Authors
Alexandros
Carmine
Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
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Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
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Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
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Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
A Twist of Grimm: Erotic Fairy Tales for Gay MenA Twist of Grimm: Erotic Fairy Tales for Gay Men
By: William Holden
Lethe Press
ISBN: 1590213432
October 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

If nothing else, literary criticism teaches us that binary dualities exist in every work of fiction.  It’s possible for a text to be a collection of children’s stories aimed at adults; it’s possible for a narrative to be straightforward and complex; it’s possible for a story to be gay and Grimm.

Welcome to William Holden’s A Twist of Grimm: Erotic Fairy Tales for Gay Men.

Few people realize that the Grimm brothers were philologists who happened into folkloric research as a diversion from their academic studies.  Excited by the prospect of preserving oral narratives, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm journeyed through rural Germany in the early 1800s, collecting and cataloguing the folk tales that are today known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The original works were published under the title Kinder – und Hausmärchen in 1812 and proved so successful a second volume was released in 1815.  The stories still enjoy phenomenal success in our modern, twenty-first century world.  It’s fair to say that, since those halcyon days of the early 1800s, the Grimm’s fairytales have become part of our international literary heritage.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood have all entered our cultural identity through the Grimm’s Kinder – und Hausmärchen.  Furthermore, as those stories have been appropriated into broader fictions (ballets, operas, films and Disney cartoons) it’s easy to see how they’ve shaped our collective consciousness.

Bruno Bettelheim, the Austro-American child psychologist, seemed to understand the importance of these narratives in his 1976 title, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.  Bettelheim, an exponent of Freud’s psychosexual theories of interpretation, explained how many of these narratives are rich with sexual imagery.

 

It’s at this point where the majority of us take a deep breath, shake our head in dismay, and then mutter, “I can’t believe they let kids read this sort of stuff.”  However, the truth is that the stories were never intended just for children. Kinder – und Hausmärchen translates literally into Children’s and Household Tales.  It’s a sad fact of our times that too many readers think fairy stories are only for children and only ever were for children.  The truth is: they never were just for kids.

Mitzi Szereto published adult fairy tales in, Erotic Fairy Tales: A Romp Through the Classics and In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed.  Kristina Wright published Fairy Tale Lust.  Alison Tyler edited Alison’s Wonderland.  And now we have William Holden’s appropriation of Grimm Tales: A Twist of Grimm: Erotic Fairy Tales for Gay Men.

This is a slim volume of short erotic gay fiction.  Thirteen stories, each one based on a Grimm fairytale.  The writing, as one expects from Holden, is a combination of ruthlessly efficient prose and homoerotic eloquence.

I started on “Joshua and his Many Men” a retelling of the Grimm’s original story, “Death’s Messengers.”  In the original story, a giant fights and triumphs over Death.  A passing youth helps Death to recover from his ordeal.  As a reward, Death promises the youth that he will send messengers to warn him when it is his turn to be taken.

And Holden’s narrative follows the same structure.  In this version we have a name for the youth (Joshua), and when Death’s messengers visit Joshua, they bring a salacious abandon to the story that was missing from the original.

“Death’s Messengers” is an allegorical tale.  The story progresses to its conclusion with Death coming for the youth.  When the youth protests that Death didn’t send the messengers he had promised, Death explains that the youth was visited by his brothers, Fever, Dizziness, Gout, Toothache and Sleep.  Those five were his messengers.

On this level we can understand this working as a fable in the times of the early nineteenth century, where fever, dizziness and excessive sleep were precursors to death.

In some way, this personification of the abstract into the concrete works more effectively in Holden’s story, as Joshua is able interact sexually with Death’s messengers.

All in all, this is a fun collection of short stories.  The only thing missing is an introduction to contextualize the collection.  It would be interesting for Holden to say why he wanted to reinterpret these fairytales in such an adult manner, why he picked on these lesser known stories from the collection and didn’t touch the more popular stories and if there is any prospect of a further collection.

But, even without that detail, the collection is a lot of fun and should help every reader get in touch with his inner child.



Alison's WonderlandAlison's Wonderland
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Spice
ISBN: 0373605455
July 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Within erotic fiction, the genre is constantly struggling against the restrictions imposed by societal taboos.  The three classic taboos in the genre are: incest, bestiality and underage relationships.  There are other taboos.  Non-consensual sex is a no-no.  Scatological sex is unwelcomed by most publishers (certainly, as written material, I’m not sure what most publishers get up to in the privacy of their own boardrooms).  Necrophilia comes under the heading of ‘illegal activities.’  The list could go on.  And it does.

And I mention it here because I’ve known publishers refuse fairy tale stories because, thematically, the idea broaches dangerous territory between adult material and that aimed for a younger audience.

This is, of course, all bullshit. 

It’s bullshit for several reasons.  If no one ever wrote about incest we would never have had a story like Wuthering Heights.  If no one touched on bestiality or necrophilia the concept behind the Twilight novels would be dead in the water.  If we all adhered to the strict rule regarding non-consensual sex, it would be near-on impossible to write a BDSM story of reluctant submission.

And, when publishers have told me that ‘fairy stories are for children, and erotica is for adults,’ I have bristled with righteous indignation at the stupidity of that notion. 

Historically, fairy stories are NOT for children.  Fairy tales are an integral part of our history of storytelling.  Stories have been in existence since before we began to learn to write or read.  The oral tradition of narratives (oral, as in spoken – not oral as in the fun way) has been an integral part of our literary heritage.  Camp elders would sit around tribal fires, mesmerizing audiences with stories that broached fantastic subjects and reinforced important moral and philosophical points.  These were the original fairy stories and they were never intended for children. 

Unfortunately, some publishers are too stupid to be aware of this distinction.  Fortunately, Spice Books and Alison Tyler seem to understand that fairy tales have always been intended for adults.

Not that Alison Tyler is alone in this understanding.  She’s managed to find more than two-dozen authors who share her kinky sense of fun.  In Alison’s Wonderland there are twenty-seven scintillating stories of fairy-tale shenanigans to set your red shoes tapping and make you wonder what might happen if you go down to the woods today. 

It should be noted here that, in excess of 100,000 words, Alison’s Wonderland is the largest collection of erotic stories that Alison Tyler has ever published.  It should also be noted that this one, possibly more than any other, contains some of the most celebrated names in the world of erotic fiction.

The collection opens with Nikki Magennis’s “The Red Shoes (Redux).”  Nikki Magennis is the author of Circus Excite and The New Rakes, and far too many short stories for me to list here.  “The Red Shoes (Redux)” is characteristic of her style for making the commonplace uncommonly sexy, and delivering sultry, poetic prose. 

This is quickly followed by Shanna Germain’s “Fools Gold”: a clever riff on the old story of “Rumpelstiltskin,” and Sommer Marsden’s witty re-imagining of a classic story with “The Three Billys.” Germain writes raw sex appeal that consistently excites and satisfies.  Marsden excels at blending humour and hedonism in this contemporary revisit to classical territory.  Both authors contribute to the superb quality of this collection and make it easy to brand the book as unputdownable.

The fairy queen in Portia Da Costa’s “Unveiling His Muse” reminds us that Da Costa has always had a command of short fiction despite her recent years producing novels.  In “Unveiling His Muse” she combines narrative and sexual tension to an incredible erotic effect.

And, in “Managers and Mermen,” Donna George Storey (author of Amorous Woman and innumerable erotic shorts) shows that she possesses an unrivalled mastery of erotic fantasy. 

This collection is a have-to-have anthology for every connoisseur of erotic fiction.  The table of contents reads like a who’s who of contemporary erotic writing and the quality of the stories in unsurpassable.  If you don’t already own Alison’s Wonderland, rush out and buy the book now.  This is one that you’re going to treasure for a long, long time as you enjoy your happily ever afters.





Amorous WomanAmorous Woman
By: Donna George Storey
Orion Publishing
ISBN: 1905619170
August, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

My knowledge of Japanese culture has never extended much beyond sushi, karaoke and bukake, and all three of those leave a fishy taste in my mouth. I suppose it’s my own fault for choosing to sing tracks from "The Little Mermaid" when I go to a local karaoke night.

In my youth I did once think of visiting Japan. I was going to go with a girlfriend but we eventually decided against the plan because she was a large lady. A very large lady. The main worry that stopped us from going was the fear that, as soon as her elephantine feet started clomping through central Tokyo, the Japanese authorities might mistake her for Godzilla and start shooting at her with tanks.

That relationship didn’t work out for three reasons. She kept saying I was insensitive to her weight issues and she claimed I never listened to what she was saying. I can’t remember if she told me the third reason.

But, I only mention these points to show that my knowledge of Japan had never stretched much further than bukake and Godzilla. (Please note that reference there was to Godzilla AND bukake as two separate events – not Godzilla performing or receiving bukake, which would be surreal at best and possibly a little disconcerting. Although it might suggest the terror in the actors’ eyes when they all screamed, “Godzilla is coming! Godzilla is coming!”)

However, Donna George Storey’s Amorous Woman has helped me bridge some of my ignorance of all things Eastern.

For those of you who follow erotic fiction, the name of Donna George Storey will already be familiar. Donna is a mistress in the art of the short story and has been in more anthologies than the word copyright. Donna’s shorts are renowned for being hot, exciting and invariably blend intelligent storytelling with sexually arousing subject matter. Amorous Woman is Donna’s first novel length exploration of erotic fiction.

And it’s a bloody good read.

For those of you who don’t know Donna, she is a talented American author who has always had a penchant for Japanese culture. This affection comes across powerfully in Amorous Woman, a story that has its roots passionately thrust into Japan’s civilised heritage. The amorous woman of the novel’s title is an inter-textual reference to Ihara Saikaku’s seventeenth century fantasies of a Japanese courtesan-turned-nun. Donna brings this story up to date with her protagonist (Lydia) who isn’t quite a courtesan but is a long way from being a nun.

The first thing that struck me about this book is the fact that the author is maddeningly clever. The eloquence of Donna’s writing matches the elegant style of Japanese culture (as it is probably perceived by those who aren’t boorish bukake/karaoke/Godzilla louts). As I mentioned before, I’ve previously encountered Donna’s work in her wonderful short stories. Amorous Woman is similarly presented in a series of short and manageable chapters which, despite their brevity, are each exciting, arousing and carry the narrative along with startling swiftness.

And it’s definitely a narrative worth pursuing. Lydia, teaches Japanese culture to American businessmen. Lydia knows her subject inside and out. And Lydia enjoys teaching and learning. The story begins when Lydia is indulging in a little tsukiai, the Japanese custom of bonding over drinks after work, with two of her American businessmen students. As she relates her intimate history to them, we get to learn about some of this remarkable heroine’s fantastic adventures.

The central theme of this Bildungsroman story is maturation and the passing of innocence to experience. Donna cleverly works this tale so we can see her heroine maturing, but we’re always wondering if she has finally grown up.

As I said before, Amorous Woman is beautifully executed. The text is accessible and easy to read, but it carefully mimics the ritualised politeness of so many familiar elements of Japanese culture. From the carefully worded section headers, ("A Dancing Girl of Easy Virtue," "A Monk’s Wife in a City of Worldly Temptations" and "Lusts of Learned Men" – to name three of my favourites) to the skilfully recreated scenes of passion (there are too many of these to name favourites) the inherent politeness of the Orient is effortlessly woven throughout the fabric of this enchanting story. The end result is as exquisitely economical with words as the most well-written haiku; as cultured and civilised as the most ritualised tea ceremony; and as satisfying as the most gifted geisha.

Lydia’s progression from naive student, to experienced sensei is carefully catalogued and, although Donna clearly knows her Japanese culture, there is never one place where she leaves the reader behind or patronises with her skilfully worded translation for an unfamiliar term.
If your knowledge of Japanese culture could do with a little stretching, or if you simply enjoy well-written erotica, you won’t go far wrong with meeting this “Amorous Woman.”





Aphrodite OverboardAphrodite Overboard
By: R. V. Raiment
Velluminous Press
ISBN: 1905605048
April, 2006





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Sex and the sea have always had a strong association with each other, and not just because of the fishy smell.

I went on a cruise recently and I have to admit there was something inherently arousing about the whole experience. I’d watched "Titanic" before embarking on the journey. Watching apposite disaster movies before travelling is a superstitious ritual that I perform before trying any new form of transportation. I’ll sit through "Final Destination Two" before I go on a long car journey. I have to watch "Cast Away" (for the aeroplane scene) before I take a flight. And I needed to watch "Titanic" before I set foot onboard our holiday cruise liner.

And the movie turned out to be an informative experience. I learnt that the correct term for my accommodation was “steerage.” I played that game Kate Winslett taught to Leonardo DiCaprio (where you spit on the heads of people walking on lower decks) and thought it was a little like “Pooh Sticks” but with phlegm and irate sailors.

And I discovered that the reality of the sea is just as sexy as its Hollywood and fictional counterparts. Obviously "Titanic" was a sexy movie (Kate Winslett spits, Leonardo DiCaprio goes down, etc) all of which is only mentioned for cheap gags and to confirm my original assertion that the sea and ocean travel are incredibly sexy.

Which is probably why R.V. Raiment starts Aphrodite Overboard on a boat. There are few things more sexually exciting than the anticipation of travel, the thrill of exploring new shores, and the old world charm that comes from using such an anachronistic mode of transportation.

Technically, Aphrodite Overboard doesn’t actually start onboard a boat. The framed narrative presents the manuscript as having been found in the bottom of a sea chest, the personal memoirs of Susanna, Lady F, offered to the reader by one of the protagonist’s forebears. But the story proper begins in Chapter the First, when Susanna encounters “an ugly little man and an ugly little ship.” And, as this beginning sets the stylish tone for the remainder of the narrative, it seems appropriate to mention the nautical theme.

Not that Aphrodite Overboard is all about sailors and seamen. The first chapter includes a ship going down, Susanna getting rescued, Susanna going down, and then Susanna finding refuge on an idyllic tropical island. Which is where her adventures really start.

And I really have to ask at this point: what’s not to love about this book?

There is something innately endearing about the style of a Victorian novel. Usually, the inherent charm comes from learning to hear the distinctive timbre of the narrator’s voice and that’s an absolute delight with this story. The pleasure of that artifice is invariably compounded in erotic novels of that period as the reader is politely introduced to the very unvictorian concept of the characters possessing genitalia and daring to break societal protocols by doing things with them. And, R.V. Raiment has kept true to the period language in this story by chatting freely about bubbies, cunnies and manhoods.

That last sentence is probably a little misleading. R.V. Raiment doesn’t “chat freely” about those various parts of the anatomy. Each time Susanna refers to a cunny or a manhood, R.V Raiment has written the prose so eloquently you can almost hear those forbidden words being whispered naughtily from behind a discreet hand covering the lips of his narrator. It is probably this secretly prurient voice that lends the story its authentic feel and inescapable charm.

Now, call me old fashioned and remind me I need to get a life but, if I was ever sad enough to compile a list of my favourite words, “cunnie” would be somewhere near the top. Compared to its contemporarily more popular etymological cousin, “cunnie” lacks the harsh and vulgar sound of “cunt.” Cunnie is almost sufficiently twee and inoffensive to be the name a small child would give to a pet hamster.

“I had two hamsters as a child: Bubbies and Cunnie.” (Actually, this isn’t true. My pet hamsters were called Funbags and Minge, but I’m sure I would have been a happier pet owner if they had been called Bubbies and Cunnie.)

None of which has much to do with Aphrodite Overboard but I mention it because the language in this book is so thoroughly entertaining.

As I said before, R V Raiment has cleverly packaged this epistolary tale as the fresh found memoirs of a long lost grandparent. Susanna’s manuscript is filled with the typical twists and turns of the Victorian novel. But the work is written by a contemporary author with more than enough wit and style to keep the narrative interesting and compelling for a modern day reader. The sex scenes are arousing and extremely well written. Even as the story progresses toward its denouement, and the bump-and-grind should have become dull or commonplace, Susanna’s distinctive voice maintains the shocked innocence and wonder that seems quite proper for the tone of this time period.

The story opens with Susanna’s own introduction to her memoirs:

“I begin, knowing that what I write may never be read…”

I only repeat this line because I think it would be a terrible shame for any aficionado of the eloquence and artistry of Victorian erotica to not read Aphrodite Overboard.





Baby Got Back: Anal EroticaBaby Got Back: Anal Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449628
September 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Q: What’s the difference between oral sex and anal sex?
A: Oral sex can make your day. But anal sex can make your whole week.

OK. I know it’s an old gag. But it still makes me smile. And I reiterate it here because this anthology, depending on how quickly you read, is likely to make your whole week. Maybe even your whole month.

The book comes from Cleis Press – market leaders in producing well-written erotica for discerning readers. The book has been edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel – an editor who knows how to collate, edit and balance a collection of dedicated erotic fiction. And the content has been written by some of the most respected names in current erotic writing, including DL King, Tenille Brown, Emerald, Erobintica, Thomas S Roche and Laura Antoniou (amongst many others).

Ordinarily I’d dip between stories in an anthology and share a little from this one and a little from another. But, rather than spoil any surprises, I thought it would be more appropriate to consider a single story. Randomly, I selected ‘Everybody Knows’ by Giselle Renarde.

You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?

That’s me, sitting on this faux-velvet seat, smelling like come and feeling so conspicuous I could hang myself. The scent doesn’t go away. It sticks to your hair, doesn’t it? And your skin.

Sex is in my aura, gossiping with other passengers, telling them things that aren’t true. I’m not a slut or a whore, though I’ve been called those names too many times to count.

There’s a guy all in black standing by the doors. I know he’s looking at me while I pretend to read subway posters. Every so often, I glance his way, really subtly, catching outlines of his bulky body. I imagine shouting, “What are you staring at, motherfucker?” but I second-guess myself. Maybe he’s not looking at me. Maybe I’m wrong. Hey, it happens.

I loved this opening. Renarde’s narrator is directly addressing me, the reader, which suggests an elevated level of intimacy – ideal for a story that touches on the elevated levels of intimacy associated with anal erotica. The characters are well-drawn. The backstory, although only present in allusion, is lingering here from the opening lines. “You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?”
The quality of the writing continues to excite and intrigue. This is a description of Asher, being observed by our narrator Stephanie:

There’s so much pain in his storm-gray eyes. He’s huge, and still he seems beaten down, like the world won’t stop trampling him. I don’t really know what to say, or how to make him feel better, so I kiss him.

He pulls away, and I feel like an ass.

My heart is pounding in my ears, and I stare at the swirls of chocolate sauce on my fancy-ass latte. I always move too fast with guys. I jump in with both feet—except with Yaro and Mike.

Renarde is setting us up for a delightful anal romp later in the story and the cues are all here. More importantly, we get a convincing sense of Asher, with the storm-gray eyes and beaten down by a world that won’t stop trampling him. Even that unemotional refusal of Stephanie’s kiss makes this character compelling and vivid and wholly believable.

Then there’s the sex.

His skin tastes like anxiety. It’s a vibration between us. I wish I knew how to put him at ease, but I don’t so I keep sucking his fingers until his breath grows shallow and his eyes burn dark.

He pulls his fingers from between my lips and kisses me. Now I’m the one who can’t breathe. I always imagined him kissing me softly, but this isn’t soft. He cups the back of my head in one big hand and crushes my mouth with his. I can’t catch my breath. His tongue is battling mine.

There’s a warmth in my belly and it moves down my thighs as Asher backs me into his bedroom. He’s neat and tidy and he doesn’t smell bad, and I love that about him. I love everything about him.

“His skin tastes like anxiety.” There’s poetry in this description that elevates this writing from above the mechanical to something that reminds us that sex is a revered act. Renarde’s narrator describes intimacy with the skill of an expert storyteller who has gained the trust of the reader with an honest and credible voice from the opening lines.

The standard of writing through this anthology remains consistently high. The focus on anal intercourse is made clear in the title and subtitle. And each writer delivers content that is exciting, competently presented and a pleasure to read.



Bare Throat Naked HungerBare Throat Naked Hunger
By: Paige Roberts
Midnight Showcase
ISBN: 1555-5495
April 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The metaphoric symbolism of werewolves and vampires has been analysed to oblivion by contemporary society.  Werewolves, with their monthly cycle of personality changes and their ability to transform into something unrecognisable, represent the dilemma of being human yet still behaving like an animal.  Vampires, defined by a love of the night, an exchange of bodily fluids, and an aversion to religious symbolism, represent the attractive freedom offered by sexual irresponsibility.  Consequently, it should come as no surprise that when these archetypical characters appear in the same work of fiction, conflict ensues.

Maybe it’s because I’m a dog lover but I can’t bring myself to dislike werewolves.  Even when a werewolf is ripping out a virgin’s throat in a movie, I still keep thinking, “He’s just being a bit playful.  Tap him lightly on the nose and tell him, if he keeps doing that, he won’t get any Scooby Snacks.  Then give him a tummy rub and see if he’s got a waggy tail.” 

Vampires are another thing.  Vampires embody excitement and sexual freedom.  In erotic horror they epitomise the lust in blood lust.  In contemporary horror fiction it’s easy to see the threat presented by the vampire is analogous to the danger of sexual irresponsibility.  Fuck without a condom and the exchange of bodily fluids endangers the frailty of human mortality.  Fuck with a vampire and run a similar risk of personal catastrophe. 

So, what happens when vampires and werewolves come together in the same story?

Well, in “Peacemaker,” the first story in Paige E Roberts’ Bare Throat, Naked Hunger, the conflict seems pretty well established before the start of the story.  “Peacemaker”begins in media res, with a protagonist werewolf trying to get away from the human and non-human animals in the concrete jungle, to return to more familiar turf with plenty of trees and she-wolves.  What starts as a simple tale of boy meets girl (or dog meets bitch) is complicated by the arrival of werewolf hunters.  The potential relationship is further jeopardised when the hero discovers that the she-wolf of his dreams is also part vampire.

Bare Throat, Naked Hunger is efficiently written and should please fans of erotic paranormal fantasy fiction.  Paige E Roberts is able to expand on the established vampire and werewolf myths and build fantasy worlds that are richly coloured and multi-layered and cry out to be explored further.  In fact, if I had to make one criticism against this book, it would be that all of the stories left me wanting more.  This is not to say that Roberts’ stories are not complete, or lack sufficient elements of horror or eroticism.  This is my way of saying that each story in this anthology could have been the first chapter for a novella or novel.  Roberts creates entire mythological universes, builds characters that fit within these unreal environments, and introduces the reader to one small aspect of their world. 

This is illustrated most strongly in “Peacemaker,” where the tribes of skinwalkers (werewolves) are introduced to the reader, along with their history and the bleak outlook for their future.  After such an immense creative effort in building this fantasy universe, Roberts could have expanded on this story to produce an epic work that explored more corners of this universe. 

A similar criticism could be made against “In Service Immortal,” the second story in this anthology.  “In Service Immortal” is the tale of a simple man and his devotion to a very special monarch.  The symbolism of mythic fantasy and vampirism is skilfully worked into the narrative.  The story is effective, erotic and entertaining.  And, again, it would have stood well as the first chapter in a much longer story. 

If Paige E Roberts wrote this anthology with the intention of leaving readers hungry for more, Bare Throat, Naked Hunger is an absolute success. 



Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic StoriesBasketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Stories
By: Richard Higgins
Renaissance E Books
ISBN:






Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The phrase “good editor” is something of an oxymoron.  It’s a little like saying “honest lawyer” or “rap music.”  The two words just don’t sit naturally together and, when they are combined, they produce something that clearly cannot be true. 

Not that I’m trying to say all editors are bad. 

I’m sure not all of them are into sacrificing baby goats, deflowering virgins, painting bloody pentagrams on consecrated ground or demanding first-born children.  DLK at Erotica Revealed is surprisingly charming for an editor and I’ve never once seen her involved in a satanic ritual invoking diabolical forces in her attempt to claim mastery of the universe’s blackest powers. 

I’ve not seen that once.

Yet many of the editors I’ve worked with have had sides to their personalities that are most kindly described as maniacally evil.  The merciless way I’ve had copy butchered; the masochistic manner in which royalty cheques have been withheld, lost or neglected; and the downright deviant exploitation of my naïve authorial innocence has invariably been exacerbated through my contact with editors.

And it’s not just my personal experiences that make me think editors have a sinister influence on our society.  Hitler only turned into a scum-sucking piece of evil sputum after writing Mein Kampf.  I’d wager, if that book had been published without an editor, Hitler would have simply continued a banal existence as a petty criminal, bad moustache-grower, and mediocre house painter.  However, through his contact with an editor, he went on to form The Third Reich

Spiderman’s arch nemeses usually have the full support of newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson.  Is that a coincidence?  I don’t think so. 

Clark Kent had to endure the orders of that despicably evil fucker Perry White.  (I’m aware that most readers don’t perceive Perry White to be inherently evil but I can foresee a long-ranging story arc that shows he is either Beelzebub or the Son of Satan.  How else could you explain his recovery from lung cancer?)

But, as I (hopefully) mentioned earlier, not all editors are evil.  Some of them (especially those I’ve worked with over the past few months) are wonderful, charming people and it’s been an honour to work with them.  And, while the phrase “good editor” does remain something of an oxymoron, I have to use it here: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Stories could have used the services of a good editor.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this book.  In the tradition of the Victorian erotic novel it contains short stories from a distinctly male perspective that would make a contemporary feminist want to burn her pubes in protest.  The writing is conversational in style but the plot exposition is so belaboured and obvious it’s often hard to engage interest with the fiction.  Whilst going through this book I found myself reading on because the writing had the ghoulish appeal of driving past a car wreck.  I didn’t have any real desire to know what was going on but some twisted and macabre need inside me compelled me to keep looking.
This extract from “Checkmate” illustrates what I mean.

Daisy took me by the hand and said, ‘Come, my dear, over to the bed. The floor is too hard. You know what I want. And I’ve wanted it for a long while. The arguments I initiated with you were just a pretense. I wanted you all along, but I didn’t want to make Hazel feel bad. I have been pretending to be indifferent to you.’
‘Well, the feeling has been mutual with me.’ I said. ‘Our arguments were superficial and really a kind of sexual expression.’”

Checkmate also contains a layman’s introduction to the game of chess, the sort of anecdotal sexual description one would expect from a drunken college student who’s trying to disprove accusations of virginity, and dialogue (as illustrated above) that is so wooden it could give splinters to Pinnochio. 
But it’s not just the dialogue that makes this book so special.  The description of sexual intimacy is one of the key factors in erotic fiction.  Any decent author of erotica, with or without the help of a good editor, can produce intense scenes of passion that balance graphic description with literary integrity. This is part of what follows the previous extract from “Checkmate”.

Daisy gripped me with her vaginal muscles and treated me to a round of snapping pussy. She was good and I came off deliciously. She enjoyed a strong orgasm and, shuddering, she blacked out.”

The eponymous heroine of Basketball Bonnie is named Basketball Bonnie not because of her interest in recreational sports: “Her marvellous chest inspired her name, although the persons she encountered never called her Basketball Bonnie to her face.” 

As I said before: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Short Stories is not a bad book.  It’s just not one I could honestly recommend, except to illustrate how one should not write fiction – erotic or otherwise.  The writing has the feel of Victorian erotica with all the wordy, conversational and misogynistic humour one would expect from that period.  It’s easy to consider such a style dated in this age of equality, tight-writing, subtlety and authorial competence but it would be wrong of me to suggest that this book was past its sell-by-date before it hit the shelves.  It just needed the services of a good editor. 

I also think the involvement of a competent author might have helped.





Beating About the BushBeating About the Bush
Camel Caravan Press
ISBN: B006QZ7FOC
December 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Beating About the Bush can’t seem to decide whether it’s trying to be amusing or erotic or a combination of both. Whichever it’s aiming for it didn’t quite work for me on any level.

But don’t just take my word for this. Here’s a sample from the introduction:

“OK, listen. The tension created by the Foreplayers [sic] innovative writing style gives rise to an array of multi-faceted characters and story-lines not usually associated with an erotic novel. Readers will be as surprised as authors Luscious Lorraine, Temptress Theo, Sultry Shelley and Juicy June, by the outcome of Beating about the Bush.”
“Can’t you just say we’re four nymphettes who team up to write a racy novel?”
“But we’re real authors, with book, magazine and newspaper credentials…”
“Credentials? Excuse me Luscious, but what kind of credentials do readers want?

The idea behind this book sounded like a lot of fun. The writing is not all bad. As evinced above, the authors claim to have credentials in book, magazine and newspaper publishing. But this project needed an editor to oversee the production of the pages and collate the thoughts of four disparate authors into a cohesive whole.

That, I feel, is what’s missing.

Erotica is an unforgiving medium. It takes little more than a dangling modifier or a missed apostrophe and the reader is torn from the suggested physicality of the fictional world to the reminder that they’re reading a fiction. Do this two or three times in a novel and the reader won’t want to return to the author’s writing. Do this two or three times on a page and the reader or reviewer won’t bother finishing the title.

Here’s another example:

Small talk seemed unwise. She was no longer in the land of, change-the-subject-and-we’ll-forget-the-whole-thing. What land this was she was not quite sure, but one thing she did know - George was a whole new species. A picture of him standing in the middle of the Stock Exchange floor flashed in her mind’s eye. It was George, in colour, surrounded by a hushed, staring mob of traders; all of them ex-lovers, all in black-and-white. It was a visual interpretation of what her intuition already knew – don’t mess with George in Georgeland – at least not with the old rules.

As the outer perimeter of The Lodge came into view, Sam’s apprehension faded, and her cadence relaxed. George however, maintained his pace and left her in his wake.

They went their separate ways, stretching an invisible thread that connected their libidos under the heading, ‘A Challenge’. Their groins pulsed in unison as they each sought their separate relief. Sam headed for her room where a bubbly bath caressed not only her ripe clit, but also her diabolic desire to domesticate, and then discard her new prey.

I recently read an article about the invisibility of editors. In some ways it was saddening to think that all the hard work of an editor goes relatively unnoticed. But the truth is it doesn’t go unnoticed. For me, the absence of an editor on Beating About the Bush is consistently apparent.

Am I being harsh? Yes. Quite possibly – and I apologise to the authors if I’m coming across as a bitch. I know how much work goes into producing a full length work of fiction and it looked like a lot of time and imagination had been invested in this piece. But for me, I thought it needed those finishing touches that would be provided by having an editor work on the MS and transform it into a cohesive whole.

Obviously this is just one reviewer’s opinion and I’m sure others will get lots of the intended pleasure that was envisioned when the Foreplayers began Beating About the Bush. But I can’t honestly recommend this title to anyone looking for well-written erotica.





Best Bondage Erotica 2012Best Bondage Erotica 2012
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447544
December 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Best Bondage Erotica 2012 is a sizzling collection of twenty one exciting, erotic bondage stories from a plethora of talented authors.  Familiar names include the incredible Elizabeth Coldwell, the wonderful Kay Jaybee and the sensational Teresa Noelle Roberts.

It’s a superb collection that contains something for everyone from those who are new to the idea of bondage through to those who are seasoned professionals with a length of rope and a willing partner.

This is from “Melting Ice” by Shoshanna Evers.

Amanda stripped off her slacks and cotton button-down blouse, kicking off her low heels. Sitting tucked away in her underwear drawer was her favorite toy: a pink dildo with rolling beads in the perfect place, and an attached clit vibrator that looked like a bunny, the long bunny ears buzzing to life and the entire dildo rotating enticingly as she flicked on the wireless remote, checking the batteries. She shut it off. Save it, she thought. For the bondage.

There was no need for lube; she was so wet the length of the dildo slid inside her easily even as it stretched her. Next she pulled her tightest jeans over her naked cunt, trapping the vibrator in place against her flesh. Holding the grey wireless remote in her hand, she brought it with the handcuffs over to the bed.

Amanda in this story is eager to experiment with solitary bondage. Not knowing Evers as a writer, and because this story is first in the book, I thought there was an air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with the narrative. To me, it felt like the same air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with any bondage encounter.

Is this going to end well? Will Amanda be safe and satisfied? Rather than answering those questions and spoiling the tension of the story, it’s enough for me to say I shall now be looking out for more of Evers’s work.

This is from “Cumaná” by Helen Sedgwick.

First he lifted my left hand. I felt rope tighten against my skin. He pulled my arm up to the top corner of the bed, securing it somehow. I held out my other hand obediently, and he guided it toward the other corner, fastening more of the rope around my wrist. I lay there, waiting, tensing against the knots that secured my hands above my head. One by one he took my ankles and pointed my feet to the corners of the bed, spreading my legs wide open. Moving slowly, deliberately, he tied them down. I strained against the rope, but it was tight. He made no sounds, no more movements. My heart was racing.

Aside from illustrating the exquisite quality of writing, both these examples show that the core appeal to bondage is the relinquishment of control. Bondage is about an embracement of helplessness. Bondage is an investment in the trust of a sexual partner to deliver satisfaction. This is a recurrent concept illustrated in the following example from Valerie Alexander’s “Insurrection.”

I waited breathlessly for it then. Instead he walked around me, studying my body. Then he pulled up my bottoms, untied my wrists and tossed my bikini top at me, walking away before I’d even put it on. I showed up at his cottage that night and begged him to fuck me. Begged for real for the very first time, shameless, desperate and horny.

He’d just shrugged and smiled like sure, he’d do me a favor, and tied my hands behind my back. Then he pushed me face first into his sofa, lifted up my miniskirt, and fucked me from behind while I bucked and screamed with the hardest orgasm of my life.

And the theme of control is illustrated equally well in the psychological bondage demonstrated in Billey Thorunn’s excellent story “Pawns.”

She was his for two hours. No quickly checking her email, no getting a glass of water, no nothing without his permission or instruction.

So now she was in the kitchen, wearing red patent-leather pumps and a checkered blue apron over a clingy black teddy. She’d done up her makeup as she would if she was “getting slutty to go out,” and Gabriel had done her hair that morning, standing in front of her while she lay on her back in bed. He’d pushed into both her and the mattress, back and forth until he came, leaving both her hair and the sheets sweaty and disheveled.

Every story in this collection is hot, passionate and exciting. Each of them explores a facet of bondage in a way that makes the whole idea of sexual torment and restriction sound irresistible and appealing. For anyone who has never experimented with the thrill of restraint, this collection of stories provides a taste of every risk you’ve been missing.

In the foreword to this book, Midori asks:

But what’s life if not lived with some risk? Behind every reason for avoidance of erotic adventure and sensual fulfillment lies fear. What do you fear? Does the thought of unbridled pleasure frighten you?

If the thought of unbridled pleasure does frighten you, then avoid this book at all costs. If however, you’re intrigued by the prospect of relinquishing control and enduring unbridled pleasure, Best Bondage Erotica 2012 could be the ideal way to start the New Year.



Best Bondage Erotica 2015Best Bondage Erotica 2015
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780890
February 2015





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Left to my thoughts, my arousal subsides some when I think about how close my body is to where the chairs are placed. The table is rather small; all they would have to do is reach over slightly to touch me. I am chained up, completely adorned, and any number of men are coming to sit at the table that I am the centrepiece of. He has bound almost every part of my body.

My anus and nipples burn but the feeling spreading through my body from those places is amazing. I feel like I am on fire in the best possible way. If the gag weren’t in my mouth, they would hear my harsh pants when they arrive. I remind myself to breathe slow and steady.

“The Centrepiece”, Erin Spillane

From reading the title it would look like there are three good reasons to purchase a copy of Best Bondage Erotica 2015

The foremost reason for making this purchase is that it’s erotica – and erotica is always worth purchasing. It’s a genre of fiction that depends, for success, on arousing a physical response from readers through the descriptive passages of text. There is no other genre that does this as effectively as erotica.

Secondly, and probably of equal importance to the first point, the book focuses on bondage.  If you’re going to have a sexual deviance, bondage is currently in vogue thanks to the alleged BDSM undertones of Fifty Shades of Grey. (This is not to detract from the pleasures of bondage by associating it with that particular book.  If someone asked me whether I’d rather be tied up and violently fucked, or read FOSG again, I’d be holding out my wrists and offering to share my knowledge on knots).

Thirdly, and again of equal importance to the other points, this collection showcases talents that are rightly presented as THE BEST.  This is why the book is called Best Bondage Erotica 2015.

Christie stared at the hook in her skin, clenching tight to Mac’s hand, watching the man slide the shiny curve into position in the freshly pierced hunk of flesh before moving on. She came back to herself after a moment, looking around as if she’d just woken, her whole body tingling with a mix of pain and excitement.

“Doll,” Mac leaned in, “are you okay?”

“I…” Christie watched, rapt, as the other attendant did the same, popping the hook through her skin so she was symmetrical again.

“You what?”

Christie looked at him, a slow smile spreading over her face, a tightness spooling in her chest, identical to the winding beginnings of arousal. She bit her lip and fought the urge to grind her naked cunt against the plastic-covered seat. “I thought there’d be more blood, that’s all.”

“In Suspense”, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

Best Bondage Erotica 2015 contains lots of familiar authors as well as a handful of names that are less familiar. Once again it shows that, when Cleis chooses to do something properly, they can do it very well. The book also pushes boundaries with some very daring choices that move mainstream erotica up to the next level.

Someone raised his hand. “Four thousand!” the auctioneer said, pointing into the darkness beyond the lights. “Do I hear forty-five? Forty-four?”

More slaps against poor Sheila’s cunt. “Forty-four! Do I hear forty-five? Listen to those screams, folks. That could be yours! Forty-five! Forty-six?”

Sheila’s body was quivering, shaking from her sobs, but she stayed put.

Mistress Anna stopped her whipping, looked out toward the audience. She reached to Sheila’s upheld breast and wiped her finger across it. She held it up to the crowd, wet from Sheila’s tears, and placed her finger in her own mouth, tasting it. She seductively drew the finger from her lips. She lowered her hand to Sheila’s crotch, and showed her finger to the crowd again. It was glistening wet. Now she licked it, tongue extended, not taking it into her mouth this time. She stepped behind Sheila, and whipped her across her ass, hard, harder than she’d whipped either her tits or cunt. Sheila cried out accordingly, a loud, open mouthed moan, with her hands still supporting her breasts.

“It’s five or nothing, ladies and gentlemen,” the auctioneer said, and hands went up. “Five!

Do I hear fifty-five hundred?”

“Auction, In Quotation Marks”, LN Bey

If you love erotica, good writing and bondage this is the title you need to buy.





Best Lesbian Erotica 09Best Lesbian Erotica 09
Edited By: Tristan Taormino
Contributions By: Selected and introduced by Joan Larkin
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443352
December 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Best Lesbian Erotica ’09 is to be the final collection of lesbian-focused erotica to come from under Tristan Taormino’s editorship.  Taormino founded the Best Lesbian Erotica series back in 1995 and has repeatedly thrilled readers with short stories from a collection of gifted writers who can best be described as world-class.  Best Lesbian Erotica ’09 is no exception and, once again, she presents an anthology of stories that are hot, heady and filled with all the thrills that readers have come to expect.

