is beside you at your most vulnerable times be almost invisible? Of the many, many similar valet/master stories in this anthology, this one stands far above the others.
On the downside, there were a few stories in this anthology with wandering POVs, anachronistic historical details, and too many poorly drawn characters cluttering up the landscape. You can skip over them; I couldn’t. But as I said, if this is the era your enjoy reading and you can’t get enough of upstairs/downstairs shenanigans, this may be your book.
The back cover of Model Men poses the question: Whether gazing at a billboard or flipping through a magazine, who hasn't felt a jolt of longing for the stunning male model who gazes back? Unfortunately, that person who hasn't is me. Since the idea of pretty men isn't an automatic turn-on the premise of this book is lost on me, so the stories I liked tended to be more about the characters than the idea of physical perfection. Fair warning.
If your kink is medical play, you're going to love “Medical Model” by Logan Zachary. As a favor to a doctor he likes to flirt with, a man volunteers to be a test patient for medical students. He receives a folder with a description of his problem and he acts it out with the intern. In the first scenario, he pretends to suffer from migraines. It's a breeze, right? But his doctor friend sets him up for a prostate exam with the hunky intern who walks in next, and then decides to lend a hand. Things get decidedly kinky from then on.
In “It's All About the Attitude” by Aaron Michaels, a model is failing at a photo shoot. He asks for a brief break and calls his boyfriend in a panic. After his boyfriend gets him into the right frame of mind, he returns to the shoot and delivers what the photographer is looking for. This one I liked for the (dare I admit it?) light romantic tone that follows the sex. It turns out the boyfriend likes being someone he'd turn to, and what was probably going to be a temporary relationship deepens into something permanent. (And this is probably the last time I'll ever admit - or feel - that the romantic side of an erotic story was what set it apart for me)
But never fear for my momentary lapse! Because “Head Shots” by Neil Plakcy was the next story to catch my eye. Sure, his characters have the looks to model, but this story isn't about ethereal male beauty. Nope. Just healthy, horny young naked men doing what comes naturally. Yes, someone is taking pictures of them while they enjoy themselves, but it's not about showing off or posing, and it's definitely not about the underwear they're supposed to be showing off.
“Beautiful. Dirty. Rich.” by Clancy Nacht deserves a special mention for being the ultimate fucking the unobtainable fantasy in this anthology. And in “Pink Cowboy Hat,” Gavin Atlas writes about the pursuit of beauty that few of us could afford. Yes, his narrator is shallow, but somehow endearingly forgivable.
If the thought of male models is enough to get you in a steamy frame of mind, you're probably going to enjoy this anthology. This is listed as gay erotica, but I noticed quite a few slash (M/M - and yes, there is a difference) stories. So this can appeal to both male and female readers. Given that this wasn't fantasy fodder for me, I still found stories I enjoyed, so I'm giving Model Men a thumbs up review.
Stephen Elliot’s My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up is a bold confession. From his introduction, This Could Have Been a Memoir, he says, “It is in everyone’s best interest for more people to be open about their sexual desires.” He puts his need on display and offers an explanation, but doesn’t apologize for it – nor should he.
My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up isn’t exactly a novel. It’s a collection of short stories that are linked together so that there is a broader picture.
In First Things First, he tells of an encounter with an S&M domme. His inexperience is the frightening thing here. He’s not sure what he wants, and doesn’t know how to admit that the scene is too much. He addresses the danger of that situation in his introduction, and talks about how the US Government’s drive to censor the internet has driven websites with crucial information on Safe, Sane, and Consensual practices to shut down.
My Stripper Year is about his heroine addiction and touches on his work in bisexual porn. “I got robbed. I got beat up. Things weren’t going well. Nothing made sense. I was having the best time of my life,” right up until an overdose left him paralyzed for eight days. He was lucky to survive, and knows it.
Beginning with What It’s Like in San Francisco, the stories in this collection take on the feel of chapters in a novel. My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up, Other Desires, and Tears are about relationships that don’t work and the search for a domme that’s compatible with his needs. Through those stories, although he never says, it seems that he began to understand what he wanted, and learned to communicate his needs.
In Three Men and a Woman, he finds Eden. She offers a relationship beyond sexual encounters, but it’s a polyamorous relationship with her husband and another man. Elliot says, “That I love her and that I think this could maybe work sometimes and then other times I see nothing but a bunch of potholes, a couple, landmines, and a train wreck.” It’s obvious that he has doubts. The relationship continues, but not easily. He has an awkward meeting with the husband and tries to work around the jealousy and scheduling problems of sharing her with the two other men in her life. “She’s with me all the time, or I’m longing for her. She leaves a velvet bag of rope next to my bed. Sometimes I think it’s unfair. She’s with me when she isn’t.” That has got to be one of the most honest descriptions of love I’ve ever read.
In My Friend Petey, he tries to explain his relationship with Eden to someone who can’t or won’t understand. It’s as much a declaration of ‘This is Who I Am’ as it is an explanation, and it is unapologetic, as it should be. Just Always Be Good is self-acceptance. “This is a happy story,” Elliot says, and he means it.
Epilogue: My Mainstream Girlfriend is an admission of being kinky, but also the realization that maybe he isn’t that far out of the norm. He says, “I spend much more time with my face between her legs than I do getting cut. You have to look at the percentages. More and more I feel like I’m joining mainstream America.” Looking at the huge amount of BDSM literature and porn available, as well as the images slipping into mainstream media nowadays, he may be on to something there.
This book isn’t easy reading. It’s about sex, but not sexual. It’s graphic but not titillating, not a one-handed read. What it is is an honest account of someone finding balance and peace in his sexuality.
In Named and Shamed, magic has returned to our world, and that spells disaster for humans. The protections from folklore work – but only against certain magical beings. No one dares go out at night. The countryside is a deathtrap, and the humans who remained have gone a bit feral. This is a fairytale, but in the old sense.
Even our hero Tansy who studied the arcane before the magic came back has trouble negotiating the tricks and traps of different types of fae, trolls, goblins, ogres, and witches. So when her car ends up in an impound lot as night is falling, she knows it’s dangerous even in the city to be out and about, but she doesn’t want to cause the death of another human, so she must get into her car. If only she could break into the lot and grab what she needs, but she can’t, until a sexy stranger offers to help. Tansy knows he’s trouble. She knows any bargain she makes with him is bound to turn out bad. But she can’t help herself. He’s hot and she hasn’t had a good fuck since the fae abducted her boyfriend two years ago. So she strikes a bargain.
This tale immediately plunges into a tale so imaginative and mind-bending that you know you’re not in for your usual erotica fare. On one hand, the plot is a classic quest in the sense of the ancient Celtic fae tales. You could enjoy it on that level alone. But it also incorporates all the sex that was implied but never overtly shown in those tales. The sex scenes in Named and Shamed reminded me of those old Blue Moon novels – over the top and deliciously obscene. There are even illustrations.
The only thing I didn’t like about this novel was the title. And that is how hard it was for me to find a quibble. Named and Shamed is rampant fantasy fun in a solid story well told.
Naughty is such a great word. It conjures up visions of being a little bad, but in a fun way. The contributors to Nice Girls, Naughty Sex take the idea of a good sexual romp and run with it, laughing and looking over their shoulder with a "follow me," look in their eyes. What can you do but follow along?
The anthology is separated into four sections: vanilla, dirty martini, licorice whips, and oysters. This suggests that Vanilla is just a hint of decadence, Dirty Martini is a little more, well, dirty, Licorice Whips are the BDSM stories, and Oysters are the bisexual and lesbian tales. If you want to go right to the style that you know turns you on, head for that section, but by all means peruse outside your usual tastes. After all, vanilla is fertilized by hand and fermented under the tropical sun, so it can hardly be called ordinary, and haven't you always wanted to peek under the Sapphic covers to indulge in sumptuous girl on girl action?
Sommer Marsden's “A Technicality” starts off the anthology with a bittersweet tale of a woman and man who meet at a hospice. His wife is dying; her mother is. They draw together in an emotionally turbulent time. He won't cheat on his wife, although their definition of cheating is a technicality. They know it, but in their grief, they're able to find a connection that keeps them going. Absolutely beautiful.
In Rosalia Zizzo's “Siesta and Spanish Leather Boots,” a woman who has enjoyed many flings decides that maybe she needs something more permanent. Hot sex scene, great evocation of time and place.
I have never read a story by Venerato Petronius before, but if this is the only pen name this writer goes under, I plan to keep an eye out for it. Patience is the key word here. This tale unfolds at a leisurely pace. That doesn’t mean boring though. A man and woman talk about how it was back when they were teens, and manage to recapture some of the joy of the forbidden by breaking into an abandoned house and making love. Delicious payoff, but even before that, a finely wrought tale.
Jeremy Edwards is a name I recognize, with good reason. In “Eastern Daylight Time,” he proves that a writer's gender doesn't limit what he can write convincingly. His character Nancy is a lesbian who has just come out, and realizes to her dismay that coming out doesn’t equal a whole new life. She wants a lover but one didn't magically appear the moment she set foot out of the closet. When she's seduced by food and a woman who doesn’t fit any of her expectations of her first lesbian lover though, she realizes that she's exactly where she's meant to be.
Oysters and Chocolate is a classy website that draws many well known erotica writers, so it's no surprise that they were able to assemble an amazing line up of contributors including many well-known names. There were many names I didn't recognize too, which is always a delight. You might discover the writer you want to follow from now on. I did.
The Marketplace series by Laura Antoniou has become a classic of BDSM fiction. Fans lovingly discuss the edition(s) they have and how worn they are. It’s a world unto itself with fabulous mansions, slaves, auctions, trainers, every type of service one could imagine (and a few new ones). It’s an amazingly complete fantasy where even the bureaucracy required to run it is fetishized. Turn a corner in this world and you won’t find a façade propped up by a few timbers. You’ll probably find a whole new area to explore. No wonder it’s so beloved.
I read a lot of erotica, much of it BDSM, and after a while most submissives and their dom(me)s blur into sameness, but while it’s been years since I read the Marketplace books, I recognized characters immediately. That’s one of the great strengths of the series. There are engaging characters of varying sexualities with different visions of what they want or need so that almost anyone can find someone to identify with, or at least to pique a reader’s interest in their story. The inclusiveness that’s been a hallmark of the series from the beginning, way back when nobody else dared mix hetero and LGBT sex scenes in a book, carries on with the cover of No Safewords. Call it daring, call it transgressive, call it post-whatever, you have to admit that’s one bold, beautiful picture. I have no idea what might frighten Laura Antoniou, but it certainly isn’t offending anyone’s delicate little PC feelings.
In her wonderful forward, Laura discusses her inability to trust others with her creation with charming frankness. With this anthology, she doesn’t give up control, but she allows aficionados to offer fanfic (I mean that term in the best way possible) that shows their love of the series and to expand the universe a bit. She retains control though, as shown in the comments preceding each story. That was a nice personal touch.
The anthology begins appropriately enough with “A Thousand Things Before Breakfast” by Marie Casey Stevens. More an essay than a story, it’s a good manifesto explaining why the characters pursue the lives they do.
“The First” by D. Alexandria explores a taboo most people in the United States wouldn’t have the guts to confront. A black woman ends up as the slave of a white man. Talk about a minefield of emotion, guilt, and history. Yet it is handled so well here without ever being preachy, angry, or apologetic. This isn’t a lesson; it’s a story that never flinches from saying difficult things, while also being quite erotic. If D. Alexandria continues to write stories this bold, s/he will be an author always worth reading.
I was so pleased to see one of my favorite characters in D. L. King’s “If You Try Sometime.” I was concerned about Robert ever finding his way, but with his new owner, as the title promises, you get what you need.
“Her Owner's Voice,” by Leigh Ann Hildebrand, intrigued me. A young woman inherits her father’s house, including a great many slaves, on her father’s death. She knows about being an owner, but until she finds her voice, the slaves run rampant over her. That’s not the part I found interesting. I loved the type of slave she wanted and the service she required. Fascinating idea.
It’s probably not much of a secret by now that I enjoy genderqueer characters. Sassafras Lowrey delivers an emotionally pleasing story of self-discovery and acceptance in “Hiding in Plain Sex.” My heart absolutely wrenched at the painful confusion over expectations and what it cost to put on that dress, but that’s what I want from stories.
Anna Watson’s “Delirious Moonlight, 1916: Mr. Sloan's Boy” takes readers back to the beginning days of the mansion. This slice of history will give fans some backstory. It was also interesting to see how this writer envisioned things might have been, back before the route to training was institutionalized. I can’t put my finger on exactly what made this story linger with me, but it did.
If you were worried that there wasn’t going to be a scene of intense punishment in any of the stories, “Pearls in the Deep Blue Sea,” by Jamie Thorsen, serves up what you might be looking for. In her intro to it, Laura talks about how it shows risks and consequences, and what happens when the necessarily secretive world of the Marketplace is endangered by careless words.
“Coals for the New Castle” is the second contribution to this anthology by Marie Casey Stevens. Maybe the prolonged ‘as you know’ parts of the conversation are references to stories further in the series that I have not read, or inside jokes. If that’s the case, fans might love references to events that had nothing to do with the story at hand. I found it a bit of a slog and lost interest.
“Getting Real” by S. M. Li is for any fans of psychological sadism.
Elizabeth Schechter’s “O, Promise Me!” closes the anthology with a period piece that demands a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it’s so fun you won’t mind being generous. If you love Victoriana and a dash of adventure, this slight twist on the tales of being held captive by a desert bandit (that’s only part of the tale. Ms. Schechter packs a lot of story into a small space - so to speak) will captivate you.
Peggy Munson’s Origami Striptease is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Project: QueerLit contest-winning novel.
The narrator says she was semi-famous once for her sex columns in several underground magazines. She’d take boys home (don’t get hung up on pronouns and gender - in this story people are their mental genders, not their physical ones. Cocks are detachable.), fuck them, and then write about it for her articles. She laughs off warnings that one day she’ll be forced to eat her words, to eat crow. Then she meets The Sludge, singer in a punk band who gets her down on her knees in an alleyway, breaks off the tips of pens, and makes her suck down the ink.