The anthology kicks off with Jean Casse’s splendid story “The Virgin of G.”  “The Virgin of G” explores a relationship between a couple from different religious backgrounds.  Ordinarily religion can drive a couple apart but Jean Casse uses it in this vibrant and vivid story to bring her protagonists closer together.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Velvet” is a wicked tale of attraction and satisfaction at a software convention.  Lisabet has the ability to bring her characters to life and present them in glorious and rich detail.  This story of headhunting, seduction and burgeoning romance is as typically exquisite as is to be expected from the divine Lisabet.

The inimitable Shanna Germain, “On Snow-White Wings,” is equally capable when it comes to pushing all the right buttons.  “On Snow-White Wings” is the bittersweet story of love found and lost and replaced by hope.  Powerful writing.

Jean Roberta does not usually approach her erotic scenes in a way that can be described as “gingerly.”  However, with her excellent story, “The Placement of Modifiers,” it’s fair to use that word as a vague description without giving too much away.

Teresa Noelle Roberts’, “Tough Enough to Wear a Dress,” reveals a tender story that remains hot and horny whilst addressing the artificial differences we all employ through our choice of clothes. 

The thing that always startles me with these collections is that they are such an undiscovered talent of treasure.  I have had many friends say to me, “Why are you reading a book of lesbian erotica when you’re not a lesbian?”  (NB – They don’t use these exact words.  I’m paraphrasing for the sake of clarity).

Most of the people I’ve encountered (that is, those people who haven’t read any of the Best Lesbian Erotica anthologies) assume that the stories within are either a collection of lurid masturbatory fantasies or a canon of extreme feminist propaganda.

The truth is, the Best Lesbian Erotica series is (and has always been) a collection of outstanding stories told by outstanding storytellers.  It’s true that the focus is on lesbian relationships and the erotic content is invariably arousing.  It’s also true that the stories lend themselves to positive feminist criticism because the absence of traditional male roles in these erotic stories leads to a direct usurpation of the stereotypical male taking over his supreme position in the narrative’s patriarchal hegemony.  But that doesn’t mean the anthologies are nothing more than lurid sex stories.  And no honest connoisseur of these collections could dismiss them as pro-feminist propaganda.

If you’re unfamiliar with Best Lesbian Erotica, rush out now and order your copy.  If you are familiar with the series, convert a friend by buying them the latest edition.  Good storytelling is always an absolute.  Good storytelling transgresses the arbitrary conventions of typical gender roles.  Best Lesbian Erotica ‘09 shows exactly what good storytelling looks like.

There is an awful lot contained within the pages of Best Lesbian Erotica ’09.  This is a wonderful collection of girl-on-girl stories that will warm the winter for every reader and start 2009 with a very enjoyable bang.  The only problem I can see is that Taormino has raised the bar pretty high for when Kathleen Warnock takes over this series with Best Lesbian Erotica ’10.





Best of Best Women's Erotica 2Best of Best Women's Erotica 2
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443794
February 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since Marcy Sheiner published the first Best of Best Women’s Erotica.  “Best of the Best” is one hell of an accolade to foist upon anyone’s shoulders and I honestly don’t envy Violet Blue having to judge which stories from the Best Women’s Erotica series should be placed in the compilation title Best of Best Women’s Erotica.  Yet Ms Blue has managed this task with style and aplomb and I can’t see any stories in this collection that don’t deserve such elevated praise.

The collection is prefaced by a highly personal introduction from the editor, which is as arousing and well-paced as any of the stories included.  It then moves onto Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Animals”: a tour-de-force encounter that celebrates the physicality of sex in a powerhouse rush of literate erotica.  This is followed by Kristina Wright’s “Call Me,” an obscene phone call that successfully uses dialogue to impart conflicting ideals of taboo-breaking and arousal.  And then there’s Teresa Noelle Roberts’ “Voice of an Angel” which imbues a deliciously unreal sexuality and passion to baroque opera.

I could go on, listing author after author, and producing an incredibly dull review that is the antithesis to an incredibly exciting collection.  Instead, I want to focus on two stories that highlight the diversity of this anthology whilst illustrating its phenomenal power to consistently arouse.  The titles are “Heat” by Elizabeth Coldwell, and  “Chill” by Kathleen Bradean.

“Heat” is a story of sultry, smoldering passions.  Coldwell writes with graphic intensity that hurtles the reader toward the satisfying conclusion of this sweat-fuelled fantasy.  The simmering tension between the central characters is exemplified by the following extract:

When I think of Ian, I think of heat.  The heat of the sticky days of summer and sweaty sheets.  The heat of the flame that draws in the moth.  The heat of passion, and shame.  I think of that sultry August night, and the things he did tome, and I still hate him—and I still want him.

Coldwell’s story is written to inflame.  The story produces a warmth of welcome arousal as well as the uncomfortable glow of embarrassment.  It’s an erotic encounter that many will find reminiscent of tasting forbidden fruits: a discovery that the flavor is so delicious it should be forbidden.

This contrasts with Bradean’s treatment of arousal in “Chill.”  Here the story dwells on a single and uncommon fetish.  The fetish, as suggested by the title, includes an extensive use of ice cubes and an emotional distancing that enhances the story’s powerful premise.

It wasn’t healthy, this thing, this need.  I’d go for months without it, and then I’d be on the phone with a client, or at dinner with friends, and I’d yearn for the cold.  Thinking about it would make my breasts ache.  I’d cross and uncross my legs, and fidget in my chair.  Sometimes, I’d take an ice cube from my drink, put it into my mouth, and excuse myself to the ladies room, where I’d rub the cube against my clit until I came.  Then I’d smooth down my clothes and take my seat, and no one would ever guess.  But it was never a really good orgasm.  It was a shadow, a knockoff, a little something to see me through.

Bradean’s use of language is as cold and clinical as the fetish that drives her protagonist.  The story employs such intense description it blends the heat of arousal with the chill of the fetish, accumulating in unprecedented peaks and troughs of physicality.

And I mention these two stories because they show the perfect balance Violet Blue has achieved in this anthology—selecting stories that can warm the reader, or chill them to the core—without losing sight of the focus that these stories are written to arouse.

There are other stories in this collection, and a collection of respected names from the genre including Kristina Lloyd, Donna George Storey and Kay Jaybee, all of whom deserve their place in a collection entitled Best of Best.  If you don’t regularly subscribe to the annual collection of Best Women’s Erotica, you’d be foolish to miss out on the Best of Best Women’s Erotica 2.





Best Women's Erotica 2010Best Women's Erotica 2010
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443735
November 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

According to the introduction of Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica 2010, editing anthologies is a lot like professionally tasting chocolate.  I can embrace this opinion because I’ve worked with some editors who seem equipped with nothing more than the skill to masticate, and most of those types often appear to have a mouth that’s filled with brown stuff. 

Not that all editors are like that.  I can name at least three I’ve worked with who aren’t like that.  Four, if you include Violet Blue with whom I don’t think I’ve worked, but who has always struck me as a dedicated and competent professional.  And Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica 2010 shows (as always) that she is capable of producing a world -class anthology of high octane erotica brimmed to bursting with exciting explicit fiction.

Alison Tyler’s “In a Handbasket” is a witty tale of ostensibly mismatched lovers finally finding each other.  Kay Jaybee’s “Equipment” is a raunchy yarn of one woman switching roles on her partner.  Emerald in “Shift Change” is tempted by an Apple and shows that computer repairs are not always interminable drudgery.  I could go on and praise the abilities of Sommer Marsden, Angela Caperton, Kristina Lloyd or Rachel Kramer Bussel and a host of other sensational authors.  This really is a wonderful anthology of highly-charged stories that are filled with surprises, sex and scintillating scenarios.  

So, call me a curmudgeon, but I always wrinkle my nose with disapproval when I see the words ‘women’s erotica’ on the cover of an anthology.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing else annoying about the title.  The word ‘best’ deserves its place.  The date 2010 (even though I’m reviewing this title at the arse end of 2009) is close enough to be accurate.  But I have to shake my head with dismay at the words “women’s erotica” and wonder if this isn’t an anachronistic holdover from an antiquated age.

As I say, the stories in this anthology deserve the word “best” because they’re all bloody good.  But why do we need to differentiate between ‘women’s erotica’ and other erotica?  (Notice there that I didn’t say “men’s erotica.”  There are no titles out there that I can find that market themselves as ‘men’s erotica.’  There are some books listed as ‘erotica for men’ but that is semantically and pragmatically different.  Presumably the reason there is no ‘men’s erotica’ is because it’s a known fact that men can usually tug off to nothing more erotic than the memory of partially glimpsed underwear in a launderette).  But referring to a collection of world-class erotic stories as “women’s erotica”strikes me as labeling for no good reason. 

In the publishing world it was once commonplace for people to discuss “women’s fiction” as a separate genre.  The term referred disparagingly to romantic stories, usually with ubiquitous purple prose and an obligatory “Happily Ever After.”  The term was seldom used as compliment and even Ms Blue, in her introduction to BWE 2010, suggests that the sight of too much florid euphemism is enough to send her heading to Harlequin HQ with a pitchfork, a can of gasoline and a road flare. Which makes it all the more puzzling as to why the term “women’s erotica” is so warmly embraced. 

Could it be that this collection is only for women?  Admittedly, the possessive ‘s’ in the title would suggest as much (in the same vein as the words women’s clothes in clothing stores and women’s studies in academic disciplines) but I personally think this is unlikely.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading BWE 2010 and I’m guilty of being very male.  I’m so male I drink beer, never go shoe-shopping and drive a Ford with a stick-shift.  That’s how very male I am.  If I had any interest in competitive televised sports I’d be exceptionally male but I can only honestly carry a stereotype so far. 

Admittedly,  the stories in BWE 2010 have all been written by women, but does the author’s gender ever make a difference to the style or quality of the story?  Literary theorist and philosopher Roland Barthes famously said, “the author is dead.”  Barthes assertion has been used predominantly in literary criticism to indicate appraisal of a text from the reader’s interaction solely with the words, rather than a mystical relationship between the reader and the distant (and invariably unknowable) author.  It’s an attitude that makes sense to me.  It also circumvents issues of whether the author is a man, woman or kangaroo. 

As I say, it’s hard to understand why such a wonderful book of stories should be blighted by such anachronistic and arbitrary labeling.  Nevertheless, I would urge every aficionado of erotica to overlook the title and simply rush out and buy a copy of the book now.  It’s good writing and won’t disappoint any woman (or man) who enjoys quality erotic fiction.



Best Women's Erotica 2013Best Women's Erotica 2013
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448982
December 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In short:

Good book. Great stories. Must buy.

In long:

Cleis Press make a quality product. The content is skillfully selected and meticulously edited by a competent expert in matters erotic. The stories themselves are written to the highest standard by authors of renown.

Best Women’s Erotica 2013 is no exception.

Including stories from the likes of Janine Ashbless, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler and Charlotte Stein, it’s a collective of respected names and powerful, passionate prose.

I’ve been fortunate enough to review several Best Women’s titles over the years. Having enjoyed each of these books I thought that this time I would dip into the work of an author I hadn’t previously encountered.

Thank you Violet blue for introducing me to the writing of Krissy Kneen.

Krissy Kneen’s story, "Susanna" first appeared in Triptych; an Erotic Adventure, published by Text Publishing Australia. It’s a complete story that deals with one young woman’s association with the erotic world through Auslan – the Australian sign language used by the deaf community.

I happen to be fascinated by sign language, so this story hooked me instantly. I am intrigued by the relationship between hand movements and cognitive understanding. To some extent I suppose this is a non-verbal extension of the Saussurean relationship between the sign and signifier. But, in truth, I’m simply fascinated by the idea of communicating silently and studying an interlocutor with the rapt attention I normally reserve for Shakespearean plays or high quality porn.

Kneen’s story seems to accommodate this level of prurient interest.

David was a good lover, expressive. His fingers demonstrated to her what he could not say. His mouth, passive throughout the day, was put to better use in the evenings. His lips formed shapes that spoke to her body as words could not. His tongue found ways to express his desire without the use of vowels and consonants. She learned from him a language of love that was as utterly different from the general machinations of sex as Auslan is different from English itself.

It’s an innovative approach to an erotic story, made all the more powerful because it makes the reader focus on the content of communication rather than way communication is expressed.

And, because verbal communication is such an integral part of our sexuality, the following is far more visualised, as the reader is shown the physicality of this powerful scene where Susana loses her virginity.

He seemed amazed by her, amazed by her virginity and her body’s impatience to be rid of it. His face so close to the part of her that no one else had ever seen, watching her. He made the sign for slow down, both hands held out as if to measure the surface of something reclining, the right hand tilting up as if to halt her progress. Slow down, slow down, but even the act of signing was too much of a pause for her. Susanna lifted her hips, taking the stop sign of his hand and pressing it into herself. So much slipperiness. So much sensation, the joy and pain of it fused, too much to bear, her blood slick on his fingers, his body quickly pressing forward into the path that they had newly discovered. He shifted; the gorgeous pressure of his pubic bone pressing where only moments before his tongue had been. Blood on her chest where he took her breast in his fist, blood on her face where she kissed him. She opened herself to him in a pact of spilled blood and when he came there was a second tearing, the condom destroyed, the pact sealed with the jet of his seed finding its way into her, a glorious tragedy, and they remained fused like this, slippery with sweat and blood and ejaculate and every movement of his hips fed her hunger again.

There’s a lot of damned fine writing in Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Susana is only one of eighteen sensational erotic stories that make this anthology a perfect way to start the new year.

Or, as I said at the start of this review: Good book. Great stories. Must buy.



Best Women's Erotica 2015Best Women's Erotica 2015
Edited By: Violet Blue
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780882
December 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

This is Violet Blue’s tenth year as editor of Best Women’s Erotica and, once again, she has compiled an engaging collection of short erotic fiction that is well-written and entertaining from beginning to end.

I’ll hold up my hand here and admit I feel more than a little marginalised reading this collection.  This is a collection of stories written by women, with no stories written by male authors.  I assume this is some holdover to the facile idea that some women can feel more comfortable reading stories that are written by women.  Perhaps the idea here is that the social construct of gender is detectable from words on a page depicting a fictionalised reality. Personally I don’t hold with such notions of arbitrary segregation but I would say that: I’m a man.

This is not to take anything away from the great stories that are contained within the anthology.  Obviously there are familiar literary tropes, some of them more familiar now to the post-Fifty Shades readership of erotica.  These lines are from the opening pages of “The Ghostwriter” by Valerie Alexander:

Rain plopped on the glass.

“There will be the usual nondisclosure agreements,” he said. “And you’ll have to clear your calendar for the next few months.” He lifted his green eyes from the laptop screen. “You would come to this conference room every day. Recording our sessions is fine, but I would need you here for at least three or four hours a day. The publication schedule is tight.”

Power relationships in sex and contractual obligations hadn’t previously been as predominant in much of mainstream erotic literature.  That said, Alexander’s writing has more literary merit than Fifty Shades and the story is a delight to enjoy.

Of equally high literary calibre is Tamsin Flowers’ “Roxanne.”  A text with wonderful overtones of Cyrano de Bergerac’s removed relationship with his beloved Roxanne.

“So ask her out.”

Christian went red as cherry-pie filling and I stared at him. He nodded. “Yeah, this is what happens every time I try to talk to her.”

I could relate to that.

“So text her,” I said. Yes. I am that expert at giving dating advice to lovelorn jocks and broken-hearted he-men.

“You think?” Christian’s teeth were so goddamn white.

He held out his cell phone and I took it—I don’t know why.

And that’s how it started. I typed in a text.

Want 2 compare magnetic attraction coefficients Thurs night?

I showed him.

“Seriously? I don’t even know what that means.”

“She will.”

“How well d’you know her?”

“I sit next to her in Physics 360.”

That seemed to satisfy him. He hit send and ten minutes later she replied.

Horizontal or vertical?

He showed me her text, his chest heaving with excitement.

Up 2 you, I texted back.

CU Thurs.

“Fuck me, Syra, you did it,” he said loud enough to earn us a harsh look from the professor.

He did a little wiggle with his arms. “Gonna get laid. Gonna get laid.”

That stuck in my craw some and I should have called a halt right then, but this was a love story and I was hooked.

“Roxanne” is a witty, engaging and sexy story.  The characters are painted as realistic and the whole package is entertaining.

Best Women’s Erotica 2015 contains some of my favourite erotica authors, including Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Annabeth Leong.  The title also includes gems from authors I hadn’t previously encountered and now adore, such as Dani Bauter, Evey Brett and Ariel Graham. 

There’s something in Best Women’s Erotica 2015 to please the taste of every reader, unless the reader is specifically looking for something written by a man.  Quite why a reader would be looking for something written specifically by a man is a mystery to me.  But then again, I’m not sure why a reader would be looking for something written specifically by a woman. 





Blood Sacraments: Gay Vampire EroticaBlood Sacraments: Gay Vampire Erotica
Edited By: Todd Gregory
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1602821909
November 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In fictional worlds it appears that vampires are becoming endemic.
 
Etymologically we could trace this back to the folklore fuelling Lord Byron’s Giaour (1813), which, purportedly, was one of the many elements influencing Polidori’s Vampyre (1819).  Polidori’s Vampyre was a catalyst for myriad vampire projects, including stories by the likes of Nikolai Gogol and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Bram Stoker and his archetypical vampire story: Dracula (1897).  We could follow the vampire’s rise in success through the twentieth century until, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, literary vampirism had become ubiquitous across the majority of representational media.
 
The Vampire Diaries and True Blood are just two of the vampire-related TV shows that now take over from where Angel and Buffy used to reside on our TV screens.  No doubt you, dear reader, would be able to suggest others.  Similarly, the Box Offices are groaning under the weight of the successful Twilight films.  Franchises like the Underworld movies continue to produce entertaining narratives.   And, I believe, The Count still patrols Sesame Street.

Or, if we remain with the written word, we could contemplate Anne Rice’s consistently well-received output with The Vampire Chronicles, (Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, etc.), Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse stories (which have been popularised as the aforementioned True Blood series on TV), or Laurell K Hamilton and her stories of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, etc.).  Or we could go back to the phenomenal success of Stephanie Meyer’s previously referenced Twilight saga.

As the title of this month’s reviewed book suggests, Blood Sacraments (Gay Vampire Erotica) is an anthology of erotic gay vampire stories.  And the existence of so much vampire literature raises the question: why are we so obsessed with vampires?

It’s argued that vampire stories are appealing because they suggest a willing surrender to dark but pleasurable forces.  Vampires are renowned for advocating and endorsing illicit pleasures (late nights, excess, indulgence, voracious promiscuity, life without responsibility, etc.).  These activities are elements we, as civilised members of society, are supposed to eschew in favour of their responsible alternatives (early nights, moderation, temperance, judicious and selective sexual relationships, etc.).  However, if a character indulges in illicit pleasures because they are under the thrall of a vampire’s spell, it means they have a legitimate excuse for their errant behaviour: “I didn’t want to have all those pleasures.  It was the peer pressure of being a vampire that made me do it.”

But if this vapid excuse is the subtext beneath why we read vampire stories, what does it say about us as a society?  Ignore the implications of avoidance.  If the original trope of the vampire novel has always been a sanction allowing the reader to succumb to forbidden pleasures, does the ubiquitous nature of current vampire literature suggest that this condition has become near-universal?  Does this mean that we’re all prey to the same desire to enjoy forced pleasures?
It’s a worrying question.  But, I suspect, the answer is comparatively simple.  I believe we read vampire stories because they offer a familiar landscape of entertaining escapism.
 
It used to be that the first half of a vampire story would be a lengthy exposition: a treatise where the author attempted to convince the reader that the concept of vampires was a tenable possibility.  The propagation of this suspension of disbelief has diminished over time so that such enormous exposition is no longer needed.
 
In most cases readers accept the vampire fantasy more easily than the author.  Authors fret over the credibility of the world they are building and the balance of belief against bullshit.  But, as a reader, all we need are a couple of subtle clues (‘Did you see the Count flinch when I showed him my crucifix collection?’ or ‘Did you see the Count lick his lips when I cut myself shaving?’) and we know we’re in vampire territory.  For those of us who are fans of the genre it is a delightful situation.  We’ve accepted the existence of vampires as soon as we read the word in the title and pick the book from the shelf.  We are in a position where we can enjoy the pleasure of the maximum amount of vampire story with the minimum need for setting the reader up to accept that, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

This means, in an excellent anthology such as Blood Sacraments, edited by Todd Gregory, the reader can enjoy the indulgence of a lot more vampire narrative and a lot less expository text.  Todd Gregory exploits this development to maximum effect.

With this being an anthology I don’t want to ruin the reader pleasure of any story.  It’s fair to say that Gregory has selected wisely and the anthology represents a broad range of contemporary talent, all of whom are capable of producing thrilling vampire stories balanced with a sufficiently gay erotic content as to make them appropriate for the title.
 
Xan West provides a powerful and passionate account of vampirism and BDSM in "Willing."  In "The Morning After," Lawrence Schimel provides his usual blend of wit and seductive prose as he skilfully introduces an ingredient of humor.  And in "Kells," the inimitable Jay Lygon twists the familiar story of unrequited infatuation into something darkly amusing and adorable, all at the same time.

If the vampire myth is really our society’s subversive urge to be forced to enjoy illicit pleasures, then Blood Sacraments is one illicit pleasure that is well worth enjoying.  A good anthology, populated by some excellent writers.  In short: it’s bloody brilliant.





Body Temperature and RisingBody Temperature and Rising
By: K. D. Grace
Xcite Books
ISBN: B0067MDE3A
November 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll be honest and admit that there are three reasons why I’m a frequent visitor to the Lakeland National Park in Great Britain.

  1. It contains some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
  2. It gives me a chance to pay homage to my heroes in poetry – the Lakeland poets (Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge).
  3. I occasionally visit the Lakeland area as a performance poet – reading my own material and enjoying the company of other poets.

But now there’s a fourth reason to visit: Body Temperature and Rising by K D Grace. This is the first in a series of titles (other titles to follow include Elemental Fire and Riding the Ether). Set with its feet firmly in the Lakeland area, the story begins with Marie feeling a little lost on a remote path in this fell walking region.

As she struggles to find her bearings Marie comes across a couple. And, in this place of elemental beauty and charm, Marie finds herself being drawn into an enticing world of intrigue, witches and sex magic.

This is from the book:

There was something in the way the man spoke that was strange. The accent was very British, and yet not. And the way he moved against the woman, the way he protectively pulled her to him, the way his mouth made love to hers banished Marie’s irritation that they’d chosen her path for their reunion. Irritation was replaced by longing that ached down through her torso to mingle with the strange buzz that had migrated to the soft spot between her legs, and the air felt suddenly warmer. The man’s hands joined the reunion. He slid the strap of the woman’s tank top down to spill a bare breast heavily into his waiting palm. He paused to knead it and fondle it as though he had never seen anything more exquisite. Then he took as much of it into his mouth as he could. The woman released a shrill gasp as though cold water had been poured onto her. “I can feel it,” she breathed. “We were right.” Then she held him to her, letting him nurse at her in hungry nibbles and slurps.

One of my personal worries about approaching fantasy fiction is that I might not be able to buy into the world being created. I’m a simple soul and I’ve just about started understanding the real world in which I live. Luckily the walls are padded in my part of the universe and there are helpful instruction manuals to cover tricky things like meeting people and discussing life’s more esoteric subjects. Immersing myself in a world of sex magic, spirits and witches is a risky proposition that I’ve previously avoided.

But K D Grace leads the reader into the fantasy world of Body Temperature and Rising with a mastery of the craft. Perhaps this is partly because the physical world of the story is a very real area, enriched by a natural beauty that lends itself to the beauty of physical intimacy? Or maybe it’s because there is really a form of sex magic that is not so dissimilar to that being presented in this book. Or perhaps it’s just that Grace is a bloody good writer and manages to tell a convincing story with a strong erotic content.  Maybe it’s a combination of all three factors.

The brief cry of pain that accompanied the final push, gave way to the pleasure of fullness she had never imagined. As her anus yielded to accommodate and he found his rhythm, he kneaded and tweaked first her breasts, then her clit. Then from the still-open drawer of the night stand, he produced a thick dildo and buried it to the hilt in her pussy, and she could take no more. She growled like a wild animal, bucking and thrashing and quivering as orgasm avalanched over her in wave after wave until he wrapped his arms around her waist to hold her, until his own orgasm burst up from his balls, and she thought he would strangle her in his bear hug.

At last, as they collapsed onto the bed, he whispered against the back of her neck. “You truly are the Fourth Element, my dear Marie. And now the circle is complete, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. You will be an excellent ghost rider.” She didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but she figured she’d ask him after she regained consciousness.

This is powerful, sexy writing from the extremely competent K D Grace. The story contains a compelling narrative. And all of it is set in the most beautiful scenery in the natural world. You really will love this book.





Brought to HeelBrought to Heel
By: Samantha Brook
Nexus
ISBN: 1903687896
February, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

A few short years ago no one would have conceived that computer games could be considered sexy. The idea of a person sitting alone, wiggling their fingers and enjoying some form of erotic stimulus wasn’t unheard of. But it didn’t apply to computer games.

Of course, if you’re still thinking of computer games in terms of Tetris or Pac Man, then you’re not going to think they are erotic. Yes, there is the satisfaction of filling an appropriate gap with your four square length in Tetris. But, if you get an erection while you’re doing this, it suggests you have serious social problems. Similarly, anyone who has found it that Pac Man “lives to swallow,” is certainly playing these games for the wrong reasons and should possibly seek professional guidance.

However, the advent of superior graphics technology, and the popularity of the RPG (Role Playing Game), are bringing contemporary reality closer to the fantastical premise that is core to the story within Samantha Brook’s Brought to Heel.

Ostensibly Brought to Heel is a story of female domination and male submission or, as it’s usually called, marriage. Josh is a nerdy computer programmer who likes dominant women. Cindy is a dominant woman who likes Josh. This marriage made in heaven is presented as an uber-erotic entanglement. Josh happily consents to becoming Cindy’s matrimonial whipping boy. Cindy happily consents to do the whipping. With the help of her workmates from the hospital, and an eclectic combination of friends and acquaintances, Cindy treats Josh to a tour de force of male submission and female domination that could be construed as any computer-besotted nerd’s "Final Fantasy."

One of the main problems with stories in fem dom/male sub genre is the tenuous balance between naughtiness and nastiness. A certain level of trust needs to be developed between characters before she can stamp on his balls and spit in his mouth without the scene coming across as a pastiche of exploitative cruelty. Samantha Brooks has managed this tightrope walk with consummate skill. Josh willingly surrenders to Cindy’s dominant nature and the balance of consensual naughtiness is consistently maintained throughout the novel.

It’s not an easy trick. The psychology of the characters in this story is complicated and, as in real life, sometimes downright contradictory. Josh is naturally submissive but this doesn’t mean he’s a weak person. Contrarily, he is strong enough to recognise his need for a dominant woman and sufficiently confident to allow her to assume full control of his life. Cindy is naturally dominant but she does not automatically assume the masterful role of being Josh’s mistress. Samantha balances Cindy’s natural desire to dominate with a pragmatic understanding that contemporary society won’t readily accept a woman with so much control over her man.

Although Cindy doesn’t vacillate as much as other stereotypical fem dom heroines (such as the annoyingly indecisive Wanda from Venus in Furs) she does show a degree of reluctance that comes across as a natural and necessary prudence. However, once she does consent to be the master of Josh’s destiny, the story becomes charged with a powerful eroticism.

Tension is brought in when Cindy introduces new characters to the relationship, adding to Josh’s excitement, developing erotic interest in their adventure, as well as satisfying her own carnal needs.

Samantha Brooks creation of Cindy is surprisingly well-drawn. Again, this is a difficult feat within the fem dom/male sub genre because the psychology of such heroines is surprisingly complex. Cindy comes across as domineering and bullying in her relationship with Josh. She keeps him in his place and controls his life with the authority of a woman born to rule. And yet she is also willing to surrender herself to other men either in the pursuit of her own gratification, or to remind her husband of his inferior status.

Ordinarily the juxtaposition of a dominant woman sexually surrendering to any man can come across as contrived or unconvincing. But Samantha manages this difficult narrative technique by repeatedly focussing on Josh’s humiliation through Cindy’s infidelity and his own exaggerated status as a cuckold.

Brought to Heel is a very contemporary story that revisits an erotic fantasy dating back to Chaucer and beyond. Samantha Brooks presents a neatly told tale, unflinching in her presentation of the domination and humiliation, with a clever twist at the denouement. If you like your men strong enough to serve and surrender, and your women weak enough to willingly wield the whip, Brought to Heel has to be this summer’s reading.





Coming Together Presents C Sanchez-GarciaComing Together Presents C Sanchez-Garcia
By: C Sanchez-Garcia
Edited By: Lisabet Sarai
CreateSapce
ISBN: 1450511910
September 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The Coming Together anthologies are probably one of the worthiest causes in contemporary literature.  To date the single author collections have included M. Christian, Rob Buckley and Remittance Girl, edited under the aegis of the incomparable Lisabet Sarai.  Anthologies of erotic short stories, that benefit charitable causes, allow readers to contribute to something worthy and enjoy the pleasure of erotic literature all for the same price.  It’s like chocolate flavoured sex with a bonus of cash presented at the enormously satisfactory conclusion: it simply cannot get any better.

The proceeds from Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia will benefit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. It operates a national hotline, educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

But Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia would be worth buying without the benefit of supporting a worthy cause.  Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia is a bloody good book.

Because this is a collection of short stories, I’ll begin by saying that the quality is consistent and high, even though the approach varies in a range of eclectic styles and considered approaches. 

"Rough Draft" is a perfect example of this eclectic approach, beginning in the style of a letter to a men’s magazine and starting to reveal the sexploits of a just-turned-eighteen narrator in the typical fashion of an ‘I-can’t-believe-it-happened-to-me’ exposition.

Sanchez-Garcia understands the reader’s needs and expectations.  As the narrative is turning to the anticipated central sexual encounter, the author ends the first segment of the story and continues it as an example of fin de siècle erotica, complete with expository dialogue and the characteristic reliance on adverbs.  The transition is abrupt, snatching the reader from the comfort of the established narrative with an abrupt reminder that the content is a fiction.  And again, once the reader has continued in the fin de siècle, and become suitably immersed in the narrative, Garcia-Sanchez again stops the story and begins in another genre: fantasy erotica. 

The playfulness of this approach is amusing and entertaining.  More than that, because the central characters in each story are essentially the same, the illusion of the varying narrators suggests, despite the change of genre and styles, the events have the coherence of a thinly disguised truth. Seriously, this is an innovative approach to story-telling that surreptitiously breaks the fourth wall of the reader/writer divide by demonstrating the multifaceted nature of fiction contrasted against the perpetual constant of truth.

Or consider the second story in the anthology: "Natural Acts." This is a short excerpt from close to the opening of the story.

On the little kitchen table, next to a cold cup of coffee, a book of marine biology is lying open. On one page is a color photograph of a female deep-sea Anglerfish. She is large and bulbous, with unnatural teeth like a heap of translucent swords. A long rod of flesh dangles down with a glowing ball at its end. A very small male Anglerfish is fused into her belly permanently, like a benevolent parasite. On the other page, there is a color photograph of a limpet, which has anchored itself to a blue rock. There are other limpets fused to the top of it, like a small stack of party hats. Next to the book of sea life, is a thick copy of Dante's Divine Comedy. The young man's friend DeEtta has been writing to him, extolling him to read Dante, so that they can discuss death. "To understand Christian afterlife mythology, you have to know Dante," writes DeEtta, in impassioned handwritten letters. "It all comes from Dante." But the idiot howling of the young man's flesh for sex has drowned all thought.

This expository paragraph shows us the reading interests of the central character – a sexually frustrated individual who is trying to sleep and deny himself sexual release. And, as most readers will know, trying to sleep and deny oneself sexual release is a little like trying to juggle soot: it’s never going to happen.

As is to be expected in "Natural Acts," the protagonist falls into a torpor of dreams, and the dreams are fueled by the images from his recent reading material. This produces a contrast between the traditional corporeal human desires with which most readers could identify and the ‘natural acts’ of his fantasy. These are presented in a diverse contrast of narratives that are disquieting and remarkable: redefining desire and arousal in new structures that defy previous expectations.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Sanchez-Garcia then this title is an ideal introduction to his writing.  If you are familiar with this author, then Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia should already be at the top of your have-to-have reading material.





Coming Together Presents: Robert BuckleyComing Together Presents: Robert Buckley
Edited By: Lisabet Sarai
CreateSpace
ISBN: 1451560737
February 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ve been a fan or Robert (Bob) Buckley’s work for many years now. The man is capable of penning a solid story and keeping his eroticism credible, relevant and entertaining.

There aren’t many authors who can claim such a mastery of the genre.

Buckley, as you may or may not know, has been a familiar presence at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association since the days before the internet was available on computer.  His standing as a celebrated author, editor and general literary jack-of-all-trades has never been in doubt.  However, for those who may have wondered about his abilities, proof of his genius is now available in the anthology: Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley.  This is Bob’s second title of collected erotica. 

This collection is darker than Buckley’s previous work but not unpleasantly dark. The stories have an edge that gives their content a racy quality.

Take, for instance, the first story: “Fortune’s Fool.” The reader is introduced to a journalist who’s been doing the right thing and is suffering the consequences of such actions.

Personally I believe that no good deed will ever go unpunished so I can sympathise with the plight of the unnamed narrator in this story. This is a reporter who is trying to expose a football-playing philanderer. This is a reporter who has finally uncovered the dirt on the NFL’s biggest dirtbag. And, as a reward, his bosses have canned him.

Unemployed, and then blighted by a debilitating RTA, the narrator looks like he’s hit rock bottom. However, the one good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one direction to continue.

This is from “Fortune’s Fool.”

"Damn it, Tracey," Joann snapped. She ran to the door to see if anyone had heard. "It's all clear."

Tracey sank into the corner of the room. She had finished herself off.

Now Tianna climbed onto the bed. She straddled my head and eased her heart-shaped ass down grazing my lips with her pussy. Delicate, coiled hairs tickled my nose and I almost sneezed. Then I felt her pouty lips lock around my cock. Her tongue flicking about my shaft was in stark contrast to the nuclear-powered suck that Joann gave me. Tianna was all tease and finesse. I felt my jism begin to boil again. Her pussy aroma was all musk and citrus and my tongue eagerly sought entry. I slurped along her vaginal walls then back to seek out her love button. I began to tease her as much as she teased me.

I was getting close and so was she. Now she rapidly reversed direction and lowered her cunt onto my cock. She rolled those hula hips while holding her hands above her head. Her pretty little tits jiggled and bobbed sensuously. I envisioned a rocket launch and my cock exploded inside her. Her belly convulsed as she cried, "Oh, yes, baby, baby, baby...

This is first-rate erotic writing, written with a distinctly masculine voice. The stories are entertaining, well-paced and thoroughly arousing. Proceeds from Buckley’s title go to benefit Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (msassociation.org), which is a worthy cause in and of itself. However, getting the chance to enjoy Buckley’s writing is also a worthy cause because I think we all deserve to enjoy literature of this calibre.



Dark ObsessionDark Obsession
By: Fredrica Alleyn
Virgin Black Lace
ISBN: 0352345241
June 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I have to admit I'm still reeling over the demise of Black Lace.  One moment the UK boasts a prestigious publishing house of superlative erotic fiction, written by women and written for women.  The next moment, the doors are being metaphorically closed and the publisher is explaining that the list will be closed for at least twelve months.  Knowledgeable industry insiders have already pointed out that this is as good as the publisher's putting up a sign saying they've closed the shop for this particular imprint.

There have been some authors who argued that the Black Lace ethos of only publishing female authors was somewhat sexist.  Regardless of whether a body is discriminating against men or women, it's still discrimination.  To that end I can sympathise with that point of view, even though I think, in this instance, it had its advantages.  Black Lace was an icon of female-friendly erotica and, in a society where women are still undervalued in the battle for equality, I was always in favour of a publisher who thoroughly supported female authors and offered a comfort zone of erotica that female readers knew had been written specifically and exclusively for them.  Maybe it did have overtones of political correctness taken to a ridiculous extreme.  However, if it gave just one reader an opportunity to enjoy well-written erotica through providing a safety-net of assurance that had been produced by a female writer, then it's served a valid purpose. 

Dark Obsession by Fredrica Alleyn is a perfect example of why Black Lace should not have closed its doors.  Dark Obsession is an erotic bildungsroman novel that explores Annabel Moss's journey from work-obsessed young-womanhood to sexual understanding, awareness and maturity.  The content is explicit, arousing and stylishly written. 

We open the story with Alleyn building background as Annabel is introduced as the rising protégé of two successful gay interior designers.  Annabel is young, attractive and solely focussed on her work.  She is trying to shy away from the responsibility of taking on the Leyton Hall contract but her employers believe she is more than ready for the challenge that this will present.  Consequently, Annabel is shipped off to a large country estate where all manner of sexual shenanigans are taking place. 

The hedonism within Leyton Hall is representative of the hedonism that the Black Lace imprint perpetually exuded.  The sex takes place in a variety of decadent locations, from stables through to stylish stately-home bedrooms.  There is a suggestion of borderline incest between the incumbent brother and sister-in-law that borders on being a revisitation to Wuthering Heights but with orgasms.  There is an air of cool distance between the reigning couple who head the household, reminiscent of something from John Updike.  And there are a wealth of salacious romps between minor characters as they revel in the general bonhomie of being centre stage in a well-written erotic masterpiece.  Again, if we're going for a literary precedent, lets put this in the milieu of John Cleland. 

As the story progresses, Annabel succumbs to the atmosphere of sexual egalitarianism that abounds at Leyton Hall.  Because the majority of us mature into our sexuality it is only fitting that the character in this story develops her awareness of her place as a valid member of society through her developing interest and exploration of sex and sexuality. 

As stated previously, the sex is constant, exciting and exquisitely written.  Fredrica Alleyn knows how to press buttons.  Fredrica Alleyn knows how to put a light to the blue touch paper and then stand back so we can enjoy the fireworks. 

For those who've never encountered a Black Lace novel before, Fredrica Alleyn's story would have previously been described as an ideal place to begin.  However, now that Black Lace is no longer there, Dark Obsession  has to be described as one of the last remaining chances to see the superlative standard this publishing house used to produce.



Delfina: An Erotic Novel of Music, Fame, and the Search for LoveDelfina: An Erotic Novel of Music, Fame, and the Search for Love
By: P.K. Belden
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: B0096TKHM2
September 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The fan blades buried in the floor whirred to life as Delfina began her descent from the plexiglass bubble where she rode suspended over the front rows of the arena audience. When her five-inch bejeweled stilettos touched the stage, her dress flew up around her in a vortex of pink chiffon. Hands framing her face, she let her jaw drop, her eyes opening, feigning surprise, innocent, revealed, caught in the spotlight, a poster child for precious.

The iconic moment shifted quickly. Her hands dropped and cupped her breasts, her mouth closed, her eyes narrowed, and Delfina cocked her head to one side. Her tongue poked out of her mouth, licking slowly across her lips as her skirt billowed and waved.

The flesh tone of her thong looked like bare skin to anyone more than twenty rows back. She grabbed a microphone from a stand and screamed the words of the encore.

David Bowie is alleged to have said: I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, "Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.”

I’m not sure if this is a genuine quote or simply an apocryphal story to add to Bowie’s aura of superstar legend. I do know that the quote fits the milieu of our stereotypical expectations when we’re considering the rock star.

Delfina, eponymous hero of Delfina, is a rock star. The passage above shows us Delfina as she takes the stage for the final set of a triumphant tour. Her journey has been a gruelling one and her success, whilst deserved, has been hard won.

The story begins when Delfina is parting with an unsuitable lover. He’s caught in the arms of another woman and Delfina realises she’s been wasting her time investing a relationship without commitment.

Going away for a massage helps:

“Excuse me. I’m Martin. You’re here for a massage?”

He wore brown drawstring pants and a green t-shirt. His arms filled the fabric of the shirt, muscles taut and developed by years of physical work. His hands were large and well formed, hands that knew skin, that knew how to bring relief and pleasure. Delfina noticed that he wore no underwear; the outline of his penis was visible in the crotch of his pants. Short blond hair curled around his forehead, and his blue eyes met hers with a calm and quiet intelligence.

“Yes, I want a massage.”

“This way, please,” he said, and disappeared behind the curtain.

Delfina rose and followed. As she walked behind him, she saw that he was not massive, but simply strong, well built and well proportioned. A man who had spent time sculpting his own body, even as he worked on others.

He led her to a small room and closed the door. A massage table draped with sheets waited, a candle burned on a high round table, and slow Celtic guitar, gentle and evocative, played softly in the background. A warmer stood on one side, stocked with deep fabric towels, while another table held oils and lotions.

“Please,” he said. “What do you want me to do? There’s no time limit; we can go as long as you would like. Are there parts of your body that you’d like me to pay special
attention to?”

“All of me,” blurted out Delfina. “It’s been quite a week. Quite a month, actually. Well,
really, quite a year.”

Delfina is a story that sits in territory between erotica and romance. It’s a piece of fiction that gives the reader a backstage access to all areas of an intriguing character as she struggles to find the true meaning of success.

I have to admit, as a reader, this title didn’t work for me. I thought the dialogue was unconvincing and I had very little emotional investment in the characters. The sex scenes, when they came, were explicit and charged with appropriate vocabulary but it all felt a little mechanical and too superlative to be credible.

It’s likely that this is just me.

I’m not a big music lover of any description. I’ve quoted David Bowie earlier in this article but I think he’s enormously overrated. When you take that opinion into account (and I’m aware that I’m in a very tiny minority for holding such heretic views about Bowie) you can see that I’m probably not the right person to offer an opinion on a book about someone immersed in the music industry.

No doubt there are plenty of readers out there who will adore the writing of P K Belden and the antics of Delfina et al, but those readers and I will have to disagree as to whether or not this is an entertaining book.





Diary of a Sex AddictDiary of a Sex Addict
By: Scott Alexander Hess
CreateSpace
ISBN: 1466258861
August 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

He’s sexy in dim light.

Speedoboy is clearly not a boy, but I’m guessing not far from forty and incredibly lean to the point of being bony. Never too rich, too thin, too hung. His Speedo is royal blue and very tight. He smiles a lot, though I wish he wouldn’t because he
could use a good orthodontist.

I fall back on my sofa. Speedoboy comes at me like he’s going to dive, then he lands with his torpedo thin body on top of me. He grinds our crotches together. His cock is big and if he weren’t so rough and anxious it would feel good. He’s resting his long skinny arms on the back of the sofa getting louder with his “Oh fuck yes baby” calls when a single drop of blood lands on my shoulder. I think of the saint that cried blood tears, St. Agnes. I was raised Catholic and recall an art project making cardboard cut-outs of every saint born in the month of December.

Speedoboy has leapt up and is now lying on the floor. He’s very quiet. His fingers squeeze his tiny nose.

In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolyn Fairfax says, I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

It’s unlikely that innocent and naïve Gwendolyn, even in her most extreme flights of fancy, would have written anything as powerful, profound and absorbing as Scott Alexander Hess’s Diary of Sex Addict. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that this diary remains something sensational to read in the train.

Diary of a Sex Addict begins on December 7th in a New York apartment where the story’s unnamed narrator relates the symptoms of a compelling addiction to sex. The story is set in a contemporary New York so vividly described I imagine the print version smells of bagels, pizza and yellow cabs. It’s a New York so real that a reader could get mugged whilst turning from one page to the next. This is an example of the high quality of the writing as we’re introduced to the narrator’s aunt:

She’s a large, healthy-looking 80-year-old woman, with blue oval shaped eyes, glossy blonde hair and porcelain, precisely botoxed skin. She’s still vibrant, though at times, between vast silences, her mind will spread open like a cobwebbed fan and blow out incoherent memories. I don’t know if her tales are fact or fiction, most likely a mix. Her favourite subjects are a six year period when she made summer visits to my parent’s farm in Arkansas when I was child, and her brief time on the New York stage. I remember she’d come every summer when I was six up until I was twelve. Then the visits stopped, though I don’t recall why.

It’s writing that is rich in detail, vivid in description, and droll in execution. Other reviewers have described this title as being gritty but I’d argue that it’s simply frank and honest – and it’s a rare title that can manage to combine the erotic with the truthful.

As I said before, the story is set in a contemporary New York: an über-contemporary New York. That contemporaneous quality is best illustrated by the narrator’s reliance on ultramodern technology. We’re introduced to a man who has visited Ikea, listens to neighbours discussing Pottery Barn and Cheerios, and trawls sites like grindr and manhunt. The narrator ‘raffishly’ steals a wi-fi connection from a neighbour and, when that fails, has to rely on a backup internet fix from his iPhone. This is a man living in a very modern world, telling a modern story aimed at very modern readers.

This is how the narrator begins a typical day:

I’m nude now, in front of my Ikea mirror, my skin damp and glistening with the soapy remnants of Mr. Bubble. I start every day here, in this exact spot, taking pictures of my reflection to post on internet sex sites. The shots are from a distance because I look so damn lean and cut-up from far off. I do this at 7 A.M., because I am happiest at this time. The day seems possible. The subsequent hours are really just a slow motion tumbling back toward the black hole. I think Sartre said something like “Life begins on the other side of despair.” He was a fucking genius, probably a sex addict.

It’s only fair to warn readers that this Sartre quote could be perceived as a theme that propels the book. The narrator starts the day in high spirits and the mood dwindles and declines as the day progresses. The sex in this story is not the cheeky, cheerful fluffy-bunny sex of an erotic romp or a hearts-and-flowers romance with explicit kisses. The Diary of a Sex Addict depicts a barrage of honest, in-your-face encounters that range from the disappointing to the darkly satisfying and from the depths of disturbing to the delights of discovery.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the story of a character’s indulgence in excess to avoid the necessary truths of aging and responsibility. And it would be easy for a reviewer to spoil the story here for any potential readers who haven’t yet encountered Hess’s title.

The Diary of a Sex Addict is a have-to-have title for any reader who enjoys their fiction when it’s frank and sensational.





Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex StoriesDo Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443441
March 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Hotels and sex are natural bedfellows.  We go to hotels for sex.  Admittedly there are occasionally other reasons – business meetings, holidays, the necessity of travel etc – but, as a general rule of thumb (not to mention those other important parts of the anatomy) we go to hotels for sex.  Which is why it is only natural for the inimitable Rachel Kramer Bussel to link hotels and sex in her latest anthology: Do Not Disturb

I regularly go to hotels for sex.  And not just because people pay me.  (I don’t mean people pay me to go to their hotel rooms for sex.  Usually my wife gives me £50 and tells me to fuck off to a hotel for the night). 

Hotel sex is better than regular sex because hotel rooms already have a bed in them, so there’s no worrying about where the gear-stick might go, or what to do with your hat or your sandwiches.  Hotel sex is also good because, when you turn up at the hotel with your partner, the obviousness of the situation means you might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says: WE’VE COME TO THIS HOTEL TO LOCK OURSELVES INTO OUR ROOM SO WE CAN SPEND THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE HAVING WILD MONKEY SEX.

Even if that’s not the intention.  Even if your wife has actually destroyed and disposed of your T-shirt (which bears the aforementioned slogan) and privately warned you that you are not allowed to touch her with a ten foot barge-pole or any other part of your anatomy: everyone still thinks that’s why you’re there.  And, in this day and age of visual cues, if people think it’s happening then, whether it’s happening or not, it’s definitely happening.

So, we’re all agreed?  Hotels and sex go together.  If you’re still not convinced, go out and pick up Do Not Disturb

The anthology begins with Amanda Earl’s “Welcome To The Aphrodisiac Hotel.”  Aside from writing saucy, sultry stories, Amanda Earl is also a poet and people watcher.  Her people-watching prowess comes to the fore here as her story’s persona watches the occupants of a hotel lobby bar.  The idea is deliciously simple and, in Amanda’s skilful hands, the story comes to life in an enchanting, effective and erotic fashion.

Are you more interested in the honeymoon suite?  Madlyn March’s “Heart-Shaped Holes” is a pithy blend of pathos and the prurient as she introduces a confused new bride, a callous new husband, and the sympathetic ear of a neighbouring hotel guest.  Madlyn March’s story is a bittersweet sojourn with a conclusion that should warm the coldest heart.

Fancy trying something wicked?  They don’t come much more wicked than Kristina Wright’s “The Other Woman.”  Hotels are there to fulfil our fantasies.  Five Star hotels are there to fulfil our richest fantasies.  And the characters in “The Other Woman” get to fulfil their fantasies, even though things don’t work out quite as everyone expected.

In “Talking Dirty,” Shanna Germain’s characters use their hotel room as an escape from reality – or maybe an escape from unreality.  Whichever the reader decides it might be, the overall verdict will be that this story excels as a sympathetic and poignantly rendered tribute to deviance and dysfunction.

Saskia Walker leads us to the Kilpatrick in London where the waiting staff bend over backwards to satisfy their customers.  They also bend over forwards too in “The Lunch Break.”  Saskia Walker knows how to write smouldering hot fiction and “The Lunch Break” is no exception. 

And then there’s Lisabet Sarai’s “Reunion.”  This is a story that is powerful in its sexual content and equally profound in the depth of the relationship shared by the two central characters.  Written with a simplicity that is stylish and sexy, “Reunion” is one of those narratives that lingers with you for days after as you brood on the characters’ futures. 

If Do Not Disturb were a hotel it would a 5 star hotel with the luxury of 24/7 entertainment available.  The anthology includes authors of such renown as Thomas S Roche, Maxim Jakubowski, Elizabeth Coldwell, Donna George Storey, Alison Tyler and, of course, Rachel Kramer Bussel. 

If, like me, you know that hotels are there for sex and sex only – you will adore this book and the collected stories.  If you have any doubts about the purposes of hotels, buy the book and let Do Not Disturb change your mind for the better.



Dressed to Impress: An Erotica CollectionDressed to Impress: An Erotica Collection
Mischief HarperCollins
ISBN: B00C4IQM9E
August 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

This is a really great collection of erotic romance stories. Admittedly the focus is on capitalism – presenting materialism as though the artifice of possessions is erotic in and of itself. But, as they say, whatever floats your yacht.

If getting tingly while watching your man shave made you eligible for a special club of women who could turn mundane rituals into the stuff of wicked daydreams, Debra would have been the club’s founder. A woman likes her man well groomed, after all. For Debra, the act itself was its own reward. Could a man get any more Cary Grant than when he brushed some high-end shaving cream onto his cheeks and ran a razor over them, revealing his rugged jaw line, smooth and refreshed?

Through the open bathroom door Debra observed her husband, freshly out of the shower, a white terrycloth towel wrapped around his waist, drops of water trickling down the small of his back. She regarded him as he cupped his hands under the faucet and splashed his face with water. Now he reached for the brush, wetted it, then dipped it into the tub of fine English shaving cream she had given him for their last anniversary. He swirled the wet tips in the rich cream and soon his chiselled cheekbones had disappeared under a thick lather of opaque, herbal-scented mousse. She watched the play of his shoulder muscles as he swiped the brush up and down across his cheeks and neck. The hot damp air wafting from the bathroom carried a crisp, invigorating, slightly woody smell, making her mind wander back to the days when Nicholas’s eyes would catch her own in the mirror, and he would turn around, hold out the shaving cream to her and ask if she’d help him. She remembered the cheeky grin on his face and how it felt to paint his strong jaw and neck with the frothy mousse while his hands played with her waistline. She remembered the silent innuendo between them as he moved the razor blade closely over his skin. When he was done, she would rub moisturiser onto his cheeks and chin, taking her time, and Nicholas’s eyes would rest on her face the whole time until, finally, he would swoop her up in his arms, impatient to get her underneath him. His clean-shaven, cool cheeks would feel so fresh and alluring against her skin as he whispered sweet words into her ears . . .

A sigh escaped her lips, and Nicholas turned. "What’s the matter, hm?" he asked, his voice soft.

This is the opening passage from the collection’s first story. It’s well-written. It reveals something about character and sets up the underlying character goal for Debra which will be played out through the remainder of the story.

And it focuses on eroticism through a concept of acquisition and materialistic possession. The story later shows Debra pursuing Nicholas and reminding her husband: “I’m yours.”

Is this the ultimate erotic development of a capitalist ideal? Or should I just be reading the pretty words?

As I said at the start of this short review, the story is more romantic than erotic so perhaps I’m judging it by unfair criteria. The following passage comes from Mina Murray’s short story, ‘Shutterbug’.

"This is it," Amy says. "Look familiar?"

Howard’s throat goes dry. He definitely remembers the desk, although, when he saw it, Amy’s delectable body was draped over it.

Here goes nothing, she thinks, unzipping her dress and letting it fall to the ground with a hush.

Howard also recognises the lingerie Amy is wearing. His collar suddenly seems too tight. When she strips out of her stockings, her corset, her bra and her panties, all the air seems to leave the room.

"Amy, you’re –"

"Yes?"

"– so lovely."

She spins, slowly, showing off her peach of an ass. When she bends forward over the desk and looks back at Howard, the expression on his face is pure unadulterated lust.

Howard approaches lovemaking as he approaches most things in his life, with the precision required to achieve the most desirable outcome. His trembling hands move over Amy’s body slowly, calculating the degree of her response to each touch, assigning each a value weighted in proportion to her pleasure.

But when Amy shimmies her hips in desperation and pleads, "Howard, lick me, please, put your tongue in me," she undermines any goal of orderly erotic progression and forces him to act on instinct instead. Gone are the carefully measured caresses of before. He falls on her with an intensity both thrilling and frightening. The man Amy thought she knew is gone. This man, behind her, who traps her against the desk, who growls when she tries to turn around, is some other person entirely.

Again, I found it difficult to engage with this piece. Perhaps it’s the shifting perspectives? Perhaps I’m turning into a grumpy old man in need of more/less/different coffee? Perhaps it was the reliance on established tropes of textuality within the story, such as the rendering of an email, which seem to be necessitated in erotic fiction since the publication of Fifty Shades?

In this story Amy and Howard, a mismatched pair of loners, fall into each other’s arms to find the gratifying release of sexual passion that we call love.

Mina Murray is a competent writer and, although this story self-consciously shifts from one perspective to the other, it’s apparent throughout that the point-of-view shift is a deliberate decision on behalf of the author and not an arbitrary whim of professional neglect.

This is a great collection of erotic romance. It aims to satisfy the needs of a modern readership, particularly those new to the genre. The writing is first class and the fiction therein is engaging and titillating. You will enjoy.



EnthralledEnthralled
By: Lance Porter
Nexus
ISBN: 0352341084
June, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

It’s often said that beauty is only skin deep, but usually this is just the whining observations of ugly people who are trying to make themselves feel better after a bad experience with the mirror. Beauty is a revered and quantifiable commodity. Many people long to be considered beautiful or, if that’s not possible, they seek the company of beautiful people in the hope they will be considered beautiful by association. I know this is true because of the number of fuglies that hang around me in the hope that some of my divine brilliance will shine positively on their Quasimodo-like features.

Fuglies, for those of you who don’t know, is a collective noun used to describe people who are fucking ugly. It might sound like a cruel way of dismissing individuals and overlooking their inner worth, but I’ve always found that doesn’t matter with ugly people. And some of my adoring friends are real mingers. One friend’s face could not look more like a dog’s arse if his nose became a waggly tail. Another friend has the sort of features that mean she only receives party invitations on Halloween.

I tolerate the repulsive presence of these fuglies because, as well as being superbly handsome, I’m also beautiful on the inside and I take pity on pathetic charity cases with their heads from the Horror Channel. But please, don’t start thinking I’m a saint. I do have some minor flaws. I’m obscenely modest and far too self-effacing.

However, that’s enough about me and my gorgeousness. I only mention my legendary good-looks (and my incredibly altruistic nature) because Enthralled is a novel about one man’s obsession with a stunning beauty. In fact, it’s more than an obsession: it’s an overwhelming obsessive compulsion. The story’s hero, Matthew Crawley, sees the gorgeous Jasmine Del Ray and his need for her is instantaneous. This initial meeting is the catalyst for a self-destructive adventure of Herculean proportions.

To describe Matthew Crawley as the story’s hero is possibly misleading. Matthew works in a dull job and lives a dull life. He endures an acceptably grey existence and has little that is remarkable or heroic within his life until the story begins. But as his tale progresses, and Matthew surrenders himself to the indifferent Jasmine Del Ray, he displays a heroic dedication to servitude. In that regard, Matthew bursts through the boundaries of what could ever be considered acceptable and shows himself unequalled in his heroic devotion to this beautiful but barbaric bitch.

Enthralled is a cleverly executed story in that it takes the fantasy theme of male submission and makes the narrative shockingly real. Unlike the typically fictional exploits of servile men, Matthew is a credible individual in frighteningly believable circumstances. He does the nine-to-five routine. He eats, sleeps, drinks and wanks. He works with a woman who is vaguely fanciable but she’s not nearly the Goddess he longs to worship. His undoing/salvation (depending on how you perceive male submission) only comes when he encounters the cruelly good-looking Jasmine.

For want of a better word, Jasmine is probably best described as a bitch. No. That’s unfair. There are two words that better describe her: she’s an absolute bitch. She’s attractive – and she knows she’s attractive – and she associates with the sort of beautiful people who wouldn’t ordinarily give Matthew the time of day. When she notices Matthew’s interest her first reaction is amusement and scorn. Her second reaction is to tease and exploit him – simply because she can. Her third reaction, not surprising considering the realistic feel of this story, is to toss Matthew aside and forget about him.

Perhaps, in the real world, the story might end there. But Matthew is heroic in his need to be near Jasmine and that heroism is matched by his obsessive desire to be a part of her life – no matter how small or ineffectual. Her rejection of him only marks the proper beginning of the story.

Matthew stalks.

Matthew calls.

Matthew follows.

And Matthew plots.

Eventually, Matthew’s efforts and persistence pay off and Jasmine consents to let him be her whipping boy: literally, figuratively and regularly.

Ordinarily I’d offer a warning at this point and say that Enthralled is not for the faint-hearted. Matthew subjugates himself beneath Jasmine. Jasmine, being the absolute bitch that she is, takes his suffering to some pretty vicious extremes. The couple complement each other in his tireless need for her humiliation and her easy ability to push him down to the next level.

And then down to the next level.

And then down to the next.

If you enjoy credible stories of female domination and male submission, then Enthralled is going to satisfy on many, many levels. Well-written, credible and exciting, Enthralled delivers the goods in excitement, eroticism and energy.





Erotic Tales 2Erotic Tales 2
Edited By: Justus Roux
Erotictales Publications
ISBN: 0977778886
May, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Not just erotic tales. Also erotic poetry. And, when I say erotic poetry, I mean the good stuff. Not the little rhyming quatrains I’ve been known to compose in the bath.

She was beautiful, bare and breathless,

My prize at the end of the hunt,

She lay on her back with her legs in the air,

And I played around with her mobile phone.

See? I can never get that final end rhyme. It always eludes me. This other one I started also tripped me at the same final hurdle.

Topless, we sit on the pier,

The sun on the lake’s surface ripples,

I daub my ice cream cone, twice, on your chest.

Then spend the day licking your décolletage.

Which is one of the reasons I have nothing but respect for the skilled poets who have contributed to this title. Writing poetry is never easy. Composing odes that venerate the tension of a single erotic moment, or the physical bliss of a passionate union, is a rare talent. Yet Justus Roux has managed to include works from fourteen different poets who each bring their own unique skills to the blend. From accomplished and multi-published poets, like Lawrence Schimel and Karen L Newman, to the clever wordplay of up-and-coming talent like Gia Anderson, the poetry in this anthology is intelligent, erotic and arousing.

But this book is called Erotic Tales 2 so I need to make some mention of the prose as well as the poetry.

The short fiction in Erotic Tales 2 is an eclectic blend of stories that embrace a wide panorama of sexual tastes. The balance is slanted toward the heterosexual, but the contributions also include homoerotic narratives with arousing stories that have a core of gay and lesbian sex.

I’ve written a few erotic short stories in the past, as well as a handful of erotic novels. (Well, it’s about two-dozen erotic novels but I’ve got large hands – and you know what they say about us guys with large hands? That’s right: we need large gloves.) It always surprises me when people say, “How can you write about so many variations on sex? Surely it’s the same all of the time?”

This question, which exposes so much about the innocent who has raised the point, can be answered in a number of ways. “Fuck off and stop talking to me!” is one of my personal favourites, although I have been known to say, “You shouldn’t be reading that, Mother.” However, it only takes a quick glance inside an anthology like Erotic Tales 2 and any reader can see that erotic encounters are seldom the same on any occasion and variety and deviation are at the heart of imaginative and well-written erotic poetry and prose.

Erotic Tales 2 covers a broad spectrum of erotica. And, just as the oeuvre is eclectic in the sexuality of its erotic content, it is also equally diverse in the approaches each writer has assumed in their take on what makes a story sexually exciting. From the heady passion of Gwen Masters "Better Than Brazil," which is quickly followed by the foursome frolics of Lynne den Hartog’s "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor," the anthology shows that sex can be loving and luscious and playful and powerful – and, invariably, a lot of fun.

There are some outstanding writers in this anthology. Justus Roux’s own contribution, "Sarah’s New Beginning," is a tautly told tale of a newly wed woman’s need to submit. Michelle Houston’s "Nice Kitty Kat" is an inventive and intoxicating introduction to the world of (amongst other things) public spanking. H.L. Berry’s "Nightgirl – The Prisoner of Brenda," is a hilarious romp in the companionship of a wannabe super-heroine who encounters her arch nemesis.

There really is a lot to enjoy in this collection. There is certainly enough to ensure that every reader will find something to satisfy their personal appetite and, perhaps, encourage them to savour the flavour of something a little different to their usual fare.

Justus Roux’s previous anthologies include Erotic Tales, Erotic Fantasy: Tales of the Paranormal, Bosslady and Who’s Your Daddy? Erotic Tales 2 continues Justus’s tradition of collecting well-written erotica from a range of venerated veterans and very-promising virgins.

And, just to remind you all again that the poetry presented in this collection is not as easy as these talented folks make it seem, I’ll finish with another of my painstaking attempts at verse. Again, the more literary minded of you might notice that end rhyme is just not quite working for me.

Naked we lay in the bedroom

I called you “The Sexiest Lass.”

And then, when you’d knelt in the doggy position,

I buried myself deep in Justus Roux’s Erotic Tales 2

Ashley Lister

NB – It should be noted that the poetry quoted above is the work of Ashley Lister alone and is not (nor does it resemble) the poetry published in Justus Roux’s excellent collection.





Evil CompanionsEvil Companions
By: Michael Perkins
Constable and Robinson
ISBN: B009EP84CI
Originally published 1992. Rerelease September 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I was the wrong person to review this title. I’m a fairly shallow person and my reading tastes are simple to the point of being puerile. Some friends have said I’m as shallow as a spit stain. I perceive this as justified criticism.

And so, when I’m asked to review Evil Companions by Michael Perkins, one of the modern erotic classics published by Constable & Robinson, I have to be honest and say it was possibly too intellectual for my pedestrian tastes. This is a sample of the erotic content.

I began to get hard from all this corpse-fucking myself. I could tell that the Charmer felt the same way, because he was jerking his loins in sympathy with Paulette. I had to get into the action myself. Paulette’s mouth was not in use, so standing between the mark’s legs I fitted myself in through her clenched teeth. The mark was giving her such a good fuck, it was hard going, but it was worth it. The Charmer tried to follow my example with Lady Jane, but he got discouraged with her tears, and stood there frustrated, wondering how to get in on things. The idea he came up with might have been acceptable at another time, but I wasn’t up to being buggered right then. I kicked backward when I felt his tool ram against my buttocks, and he cursed.

“Fuck this, man. I got an idea.”

Mark Twain observed: “A classic is something that everyone wants to have read, but no one wants to read.” I mention this because the thought was going through my head constantly as I realised this title was from a range entitled ‘modern erotic classics.’

And I find it annoying because, looking at some of the other authors in this series, I know I would have likely enjoyed works by Remittance Girl or Marilyn Jaye Lewis because their work has always struck me as being representative of the type of erotica that I enjoy reading.

But this title simply didn’t work for me. The focus on excess and extremes was reminiscent of The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs from the 14th season of South Park. It was simply a catalogue of unpleasantness, listed as erotica only because those who arrange and organise these categories can’t differentiate between the sexual and the obscene.

They were all so involved in balling, drinking, or beating someone that I was scarcely noticed. My eyes, accustomed to the dimness, began to pick out individuals in the corners. In one of them, far away from everyone else, Anne was sitting alone, a needle hanging from her arm. Her eyes were dead, undersea; I approached with my throat tight, instinctively circling her at first, like an animal coming on its dead. She was much thinner, and her hair had been rough-cut even shorter, so she looked like a boy. There was a new scar on a cheek, a very small one, put there with a razor, probably: a jagged swastika. The Deathhead brand. She was wearing her old Levi’s, one sneaker, and a man’s dirty corduroy shirt.

I slapped her, and her mouth fell open, revealing bloody teeth. After a while, she choked, and came around, mumbling:

“Yes. It’s you. You own. Flies. Roaches. Horrible instincts— insects. Bugs. You own me now. Can I go to the toilet now? My belly hurts.”

Perkins has been described as America’s answer to de Sade. I suppose this might be true if we allow that de Sade’s writing eschews the erotic and instead reverts to the scatological; or if we allow that de Sade’s work favours a prurient celebration of misogyny over mutuality; or if we accept that de Sade treated the reportage of sexual experience as an examination of the eliminatory function of the biological rather than an investigation into the satisfaction of spiritual parity.

As I said, I was the wrong person to review this title because I failed to find it erotic on any level.  That said, if you like your erotica to fixate on every unpleasant aspect of sex – from extremes of mismatched personalities through to recreational drug abuse and necrophilia – then this is the title for you. However, if you find such subject matter more distasteful than erotic, you might want to give this classic a miss.





ExposureExposure
By: Lisabet Sarai
Phaze
ISBN:
February 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Those of you who are familiar with Lisabet Sarai’s writing won’t need to read any further.  Exposure is a very good book – another example of how a talented author can make the erotic genre work effectively – and well worth the time and money it takes to purchase and enjoy.  Go out and buy it.

For the rest of you who aren’t familiar with Lisabet’s writing – what the hell is wrong with you?  Why aren’t you familiar with Lisabet’s writing? 

Lisabet is a doyen of erotic fiction.  For anyone who wants to enjoy a guaranteed good read in erotic fiction: pick up one of Lisabet’s titles.  The same advice goes to anyone who wants to know how erotic fiction should be written: pick up one of Lisabet’s titles.  The lady knows how to tell a gripping story, make it saucy and keep the pace cruising along at Ferrari-speed. 

Exposure is Lisabet’s latest title and it tells the well-crafted story of Stella Xanathakeos, a 28 year old stripper who finds herself wrapped up in the political intrigue of a murder mystery.  The story is exciting and compelling, the characters are strong, likeable and credible and the sex is powerfully arousing. 

In many ways a murder mystery shares a lot in common with a typical striptease.  As one layer after another is removed, a little more is revealed but the audience remains hungry to see even more and they won’t be satisfied until everything has been wholly and totally exposed. 

Lisabet manages this authorial trick with typical aplomb, setting the story up so that the reader is presented with a Stella–eye view of reality.  The intrigue of the murder mystery is cleverly executed because Stella’s understandable paranoia allows the reader to have doubts about so many of the characters as they struggle – alongside Stella – to work out who are the heroes and who are the villains. 

This device also allows the reader a chance to experience Stella’s passionate involvement in the story as she is driven by her high-octane libido from one gloriously steamy encounter to the next and then the next.  Stella has a voracious appetite and Exposure gives her the chance to enjoy a lot of life’s most satisfying pleasures before it reaches its fulfilling climax. 

A lot of editors have told me that they don’t like seeing sex and death mixed together in erotic fiction.  I disagree with this arbitrary attitude.  I’ve written graveyard sex scenes and found, as long as the hero doesn’t go into the cemetery with a shovel to find a partner, the two themes can usually work quite well together. 

One of the many things I enjoyed about this title was Stella – the heroine.  Stella is an eminently likeable character.  She knows that her profession is frowned on by most people but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her work and taking as much pleasure from it as she can.  She tries her best not to take her stage show too far but, when she gets caught up in the moment, Stella knows the best way to keep her audience coming back for more. 

I think it’s fair to say that the world Stella lives in is ruled by men, and the majority of women in Stella’s world are mere commodities owned by the ruling hegemony.  Yet, despite the dual ideologies of patriarchy and money-is-power that control her universe, Stella lives by her own code.  Her attitude toward life is a remarkably refreshing and honest approach. 

All-in-all, Lisabet’s story is a fast-paced action-packed adventure that’s filled with lots of erotic encounters and a plot that twists and turns with the skilful limberness of a well-practiced exotic dancer.  Stella’s appetite is not only voracious – it’s also eclectic.  Stella slips between the sheets with men and women, always ensuring that she squeezes as much fun from each encounter as her well-toned muscles will allow.

In short – buy the book.  It’s bloody well written and a bloody good read.

Editors Note:  This title is due to be released February 9, 2009



Fascination StreetFascination Street
By: Bridget Midway
Phaze
ISBN: 978-1594267659
November, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I wish I lived on Fascination Street.

Actually, I wished I lived anywhere that didn’t have the problems that are my current neighbours. It would be wrong to say I hate my neighbours. Hate is such a strong word. And the word hate doesn’t properly express the way I loathe, detest, despise and revile the obnoxious bastards.

Obviously, the feelings are reciprocated. Adolf and Eva, as I like to call them, share the same deep-seated animosity for me that I harbour for them. It all started from a simple misunderstanding. Adolf (the one with the toothbrush moustache and the stiff military gait: the female half of our neighbours) called on me as I was rushing out of the front door on an important trek to the tobacconists.

“Your dogs have been barking!” she exclaimed.

“That’s right,” I agreed. “When they start meowing we call them cats.”

“Can you keep them quiet?”

I paused before answering this one, and possibly looked a little retarded as I tried to understand what she meant. It’s probably one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever been asked. For outright stupidity, it ranks alongside the world-class no-brainers like, “Do you want a beer?” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

“Can I keep them quiet?” I repeated.

I was wondering if she thought I released the dogs into the back garden each morning and told them, “Run outside, my pretties! Bark as loud as you can! I adore the sound of shrill yapping on a morning!”

“Of course I can’t keep them quiet,” I said patiently. “That’s why they bark all the time.” I stared at her with an expression that said one of us was incredibly dense. In fairness, I hadn’t yet decided which one of us that might be.

“Well try!” Adolf insisted. And then she slammed the door.

I was tempted to give a Nazi salute but I’m a mature adult and beyond such juvenile reactions. So I just shouted, “Suck my balls, Adolf!” and tried to forget about the incident and go on with my business.

The main problem with neighbours is, as much as you try to ignore them, the bastards are always living next door to you. Adolf and Eva made several attempts to keep the dogs quiet, most notably by shouting, “Stop barking,” whenever the dogs barked. The rationale behind this tactic baffled me. Our dogs bark at a number of things. Helicopters, cars, unexpected noises and people shouting: “Stop barking.” Clearly Adolf and Eva put a lot of faith in the dogs’ intelligence (believing the creatures would understand and obey their command) and very little faith in my intelligence (believing I hadn’t ever thought to tell them, “Stop barking!”)

For amusement I changed the dogs’ names whenever I was within earshot of the neighbours. “Come on in, Himmler!” I’d cry. “Goebels! Mussolini! Fluffy! Stop barking at Adolf and Eva.”

They retaliated with a noisy protest, playing loud Christian music until all hours of the afternoon, disturbing my concentration and generally making me worry that they could be putting the “mental” into Christian Fundamentalism.

I intend to take our neighbourly dispute to the next level once I’ve hooked up loudspeakers to an adjoining wall and can feed the soundtrack from one of my favourite porn movies into their bedroom at an ear-shattering volume.

Not that I’d have any of these problems if I lived on Fascination Street. If I lived on Fascination Street I’d brandish my copy of the Fascination Street Codes of Conduct at my neighbours and simply remind them to obey the rules.

Fascination Street is the latest title from Bridget Midway, author of Adam and E-V-E, C-A-I-N and A-B-E-L, Walls and Suburbia (amongst other titles). Published by Phaze Books, Fascination Street is the everyday story of a young couple, a new house and a host of horny new neighbours.

Grant Valente and Zora Hall move into Fascination Street and, before they’ve finished unpacking, they notice that something about their new location is different. Subtle things give this away, like the blowjob happening on the driveway across the road from them; like a neighbour walking in on them while they’re having sex; like the welcome basket that includes porn DVDs, handcuffs and whipped cream. Grant and Zora finally get the message when they’re invited to a house party and the neighbours begin to raunchily frolic in front of them.

And that’s when the story properly begins.

Without wanting to give too much away, Fascination Street is built on strong foundations of love. Grant and Zora both concede it takes a lot of love for a couple to enjoy the social side of their new address. Their neighbours each seem equally besotted with their own partners – even when they’re engaged with extra-neighbourly activities. And they all acknowledge that it takes a lot of love to forsake the security of monogamy for the sensual pleasures of swinging with the neighbours.

But Fascination Street is more than just a love story.

Bridget Midway plunges Grant and Zora into the trappings of this sublime suburbia and allows them to explore, enjoy and expand as the story develops. Bridget’s sex scenes are exciting and detailed without being salacious. Her characters are fresh and multifaceted. Bridget’s characters have a multicultural diversity that truly makes this novel stand out from many others I’ve read tackling similar themes.

Grant and Zora’s doubts about joining in with the constant party of Fascination Street are credible, and their adventures with their neighbours are explicit, entertaining and distinctively rendered.

If you’re blessed with neighbours as beautiful as those on Fascination Street, and if you’ve ever wondered what sort of things they might enjoy: Fascination Street and its "Codes of Conduct" could provide you with the rules you need to properly enjoy your neighbourhood. If you’re cursed with neighbours like Adolf and Eva next door to me, Fascination Street could give you the insight into how good life might be once you’ve forced them to move house.





First ExperienceFirst Experience
By: Simone Freier
OTK Publications
ISBN: 942054033
July 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I enjoyed this book.  I thought the author managed to capture a good sense of the erotic and convey the essential aspects of sexual excitement with some stylish aplomb.

I stood up and walked around behind Kelly, with the paddle in my hand. Kelly kept her eyes straight, and I don’t think she noticed the slight, but growing, bulge in my pants. I stepped around to Kelly’s left side, and placed the paddle gently on her left butt cheek that was covered by the thin fabric of her underwear.

I said loudly, “Are you ready?”

Kelly immediately replied, “Yes, Sir!”

Without further ado, I brought the paddle back, and swung it into Kelly’s bottom, snapping my wrist at the end, and delivering a much stronger blow than I had intended. In one moment, a loud ‘SMACK!’ exploded in the room, and I watched Kelly’s pantied buttocks ripple in waves, as she moved forward slightly, and screamed, shocked by the intensity of the swat.

Admittedly, there were aspects I didn’t like.  There were some editorial lapses in tense and punctuation that I found irritating.  There were also passages of dialogue that were dull to the point of being tedious.  But, overall, I thought this was a fun and well-realised story.

I laughed, “OK, Kelly. I’m not going to be too harsh on you now, but I certainly will be, if you require corrective punishment. Now, if you choose an extra swat, you can decide to take it immediately, or after you have earned another 10 points – so I would give you a hard swat on each side. If you choose a shot, you may chose to take it immediately, or take it during your corner time.

As an example, in the extreme case I just mentioned, you would get a 4 cc shot … or maybe a 2cc shot on each side (at my discretion), and then your paddling would continue. If you decide to delay all the shots until your corner time, I will decide how many shots it will take to inject the number of cc’s you have earned. Finally, I will not give you more than 12 cc of injections during this level- 10, so if you keep misbehaving, you might end-up getting additional swats, if you have already earned your limit in shots. I know all this sounds complicated, but it’s going to be easy, after we get started. If you stay in position, you won’t require any corrective punishment. I think we would both prefer that.”

Kelly quickly chimed in, “Yes Sir!!”

The premise is simple and familiar to readers of much contemporary erotica.  Sam is a mature gentleman and the narrator of this story.  He develops an unconventional relationship with an attractive younger woman.  Their relationship develops over the course of the story and the pair explore the possibilities of various exciting sexual fantasies that involve the typical tropes of domination and submission or power-play. 

“Kelly! What a coincidence to see you here. You remember, this is Linda’s birthday!”

Kelly was flustered for a moment, and then remembered, “Oh! Happy birthday, Linda! I had forgotten it was tonight. Well, I told you that I had other plans.”