The poison from the ink destroys her body. She is fragile and chronically exhausted. She still desires her boys, but can’t get out to meet them, and is left trapped with herself. On a rare day when she feels good enough to venture out, she goes to a store that sells unclaimed airline baggage. “I had a sense that everything I owned was lost. I had an impulse – spawned from feverish delusion – that my life could be restored if I just found my bag and reconstructed what was in it, even though there never was a bag,” she says.
In the store, she meets Jack, a cautious boy who won’t share his secrets. They buy a bag together and split the contents. He gives her a pen they find in it, one of those old fluid-filled ones where a girl strips when it’s tilted down. A week later, Jack calls her and says he needs to see the pen. It’s the beginning of a frustrating affair. Jack holds back everything – the truth about his illness, his past, his cock. They can share delirium dreams brought on by their respective illnesses, fantasies, sex, and the frailties of their bodies, but Jack is elusive and finally slips away.
The Sludge comes back into her life. Repentant about what the ink did to her, he tries to make amends. He moves in and cares for her. They are joined by her illness, she the victim; he the villain. But it isn’t an easy truce. The Sludge wants her to be grateful. He resents her, and resents that she still loves Jack. When she tries to leave the Sludge, he slams a frying pan into her skull and flees.
When she returns from several weeks in the hospital, The Sludge is gone. He’s taken everything but the bed and the frying pan. She’s left alone in the empty house. Then she receives a letter from Jack. He’s coming to see her.
Jack finally tells her about his illness. He had a bad heart, but got a transplant while he was away. He takes her to the cemetery and puts a gun to his head. She’s furious that he’d throw away his recovery. He just wants it all to end. She takes the gun from him and he begs her to shoot him.
“Why am I here?” Jack asked.
“You are my bodyguard,” I said. “You need to let me out and hold me in.” I thought that it was something he could handle, just the canopy of one small duty keeping out the rest.
“That’s something, isn’t it?” asked Jack. “I have a use?”
She convinces him that he does. They leave the cemetery, reunited, but the gun is still there, and it’s not a happily ever after ending.
I met Greg Wharton, the publisher of Suspect Thoughts Press, at the Saints and Sinners Literary festival. I’d just finished reading Origami Striptease, and we talked about it. He told me that Peggy had lost the ability to write and had to relearn it. I don’t know what she lost, but it’s evident what she’s gained – an incredible mastery of words. This book reads like poetry and left me stunned with writer’s envy.
Beyond the incredible language, this story has so much going for it. The genderqueer characters finally liberate the reader from attachment to pronouns. It reclaims sexuality for the non-ableist population that society deems asexual and neutered. It’s about love and hate and jealousy, and need and want and sex and life, and it will speak to anyone, queer or not. I highly recommend it.
In my long-standing tradition of reviewing a book for what it is and not what it isn't, I'll discuss this work as erotic romance, not literary erotica. Be forewarned that I'm not a fan of erotic romance, and specifically this work hit several major pet peeves, so read this review with that in mind.
If you can completely suspend your disbelief, this story may strike you as a fun sex romp. Mandy, the main character, is a sex starved librarian in a dull relationship. He boyfriend only has sex with her on scheduled days. More than a little frustrated, how can she possibly resist the charms of a Brad Pitt look-alike library patron who wants to show her a good time? She doesn't really try. Then there's the geeky-hot co-worker Sean who has been waiting for an opportunity to pounce. As soon as he finds out that Mandy and whats-his-face the bf are splitsville, he does. Then she finds out that tightly wound neighbor James hasn't been watching her out of his upstairs window just because he wants to catch her breaking the HOA rules. Oh no. He's hunky, he has a good job, and he's not too sorry to see the bf go. What's a girl to do with so many hot suitors vying to give her the pleasure she's been denied? Sample them all, one at a time or in a group and have a ripping good time.So there you have it - a quick fantasy read chock full of sex and various flavors of lovers to enjoy. Sort of like a snow cone - to be consumed quickly while at the beach. That may be exactly what you're looking for. It's not so much a story as a bunch of long, long sex scenes strung together with huge chunks of monologue that no real human being would ever say, spoken by characters with some irredeemable traits (and I don't mean the villain), but I think that you're supposed to overlook stuff like that. I couldn't.
In 1870, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch released his novel, Venus In Furs, in which the narrator admits his desire to submit to a woman. It’s a story within a story. The interior story is “Memoirs of a Supersensual Man” by Severin Von Kusiemski, which doesn’t end well. Severin finally decides that until women are educated and given equal rights, it’s best if women remain subservient to men. Now, theoretically, women have obtained equality. I wonder what his conclusion would be in the modern age, because equality isn’t what submissive men are looking for. Far from it, as the stories in Please Ma’am show.
In “I Live To Serve” by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Milady asks Leo to play butler for an evening. He envisions fun serving her and her other dominatrix friends, only to find out he’s to play the part for a formal business dinner. She keeps it interesting for him though, ad he is well rewarded for his services.
Charlotte Stein’s “It’s Not Me, It’s You” has an usual twist. The man has no idea who sends him cards at work with instructions. As he follows his secret mistress’s instructions, the demands escalate. At the end, he’s just about to meet her. Delicious workplace naughtiness.
Andrew can’t stand that his sister’s friend Irina is immune to his charms, so he sets out to seduce her in Isabelle Gray’s “A Charmed Life.” She finally agrees to meet him, but he quickly finds out that everything will be on her terms, not his.
For those of you who enjoy high fantasy BDSM, “A Maze, and Grace” by Elizabeth Coldwell will strike the right note. A sub is left blindfolded and bound in the center of a hedge maze as a party prize. The first woman to find him gets to use him as she pleases. The Mistress of the estate, Lady Grace, isn’t above cheating a bit.
Remittance Girl’s “Inside the Pride” has a different take on domination. Professor Gordon is at the center of a group of male post-graduate students, but she encourages cooperative intellectual growth rather than competition. It is a thoroughly feminine story, even though the narrator is male.
When you read a lot of erotica, some names start looking familiar. Craig Sorensen is one of those writers I’ve seen more often lately and hope to see more of in the future. In his “Modern Major General,” Mason is unhappy that he has to report to a perky, much younger woman when they’re thrown together on a new project. He tries to assert himself, but finds out that she’s not having any of it.
In “Mr. February” by Madeline Elayne, Mark has finally admitted to his wife that he wants her to dominate him. It’s their twentieth wedding anniversary, the kids are gone away to university, he’s a buff, tough firefighter, but he’s scared to death to go home to her because he’s sure she’ll throw him out of the house. When he finally decides to face her, he finds out there’s a penalty for keeping his Mistress waiting.
There are a number of workplace dominatrix tales in this anthology. Considering the amount of time we spend at work, and the power dynamics inherent in corporate structure, it’s a powerful combination for fantasy. In A.D.R. Forte’s “Frozen,” a man wants the attention of the woman down the hall, but doesn’t know how to approach her. As they work late on a Friday night, she invites him into her office. She’s a beginner at domination, but he’s willing to guide her through the steps.
Sommer Marsden taps into two kinks in “Thrift Store Whore” – public sex, and forced feminization. For those of you not in the know, forced feminization is when a man is ordered to dress in women’s panties and a frilly dress. Coupled with public sex, this is a taut tale of humiliation. He loves every second of it. If this is your kink, you will too.
Speaking of familiar names, it’s good to see Dominc Santi’s name again after a long break from erotic writing. “Porch Swing” also features public sex. A couple on their front porch put on a show for appreciative neighbors and a horny pizza delivery girl.
There are a million kinks out there, but I’m always discovering new ones. In “Paypig” by Michael Hemmingson, a man finds a woman online who is willing to take his money. He’s not rich, but he can afford a little. She meets him in a public place, walks up to him, and demands money. All he seems to get out of it is a thrilling moment of humiliation, until she ups the stakes.
“The Crack of the Bat” by Heidi Champa is a good, old fashioned spanking story. Brian is an athlete with lucrative endorsement deals, but his public behavior is about to ruin that. His agent sends him to a client to charm his way out of trouble, but Ms Thomas feels punishment is in order.
“Dressing for Dinner” by Giselle Renarde dones’t feature forced feminization, since he loves cross-dressing. This couple has a Wednesday night ritual of dinner delivered in. He dresses for the occasion. After diner, she uses her strap-on to fuck him. This story is going to push all the right buttons for some readers.
“Living Rough” by Ariel Graham shows the downside of admitting the need to be dominated to a wife. Mitch’s wife divorces him. After losing his job too, he heads out on the open road. In Salt Lake City, he meets a woman who recognizes his need and takes him in on a trial basis.
Kinks abound in this anthology. It shows how multifaceted the desire to submit to a woman can be. In DL King’s “Pick a Color,” a man with a foot fetish gets a job in one of New York’s ubiquitous nail salons. The owner is suspicious of him, but his attention to detail earns rare praise, and an offer to provide a private pedicure, from the salon’s most demanding customer.
It’s a bold boy who suggests that his Mistress is flawed, but after seeing the messy room surrounding his goddess during a webcast, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Houseboy” simply has to clean the place. After carefully planning how to approach his goddess, he gets a chance to tidy her place. It’s not just her approval he has to win, though.
Lee Ash’s “The Unhappy Table” was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. A submissive serves as his Mistress’s table while she and another dominatrix fool around on the couch. He’s turned on, but since he’s a table, he can’t move or take care of his hard-on. A truly funny story for the voyeur in you.
In Graydancer’s “I’ll Do It. For Her.,” a well-known Master submits to his wife. Deeply moving and personal, this is simply a wonderfully written tale of a couple in love.Normally, I only pick three or four stories in an anthology to highlight. However, as you can see from the wide variety of stories here, male submission encompasses many specific desires and I didn’t want to omit the one that would speak to a potential reader. Something here is bound to excite or interest fans of male submission. Kudos to Rachel for putting together an anthology with such a broad mix. While these stories are all told from the man’s point of view, women who want to dominate a lover can gain insight to the many possibilities available to a fledgling goddess.
I had the pleasure of reading the first chapter of this book when Elizabeth posted it to ERWA's Story Time group for workshopping, but didn't have time to follow the rest of the story or even see if she'd posted the rest of it to the group. It's always satisfying to see an author from that group published. But even more satisfying is a chance to read the rest of a story you remember but never got a chance to finish.
If you're a fan of Celtic folklore, you'll enjoy this story. I thought I was fairly well acquainted with most Irish mythology, but I didn't know about the nine Princes of Air, sons of the goddess Morrigan. If they are Elizabeth's creation, she deserves credit for how seamlessly this tale fits into the feel of existing legend. If she didn't, then she did a fine job of expanding the tale and making it her own. Overall, it has the feel of a story that would be told around the hearth over several nights. Except maybe you'd wait for the children to fall asleep before you got to the erotic content. But the erotic content is in keeping with tone of the rest of the story so don't worry that you'll suddenly shift to something that will take you out of the spell that's being woven.
There's a glossary at the end to help you translate the terms she uses. I was able to figure out the meaning in context without flipping to it, and you probably will too, but it's a nice bonus.
Princes of Air is narrated by the youngest son, Niall, and his tale is told first. While the sons are ravens - the guise Morrigan takes in many folktales - they can also change into human form and go among humans. He's heartbroken since his true mate died and occasionally takes human lovers. That’s where the problems begin. A sorceress thinks she knows something of his powers and plans to seduce then enslave him to take his powers from him. I hate to say much more than that, because the pleasure of a tale is it unfolding before you. I'll only say that this leads into stories about his other brothers but they all interweave in a cohesive larger story arc.
We review erotica here at Erotica Revealed, and my one very, very tiny quibble is that this story has the feel of erotic romance rather than erotica. However, since I like to judge a book for what it is rather than what it isn't, I'll say that as erotic romance it's a well-told tale that I enjoyed, and you probably will too.
Let’s just toss this down right from the start – Random Acts of Lust is a spectacular erotica collection. Primula Bond knows how to tell a rousing tale.
One of the things I enjoyed about this collection was the way many of the stories interwove. Secondary characters in one story took the spotlight in another. That added depth to the later stories. But in a way, it makes it harder to pick favorites, because the stories support each other and maybe wouldn’t mean as much as standalones. This is (oh, how I hate this word) synergistic storytelling, where the sum is more than the parts.
In “Mademoiselle,” Mary is chastised by her sister Poppy for living celibately. She pretends not to listen, but when the boy next door she once gave French lesson to shows up at her door looking like a rock star – clad in leather and smelling of his motorcycle – she heats up pretty quickly. But in “Second Honeymoon,” it’s Poppy that’s trapped in a cycle of sexual frustration. That is, until she watches the unusual innkeeper, Stella, seduce her husband. Stella’s quite the protagonist. In “Cougar,” she dares photographer friend Sophie to seduce a cute young worker at the gallery where Sophie is showing her work. Sophie’s not above talking women into playing naughty either. In “Good as Gold,” she talks her soon-to-be daughter-in-law into spying on her husband. Caught, Sophie pays the price, and gets a spanking and more from her prospective father-in-law.
The sex scenes are delicious and long enough to warm you up. Unfortunately, I was on a tight schedule and had to zip through in two nights, which wasn’t enough time to linger or enjoy these stories the way I would have liked to. This book and you deserve to spend some quality time together, so pace yourself.
It was such a pleasure to read these original, interesting stories. I do have two small nits. While I liked the recurring characters, in the first few stories, the size of the cast made it hard to track the players and I had to keep flipping back to remind myself who they were. The other charge is a bit more serious. I had an overwhelming desire to smack the writer’s knuckles with a ruler every time I read an incomplete sentence. It’s a good thing that I couldn’t, because by the end of the first story s/he wouldn’t have been able to write anymore, and that would have been a pity. Those, as I said, are small concerns, and barely detract from this work. Random Acts of Lust gets my strongest recommendation. Thumbs way up.
This book is a re-release. It was originally published by Black Lace in 2000, then again by Blue Moon in 2003.