The two girls looked at Kelly strangely, then at me, and back at Kelly. Kelly jumped in, “I’m sorry, this is Sam – he’s an old family friend, and a researcher; he has offered to help with some career guidance.” I just couldn’t resist: I tapped the second button on the remote – very briefly, but the effect was immediate. Kelly nearly howled, and her friends looked at each other, and then back to her. Kelly coughed, and said, “Sam, this is Linda and Julie – we all went to high school together.”

I said, “Pleased to meet you! Kelly has been telling me a bit about her ‘wilder’ days.” Kelly coughed again, and I tapped the #1 button on the remote, and Kelly squirmed: A true ‘tit for tat’.

Again, Linda and Julie looked at each other, now with a bit of concern on their faces. Julie said, “I hope she didn’t tell you too much!” Kelly looked uncomfortable.
I felt compelled to continue, “Well, she did mention Linda’s birthday, but not that you guys would be here.

Would you like to join us for dessert? Then, maybe, I should give Linda her birthday spanking?” All eyes were suddenly on me.

“Excuse me?” Linda said, with more of a laugh in her voice than a serious tone. Kelly just closed her eyes and shook her head.

Freier has a good sense of what is erotic and what works to convey excitement in the delicate balance between consensual, submissive and domination. Although I’d argue that the editorial team could have worked harder to polish this manuscript before it went out to publication, I’d still say this is definitely worth the read.





Flesh and the Devil Flesh and the Devil
By: Devyn Quinn
Aphrodisia
ISBN: 075821653X
April, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Flesh and the Devil, by Devyn Quinn, comes from Aphrodisia’s Erotic Romance range of titles. Please note, just because it says “erotic romance” on the cover that does not mean the content is tame or unerotic. Devyn Quinn is a mistress of paranormal penmanship and a delightful deviant in the art of erotica. Here she presents a neatly told tale that blends romance and the paranormal. But it is far from tame and never unerotic. Flesh and the Devil smoulders with flames that could have come straight from Hell.

In some ways it’s easy to see why writers choose to make the paranormal erotic. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and long before for those literary historians who specialise in this field) readers have been thrilled by the idea of a sexually seductive creature who takes control of a character’s will and forces them to submit, surrender and suffer. The individual’s blamelessness is enviable. As readers we can identify with the pleasure of exploring our deepest and darkest desires, and then innocently protesting afterwards, “But I didn’t want to do those things – I was compelled to do them.”

Yet Flesh and the Devil doesn’t follow that hackneyed format. Yes, there is a demonic and diabolical presence in this story. There is also a great deal of power play, some enjoyable domination and submission scenes, and a mesmerising control that could be supernatural in origin: or it could simply be the power of love.

But I’m not going to spoil the plot by telling you any of the story details. There is too much cleverly woven tension in this tale for me to risk unravelling a single thread.

I will say the hero of this story is not the sort who is shallow enough to go to the depths of depravity against his will. When he does explore his dark needs the reader knows that he is an individual who has made a conscious choice. Brenden Wallace is a believable cop who knows his limits can plumb some torrid levels. But he’s man enough to be comfortable with his desires and lucky enough to explore them with the beautiful Líadán Niamh.

Tall, slim, raven-haired (and with a figure to die for) the story’s devilishly attractive heroine is first seen in a tight red dress that doesn’t just show her desirable curves: it also reveals that she can inspire an unholy arousal.

The story begins in media res as Brenden and Líadán indulge in a soupçon of sensual bondage. From there the plot twists like the loose knot in a scarlet silk scarf and quickly becomes binding and inescapable.

Devyn Quinn has written a convincing tale of a heroic yet credible police officer encountering the deviant side of the paranormal and enjoying (nearly) every sordid moment. Pain, pleasure, punishment and passion sit side-by-side as the story rockets through the darkest streets of Louisiana and into the darker realms beneath.

The sex scenes in this novel are well painted but some of the most powerful erotica comes from those moments when Brenden and Líadán are bonding romantically rather than sexually. There is a genuine frisson between the characters that Devyn has managed to capture with style and authority.

Readers who are already familiar with Devyn’s writing will know she is a competent author who can effortlessly blend the paranormal with rude reality. Readers who aren’t familiar with Devyn’s writing should find Flesh and the Devil is a pretty good place to make her acquaintance.





GameGame
By: Justine Elyot
Mischief HarperCollins
ISBN: B006PW46MA
May 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The relationship between sex and games has been a longstanding one that is fast becoming inseparable. What was once referred to as ‘grown-up time’ is now more commonly spoken of in euphemisms that use the language of childhood. Adults often refer to consensual intimacy as time when they ‘play’ together. Women and men are encouraged to purchase ‘toys’ for the bedroom. We have ‘partners’ and ‘playmates’ and we indulge in adult ‘games.’

It’s no longer mere sex – it’s all about the game.

I mention all of this as a way of introducing Justine Elyot’s superb erotic fiction novel, Game.

Justine Elyot is the author of such well-received titles as The Business of Pleasure and On Demand. Her short fiction has appeared in more anthologies than bookmarks. She is a renowned and respected writer with a talent for bringing characters to life in saucy and compelling situations.

Take this scene from the early pages of Game.

“Jesus, Lloyd…”

“Nuh uh.” His fingers slide halfway out and I clamp my thighs, trying to catch them. He smacks the accessible part of my bum and tuts at me. “None of that, missy. We’re finishing this is in character. Come on. Do as you’re told.”

“Please, peasant, make me come. Please, please, now, please.”

He presses down; the fingers reinsert themselves.

I come, thrashing and snarling, twisting into his hand.

“How about that?” he sounds so smug I’d slap him if I weren’t both bound and sapped by the force of my orgasm. “Princesses come just the same as wenches. You’re just a wench underneath it all, aren’t you?”

“Insolent,” I pant but I can’t finish the thought. I don’t have it in me.

This is eloquent and stylish writing, introducing us to Sophie and Martin, a couple involved (in this first scene) in a role-playing game of damsel’s in distress and the seemingly insurmountable love between a peasant and princess. It’s an early introduction to the theme of play and this core topic recurs again and again as the story progresses.

Sophie and Martin play other games.

At one point in the story Martin sends Sophie on a treasure hunt around London, demanding mobile-phone evidence that she has fulfilled various obligations, and constantly encouraging her to liaise with friends and strangers as she rises to every challenge he makes.

It’s a page-turning rush of excitement, arousal and satisfaction.

And always, Elyot writes about this couple with an obvious affection for the pair of them – a writer who understands the positive and negative traits of the characters she’s narrating.

Day four involves a butt plug. On day five I’m tied to the bed and tickled with feather dusters until I scream.

But what really worries me is day six.

On day six he does nothing at all.

I wake up in his bed on day seven insouciant and breezy.

“Almost there,” I crow, ignoring my morning fog of lust and jumping out of bed.

“Almost,” says Lloyd, watching me from the bed. “Not quite.”

“What have you got planned? I can’t believe you didn’t try anything on yesterday. You must have some kind of massive finale prepared.”

“You know me too well.” He’s quiet for a moment, watching me scoop my shower things out of my overnight bag. He’s told me thousands of times I should keep some on his shelf, but I’ve never got round to it. “I’ve invited some friends round for dinner.”

I stand straight, watching his face for a moment. “Oh?”

“Close friends.”

“Who?”

“Rachael and O from the club.”

“For dinner?”

“Yeah. It’s our day off. Thought they could come round in the afternoon and hang out.”

“And by hang out, you mean…?”

“You’ll see.”

There is wit in this story as well as fun and wisdom and more intense and explicit sex than a good novel deserves. Well worth checking out.





Getting Even: Revenge StoriesGetting Even: Revenge Stories
Edited By: Mitzi Szereto
Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 1852429615
October, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I have to say before I begin this review that I don’t approve of revenge.  Revenge is the selfish face of subjective justice.  Revenge is the acceptable justification of an unacceptable vendetta.  Most importantly: revenge is just too bloody time consuming.

I speak here with the voice of experience.  To quote directly from Gilbert and Sullivan:  “I’ve got a little list.” 

Actually, my list isn’t that little.  If I bothered to print it out I expect it would look like the Oxford English Dictionary – the twenty volume, 750,000 word edition.  Many people have pissed me off throughout my time on this planet.  And I’m petty enough to carry grudges the way a boy scout carries badges of merit.

I’ve also taken the trouble to list my nemeses alphabetically and by individual category.  And I’ve also cross-referenced both lists.  Former bosses take up quite a large category on their own.  The boss that didn’t know how to flush the lavatory in the small office we shared – he’s on the list.  The boss that told me he couldn’t afford to give out pay rises because he’d just bought a new BMW – he’s got a special place on there.  The boss who tried to sue me after I’d left his company, because I owned the copyright to his company’s website – that worthless little tosspot has his own category. 

But part of my problem is that I don’t have the time to exact revenge on these cretins.  More distressingly: I don’t have the imagination to plot the appropriate revenge.  I stress this latter point because I sincerely believe that all revenge should be poetic.  The Bible tells us we should seek “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  I know Jesus came along after that part, and suggested some pacifist bullshit about turning the other cheek, but that sentiment only appeals to pussies who are too weak to get the job done properly.  Turning the other cheek is for those mere mortals who don’t want the powerful satisfaction that comes from exacting a cruel and sadistic (yet wholly justifiable) revenge. 

However, whilst I know my last employer needs to suffer a payback appropriate for the sleight he has made against my reputation, my gut reaction is to simply kick the little bastard in the balls. 

Of course, this plan is hampered by the fact that he doesn’t have a pair.  But, if he had a pair, I would don my steel toecaps and that would be my first option as a course for revenge.  Yet it wouldn’t be poetic – and a good act of revenge needs to be singularly apt.  It’s a rule that seldom applies to justice but it always applies to revenge: the punishment must fit the crime.

Getting Even: Revenge Stories contains some exquisitely poetic revenge stories.  Editor Mitzi Szereto has compiled a collection of stories that are clever in their execution, stylish in their composition, and wicked in their eventual denouements. 

I should state here that this anthology is not the collection of erotic stories one would usually expect from Mitzi.  There are some erotic elements, granted, but with this anthology Mitzi has focused strongly on the theme of revenge.  The content of each different tale varies through various levels of payback.  The stories are always exciting, often devious, and sometimes sexy, but they seldom venture into the lurid or pornographic. 

However, whilst the anthology isn’t erotic, it is extremely compelling and certainly makes for powerful and unputdownable reading. 

The Spanish say that revenge is a dish that’s best served cold.  Of course the Spanish would say this.  Spain is a fairly hot country and most dishes are best served cold over there to counterbalance the risk of dehydration.  Personally, I think revenge is best served steaming hot with a side-serving of smouldering passion.  Cold revenge can be seen as plain vindictive – boiling hot revenge is the sort of delicacy that leaves you sated, drained and wholly satisfied.  Getting Even contains recipes for revenge that are hot enough to make a volcano blush. 

I have favourites from this collection.  I adored the clever turnaround in Becky Bradford’s “More Than Skin Deep,” the tale of a philandering tattoo artist and his mistreated partner.  I also loved Stella Duffy’s genius catalogue of retribution from “Payment in Kind.”  Danutah Reah’s “Glazed” is a wickedly inventive way of beginning the anthology and Jean Lamb’s “Esprit de Corpse” is a wonderfully dark and twisted way to bring about the conclusion.  I was also enamoured by Tony Fennelly’s genius methodology in “How to Kill an Aries” as well as Mitzi’s own devilish contribution to this anthology: “Hell is Where the Heart is.”

In short: it’s impossible to find fault with this collection. 

I think everyone looking at this page, if they’re honest, will have harboured thoughts of revenge at some point in their life.  Forgiveness may be divine but forgiveness doesn’t give the gut satisfaction of revenge.  Whether it’s pain, purgatory, misery or murder: we’ve all contemplated payback and Getting Even shows how revenge can work at its best in fiction.

It’s said that revenge is sweet: it should be noted that Getting Even is even sweeter.



Girl Crazy: Coming Out EroticaGirl Crazy: Coming Out Erotica
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443522
June 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Academics will tell you that the title of the book is the most important part of the text.  This is the area of the book that a reader first encounters.  The title initially catches the eye of the reader – sparking their interest or otherwise – and suggesting a flavour of what is to come within the pages of the text.

And so it seems a shame that Girl Crazy!, an otherwise exemplary anthology from the marvellous Cleis Press Inc, is flawed by its title. 

Yes the anthology includes some intensely exciting tales.  All of them are well written and every one – without exception – is designed to stimulate the brain as well as other vital organs.  The over-riding theme of the anthology is erotic exchanges between women and other women: some lesbian, some bisexual, some just too curious and horny for their own good.  The anthology includes authors who most readers will have encountered previously (such as Sommer Marsden, D L King, Jean Roberta, Jacqueline Applebee, Kristina Wright, Catherine Lundoff, Cheyenne Blue and Sacchi Green).  There are also less nefarious authors – I’m including here those whose fiction I haven’t personally encountered before – all of whom provide outstanding narratives that are erotic, exciting and eloquently executed. 

Yet the book’s title leaves a lot to be desired.  I am aware that there has been a Gershwin musical of the same title, which opened on Broadway in 1930 and was committed to film in 1932 and 1943.  I also know that the pop band Hot Chocolate released a single with this title which got to #7 in the UK pop charts in April 1982.  However, Girl Crazy! in the context of a title to an anthology of erotic fiction doesn’t seem to be an intertextual reference to either of those items.

I’m assuming here that Girl Crazy! takes its title from the modern usage of the word ‘crazy’ suggesting enthusiasm, infatuation or mild obsession (rather than straitjacket insanity or the taking-your-pet-goldfish-for-a-walk-type of mental illness).  I’m OK with this vernacular terminology, even though I sincerely believe this idiomatic employment of the adjective reached the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  What I’m not comfortable with is the reductive use of the word ‘girl’ to describe women who are mature enough to be in control of their sex and explore their sexuality. To me, this just sounds derivative and somewhat demeaning. 

You may be reading this and thinking: “Take the stick out of your arse, Ashley.  It’s just a title!”  However, if I began to review this article and cheerfully referred to the authors as a bunch of “crazy girls,” I would be (deservedly) pilloried for:

Which all sounds like I’m having a rant – and that’s most likely because I am. 

However, I have never come across a Cleis anthology I didn’t enjoy and I only stress my distaste for this book’s title because I don’t think it’s worthy of Cleis’s distinctive brand of top quality, balanced erotica.  I also think the title is especially not fitting for this collection of intense and arousing well-structured stories.

Take, for example, Sommer Marsden’s beautifully stimulating story “Spitting Seeds.”  Sommer is a fantastic author who never fails to blend beautiful prose with a lyrical ability to excite.  “Spitting Seeds” manages to capture the erotic thrill of daring to do the forbidden without making this oft-visited scenario seem either trite or gratuitous.  “Spitting Seeds” is a fantastic story, yet the characters, although presented as alluring young females, could not reasonably be described as ‘girls’ unless they were being spoken about by some leering old uncle.

D L King’s “Tasting Chantal,” is an intense encounter in the New York BDSM club the Whip Handle.  The mature dominant protagonist, Neela, finds herself in the company of the delightfully submissive Chantal.  The dialogue is sharp; the intimacy is passionate and powerful; and as Chantal is 23 years old and Neela is her senior, it would only be the most condescending misogynist who described either of these characters with the epithet “girls.”

Please note – none of this is being said as an indictment against the contents of the book.  The fiction in these pages is outstanding and exciting.  The compassion and sympathy in Jean Roberta’s “Getting It” is beautifully realised, gloriously stimulating and truly heart-warming.  The humour and verve in Kristina Wright’s “Muddy Waters” is refreshing and a pleasant contrast to the intensity of passion and emotion in her characters’ erotic exchange.  The realistic characterisation in Catherine Lundoff’s “Wine-Dark Kisses” will leave the reader sure they know Janeece and Ingrid more thoroughly then they knew their last lover. 

In short, Girl Crazy! is a wonderful book and well worth buying: it’s just burdened with a terrible title.



Going Down: Oral Sex StoriesGoing Down: Oral Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447897
May 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Can I be honest here? There are not many advantages to being a book reviewer.

The hours are terrible. I say that because I’m writing this whilst the rest of the world is asleep.

The money is abysmal: this month’s reviewing salary won’t pay the price of a tank of gasoline. (That said, with the way fuel prices are rising at the moment, I suspect there are some bankers and lottery winners who won’t be able to afford a tank of gasoline this month).

There are also times when I’m expected to read and review books that are an insult to the concept of publication. This used to be fun in the days of printed books, when I could angrily toss a book across the room and watch it smack against the wall; or when I could occasionally burn a paperback in my own homage to the historical mentals who have burnt books. But there are serious ramifications to personal cost when I do this with a Kindle.

Being a book reviewer doesn’t give me any street cred or kudos. People don’t come up to me and say, “Wow! Ashley, I hear you review books. What a sexy occupation. Please tell me all about that whilst I lavish you with pleasure and other sociological or psychological benefits.”

Yet there is one advantage to being a book reviewer. And that one advantage happened this month. This month I happened to be one of the fortunate ones who got an early chance to read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology Going Down: Oral Sex Stories.

To show you how lucky I am, here’s a short piece from the opening story, “Pretty Dull.”

She didn’t think his wife or her husband were very giving and receiving sorts of people.

But oh, he was. His hand went to the side of her face, when she finally took him in her mouth. He didn’t push or force, however, or grasp a handful of her hair. Instead he cradled her face tenderly, as though he wanted to thank her through a touch.

It burned more deeply than the feel of him, all thick and too-hard in her mouth. Her clit jumped inside her already-wet panties, and when he carded his fingers through her hair she grew slicker still. Her cunt bloomed beneath no touch at all, and when she swirled her tongue around the glossy head of his gorgeous prick, the urge to touch herself grew too great.

She resisted, however. He’d resisted. She’d never seen him stroke himself, as he licked her pussy. He’d focused entirely on her, and she wanted to give him the same. She wanted to suck strong and fierce until his taste flooded her mouth—strangely sweet, in a way other men had never been—and moan in that exact way he had.

“Pretty Dull” is written by the eminently readable and talented Charlotte Stein. Charlotte knows how to write erotic fiction and she introduces characters who are living and breathing people. This story works as a piece of erotica as well as an emotional journey where exploration and generosity are contrasted against conservatism and repression.

This is, I think, a point of view which echoes the sentiment voiced in the introduction by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

I thought I knew, if not everything, quite a bit about the fine art of oral sex until I started to read the stories that came in for Going Down. In them, giving and receiving head became its own, if you’ll pardon the pun, head trip, and showed me that there is plenty for even the most seasoned connoisseur to learn and enjoy about an act that brings pleasure to so many.

Not that all of the stories in the collection focus on alternatives for repression or approaches to banish the dysfunctional. Jeremy Edwards, “Bubble Gum,” produces a piece of fiction where the narrative is less important than the tremendous physicality of the description. Similarly, Lucy Felthouse, “Clean/Dirty,” relates a first person narrative with the focus on the pleasure of oral sex between consenting adults.

But, as Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, this is an anthology that does not simply show oral sex occurring. The stories in this collection touch new areas and stretch the boundaries. One of my favourites in this category is Shanna Germain’s pragmatically titled short, “Sucking Casey’s Cock.”

“Danny, who taught you how to go down on a woman?” He laughed, and then it was his turn to blush a little.

“You.” It was true—when he’d gotten his first real girlfriend at eighteen, I’d been the one he’d gone down on first. He was the only guy I’d ever had between my legs, and I’d been surprised to discover that if you closed your eyes—and ignored the scratch of his teenage beard—tongues felt a lot alike no matter the gender. He’d made me come—twice, in fact—and I’d discovered something about myself, too. I liked having the power of telling someone what to do. I was a little lesbian domme in the making.

This is another stellar anthology from Cleis Press. The standard of writing is high and the depth of the subject matter is seldom short of thought-provoking. If there was ever a reason for a book reviewer to boast of an advantage to their job, then it’s being one of the first to read this delightful collection.





H is for HardcoreH is for Hardcore
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442860
July, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the introduction to this book, Alison Tyler says, “I don’t want nice and clean. I don’t want good and kind. I want hot and fast. Dark and dirty. Basically, I want hardcore.”

It’s a sentiment I’ve echoed myself, although it’s seldom a successful way to start job interviews.

H is for Hardcore is the latest anthology in Alison Tyler’s erotic alphabet. It might be worth mentioning here that H is also for HORNY and HARD-ON. H is also for HOT, HOTTER and HOTTEST. This collection of twelve short stories comes from a pantheon of erotic authors who have gleefully produced fiction that meets Ms Tyler’s original remit. This is hardcore at its horniest.

Mathilde Madden, Gwen Masters and Radclyffe. John A Burks Jr, Jean Roberta and Sophie Mouette. Chris Costello, Rakelle Valencia and Shane Allison. Teresa Noelle Roberts, Michael Hemingson and the inimitable Ms Tyler herself. The combined talents of these authors have been used to produce an anthology that is graphic and gratuitous: sordid, sexy and splendid. The content is extremely hot and exceptionally fast. The stories are wonderfully dark and deliciously dirty. The anthology is, in a word: hardcore.

Hardcore is a peculiar word to define. One person’s definition of hardcore is another person’s idea of tame. Or another person’s version of too extreme. To illustrate this point, I was recently eavesdropping on two friends who were discussing hardcore. One friend claimed she liked some hardcore activities, and these included using the F-word – although she drew the line at the C-word. The other friend said that no cunt had ever told her what the C-word was, and her definition of hardcore started with rusty barbed wire and at least four pairs of nipple clamps and it invariably ended with a scream.

Yet this collection of shorts manages to consistently deliver fiction that can only be described by that single word: hardcore.

Mathilde Madden opens the collection with a first person narrative of bondage and teasing to outrageous excess. Gwen Masters follows with a torrid tale that plays with the power balance between a protector and the protected. Radclyffe then takes the reader into the darkened corners of a BDSM world and blends male terminology with female anatomy in a disconcerting meld of the boldest and most brutal sexuality.

John A Burks Jr. has written a satisfying story that introduces the reader to a powerful man who, at the beginning of the narrative, can best be described as “anal.” Jean Roberta, always a pleasure to read, stuffs her tongue in her cheek as her characters mix role-playing with bondage. Sophie Mouette takes bondage to the next level as her characters are bound together in an inevitable climax.

These are forceful stories that evoke passion with a capital P. Every one of them is hauntingly hardcore. Each could be adequately described as hotter than hot.

Chris Costello tells a tale of girl meets girl, but with a wealth of kinky twists to keep the reader riveted. Rakelle Valencia’s characters rope and ride an unsuspecting rancher. Shane Allison gives us a homoerotic taste of full-on, fantastic foot fetish.

All of these stories are written by authors who know how to excite. The sex scenes are gloriously graphic. The erotic content is constant and consistent in its strength.

Teresa Noelle Roberts writes about a woman with a passion for knives. This rarely written kink is perfectly exploited in "On a Knife Edge" and, after the tour de force of the anthology’s previous stories, manages to introduce the reader to a delicious and deviant new delight. Michael Hemmingson’s, "The End of Celibacy," presents a girl who has been looking for love in all the wrong places. The stilted dialogue between the characters perfectly matches their stilted relationship. The delicious twist to this story is wicked, wild and wonderful. Alison Tyler’s "Ashes and Diamonds," raw passion embodied in three short but intense pages, concludes this collection in a powerful and satisfying climax.

H is for Hardcore is undoubtedly the strongest of Alison Tyler’s alphabet series to date. The focus is fixed firmly on erotic extremes. Ms Tyler asked for hot and fast. She asked for dark and dirty.

The result is the sensational H is for Hardcore.





InequitiesInequities
By: Debra Hyde
Carnal Desires Publishing
ISBN: 1554045509
March 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

If you’re not already familiar with Debra Hyde’s name then you should go away now and return to the cave where you’ve been living since the start of this century. Clearly you’ve not being paying attention to erotic literature over the last decade and this is obviously no place for you.

However, if you are familiar with Debra’s name, you’ll probably be aware that she has written and published more short stories than most people have read. Aside from being a prolific author of short fiction, she’s also enviably good at what she does and highly respected throughout the industry.

To illustrate this point: I once made the mistake of privately ascribing one of Debra’s stories to a friend (another established author of erotic fiction). This happens more often to me than to competent authors/reviewers. I have the memory span of a goldfish with Alzheimer’s and I’m one of those people who should have my family member’s names tattooed on my forearm so I can remember what to write on birthday cards. It’s become so embarrassing that, during moments of sexual climax, I’ve started shouting out my own name, just so I’m sure I’m mentioning one of the people involved.

I’m perpetually making mistakes of this ilk, so when I made the mistake of ascribing Debra’s story to the output of my friend, she understood that I am “challenged in the memory department” and corrected me immediately.

“No!” she said, “I didn’t write “Tic Sex,” although I wish I had. Debra’s a phenomenal author of short fiction.”

Now, with the release of Inequities, it’s fair to amend that comment and say that Debra is also a phenomenal author of full-length fiction.

So, sit back and relax, and allow me to introduce you to Cynthia Barnett: widowed, wanton and wonderfully wild. Cynthia narrates her own story and it begins as she tries to ends her period of mourning for a husband, Paul, whom she loved dearly.

Despite the motif of bereavement, there is no melancholy or self-pity in this narration. Cynthia pragmatically accepts love and loss as an inescapable fact of life and death. Now she’s ready to move past grieving for the loss of her belated beloved, she can begin looking for something to fill the emptiness in her life.

Beginning at a party with her late husband’s colleagues, and swiftly moving to a deliciously seedy fetish bar, Cynthia’s story sets off at a swift pace.

However, it’s worth mentioning here that Cynthia’s participation at the fetish bar is not the usual fare of erotic fiction. Cynthia is still finding her feet (which is probably why she ends up in the company of a foot fetishist) and things don’t go as either of the characters anticipated. This is one of the (many) features that made this book come across as deliciously realistic.

Kinky sex is great when it works but – in the real world – the initial demands and expectations of kinksters come together as rarely as pre-orgasmic couples. Debra’s acknowledgement that things don’t always go smoothly makes this story throb with the pulsing vibration of realism.

Overcoming her confusion, with the help of an old family friend and the assistance of her faithful strap-on, Cynthia recovers her composure and re-emerges from the experience with the confidence of a natural dominatrix.

Only to be faced by further challenges.

Meet David. Meet Miles. Watch as Cynthia tries to make a decision between these two potentially submissive partners. And then the plot thickens as Cynthia becomes intrigued by the charms of boorish and dominant Spencer.

I won’t give anything more away about the story. It’s a fun read, well told and powerfully satisfying. I will say that one of the most engaging things about this novel is the strength of the characters. Cynthia’s voice is distinctive and likeable as she narrates the action. And, in Inequities, there is lots of action that needs to be narrated. The sex scenes are explicit, well-crafted and stimulating. Debra Hyde writes erotica that is arousing without being gratuitously explicit.

Yet, as I’ve said before, strong, credible characters, and memorable character interaction, are where Debra Hyde’s storytelling excels. In her short fiction Debra creates characters who are living, breathing and three-dimensional. In Inequities, because she has the length of story to build more layers, Debra’s characters are even more fully rounded. By the time I was ten pages into Inequities, I was hooked and unwilling to leave Cynthia and her world.

If you like erotic fiction to be intelligent and believable, then Inequities has to be on your summer reading list. It’s hot and horny and fresh from the wonderful Debra Hyde: what more could you ask for?





Kinky Girls DoKinky Girls Do
By: Michelle Houston
Phaze
ISBN: 1594269254
July, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

What is kinky?

Sometimes I wish I had the right body shape for T-Shirts. My head is too large for my pencil-like neck and the ratio of my torso to my limbs is proportionally akin to a turnip with cocktail-sticks for arms and legs. When fashion designers were originally designing T-Shirts, they weren’t thinking of individuals with my malformed physique.

Of course, if I had the ability to change the shape of my body through wishing alone, moulding myself to appear presentable in T-Shirts would be way down on the list. First, I’d correct the problem of having one ear bigger than the other. I swear that problem didn’t exist until I started to wear a Bluetooth earpiece for my mobile phone. I got it cheap, and it weighs nearly three kilos, and I’m beginning to suspect the burden of this extra weight may be a contributory factor in the condition. Since I started wearing it my left ear now flops over and points south every time I watch a sunset.

And there are other areas of my body I would change too. I know that everyone says size doesn’t matter but there’s certainly one part of my anatomy that could do with losing some length and maybe trimming a little of its vast girth. Of course, I know some people find a large nose attractive, but I guess body shape is a personal decision.

But I’m digressing, aren’t I? I was talking about T-shirts. And my desire to wear one and not look like a famine victim on holiday. Or a badly constructed scarecrow with a wasting disease. I’ve always wanted to wear T-shirts because they can be printed with such pithy observations.

My wife hankers after the T-shirt that says, “Yes, I do have some spare change. Thank you for asking, you homeless piece of shit!” As you can probably tell, her application for a position with the Samaritans was unexpectedly rejected. My son wants the T-shirt that shows a picture of Harold Shipman and is framed with the words, “Carry On Doctor.” And me: I’d be happy with the T-shirt that says, “It’s only kinky the first time.”

Michelle Houston’s collection of four short BDSM stories, Kinky Girls Do, got me thinking about what constitutes kinky. Of course, I’m often thinking about things that are kinky, and not just because I’m a pervert, subversive and deviant. I consider these thoughts to be the necessary preoccupations of an author in the erotic genre.

And I keep coming back to the question: what is kinky?

As some of you may know, I’ve written a non-fiction book on swingers and I’m currently working on a follow-up title. To write this book I’ve interviewed many, many swinging couples and, not surprisingly, the word kinky has been bandied around with the frequency of the word parrot at a Monty Python convention. But no one has pinned it down to a universally acceptable definition.

One young lady I spoke with catalogued her interest in leather and rubber fetish wear. We followed this with a discussion on the most judicious locations for watersports and the inherent problems of outdoor bondage and flagellation. I then broached the subject of missionary position sex in bed, in the dark, with the lights off and she lambasted me for being outrageously depraved and kinky.

Which I only mention to show that one person’s kinky is another person’s commonplace.

But, for a primer into the world of kink, you could do much worse than enjoy Michelle Houston’s Kinky Girls Do.

Michelle Houston is a veteran writer of erotic fiction. While it’s not exactly true to say her name has been in more anthologies than the words, Table of Contents, it’s an inarguable fact that she is prolific and well-published. Her short fiction can be found in a variety of collections including those published by Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Justus Roux and many of the Renaissance anthologies. Unleashed, a collection of Michelle’s short erotic fiction, includes sixteen sensationally sexy stories and this is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg for her true output.

In Kinky Girls Do, Michelle entertains us with four stories of BDSM kink. As with all Michelle’s fiction the narrative is graphic without being gratuitous and sexy without being salacious. She creates rounded characters and masterfully takes us with them as they grow just a little bit more.

The first of these stories introduces exhibitionist Angela. Michelle makes the woman gorgeous and credible and pens a delicious story of steamy stripping, sultry show-womanship and a sensuous, satisfying conclusion. But, to show her diversity, Michelle brings a blend of sensitivity to the kink in this collection, and shows that however deviation might be defined by most, it can always be tempered with humanity.

If I say much more I’m going to spoil the plots of the other stories. It’s enough to say Michelle Houston writes sensational erotic fiction and these four shorts will strike a chord with every discerning reader of erotica.





Kinky Girls: An Xcite Collection of Women on the Wild SideKinky Girls: An Xcite Collection of Women on the Wild Side
Edited By: Miranda Forbes
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1907016562
May 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Kinky Girls, published by Xcite books, is a collection of short stories from a variety of celebrated erotic fiction authors.  The following extract is from Justine Elyot’s “Just Watch Me.”

“Well, well.” His voice was a little unsteady, trying too hard for detached amusement. “What have we here? James and Shar sitting in a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Please don’t mind me – carry on.”

So we did. Carried on clinching on the sofa until my top was off and my skirt down.

“What do you think, Craig?” James broke off from sucking my nipple to throw the question over to the armchair. I looked over at him; he had released his cock and held it in a fierce fist. His face was pink all over, and looked bloated, his eyes reduced to piggy slits of lust.

I’ve reiterated this part because, whilst I was reading it, I realised it was brilliant. It’s stylish. It’s credible. And it’s arousing. Justine Elyot is an established tour de force in erotica. Elyot has written for Black Lace, Cleis, Xcite and many other respected publishers of adult fiction. And the reason why Elyot has been published by the stalwarts of the industry is because she’s damned good at delivering the goods. You want an erotic story? Pick up something written by Justine Elyot and you’re sure to be reading an erotic story.

Or take this example from Sommer Marsden’s “You’re My Toy.”

Aaron decided to play dirty. He took a bright blue ribbon from the floor and tied me to the back of his mother's antique chair. Heavy dark wood carved with smiling moons and shooting stars. The thing weighed a ton and I was powerless to get at him. He pulled free of me as my body vibrated with urgency. I was right there on the crisp paper edge of coming and he was leaving me!

Sommer Marsden is well-known and deservedly respected in the world of erotic fiction. She writes hot, exciting fiction that sizzles with erotic anticipation. Her characters are vivid and horny and eminently likeable. And her stories are compelling and satisfying the way that arousing erotic fiction needs to be satisfying.

And then there’s this piece from Penelope Friday in “All About the Sex.”

It's all about the sex. It's all about his hands on me, ripping my clothing off me with bodily force, snarling in my ear that he wants me, that he wants me to beg, that he'll take me any and every way he fancies and I'll just beg him for more. It's all about that, because it's true. I want him to hurt me. I want to feel his fingernails digging into my flesh; his teeth gripping my shoulder like an animal. I want to feel his cock burning its way inside me so I'm aware of every single millimetre of him. I want him to pull my head back by the hair and bite my neck, vampire-like.

Penelope Friday is erudite, stylish and cohesive. But don’t let that put you off. She is also capable of telling a powerful erotic story that keeps the reader entertained and excited from the first word through to the last.

The constant theme running through King Girls is supposed to be that the heroines involved are all kinky. I suppose most of us had already figured that out. However, whilst that might be one of the major themes, it’s worth acknowledging that there is another constant theme. Each one of these stories is powerfully arousing.

Another constant theme is that all of the stories have been written by competent authors who know how to please their readers. 

If you’re looking for exciting adult entertainment that delivers a powerful erotic punch, you don’t need to look any further than Miranda Forbes’s Kinky Girls. This really is a stunning collection of first rate fiction presented by authors who know what their readers want.

And, if that means this reader wants Kinky Girls, I’m not going to argue.



Legacy (Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld)Legacy (Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld)
By: Shakir Rashaan
Kemi-Ka Publishing
ISBN: B004FPYPA2
December 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Oh that this too too sallied flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter. O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

The Hamlet quote from above flashed through my mind when I first started turning the pages of Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld.  I have always perceived these words as being Hamlet’s desperate cry for God to strike him down and end his suffering.  That was certainly the reason why I bellowed them to the empty heavens.  And, just like with Hamlet, my cries for mercy remained unheeded.

Hamlet ended up with the misery of family death, torment and a country’s suffering.  I ended up having to read Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld.  I can’t decide which of us got the worst deal.  Of course, I’m joking with that last line.  I’m fairly confident I know which of us got the worst deal.
 
If it sounds like I’m being harsh, that’s only because I am.  Let me state before I go any further that Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld is clearly fueled by a powerful imagination.  The story is delightfully complex and the characters are fully rounded.  However, it’s difficult to appreciate those intricacies because the standard of writing makes the narrative inaccessible.

This is from the introduction to Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld.
 
Now, to give you a premise for the book you’re reading now, Legacy.

With Amenhotep gone from the local POC scene, however, a transition begins, and everyone in the community is trying to get used to the idea that the balance of power has shifted within the Atlanta BDSM POC community.  Some were okay with it, others obviously not, but that’s how the scene goes sometimes.  The only thing I could do was keep on my toes and make sure that no one tried to slip in and try to throw a monkey wrench in the plans that I had.  What plans might that be? Well, I guess you’ll have to find out, won’t you?

In the meantime, I guess I need to leave you now.  I have a few business ventures that need to be checked on and a collaring ceremony to prepare for.

I’ve reiterated this passage so that those readers with an interest in this title can appreciate the quality of the writing.  By contrast with the opening lines of this review, I’m sure we can all see that it’s not Shakespeare.
 
I could be hypercritical and discuss the need for some elegant variation (Now, to give you a premise for the book you’re reading now), or suggest a requirement for pruning extraneous words (“With Amenhotep gone from the local POC scene, however, a transition begins …”).  I could just be snide and suggest that it would have helped to employ an editor.  But I sincerely doubt an editor could have done much with this title.

The book opens with the following sentence: I felt like the headset I was wearing had become a chain. This is wrong as a statement.  Consider what is being said here.
 
The phrase ‘I felt like…’ forewarns a comparison.
 
Examples:

  1. I felt like getting naked and rubbing oil over my body. 
  2. I felt like gouging my eyeballs out after reading Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld

Noun phrase
‘…the headset I was wearing had become a chain.’

This is a delightful image, worthy of the metaphysical poet George Herbert with his classic metaphor description ‘chain of sands.’  However, it bears no correlation to the comparison preceding it.
 
The opening three words (I felt like) suggest that we are about to be given access to the feelings of the protagonist.  But, instead of being told about the protagonist’s feelings, we’re given a piece of stark metamorphoses-esque imagery.
 
This could be construed as a clever blending of the abstract with the concrete.  But we all know it’s not.  Most likely it’s just a mistake.
 
Perhaps the first word should be ‘It’ instead of ‘I’ – that would make more sense.  “It felt like the headset I was wearing had become a chain.” But if that’s the case, it suggests that the editor had given up on this book even sooner than I admitted defeat.

In many ways this is a shame.  Legacy: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld, has clearly been inspired by a vivid imagination and a furious desire to share a full and exciting story.  The sexual shenanigans are arousing and entertaining but they are splattered across the page without the finesse or style of a competently constructed narrative. 

Some careful revisions and a harsh edit could have made this book compelling.



Like a Breath of Flame: Erotic Tales of DragonsLike a Breath of Flame: Erotic Tales of Dragons
Edited By: Cosmin Alexander
Contributions By: Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press
ISBN: B00A304FMQ
November 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

As Cosmin Alexander says in the introduction to Like a Breath of Flame, dragons are everywhere:

Not literally, of course, that’s silly. But if you look across ancient human cultures, the presence of dragons is near universal. Europe, of course, had its famed fiery beasts, living representations of the power of nature, often associated with the devil and the powers of darkness. East Asia instead had their glorious and wise creatures of rain and river and earth: powerful, capricious, and dangerous, but also knowledgeable and noble. That isn’t all, though. Australia had the Rainbow Serpent, a creature of rivers and life, while the Aztecs had Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, lord of the Morning Star. Then there’s modern fantasy: it seems you can barely turn around without running into a dragon, as though it’s a requirement that fantasy novels, games, and movies have one.

Like a Breath of Flame is collection of short erotic stories from Circlet Press with a pronounced draconine content. Needless to say, because the collection comes from Circlet Press, the quality of the material is consistently high. With contributions from Dominic Santi, Dean Scarborough, Kennan Feng and KJ Kazba, it’s no surprise that the standard is superlative on every page.

And I think it’s fair to say that dragons are different for every reader and every writer. Julian Oliver-Fenn “The Last Whisper of Killitch,” writes here with a mythic reverence for the subject matter. Kimber Camacho, “Sleeping with Dragons,” writes with a rich palate of descriptive affluence. These are stories with dragons at their centers – but each told by a poignantly different author.

Nobilis Reed, “Prince Lovely and the Three Dragons” approaches this genre with a blend of humour and storytelling that is reminiscent of a child’s fairy tale written for an adult audience.

Prince Lovely shivered. The hilltop he stood on wasn’t particularly cold—in fact, it would be a pleasant day, if circumstances were at all different—but he was dressed in nothing more than a dress of sheer samite. Well, to be perfectly honest, there was also a garland of daisies in his hair and a jeweled necklace, but those offered even less protection from the cold, and the stone at his back still retained a good deal of its nighttime coolness.

The fact that he was bound to that stone, waiting for a dragon to eat him, made the situation doubly shiver-worthy. It didn’t help that the gown looked absolutely terrible on him. They could have at least put him in one of the dresses with less décolletage; he simply didn’t have the right kind of chest for this one. The red velvet one, with the fur around the hem, that would have been particularly nice, and well suited to the weather, not to mention his coloring.

These are the words that start the final story in this collection and it’s a tale that has wit, eroticism and a handful of delightfully deviant twists. This is what happens when Prince Lovely becomes acquainted with Princess Wise:

Lovely sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He took Wise’s slender wrist and laid it as gently as he could in the iron clamp, and fitted the hook that would hold it in place. There was no lock, just a latch that the victim would not be able to open by herself.

He picked up the bottle and pulled the stopper. A pleasant smell, spice and musk and herbs, diffused into the room. “How much is a minim?” he asked.

“About as much as will fit in the palm of your hand,” said Wise. “Hurry.”

Lovely found his hand trembling as he poured, and the first rush of liquid spilled over his wrist rather than pouring over his hand. He steadied himself and brought his hand to Wise’s body, smearing it down from between her breasts down to her belly. The fragrance became even stronger.

“Wow,” said Wise. “That actually feels pretty good.”

Altogether this collection is entertaining, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. The writing is top quality and the stories never fail to satisfy.





Like Slipping Undercover Erotic Spy FictionLike Slipping Undercover Erotic Spy Fiction
Edited By: Bethany Zaiatz
Circlet Press
ISBN: B00HWWAXKQ
January 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll hold my hand up here and admit that I didn’t enjoy Like Slipping Undercover: Erotic Spy Fiction. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book. Maybe I’m going through the male menopause or just behaving like the Easter version of the Grinch. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me.

The stories are adequately executed. If I’d been editor on any of these shorts they would have been different. But I’m not the editor. Does this sound like I’m trying to make an obscure point? I hope not. I’m trying to be constructive here and I’m making this observation because, oftentimes, I’ll read through a story, encounter a jumbled clause or a piece of awkward dialogue, and I’ll be wrenched from the story I’m reading.

Keep in mind that it’s the short story‘s job to create and maintain a sufficiently robust storyworld. I say it’s the short story’s job because the division of labour in a published work falls between the writer and the editor. The storyworld those two have constructed needs to be so sufficiently robust that a reader can experience the physicality of the fiction and get to the end of the narrative without remembering that they’ve been experiencing an unreality.

I struggled to achieve the physicality of the fiction with most of these works.

This first example I’ve got here comes from ‘The  Masterless Man’ by T C Mill.

Allen Keir knew how very rare he was: an artist whose lifestyle was more interesting than his work.

Not that traffic photography wasn’t a groundbreaking study; a strange and sometimes charming way of looking at something as invisible as the country thoroughfare. Allen wouldn’t have created these sorts of pictures if he didn’t believe in their value to his clients. That was because he couldn’t afford to offer anything but the best, having only clients and not a patron. Allen Keir was a Masterless man.

He lived from show to show, and for the past seven years it had kept him from needing Charity. Not as if many of the Charities would be willing to take him in anyway. Where Masters looked for talent and obedience, Charities would only support those who kept to certain codes of conduct, and there, too, Allen’s lifestyle was rather atypical.

I’m not going to criticise this passage for the unexpected capitalisation in the second and third paragraphs (Masters/Masterless, Charity/Charities). I’m not going to harp on about the intrusiveness of colons and semicolons in genre-fiction. I’m not even going to point out that an expository opening that includes references to traffic photography does not strike me as the most compelling hook I’ve ever encountered in fiction.

I’m just going to say that this didn’t float my boat.

Like Slipping Undercover is juggling two separate genres. In the first instance it’s trying to do something erotic with each story. This is to be expected in erotic fiction. In the second, it’s trying to combine the erotic element with spy fiction – a genre that’s nefariously been associated with jingoism and that sense of ‘otherness’ that is invariably discussed by those dealing with post-colonial literature studies.

In spy fiction the reader can often associate with the main character because that character is confronted by the frightening aspects of a foreign culture. This is a sex scene from ‘Not Exactly Dead’ by Chris Amies.

They kissed again, a collision of mouths, tongues flickering over one another’s. He tried to move away from her mouth and kiss her face, but she brought him back to centre. Then she disengaged from him, took her T-shirt hem in her hands and pulled the shirt off over her head. Her pale-skinned body, firm high breasts bare, came so well to his arms.

“Let’s have sex,” she said.

“Now,” Will said, “you put it like that...”

Emma Kessler laughed and tugged at Will’s shirt. He got the clue and took it off. Standing up, Emma removed the leggings and her lacy, peach-coloured knickers, placing them on a side-table. Her pale body seemed too fragile for this place with its musty curtains and peeling walls. She led him by the hand, a naked nymph at her play, to her bedroom. White curtains at the windows, a low double bed.

She stopped, turned to him. He undid his belt, took off his jeans, eased his underpants over his proud erection. Then he went to his knees on the thin blue carpet. She stepped forward.

“You’ve done this before,” she said in a while, her hands caressing his head, fingers in his hair.

Again, I’m not going to criticise. There’s a dangling modifier in the opening sentence of this passage. There’s such a pervading sense of the mechanical in the descriptions of character movement and interaction that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is robot sex. But the story didn’t excite me.

I’ll say here that this story is one of my favourites in the collection. I thought the overt Britishness was endearing in its reliance on stereotypes. In this scene we have knickers, pale skin and characters called Will and Emma. It’s hard to get more British without having poor orthodontics and a cup of tea. Also, by this point in the story we’ve had references to BRIT awards and later on we get mention of the queen and the rest of the royal family, as well as those quaint folk who make up the British government. It really is rather a spiffing reminder of how those quaint souls in Great England go about their rumpy-pumpy.

However, I digress. There might be something in this collection to titillate the desires of the most ardent reader. This is from ‘Knife, Gun, High Explosive’ by Reina Delacroix. Just read the passage. Don’t bother dwelling on the dialogue.

She ran her hand over his stomach in the same way she had his chest, as if preparing him for something.

And then she leaned farther over and ran her tongue down the front of his half-hard cock to the base, with the same slow pace as she had used the knife earlier to cut cloth. He twitched his hips in reaction, unable to see what she was doing but feeling hotter and harder every second as he stiffened erect.

She stopped and leaned upwards, and he felt her draw the cold back edge of the weapon across his stomach, then hold it flat with a light pressure against his belly.

“Don’t move,” she added.

He froze, desire and fear battling in his head.

“If I wanted you active, I would have left you free to act. Just as if I wanted you to talk, I would have left you free to speak.” Her voice wasn’t harsh or angry, more the long-suffering patient firmness of someone who is, finally, fed up.

“There is one thing you do have to do, though,” she added more softly but no less firmly, and he felt her left hand cupping his balls in a weighing, assessing manner. He strained not to react too strongly in either need or fear, and the strain came out instead in a soft groan that was half-strangled by the gag.

Long story short. I didn’t care for this collection. I thought the editor had done the writers a disservice by not being more scrupulous in the selection and presentation of the stories. However, it could just be that I was in a prickly mood when I read this collection. Other readers, particularly those who savour the tropes of spy fiction, might get more satisfaction.





Lipstick on Her Collar and Other Tales of Lesbian LustLipstick on Her Collar and Other Tales of Lesbian Lust
Edited By: Sacchi Green
Contributions By: Rakelle Valencia
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122980
April 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

There are a number of effective ways to remove lipstick stains from a collar.  The most popular method is to dab against it with a moist cloth.  Don’t rub – this only makes the stain more difficult to remove.  The correct action should be similar to “blotting.”  If the stain proves stubborn, moisten the cloth with alcohol and then repeat the “blotting” action.  Pre-washes are advised (fabric permitting) for those marks that have become ingrained between wearing and laundry day.  If the mark proves really stubborn (and again, fabric permitting) it’s suggested that a dishwasher detergent is used because these contain powerful de-greasing agents.  Failing all of the above, a specialist cleaner needs to be brought in.

Of course, the most effective way of dealing with lipstick stains on a collar is to educate the woman you’re kissing to put her lips on flesh rather than fabric.  It’s not that difficult and examples of this fabric-friendly practice occur with pleasing frequency throughout Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia’s Lipstick on Her Collar

In case the title hasn’t given it away, I’ll explain here that Lipstick on Her Collar is an anthology of lesbian erotica.  Coming from those clever people at Pretty Things Press, including 22 scintillating short stories from an impressive collection of authors, Lipstick on Her Collar is one of those books that offers something new each time you slide between its pages.

At the beginning of this book, Cecilia Tan introduces the short stories as though she is guiding the reader around a party and this is possibly the most apposite way of looking at this collection.  The anthology begins with a warm welcome that is provided by Cheyenne Blue’s sensitive and witty “The Hairy Matchmaker.”  Cheyenne Blue’s short fiction is invariably hot and she draws characters with a realism that makes them live and breathe.  Julia Talbot, with “Straight Seams,” narrates an entertaining yet intense story that shows how two women come together through their interest in looking breathtakingly beautiful.  The stories in this collection are as diverse as the guests at any well-planned party.  They vary from the exquisite literariness of Andrea Miller’s “Holy Fruit” – which shows that vanilla does not have to be synonymous with mundane – through to the commanding thrill of Jean Roberta’s “My Indentured Slave” – a story that shows the most acceptable and fulfilling way of exchanging goods for services. 

The consistent motif through these stories repeatedly shows femmes and butches interacting in the way that femmes and butches best interact.  That said, as anyone who has ever read an anthology from Pretty Things Press should know, all of those interactions are deliciously varied in their dynamics, mechanics and execution.

The title story of this anthology comes from Sacchi Green’s own contribution to the collection.  “Lipstick on Her Collar” (the short story) is set in Vietnam at the end of the sixties.  Following Ms Green’s typically efficient narrative, the story introduces a femme journalist to a butch WAC sergeant and allows their relationship to develop.  Sacchi Green is clearly conscious of the era’s climate in relation to this story.  The sixties was not the most inclusive time for anyone who operated outside the boundaries of heterosexuality.  That undercurrent of homophobic hostility tightens this story and its tension comes from a combination of the malevolent dangers posed by the VC and the more subversive threat to individual freedoms that epitomised this non-inclusive era.

All of which lends credibility to the background against which the two central characters meet.  It gives their developing relationship an edge of nobility as the reader begins to appreciate that these women are fighting their own battles for freedom – separate and unsupported by those exchanging bullets in the battles around them.

Lipstick also appears on the collar of Rakelle Valencia’s protagonist in “That’s Horse Breakin’.”  This short story returns to the familiar territory of the previous Green/Valencia anthology Rode Hard Put Away Wet.  Valencia writes butch cowboys with an authenticity that could leave a studious reader saddle sore – and smiling because of it.  This bittersweet tale of a butch woman, who can control the most powerful beasts but can’t control a flirtatious femme, combines innate eroticism with humour and pathos. 

If I was to write about every story in this anthology worth reading, I would just be reiterating the table of contents and spoiling all the surprises contained within a damned fine book.  Aside from those I’ve mentioned previously, Lipstick on Her Collar also includes fantastic fiction from the wonderful Shanna Germain, the talented Teresa Noelle Roberts and the ever-glorious Rachel Kramer Bussel.  There’s a lot in this anthology and, because of their exceptional quality, the stories are likely to remain with the reader a lot longer than any lipstick mark – regardless of where that lipstick mark has been placed.



Lucky 13: Thirteen Tales of Getting LuckyLucky 13: Thirteen Tales of Getting Lucky
By: Sommer Marsden
CreateSpace
ISBN: 1441497099
March 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Whenever I tell people I’m superstitious, they laugh at me.  Maybe that’s my curse?  I appreciate that superstition is, for want of a better word, ‘stupid.’  However, I was raised and educated by stupid people and some parts of that learning have stuck.  I don’t walk under ladders.  I touch wood for luck and I go to painful extremes to avoid spilling salt. 

I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do with black cats.  Some cultures tell me black cats are lucky – others say they’re unlucky.  Inside my head black cats offer the same imbalance of cognitive dissonance as the cancer/comfort appeal I get from cigarettes.  I could genuinely go insane brooding on the subject for any length of time.

I constantly carry lucky charms.  I have my lucky silver pen, my lucky silver lighter, and I used to have a lucky rabbit’s foot.  I carried the lucky rabbit’s foot until I realised it hadn’t been that lucky for the rabbit and it was probably that particular trinket which gave me Myxomatosis. 

And then there’s the number 13.  I try not to leave the house on Friday 13th.  Ironically I’ve lost jobs because of this.  How’s that for proving that the date is genuinely unlucky? 

I know I’m not alone in this superstition.  The fact that the fear of Friday 13th has a specific name (paraskavedekatriaphobia) indicates that it must be a problem for more than just me.  There is even a name for a general fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) which also suggests that I’m not the only stupid person on the planet with that similar aversion.  When I take into account the number of buildings without a thirteenth floor, and the difficulties talked about by estate agents trying to sell properties burdened with the number 13, I realise there are probably millions of us labouring under this irrational and stupid superstition.

However, I am rational enough to accept that the number 13 is not always unlucky.  There were thirteen figures painted in the picture of the last supper.  This doesn’t mean the number is inherently ‘lucky’ but you have to admit that Christ looks happier in that portrait compared to all the miserable ones where he’s nailed on a cross and looking characteristically disconsolate. 

And 13 is also the number branded on the cover of Sommer Marsden’s collection of short stories: Lucky 13.  Sommer Marsden is an erotic wordsmith par excellence.  Her short fiction appears in so many anthologies I’m not even going to start listing them here.  It’s sufficient to say, if you own an anthology of short erotic fiction, the chances are that you’re already familiar with Sommer’s work. 

And, if you’re familiar with Sommer’s work, the chances are you won’t want to miss this fun collection of erotic short stories from an über-competent mistress of the genre. 

Lucky 13 is subtitled Thirteen Tales of Getting Lucky.  The unifying theme of this anthology (aside from the skilled penmanship of Ms Marsden) is that the central characters ‘get lucky’ in the most erotic sense of that idiom. 

Noelle, the first person protagonist in the collection’s first story, “Pause,” would probably not be considered lucky on an initial examination.  She’s just broken up with a partner and is suffering the typical unhappiness associated with such a devastating blow to her relationship status.  However, when she is consoled by an old friend, Noelle does manage to get lucky. 

Similarly in “Underpass,” the first person protagonist Brenda does not appear to be lucky in having a forceful, jealous and domineering partner like Jared.  However, as the story continues, and as Brenda gets lucky, the complex relationship between the characters is exposed to illuminate the fine distinction between what we consider fortunate or otherwise.

Sommer Marsden’s skill as an author is in her ability to depict living breathing human beings and make them interesting, exciting and entertaining.  The fact that she chooses to write in the erotic genre means that we lucky readers get to see these vibrant individuals enjoying the complexities of a passionate and carnal existence.

If you enjoy well written erotica, and you want to get lucky with your choice of reading material, it’s a safe bet to pick Lucky 13.





Luscious: Stories of Anal EroticismLuscious: Stories of Anal Eroticism
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447609
February 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I reviewed the original version of this book six years ago when it was first released. Who would have thought that anal sex would still be popular six years later on? Here’s what I said about the original imprint:

***

“Luscious includes a foreword by Tristan Taormino where she tries to explain our cultural obsession with most things related to the anus.  Tristan is an intelligent lady, and an authority on this subject, and her eloquent explanation puts forward some viable theories.  However, if she had really wanted to help us analyse the erotic appeal of anal sex, she need only have said, “Read these stories!”

The thing that leaps from the pages of these stories is the sense of fun involved.  Tristan Taormino is correct in her assertion that anal sex does “…challenge societal norms…[and] …test the limits of the body.”  But the stories in this collection remind us the act is most often performed between consenting adults because it’s extremely enjoyable. 

Attitudes, expectations and approach differ greatly.  Bryn Haniver introduces a pair of cheeky protagonists in ‘Sometimes it’s Better to Give,’ while Alison Tyler’s curious heroine, Gina, goes on a path of discovery to find out if the forbidden act is ‘Worth It.’  Saskia Walker (who writes her narrative with a smutty grin on her lips) recounts the deliciously enjoyable details of ‘Edward’s Experiments.’

Luscious combines an eclectic blend of sexual preferences and brings them neatly together in this exciting and innovative anthology.  With a cast list that includes Kate Dominic, Ayre Riley, Greg Wharton, Sage Vivant and Jean Roberta (amongst many others) it’s an ASS-ET for anyone’s collection.”

***

And here we are six years later and they’ve managed to squeeze more inside this one than they did before. This revisitation to Luscious is bigger and includes two new stories: “The Missing Kink” by Sophia Valenti and “Anal Submission…or Not” by D L King.

I adored the first release of this anthology. The re-release is a masterful update of a classic anthology – particularly as this topic is such a culturally sensitive one.

Sex in itself is an act of trust. We are trusting our naked bodies in the hands of another. We are trusting our emotional and spiritual wellbeing with someone who may not necessarily have the vested interest of maintaining the balance of those delicate states. In short, we are placing our trust in the intimacy of another person.

And for some reason, contrasted against conventional sex acts, the act of anal sex heightens that level of trust.

We could argue here that this is because the act has connotations of greater intimacy than conventional sex acts. It involves a part of the anatomy that is normally omitted from polite conversations. We could make this argument but it wouldn’t be true. All sex acts, conventional or otherwise, carry connotations of intimacy.

We could argue that anal sex is taboo in many societies and even illegal in some – therefore making it a darker and more dangerous act with heightened echoes of risk-taking and potential punishment. Again, even though there are some cultures fatuous enough to try and dictate the sexual antics of consenting adults, the existence of people denouncing the act wouldn’t wholly explain the broad appeal of anal intercourse.

Personally, I believe it’s the heightened sense of trust involved in this act that has it hailed as a zenith of erotic encounters. And I believe my opinion is reflected in the content of Luscious.

Take for example the opening lines Shanna Germain’s wonderful “Cherry Bottom” which start the fiction in the anthology:

“You okay, babe?” Andrew’s voice above me was half sexual rasp, half concern. His warm, oiled hands had moved from the outside curves of my ass to the inside of my thighs, and they were resting there, not pulling or teasing, just resting against my skin. I kept my eyes and mouth closed and tried not to think about my naked ass in the air. I nodded against the pillow.

Notice here the concern that is being shown between the lovers in this scene. The first words are a question for confirmation that one character is comfortable. It’s an obvious act of profound concern and affection. Or ‘love’ as it might be more commonly known.

This theme of love returns frequently in this anthology. It’s a theme that returns more often than in other collections that focus on more conventional sex acts. Such as in this passage from “Trophy Wife” by Kate Dominic:

I couldn’t do romantic language for shit. I thought it was ridiculous. But for Sharon’s sake, I did my best. Hooking the ring at the end of the beads over my left middle finger, I picked up the smallest bead. “Relax your nether sphincter, my love. I am about to invade your delicate bottom passage.”

Charlotte’s wife may have been startled at her spouse’s forward ways, but my sweet, demanding wife knew exactly what she wanted. She smiled her appreciation at my literary attempts, shivering with delight as her anus seemed to reach out, relaxed and trembling, to suck the first bead in.

“Yummy!”

Or as in these lines from the opening of D L King’s “Anal Submission…or Not”

“So, is it?” I asked. “Is it a submissive act, when I tell you to fuck me in the ass? Or, is your doing it the submissive act?”

The thing is, I love anal sex. I mean I really love it. I love receiving it and I love giving it.

In short – if you love anal sex, then you’ll love Luscious. The anthology is well-written, exciting and entertaining. Moreover, it stays true to the theme of pleasurable shared intimacy that is inherent in this most intimate of sex acts.





Man's WorldMan's World
By: Angela Caperton
Circlet Press
ISBN: B004I6DAO0
January 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Science Fiction is possibly the sexist of all the literary genres.

Although academics argue about the birth of the genre, some citing Gilgamesh, whilst others clutch at straws from the Mahabharatha, most of us will bypass Thomas Moore’s sixteenth century Utopia, ignore the new worlds discovered in Gulliver’s Travels, and plot a course for the birth of the genre with the 1818 publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Is Frankenstein science fiction? Well, it’s a narrative driven by the technological and scientific advances that could make the impossible possible. Is Frankenstein sexist? Well, we have a male scientist wanting to ‘give birth’ to a man of his own creation. That’s not exactly empowering the feminine. By denying woman her rightful place as natural life-giver, Victor Frankenstein is trying to upset the natural order of all humanity. If he’d got his way, and man had been able to create life without need for woman, who would be left to sleep in the damp spot?

Some argue that Shelley’s prototypical science-fiction novel is feminist. But the truth is we have a story of man trying to beget man without female involvement. It is a story where man creates a female creature for the male creature he has created. It is a story where the man kills the creature’s female. And it is a story where the creature kills Victor Frankenstein’s wife. If there is a feminist message behind Shelley’s Frankenstein it is simply that we live in a man’s world where women are either owned or pawned.

I’ve underlined the phrase Man’s World here because that’s the title of the book I am about to get round to reviewing.

So, if we accept that Frankenstein sets a premise for sexism in science fiction, we can also see that this sexism remains a common motif in the genre. Jules Verne excited his readers with titillating stories about masculine adventures onboard phallic shaped submarines. HG Wells wrote about The Invisible Man and The First Men in the Moon. Even when Wells was writing about The Time Machine we note that it was driven by a man. This is probably because it was perceived a woman wouldn’t be able to parallel park the time machine once it reached its destination.

And so the sexism trend continued into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with stories and films that feature phallic-shaped rockets, driven by men who are boldly going where no man has gone before. In truth, the one time a Star Trek spaceship was piloted by a woman it seems she got lost and spent the entire series trying to find a shortcut home.

All of which is mentioned to show that it’s not just a man’s world: it’s a man’s universe. Nevertheless, because Angela Caperton’s excellent book is entitled Man’s World, it might be fair to concede that the man’s universe is made up of many different man’s worlds. And Caperton’s novel takes place on one particular man’s world: the planet of Moulton.

As it says in the blurb for this title:

The battle of the sexes is millennia old, and the subject can be found all throughout humanity's literature. That this perennial topic of Golden Age science fiction should carry over into erotica is a no-brainer, but rarely has it been given as exciting or humorous a treatment as it has in Man's World by Angela Caperton, the latest novel from Circlet Press.

And the story does cover a battle of the sexes. Caperton’s hero is Stella Blue Darter, a courtesan and the ultimate in commodifiable female finesse. In many ways Stella’s prostitution liberates her, gives her financial, spiritual and emotional independence. However, because she’s selling sex to men (or, ostensibly male life forms) this means her femininity is ultimately subordinate to the masculine. And, rather than me spoil the promise of this title with my overly wordy thoughts on feminism, I’ll let Caperton show you her style with this paragraph.

He cupped her breast, bold and quietly demanding more and she acceded without thought, sliding her body against his. He smelled like musk and good spices with just a hint of the burning oil smell that permeated everything. She found she didn’t mind it on him at all.

"You’ve been with a man before, right?” he asked and she loved him for asking.

"Yes,” she answered simply and kissed his throat, her fingers working at the buttons on his shirt.

He lowered the straps of her dress and pulled it from her shoulders, kissing her lips, then her neck, apparently surprised at how easily her garment fell away, leaving her in her bra and panties, almost chill in the cool evening.

Man’s World follows Stella’s adventures as she drifts onto the planet of Moulton, a planet governed by a traditional patriarchal hegemony but on the verge of a female uprising. All together, as the brief sample above shows, Man’s World is a fun romp through unexplored corners of the galaxy, with Caperton treating the reader to out of this world sex. Whilst this title does little to redress the inherent sexism within science fiction, its strength lies in the fact that it embraces this inequality to tell a ripping, raunchy space yarn.





Memoirs of a Wannabe Sex AddictMemoirs of a Wannabe Sex Addict
By: Julia Morizawa
Fanny Press
ISBN: 1603814302
February 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

There is a surprisingly strong element of commodification in Morizawa’s Memoirs of a Wannabe Sex Addict.  On the surface this title can be read as a bildungsroman tale of education and maturation through the protagonist’s exposure to disparate sexual encounters.  However, instead of coming across as a contrived narrative with a predestined happily ever after conclusion, there is a distressingly realistic air to the language and content that makes this one of the most believable erotic memoirs I’ve ever read.

In the first chapter, “The Slave,” Morizawa is the occasional sex slave to an illicit fuck-buddy.  The second chapter is entitled “The Disciple.”  The third chapter is called “The Client.”  In each chapter Morizawa takes on the eponymous role of the chapter heading: she is The Slave; she is The Disciple; she is The Client

Her character grows and develops as the story progresses and the reader comes away from the story with the impression that each aspect of development has been summarily compartmentalized as per the chapter heading.  But it’s more than that.  Much more than that. 

As Morizawa’s story develops, the high standard of the writing and quality of the author’s ability to convey her message to the reader remains beautifully focused. Morizawa is a first-rate writer.  The quality of the writing blends literate prose with an accessible style that few authors can manage.  The erotic scenes are presented in appropriate detail, cleverly paced to deliver information that is arousing without appearing salacious or prurient.  The content is graphic where it needs to be and it basks in sensuous detail when a more languorous approach is required.  But it is never unnecessarily gratuitous.  The whole book is well-worth the read for anyone who enjoys erotic memoirs, or simply for those who appreciate the creative talents of Morizawa.

As a word of caution, I should add that I came away from this title believing there was an underlying current of misogyny in the content. 

The former lover of one partner is shown as a grasping and promiscuous shrew. 

Morizawa has a Sapphic encounter with a predatory bisexual artist.  Morizawa introduces a young female meth addict to a man she describes as her pimp.  I could go on but it’s enough to say that there are few female characters in this story (Morizawa included) who are presented in a flattering light. 

To some extent this lends itself to the credibility and honesty of the narrative.  It reminds the reader that we live in a patriarchal hegemony where the female is constantly subjugated by a majority of negative role models and a dearth of positive role models. 
But, for some reason, that subjugation still feels like misogyny.

 He inserted first one finger in my ass, then eventually another.  He continued eating me – hungrily, as if he were a stray dog who had found the leftovers in an easily accessible trash can.

I think this simile summarises my feelings of unease.  Admittedly, the imagery is fresh and vibrant.  But it’s hard to steer away from the association that Morizawa’s protagonist (or, at least, the sexual essence of her that is being consumed) is being described as easily accessible garbage. 

That said, Morizawa’s memoir is a comprehensive and entertaining insight into twenty-first century sex.  According to the back of the book:

Julia Morizawa exposes an arousing world of sex intertwined with the vulnerable and complex emotions that often come with it.  This is a must-read for any woman who has searched for herself by using, and abusing her body.  And for anyone who has emerged from the other side, having found so much more.

I have to agree.  This title is intelligent and honest in a way that many sex titles never manage.  Morizawa is not afraid to admit that some sex works and some sex doesn’t work.  She is also capable of pointing out that, aside from the more obvious elements of pleasure, sometimes satisfaction can be obtained through the simple medium of cuddling.  Memoirs of a Wannabe Sex Addict is a fascinating insight into one woman’s revelatory experiences.  It’s well worth the investment of time and money in sharing Morizawa’s memoirs. 





Messalina, Devourer of MenMessalina, Devourer of Men
By: Zetta Brown
LL Publications
ISBN: 1905091117
June 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Eva Cavell likes to go to the movies.  And, when she goes to the movies, she allows desperate strangers to fondle her in the dark.

I once encountered a woman like this at the cinema.  I complained to the manager.  I said, “Manager, there’s a woman in this cinema who allows desperate strangers to fondle her in the dark.

The Manager said, “Are you making a formal complaint?

I said, “Of course I am.  She keeps changing seats and I can’t find where she’s gone.

Sinning in the cinema is not all of the story in Messalina, Devourer of Men, but it introduces us to Eva and a few of the main issues she brings to the novel.  She lacks confidence, she feels she’s a few pounds overweight, and she’s conscious of a class-culture that subjugates her because of her race.  Either Eva is thinking we’re all the same size and colour in a darkened movie theatre, or she’s come across a much more satisfying way of being entertained whilst watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Without wishing to sound mean, if there had been someone like Eva in the cinema when I went to see an epic showing of those Lord of the Ring movies, there’s a strong likelihood I might have stayed awake through the damned things.  Instead, I watched the first one up to the point where the characters started walking somewhere, and woke up when all the Hobbits were in bed together looking eerily excited and pleased with themselves in a scene that was more camp than a row of pink tents. 

I’ll say now, this is a well-written and entertaining story.  Zetta Brown can tell a compelling tale and she makes her characters rich, real and risqué.  Eva’s journey from being the beloved bane of The DeLuxe Theatre is strong in detail and always filled with sensuous, sexual developments.  Zetta Brown writes exciting erotic scenes but she’s not afraid to inject the fantastical fulfilment of passion with a healthy dose of realism. 

At the movie house, whilst enjoying a Thursday afternoon matinee performance, Eva encounters the smooth and irresistible Jared Delaney.  From there we enter the territory of an unconventional romance.  Jared and Eva begin to discover themselves (and each other) and slowly learn that what they want from life is not necessarily those things they have spent their years chasing.

But Zetta Brown’s eye for credible detail stretches beyond incredible naughtiness in the back row.  When Jared and Eva become an item they bring with them their baggage from her job and his previous relationships.  Their relationship is passionate and intense from the first moment, but this doesn’t mean that Zetta Brown doesn’t force Jared to go through the ritual of meeting Eva’s parents.  Nor does it mean that Eva gets to escape the trauma of having to work on a campus populated by spoilt, rich brats and ivory-tower superiors.  And this tapestry of background detail makes the story richer and more believable. 

Messalina, Devourer of Men is fun from beginning to end.  The characters in this story are deliciously realistic and, even though the situations sometimes border on the fantastical, they are always grounded in Eva’s pragmatic reactions and responses.  Faults are discovered, and either addressed, dealt with or accepted. 

It should come as no surprise that this story completes itself in relation to the cinema where Eva has been spending her Thursday afternoons.  At the beginning of the story she has been watching contrived stories of happiness and excitement whilst struggling to find a place for her own unfulfilled sexuality.  At the climax of the novel, Eva has contrived her own story and finally found the place where her needs can be satisfied.  As to whether or not she’s written her own “Happy Ever After” – that’s something you’ll need to find out from reading the book. 

All that I’m going to say is, if you get a kick out of passionate character interplay, breath-taking realism and well-written prose, then you should find Messalina, Devourer of Men to be a hugely entertaining and enjoyable read.



Miami PurityMiami Purity
By: Vicki Hendricks
Busted Flush Press (Originally published by Random House)
ISBN: 0979270936
May 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

A lot of people have described my writing as hardboiled.  Or was it half-baked?  It had something to do with cooking and the foreign words they used probably meant “noir” in French.  Early on in my writing career someone actually said, “Your writing reminds me of Mickey Spillane.”

“Is that because it’s a good story that’s well told?” I asked.

“No,” they said.  “You remind me of him because I can’t stand that bastard either.”

I mention all of this only because I’ve been reading Vicki Hendricks’ hardboiled noir thriller, Miami Purity, and I figured it would be apposite to indicate that I’m familiar with this genre, if not an authority. 

Miami Purity has been rightly described as “a modern noir masterpiece.”  The story follows the first person narrative of Sherri.  Sherri is trying to get her life back together after a spell in prison, the accidental murder of her long time partner, and a history of substance abuse that she wants to put behind her.  Working at the dry cleaners – the eponymous Miami Purity – seems like the ideal way to get rid of the dirt from her past and make a clean start.

But Sherri hasn’t anticipated meeting someone like Payne.  And, whilst Sherri has enough emotional issues to disturb the sleep of a trained psychiatrist, Payne is an even darker character.  By most people’s standards Payne should be a bastion of the community and ideal material for a heroic template.  He’s a hard working businessman, takes a personal interest in the company’s finances and the staff’s development, and he loves his mother.  However, it’s possible to take all of those beneficial traits to a sinister extreme and Payne does all of that and then some.

One of the repeated failings of contemporary noir is that post-modern cynicism is often overtly represented, masquerading as black humour at the author/reader level – usually above the level of character interaction.  Invariably this comes across with the I-narrator making some abstract intertextual reference that is intrusive for readers familiar with noir and too oblique to be relevant for those new to the genre.

Yet Miami Purity has none of these failings.  Hendricks’ protagonist has a fresh voice and enthusiasm that flourishes and shines within the bleak world of noir Miami.  She is practical enough to realise that life is crap, hopeful enough to believe that change might just be possible, and sufficiently pragmatic to deal with the after-effects when everything starts to fall apart. 

Sherri’s healthy appetite for sex, its application hindered by the accidental murder of her previous partner, is foregrounded early on in the story.  This incessant libido drives her into the arms and the bed of the story’s disturbed antagonist Payne.  The sex in this story – used as a device to provide depth for Sherri, complications for Payne, and a motive for the story’s progression – is harsh, brutal and (usually) satisfying. 

It is genuinely refreshing to read a stylish noir thriller that is not trapped in the quagmire of patriarchal hegemony.  Admittedly, Sherri could be considered socially oppressed by her occasional lapses back into stripping and easy, casual sex.  And her salacious sexual appetite is one of the driving forces that power the plot to its delicious, dark denouement.  But Sherri’s resolve to get the job at Miami Purity, her determination to conquer Payne and to forcefully deal with the issues that trouble and threaten their relationship, make her dynamic enough to be a post-modern icon of the feminist femme fatale.  Whilst the genre still subscribes to the belief that men are men and women are either dangerous or convenient, Miami Purity brings a fresh approach to this masculine-dominated world of story-telling.

Miami Purity is neither a HEA [happy ever after] romance nor is it erotica, even though elements of love and the erotic are presented in the narrative.  From beginning to end Miami Purity is 100% hardboiled noir and every page is worth the investment.  So, fill your glass with neat bourbon, light up a smoke and have your weapon close by as you sit back to enjoy Vicki Hendricks’ Miami Purity



Mistress of Night and DawnMistress of Night and Dawn
By: Vina Jackson
Open Road
ISBN: 1480474274
June 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ve just finished reading Mistress of Night and Dawn by Vina Jackson.  It’s an entertaining read.  The story is competently told for the most part and the sex scenes are vivid, relevant and stimulating. 

It’s a well-written erotic story that can be read as a standalone or as part of a series.  This explanation is from Vina Jackson’s website discussing Mistress of Night and Dawn, as the sixth novel in the Eighty Days series:

Be reassured, the book is as sexy (if not more according to early inner circle readers!) as its predecessors, but we’ve attempted to add another dimension, as well as making it substantially longer. MISTRESS OF NIGHT AND DAWN is still set in the world of EIGHTY DAYS, and actually takes its lead from the chapter in WHITE where Lily is taken to a mysterious ball.

I have to admit that the inclusion of so many phrases in capitals makes me think I’m reading something about conceptual metaphors, but we’ll let that ride. 

Mistress of Night and Dawn is an erotic story that introduces us to the central character of Aurelia and Aurelia’s involvement with a centuries old ball. The concept is intriguing and the execution is enjoyable. 

“I interrupted you,” he said.  “Please continue.”

It took Aurelia a moment to realise what he meant, but once she did, she complied immediately.  It felt entirely natural to her that the stranger should sit alongside her as she masturbated.  She had fantasised about that very thing almost nightly since the first time that their lips had met and she had tasted the sweetness of his mouth.

Her fingers travelled downwards and resumed their place, but this time it wasn’t enough.  She could hear his breathing in the dark and the warmth of his body so close to hers served only to remind her more bitterly that her hand wasn’t his. 

“Help me,” she whispered.

I haven’t read any of the previous titles related to this book but, having finished this one, I didn’t feel as though I had missed out on anything vital.  The story is a raunchy romp that is completely self-sustained and doesn’t need the other titles to be enjoyed.  That said, from what colleagues have told me, Vina Jackson’s stories are not so much continuations on a single story as explorations of the lives of subsidiary characters in the fiction world of Eighty Days and, according to my contacts, they’re equally enjoyable.

He shuffled with his now-hard cock rubbing provocatively against her skin and he adjusted its downward stance, his knee nudging her thighs open and squeezed himself inside her.  Aurelia’s heart seized; although she had been ready for him, the sheer bulk of him and the way he stretched her anew was a shock.  Had he ever been so large before?  He fitted inside her with the forced precision of a jigsaw piece entwining itself with another.

Noises outside the window faded alongside the rest of the whole wide world.  Andrei was in her.  He was fucking her.  She was being fucked.  And all was well. There would be another time for questions.  She pulled her mental anchor up and drifted with the rhythm of his moments as he embedded himself deeper and deeper within her, spread, open, split, impaled but joyful.

This is a well-told story that follows a lovely blend of fantasy and erotica.  Aurelia’s journey is a saucy one that showcases a series of exciting intimacies.  This title will be appreciated by all those who’ve read Fifty Shades and are now looking for something that similarly satisfies their needs.