Kate O’Neill impetuously takes a job in Bangkok, leaving behind her quiet life in Boston and her boyfriend, David. The trip from the United States to Thailand is just the beginning of the adventure. At her new job as a software developer, she’s introduced to the firm’s financial backer, Somtow Rajchitraprasong. Somtow is gorgeous, attentive, and utterly irresistible. He introduces Kate to the Thai view of sexuality, and shows her life on the spicy side with a taste of Thai cuisine you won’t soon forget.
Through her work, Kate also meets a demanding client, Gregory Marshall, owner of the sex club The Grotto. Marshall’s commanding demeanor alternately irritates and fascinates Kate. He’s a Master, accustomed to being obeyed. Kate isn’t quite sure why she follows his orders, but she does. He claims to know her better than she knows herself, and after a BDSM scene in a private room in his club, she begins to believe him. At each of their encounters, he brings out more of her submissive side. She flees to Singapore for a few days to think over the drastic changes in her life, but finally realizes that she can’t escape her true self.
Kate returns to Bangkok and continues her affairs with both of her new lovers. Each offers her something different. Somtow is a committed sensualist who delights in pleasing Kate’s sexual and intellectual hungers. Marshall shows her the truth about herself. Then David comes to visit, and Kate feels the need to choose between her three lovers. The men agree to let her decide, but not before each tries his best to prove he’s the best lover for her.
Do you remember when erotica was just good, wicked fun? Lisabet Sarai does. This story is a skillfully delivered romp through increasingly hot sexual scenarios. Maybe I’ve been reading too many stories full of angst and ennui, but it was such a pleasure to immerse myself in guilt-free, full-throttle, joyous sex. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but there’s an embezzler and industrial spy, a salacious chauffer, a katoey (lady-man) go-go dancer, and one very wicked Domme, all of whom keep the story rolling along at a good pace.
There are same-sex pairings and some explicit BDSM scenes. As a warning, there is also coerced consent in one scene. You could argue that he did consent, and that he had it coming to him, but given the sex-positive tone of the rest of this story, it did make me a bit uncomfortable. However, that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. The Bangkok setting is fascinating and adds to the overall feeling of opulent sensuality. Lisabet Sarai deftly shows the country without ever letting the descriptions take over the story. Good BDSM novels are voyages of self-discovery, and Raw Silk is a journey you’ll enjoy taking.
James Buchanan knows men in uniform. From smoke jumpers to beat cops, the characters have that touch of authenticity that few writers working in erotica can match. Added to that is the ability to portray unromanticized border towns and the grittier side of Los Angeles County. The combination brings to life a unique world.
Ready To Serve: Arresting Gay Erotica contains six short stories. “Pat Down,” “Speed Trap,” “Risk,” “Burn Zone,” “Coyote Crossing,” and “Fairground.” As I’ve read James’ work before, I was a little disappointed in “Pat Down” as a simple, but hot, erotic piece. It must be an earlier work. “Speed Trap,” however, was more like it. With sly humor, the owner of a highway-side bait shop taunts the local law. The lone lawman may think he’s been discreet, but in a town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and the dating pool for gay men is small, secrets have a way of getting out.
“Risk” is somewhat fascinating as the characters are from a team that specializes in cleaning crime scenes or places where people have died alone and forgotten, their bodies sometimes lying undisturbed for weeks. That doesn’t lend itself to hot sex, and the story was a bit muddy, but if angst-filled love touches you, then you’re probably a better audience for this one than I was.
Speaking of angst, “Burn Zone” features a fire captain who lost several men in a hot spot during one of Southern California’s Santa Ana fueled fire seasons. He’s gone to a fire lookout to spare his lovers his mood, but they won’t let him hide. While he’s convinced that he’s the third wheel in their relationship, they finally convince him that their relationship is a triad that can’t exist without him. I think these characters appear in another novella. I’m sure James will send me a note clarifying that. If so, I’d like to read it. These characters deserve further exploration.
In “Coyote Crossing,” Buchanan’s storytelling hits its stride. A border patrol agent catches the younger brother of his high school best friend working as a coyote who helps bring illegal immigrants over the border. While he tries to turn the younger brother’s life around, he finds out that all is not as it seems. The setting is pitch perfect, as is the attraction between the men.
The final story is “Fairground.” It has some redundant parts, and the characters have overly long conversations, which makes me believe Buchanan was trying to hit a minimum word count on the original publishing. That’s too bad as it detracts from the well-written sex scenes. I truly wish the current editor would have ruthlessly honed this down to a lean, hot tale.This collection is a good introduction to James Buchanan’s work. If you like what you see, I suggest you pick up The Good Thief, Hard Fall, or Inland Empire, to name a few outstanding novels. I can’t think of many other writers who come as close to portraying the American Southwest and law enforcement with this much accuracy, while also depicting sympathetically the conflicts gay men in those professions face.
Do you feel vampires have been done to death? Not so fast. There's always room for compelling characters and well written stories, which Janine Ashbless delivers in Red Grow the Roses.
I truly like how this collection of short stories is put together. The stories are linked together with a story arc that comes together at the end so that it has characteristics of a novel while allowing the short stories to remain as complete tales unto themselves, sort of like the concept albums rock bands used to produce.
London has a small cadre of vampires ruled by Reynauld, once an Islamic scholar but now a Buddhist. On the outside he may be ageless, but the years are creeping up on him and he fears what the future holds. The others chafe under his rule, but especially ruthless Naylor. If you meet a London vampire, pray that it isn't Naylor. Estelle is just as aggressive, but more sane. She loves to watch strong men bend to her will. Ben was and is still a surfer boy at heart. His favorite prey is women with pent-up desires that he can unleash. He can be fun, but not if he's under Naylor's influence. Wakefield feels unholy and unclean. He tries so very hard not to feed on humans. But by denying a nature that deeply troubles him, he's lost his ability to control it. You'd be perfectly safe with Wakefield - until he saw your blood. Then you'd be doomed. Roisin, the lady of the glass, lives in mirrors. She's the future Reynauld fears for himself. Although she's mad, if you're going to meet any of the London vampires, this ghostly apparition is the one to chose, because she'll love you tenderly while she feeds.
Between deeply erotic stories of the humans they encounter (victims is a problematic word as some of the vampires are prey for humans), you get the history of each vampire.
Normally, I'd grouse a bit about those long passages in italics as they're harder on the eyes than regular font, but that's such a petty complaint. It's my only complaint. I found those passages fascinating enough that the italics didn't matter that much.
You may have issues with the questionable consensuality of some of the sex scenes. I didn't. (I was about to mention something about Naylor's human encounter, but don't want to spoil anything.) I thought I was done with the whole vampire thing, but Janine Ashbless writes compelling stories that explore the essence of human nature, even among the fanged. Two thumbs way up.
In his introduction to Rough Trade, editor Todd Gregory mentions that most people aren’t exactly sure what the term means. The easiest definition of rough trade is sex for hire, but it also evokes danger, violence, and the seedier side of the tracks. The contributors to this anthology have different takes on the theme, which keeps it interesting.
“The Fratboy and the Faggot” by Aaron Travis is one of two stories Gregory says he asked for. A sophomore has been watching his graduate student neighbor through the blinds. When he’s caught, the neighbor invites him over for a discussion about frathouse hazing. The tale of sexual sadism doesn’t scare him away, so the former fratboy invites a couple brothers over to act it out. Rough? Oh yes. Deliciously so.
“Daddy’s Boys” by Nic P. Ramsies, “Close to Home” by Adam McCabe, and “Under the Table” by Dale Chase are different twists on how guys got into the sex for hire game. Chase’s construction worker moonlighting as a sex worker identifies as straight, while the young guys in “Daddy’s Boys” and “Close to Home” aren’t as complicated.
In “Hiring David” by Jonathan Asche, a couple hires a hooker to help celebrate their anniversary. David ends up being more of a therapist for the couple than a hooker, but in the real world, most sex workers probably do. If your fantasies run to hookers who like their clients too much to charge, try “Giovanni” by Logan Zachary and “Wrestler for Hire” by Greg Herren. “Josh in Frisco” by Greg Wharton wins the proverbial heart of gold award.
If you prefer something a bit grittier and realistic, “Tricked” by Jonathan Asche has one of the best anger fucks I’ve read. If that doesn’t sound hot to you, well… read it.
Can guilt be as redemptive as love? In “Blueboy” by Kelly McQuain, Michael is slowly succumbing to AIDS. A new boy on the streets propositions him, but he admits he has no money. All he has to offer are donuts and orange juice. The kid, who he calls Blueboy, takes him up on the offer. From then on, every time Blueboy is kicked out of his brother’s house, he turns to Michael for shelter. When Michael turns the boy away, Blueboy commits suicide. Michael tries to die, but Blueboy’s spirit is either haunting him or trying to save him and won’t let him go.
Although the theme is rough trade, the stories in this anthology are varied enough that you’re bound to find something that works for you. Some keep the mood light and everyone has fun. Other tales are darker. A few cover kinks from wrestling to Master/slave dynamics. Anchored by outstanding stories contributed by talented writers, this anthology gets a strong recommendation.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Rachel Kramer Bussel at the opening night of the In The Flesh reading series here in Los Angeles last month. (The New York series has been running for several years. I read at it last May) Among the things we talked about was her latest anthology, Rubber Sex. We agreed that the cover looked much better on the book than it did online. If I would have read it by then, I would have told her what I will tell you – that this anthology has appeal beyond the rubber and latex aficionados. So even if this isn’t your thing, don’t be so quick to pass up this book.
I’m not a visual person. While I enjoy the sight of a dangerous looking woman in vinyl, leather, latex or rubber, it isn’t one of those short-cut cues to erotic arousal for me. Last autumn, D.L. King (Our fearless leader here at Erotica Revealed.) came out for a visit and brought her brand new rubber skirt to show to me. The moment I felt it, I understood part of the attraction of wearing it. The thin material immediately warmed in my hands. It felt like petting a dolphin. (She wasn’t in it at the time. Sorry to ruin that little fantasy for you.) As soon as she saw how fascinated I was, D.L. said, “By the way, one of the books we have in the queue is a rubber sex book. Interested?” Of course I jumped at the chance.
A good editor knows to close an anthology with a strong story, and Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited enough anthologies to know what she’s doing. Tenille Brown’s “Breathing” was a great choice for the final selection. Last definitely doesn’t mean least. This story is so funny, sexy, and sweet that it’s impossible to not like it. Humor in erotica can be an iffy thing, but Brown delivers in style. From the opening words I was hooked, and it just kept getting better. Since I hate it when people tell me all the good lines before I have a chance to see them, I won’t even tell you the plot. Just trust me on this one. First your eyes will widen, and then you’ll giggle, and before you know it, you’ll be enchanted.
I read “The Balloonatics” by Gregory Norris a couple times as I tried to understand what he was aiming for. Then I realized it didn’t matter. Do Helmut and Vanessa get into role-play that deep? Are they a little bonkers? Or are they serious industrial agents in an alternate universe? Norris never winks and tells. Surreal, campy, or madcap? You decide, or don’t. “Balloonatics” is a glorious balls-to-the-wall, over the top, rubber clad, non-stop fuckfest of a caper. Like any fetish, don’t try to apply logic. Just dive in and enjoy it.
The opposite end of the caper spectrum is noir. Thomas Roche may have supplied a “spacey New Age shit,” soundtrack to his story “Butterfly’s Kiss,” but I heard a lone wailing sax and a voiceover right out of a gumshoe flick. The narrator heads into a special room in the rubber club he seems resigned, though unhappy, to be at. The scene he walks into is a Domme playing with her sub on a little slice of S&M hell called a vac bed. Completely encased in latex, the submissive breathes through a tube while the air is vacuumed out of the bed. Sealed in, unable to see, the submissive is completely at the mercy of her Domme. As the latex binds the submissive to the point where she can’t move, her sweat turns the latex translucent, and the narrator realizes he knows the sub. Fascinated, he doesn’t stand far enough out of the scene and is ordered by the Domme to use a dildo on the sub. While the bit about the tattoos wasn’t exactly clear to me, I gather the narrator and the sub ended their relationship when he didn’t give the sub the intense scene she craved, but with the controls of the vac bed in his hands, he finally does. Roche has the skill to write a story that will leave you gulping for air even while it turns you on. If you can endure being uncomfortable, enjoy the challenge this edgy story provides.
If you’re into the visual aspect of vinyl, “Lick of Pain” by Crystal Barela is the story for you. I hate to rob you of the pleasure of discovery by quoting from it, but it’s tempting because Barela provides so many wonderful lines. It’s a simple premise. A submissive is trying to peel off her Domme’s red vinyl dress without using her hands. But it’s not really all that simple, and you’ll relish the way this story is told. It’s a very oral story, which leads me to this thought: I should read this aloud to a special someone in bed, because I’ll bet those words sound just as luscious rolling off the tongue as they are in my head.
With stories by Shanna Germain, Alison Tyler, Radclyffe, Jean Roberta (one of our reviewers here at ER), Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rakelle Valencia, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tenille Brown, and Thomas Roche, this anthology features many well-known erotica writers. The names I recognized weren’t the only strong contributors though. I look forward to seeing more stories in the future from some of these new names (new to me).Rubber isn’t just about the visual aspect. It’s about taste, scent, and feel. Engaging that many senses, and sometimes overwhelming them, is it any wonder there are so many fans? It’s also versatile. The stories in this anthology use everything from rubber bands to balloons to rubber underwear to a swimming cap to latex tape. People wear it, worship it, sniff it, shine it, lick it, and taste it. People feel sexy wearing it, or enjoy seeing others in rubber. Sometimes the wearer feels powerful, sometimes submissive, but always turned on. Give this anthology a chance, and you might be too.
I’m not a fan of erotic romance.
I don’t see the allure of emotionally distant billionaires—emotionally distant anyone, for that matter. Just so you know I don’t have it out for billionaires.
It annoys the hell out of me when female characters are drawn as clumsy to make readers hate them less, or something like that. My family motto is practically “Never admit to weakness,” so I’m perplexed by the strategy when women gush, “Oh, but I am so clumsy. Gosh, I can’t function in life, I’m such a scatterbrain.” Come on, ladies. You can’t fool me. I’ve seen the way you handle real life, jobs, kids, marriage, committees that organize the entire world, deal with sick or elderly parents, and negotiate through hard economic times. You aren’t idiots, so why do you like reading about characters that are? I don’t get it.
So you see, I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing Charlotte Stein’s Run to You, because all the story elements are practically designed to irritate the crap out of me. And yet, Ms. Stein is such a delightful storyteller that even this black, hardened heart lightened up a bit. I know! Scandalous! Once she dispensed with the de rigueur introduction of the character Alissa as a loser, she let Alissa turn it about and act like a sensible person. Alissa knew her comfort zones. Like any real hero, she pushed herself to try things, but didn’t always like them. When that happened, she clearly said no and didn’t let herself be pushed. That’s admirable in anyone, male or female.
Janos starts off as emotionally distant and sort of dom-ish. What made him interesting wasn’t his billions, but how he was just as unprepared for a relationship as Alissa was. There’s so much ebb and flow of power between the two that it came across as an equal relationship. Despite some D/s aspects in the bedroom, out in the real world they’re not doing scenes. They can barely deal with just being themselves. And even in private, there’s a playfulness between them that made me think that, okay, if these were real people, they really would get along.
I was a little disappointed toward the end when the story took a turn to the formulaic, but what can you do? It’s erotic romance. [Editor’s note: And that is but one of the reasons Erotica Revealed strives not to review erotic romance. I am sorry Kathleen; I did not realize Run to You was erotic romance.] But even then, I enjoyed Ms Stein’s writing. Just please, don’t tell anyone I recommended this book. I have a reputation to maintain, after all. ;)
I have a confession: I don't enjoy reading about female submission. It annoys me.
Perhaps I should qualify that. I don't enjoy stories that feature female submission to a male, probably because I've met too many pathetic male "masters" who are inexplicably humored in their delusion of supremacy by their female partners. I don't have the same intensity of reaction to f/f, m/m, or genderqueer/f/m/genderqueer BDSM, which made reading Say Please a lot more fun than most BDSM anthologies I'm assigned.
So you may be wondering what I find to like in the lesbian BDSM tales of Say Please. I'm here to look at the quality of writing, not conduct a wetness test. Besides, what gets me off probably isn't what gets you off, so that's a useless way to look at these stories.
If you like your fantasy scenes on the rough side, you'll find plenty in this anthology. Purge by Maria See may be the most controversial as it includes forced vomiting, but it's worth a read even if that's a squick for you, simply for the insights to a top who has a hard time handling what she's done and needs aftercare herself. There are a few stories with hardcore slapping too. A Slap in the Face by Rachel Kramer Bussel, The Cruelest Kind by Kiki DeLovely, and Feathers Have Weight by Alysia Angel feature some hardcore slapping. As Sinclair Sexsmith mentions in the introduction, slapping can be a hard limit for many people. While you may not think of it as rough, public scenes can be a huge turn-on in fantasy that would leave you terrified in reality. A Public Spectacle by DL King lets you enjoy the fantasy from the safety of your reading nook. And if piercings make you squirm in good ways, be sure to read Unworthy As I Am by Elizabeth Thorne
There are lots of lovely gender play stories to choose from. Do you like domestic discipline? You'll love Housewife by Gigi Frost and Gentleman Caller by Sossity Chiricuzio. Or maybe you're into bending gender until it's undergone an origami transformation, in which case Black Hanky by Sassafrass Lowrey, Going the Distance by Elaine Miller, Not Without Permission by Sinclair Sexsmith, and Strong by Xan West are going to speak to you.There's a lot here for the fan of BDSM. Is it lesbian? Yes, but there's wider identity here to embrace too. But no matter how you identify or how fluid the sexuality or gender of your fantasy lover is, I'm sure if you're into BDSM, you'll enjoy this anthology.
Maxim Jakubowski, editor of the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, offers a new line of anthologies with stories set in London, New York, Paris, and Dublin. I'm always excited to see what Maxim has to offer, with good reason. Sex in the City: New York was one of the best anthologies I've had the pleasure to read.
In addition to these wonderful stories, each contributor included a short non-fiction piece about their story. I'm one of those people who actually reads author bios in the back of the book, so to me, the essays were a stroke of brilliance. After reading this, I plan to read the other three in the series.
I've only been to New York City once. A friend who lives there met me at the train and showed me around. While she went to a business meeting, I sat in a small park and just let it sink in. That's the way I like to experience a city. It was only a brief taste, but it was enough to get a feel for the rhythm. Reading these stories brought that vibe back to me.
Usually, I pick a few standouts from an anthology to talk about in further detail, but each of these thirteen stories is so sophisticated and literate that it's hard to play favorites. I'll tell you what - you read this anthology, and then we'll go out for drinks (make it The Algonquin for the proper atmosphere) and have a friendly discussion about the top picks. I'll bet your list is different from mine, and I'll bet that you'll have a hard time narrowing it down to just three.
Sex in the City: New York
With contributions by
Donna George Storey, Maxim Jakubowski, Polly Frost, Jeremy Edwards, Tsaurah Litzky, Shanna Germain, Thom Gautier, D.L. King. Michael Hemmingson, Lisabet Sarai, Thomas S. Roche, Cara Bruce, and Ira Miller.
Palmprint Publications specializes in, appropriately enough, stories of corporal punishment. Sixteen of the Best is an anthology of sixteen prize-winning stories from their adult discipline competitions 2003 through 2006. As Sarah Veitch points out in her afterward, these stories won because the punishment was the focus of the story. No little smack on the bottom qualifies.
There’s something undeniably alluring about the ritual of punishment. The miscreant, the punisher, and the reader all focused on what is about to happen as the erotic tension builds. The young lady is pulled over a lap. Her sins are calmly recounted and the inevitability of her punishment is discussed while she is in this vulnerable position that only heightens her humiliation. Her skirt goes up and her knickers go down, exposing the bottom. Maybe she squirms and begs. Maybe she tries to maintain her dignity. Composure and dignity are the first things to go when the hand, paddle, or crop is applied firmly to the backside.
Not all of the stories in Sixteen of the Best are about women being punished. Nor are they all set in Headmaster’s office. Two are set in the Lucky Seven Saloon somewhere in the wild American west, one in a women’s jail, one in a police station, and many are domestic discipline.
I remember reading Tulsa Brown’s incredible “Goddess” when it was first posted to the Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association’s story time workshop. Then, as now, there was nothing to critique about this femme domme story. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but within a few sentences, it all came back, and I was overjoyed at the chance to read it again. This tale of a homicide detective reaching out to his pro-domme for help finding a killer still mesmerizes.
“Rubios – The Colour of Rubies” by Mark Ramsden was written with such sharp humor that I may have to search out his other work. His editor allowed him too many incomplete sentences, but how irresistible is this?
“She came into my life when I was looking for someone to kill my ex-husband. Too much information? Well, it was only a passing phase. I’d rather have him alive these days. That way he’ll suffer much longer.”
The narrator quickly decides that Svetlana isn’t Russian Mafia as she claims to be and that she should be punished for the lie. Svetlana’s backside is inured to harsh punishment however, and it just about defeats the narrator.
Anyone who belongs to the Kinky Teacher’s Club should know better than to steal from them. But the pressing need for a small loan to tide her over to her next paycheck proves to be too much temptation in Jean Roberta’s “How Not to Manage Debt.” Here we have the familiar idea of teachers meting out punishment, but not in a school setting, and on the bottom of one of their own. For someone who grew up in a time when teachers could still drag us into the coat room and take out their frustrations on us with a cricket bat, the idea of a teacher tasting a bit of the whip is a satisfying bit of fantasy revenge.
Several of the stories featured miscreants who obviously did not learn a lesson. In Kit’s “Disobedience a la Carte,” a woman carefully calculates each bit of willful disobedience against the punishment she craves.
“I calculate every stroke of my disobedience. It’s a little like counting calories, though more dangerous, more of a gamble and far more fun: place, time, means and method are all up to him, and hand action isn’t counted so I never know entirely what I’ll get.”
Similarly, in James Baron’s “Beloved Birch,” he deliberately commits an act of vandalism in front of a policeman to earn the birching he desires. The anticipation and planning is as much a part of his sexual fantasy as the punishment, and the only lesson he seems to have learned at the end was that it was worth it to have his fantasy fulfilled.
If you’re a fan of corporal punishment, this anthology is the perfect book for you. Every story centers on a bared bottom and the abuse it receives. The rituals are lingered over with lavish attention. No matter how much pleading and crying goes on, the punishment is carried out to its inevitable end.
It’s 5PM, it’s 92 degrees in my office, and we don’t have air conditioning. I am a tad grumpy, as you might well imagine. In Slave Girl land, that would be the cue for my Master to come drag me away from my computer for a scene. First I would be annoyed, then turned on, and finally, grateful. If that’s what the Master of your daydreams does for you (guaranteed better than a brand name bubble bath!), you’ll find it here in “Noise” by Evan Mora, and in “Hell-Bent For Leather” by Victoria Behn.
Or maybe you like to imagine being shared. “Out of Sight” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “Passing the Final” by Donna George Storey explore the delights of being blindfolded and at the mercy of strangers – but under the watchful eye of a protective man.
If your fantasy is the excellent movie Secretary with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, then “Serving Mr. Brown” by Veronica Wilde will probably push your buttons in all the right ways. “Day Job” by Deborah Castellano will also give you that workplace stern boss vibe, as will Lisette Ashton’s “Green’s.”
There are so many reliably good writers contributing to this anthology that you can hardly go wrong even selecting one at random. Thomas Roche, Alison Tyler, DL King, Giselle Renarde and others deliver tales that are in turns intense, riveting, and beyond the ordinary.
Fans of BDSM know that Alison Tyler can deliver wonderful stories in an anthology, and Slave to Love is no exception. With stories featuring fem sub, male sub, gay, lesbian, and gender-bending lovers, there's a story in this book for everyone. I, as usual, have a few favorites, but you'll probably like other stories for other reasons. There's a lot to like here.
Nice and BDSM are words that most people wouldn't put together, but most fans of BDSM recognize that there's often underlying sweetness in many BDSM stories. There's nothing wrong with that. I (public confession!) like love, tenderness, and emotional connection. However, in the hands of a skilled writer, an edgy story is a welcome break from all the nice. Marilyn Jaye Lewis' “Daddy's Girl” was one of those stories that I felt a little guilty for enjoying so much while part of my brain was flashing "this is so disturbing" alarms. Michael Hemminson's “Betty's Bottom” wasn't quite as edgy, but it still had bite, and it wasn't at all "nice." Thanks to Alison for including these stories.
Fans of fem sub will find plenty to interest them from names they recognize, including Debra Hyde's “Ever on Edge” and Thomas Roche's “Under My Thumb.” I don't think I've seen Cate Robertson's work before, but after reading “Sonnet,” I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her stories in future anthologies. Fans of lesbian stories will enjoy Jean Roberta's literate “Down Below.” (I chose to put this with fem sub because the narrator is the sub, but there's a fem dom too, so fans of either scenario will be satisfied here.) “Everything That You Want” by C.D. Formetta, translated by Maxim Jakubowski, stuck a real chord for authenticity with me. I also enjoyed Mia Underwood's “The Real Prize.” Alison Tyler is a big name in erotica for good reason. She consistently delivers hot stories. Her contribution, “Well Trained,” is no exception.
Fans of male submission have several choices too. N.T. Morley's “Divorce Proceedings” is angsty but hot, while Xavier Acton's “Unlike the Others” captures the feeling of a crush very well. “Five Bucks a Swat” by Christopher Pierce features a gang spanking in a gay bar, for charity! Props to Christopher for such cheeky fun. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)While you may be thinking that I must have already mentioned every story in this anthology, there's so much more by wonderful writers such as Saskia Walker, Shanna Germain, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Michelle Houston, R. Gay. Vanessa Evans. Julia Moore (there's a freaky little bit of naughty fun for you), Erica Dumas, Sophia Valenti, and Sommer Marsden. In sports, they'd call that a deep bench. In an anthology, I call it a "you can't miss" lineup of powerhouse talent.
Oh boy. The Thumper rule would apply, but I have to write a review.
Something strange is going on with the model’s upper lip on the cover of this anthology. That’s not the only visual problem with this pdf. The pages are dark tan. I suppose that’s supposed to remind me of the beach, but what it really did was make reading this anthology even more unpleasant.
I tried. I really did. I tried to read through each story and pick three that would appeal to readers, but these stories were such a chore to slog through that I couldn’t. It’s not that the writing is terrible, but it’s not ready for prime time either. I found myself skimming the sex scenes in almost every story then had to force myself to go back and read them. That’s never a good sign in erotica.Obviously, I’m not the audience for stories that include huge backstory dumps in the first three pages, telling rather than showing, and clunky writing. This is volume three, so presumably volumes one and two of this series were much, much better. Maybe you should try reading one of them instead.
When I first read this book, I assumed it was a memoir, but the interview with Mattilda that the publisher enclosed with my review copy states that it’s a novel. Hmm. It reads like a memoir and shuns the conventions of a novel, such as character development and a linear progression of an idea, but it’s experimental prose, so it’s going to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it books for many readers. I’ll admit right off that I’m not a huge fan of stream-of-consciousness writing. However, my standing rule is to judge a book by what it is, not what it isn’t. So what is So Many Ways to Sleep Badly?
On one hand, you could say it’s a trip to the other side of the tracks, unless you live on the brink of poverty in San Francisco, are an anti-assimilationist queer activist, an incest survivor, and suffer from a chronic illness that makes you so fragile that you can’t even sleep. These identities give Mattilda a far different perspective on San Francisco and queer culture than you’ll read in mainstream queer media. That jolt of fresh insight is a good reminder that even within a community, not everyone has the same agenda, ambitions, or beliefs.
Ah – but we review erotica at Erotica Revealed, so what does this book have to do with erotica? Mattilda is a whore. She doesn’t mince words about it, so I won’t either. She writes honestly about her tricks, and there are a lot of them.