ObsessionObsession
By: Gloria Vanderbilt
Ecco
ISBN: 0061734896
June 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The longstanding relationship between sex and death is best exemplified by the phrase la petite mort: the small or little death that is the French metaphor for orgasm.  Roland Barthes suggested that la petite mort was the chief objective for reading literature.  More explicitly, and especially in terms of Gloria Vanderbilt’s Obsession, la petite mort exemplifies the binary duality that is the quintessential nature of sexual passion.  On the one hand there is the life-force and vitality that inspires the procreative/reproductive urge, wherein sexual arousal is manifested and all life energies begin.  Conversely, there is the massive expenditure of energy that mimics the termination and expulsion of all life resulting in that much vaunted experience known as la petite mort.  This duality, supported by other seemingly insurmountable paradoxes, is the central theme of Gloria Vanderbilt’s Obsession

A slender tome, Obsession deals with the aftermath of Talbot Bingham’s death and the subsequent effects of his passing.  His wife, Priscilla, is devastated by the loss.  More distressing for Priscilla is the journey of discovery she must undertake to come to terms with the dual life Talbot appeared to have lead during their marriage.

And, constantly, the reader is faced with the conflict of binary oppositions as the dead male continues to control the live female; the frigid wife encounters the libidinous widow; and the truth comes face to face with the lie.  Queen bees and worker ants; monogamy and polygamy; masters and slaves: are all used as metaphors for the conflicting nature of binary opposites combined in a single relationship.

The resonating impact of these dualities is relentless.  Exploring the contrasts between frigidity and passion, fidelity and promiscuity, and faithfulness and fecklessness, Vanderbilt teases the reader with shifting perspectives that show each of these binary opposites is never more than the converse side to the same coin. 

A great expanse of this story is narrated in the epistolatory form.  Again this reinforces another duality (the spoken word in written form) followed by the conflict of first person narratives interspersed with expository commentary from an omniscient narrator.  As Priscilla reads letters that weren’t intended for her eyes, the story also raises the conflict of what should be known and what should remain unknown.

Obsession begins:

If ever two were one, it could be said of Priscilla and Talbot Bingham.  How charmed Priscilla would be to hear the couple described in this Victorian manner, conjuring up old-fashioned valentines with quaint phrases entwined by ribbons and hearts, bordered by paper lace.  For to her, image was all: childless by choice, proud to devote her life “constructing,” as her architect husband might say, “brick by brick,” castle-high topped by a banner proclaiming to the world the success of their partnership.

Tellingly, the story opens with the omniscient narrator’s explanation of the closeness shared by Talbot and Priscilla: so close that this pair are commonly perceived as a single unit.  Talbot and Priscilla flourish beneath the neologism Talcilla: a blending of their names to label their Maryland estate and the name of Talbot’s fellowship of architects. 

The dictionary defines ‘Obsession’ as: Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion… 

The key word here is ‘unwanted’ which again returns us to the duality of an emotion that embodies an overwhelming desire, even when that irresistible preoccupation is essentially unwanted.  It is that ‘unwanted’ emotion which fuels Priscilla’s story as she is buffeted between desire and disgust and ignorance and knowledge on her journey toward self-actualisation. 

Ultimately, Vanderbilt suggests that obsession can be overcome by an acceptance of the dual nature that fuels this irresoluble conflict.  However, this richly layered narrative should leave the reader returning to the text to search for deeper meaning.  To quote Joyce Carol Oates from the back cover of the novel:

In her new novel, Gloria Vanderbilt has created a remarkable tapestry of human passion – an interior world of highly charged erotic mysteries that teasingly suggest, but ever elude, decoding.  Obsession is a poetic tale on the nature of possession and obsession.





One Breath At A TimeOne Breath At A Time
By: Gwen Masters
Virgin Black Lace
ISBN: 0352341637
March, 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I shouldn’t really read romantic novels. It’s not because the genre is usually prohibited by Erotica Revealed’s review policy. I’m a rebel who can read what the hell I like (and, of course, I asked DLK’s permission first). I shouldn’t read romantic novels because, sometimes, my manly tears can be so strong they make my contact lenses come out.

And One Breath At A Time is, first and foremost, a romantic novel.

However, cast aside your assumptions and presuppositions about the “prohibited genre” and settle back into the sultry world of passion and punishment that Gwen Masters has created. One Breath At A Time is the simple story of what happens when boy meets girl. However, Gwen Masters is a gifted mistress of erotic storytelling and the simple idea of boy meets girl becomes something extremely powerful in her skilled and capable hands.

Kelley, the story’s heroine, encounters Tom in the first chapter. Tom is hot and Kelley finds him irresistible. The fact that his kinky tastes match her own deviant appetites means that this is a marriage made in heaven. The blossoming couple soon discover that their unconventional tastes are perfectly suited.

(I should make a note here that I’m not frowning on kinkiness. I have been accused of being kinky in the past and I have never seen it as being a slur. The truth is, I was once with a partner, we were having vigorous sex in a vaguely unconventional position, and she said to me: “You’re a sick and depraved individual.”

I said, “Wow! A talking sheep!”

However, that incident has nothing to do with this review or Gwen Masters’ excellent novel!)

One Breath At A Time is a deftly told story. The heroine and hero are painted as believable people. Both of them come to the story with their own personal baggage and the plot develops as they grow closer together and grow further from the pasts they are each leaving behind. It isn’t easy for either of them. But their adventures in the bedroom (and the kitchen and the wilderness, and the gym etc.) help cushion the problems they face in building a new life.

Without wanting to give too much away, Kelley has a natural tendency to be submissive while Tom is more naturally dominant. This aspect of their relationship is boldly foregrounded when Tom rides Kelley roughshod across a picnic table shortly after their first meeting. The theme of dominance and submission is later expanded on with a variety of paddles, whips, floggers and a cat o’nine tails.

Except, like it is in real life, the powerplay between this couple isn’t quite so neatly defined. Kelley is certainly submissive for Tom – but she is also sufficiently confident to make her own demands and occasionally hold the relationship’s reins.

After the delicious scenes of her submission to Tom, and the exquisitely written elements of her sexual punishment, I have to admit one of my favourite parts of this book came from Kelley taunting her eager soul-mate about the prospect of a potential threesome.

Not that a book of this strength can be reduced to a series of favourite scenes. Meeting Tom and Kelley, watching them grow together and stretch each other’s boundaries, was a total experience rather than a collection of cumulative encounters.

Did it make me weep? A good romance doesn’t always have to be a tear-jerker. Admittedly, I had a box of tissues close at hand while I was reading, but they weren’t there for tear-jerking. Overall, I have to admit that One Breath At A Time was a satisfying love story, beautifully told, and with some powerful, passionate (kinky and clever) sex.

Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised by the quality of Gwen Master’s novel writing. I’ve been a big fan of Gwen’s short fiction for ages now. Her "Confession" in He’s on Top, is a wonderful portrayal of a realistic couple dealing with a new way to overcome the ennui of a staid marriage. "The Craziest Thing," in Hide and Seek is another example of how Gwen is able to take real people and present them in erotic circumstances that defy the dull and dreary conventions of vanilla relationships. ("The Craziest Thing" is reprinted in J is for Jealousy).

Seriously, if you’ve not encountered Gwen Masters’ writing before it’s time to broaden your horizons and get to grips with a man who knows his own mind and a woman who minds her own man. And One Breath At A Time is just the place to make that acquaintance.

Personally, I think One Breath At A Time, with its strength, passion, credibility and sexual ingenuity, is how every contemporary romance should be written. Kelley and Tom are presented as living breathing human beings. Their appetites defy normal conventions (but the same can probably be said for the majority of people reading this review). Kelley likes Tom to play rough – and he can. Kelley doesn’t mind having ties, toys or Tom’s friend in the bedroom. The variations on the familiar theme of sexual pleasure are all used to enhance their relationship. As this story’s focus is fixed on a burgeoning romance, it makes sense that the couple’s appreciation for alternative satisfaction is central to the plot.

If you’re looking for well-written fiction, that dares to venture into the edgy world of extreme sex, you can’t get much better than Gwen Masters and you can easily get there with One Breath At A Time.





Orgasmic: Erotica for WomenOrgasmic: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444022
August 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the celebrated editor of countless anthologies.  Fast Girls, Passion, Please Sir, Please Ma’am.  The list of titles is incredibly long and the most recent to be added is Orgasmic.

As with all of Ms Bussel’s anthologies, Orgasmic is a polished collection containing first-rate examples of erotic fiction from a broad sampling of talented writers, all writing to the requirements of a specific theme.

This time the theme is orgasm.  As Ms Bussel notes in her introduction:

I did my best to capture an array of big (and little) Os, moments where the world feels like it’s exploding in your body, orgasms that rock more than just your world.  These stories capture the ferocity, intensity and power of women’s orgasms, however they’re achieved.  I couldn’t include every way women come in this book, or it would be much longer than it is now, but I wanted to include a varied look at what gets women off, which means it’s not always a man or another woman, or even a machine that does the trick.

I don’t think it will spoil the surprise if I say that Ms Bussel has accomplished this objective.  As with any themed anthology, the lure is always about the diverse range of stories.  I will be eternally entertained by the idea that a disparate group of authors can all be given the same remit for a story and each produce something so different.

To illustrate this point, consider two stories from the collection:  “The Big O” by Donna George Storey and “Belted” by the anthology’s editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Donna George Storey is the supremely competent author of the novel length erotic masterpiece, Amorous Woman, as well as a wealth of short erotic fiction.

“The Big O” is a first person narrative following the mindset of a protagonist influenced by a self-help article: The Sexercise Prescription: A Stronger Secret You in Six Weeks.  The narrator discovers the article at the beginning of a period when she is in the serendipitous state of being parted from her partner but desirous to have a pleasant surprise waiting for him when they are reunited in six weeks.  What better surprise could there be than sharing a secret on his return?

“Belted,” Ms Bussel’s second person narrative, similarly deals with orgasmic secrets.  The central character here gleans satisfaction from the specific sensation of a leather belt striking bare flesh.

And, perhaps, the contrast between these stories reflects the diversity and range within this collection.  The use of different narrative styles aside, Storey’s protagonist is spurred by an external source to achieve an internalised goal.  Bussel’s protagonist harbours an internal goal achieved through external stimuli.  There is an element of pragmatic spirituality in Storey’s fiction that is the anthithesis of Bussel’s vulnerable cynicism.  This is not to say either piece of fiction is better than the other; neither is superior nor inferior.  The difference is only mentioned to illustrate that writing about orgasms, just like the experience of them, differs for every individual.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed in this collection.  The anthology includes fiction from some of my favourite writers including Justine Elyot, Neve Black, Angela Caperton, Teresa Noelle Roberts and Elizabeth Coldwell.  If you’re wanting to treat yourself to an entertaining read for the start of the New Year, you won’t be surprised to discover this collection is Orgasmic.





Pack of LiesPack of Lies
By: Vanessa Vaughn
Ravenous Romance
ISBN:
June 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I recently taught a class where the subject of the Twilight novels was broached.  Several members of the class were huge fans.  Others were less enthusiastic.  My favourite quote from the whole lesson came when one student said the books were simply: one girl’s choice between necrophilia and bestiality

But it got us onto discussing werewolves and vampires and how, in the current trend for paranormal fiction, vampires seem to be winning the battle for popularity.  This is understandable when you realise that vampires are cool, vampires are sexy (and sometimes sparkly) and vampires are immortal.  But it overlooks the appeal of werewolves.

You’ll have to forgive a personal bias here but I genuinely feared werewolves when I was a small child.  I was young, impressionable, and had been listening to adults with twisted senses of humour.  They convinced me werewolves were real and I spent several sleepless nights each full moon petrified that I was going to be devoured by an extra from The Howling.  Fortunately, thanks to medication and the work of a good therapist, I’m almost over that fear now.

Almost.

This is not to say that I think werewolves should replace vampires.  (Buffy the Werewolf Fighter would sound plain stupid as the title for a TV show).  But I do think they are undervalued as a genuinely scary theme for paranormal fiction.

Take Pack of Lies as an example.  Written by the extremely talented Vanessa Vaughn, and published by Ravenous Romance, Pack of Lies is a well-paced tale of wily werewolves.  It smolders on every page.  Vaughn makes the tension in this story as tight as can be suffered, creating characters who appear realistic even when the subject matter is paranormal creatures that mutate from human to werewolf beneath the light of a full moon. 

The suspension of disbelief in any paranormal story is a hard trick to navigate.  The writer has to make the world believable and unbelievable in the same moment.

Vaughn manages this with aplomb.

Similarly, trying to make the unbelievably believable story erotic, whilst maintaining some semblance of a plot, means the writer needs to play a balancing act akin to spinning plates on a pole, onboard a pitching and yawing boat, during a thunderstorm.

Vaughan does this with sufficient style as to make it look effortless.

If I sound like I’m going overboard with the praise (and the nautical similes) then you’ll have to bear with me.  As a reviewer I’m not just exposed to good books.  I’m also forced to read some pretty dire wastes of paper.  This means I’ve seen the shipwrecks that have been sound ideas, piloted by some of the writing world’s less-talented captains.  I’ve read through the flotsam and jetsam of spurious crap that make you weep for the future of humanity.

Vaughan doesn’t fall into that category.

Pack of Lies is marketed as m/m paranormal romance.  The story begins with a werewolf orgy that blends m/m relationships with hetero scenes and the rough and ready passion of understandable animal instincts.  The characters are introduced as complex in media res creations that live their life beyond the confines of the narrative.  When the story’s central human character is introduced, accidentally running over a werewolf, the excitement moves up a notch, the plot’s complexities kick into overdrive, and the pace never lets go.  

For anyone who enjoys being gripped by werewolves, Pack of Lies is the erotic download you need to read.   Well-paced, well-written and well worth the investment of time and money.  Don’t wait for the next full moon to have your fun with this one.





Palace of VarietiesPalace of Varieties
By: James Lear
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344314X
April 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the UK during the 1930s the practice of homosexuality was forbidden by law.  Those found guilty were incarcerated and ostracised from ‘decent’ society.  Those suspected were often subjected to brutal and vicious physical attacks from vigilante gangs of bigots.  With the period’s economic problems, and the impending threat of another World War swelling from Europe, it’s hard to imagine a less appealing time for any man to lust after another man. 

The Palace of Varieties is set in the 1930s.  The story follows the homoerotic adventures of Paul Lemoyne.  Its author, James Lear, manages to do something that few other novels would dare attempt.  The Palace of Varieties dares to make the depression gay.

The Palace of Varieties comes from Cleis Press, one of the US’s leading imprints in erotic fiction.  James Lear, author of Hot Valley, The Back Passage (and several other highly acclaimed titles) takes his readers to a London variety theatre in the 1930s: the perfect setting for a risqué romp where the men are men and the women are incidental. 

The Palace of Varieties is more than a well-written erotic novel.  James Lear has captured the spirit of 1930s England by writing in the distinctive style of the Edwardian novel.   Quickly introducing his cocksure hero, Paul Lemoyne; wrenching him from the family home in the country and thrusting him into gainful employment at the South London Palace of Varieties; Lear leads the reader backstage with a pass that is firmly stamped: ACCESS ALL AREAS.

It’s hard not to enjoy this novel.  Lear’s central character, Lemoyne, narrates the events and his voice his that of a roguish uncle, sharing confidences and reminiscences over a postprandial brandy.  The period setting of the story is, as previously mentioned, hostile and homophobic.  Yet the story pushes this bigotry to its rightful place in the background as Lemoyne concentrates on the important things in life such as money, sex and love.   

My late father worked the UK’s music halls at a time not so long after the setting of Palace of Varieties.  His anecdotes about the conflicting camaraderie and cattiness of theatrical life were brought to mind as I read the interactions between Lear’s richly crafted characters.  Consequently, I can’t fault this story for its feel of authenticity. 

On one occasion my father asked a musician who shared his dressing room if he could borrow a comb before going on stage.

“No,” said the musician.  “It’s my comb and I’m not going to lend it to you.”

“Then shove it up your arse,” my father replied tersely.  He then went on stage to perform his act.  When he came off stage the musician was in his dressing room, bent over, with a comb sticking out from between his buttocks. 

“What the hell are you doing?” asked my father.

“You told me to shove it up my arse,” the musician explained.  “What do you want me to do now?”

I mention this only because either of these real life characters could have been drawn from Lear’s Palace of Varieties

Lemoyne’s story properly begins in the Palace of Varieties but the character springboards from there toward bigger and brasher adventures.  Lemoyne works as a stage-hand, a male prostitute and a model before moving out into the world to broaden his horizons in other areas.  However, the essence of Edwardian theatricality remains a mainstay of this brilliant, boy-on-boy novel. 

The sex is wonderfully written with Lear treading a fine balance between the gratifying and the gratuitous.  Lemoyne’s character is an affable chap, game to try anything once and anxious to do it repeatedly if it proves enjoyable or profitable.  His hedonistic amble from one encounter to another makes for a compelling read that hurries the story along like a runaway steam train. 

Predictably, Lemoyne is handsome and hung but I’m of the mindset that no erotic fiction (homoerotic or otherwise) would work well if the central character were ugly and equipped like an under-developed gerbil.  That said, the main feature of Paul’s attractiveness is neither his good-looks nor his donkey-sized dick: it’s his charm that shines through every page.  Lemoyne’s excess of personality makes the denouement of this novel a climax that has to be reached. 

For anyone who enjoys their fiction when it’s fun and frantic, The Palace of Varieties will provide all the entertainment a reader needs.

Editor’s note: From The Independent (3/30/2008), James Lear is the erotica pen name belonging to British author Rupert Smith



Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going DownPenthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down
Edited By: Barbara Pizio
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780939
October 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the introduction to Penthouse Variations on Oral, editor Barbara Pizio says: “Penthouse Variations on Oral offers stories that are both entertaining and inspiring, giving you a taste of what can be if you release your inhibitions and indulge your appetite for passion.”

Whilst the claim might seem grand, it’s true. Consider this opening from Alison Tyler’s story, “Lickety-Split.” The story’s hero, Zach, has just said he would hurry back, “Lickety-Split.”

Once he’d set the last lid in place, Zach hefted the box to carry it to Jamie’s ad agency. I held the door open for him, and right as his well-muscled body was lined up with my own, I said, “When you get back, I have another type of split I’d like you to lick.”

I thought he was going to drop the coffee. I could actually see the Rorschach-like splatter on the tiled floor in my mind—regular two sugars blending with decaf with soymilk—but he caught himself and said, “Back in two minutes. Hold that thought.”

I held it. I held it as tightly as I possibly could, with my thighs squeezed together and my pussy positively clenched. Standing nearly frozen behind the counter, I willed myself to still my racing heart. As I exhaled, I looked at myself in the mirror over the fancy bronze coffeemaker.

I had my blonde hair up in a French twist, every hair in place. The pink in my cheeks hadn’t come from a cosmetic palette, but from my sexual excitement. Every sensual fantasy I’d ever had about Zach seemed to percolate in my head into one steamy concoction.

It’s an intense scene, described with Tyler’s usual flair and enriched with her focus on the excitement of sexual anticipation. As with all Tyler’s work, the story does not disappoint.

Equally, Justin Lewis with his short ‘Fine Dining’, gives the reader a pleasurable episode of cunnilingus followed by an intense explosion of fellatio.

Pushing her shirt up over her tits, I tongued her nipples through her bra, but then I pushed that up to suck the rosy flesh directly. While I did that, Sonia reached between us and massaged my cock through my pants. It was clearly time to start making my way southward, so I kissed my way down her stomach until I reached the waistband of her jeans. When I looked up, she nodded enthusiastically, so I popped the button, pulled down the zipper and, after she’d raised her ass, pulled the jeans off, along with her drenched-through panties.

The scent of her lust was potent, and I breathed in deeply as I lowered my head to her moist center. She spread her legs wider as I got closer to her crotch and the petals of her pussy peeled back, revealing the ripe berry in the center. I was tempted to zero in on it, but I knew that would instantly trigger her orgasm instead of letting her build up to a bigger, and more pleasurable, climax. Instead, I sucked gently at her labia and ran my tongue teasingly over her slippery folds. I put my hands on Sonia’s hips as she started writhing, and I lapped at her tender flesh, swallowing down my fill of her sweet-tasting juices.

There are many things that put this book above so many of the erotic anthologies currently flooding the market. The stories are exciting and well-rendered. The narratives are polished and presented with a clear focus. And, most important of all, each of these stories has been professionally edited.

Call me a whiny old grammar-Nazi if you want, you wouldn’t be the first. But one of the genuine pleasures I got from reading this title was the thrill of not having to wade through a crapload of spelling errors or try to make sense of a series of grammatical fubars. Too many self-published titles are missing this level of polish. Some of the allegedly professional published titles I’ve been asked to review have been lacking the smooth veneer of edited material. The completeness of polished, professional writing comes across beautifully in this anthology.

My one quibble with this title is the unnecessary subtitle: erotic stories of going down. To my mind it’s enough that the title includes the words Penthouse and oral. I don’t think it takes Sherlock Holmes to work out what will occur in the content. However, that’s a minor quibble and probably related to my aforementioned grammar-Nazi tendencies and a lifelong mistrust of tautology.

If I understand the literature I’ve been reading correctly, Penthouse Variations on Oral is the first in a series of planned anthologies. If the others are only half as good as this opening salvo of short erotica then the books will be well worth the investment. As Pizio says: “Penthouse Variations on Oral serves up more than twenty tasty tales of oral delights. These sexy stories run the gamut from the unrestrained passion of brand-new lovers to the uninhibited exuberance of devoted couples. These people understand that oral sex isn’t something to be rushed through or performed out of some sort of duty.”

Consequently, if you enjoy well-written oral sex, you should buy this one.





Personal DemonsPersonal Demons
By: Jay Lygon
Torquere
ISBN: 1603706658
March 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Many years ago, I recall once being engaged in a discussion of literature with my sister-in-law.  At the time she was a huge Catherine Cookson fan (well, she’d read three Catherine Cookson books and she was very fat, so I suppose that qualifies her as a huge Catherine Cookson fan).

“I thought I’d read all the Mallen books,” she confided miserably.  “But it appears that I haven’t.”

I expressed interest.  Well, I didn’t tell her to shut up, which amounted to the same thing.

“I’ve read The Mallen Litter,” she began, between mouthfuls of pie.  “And I’ve read The Mallen Streak and The Mallen Girl.  But now they’ve brought out a new title.  I’m going to have to buy that one too.”

“Really,” I said, feigning interest.  “What’s the new title called?”

She consulted the catalogue she was perusing and frowned over the unfamiliar word I was expecting her to pronounce.  Taking a deep breath she said, “This new one is called The Mallen Try-Logie.”

I glanced at the catalogue and said: “It’s pronounced ‘trilogy’.”

I mention this, because whenever I encounter any trilogy, I always think of it as a ‘try-logie’ and then smirk at the memory of my sister-in-law’s disappointed face when she realised she had spent valuable pie money on a collection of the only three books that she’d previously read. 

Personal Demons is the last of Jay Lygon’s trilogy (try-logie – can’t shake that habit) which began with Chaos Magic and continued with Love Runes. In this novel Sam, the God of Sex, and his master Hector, God of Love, bring their relationship to a climax.  I’m picking my words carefully here because I don’t want to include any spoilers for those who’ve been following the story so far.

Readers who are familiar with the work of Jay Lygon will have come to expect a high quality of writing, combined with well-structured stories, deeply layered characters and explicit, arousing sex scenes. Better than that, the dialogue is rich, credible and has the authenticity of natural speech. Consider the following excerpt:

I tried on the damn gray suit. I even modeled two of the shirts, but the next time I came out of the dressing room, I was in my street clothes. “I’m done,” I said.

“You’re not done, Boy, until I say you are.”

The clerk and the tailor exchanged a glance. Backing away, they muttered excuses to leave us alone.

Hector’s brand on my butt cheek seared. I swore I could feel the exact outline of the capital H. That was more warning than I usually got, so I should have backed down. No, I should have crawled across the floor to his feet and begged forgiveness. Instead, my lips twitched a little into a sneer and then my chin lifted. The next thing I knew, Hector was out of that chair with his hand on my upper arm.

“Sam and I are going to have a little chat,” he told the clerk through gritted teeth. “I’ll be out to pay for all that in a moment.”

They rushed to collect the clothes I’d tried on. Hector dragged me back into a dressing room and slammed the door shut. He sat on the cushioned bench and yanked me over his lap. “Bare that ass, Boy.”

Previously on these pages I’ve criticised books for containing dialogue that is nothing more than artless words on the page pretending to be speech.  The example above shows that it’s possible to put black print on a white page and structure it in a way that makes the characters whisper their words into your ear.

The whole ethos behind Personal Demons is supremely clever. The supernatural abilities of the central characters are only occasionally exploited as a convenient device – allowing Sam and Hector to fuck over their relationship the way we mere mortals invariably fuck over our own relationships.  Indeed, the presence of the central characters’ omniscience is a constant reminder that Sam and Hector are voluntarily putting themselves through the ordeal of a ‘normal’ relationship which, in itself, says volumes about the level of construction that supports each character.  And, if any one of us had the opportunity to become a God, where better to reside than in the heartland of Hollywood’s glitterati? 

I could go on: I could mention the fun and excitement of reading about Ophir, Alberto and Deal, or Lygon’s elegant, eloquent description.  But instead, I’ll just say that Personal Demons is an excellent book on its own: but it’s a better experience if you read the whole trilogy (try-logie).





Please Sir: Erotic Stories of Female SubmissionPlease Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443891
May 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

“Breathe,” Dominic whispered again as he dropped his body onto mine, plunging into me and grasping my shoulders as his breath rushed against my ear. He thrust into me with rhythmic strength as I lay like a doll, sprawled powerlessly across the hard foam beneath me. Dominic pumped hard, holding my hips solidly. His breathing changed as he thrust just a bit harder and came inside me, my body like a deflated balloon, a beautiful, motionless receptacle for his come.

“Power Over Power” by Emerald

Please, Sir, Erotic Stories of Female Submission, is the latest anthology to be published beneath the skilful editorial hand of Rachel Kramer-Bussel.  Regular readers of erotica will be familiar with Rachel Kramer-Bussel’s substantial contribution to the canon of erotic fiction.  And those with good taste and sufficient savvy will probably already possess their own well-thumbed copy of this title by the time this review goes to print. 
If I had to pick a favourite subgenre of erotic fiction, female submission would undoubtedly be near the top.  There are other niches where my proclivities can sometimes stray.  But the concept of masculine domination and female submission works on an aesthetic level complemented by well-written prose.  The example from Emerald (above) illustrates this beautifully.  The piece below equally exemplifies the high standards of writing in this anthology.

Oh, fuck. I can no longer breathe, much less make a noise of want. This is what he does to me, every day: whips me into a frenzy of words that makes me miss him more than I have the power to say, that makes me so wet that if he were here, I’d fuck him right now, bent over this table, with all these people watching, groaning his name with every thrust. I’d be begging him to fuck me, beat me, make me come with the kind of orgasm that makes everything else disappear.

“Anticipation” by Shanna Germain

One of the key misunderstandings with female submission, as a genre of erotic fiction, is that it does not revolve around misogyny.  Admittedly, there may be elements of denigration, humiliation and subversion, all characterised by patriarchal authority: but these are invariably contextualised by the protagonist’s desire to suffer those abuses.   It is never power wielded for the sake of wielding power: it is only ever the imposition of consensual authority over a willing subordinate.

“I think that the first time I beat you, I should use a riding crop. Each stroke will hurt more than the last. The pain of a crop is sharp, searing, biting deep. Eating into you, body and soul. I’ll beat you into a lather, my little pony. Your ass will look like it has been barbecued. You won’t be able to sit down for days.”

I could see it all. I wanted it all, wanted it now. The delicate trace of his fingers on my flesh burned like the trails of fire he promised me. His silken voice made me weak with desire. My clit was a red-hot coal threatening to burst into flame.

“Touch yourself, girl. Show me how much you want to be my slave.”

“Stroke” by Lisabet Sarai

Lisabet Sarai is a supremely competent wordsmith.  Here she uses her abilities to bring dialogue to life combined with her razor-sharp knack for charging a scene with powerful eroticism.  The heroine in this story has a subordinate streak – complemented by the antagonist’s penchant for domination.  The whole union is perfectly realised beneath Ms Sarai’s exquisite penmanship.

There are a host of superb authors populating the pages of Please, Sir.  Not for the first time Rachel Kramer Bussel has proved her laudable ability to gather an international collection of the finest erotica authors and have them deliver stories that are destined to excite and entertain.  An essential addition to anyone’s bedside library.



Rajasthani MoonRajasthani Moon
By: Lisabet Sarai
Totally Bound Publishing
ISBN: 1781846456
May 3013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The other week I was trying to produce a working definition for the concept of genre. It seemed like a straightforward enough task. We’ve all purchased books based on genre. We all understand the term loosely beyond its dictionary denotation. Most of us read genre fiction, some of us write genre fiction, so we must know what genre means.

Well, to be honest, I never got to the point where I could produce a working definition. There were too many variables. Just because a story contains a werewolf, does that mean it has to be a horror story? When does a story stop being part of the mystery genre and start being a supernatural yarn? When does a story shift from being a romantic adventure to becoming an adventurous romance?

My studies produced a lot of questions which have been difficult to answer. Next time I’m doing something so bold as trying to define a term like ‘genre’, I shall take a shortcut and simply ask Lisabet Sarai.

Lisabet Sarai is a master of genre and Rajasthani Moon proves as much. Set in a steampunk imagining of an empire-forsaken Victorian India, Rajasthani Moon contains aspects of fantasy, action-adventure, supernatural, science-fiction and, of course, erotica.

“Really? If you’re on an official diplomatic mission, why were you travelling in disguise?”

“As you note, sir, your countrymen are known for their violence and lawlessness. A woman openly journeying as Her Majesty’s representative would be especially vulnerable to attack by brigands and highwaymen…”Cecily stopped short, overwhelmed by memories of her time with Pratan. Her nipples knotted under the thin fabric of her bodice and moisture painted her thighs. Once again embarrassment heated her face. She tried to tear her eyes from the Rajah’s but he would not allow it.

He shook his head. “I really don’t know what I should do with you.” He flipped the gauzy train of her sari off her shoulder, exposing the swollen nubs that strained the fabric of her top. “Though I imagine I’ll think of something.”

For an instant she expected him to reach for her brazenly erect nips, to pinch or twist them. She knew he’d be cruel. A shudder of anticipation raced through her. She sucked in her breath, expecting—no, craving—the debasement.

He didn’t touch her. Instead, he favoured her with an ironic grin and settled back into his chair. “Sit here, then.” He indicated a nest of pillows piled to one side of the throne. “For now, I shall pretend that you’re telling the truth, Cecily, and treat you as the honoured representative of a foreign monarch.”

I’ve been a huge fan of Lisabet Sarai’s work since I first encountered her short story ‘Butterfly’ in Mitzi Szereto’s anthology, Erotic Travel Tales II. Not only does Lisabet have a sophisticated command of detail that brings each narrative to life, she also has an astute focus on plot that allows her to create and combine genre tropes as she tells a specific and enjoyable story.

When she opened her eyes, Pratan stood in front of the horse. The sight almost undid her.

He had removed his clothing. Muscles rippled along his arms. His sculpted chest gleamed with sweat. The scratches from his fight with the palace guards had faded, though they were still visible. His thighs, parted by a foot or two for balance, were like the trunks of great trees. At their juncture his proud cock reared up, nut brown crowned with strawberry red, its slickness further testimony to his arousal.

In his hands he held a cat-o’-nine-tails. He trailed the leather strands through his fingers. A teasing smile graced his lips, but his ebony eyes held something darker and more serious.

The horse swung her backwards, out of range. Then, like a pendulum, the device brought her back within reach—no more than six inches from where he stood.

At a mere 145 pages, Rajasthani Moon is a slim novel, but packed with all the necessary elements to provide an entertaining and satisfying read. As with all titles written by Lisabet Sarai, this book is well worth the investment. You will enjoy.





RedRed
By: Kate Kinsey
eKensington
ISBN: B008H6GL8E
September 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

At the back of this book, author Kate Kinsey says:

The stereotype that people who embrace BDSM—or indeed, any kink considered outside the mainstream of ‘normal’—are somehow sick or damaged could not be further from the truth. It takes courage and self-awareness to seek out the things that fulfill and satisfy us. People who do what we do are among the healthiest and happiest people I know.

I can agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. Those members of the BDSM community I’ve personally met are no more damaged by their involvement with the BDSM lifestyle than any other members of a specific community operating outside the realms of perceived ‘normality’. They’re no more damaged than most of those inside the mainstream of perceived normality. However, because BDSM participants are defined by their involvement with sexual relationships characterised by aspects of power-play, it’s easy to see how these misconceptions can arise.

That said, if it was Kate Kinsey’s intention to write a book that shows the comparative normality of relationships in BDSM, she’s taken a very bold route. Red is not a story that tries to show how everyone within a BDSM community gets along together, tolerating differences and accepting their given roles. Red is a tour de force of writing that is one part murder mystery, one part brutal psychological thriller, one part soap opera and all of this driven by a powerful and compelling undercurrent of eroticism.

What was it about rope, Robyn thought, that even the loose slip of it over her bare skin made her nipples hard? Even as a kid, she’d liked being tied up. When the
neighborhood kids played cowboys and Indians, she always made sure she was an Indian. She sure as hell was an Indian, now. She almost giggled at the thought, but the ropes pulled tighter, and her breath caught in her throat.

“You all right?” he whispered, lips brushing her ear.

“A little tighter. Please.”

The ropes grew taut again, pulling wrists and ankles tight against the mattress. The blindfold—cool, slick satin—blocked out everything but the sound of his voice and the feeling of his hands on her body.

Paul’s gentle fingertips traced from cheek to throat to the first curve of her breasts, lightly brushing her hard little nipples.

She moaned and arched her back. Wanting his fingers to linger, but knowing that the teasing had just begun.

He knew her so well, the location of every nerve ending wired directly to her cunt.

To some it might seem strange that Kinsey is trying to show us the normality of the BDSM community by presenting a narrative the focuses on a brutal murder investigation. However, when you consider the usual tropes of contemporary fiction: what could be more normal than the investigation of a brutal murder? At least, in this story, evidence of sadomasochistic practices is not tantamount to damning evidence.
Red is a powerful, complex and thoroughly engaging story. This is more than a mere titillation of BDSM encounters woven within an unrelated narrative. This is a compelling blend of murder mystery, psychological thriller, soap opera and skilfully driven erotic narrative. Highly recommended.





Sanctuary: Winter HowlSanctuary: Winter Howl
By: Aurelia T. Evans
Total-E-Bound Publishing
ISBN: B00ASOWPAG
December 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

This is from the opening blurb to Winter Howl:

Renee Chambers, a moderate-level agoraphobe, runs a no-kill dog sanctuary that doubles as a haven for canine shapeshifters. Britt, her best friend who also acts as Renee’s service dog, coaxes an anxious but curious Renee into a romance that has more than a little electricity. With her organisation running smoothly and a girlfriend who loves her, life could be worse.

Then Grant Heath, a rogue werewolf, shows up and turns her safe little world upside down and inside out, with a side of out of control. She knows it’s a terrible idea, but when she’s with him, she feels different from her tightly wound, controlled self—she almost feels normal. He never does anything she doesn’t want, but he also doesn’t care how far he pushes her beyond her agoraphobic limitations.

I’ve got that out of the way early because it’s easier for the writer to explain this plot rather than me stumble through an explanation of what I understood from my reading of this book. Also, there seems to be an awful lot going on here and I didn’t want it to come across as though I was trying to overtell the story in précis form, or be glib about the expansive content.

To be honest, if I’d attempted a story of this magnitude, I think I might have trimmed some of these very ambitious plot threads. A full erotic novel could be worked around the theme of an agoraphobe. Or, a full erotic novel could be worked around the theme of someone working in a dog sanctuary. And it goes without saying that plenty of stories have been written about love triangles and shapeshifting/werewolves.

But that ambition is likely what is fuelling Aurelia T Evans with this title, billed as Book One in the Sanctuary Series. There is a lot of story to tell here and, whilst this is a complete story, Winter Howl is just the opener.

This is an example of the writing from Winter Howl when Renee and Britt are out together.

She was not against the notion of women with women—she just did not know where she fit into the notion of women with women. Sexuality in general was relaxed among her shapeshifters, in part because the issues people had with sex were often not an issue among their canine companions. Hence the red faces and apologies in polite society when Duke tried to mount Spot or when Cinnamon tried to mount Lily. Renee, having been raised around dogs who naturally engaged in sexual activity amongst themselves and shapeshifters who did the same, was not fazed by the theory or practice of sex. She had just never engaged in much more than masturbatory exploration, which had been okay with her, for the most part. The idea of being attracted to someone was an abstraction with very few exceptions in her life, the kiss with Josh being one of them and the attraction that Jake and Britt had for her and each other being another.

The hair stroking did feel good, though. But another part of her was beginning to make her skin hum a little less pleasantly. She felt frozen in place, caught between liking the strokes and disliking the sensation of not having a handle on the moment.

Britt removed the hand, and her placatory grin was a little wry. “Sorry, was I pushing things?”

The ‘no’ caught in Renee’s throat, but she was able to say, “Wasn’t sure what to make of it. I need to go check supplies in the shifters’ barn.”

“Sorry,” Britt said.

“No. Don’t be.” And that she said it meant that it was true.

For my tastes this seems to be more telling than showing. I enjoy writing that presents description and allows me to make up my own mind as to whether or not Character A enjoys the company/ministrations of Character B. That’s not to say that the style of writing I prefer is better to or superior. I’m just saying here that I prefer a less expository narrative style that allows for personal interpretation whilst Aurelia T Evans doesn’t allow scope for ambiguity.

Grant’s arm was around her stomach, but he wasn’t too near her, and she was easily able to slip away, biting back the urge to groan as her body protested. But Grant’s breathing was still even, so she assumed she had not woken him.

And even if she had, Renee thought, Screw it.

She bent over, hissing through her teeth, and pulled out the toiletry bag she had packed. Once she was in the bathroom, she shut the door and turned on the light. As she started the water for a bath, first cold for a while, then hot, she took a cursory look at herself.

If she had not known that the marks on her body had been made during particularly rigorous and sometimes violent sex, she probably would have been even more concerned, but as it was, she was only moderately so. She stood up to look at herself in the mirror. It was even worse that way—there were bite marks all over her body, some of them just bruises, others bordering on broken skin. Bruises where he had held her too hard or where she had hit herself on furniture. Claw marks all down her legs. The place on her arm where she had bitten herself. She thought she should be ashamed of them, and although she was slightly horrified, it was more because of their appearance, not because of what had caused them. At least it was winter, and there would not be much cause for someone to ask about places on her body that they would never get the chance to see.