“… because I’m a sucker for any ridiculous song about hookers. What’s the line? Something about giving up their bodies for a thousand other men. Rue says a thousand – I think I’m up around five thousand. And five of them were fun.”
Her tricks range from the pathetic: “My cellphone rings, this guy wants to know if I have a discount for married guys with kids.” “Another trick that wants to know if I have any diseases, he doesn’t want to bring anything home to his wife.”
To the absurd: “Andrew’s from Seattle, he gives me a ride home and tries to shake my hand goodbye. Sorry honey – you just sucked my cock – I think we can kiss.”
To the rare times he enjoys it: “This trick shows up and he’s so hot, preppy boy with a shaved head and lots of freckles – and he’s grinning at me. Right away, we’re making out and it’s totally sex, soft and hard and warm and connected.”
Beyond sex for pay, Mattilda also writes about cruising for sex on Craigslist, in the park, and at Power Exchange, even though she rarely finds what she’s looking for and often vows never to return.
“I go to the Power Exchange. I know what you’re thinking: why does she break her own rules - it’ll only lead to disaster, and it does honey, it does. I can’t even describe how boring and awful it is, but I’m a writer – that’s my job.”
That passage made me laugh, and reminded me of the e-mail conversation Mattilda and I had several years ago about sex at venues such as Nob Hill Theater and Power Exchange being a form of performance art. If only it had that much creativity. She seems to seek temporary transcendence in sex. Occasionally, it happens. Usually, it doesn’t.
At the beginning of the novel, there’s hope for a relationship. Those very honest moments with Jeremy are the most erotic in the novel, probably because of the emotional vulnerability. The romantic in me wanted to see it work out, but this story is about real life, so of course it doesn’t end that way. Mattilda writes: “I thought this novel was turning into a love story, but now Jeremy’s fucking that up.” It isn’t what you’d think – Mattilda’s sex work isn’t what drives them apart. Mattilda wants someone to cuddle with. Jeremy doesn’t want to be bothered with a boyfriend because it’s too much work to put another person first.The story loses energy and direction in the last couple chapters. Mattilda throws names around with no clear definition of who the characters are or their relation to her. There is no resolution. No one learns anything. Instead, everyone clings tighter to what they are when challenged. Revelations are on a small scale, and not life-changing. As a novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly doesn’t really work, but as a fictionalized memoir, it does. If you have even a little curiosity about life as a gay sex worker, this novel will fascinate you. Despite the experimental style of prose, I found it interesting and funny.
Considering the amount of books I read, it’s unusual when a friend recommends a book I haven’t read that was a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Somehow, SoMa escaped my attention until friend John praised it. So thank you, John. I owe you a Stoli with lemon, on the rocks.
This is GLBT month at Erotica Revealed. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered – the order of those letters in the acronym also reflects how often those sexualities and gender identifications occur in books. So it was a surprise that the main character in SoMa was bisexual, and a pleasure to see him portrayed as truly bisexual instead of being in denial. Confused, however, is another matter.
Raphe is a dot.com bust, a former programmer who lives off unemployment and under the table payments for babysitting P.O. boxes in San Francisco. He has a crush on the redhead woman, Julie, who lives above the P.O. Box place, but never works up the nerve to talk to her. Other than sorting the daily mail, there isn’t much to do at his job, so Raphe tries to write. The only break in his day is when people come in search of Dr. Kaplan, Suite One. Suite One is really box 1, and there’s no Dr. Kaplan. Bored, Raphe lets his curiosity get the better of him and he opens one of Dr. Kaplan’s letters to find it’s a penis enlargement scam. With so much time on his hands, he starts musing about his size, and starts trying to guess how big other guys are. His curiosity is interpreted as interest, and although he keeps telling himself that he isn’t gay, he finally begins to notice sexual signals from other men.
Friends who live in San Francisco tell me that it’s a small town in a way, where they run into the same people everywhere they go. So it wasn’t that much of a stretch to believe that Raphe keeps running into a hot Latino guy, Baptiste. He first sees Baptiste when he’s on the last car of the BART train, where exhibitionists and guys into quick circle jerks congregate. Raphe convinces himself that he’s doing research for his book, and that maybe it’s about his curiosity about comparative cock size, but you can understand why later on Baptiste’s friends dub him Raphe the Retard. He seems to be the last person to catch on to his sexuality, probably because he’s hung up on the word gay. Later, he literally runs into Baptiste at the bank. They go out for dinner, and Baptiste skillfully talks Raphe into bed.
Raphe and Baptiste have an open relationship, but two things endanger it. Raphe goes home with online RPG game guru and sexual hedonist Mark, who barebacks Raphe. That leads to a month where Baptiste withdraws from him emotionally and sexually as thy wait for the results of an AIDS test. Raphe is hurt and misses the closeness between them. While job hunting, Raphe runs into Julie. Raphe enjoys sex with Baptiste, and he likes their relationship, but he can’t seem to get past the idea that he isn’t gay, so when he has a chance to sleep with Julie, he goes for it. Julie is into holistic health. She talks Raphe into getting a colonic. He gets addicted to them. It’s Baptiste who helps him with that, and Baptiste whom he turns to more often for support. Still, Raphe also likes women, and he is, as Baptiste’s friends pointed out, a bit of a retard, so he manages to destroy his relationship with Baptiste by sleeping with another woman after he promised he wouldn’t continue to seek other sex partners.
Hurt, broke, and quickly becoming addicted to meth, Raphe decides he wants revenge against the people he feels have ruined him. The only skill he has that people will pay for is his tolerance for pain and medical fetish. He becomes a sexual freak show. Mark, the guy who barebacked him, is celebrating his birthday by indulging in an all day sex fest. Raphe, now an underground sex star, comes to Mark’s party, fists him, and webcasts the scene. Raphe plans to leave a trail of ruin in his wake. Mark was the first on his list, but not the last.SoMa is much more complex than I can cover here. Like the South of Market neighborhood it’s named for, this story is a mix of straight, gay, rich, poor, technology, and simple scams. Every character (except Baptiste and maybe Julie) seems to be lying to others or themselves about who they are. They use and are in turn used by others for sexual satisfaction that leaves no one satisfied. Like all spectacular train wrecks though, even when you can see it coming a mile away, you won’t be able to turn away for a second. Thumbs way up.
In her introduction to Sometime She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, editor Tristan Taormino states:
Butch/femme is a perfect centerpiece for erotica since it is recognizable and meaningful to many people. It’s also incredibly multilayered – creating opportunities for characters to play with gender in a sexual context, do unexpected things, challenge conventional wisdom and assumptions, and explore taboo desires.
A theme that comes up often in this anthology is that Butches are supposed to be stone, meaning that they don’t accept reciprocal sex, and that to do so is shameful. Alison L. Smith’s “Sometimes She Lets Me” explores this with such precision of craft that she’s able to deliver a deeply touching portrait in only two pages. When an anthology opens with a story that fine, expectations move up a notch.
If you fear that your fantasies make you a freak, reading about them in erotica can be comforting and liberating. In her story “Anonymous,” I felt as if Amie M. Evans peeked into my storehouse of frustrated desires. While I’m long beyond caring if I’m freak, it’s still good to know that other women long for, “No exchange of numbers or first-date sex; but rough, hard, no-name sex: the stuff of gay boy novels and urban myths.” Her femme narrator boldly sashays into a bar in search of just that, but not before a ‘laugh-out-loud and nod your head in recognition’ observation of how difficult it is for women to break past the real and imagined barriers to NSA (no strings attached) sex. Once the narrator shoves all that aside, she finds a butch with the same fantasy. From there on, things get hot and dirty, the way every good sexual fantasy should.
Lynne Jamneck’s “Voodoo and Tattoos” hit a few of my buttons – voyeurism, and two hot butches. The narrator works the bar at a conference as a favor for a friend. A power femme hits on her, but the scene that follows isn’t exactly what she expects. This story got me worked up in all the right ways.
In “Look But Don’t Touch” by Sparky, a boi watches a peep show. If the girls dancing for him know he’s passing, they either don’t care or like showing off for him. The glass that separates the girls from the boi works on a metaphorical level for the bittersweet envy of gender diaspora. Hot, and well crafted.
Elaine Miller’s “Fee Fie Foe Femme” hits the right balance between a great BDSM teasing scene and sexual frustration. The femme doesn’t want to kiss because their lipstick colors clash. You know at some point that glittery raspberry pink is going to get smeared, but like the femme in this story, you have to wait for it.
While it might seem that gruff butches have the power, femmes aren’t sitting around waiting for rescue, or sex. They’re boldly going after what they want. In “Gravity Sucks” by Skian McGuire, a butch is trapped under a car she’s working on as someone – she hopes it’s her lover - yanks down her pants and uses them as a budget bondage device to good effect. The power dynamics are turned, or maybe that’s the truth behind this relationship.
Toni Amato’s words are so powerful that it’s difficult to discuss “Grand Jete” without quoting long passages from it. On the surface, it seems so simple. A genderqueer narrator is talking about his lover. But there’s nothing simple about this story. The vulnerability of Toni’s character is breathtaking, and the longing palpable.
There are many other wonderful stories in this anthology. Peggy Munson, S. Bear Bergman, Kristin Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Joy Parks, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizabeth Babcock, Isa Coffey, Jera Star, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith contribute to one of the most consistently strong anthologies I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time. Two thumbs way up.
This was the first piece of latex I ever bought, the first one I
ever tried on. Its tightness around my narrow waist, rounded
hips, and plump ass makes me look and feel space-alien exotic,
and draws attention to the fullest part of my body. Yes, my
butt has stopped traffic. Who doesn’t like to look at a black
diva in red rubber?
From "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" by Aimee Pearl
When an anthology opens with a scene like this one from Aimee Pearl's "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," my contented sigh rolls across the room and I nestle into my chair because I know I'm not going to set the book down until I've read every tasty word.
So what comes next? "Jubilee" by Quinn Vertiz in which a daddy takes his boi to a brothel for his first time in a sweet, hot gender bending tale that's just pure delight from word one through to the end.
"Butches don’t do this. Butches DO NOT do
But apparently they do in "Butches Don't" by D. Alexandria, and you'll be glad they did.
At this point, I realized I was only three stories into this anthology and had marked each one as a story of note. That's a great sign for a reader, but a bit of a quandary for a reviewer since I usually only mention a few standout stories from each anthology I read. Would the anthology be able to keep up this pace of quality? Yes, absolutely yes. From the delicious twists and turns of "Tori's Secret" by Andrea Miller to the sensual overload of Jai T.'s "Detention" to the voyeuristic thrills of Lynne Jamneck's "A Case of Mistaken Identity," every story in this anthology was enough to spark my writer's envy. And I haven't even mentioned the many other incredible stories by Deborah Hyde, Jean Roberta, Kathleen Warnock, Peggy Munson... Leaving anyone out feels like a slight because these stories are all wonderful. So here's the table of contents:
Where the Rubber Meets the Road • Aimee Pearl
Jubilee • Quinn Vertiz
Butches Don’t • D. Alexandria
Tori’s Secret • Andrea Miller
The Break • Cheryl B.
The Plow Pose • Sinclair Sexsmith
Ripe for the Picking • Kristina Wright
After Lunch • Kathleen Warnock
Touchée • Jean Roberta
No More Secrets • Chuck Fellows
The Woman Upstairs • Tara Alton
Only A Woman’s Touch • Debra Hyde
Detention • Jai T.
Clinical Trial • Radclyffe
Naked Rusted Plumbing • Eric Maroney
Bésame • Gina Bern
A Case of Mistaken Identity • Lynne Jamneck
Riding the Waves • Rose William
Puppy Slut • Michelle Brennan
Planet 10 • Catherine Lundoff
Phoebe’s Undercover Bon Voyage • Skian McGuire
Taking Steps • Thea Hutcheson
Phone Corrosion • Julian Tirhma
Gone • ViolyntFemme
Virgo Intacta • Anna Bishop
Into the Baptismal • Peggy Munson
It's like a greatest hits compilation by all your favorite artists. And if any contributor isn't a favorite yet, now is your chance to discover their work. Can you tell I'm still giddy with reader's delight? I swear it's like I'm drunk on words. Two thumbs way up.
In her introduction to Sweet Danger, editor Violet Blue mixes a bit of romance - committed heterosexual couples - with games that they play while fulfilling sexual fantasies. What would you do if your significant other was willing to indulge your wildest fantasy? What would you do for him or her? How far would you be willing to go?
Donna George Storey's “Picture Perfect” leads off this anthology with style. A husband and wife film their sexual exploits for a connoisseur of homemade porn. It's safe exhibitionism, one step removed from the man watching them while they're fucking, but not exactly tame either. “Takes all Comers” by Ainsleigh Foster explores the same theme, with a wife talking to her phone sex customer while her husband listens in on the conversation.
In “Old Friends” by N.T. Morley, a man catches his wife in bed with her college friend. He's upset at first, but when they tie him down and have their way with him, his anger melts away along with his inhibitions. “Richard's Secret” by Saskia Walker is also a three-way between a married couple and a friend, only this time, the friend is male.
If you're into cuckoldry, “In the Back of Raquel” by P.S. Haven might be just what you're looking for as a man watches his wife suck the cock of another man in the back seat of his prized vintage car. “Pearl Necklace” by Jolie Joss has a keener psychological edge as a woman leaves her husband on their anniversary to hook up with a guy from the internet. The man she's cheating with uses her phone's camera to take a picture of her sucking his cock, then sends it to her husband. “Greedy” by Eric Emerson features a well-organized gangbang of a suburban hot wife. The civility of the whole scene, as the husband whisks into the room long enough to provide drinks, fresh sheets, and even padding for his wife to recline on while taking on several guys at once was funny in an almost surrealistic way, and I hope that was intentional.
“Performance Art” by Oscar Williams, “Dress Me Up” by Erica Dumas, “House Rules” by Sara DeMuci, “Rest Stop” by Felix D'Angelo, “Evening Class” by J. Hadleigh Alex, “Dinner Out” by Marie Sudac, and “Moneymaker” by Isabelle Ross tread the extremely popular and well worn paths of female submission and humiliation. If you're into that, you're going to get your fill of it in this anthology.
“Medical Attention” by Skye Black was one of the few truly unique kink/fetish stories in this anthology. It's nice to read something that I haven't seen before. A woman is immobilized in casts and undergoes a medical exam. The professional detachment of the nurse and doctor play wonderfully against what they're doing to their patient. Thomas Roche also shares a hot gun play story in “Cocked and Loaded” that isn't your same old BDSM scene. “My Number One Fan” by Sarah Sands self-references in calling itself a rape fantasy, and the sex is rough, but if you're really into rape fantasy, it might not fit your definition. “Alice” by M. Christian features gender play and cross dressing in a sweetly approachable story. “Daddy's Boy” by Elizabeth Colvin also includes gender play with a touch of queer sensibility to it. The couple is hetero, but I felt as if I were reading a very hot butch/femme lesbian piece instead. Don't let that put you off. It's a damn fine story, A damn fine story with a certain unidentifiable vibe that set it apart - in a good way.
Violet Blue knows how to put together an anthology that will appeal to a broad range of tastes. Her stated aim was a touch of romance, and for the most part I had the feeling that these characters cared about their partners and their relationships. At least they had reached the point where they felt that they could trust their partner with their deepest, darkest fantasy. Sadly, not many real life couples can. So you get a double fantasy here - a good, strong, loving relationship, and the ultimate sexual fantasy fulfillment. One, or more, of those fantasies might be yours. You might not be willing to share it with your partner, but you can read about it between these covers. Come on. You know that you want to peek inside.
I live in Los Angeles, where earthquakes are, while not common, part of the experience. Some people take them in stride, but others are - forgive me - shaken to their cores when they realize that terra firma isn't always so firma. Language is like that. We think we understand the ideas words represent. But language is fluid. Lingua firma it ain't.
This is something you're going to have to wrap your head around when you read Take Me There. Gender is an even more fluid concept, seemingly shifting even within some of these stories, unless you give up on the idea of gender all together and just roll with it. Because if you waste every moment while reading this book trying to deduce who has what genitals and how to categorize the characters, you'll miss some damn fine stories.
While all that should matter is the story, not the writer, glancing down the list of contributors and trusting Tristan's vision put me in a confident mood before I even read the first story in this anthology. Maybe someone wants to read erotica where trans and genderqueer people are treated like disposable sex toys, useful only as fetish objects and without any human depth or feeling, but not me. On the other hand, if I want hours of lectures about gender politics... hmmm, I've never wanted that. Talk about a mood killer. The great thing about this anthology is that it deftly avoids either of those extremes and gets down to very human stories of desire.
From Skian McGuire's “The Boy the Beast Wants”:
Aren’t they [other lovers] enough? They ought to be. But the problem is, I care about them. I could never bring myself to do to them any of the things I see myself doing in my mind’s eye to the boy that my Beast has invented.
As Skian's narrator pours out this fantasy of the perfect boy, it hits really close to home.
“Femme Fatigue” by Anna Watson was all kinds of wonderful, one of those stories where you nod in recognition at passages. It was so hard to pick just one to show how brilliant it is.
How can a femme walk out in the world and have people know she’s queer when she looks to most people like she’s just a regular straight girl? It’s like I have a storehouse of queer energy somewhere in my belly, and it runs out—it runs out all the time. Mitch does what he can, but he’s got so many of his own complicated feelings about queer and straight and man and woman—things aren’t as straightforward with him as they were before he transitioned (although, as it turned out, they weren’t even straightforward then, we just didn’t exactly know it). Per queered me.
Many of the stories in this anthology are about claiming sexual identify, but for me, Anna Watson put it best.
“Hold Up” by Ivan Coyote speaks to the desire to skip conversation and get right down to sex:
I know I can be a complicated creature. I know this. I know it cannot be easy for a trick to figure out my body on the fly, and I understand that often the kind of tiresome questions and trepidation and fear that a femme feels when feeling me up for the first time is born from a desire to not trample where she shouldn’t, and to step lightly through possibly painful territory, but that doesn’t make it any hotter for me to discuss do’s and don’ts in the dark, when I would rather be fucking or fisting or tangling tongues or pulling each other’s hair and deciding by willpower and whim just who is going to suck whose what, and when and exactly how.
Luckily for the narrator, such a lover does exist.That's only a small taste of the wonderful stories that fill the pages of this anthology. With contributions by Gina de Vries, Rahne Alexander, Ivan Coyote, Helen Boyd, Giselle Renarde, Dean Scarborough, Evan Swafford, Jaques La Fargue, Kiki DeLovely, Kate Bornstein, Toni Amato, Sandra McDonald, Andrea Zanin, S. Bear Bergman, Anna Watson, Julia Serano, Rachel K Zall, Alicia E. Goranson, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Michael Hernandez, Shawna Virago, Sinclair Sexsmith, Arden Hill, Zev, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Penelope Mansfield, Skian McGuire, Laura Antoniou, and Patrick Califia, you're bound to find several that speak to you. From BDSM to sweet romance, Tristan brings you a wide range of stories. I wish we had a rating for thumbs up plus, but I'll have to be content telling you that this anthology is not to be missed.
This is GLBT month for Erotica Revealed. After reading the first chapter of Beth Wylde’s novella, The Big 4-Oh!, I was worried that I’d I miscommunicated with her and she’d sent me a heterosexual story instead. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to quote Jerry Seinfeld. The mistake would have been mine, however, so I kept reading, and found that the story included one of the oft-overlooked letters of GLBT: B, for bisexual. So it turned out happily after all.
Turning out happily is a good place to begin the discussion of this novella. The Big 4-Oh! fits under my definition of romantic erotica rather than literary erotica. One frustration I often have with reviews is when they dwell on what a story isn’t instead of appreciating a story for what it is, so I’m going to review this novella with the standards of romantic erotica in mind. (If you want to get into a long discussion about the difference between literary erotica and romantic erotica, email me.)
Abigail is a high-powered divorce attorney on the brink of turning 40. She’s not too happy about that. In fact, she’s in a rather pissy mood as this story begins, and her ire is directed at women who dare to be younger than she is. After the requisite long soak in the tub, she hops into the shower, only to be caught by her husband Dave in flagrante delicto with the showerhead. Lucky for Abigail, Dave is an understanding kind of guy. Rather than being upset about what she’s doing, he gets turned on. This trait is going to come in handy later.
Dave gives Abigail a piece of sexy lingerie that is described in minute detail, as is every other outfit worn in this story. While that may come off as a snarky statement, there are many readers who cherish lingering over the details of clothing in an erotic story. The rituals of donning stockings, garter belts, and high heels are a big turn-on. If you are among the legions of people who enjoy reading about sexy clothing, I promise that this story won’t disappoint.
Before Abigail can try on her new outfit though, she and Dave start talking about his friend Craig, his friend’s psycho ex-girlfriend Veronica, Abigail’s ex-girlfriend (now best friend) Candice and two other people. If that sounds like a lot of characters, you’re right. Too many are thrown in that don’t really belong in the story, and each is given almost a full background story. This story would have benefited from concentrating on the four major players. Another problem with this scene is that Dave and Abigail are discussing all these other characters during foreplay. If my partner got that chatty during sex, I’d be reaching for a ball gag. But that’s just me. Anyway, it turns out that Craig’s psycho ex-girlfriend Veronica is having a sex party at his house that night, and Craig wants Abigail and Dave to drop by to make sure things stay friendly, which is why Dave bought the sexy outfit for Abigail. Dave is turned on by the idea of watching Abigail get it on with one of the female party guests, which is why he wants to go. Plus, he’s a super pal for Craig – something that will also come in handy later. Abigail thinks it’s a bad idea, but she’s a sport, so she agrees to go.
It turns out that Abigail is right about it being a bad idea to go to the party. A cat-fight with psycho-ex Veronica (Craig’s ex, not Abigail’s ex) ensues. Craig, Abigail, and Dave flee the scene. Abigail feels bad about what happened (not the fight, but denying Dave the chance to watch her have sex with another woman) so she calls her ex Candice and sets up a three-way with Candice and Dave on her birthday.
On the day of Abigail’s birthday, she and Candice prepare a scene for Dave to walk into. Dave walks in, but with Craig along. Seems he was planning a little m/m/f action for her birthday. They work out a four-way solution - the guys watching the women together and then the women servicing the men – in a long sex scene. Eventually, the heterosexual couples pair off for a happy ending. (In both senses)If you’re bisexual, you may feel that this story perpetuates the stereotype that bisexuals are into in threesomes and swinging. But if you’re looking for a story with a loving married couple at the core who play with multiple partners, The Big 4-Oh! will probably appeal to you. This is romantic erotica, and hits every note that a fan of the genre expects. However, using a literary standard to rate the writing, which is what we do at Erotica Revealed, I can’t give this novella higher than a sideways recommendation.
It’s often more difficult for a writer to tell a story from a Dom’s point of view than it is to tell it from the sub’s. While it may seem that a sub is the passive one, that isn’t so. They are active participants. And, more importantly for a writer, they are often the experience the reader wants to share. Doms are supposed to be mysterious, distant, in control, and unreadable. That’s part of what makes them such fun fantasy figures. Imagine a lover who can read your mind and body so well you don’t ever have to talk, even if you could around that ball gag. But in order to create that mystery, the writer can’t let you inside the Dom’s head. And for that reason, even though this is the Big Book of Domination, many times the stories you’ll read are from the sub’s point of view.
Alison Tyler’s stories are always wonderful. She steps out of the usual tropes and writes such interesting characters. Although I read an anthology in order since the editor selected that order for a reason, I always want to save the Alison Tyler story for last. In “Playing for Keeps,” a reporter for an Avant Garde magazine hooks up with a sexual sadist. It makes her editor uneasy, and this reader uneasy too, to see how far she’ll go. If something beyond safe or sane revs you up, this is the fantasy to save for your alone time.
Have you ever seen a show where the performer was obviously loving every moment of it too? That joy and energy takes it to another level for me. D.L. King’s “The Day I Came in Public” has that same infectious spirit about it. The characters are having a good time, the writer is so clearly enjoying herself, and the reader? Well, the reader gets to enjoy being hot and bothered with a grin on their face. Don’t take this all too seriously and have fun with this gem of a story.
If you like your BDSM on the high fantasy side, try Andrea Dale’s “A Healthy Dose.” Mothers – it’s always the mothers, the doctor muses- send their daughters to a clinic to help them explore their submissive side. A young doctor watches with increasing arousal as a young lady in the garden thoroughly enjoys her punishment for spilling some whiskey. There’s no question he’s going to enjoy working here.
I’ve only mentioned the heterosexual couples, but there are several stories that feature gay, bisexual, and lesbian lovers mixed into this anthology. It’s a big book with room to be inclusive. With such talented contributors, you’re sure to find many stories that make you want to slip your hand under your clothes. Word to the wise for those of you reading on trains—your ebook reader may hide the cover, but we can tell from your flushed cheeks and squirming what sort of naughty things you’re reading. You should probably be punished.
A little over a year ago, Ravenous Romance popped up on the eBook scene with some rather bold boasts about its future. That riled a number of romance bloggers who attacked before the first book was released, and turned even more vicious after. It was (and remains) ugly, and reflected poorly on the romance community. The only part of the attack that interested me was the charge that Ravenous Romance had no right (?) to claim they published romance, as the eBooks they published were all clearly erotica.
I’m not part of the romance community. I write erotica. The fine line between the two is a personal definition, although my rule is: If it’s written in the genre style of romance but has sex scenes, it’s erotic romance. If it’s written in the genre style of literary fiction, and it uses sex and sexuality to explore the characters, then it’s erotica.
Which brings me to my book this month: The Darkness and the Night 3: Twins of Darkness. It’s written in the genre style of romance, which seems to support Ravenous Romance’s claim that they publish erotic romance. But is this story erotic?
Sex scenes, even if they occur frequently, involving multiple partners, and gymnastic contortions, aren’t always erotic. Eroticism draws in the reader through the use of sensual imagery. It had the power to physically affect the reader. Well-written erotic passages might not include orgasm or penetration, and yet, the reader is left feeling that something deeply sexual occurred. The Darkness and the Night 3 has sex scenes, but nothing about them is erotic. Take most of them out of the story, and it wouldn’t affect anything. That’s not erotica.
By now, if you regularly read my reviews, you know that I hate to judge a book by what it isn’t. If it’s not erotica, what is it? It’s not particularly romantic in that it doesn’t focus on a core romantic relationship and how it grows. It’s sort of paranormal, sort of fantasy, but the world building isn’t there to support it. But what I found most disappointing was the level of storytelling. Nothing was shown. Everything was told. There was no depth to any scene, nothing to grab onto.
I had hoped that Ravenous Romance would put out a book that really wowed to balance out the critics. This is the third book in a series, so the first two were much better, or the readers like this style of writing. You might too. But the best rating I can give this is sideways.
Reading the three novellas comprising the Erotofluidic Age was so damn fun. I giggled. I guffawed. I was entranced. Imagine, if you will, that classic Victorian romp The Pearl infused with a dash of comedy of manners, a hefty dollop of steampunk, and a refreshingly droll sense of humor, all delivered with a lascivious wink, and you have the Erotofluidic Age.
In the first novella, The Ontological Engine, we’re introduced to Professor Daedalus Tesla, who seeks to harness the power of erotic stimulation to power a machine that can transform matter into living beings. He’s a bit of a mad scientist, but still manages to lure an assistant, Victor Dalrymple to his estate to help him carry on his work after being dismissed by the university. Things don’t go exactly as planned as they seek to collect more “vital fluids” to power their machines. A vicar’s daughter, Miss Pertwee, becomes involved in their escapades, much to the chagrin of the slightly dour Mr. Tesla.
Mr. Tesla resigns himself to Miss Pertwee’s company, but when Miss Pierce shows up at his doorstep in Miss Pierce’s Position, he decides he’s had enough meddling with his work. Miss Pierce proves herself a valuable addition to the laboratory though and is soon involved in household shenanigans.