This is a title that touches on many of the most popular themes in contemporary fiction. We have erotica and shapeshifters and the realism of a character struggling to combat a stifling condition such as agoraphobia.  On a personal level, this story didn’t work for me. However, I can understand how it would appeal to a lot of readers.



Satisfy Me TonightSatisfy Me Tonight
By: Fiona Zedde
Contributions By: Sydney Molare and Kimberly Kaye Terry
Aphrodisia
ISBN: 0758229046
February 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Satisfy Me Tonight is a collection of three novella length erotic romances bundled into one, single tome.  From Kengsington’s Aphrodisia imprint, the collection starts with Fiona Zedde’s Sexual Attraction, followed by Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild and concluding with Kimberly Kaye Terry’s Captive

This is the third title under Kensington’s ‘Satisfy Me…’ label which started with Satisfy Me, continued with Satisfy Me Again and has now progressed to Satisfy Me Tonight.  The titles seem popular with readers and the intention is to blend romance with erotica in the genre of erotic romance. 

Sad to say, I have to admit I wasn’t satisfied. 

This is probably a fault on my part.  Reading the reader reviews on Amazon its clear that these authors have a huge following and the books are extremely popular.  I’ve previously read and enjoyed Fiona Zedde’s Bliss and have long regarded her as a competent author.  I’m unfamiliar with the previous works of Ms Molare and Ms Terry.  However, my research tells me that both these authors are popular with a loyal and enthusiastic readership. 

In Sexual Attraction Fiona Zedde introduces us to Kenna and Ben.  Their relationship begins as love at first sight.  They meet in Belgium.  They consummate their passion.  And they hump like filthy-minded bunnies that have been force-fed Viagra.  However, they both know they will never see each other ever again.  This is Belgium.  Kenna is due to return to her home in Atlanta, Georgia.  And yet, three months later, whilst Kenna is still licking her metaphorical wounds and, savouring the taste of what might have been, she recognises a pair of honey-coloured eyes…

Then there’s Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild.  Six years into her marriage Berze is sitting alone in the hot tub, surrounded with romantic candles, and wondering where the spark has gone.  The romance for Berze and her beloved Jare is rekindled by the purchase of a second-hand wedding dress which comes with a chest of saucy nineteenth century love-letters.  The smouldering heat of these belles-lettres inspires Berze and Jare to rediscover those important parts of their relationship that they’d almost forgotten.

And, finally, there’s the story of Tessa’s kidnap in Captive.  Tessa is vociferously protesting against a wicked conglomerate.  Others who have protested have been threatened.  And then Tessa finds herself in the custody of a gorgeous kidnapper.  Rather than revisiting the territory of Stockholm Syndrome, there is a more complex rationale behind Tessa’s response to being abducted.  However, the results are similar.

If I have to be honest, I think the reason these three stories failed to satisfy me was because they gave an impression of being hurried.  I don’t know if it’s the novella length format and its subsequent restrictions and limitations of space, but the shortness of each story left me unsated and wishing there had been more substance to these tales. 

If I’m being picky, I’d also say that there were several issues in each narrative that could have been addressed by either a little more time and patience from the author or some circumspect attention from the editor.  Again – this gave the impression that things had been rushed.

This is from Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild:

“The dick was so good, I couldn’t do shit but fuck him back.  I turned all the sexual frustration I held into pussy-clenching strokes.  My back hurt, my lungs were bursting, my heart was thumping against the wall, but still I fucked.  Even when I felt him stiffening up, making mewling sounds, I fucked.  Even when I turned my head and saw his fuck face, I fucked.  I fucked, Fucked, Fucked, and FUCKED until his legs gave way and he collapsed on the floor.

Then I stopped fucking.”

Of course, I’m a typical man, and probably not the target readership for these stories.  Those who are more familiar with the genre of erotic romance might respond differently to these literary vignettes and find that they work perfectly for different reader expectations.  Each of these three novella length stories does contain some exciting scenes of erotic romance.  However, speaking solely for myself, none of them properly managed to satisfy me tonight.



Secret SocietiesSecret Societies
By: William Holden
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1602827524
October 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

“Is that true, Mr. Baker…Christopher?”

“It is indeed.” He smiled. His eyes lit up. “It cannot be easy to grow up in a home without the warmth of a mother’s touch or the guidance of a father’s wisdom. But you have done just that, Master Addison. You are a strong and dapper young man for whom I have come to care a great deal.”

“I have you to thank for my guidance. I am seventeen and know nothing of life outside of this home except what you have taught me. I want to tell—”

He raised his finger to my lips, cutting off my words, and then reached into his topcoat.
“I have something for you, Addison, in honor of your birthday.”

He handed me a little silver tin. “Go ahead, open it.” He smiled as I lifted the cover. “Do you like it? It is a pin to hold your cravat in place.”

I have a penchant for period dialogue. The loss of the formality that was inherent within most forms of address during yesteryear is one of the things that make me think our society’s progress has come at a high price. Admittedly we now have internet technology, mobile phones and nyan cat games, but are any of those “advances” comparable to the thrill of being called “Mr. Lister” during an intimate tryst? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Secret Societies is set in the unenlightened yesteryear of 1724. Thomas Newton is cast out of his home by his aristocratic father. He goes to London and, as it says on the blurb: enters the underground world of male-male desire.

Holden has clearly researched this period. The story is compelling. The period detail is rich and enchanting. In short: this is well-written homoerotic fiction at its finest.

William Holden is a master of erotic storytelling and he knows how to balance complex plots, bildungsroman style character development and the vagaries of period writing.

Holden’s first book, A Twist of Grimm, remains one of my favourite titles and still sits close to my desk. One of the reasons why I respect this writer is because he is able to combine quality writing with first class erotica:

“I must have that ass of yours. Turn around and let me fuck you.”

I did as he said, knowing it would be the last ass he would ever enter. He pushed me against the stone ledge, shoved my breeches down to my knees, and plunged his rigid prick deep inside me. I yelled from the immediate and forceful thrust of his insertion. My cries of passion and pleasure echoed through the open land. My nails dug into the gritty fibers of the cold, damp stone as the assault on my ass intensified.

I knew all too well from many nights with James’s prick up my ass that he was not one who held out. His breathing became labored. He grabbed my shoulders and pulled my body to his as he thrust himself farther and deeper into my sore and hungry ass. I bent my head under my arm and peered behind our sweat-dampened bodies to get a glimpse of Mr. Willis. I could see his shadow deep in the brush. I could almost feel his eyes stroking my dangling prick.

“Oh, for the love of God, unleash your seed into me,” I begged as I felt his prick pulsing with unspent need. “Yes. Fuck my shithole. Pound me. Make me dizzy with pleasure. Oh, James, yes, I can feel your cock stroking deep within my belly!”

If I was going to nitpick I’d mention that British pronunciation favours ‘arse’ instead of ‘ass’. But that would be pretty petty nitpicking on my part. Secret Societies is a combination of mystery, romance, erotica and period drama. It contains something for everyone and deserves a place on the bookshelf of every discerning erotica reader.





SenSexual: A Unique AnthologySenSexual: A Unique Anthology
Edited By: Susana Mayer
SenSexual Press
ISBN: B00BA8ZGVY
February 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

This is from Susana Mayer Ph.D.’s dedication at the beginning of SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013.

SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 volumes I and II are dedicated to my chosen mom, Dr. Frances Seidman, the Erotic Literary Salon’s first nonagenarian attendee. When I mentioned I was creating a Salon, Frances immediately said, “I’ll write a piece. You know, I’ve never done this before!” Even at 91, she was up for the challenge.

After much thought, she decided to initially write under the pen name Lily, since she did not want to compromise her winter volunteer position with the Florida public school system. During the second year of the Salon, Frances chose to use her given name, since she was no longer working directly with children, but teaching adults how to volunteer.

Now, before I go on to say what a great collection of writing is contained within this book, I need to point at this dedication and cite it as evidence for something wrong with the world in which we live. I’m not specifically pointing at Florida’s legislation policies on this (as they are perceived by volunteer employees, or as those policies actually stand). But this pair of paragraphs exemplifies the trauma and unnecessary burden that every erotic fiction writer has to negotiate when putting pen to paper.

What would my employer think if they saw what I’d written? What would my family and friends think? Will writing this fiction have any negative effect on my financial future or economic wellbeing?

Fiction writing in and of itself is a difficult enough challenge. Fiction writing with the additional worry that the material produced could be misconstrued as indicative of an unscrupulous or untrustworthy psyche can be positively devastating to a writer.

If we were writing about how to make bombs, or how to best send anthrax through the post, or how to judiciously invade people’s privacies by reading their emails and logging records of their search histories, I could understand someone having fears about repercussions.

But seriously, when a ninety-one year old lady writing about sex is worried that she might lose her voluntary position within a school, it’s a sad indictment of our society. It’s a sad indictment of our society that people fear unnecessary recriminations such as this. And, what’s sadder is that unnecessary recriminations like these do actually happen to justify those fears.

Which is perhaps why the idea behind SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 is such a powerful one.

SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 was borne from the Erotic Literary Salon: a gathering of supportive likeminded adults sharing their erotic fiction. According to the website of the Erotic Literary Salon, http://theeroticsalon.com/, this is what a visitor to the Bohemian Absinthe lounge can expect:

A room filled with people who represent a cross section of society, all interested in hearing erotica. It is a comfortable atmosphere for enjoying erotica, filled with a supportive community of listeners and readers.

The various styles of writings range from sensual innuendo to the graphically explicit. Individuals share their first person erotic journals, poetry, stories, writings in progress, excerpts from novels, etc. along with fictional works.

Not everyone is interested in reading and attend only to hear erotica and appreciate the pieces with applause. The readers range from published authors to “virgins,” who command applause even prior to reading. The audience is especially supportive of first time readers.

Along with attendee readings; published authors, gifted attendees, and various artists are featured presenters. Occasionally after the readings, guest experts lead discussions held on various relevant topics.

As many people reading this will know, I’m a huge fan of the spoken word. I help host a monthly open mic poetry event in my local community and I visit spoken word events wherever and whenever possible.

If you enjoy erotica and live sufficiently close to the Bohemian Absinthe club I would urge you to attend to experience the magic of a live reading. I would urge you as someone who knows how impressive it can be to watch a writer share their work with an audience and I would urge you as someone who has just enjoyed the experience of reading the books borne from the endeavour of the Erotic Literary Salon: SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013, Volumes I and II. The title includes works from some of my favourite writes, including Gwen Masters, Sharazade, I G Frederick, Robin Sampson and Heidi Champa. The title also includes some superb writing from authors I haven’t previously encountered but will be researching thoroughly now I’ve discovered their work. 

And here, to give you a sample of the quality of strong writing in this collection, is a slice of erotica from the inimitable Gwen Masters and her short story, “White.”

She looked at him, at the handsome face framed in tendrils of blue smoke. The smoke matched his eyes and the rush matched the way he made her feel when he did that one little thing he liked to do between her legs, that one sweet motion that sent her to the moon and back. She leaned back against the couch and then there were two of him, the one living and breathing and the one in the little mirror on the table.

Double the pleasure.

“Do me,” she said.

His hand demanded that she open, and she did while the low music of her own blood sounded a bass line through her head. He slid into her and then his rhythm was hers, and she was flying right along with him, saying things that were like second nature, telling him to fuck her hard and fuck her deep. When he rolled her over onto her knees it was like the world was the one spinning, not her, and the idea made her laugh out loud.

SenSexual: A Unique Anthology 2013 is an intelligent and enjoyable anthology put together by writers who care about their craft and work hard to deliver quality material for the genre. As we live in an age when investment in this genre is equated with deviance, it’s worth subscribing to this title to show your support for writers who are bold enough to bravely bare their work in public.





Seven Scarlet TalesSeven Scarlet Tales
By: Justine Elyot
Virgin Books Black Lace
ISBN: 0352347309
May 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Justine Elyot is a gifted writer. She knows how to craft words. She knows how to build and develop a story. And, most importantly, she understands how to please a reader. If you don’t already own a copy, rush out now and buy Seven Scarlet Tales. You will not be disappointed.

I gasped when Sands put his hand on the curve of my arse and moulded his palm to its shape.

“Who could resist this?” he whispered, and his voice was directly in my ear. “No straight man alive.”

The way he held his hand there was so possessive and so natural that I knew I had gone beyond turning back. A ripple had gone all the way through me, upwards, outwards, downwards, inwards. And, most particularly, cuntwards.

I had been excited from the start, but now my wetness was undeniable. My nipples were protruding out from the midnight blue silk and my breath was short and laboured. My body was telling him to do it. Do whatever he wanted. My mind could not summon up the effort to argue with it.

Seven Scarlet Tales is a collection of Elyot’s short fiction, each story complete and whole, but neatly linked to other stories in the book. The worlds she’s created are vividly drawn, cleverly described, and always fun exciting.

The characters in this collection are credible. Enchantingly, a character can appear in one story as the narrator and then turn up in another story in a supporting role. This interaction between stories is a device that enriches the depth of the worlds she’s created and makes the fiction so much more credible as levels of narrative discourse are developed and expanded. I won’t reiterate which characters or locations are presented or revisited: part of the fun with this title is making the connections and enjoying the way the story develops as the story-world expands. I will say, it’s a device that Elyot uses well.

The next stroke was harder and made a gorgeous splat sound against my skin. I felt the stripe sizzle into a welt. I hoped it would leave a mark.

I hoped my whole bum would be one swollen mass of red stripes when he came to throw down his belt and grab my hips and enter me from behind. But I was getting ahead of myself.

First I needed to live through this whipping. Breathe through it, clench through it, survive it.

The strokes came harder and faster. At first I was almost wild with the relentless pain, but before I could jump away or beg for mercy, something happened and the heat became sweet instead of fierce.  

The scenarios Elyot describes are arousing. The stories are aimed at an intelligent and articulate readership with a penchant for spanking and she focuses the sexual content on this popular kink. But that’s not to say that all the sexual content is solely devoted to spanking. Even when hands and crops are no longer kissing bare buttocks, the sex is still incredibly hot and titillating.

Lying pressed against Bruno, breathing him in, feeling his strength and hardness, made her want to wrap herself tight around him and open up her legs. He smelled of older-man authority and responsibility and it intoxicated her. Screw the bad boys, what could be sexier than a good man who wanted to do right by you?

“Hey,” he whispered, rolling over so that he held her down a little underneath him. “You are playing this a bit too well, you know?”

His mouth was an inch from hers, his hair falling over his brow and tickling her. Their pelvises were in alignment. Only a double layer of cotton kept their genitals apart.

“Kiss me,” she begged almost silently.

“You want me to?” he sounded amazed, and it turned her on even more.

Seven Scarlet Tales is fun, frisky and formidable. This is stylish writing, entertaining in its aim to deliver a story and satisfying in its ability to convey a powerful sense of the erotic within the narrative.

Black Lace have a track record of publishing quality writers who can deliver a superb erotic experience. Justine Elyot is proof that Black Lace are still publishing the best.



Sex in the City: LondonSex in the City: London
Edited By: Maxim Jakubowski
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1907016228
April 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Themed anthologies, I find, have you guessing at the contents before you’ve properly cracked the spine on the book you’re reading.  As soon as you read the title you’re predicting the content of some of the stories.

For instance, an anthology about sex and vampires had me thinking there would be stories about fluids being sucked.  An anthology about spanking made me think there would be bruised buttocks somewhere in the tome.  An anthology of sixty second erotica had me thinking that my wife was writing about our sex life.  (Please note, I’m not trying to brag about the sixty second thing.  The sixty seconds includes foreplay and lighting the cigarette afterwards).

Consequently, when I received my copy of Sex in the City: London, my mind began to predict the contents before I’d opened the front page. 

Sex in the City: London is one of four recently released titles from Xcite Books.  The others in the series are Sex in the City: Dublin, Sex in the City: Paris, and Sex in the City: New York

I can already imagine that Sex in the City: New York involves at least one story with sex in a yellow taxicab, or sex beneath the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.  I suspect Sex in the City: Dublin includes something seductive involving a pint of Guinness.  And I’d guess Sex in the City: Paris has a story with a woman who doesn’t shave her pits and a man who’s never brushed his teeth. 

But it’s Sex in the City: London I’m looking at and, before I glanced beyond the cover, I wondered if it might include sex with the queen (never going to happen), sex with the prime minister (even less likely with the current mob of fugly incumbents) and sex with someone called Big Ben.

Fortunately, my expectations were usurped when I began to read the stories.  Instead of taking characters roughly up the Old Kent Road, or riding a character’s tube until they’re snugly settled in the West End, the collection is credible, entertaining and literate.  The stories here are certainly erotic: but they each contain the essence of a city dweller’s grudging adoration for the place they call home.

And, perhaps that’s what makes each of these stories come to life.  Anyone who has ever lived in a city knows that the instinctive affection for home is tempered by a weary distaste for all its shortcomings: a duality of cognitive dissonance that is irresoluble and inescapable. 

Or, as Kristina Lloyd points out at the beginning of “The Caesar Society,”

I like Soho.  It’s horrible.  It used to be worse and I liked it better then. 

This duality extends to people, as Justine Elyot observes in “Thames Link,”

He’s a creep, he’s a sleaze, he’s a perve.  He’s my kind of guy. 

Or, as Maxim Jakubowski explains in “Woke up with the Hampstead Blues Again,”

There’s London.
Then there’s the real London.
And then again, there is the unreal London, a world of shadows, imagination and loneliness.

This is a collection to be savoured like a sightseeing tour.  The stories show imagination and excitement without once forgetting about their shared background. 

In “Monster” Francis Ann Kerr takes her readers to the nefarious Torture Gardens.   “The Tourist,” by Clarice Clique is a veritable whirlwind visit through the city, touching on the Tate Modern, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus and a handful of other venerable attractions.  In “What are you Wearing?” Matt Thorne appears to answer every visitor to the city’s question about what happens to all the luggage that goes missing form Terminal 5. 

As a writer, and as someone who also teaches creative writing, I think the most appealing element of this collection is that each author has provided notes on their inspiration. Elizabeth Coldwell talks about the influence of Soho, and how that dictated her narrative for “Rain and Neon.”  NJ Streitberger discusses the true incident that inspired the fictional account of “The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator.”  Kevin Mullins and Marcelle Perks explain the mechanics of their winning collaboration on “Strawberry Pink.” It’s a fascinating glimpse behind the thought processes that have created these compelling stories.

Perhaps the clever thing about these anthologies is that they’ve been edited by Maxim Jakubowski.  Anthologies need to be edited by someone who has a feel for the subject matter and it goes without saying that Maxim is well travelled: regularly jetting between New York, London and a host of other exotic places.  He is undoubtedly savvy to the nuances of each anthology’s destination – making him ideally placed to edit stories focused on specific locations. 

And Maxim also knows about sex.  As the presiding editor of the Mammoth Best New Erotica series, it’s acknowledged that he knows a good erotic story when he sees one.  In short: Sex in the City: London is a testament to Maxim’s abilities as an editor and it deserves to be a triumphant success.  The authors who have contributed know how to tell a story and how to convey the essence of a city.  And who could ask for more than that in a book?





Shakespearotica: Queering the BardShakespearotica: Queering the Bard
Edited By: Salome Wilde
Storm Moon Press
ISBN: B00GMU60HO
November 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I once wrote a poem that explores the theme of Shakespeare’s sexuality. The opening stanza goes like this:


In Shakespeare’s day,
all the actors were gay
while the women all wanted it ruder
And the sluttiest old crone
Rested up on the throne
And her name was Elizabeth Tudor.

I mention this here so, from the onset of this review, you’ll be aware that my attitude toward Shakespearean studies lacks any of the reverence associated with bardolatory.

There are lots of Shakespearean theories thrown out for discussion:

The one obvious thing that the majority of these theories fails to take into account is that Shakespeare was a writer. Writers, by their nature, are mercurial. I’m a writer and, if I thought it would improve my chances for publication, prestige or promotion, I would happily describe myself as an earl of Derby and/or Oxford, or as a gay man or a dead contemporary playwright or a Jewish woman.

The authors who’ve contributed to Salome Wilde’s Shakespearotica: Queering the Bard, seem to appreciate this mercurial quality. The stories they’ve contributed to this eclectic collection of gay erotic Shakespeare appropriations demonstrate a diverse range of approaches to the bard.

This section, from Jean Roberta’s “A Well-Placed Pinch,” shows how one of the contributors has managed to compile something contemporary with a clever suggestion of Shakespearean gender ambiguity.

"I am intrigued, my lad," announced Olivia to an invisible audience. "What secret could you be hiding? Do you have some monstrous deformity under your clothes? If you want me to believe you are a trustworthy messenger and not a scoundrel or an ogre, you must reveal yourself as God made you."

Claire hoped Irene didn't really mean what her words suggested. She wondered if this was Irene's idea of a fair test, an ordeal that a suitor must survive to gain a lady's attention and respect.

"Rude boy!" exclaimed Rosie, tossing her hair over her shoulder and pushing out her chest. "My mistress wants you to take off your clothes."

Claire tried to think of a Shakespearean response, but words failed her.

"You know you want to," said Irene, clearly as herself, looking Claire in the eyes. Then, resuming her role, she went on. "I wish to see what is covered by thy rich doublet and cunning codpiece. What better way to display your courage and honesty than by showing me what you've got? If you do as I ask, I may grant you a favor in return." Irene bubbled with sensuous implications, but Claire noted she wasn't making any promises.

Then there’s this science-fiction adaptation from Tilly Hunter with “As We Like It: A Romance.”

Few people come to the biodome. It was my mother's favorite place, although she felt deep guilt over the amount of water it wasted while the villagers eked out muddy puddles at the bottom of their wells. She had a tender heart. People think her spirit haunts this oasis, and so they avoid it. My father had been unkind to her when it became apparent one daughter was all she would bear him, and some say her early death was hastened by her unhappiness.

Ross lifts my knee-length shift, a thing of flimsy mauve silk, worn to impress at the duke's table. The dye comes from a plant that grows only on Wilmcote, one of the forest planets that orbit a lesser sun in the outer reaches of our galaxy. It costs hundreds of ducats to color one dress. The shadow of my curves shows through in certain lights. I think Ross appreciates its femininity as a contrast to his own trousers and shirt, although I prefer plainer and more practical attire. He grasps my hips and bends his head to my pubic mound, his lips skimming over my belly.

Or there’s “Much Ado About a Kiss,” this modern interpretation from Caitlin Ricci:

Jack shrugged and smiled, showing his perfectly white teeth. "True. But at the same time, it's just a sex scene. And a fake one at that."

Alex bit the inside of his cheek. That was exactly the problem he had: a sex scene with the man he'd had a crush on since the day he'd tried out for the all-gay production of Much Ado About Nothing. "Yeah, but it should be believable, right? So, I thought practice might be good." His face was on fire as he looked away. "Might be less awkward, at least," he mumbled.

"Sure. It would have been fun to have one of the other scenes. The guy playing Beatrice gets all the fun lines, and our characters hardly ever talk," Jack said with a sigh.

Alex agreed with him instantly and was curious to know which ones Jack liked the most. "Like which lines?" he asked.

Jack shrugged. "I like the one 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.' It seems to fit sometimes."

Startled, Alex looked up at him. "That's a strange line to pick. Do you scorn love? Like Beatrice does in the play?"

"No. Not at all. If I could find it, I'd jump at the chance to have it for myself. But I’ve been told that far too many times in my life to believe every guy that tries," Jack replied with a shrug.

A lot’s been written about Shakespeare and a lot more will be written as writers re-imagine Shakespeare’s stories for this and future generations. This entertaining collection shows that today’s contemporary erotica writers are more than capable of being inspired by the bard’s stories to develop their own dramatic flair for the erotic.





She Shifters: Lesbian Paranormal EroticaShe Shifters: Lesbian Paranormal Erotica
Edited By: Delilah Devlin
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344796X
July 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the Foreword to She Shifters, Kate Douglas says:

I write of the redeeming power of love and the need for us to love ourselves before we can freely love another. I write of men and women who have suffered, but have gone on to find the strength to believe in themselves, to believe they are truly worthy of love—and to choose partners who are worthy of their love. But most of all, I write about acceptance. That love in and of itself is what matters. Paramount in my stories is the concept that we are all worthy of love, that gender, race, religion, and all the other things society tries to throw in our way as barriers to love are foolish—though I have to admit, they do create wonderful themes around which to build our tales.

These are recurrent themes that are foregrounded throughout the sixteen excellent stories of lesbian paranormal erotica within this anthology: love, redemption and acceptance.

The genre of the paranormal has always been popular with those who believe themselves to be outside the limitations of whatever is perceived as normal. This is possibly why the genre has always had such an extensive appeal for teenagers (a demograph who invariably see themselves as outsiders). It’s an appeal, which we’ve seen evinced repeatedly over the past decade or so, with teen icons such as Buffy and Bella Swan creating a fantasy world of the paranormal where teenage angst is an acceptable form of expression.

But this is not a book for teenagers – this is aimed at a more adult market.

However, there are certainly echoes of the outsider striving for redemption and acceptance in stories like “Sneak” by Giselle Renarde where the common unity of a curse is found between a lesbian shape-shifter mouse and an unfortunate and unhappy sex worker.

Ah, Loralee, so unassumingly pretty underneath that thick foundation, the false lashes, the dark shadow. Her men only got to see her one way—made-up, falsified, cloaked in everything she wasn’t. Her skirts were small, but her hair was big—teased and sprayed to retain dimension. It wasn’t the real Loralee on that bed, just a body that looked like her. Cosmetics prevented the men, the adulterers and perverts, from seeing her true self. Loralee, pretty Loralee, was so vulnerable, so insecure…so like Bess. Bess looked on, unnoticed, as some reeking cowboy took Loralee from behind. His shirt was half-off, dirty denim around his ankles, boots grinding mud into the worn-down carpet. They were all so lazy, these dirty, grunting men. Loralee deserved better, but the poor thing was resigned to her fate.

And how, exactly, did Bess know all this? Well, people tend to talk when they think they’re alone. Loralee always talked to herself when the men had gone, while she stripped the bed. Poor girl always washed the sheets after a john had left.
“Sneak” Giselle Renarde

 

It’s argued that regular readers of the paranormal genre can often identify with the characters and familiar tropes found in this milieu of fiction. Some critics claim that regular readers of this genre see a reflection of their own personality in the personification of those outside the restrictions of society’s regular limitations.

I’m not sure how much of this is generalisation and how much is likely accurate but there are echoes of the outsider in many of the stories in this collection, including JL Merrow’s second contribution to this anthology: “Nine Days and Seven Tears.”

I found where the heat of her was centered, and as she opened for me like a sea anemone, she arched her back and hummed with pleasure. The scent and the flavor of her almost overwhelming me. I tongued that hard, crimson bud again and again, until Freyja shuddered and came, crying out softly in an ancient language I longed to understand.


“You make me so hot,” she whispered, but her white fingers felt cool on my heated skin, like the lap of the sea on a hot summer’s day. They rippled over me, bringing life and yearning to every part they caressed, and then they dove inside me, darting in and out with a touch that both burned and soothed.
“Nine Days and Seven Tears” JL Merrow

This is not to say, despite these stories sharing themes, that they are predictable. The stories in this collection are all exciting and well-written. Editor Delilah Devlin has picked a fine host of fiction for this anthology, each of which works as an exemplar of erotic fiction and together they collectively work to fulfil the promise of the title.

She Shifters explores a wide array of metaphors for female sexuality and lesbian intimacy and presents the reader with an accessible selection of stories that can be enjoyed for the surface pleasure of erotic fulfilment, or can be considered for the greater depth that they give to this genre.





She Who Must Be Obeyed: Femme Dominant Lesbian EroticaShe Who Must Be Obeyed: Femme Dominant Lesbian Erotica
Edited By: D. L. King
Lethe Press
ISBN: 1590211944
July 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

As D L King points out in her introduction to She Who Must be Obeyed, the dominant femme is a mainstay of life and literature. 

The dominant femme has long been an archetype in life, as well as in literature. Butches, bois, women and girls look to her as the guiding force in life and love and, of course, hot, down and dirty, back-up-against-the-wall sex. And dominant women know, perhaps innately, that bois need a firm, guiding hand. The same holds true for butches of all stripes as well as girls and other women. It’s a universal truth that the dominant femme knows just where she fits and all others will flock to the aura of power surrounding her.

D L King, Introduction

One worries sometimes that an anthology with such a specific theme could be limited in the scope of its content. Surely, if the remit for authors is fixed to the one archetype, there isn’t much opportunity for originality?

But it’s a false assumption. King is an accomplished editor who selects stories for talent and originality. Yes, the archetype of the dominant femme appears in each story, but it’s an archetype realised differently by each writer, and existing in a different narrative form.

She walks out still in the black strapless gown and opera gloves.

She gives me that head to toe assessment again and then gives my shoulder a push downward.

“Get on your knees.”

So it’s going to be like that. Her earlier femme fatale act wasn’t just flirting. I pause, because even though I fantasize ruthlessly about being commanded and controlled by an aggressive femme, there’s a certain mercilessness in those green eyes. Suddenly I feel certain that this might end in a screaming orgasm or a plea for mercy, but it probably won’t end with a cuddle before brunch.

I get on my knees, the asphalt cold and damp through my jeans.

She pulls up her dress and shows me pale, shapely long legs and then the smooth seashell of her pussy. Of course she’s waxed bare. She’s the most flawlessly groomed woman I’ve ever seen.

She smiles down at me. “Get to work—and if you do a good job, there’s a reward in it for you.”

Valerie Alexander, "Noir"

Alexander’s dominant femme is appraising the narrator’s abilities. The story addresses a level of control and submission that are delightfully executed and speak to a desire for devotion to celebrity culture that is endemic within modern society. But this is not the only way dominant femmes are portrayed in this collection.

But then a curious thing happens. As she slowly thrusts more deeply into my ass, the pain lessens, and exquisite sensations rise up to mingle with the pain. She’s slowly but gradually increasing her pace, and sweat breaks out all over my body. My hips rise up to meet each thrust and I’m breathing open-mouthed moans into the bed in time to the rhythm of her fucking me. She’s making breathy sounds of her own, and I can feel her pleasure rising and I am lost, completely engulfed in sensation, sinking into it, time and place disappearing until there is only Her. Pleasing Her. Giving myself over to Her. She cries out suddenly, her body tensing above me as she reaches her peak, and I feel a pleasure, a gratitude, so intense that it transcends orgasm completely.

"Unchartered Territory," Evan Mora

Evan Mora gives us a powerful and explicit story of reciprocated devotion. Mora has a gift for language that makes every syllable count as she shares this intoxicating tale of passion and submission.

This is a collection that contains some of my favourite authors (D L King, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Sacchi Green, Theresa Noelle Roberts, Jean Roberta, to name a small few) and a handful of authors I haven’t previously had the chance to enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, D L King knows how to collate exactly the right material for an anthology. The works here are of the highest standard with the focus remaining balanced between narrative function and erotic content. Whether you’re enamoured by your own dominant femme, or simply curious about a world you don’t ordinarily occupy, She Who Must be Obeyed is essential reading material for those who enjoy well-written erotic fiction.



Spank: The Improbable Adventures of George Aloysius BrownSpank: The Improbable Adventures of George Aloysius Brown
By: Alan Daniels
Amazon Digital
ISBN: B009384Z9W
August 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

A friend and I were arguing last week. My friend said tablets and eBooks were superior to printed material. I said that printed books were better.

It was a heated debate. My friend said that tablets and eBooks were more environmentally friendly. My friend pointed out that an eBook reader is capable of holding a library’s worth of material. My friend pointed out that eBooks are usually more reasonable – and these points are all true.

My argument was, if the book you’re reading is a pile of shit, you’re not going to damage an expensive e-reader by throwing the damned thing across the room when the text you’re reading has caused deep offence.

Anyway, this month I read Spank: The Improbable Adventures of George Aloysius Brown on my eBook reader. This is a passage from the book.

(Note here I’ve not selected the image of two schoolgirls spanking each other in a bildungsroman discovery of budding sexual awareness, nor have I included the passage of a schoolgirl imploring a headmaster to administer sexual punishment).

When the dust settled and a measure of order had been restored to the Lazy Daze Campground and Sgt. Johnson had pedaled off shaking his head, George bundled Pem back into the van, giving her rear a little pat as he did so. By this time, they were both helpless with laughter. "Oh, George," she said. "I didn't know knew you could be so… so commanding. You should have seen the look on his face when you said he could have his tent back." George, who had seen the look on Herr Schitler's face, swelled with pride as did the little fella who apparently decided it was now safe to re-emerge. "And you my love," he told her, "were heroic beyond the call of duty. For that you shall be rewarded with the field marshal's baton." Pem reached across and gave it an encouraging squeeze. "To the high ground," she said.

Later that evening while it was still light they walked back down the hill to the camping area to apologize to the German visitors whose tent they had briefly highjacked. They walked slowly hand-in-hand because the grass underfoot was still slippery. The toilet that Gretchen had knocked on its side had been righted and restored to its foundation and peace and good order had returned to the Lazy Daze Campground.

They halted at the entrance to Herr Schitler's tent, which was tightly zippered. They could hear voices within and concluded it was safe to intrude.

"Ahem," George coughed loudly, there being no knocker. "Excuse us, may we have a word?"

 

I know I’m sounding snarky in my old age but I really do find this sort of asinine twaddle irritating. I read this and it made me want to date Andrea Dworkin. How can anyone seriously pretend this is erotica? It has the feel of having come from a gentleman’s club in the 1920s, when bon viveurs would relate anecdotes about rumpy-pumpy, tiffin, slap and tickle and how’s-your-father. It’s as erotic as pubes on the pipe of a colostomy bag.

 

Perhaps I’m being harsh. Perhaps I was missing my meds when I read this book. Here’s another passage, demonstrating phone sex, so you can judge if it works as an accurate reflection of heteronormative responses to the artificiality of commodified sexuality.

 

"Mmmmmmm, you're so big, so hard. I'm so ready for you, George. I want you to fuck me. Fuck me, doggy style. Fuck me hard!" George closed his eyes and imagined Pem in that position, arching her back showing him her shapely bottom
then settling in for the ride.

For 30 seconds, maybe more, nothing was said above Sadie's cries of ecstasy. George relaxed his grip on the phone then he heard.

"Was that good for you too?"

"Rather, I mean yes. Honestly, it was a pleasure. You're hot." George believes in giving credit where it's due.

"Thank you, daaaaarling." She said still role playing, that exaggerated Deep South politeness.

"I hope that was good for you, too. Was there anything else? You said you had a special interest."

"Yes, I do." George felt he could confide in her by now. "I have a special interest in erotic discipline. I'm trying to find out if women enjoy being spanked."

"You mean like this, when you bend over me and make me touch my toes. Spank me, George. I've been such a baaaaad girl, George. Punish me."

Andrea Anderson switched on her sound system and George could hear the sound of one hand clapping coming clear across the city from Islington. "I deserve it. Spank me, please. Harder, please sir. Harder. Spank my sorry ass." Andrea turned up the volume.

But by then for George it had all gone terribly wrong.

By that point for me, in fact, probably a lot earlier, it had also all gone terribly wrong. Don’t get me wrong. I love spanking stories. I enjoy well-written erotica that’s pitched from the perspective of a sympathetic character regardless of gender. But I’ve got little time for poorly written misogyny.

If this sounds like the sort of book that will entertain you as a reader, I hope I’ve given you sufficient insight to realise that there is plenty of titillation and ribald lewdness to be enjoyed. If you prefer something that treats sex with a little more sophistication, you might be better selecting a different title.

On an unrelated note: does anyone want to buy a slightly damaged eBook reader?





Spanked: Red Cheeked EroticaSpanked: Red Cheeked Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443190
July 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In these politically correct times, it’s hard for me – as a heterosexual man – to write about spanking without coming across as a raving misogynist.  Just because I condone consensual spanking does not mean I’m a woman hater.  Nor does it make me one of those dimwits that tell gags like: “What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing you haven’t told her twice before.”  However, the moment I mention spanking with any form of approval, I’m immediately seen as a man who likes to hit women.

Of course, the difference between spanking and abuse is like the difference between good sex and rape.  One is a consensual pleasure for all involved – the other is an abhorrent crime. 

In some ways it’s a comforting thought that spanking remains so taboo.  It resides on the periphery of society’s acceptable behaviour and therefore it’s seen by participants as deliciously deviant behaviour.  Personally, I don’t think there are many things more arousing than the idea behind the words: “We shouldn’t be doing this, but…

Clearly Rachel Kramer Bussel agrees with my thoughts about the pleasure of spanking.  Spanking is one of the repeated elements in a lot of Rachel’s fiction, it was one of the main themes in Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z and Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z II.  Not surprisingly, spanking is also one of the main topics in her recent anthology, Spanked.

During a recent interview with Rachel (for ERWA), I asked her about her interest in the subject as a subject for fiction and she made this comment:

To me one of the greatest things about spanking, as a topic and activity, is there there’s such a vast range of motivations. You could watch, say, two men get spanked by two women. Both have their hands above their head, standing against a wall. Both women use the same black paddle. To an outsider, the scenes look the same, but maybe one is being “punished” by his mistress, and maybe the other has never been spanked before, and is curious. Or maybe he’s usually the top and they’ve decided to switch. You never know, and by telling the story in an engaging way, we can find out.

This eclectic attitude toward the diversity of motivations within spanking is fully reflected in Spanked

The collection begins with “Spanking You.”  This cleverly written short story, from the talent of ribald Rick Roberts, is a gentle introduction of a male hand against female buttocks.  This is followed by the wonderful Shanna Germain’s “Perfect Bound,” a pithy little story about a female spanker and her male subordinate. 

The collection includes Donna George Storey’s delicious tale,  “A Rare Find,” which brings a triptych of couples together for a cheek-reddening night of fun.  There is also Madlyn March’s wickedly entertaining “Reunion,” a punishing story of girl-on-girl retribution; Therese Noelle Robert’s naughty “Daddy’s Girl;” and the anthology concludes with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s stylishly dark denouement: “The Depths of Despair.”  

Obviously, there are other stories – all of them equally exciting and only overlooked here because I’m too lazy to read the table of contents.  But it’s sufficient to say that, as with all Rachel’s anthologies, the standard is fantastically high and every story manages to entertain, arouse and excite.

Spanked takes the time to consider a broad variety of approaches that can be used in this most pleasurable of sexual punishments.  From the traditional employment of bare hands on bare bottoms through to the innovative use of a trade paperback and even a cheese paddle, Spanked repeatedly shows that even if the mechanics of spanking are predetermined – the essence of spanking is always open to imagination and individual interpretation. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a marvellous editor, anthology compiler and erotic fiction author.  Spanked is one of the most entertaining compilations she has put together, including contributions from some of today’s most talented and celebrated erotic fiction writers.  It goes without saying: if you have the vaguest interest in punished backsides, you need to get Spanked.