The last novella is The Terminando. Victor Dalrymple and one of Mr. Tesla’s sentient experiments break through to another universe. It looks a bit like home, but citizens of England can be conscripted into service powering ontological engines. While escaping that fate, Victor meets a society of violas—transgendered beings. They protect him as he tries to create a device to help them transform to their desired gender. In exchange, they will help him repair his machine and return to his own universe. For fans of pony girls, descriptions of the machines will bring moments of bliss.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent cover design on this ebook. It’s pitch perfect for this collection of novellas. A rollicking time will be had by all, I assure you.
The state of the world being as it is, the fabled Mile High Club seems a reminder of the past, the swinging 60s and whatever the 70s were about. While the new paranoia brought scrutiny that seemed likely to end airborne frolics, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology The Mile High Club is a ray of hope for the altitudenaly inspired.
Most of the stories in Mile High Club are contemporary, but Craig Sorensen’s “Top Banana” goes back to the days when stewardesses were hired for their looks and portrayed in media as bimbos. Those were the years when traveling salesmen got out of their cars and took to the skies. Subject of countless bawdy jokes, meet career gal in a mini skirt. No wonder the public imagination flew with that combination. But in Craig’s story, the stewardess is tired of her male passengers’ sense of entitlement, and on her last flight, she teaches a horny salesman a lesson he never forgets.
Donna George Storey creates consistently wonderful stories. “Her Nasty Little Habit” is my favorite of the sex in the seat stories in this anthology, although Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Urgent Message” and Ryan Field’s “Bert and Betty” are damn hot reads too.
If you like a bit of domination, try Bill Kte’pi’s “34B,” Matt Conklin’s “Wild Child,” or “Obedient” by Teresa Noelle Roberts.
Thomas Roche’s “When Your Girlfriend Wears a Very Short Skirt” deserves special mention. Thomas is an incredible writer, so I tend to have higher expectations for his stories than for writers I don’t know. Much lighter in tone than most of his work, this one delivers.
Speaking of writers I’ve come to expect a lot from, Alison Tyler also contributed to this anthology. She may not know me, but she definitely has her fingers on several of my hot buttons, and I can’t recall a story of hers that didn’t push at least one. Her “Planes, Trains and Banana-Seat Bicycles” doesn’t take to the skies, but there are planes involved. In her skillful hands, that’s all you’ll need to fly.
“Wing Walker” by Cheyenne Blue is the most original story in the anthology. The biplane pilot from an aerial show tells his wing walker that he’s going to find her a lover. She laughs off the offer, and as months pass, he doesn’t follow through—until he does. On a practice flight meant to test the newcomer’s skills out on the wing, he shows her that he has moves she’d never imagined. This may be a flight of fancy, but it’s a good one.It’s impossible to think of sex in a passenger plane without also imagining the danger and embarrassment of being caught. If two people head for a lavatory, everyone notices, or at least it feels as if they do. So even if joining the mile high club never appealed to you in real life, your inner voyeur or exhibitionist may feel a frisson of excitement in all the right places as you read these stories.
In the not too distant past, erotica editors bluntly stated that they didn't want to see science fiction or fantasy in submissions to erotica anthologies. Circlet Press was the only publisher supplying it to grateful readers. After a brief - but still too long - silent period, owner Cecilia Tan embraced ebooks, and suddenly Circlet was stronger than ever. (They have some books in print too) Thank goodness. The offerings from Circlet are unique in quality, style, and there's still no better place to get your fix of science fiction/speculative fiction/fantasy erotica.
A great example of this is Cecilia Tan's own The Prince's Boy. For you lovers of high fantasy sword and sorcery with an epic battle over the hero's soul (I almost said hole), this is the story for you. Tan knows fantasy fiction. She knows what we love about it, and she knows how to write the genre without ever resorting to anything that reads like standard issue plot line. Sadly, because this is a real bang-for-your-buck offering at around 500 pages, I only had time to read the first volume and four chapters of the second volume (because I couldn't resist), for this review. But I plan to finish it when I have time. That's the power of some damn fine story telling.
Originally published as a serial on Circlet's livejournal (or website), you can now get all the episodes of this story in one (or two) convenient files. Serialized fiction, as Cecilia notes in her preface, is different from reading a standard novel. This isn't like the old time short reel movies, but more like fanfic (fan fiction). And like fanfic, it's slashy (M/M, or male on male), but you know, sometimes, that's exactly what you want to read. (If these terms are confusing you, I'm sorry, but it will take much more space than I have here to explain slash and fanfic. Unfortunately, if you look it up, what you're going to see is a lot of patronizing male prats explaining how women think and feel, and getting it all so horribly, laughably wrong that you'll be left thinking that fanfic or slash are bad things. They aren't. Send me a private email if you want to discuss this further.)
But what's the plot? you may be asking. I feel as if anything I say might give away too much, and part of the joy of fantasy fiction is the story unfolding before you. There's a prince and he has a whipping boy he's grown to love. Unfortunately, a very bad person wants to break them apart and control the prince. There's heartbreak, there's dark sorcery, there's a lot of man on man sex, and there are soldiers. And that's just in the first half! Don't make me tell you more and ruin it.Some readers might be a bit squeamish about the BDSM elements, the torture, and the non-consensual sex. Consider yourself warned, although I didn't think it was too much. The only downside I saw was that because this was a serial, Tan tried to have sex in almost every scene, and after three hundred pages, I was getting a bit milk-fatigued. That may just be me. And that's the tiniest of crits, because overall, I thought this was an excellent high fantasy adventure. As I mentioned before, I still want to read the second half. So thumbs up.
“It’s a crummy commercial?”*
Oh Ralphie, I feel your pain. I do. It struck me as odd that the cover didn’t show the author’s name, so I hoped to find it at the end. What I found was a bunch of links to his/her/hir hypnosis products. *long sigh*
I don’t feel this writer is ready to be published, and pointing out specific examples of why strikes me as cruel, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Shadows Beneath is a gothic haunted house story set in the south.
This novel is a paranormal romance, probably listed as m/m erotica. My quibble with that is that the character of Tristan was obviously a male overlay on a female character, and an annoyingly passive female ala professional-victim fairy tale princess at that. Nothing about him was believable as a man. The fainting thing got tiresome quickly. The few uneven sex scenes did nothing to define the characters or move the plot forward, making this more a story with explicit sex, rather than erotica.
There were many problems with the writing in this story. The characters were indistinguishable from each other, something that could have been fixed by cutting the cast by at least half and by getting into the character’s heads. Despite using many paranormal romance props: creepy old house, a four-poster bed with heavy curtains, secret passages, and a raging storm, there were no spine-tingling chills or eerie moments.If I had been reading this book for pleasure, I probably would have set it aside after the first chapter.
Squee of absolute delight! The Siren and the Sword was such a pleasure to read. I set aside a few hours to read it each day, but devoured it in one sitting.
Kyle arrives at Harvard for an interview but there seem to be more buildings than the campus map shows. He enters the third building, and finds he’s stumbled into a magically cloaked building for Veritas University, which coexists on the Harvard campus unbeknownst to non-magical students, faculty, and staff. The people he first meets are just as astonished at his arrival as he is by their odd behavior. As soon as he signs the guest register though, it’s clear he was meant to attend the school. He makes friends, he meets unpleasant people—you know, like real life. Then a friend is hurt and he tries to figure out why and how while being hampered by his ignorance of the world in which he now lives.
Clearly, this story was written by someone who loves the world of Hogwarts and other magical schools and universities existing in a broad array of fiction. But don’t think this is fan fiction or a ripoff. Like the Harry Potter books, this is about a person raised in the non-magical world having to negotiate the strangeness of a complete universe he never realized existed along with real life challenges such as school, relationships, and finding his own place in the universe, but this university is unique and the characters are no dim reflections of the Hogwarts gang.
One big difference is that these are stories for adults, so there’s honest sexuality. These are college kids, so of course they’re getting it on, and having messy break ups, and not handling jealousy well, and all the other attendant real life sorts of things one experiences as a young adult. What I enjoyed so much about the sex scenes is that they flowed organically in the story. It never felt as if the author said ‘gosh, it’s been two chapters since the last sex scene, so I’ll plug one here.’ And boy, are they are ever hot, made more so in my opinion by the quirk that Kyle’s girlfriend wanted to retain her virginity to increase her magical abilities. They got quite inventive, and the sensuality of the scenes was enhanced by it.
This was such a fun story to read. I didn’t figure out the culprit until they were unmasked, although looking back, it made sense. The writing is crisp and moves along. Not your usual erotica fair, and all that much more enjoyable for it. I strongly recommend this book.
The title of Kemble Scott’s The Sower is from the parable in the Book of Mark in the New Testament. If you got kicked out of Sunday School classes as often as I did (I swear the teachers started it) you might not be up on your gospels. Basically, things thrive in a hospitable environment. Or if you spill your seed in enough places, with luck something good will come of it.
Last year, I reviewed Scott’s book SoMa (recommended), so I was already familiar with the character Mark Hazodo. Is he a villain? I guess you could make the case if you have an extreme black and white view of the world. By the end of SoMa, I decided he was the kind of guy who got away with things most of us wouldn’t dare try, and a self-centered ass with no concern for anyone, which made him enviable and vile, but not evil. Now I think he may be Loki, or Brother Coyote. He’s not a main character in SoMa or The Sower, but he’s always an important protagonist.
As The Sower begins, Mark has a bareback (no condoms) orgy planned. Everyone coming knows that there will be one HIV+ man there. Despicable? They’re going into this with full knowledge of the risks. But put that aside for a moment. The HIV+ participant is Bill Soileau, a petroleum engineer. (Soileau is pronounced Swallow, but I’m sure the Soil part of his name was chosen with great care. This is, after all, a parable.)
After the orgy, Bill goes to Armenia to look at an abandoned Soviet Era oil refinery to assess what it will take to get it running again. While he’s there, he meets a French doctor working for the UN, and she shows him a laboratory on the grounds of the refinery that obviously was used for advanced research. As he helps her gather evidence from the lab, he’s pricked by a needle that contains a viral phage that somehow miraculously cures everything, even HIV.
The French doctor’s blood samples of the villagers living near the refinery show that they have the same immunity as Bill. Before she can take an investigative team from the Pasteur Institute back, the lab is blown up and the villagers killed. The only other person who saw the lab was Bill, so she begs him to come to France to verify her story. He tells her he’s cured of HIV. She runs tests and verifies the existence of the phage, but it’s fragile and can only be transmitted through his ejaculate directly into another person. Word of this miracle cure gets out. Soon, the Catholic Church, a fading popstar, the CIA, and even more sinister folks are after him. I can’t say too much more about the plot without spoiling it for you.
What I found interesting was that the phage seems to cure emotional maladies too. Bill was raised in a home without love, and he’s never looked for a relationship. Within days of contact with the phage, he falls in love. The doctor’s sister is in the last stages of AIDS, and she asks Bill to pass the cure to her sister. When the sister recovers, she and Bill are bound by platonic love. Since a high-ranking enforcer from the Vatican demands Bill share the cure with him, it’s nice to dream that this altruistic ability to care also spreads quickly through the church hierarchy. Evangelical Christians in the CIA proclaim they’d rather die than receive the cure, but as with the bareback orgy, everyone is an informed adult. No one is forcing them to take part. They enjoy their hatred too much to risk being cured of it.As with SoMa, this isn’t a wankfest. There’s a lot of sex, but it isn’t written to arouse. It’s a suspense thriller, so the pace is pleasantly brisk, and the plot will keep you guessing. If you want to read something that will make you reflect on the nature of sex, healing, and what would happen to the churches if suddenly sex were the source of a miracle, then read The Sower.
It's no secret that I'm a great fan of Circlet Press. They embrace science fiction and fantasy with the same ardor as erotica, creating a home for unique, imaginative tales The Viscountess Investigates is exactly the reading experience I've come to expect from them.
The Viscountess Investigates is set in parallel worlds. One is a modern world, but not exactly this one. A magical blindfold exists that hides BDSM practices from the vanilla world, so a slave might walk around naked with his mistress and not be seen. It hides buildings, pony girls, and every other high fantasy BDSM practice you've ever read about. Past the blindfold are Dominions, alternate worlds that are solely high fantasy BDSM. One Dominion is a prison to punish bad slaves, another is Victorian London, and then there are the floating worlds of Japan with their modern and historical regions. The portals between these worlds allow people to move from one to another in sort of folded space. Each of the portals are different-- I loved the entrance to the Floating Worlds, but won't tell you so you can enjoy that discovery yourself-- yet all require sexual energy to open.
This is a murder investigation, so that gives the Viscountess and her submissive slave Severin an excuse to move through these worlds, talk to a few people, and fuck many more. And yes, the mystery gets solved, but I doubt you'll read this book for the mystery element.
Because this is high fantasy BDSM, the sex is of the non-stop, balls-to-the-wall, everything and the kitchen sink plus a bag of chips, don't try this at home variety. No one seems to have limits. Everyone is multi-orgasmic. Everyone is a masochist or a sadist but they're all loving every second of it. It's so over the top that no one could ever feel threatened by it. It's just good, naughty fun.For that reason, The Viscountess Investigates strikes me as a worthy successor to A. N. Roquelaure's (are we still pretending Anne Rice didn't write them?) Sleeping Beauty series. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of that style of erotic storytelling.
I'm not sure how we're assigned books to review at Erotica Revealed. Once, in our past - is it six years now? - I requested a book I knew would be submitted, but every other book has been the choice of Erotica Revealed's D.L. King. She knows I love fantasy, so maybe that's why I was lucky enough to review Thrones of Desire. Fans of fantasy will not be disappointed.
So many stories to choose from. Where does one start to discuss the contributions to this consistently good anthology?
Dragons, of course.
“Here There Be Dragons” by Ashley Lister was a lovely treat. I expected it to be. He knows how to tell a tale. The keeper of a dangerous collection, or perhaps zoo, of dragons is confronted by a man who could give her everything she desires, including an end to her loneliness. She makes a warrior's decision that made me smile.
“Hot As a Dragon’s Blood” by Eric Del Carlo explores society's taboos as a bisexual man (or a gay man who rises to the occasion) and a woman work around the artificial limitations their people impose to answer the call of duty in time of war.
The opening paragraph of “The Last Sacrifice”by Zander Vyne is one of those finely wrought works that makes other writers envious. If you're a fan of shapeshifting, especially if you were a girl who really liked horses, this one is for you. (And there is a dragon.)
Janine Ashbless is another writer I can always count on for a thoughtful tale. Her “Of High Renown” challenges ideas of consent and guilt. The words coming out of her character's mouths are so spot on perfect that they're timeless. This is a story that you'll reflect on long after you've read it.
“At the Sorcerer’s Command”by Kim Knox offered a glimpse of a world I'd love to see developed further, although this tale stands alone. It set my fantasy fan heart fluttering with some rather interesting sex magic and a young woman who saves the day.Megan Arkenberg's “Jericho” at times borders on lyrical. The visuals conjured by her words are amazing. The best part of fantasy is when it pulls you in so deep that you don't want to leave the world or you wish you had more time to explore it. This story left me wanting more.
It isn’t easy to show bisexuality in a short story for the same reasons that it’s difficult to be a bisexual person. That is – people define a character’s sexuality by their lover’s gender. The contributors to Twice The Pleasure meet the challenge in various ways, from showing a poly couple welcoming another lover to ‘just this once’ affairs, from ‘straight for you’ surprises to ‘here, we’re all queer.’
These contributors have put together some amazing, sexy stories, but the ones that caught my attention because they were incredibly well written short stories, worthy of serious literary praise, were Lori Selkie’s “The Robber Girl,” and Tahira Iqbal’s “The State.”
In “The Robber Girl,” Gerda finds a mentor in a female bandit. She is honed into an instrument for revenge-- not for the robber girl, but for herself. You don’t know what she decides or if she comes back to her lover, but you will wonder. The knife play is exquisite, but not too much for a casual kinkster. The sex is shown in vignettes that serve as teasers, leaving you wanting more. The sex is hot, and the dialog—oh, how it sparks! It was such a delicious tale that I had to read it a second and third time to try to figure out how the writer was evoking those images in my mind.
While I’ve never met her, I’ve been aware of Lori Selke for years. Tahira Iqbal is a new name for me, but after reading “The State,” I’ll keep my eye out for this writer’s work. “The State” was filled with such rich sensory detail. I enjoy a lush read, and this was it. There’s a sense of dread and loss hanging over this story, of isolation and loneliness. The melancholy is evoked so well and yet seamlessly with the sex, which is a difficult thing to do.There are many strong contributions to this anthology. There’s revenge sex, gender bending, a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan (Jean Roberta knows how to make me smile), and a lot of women taking vacations from what’s expected of them to get—as Jacqueline Appleby so aptly puts it—“What I Want, What I Need.” Maybe you’ll find some of that here too.
Reviewed by Kathleen Bradean
Despite the visibility of BDSM in popular culture nowadays, it’s still not the norm for sexual experiences. Like a tuxedo or that pair of high heels, many aficionados may save it for special occasions. But in the universe where BDSM is the norm, one wonders what it takes to be considered Twisted. I was a little apprehensive. Then, as I ticked through the things that I’d expect to encounter in edgy BDSM-- blood play, pet play, cutting, scarring, CBT (especially with clips)—I realized that everyone has their own edge, and mine is far off on the horizon. To each their own, but I don’t think any reader will find something past their limits here.
Andrea Dale’s “Tie Me Up” surprised me because I expected it to go on from the first page. Then I realized it was perfect as it was. Short fiction is a real challenge to write. It left me wanting more.
“Love to Hate,” by Molly Moore, was a truthful look into how our minds work. You don’t have to be into BDSM to understand the dynamic of a couple like that. So even though it might seem oxymoronic, I’d classify this as sweet BDSM.
Kristina Lloyd’s “Dry Spell” is fanciful, hot, and delightful. I just loved this story. During an unusual weather pattern, a woman and her lover come to the conclusion that her orgasms make it rain. The problem is that they have orgasmic sex quite a bit, and the countryside is drowning. So he convinces her to give him control over her orgasms. The sun comes back out. How do you balance your need for release with the good of the nation? The line, “Lie back and think of England”—which is implied rather stated, something else I loved about this story—was never so aptly applied.
Many BDSM stories show how much of the desire for perfection comes from the submissive rather than the dom, but Joan Defers’ “Be There With Bells On” is the best portrayal I’ve seen in a long time. The challenge is to cross the room then retrieve something from the bathtub without making the bells attached to nipple clamps chime. The tension in the story mounts-- will she make it—with the arousal. I won’t give it away. Enjoy this fine example of suspense writing.
“Stag Beetle,” by Sacchi Green, is the most unusual story in this anthology. The one almost guaranteed to make people squirm. Would you let a big bug walk over you? How about if you were tied up? Think of those little insect feet on your bare skin. You know your safe word. Would you use it?
Maybe I’m jaded, but few of the stories here struck me as really twisted. However, as one would expect, Alison Tyler brings together a good assortment of BDSM tales. Maybe it’s better not to be too squicked by the stories. They’re supposed to turn you on, after all.
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.
*Long sigh* Where to start?
Vancouver Nights is the third in a series of Charlie Heggensford Adventures. The first two are Fluffers, Inc and A Carnal Cruise. It follows Charlie the fluffer (if you don't know what that is, look it up) through a pet-napping caper in, you guessed it, Vancouver.
My motto is to judge a book for what it is. Vancouver Nights isn't literary erotica, so I won't hold it to that standard. It's more like reading a novelization of a porn flick made by one of those directors from the 1970s who actually tried to do a story. I know that it's fashionable to sneer at wank fiction, but a talented porn writer can get the reader hot and ready in a couple sentences, and I respect that ability. There's nothing wrong with a mindless, fun sex romp. Unfortunately, judged on the merits of porn, Vancouver Nights doesn’t quite make the grade either.
The dialog in the sex scenes is lifted right out of a porn flick. Most of the characters are porn actors, so maybe that would be okay in one scene, but since the thin plot is only there to string together many sex scenes, it gets old fast. The sex is repetitious and skimmable. If you're using it to jerk off, that might not matter to you, but since I was trying to read it as a novel, it mattered a lot. Besides, I know several sex workers, and the last thing they do in real life is walk around spouting porn dialog.
My biggest gripe with this book was the Chinese women who talked like Charlie Chan. Ugh. I'm surprised that the publisher let that go. Water sports and fisting I have no problem with but the racial stereotyping was offensive.
So how do I rate this? As literary erotica it would get a thumbs down review. As wank fiction, I'll give it a marginal sideways rating.
I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of epic fantasy. Being subjected to ye fakey olde tymey language is like being dragged to the Ren Faire on a bad first date by a guy who insists on wearing full Klingon battle armor. (Not that such a thing ever happened to me…) So I started reading this anthology with some reticence. Thankfully, while I’m sure they will please true fans of epic fantasy quests, overall the stories were a delight to read even for this non-fan.
There aren’t as many stories in this anthology as there are in the typical erotica anthology because introducing a reader to a world with different rules and customs than exist in a contemporary setting takes longer, but that also gives you more time to settle into the story and let it take you away, which is a nice change. Each story takes place in a unique world. And while each involves a quest, the focus is on what happens when two (or more) people find themselves transformed through sex.
Encounter at the Lonely Dragon by Elinor Gray is set before the quest begins for these characters. Former lovers Gavin, a mage, and Ren, a rouge, are reunited after a past quest ended badly. The tavern keeper slyly (but meaning well) tricks the men to share lodgings for the night. Ex-sex may feel right at the time, but in the harsh light of the morning, it’s not so easy for Gavin to shake years of doubt.
I really enjoyed Orin’s Strand by Vivien Jackson. A young seer witch knows what’s at stake if she seizes momentary happiness in this bittersweet but compelling tale of tempting, or perhaps rewriting, fate. Really nicely told.
Paget is a female knight in Paget and the Princess by Kierstin Cherry. Paget has been sworn to protect the princesses’ virtue. That’s no easy task when the princess wants Paget. The leader of the guard tries to ignore the increasingly disheveled states he keeps discovering them in, but can’t when it becomes apparent to everyone what’s going on.
The Place Where Heroes Are Made by Sarah Ellis had some of the same melancholy tone as Orin’s Stand. Heroes stop at Kailie’s tavern for a last warm meal and good bed before heading out on perilous quests. Her family has been seeing off heroes for generations. Now that their land has been ravaged by war, it needs to preserve the bloodlines of those heroes even more. A nervous young hero setting out on his first quest, from which he might not return, is offered comfort and the experienced ministrations of the lady of the house.
In Crystalline Sorcery by Julie Cox, Heid accompanies the elven priestess Samed on a special quest as guard, protector, and something more. Heid’s non-normative body has made it difficult for her to have lovers, so she’s very surprised when Samed suggests they literally make magic together. Imagine, if you will, a sort of magical elven feeldoe…
I was a bit confused by the ending of Andrea Trask’s Flings and Arrows. Perhaps I missed the point of the quest as I was reading, but scanning through the story a second time didn’t make it any clearer, so I wasn’t sure what the ending meant to the ritual. That may not bother other readers but it drove me nuts. The story wasn’t bad, but I was also a bit confused if the ending was supposed to be good or bad because I wasn’t sure what Alleria wanted. She seemed to want whichever man she was with, and that’s fine. It’s even fine to want both. But I couldn’t even figure out if she were sad or happy or terrified at the end. Maybe everyone else will only read it for the sex and be satisfied.
To be honest, I deserved this book. After a few rough months of reviews, it was definitely my turn to read something wonderful. I perked up the moment I saw Tristan Taormino’s name, and Ali Leibegott? Oh man. I’m such a fan of her work. Reading her introduction, “Dumpster Diving” was a bonus treat- the dark, sweet Luxardo maraschino cherry on top of some rather delicious tales.
Hmm. Which ones to pick to talk about?
If you’re one of those readers who can be seduced by technique alone, “Paradise” by Valarie Alexander will have its way with you and you’ll love every moment of it. Revisiting old lovers in stories usually feels like opening a box with cabbage roses printed on it and gently tugging at faded ribbons around old letters. Not this one. Time hasn’t dulled anything about this all-consuming affair. You’re going to have to fight to slow your reading pace and enjoy the luxurious writing while the story tugs on you to rush along with its frantic glory.
Peggy Munson. The name brings back several fond memories. Her short stories are in so many of the annual Best Lesbian Erotica anthologies—with good reason. But her novel Origami Striptease was where I first encountered her writing and it still holds a special place in my heart. (Although she really, really didn’t like my review of it.) In her contribution to this anthology, “The Storm Chasers,” she captures complicated lives. It seems like an odd way to describe a story, but it struck me like a film in black and white, a panoramic vision of a vast space with roiling Constable skies overhead, where characters are together but still isolated. There’s something beautiful about the starkness of this tale. You may get a completely different vibe off it, but you won’t be unmoved.
Since I’m obviously getting off on the literary quality of these offerings, I have to mention “Angie’s Daddy” by A. Lizabeth Babcock. The dynamic isn’t anything that interests me, but the way this story was written was so tantalizing that I didn’t care. It teeters toward poetry and stream of consciousness, but it’s kept firmly focused. Need and desire are rarely shown so raw that it almost hurts. Excellent piece.
But wait! There’s more!
How do I limit myself to talking about only three when there’s such a wealth of stories here? Are there women out there like in Betty Blue’s “When She Was Good?” I want to meet her. In Roxy Katt’s “The Ant Queen,” the BDSM dynamic was refreshingly original, and she aptly pulled off one of the most difficult approaches to erotica with a story that was funny and arousing. “Native Tongue” by Shanna Germain will linger with me for a while, as will Anna Watson’s “Chronic.” These aren’t happy stories, but the emotions are honest in these two tales that explore something most people would rather die than admit to – selfishness is therapy, self-defense, and sometimes necessary to happiness.
I am such a happy reader right now. So many good stories to choose from. But you’ve been good, right? So you can have them all.
Where the Boys Are promises stories of newcomers to the queer-friendly neighborhoods of the Castro, West Hollywood, and Chelsea who have fled presumably hostile smaller towns. With that premise on the cover, I was disappointed that the cities weren’t more prominent in the stories. It’s difficult to make a city a character in a story, especially in a short story, but with the exception of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Live From New York,” there was nothing about the settings that seemed to influence the characters. Simon Sheppard’s “Wild Night” is a historical tour through the Castro that used to be – which is sort of interesting, but it’s a memoir, not a story.
There are some fine stories in this anthology. Many are bittersweet memories of love lost. “Taming the Trees” by Jeff Mann, is about a man who has not been able to let go of the love of his life. His longing for the man he lost to the city is intense. Years have passed, the man has changed and moved on, but the narrator is stuck in a mourning phase that will probably never end. Jeff is becoming one of my favorite erotica writers because of his ability to deliver a solid emotional punch along with raw sexual imagery.
Alpha Martial’s “The Birds and the Bees”, like “Taming the Trees,” is about a man choosing to return to country life after venturing into the city. It means losing a lover who won’t, or can’t, fit into a rural setting. Not everyone thrives in a city though, and after giving it a go, some people simply have to move on.
“Drug Colors” by Erastes is one of the better stories in this anthology. It cuts close to truth of some messed up relationships. I enjoyed the scene of the punk rockers performing ‘like they’re expected to,’ on the train so that the other commuters can leave adequately outraged by their behavior.
Dale Chase’s “Half-Life” is set in San Francisco, but moves between worlds. One is the suburban middle-class heterosexual married life, where the main character has been marking time. The other world is the Castro. After the main character suffers a heart attack, he begins an affair with a man at work who introduces him to a part of the city he’s never dared visit. He rethinks his life and decides not to waste the years he has left following the wrong path.
I’m torn on the rating for this anthology. Few of the stories engaged me. However, different stories appeal to different readers, and you might find more that you like. Most of these stories are well written but not many were erotic except in a peripheral sense. While I don’t like to judge a book by what it’s not rather than what it is, I have to give this one a sideways rating.