StephanieStephanie
By: Noelle Douglas-Brown
Eternal Press
ISBN: 1615728619
February 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Did I ever mention that I teach creative writing? I write. I review. And I teach writing. One of the things that I say to my students, quite a lot of the time, is: “Don’t worry about the standard of the material you’re producing. Don’t bother to invest your fiction with any concept of a narrative style that engages the potential reader. Don’t bother with that stuff because some publishers will publish any old rubbish.”

“Nonsense!” say my students. “You can’t make a sweeping statement like that. If it’s true that publishers will publish any old rubbish, prove it by showing us some.”

And, on an unrelated note, this month I read Stephanie by Noelle Douglas-Brown. This is the opening paragraph:

My breasts are my jewels, I thought to myself, looking at the reflection in front of me. Although not overly large, they certainly allowed me admiration in a sweater. My nipples are smallish, nicely rounded with a rose/pink hue, pointing slightly skywards. My strawberry-blond hair just reaches them. My hair is unusually straight. I leave it that way because it suits my slender build. My hair color has led of my friends to call me ‘Ginger’ but I prefer my real name, Stephanie, which shortens to ‘Steph’. My blue-green eyes are a feature people find attractive so I wear contact lenses most of the time. Glasses make me look too academic. At twenty-one my life is coming together nicely. The break up with Phil six months ago was not a happy time, ending a two year affair. We had a lot of good times but he was too needy and I had a busy life.

Last week I was talking to one of my classes about the importance of creating convincing dialogue. “Some authorities think that fictional dialogue should seem like it’s been captured from living, breathing people,” I told my students. “But don’t worry about those opinions. There are some publishers who will publish any old rubbish, not caring whether or not the dialogue sounds convincing.”

“Nonsense!” say my students. “You can’t make a sweeping statement like that. If it’s true that publishers will publish any old rubbish as dialogue, prove it by showing us some.”

And, on an unrelated note, here’s a dialogue exchange from Stephanie by Noelle Douglas-Brown.

Doll, don’t worry that Ron could ruin our relationship. I have made a commitment to you. I love you. We will live together right away. Perhaps a part of me is envious of the passionate affection and desire that I see in your relationship with Nigel. I also admire Vanessa’s devotion to Michael. If Ron and I do become close, it would be under the terms of our ‘understanding’. You will always be number one with me.”

“All right, I’m starting to get the idea. Do you actually want to sleep with him?”

“If things go well, yes I do.”

“In that case Lover, I will return the favors I owe you for helping me find ladylove. I’ll show you a few things I have learned that will add spark to your first heterosexual experience. I guess we don’t know how things will evolve with Ron. I’m sure he isn’t gay, but you are gay, Lover. I never thought I’d be a bisexual…perhaps that is soon to be your situation too. Can we adjourn to the bedroom? For the first lesson we need Mister Chicago.

Did I mention? I was teaching a class last week and I told my students, “Some writers produce the most mechanical and unconvincing drivel that’s supposed to pass for convincing action. It’s dire. It’s expository and bereft of poetry.”

“Nonsense!” say my students. “You can’t make a sweeping statement like that. If it’s true that publishers will publish unconvincing drivel, prove it by showing us some.”

And, on an unrelated note, here’s a super-hot sex scene from Stephanie by Noelle Douglas-Brown.

Nigel stood up to take his shirt off and I used the opportunity to undo his belt and pull his jeans and underwear down. He stepped out of the jeans and stood in front of me, wearing only his socks. His penis rose in front of my face as I sat on the couch.

I wrapped my fingers around it and pulled him closer to my lips. After months of sucking a clitoris, it was an exciting change to have a penis between my lips.

His erection was complete almost immediately and I really wanted pussy penetration. I stopped the fellatio and asked Nigel if he had a condom. He did, as I had told him the pill wouldn’t be effective until next week.

We made our way to the bedroom. I took my jeans off and Nigel complimented me on my panties as he ran his fingers under the fabric to find my waiting target. We lay down and continued fondling each other as we kissed.

The condom was rolled on and we started with the missionary position. Nigel thrust into me at a feverish pace. I soon had an orgasm and told him I wanted to try another position.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t care for this title. I thought it was expository in its construction and the writing style struck me as clumsy and didactic. That doesn’t mean this is a bad book – there’s a sequel so clearly my opinion runs counter to what the book buying masses enjoy. However, I can’t honestly put my hand on my heart and recommend this one.

Nevertheless, if the above extracts sound like the sort of fiction you would enjoy reading, or if you’re simply aware that my specific tastes run counter to your own, I trust this review has given you enough of an incentive to confidently go and enjoy a copy of Stephanie.





The ApprenticeThe Apprentice
By: Carrie Williams
Virgin Black Lace
ISBN: 0352345144
April 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Short version review: Good book.  Well-written.  Go out and buy it.

Long version review:

I’ve recently done a blog about where erotic fiction authors get their ideas from.  If you can find it on the net, I’d encourage you to search it out and enjoy it.  I’m typically humorous in the blog and some of the things I say, although  comically absurd, contain an existentialist germ of truth.  However, I could have saved myself the time from writing that blog and directed readers to Carrie Williams’ excellent new novel, The Apprentice

The Apprentice charts Genevieve’s story as personal assistant to a renowned author.  Stated so baldly it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a story of constant couplings and saucy sexiness.  The phrase, “as sexy as a writer” is not one that will become a cliché through its constant overuse.  However, The Apprentice comes from the highly-acclaimed Black Lace imprint and Carrie Williams is an author of repute with titles such as The Blue Guide and Chilli Heat to her credit.  Consequently, it goes without saying that this is a very hot read.

Genevieve applies for a job as a writer’s assistant and she is successful in her application.  She finds herself working for the legendary Anne Tournier and it seems like a match made in heaven.  Genevieve is an ardent fan of Anne’s work and desperately needs the job.  Anne, without wanting to give too much away, desperately needs Genevieve.

The Apprentice is a cleverly told story.  Writing about writers is never easy because, whilst all we authors want to make writers look glamorous and exciting, the truth is that sitting in a grubby office and making up stories is hard to portray as anything other than a mental health issue.  Nevertheless, Carrie Williams manages this trick with aplomb and Anne Tournier comes across as coolly exciting and consistently glamorous.

What about the sex? I hear you ask.  Well, it’s kind of you to offer, but we’re talking about this book, aren’t we?

Carrie Williams conveys the essence of passion and sexuality with subtle power.  Erotic fiction remains one of the most potent genres of writing because, when executed efficiently, it can produce the strongest physical reactions from reading any literary form.  Writing about a writer of erotic fiction (which Carrie Williams has so cleverly done) demands that the eroticism presented on the page should be so vivid it is almost tangible.  Fortunately, the erotic element of this story is presented with lucid precision and exquisite detail.  Genevieve’s assignations come across as realistic but, by necessity for the story’s main motif, the reader’s position can sometimes be perceived as voyeuristic.  At times this can almost be perceived as a technique that distances the reader from the eroticism.  However, on a second reading, most people will understand that this is the most appropriate way for the sexual elements of the story to be presented. 

I think the factor I found most enjoyable about this novel was, even though it’s an erotic novel that has come from Black Lace, Carrie Williams has been bold enough to put the story first and allow the sex to take a natural subordinate position to the plot.  Admittedly, the prologue is explicit and arousing: but it also raises enough questions to have readers intrigued and hankering to know what is going on in the story.  The first chapter, although it’s only a mere seven pages, simply alludes to the frisson of sexual explicitness that will develop through the story. 

In our modern world of McFiction and on-demand-satisfaction, the fact that Carrie Williams takes the time to patiently build to her story’s satisfying peaks is a pleasing contrast against many of the in-your-face and rush-to-the-bush stories that currently masquerade as erotic fiction.

So, it’s a book about a woman who writes saucy stories and hires an assistant.  It’s explicit, erotic and all of this carried by a very compelling storyline.  I’d tell you more but I’m in danger of spoiling the plot or giving away the denouement.  If you like well-written erotic fiction that is intelligent, arousing and engaging, then The Apprentice should make your have-to-have list for 2009.  To reiterate what I said in the short review:

Good book.  Well-written.  Go out and buy it.



The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky TalesThe Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780378
July 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll do the full disclosure thing before I start. I have a short story in this collection, published under a pseudonym, therefore my review can’t be considered 100% impartial. Not that I’m going to rave about how brilliant my story is (although it is brilliant). But I figured I should be honest from the beginning.

Big Book of Submission is a superb book. It comes from Cleis and it’s edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel – both of which are guarantees of high quality in erotic fiction. This passage is from the opening of Rachel’s short story in the collection: “Reverse Psychology.”

“Bite my nipples harder,” Sasha hissed at me, the edge of frustration making her hiss hint at true anger. I focused on the way her body trembled on the bed before me as I sank my teeth into her nub. “That’s better,” she said, grabbing me roughly by the hair. “I hope your cock is getting ready to fuck me the way I like it. First you need to do your job.”

I pressed as hard as I dared, tugging on her nipple while I twisted the other one between my fingers. I hoped my cock was getting hard too. See, I’m not a sadist by nature—I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Really—I’m the kind of guy who goes out of my way to give directions or help little old ladies across the street. I’m a service sub, the worshipping sort, but I fell madly in love with a woman who happens to be a masochistic domme. Sasha likes pain, but for her it has nothing to do with being a “bad girl” or any of that. If I dared to call her names like slut or whore during sex, she’d lock up my cock for a week.

There are sixty-nine short stories in this collection, shorter than the usual short fiction. Personally, I find short, short fiction exciting because the writer is forced by restrictions of word count to use an efficiency of words that isn’t as important in longer fiction. To my mind, that moves the content of the fiction closer to poetry in its aesthetic appeal. And, if fiction is close to being poetic, I usually figure it’s been well executed. 

Joy Faolán with “Hard Things” illustrates my point:

Somewhere in the midst of it all, the heat of the pain and the blood melted my fear away and left nothing but perfect submission, perfect trust and perfect love. There was nobody in the entire world in those moments except her and me, owner and property, bound by pain. You know how some people just have something inside them that you can taste from across a room? You can smell it on them and feel them coming from a mile away. Like they’ve taken a piece of Life and claimed it as their own. Now I have it, too.

I have faced one of my most intense fears. I have walked through darkness, trembling and frightened… and not only did I survive, but I found light and love to embrace me as I came out the other end.

And I wear the marks of my journey with pride.

It goes without saying that this collection is more than one submissive sex-scene after another. The range of imaginative scenarios throughout the anthology is outstanding. The attention to detail and the physicality of the stories is emotive, engaging and exciting. Consider the sensations of physicality evoked by these lines from Regina Lafayette’s contribution, “In the Darkness.”

Dammit, I think. I don’t even know if she’s in the room right now.

My whole body is alert, lying exposed and at her disposal. Suddenly, I feel her swing a leg over to straddle me. The soft touch of her leather crop kisses my neck, the flat tip dragging agonizingly slowly over my breasts and down the center of my belly. With a sure and quick motion she flicks the sensitive flesh of my clit, making me cry out. I tense, unable to see where she’s aiming her next blow.

“I love when you tense like that in anticipation,” she says, amusement clear in her voice. “Now where shall I hit you?” she asks, and I feel her shift. I think she’s putting herself in a better position to wield her crop until I feel her mouth descend onto my cunt.

 

As Rachel Kramer Bussel says in the introduction:

You’ll find so much here, from naughty professors to sadistic former students to sex clubs, art galleries, photo shoots and more. Wherever the setting, the submission exhibited in these stories runs deep, far below the surface of the recipients’ tender skin, far louder than their cries of pleasure (and pain). Whether you read one story a day or devour them all at once, I hope these quick and dirty stories turn you on to new authors and new naughty possibilities.

This title really is worth the price of admission. Make sure you secure your copy today.





The Black Widow TrainerThe Black Widow Trainer
By: Craig Odanovich
Emerald Book Company
ISBN: 1934572594
January 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The Black Widow Trainer is an erotic novel about Misty. Misty is married to Rob but she doesn’t let that stop her. Rob’s job forces them to move to Captain Cook, Hawaii and, when Misty grows bored with the loneliness and lack of challenges, they separate. Sort of. She returns to her job as a fitness trainer and then decides to fill the emptiness of her life without Rob with sex.

Think of Xavier Hollander’s The Happy Hooker in a gym.

I’ve read many reviews online by readers who think this title is superb. And, although I’m usually shallow enough to want to go with the flow, I have to admit The Black Widow Trainer didn’t work for me.

The story seemed sufficiently exciting and coherently constructed. The erotic scenes were arousing, no more contrived than many other erotic scenarios being published today. In fact, in my opinion, the erotic scenes included the more smoothly written areas in the book.

But I found it difficult to engage with the characters. Perhaps part of this was because I thought the dialogue was unconvincing.

The bartender looked up from the glass he was drying and greeted Misty. “G’day, love. You look like you could use a coldie.”

His thick Australian accent made her smile. “No, I’m not a beer drinker. I’ll have your seven-year Flor De Cana, straight. So you’re from Oz, are you?”

He looked back and said wryly, “What tipped you off?”

“Well, you can take the Aussie out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the Aussie,” Misty said flatly.

“Say, you’re a live wire, aren’t you, doll? My name is Sammy.”

Misty introduced herself and told him she was training a client at the club. She asked, “Say, were you ever a bartender in Sydney? You look familiar.”

“What were you doing in Sydney, sheila?”

“Went to visit last year on business. I stayed for several months. I really liked it there.”

“Sure, I’ve worked at most of the top bars in Sydney over the last few years, but I decided to come to the States. I’ve already sampled most of the beautiful women in Sydney. Wanted to broaden my horizon, if you catch me.” He winked again.

In discussions with other creative writing lecturers, I’ve heard many colleagues say that convincing dialogue is one of the trickiest areas for an author to capture. This is understandable. As I often point out to my students, anyone who can speak and read is already dealing in two separate languages.

We should all remember that fiction is an artifice of necromancy: an attempt to represent live reality on dead pages. The meta-relationship between fiction and reality is best exemplified in the written representation of dialogue. The author is trying to convey the sounds and rhythms of the spoken word through printed characters contained with speech marks.

It’s a difficult trick for most writers.

But understanding that it’s difficult doesn’t make it easier to read when it’s not done to a reader’s taste.

I’m happy to concede that this could just be a personal thing. As I said before, there are many positive reviews of this title and I haven’t seen any reader complaining about the stilted dialogue. Perhaps it’s because I’m based in the UK and the author is a US writer and writing for a US market.

“Yes, Gabriella, you have good taste in clothes,” Misty said, failing to strip all the annoyance out of her tone. “Do you enjoy picking out clothes for other people?”

Misty’s curtness was no lost on Gabriella, and Misty could tell she was a little hurt.

“Misty I was an only child and my mother always showered me with gifts. As you know, I am not married, and I don’t have children to dote on. I know it’s a silly need of mine. If it bothers you, I will try to resist the urge to buy you clothes.”

“I’m so sorry.” Misty was suddenly disappointed with her insensitivity. “I misspoke. I think it was a very thoughtful gesture, and I truly love wearing new clothes. Please don’t think I’m anything but grateful.”

When she saw Gabriella’s face brighten, she breathed a sigh of relief and added, “I am so looking forward to our day together. I can’t wait to experience San Telmo. You are such a gracious host.”

The Black Widow Trainer failed to rock my world but I’m just one reader. And, as the authors of previous unflattering reviews have pointed out, my opinion doesn’t matter a damn because I know nothing.

As Abraham Lincoln once said – people who like this sort of thing will like this sort of thing. And if you like this sort of thing – I guarantee you will love The Black Widow Trainer.





The Flight of the Black SwanThe Flight of the Black Swan
By: Jean Roberta
Lethe Press
ISBN: 159021417X
January 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

For those of you who live in the modern world’s tl;dr culture (too long; didn’t read – the common response on internet forums when there’s too much text for a modern reader), here are the three reasons you need to buy Jean Roberta’s The Flight of the Black Swan.

    1. It’s a story that usurps traditional heteronormative gender models.
    2. It’s written in the style of Victorian erotica.
    3. It’s written by the inimitable Jean Roberta.

I’ll address each of these points in full length below but, if you’re one of the aforementioned attention-span-challenged readers, click on the amazon link that you’ll find floating on this page and buy the damned book. You won’t be disappointed.

And, for those who don’t embrace the tl;dr mindset of modernity, here is the full review.

Flight of the Black Swan is a novella: a delightful form for literature that is once again seeing a deserved resurgence in popular interest. Possibly the reason why the form of the novella is seeing a resurgence of interest is because of the aforementioned tl:dr mindset of contemporary readers. The novella contains a story with the impact of a full length novel but, at a mere 130 pages: it’s an easily digestible commodity.

I won’t bother to spoil the plot by reiterating narrative events here. The story is too enchanting and exciting. I will say that a central motif for the story is the eponymous Black Swan – a three-masted wooden frigate aboard which the protagonist’s adventures meet their rising action. 

James followed my gaze, and offered me his arm. “Emily dear,” he began, “have you ever observed the grace of a swan’s progress? And have you considered the impression made by any creature set apart from its fellows? That is how we think of our ship. She’s like a black swan, proud of the natural plumage that distinguishes her from her snow-white sisters. Like us she prefers the cloak of darkness.”

This analogy for individuality and freedom of spirit (in the days of American Civil War slavery) and freedom of sexual expression (in the repressive era of Victorian England) is a trope that’s extended throughout the story. Emily begins the story in a same sex relationship with a school chum. She enters a marriage of convenience with one of the Green Men aboard the Black Swan. She later enjoys a relationship with a freed slave – another creature set apart from its fellows. Character after character, like the ship at the heart of this story, expresses their inalienable right to freely celebrate their personal identity regardless of the climate’s conservative culture of disapproval. In that, this story manages to convey a spirit of identity triumphing over societal impositions – a message we should be heeding today.

The heat that arose from her womanly breasts carried a combined scent of salt and blood-iron. It seemed to come from the heart of the earth itself. I kissed each of her generous dark nubs, and rejoiced that she didn’t push me away. I wanted to explore the mysteries of her body without reminding her of past violations. She seemed to read my thoughts.

“I want to have you, Captain’s Lady. You’re not like a boy now.” My skin tingled where hers pressed against it, and my hips moved of their own accord. How I had missed the touch of a woman who revelled in the communion of female curves!

This is an accomplished piece of writing. Jean Roberta has captured the tone of Victorian erotica with a mastery of the art that few contemporary writers could have equalled.

The word “bawdy” seems to somehow trivialise the literary accomplishment that has been managed here and yet – in some ways – it’s probably the most appropriate word choice. There are sections of this story that focus more on character development and plot. In a traditional erotic novel these sections would have been lost to the dictates of the genre and eroticised. But Roberta has remained true to the spirit of the story and its milieu of Victoriana and allowed her tale to be bawdy rather than erotic.

Nevertheless, when the story does become erotic it works very effectively.

Alfred and I couldn’t wait for nightfall to consummate our growing friendship. We lowered ourselves to our pallet, where I held her against my breasts. “Ah, girl,” she moaned. “You’re a fine one.” I felt hot tears wetting my neck, and knew they came from her.

“I need to feel your skin, lover,” I told her. “Twon’t work any other way.” As shyly as a maiden on her wedding-night, she rose up enough to pull of her shirt and unwrap her bindings. Her breasts were scarcely bigger than well-developed muscles in a man’s bosom, but they marked her as a member of my own sex.

If, like me, you’re desperate to take a short and deserved break from the fast-paced hustle and bustle of our modern world, you need to relax for a couple of hours and savour the full-length story of Jean Roberta’s novella: The Flight of the Black Swan



The Gonzo CollectionThe Gonzo Collection
By: Daddy X
Excessica Publishing
ISBN: 1511899794
April 2015





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I didn’t enjoy this title. To my puritanical taste, the morality of the first story seemed skewed and the plot structure seemed convoluted. None of the other stories I read after that excited me.  If you’re the author reading this, I apologise for not enjoying your work. If you’re an editor or a publisher of the title, you’re probably already familiar with my foibles.

Fred slowed his own jerky gyrations, entranced with the vacant stare of the voyeur. His sense of time altered, or ceased to exist. Back to the stare, the total existence of sexual being. “The Engrossment of Fred,” he’ll call it. He’ll call it that when out of his trance. When she has squealed her release. When she has screamed out to whatever gods that be to fuck her silly. For all the gods to fuck her as Fred fucked her that first time.

How he fucked her backwards in the cunt in the broad daylight under a tree near the last bus stop. How he fucked her, face against the trunk of the rough bark, mini-skirt folded up in back, panties stretched around her knees. Long gone was the hot purple dildo that she’d lost on the bus. The wet, sticky rod that maybe some kid found, or maybe somebody’s grandmother. And now Nancy fucked herself harder.

I come away from this with the impression that Daddy X has aspirations to be the Hunter S Thompson of erotica.  As aspirations go I can admire that one. We all strive to emulate our heroes. But, as I’ve never been a fan of Hunter S Thompson, that’s probably one of the reasons I’ve not enjoyed this collection.

I appreciate that it’s close to sacrilege admitting to a dislike of Hunter S Thompson but I’ve always found Gonzo journalism to be uninteresting and obscenely unapologetic in the way it glamorises substance misuse.  If I want to endure shit like that I might as well just go and chat with a local smackhead about how great it is giving five quid blowies to feed his habit.

“All tits and ass” is the term for women like Willow. “Like a brick shithouse,” or,

“Cantilevered bubblebutt hardbody fuck machine,” would also fit. But Willow’s singular appeal is in her thoughts, in her capacity for love. Our love, her can-do attitude—the acceptance of whatever might contribute to the package. My love, my lover, my Willow. My eternal, end-overend fun pack.

“You okay?” Tears must be questioned.

She nods a qualified yes then: “It hurts. But, it’s okay—hurts okay, you know.”

Leaning forward on my knees, I brush my mouth against hers. “I know—” The vibrations we sense on our lips speak louder than the words themselves.

Willow’s breath nuzzles my ear. “Push,” she suggests.

Tongues tangle as I comply with her wish. One long stare combines us in one another’s welling orbs.

As I said at the start of this review, I’m probably biased because of my lack of empathy for Hunter S Thompson and my pedantic enjoyment of cohesive description and chronological plot. I don’t doubt there will be far more intellectual readers than myself who find this book stimulating and engaging. One thing I did think was good in the book was the dedication:

This volume is dedicated to Adrienne Benedicks, in appreciation for all the writers she has encouraged through the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

Even though I didn’t enjoy the title I can’t argue with that sentiment and I salute Daddy X for honouring one of my favourite bastions of erotica with such a thoughtful mention.  This wasn’t my ideal read but I can understand that there is likely a large readership desperate to enjoy The Gonzo Collection.



The Hardest Thing: A Dan Stagg MysteryThe Hardest Thing: A Dan Stagg Mystery
By: James Lear
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449296
June 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The superlative quality of James Lear’s writing never fails to amaze me. From the opening lines of The Hardest Thing I was absolutely hooked.

New York City on a dirty night in July is not my favorite place to be. I’d rather be almost anywhere else—I was thinking of the beach in Connecticut or up in the Green Mountains of Vermont, or any of those overseas places I’ve traveled, most of them warzones, where you can breathe without feeling like someone just threw up on your shoes. But New York is where I am, and short of a miracle New York is where I stay, with temperatures in the 80s and humidity in the 90s and me in my late 30s wondering what the hell happened to my life. A couple of years ago I had a career and a salary, status and respect, and a sense of purpose. Now I’m working nights at a shitty club in the East Village for minimum wage. I don’t even have a uniform; the security company is so damn cheap that I have to provide my own. So it’s black polyester slacks, a black T-shirt and a pair of black shoes from my dress uniform that I still keep shined—old habits die hard. I look like a burglar, except you can see my face.

Dan Stagg is an engaging narrator. He tells a story that is compelling, well-observed and a genuine page turner.

It will come as no surprise to readers familiar with James Lear’s work that Dan Stagg is gay. A former marine, dismissed because of inappropriate sexual relations, Stagg loses his job as a doorman in the opening pages of the novel. Fresh on the job market he’s called on to deliver a package safely and he’s paid a ridiculous amount of money to complete job. From there the story develops into a fast-paced narrative of bonking and backstory as Stagg learns deeper truths about his assignment.

And Stagg is a truly engaging character.

There are echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in Stagg’s composition. He is calculating, efficient and ruthless. But, unlike Jack Reacher, Dan Stagg is fatally-flawed by two weaknesses: Stagg’s got a sensitive side and he has a tendency to think with his penis. These attributes make him believable as a character and perfect for the lead in an erotic thriller.

We touched the necks of our bottles together and drank, our eyes joined in the gathering darkness, and we both knew at that moment what was going to happen. I reached out—actually watched my hand moving out from my body, as if it was something over which I had no control—and touched the back of his head, feeling the short brown hair, the soft brown skin. Breath whished out of his mouth, and I felt him shudder. I drew him to me, and we kissed.

A soft wind disturbed the surface of the lake and made his guitar strings hum. We carried on kissing. There was another distant roar of male voices, and, from closer at hand, the dry chirp of an insect. Our hands were on each other’s shoulders, backs, heads and arms, finding the gap between pants and shirts, travelling up stomachs and chests, mine furry, his smooth. I found his nipples and pinched, and he moaned into my open mouth.

It’s a fast and compelling tale. Lear’s writing always comes with a strong sense of place and time. This story is set in modern times with the hero trying to escape the shadow of New York. The characters, plot and eroticism never seem contrived, forced or anything less than genuine. Perhaps one of the most engaging things in Lear’s writing is that, even though he’s producing erotica, he does not focus solely on the erotic. There is a consistent concentration on the plot and the characters beyond their sexual involvement with the story’s physicality. Additionally, as a background against the frivolity of Stagg’s promiscuous voracity, there is also an undercurrent of hardboiled realism in the unexpected truths the narrator occasionally reveals.

All we had was survival and the endless quest for money. Everything else was just dick in ass. Friction. Temporary relief from loneliness. Illusion.

Cleis Press are renowned for producing quality titles. This is another brilliant piece of fiction to add to their catalogue and well worth the price of admission.





The Last Mustang on EarthThe Last Mustang on Earth
By: P. S. Haven
Excessica Publishing
ISBN: B0044DENFC
September 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Someone wittier than me once said: nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.  I can’t tell you how much I laughed at that line.  Probably because I didn’t.  And I only mention it here because there is a strong element of nostalgic appeal to P S Haven’s bildungsroman story, The Last Mustang on Earth.

I ought to declare a vested interest here before I go any further.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of Haven’s short fiction through a variety of anthologies, and I’ve even invited the author to be a guest blogger on one site.  Haven is a respected writer with a lurid imagination and a gift for getting the realism of a situation onto the printed page. 

That said, even without the vested interest, I would be praising this novel and urging anyone with an interest in erotica to rush out and treat themselves to this as an early Christmas present.

The ‘80s didn’t end until 1991. At least for me they didn’t.  

A lot of my friends would look back and say the decade ended with the release of Nevermind.  For others it was the invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm. For most, it was high school graduation and going away to college.

But for me it wasn’t any particular album or band, no specific cultural event that signaled the end of the era.  No, for me, the 1980s ended September 21, 1991. The night I got my first blowjob.

This is how Haven’s story begins, and the rest of the narrative is a leisurely build to that particular climax. 

I mentioned nostalgia at the beginning of this review because there is a strongly nostalgic feel to the writing.  Haven introduces us to smalltown America through the eyes of a teenager on the verge of maturity.  The rites of passage in contemporary western society revolve around sex, cars, sexual fantasy, music, and more sex.  We live in a world built on the commercial success of capitalism, where every object and experience can be commodified as an acquirable piece of property.  If cars and music can be craved, coveted and acquired, surely the same rules apply to the fulfilment of sexual fantasies?
It’s possible that the sexual fantasy element of this story has the most striking impact. 

Anyone who was ever a teenager (and hopefully that’s most of us) will recall the endless days of hormone-fuelled fantasies that made the boundaries of reality blur.  Haven recreates these scenes of testosterone-driven desire through the eyes of his narrator, seldom giving the reader a chance to understand when reality ended and when the fantasy began.  It’s a bold idea and stays true to the magical period of fading adolescence where the fantasy image of adulthood begins to coalesce into the reality of maturity.  What, one day, strikes us as the fodder for outrageous speculation (owning a dream car, affording two CDs in one month, enjoying that venerated blowjob) suddenly becomes a possibility.  Haven captures this spirit of burgeoning maturity with style and finesse.

For anyone with fond recollections of growing up in the 80s, this book is a slice of time-travel that reminds the reader of what was once incredibly important in all of our lives.  And, for those of us who have yet to grow up in any decade, it provides an exciting, interesting and powerful read.

Nostalgia may no longer be what it used to be.  But this title gives us a reminder of how powerful it can be when it’s done properly.





The Melinoe ProjectThe Melinoe Project
By: D. L. King
Renaissance E Books
ISBN: 978-1600890246
February, 2007





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

What could possibly be sexually arousing about hospitals? OK, there are nurses, and untold opportunities to be forcibly undressed, and the chance you could be subjected to enemas, and bed baths and…

Wow! It looks like I answered my own rhetorical question.

The Melinoe Project starts in the not too distant future when we meet Raymond Reynolds. Raymond is sick of his job as an office temp. He’s a photographer by vocation and specialises in pictures of submissive men – a subject with which he has a lot of sympathy. He’s proud to admit that his own sexual preferences run to being submissive. And he’s eager to explore his limitations in that sphere of personal development. Taking a break from the temping work, and hoping it’s going to be a permanent break, Raymond enrols as a test subject for the Melinoe Project.

[In a way I think DL King may have made a slight mistake here. If Raymond were really into suffering and humiliation (and wanted to be at the mercy of domineering, ball-busting bitches) he would have ignored the Melinoe Project and stayed working as an office temp. I’ve done that gig. I’ve grovelled beneath power drunk females as they forced me to plumb the depths of office servitude and lick their metaphoric boots – or at least do lots of invoicing.]

The Melinoe project is the brainchild of the beautiful and brutal beauties at the Melinoe Research Institute. These are the same people behind Club Melinoe: “the hottest and most exclusive Fem Dom club in the country.” All these elements are tied neatly together as the story progresses and we learn more about Raymond’s goals and ambitions, his dreams and desires, and his dark, deviant needs.

The Melinoe Project is DL King’s first full length title. The author of many arousing short stories, King exudes a formidable talent for teasing, torment and titillation. In this all out extravaganza of female domination and male submission King excels. The tone of The Melinoe Project is tempered slightly by the flavour of romance, but it’s a romance on the strictest of terms and with an edge that’s as hard and cutting as surgical steel.

Although I try to avoid clichés [we all know they’re old hat – I usually avoid them like the plague] the phrase “pushing the envelope” kept springing to mind as I read The Melinoe Project. King takes the punishment further than anything I’ve read before. Raymond is a tough cookie, and he takes more than most men could endure. But still DL King makes him, and the reader, squirm as the story moves to its satisfying climax.

The characterisation in this story is strong. The reader can sympathise with the frustration of Raymond’s plight and empathise with his desire to succeed. The opportunity to be a part of Club Melinoe is his ultimate ambition, which lends credibility to the effort he invests in getting there.

But it’s not just the protagonist who is competently portrayed. The dominant but kind-hearted Sunny blends a penchant for mastery with a wholly believable soft, seductive centre. In contrast the vicious and brutal Susan was so perfectly created she reminded me of every bitch of an office manager who has ever tried to metaphorically brand me with a cat-o-nine tails.

The Melinoe Project is not for everyone. The story does push boundaries and takes the genre of fem dom and male sub to a new and shocking level. But we all need to push ourselves to new levels every now and again. Do you still want to know what could possibly be sexually arousing about hospitals? Read The Melinoe Project. If you like your women strong enough to make your men cry, and you like your men punished good and often, you’ll find the answer written on every page.





The Order of the Golden RoseThe Order of the Golden Rose
By: R. Paul Sardanas
Passion in Print Press
ISBN: 1608201821
July 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I have to be honest and admit I hadn’t encountered R Paul Sardanas’s work before.  However, after reading this title, I’ve got to hold my hand up and say I’m hooked.  The story was intriguing; the characters were well-developed and fully rounded; and the erotica sizzled. 

The Order of the Golden Rose is the story of Siobahn Bishop’s investigation into the authenticity of a copy of The Rose Missal

She gasped as a sensual tingle ran through her. A normal beginning. The sensations took root in just that way even when she had no specific purpose other than to pleasure herself with energy masturbation. Activating those energy points in and above her body always got her hot.

It brought a smile to her lips. If only people realized how absurd drink, drugs or porno were, with power like this resting inside each and every one of us.

Letting her muscles slacken, she allowed herself to become limp. Her pussy had become wet already. A phantom lover might well have been caressing her there, taking her with fingers and tongue. She moaned a little, the luxurious heat spreading through her.

The rose. Never was there a more apt euphemism. The lips of her vagina opened and spread like petals in the sun.

The set up for the story is wonderfully simple.  Olivia Dorrian comes into possession of a rare book on Sex Magic.  Olivia, with her acquisitive, mercenary and somewhat selfish personality, is probably not the right person to own such a title.  But that aspect of the story unfolds as the whole tale develops.

Determined to find out more about her acquisition, Olivia takes the book to Siobahn Bishop for authentication.  And, because she is an expert in these matters, Siobahn is able to cast some light on the title.  Siobahn is ideally placed to research this title. An antiquarian and an occultist, she is familiar with Sex Magic in its many guises and understands the importance of the Rose Missal.  More importantly, Siobahn has heard of the Order of the Golden Rose.

The Order of the Golden Rose is a secret society.  The society is so secret it’s never been fully established whether it’s a depraved cult for the literati and the intelligentsia, or a serious religious movement.  Early indications at the start of the story suggest the depraved cult.  I won’t spoil the story’s development but I will say: once I’ve written this review, I’m going to see if I can enroll.

This is from an early scene where Siobahn gets a better understanding of what goes on behind the Order of the Golden Rose’s closed doors:

Small tables dotted the perimeter of the dance floor, with even more overt passion displayed there. Two women, both in short, revealing party dresses, kissed languorously, each with a hand between the other’s legs, not caring in the slightest that anyone watched the movement of their fingers inserted deep inside one another’s sex. One of the women arched her head back, breaking the kiss, but only so she could cry out with what must have been a delicious orgasm. Strange in the way that the cacophony of the club made the cry of ecstasy seem silent. Still, Siobhan found the illusory silence beautiful, like sex made into a painting. In the next moment, the woman’s partner also opened her mouth wide in a climax. Juliette, Siobhan felt sure, would by now have settled in some corner to sample similar uninhibited pleasures of her own.

It’s a pleasure to know that Siobahn’s adventures continue in The Blood Jaguar.  R. Paul Sardanas is a competent author who has created an enchanting blend of magic and contemporary realism that make for a thrilling combination. 

This is the Da Vinci Code with an erection: an intriguing story filled with rich characters, a well-constructed plot, and the perfect balance of excitement, erotica and everything else.   For those who enjoy a well-told story with an innovative approach to erotica, The Order of the Golden Rose is a have-to-have title.





The Secrets of Sarah-Jane: Number 1 The Tease The Secrets of Sarah-Jane: Number 1 The Tease
By: Alexis Trevelyan
Amazon Digital
ISBN: B00LRYNDLG
July 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll be honest here and admit I didn’t enjoy this one.  My judgement here is nothing against the writing style although, I think Trevelyan’s style tends toward the expository in content.

Maria grinned mischievously, joining her on the small, hard bed beside the wardrobe, facing her one mirror. The Spanish girl’s voice was thick with Latin passion. Maria wasn’t whispering either. “I don’t care, Sarah! Now please, you must show me the things you speak about before, the things your Aunt’s company makes! Come on, carissima!”

Maria had obviously been fascinated by Sarah-Jane’s tales of working with Linger, and Sarah-Jane had promised to show her the catalogue pictures on her laptop. She’d even managed to download some pictures from her Sophie Grant photo-shoot off the Linger web-site, using the one communal internet connection allowed to the students in this place. That should blow her Spanish friend’s mind!

I think it’s also fair to say that Trevelyan’s dialogue could be fairly described as unrealistic.

“We live in a city that is famously bursting with sex,” Vigga laughed. “Half the guys on this continent want access to Rio’s porn sites, and most of the girls too, you know? I’m sure your Europeans are the same – they certainly flock here to see it for themselves, anyway. My people run a fair bit of that industry, Missus Prowse. I’ll email you a link, if you like?”

The woman at the other end of the line paused. Vigga could imagine the Englishwoman scowling in distaste. She didn’t sound like someone who spent a lot of time at the downstream end of the industry, although she was certainly making a healthy income at the upstream end. And she had reacted very positively to every mention of the girl Sarah-Jane so far. Vigga could sense a nice profit here.

“Yes, do that,” Cynthia Winchester-Prowse replied at last. “Now, when do you propose to arrange your first shoot? And will the girl be safe until then? I won’t have her harmed! The scene you sent me earlier was a little extreme, I thought. So I’ll be sending someone to look after her, throughout the whole process.”

I think it was the rape scenes in the story that made me uncomfortable.  Partly I was uncomfortable because I didn’t like the potentially racist overtones of domineering black characters raping defenceless white women.  Partly I was uncomfortable with the fact that the central female character found herself aroused despite suffering violation.

He chuckled into Sarah-Jane’s ear as he pressed his fingertip into her sensitive cleft.

“I’m Del, Sarah-Jane. Sure am pleased to meet you!” He started wriggling his finger, edging the tip into the slick cleft of her pussy, making her gasp in dismay. She just couldn’t believe how hot she felt. “Big Leroy’s going to fuck that sweet little thing, Sarah-Jane, just as soon as the girls have made her cum! You like that idea, sweetheart? You like to be fucked after you been cummed? Or you want to wait, so you can cum when I’m inside you?”

Sarah-Jane sobbed, staring as Steffi was turned to face a hulking Afro-Caribbean who stood up from behind the table, grinning as he produced a grotesque rubbery member from his jeans. Sarah-Jane swallowed – she’d never seen a cock so large. Leroy hefted it, chuckling at Steffi’s shocked expression. “You better get her good and ready, girls!” he laughed. “She’ll need to be!”

It’s curious how rape is the only crime that gets this sort of treatment in fiction.  You don’t see crime thrillers where bank tellers are sighing with satisfaction saying, “Thank fuck those masked gunmen came and relieved our vaults of all that money/gold etc.”  You don’t see murder victims chuckling with their ‘John Wayne Gacey-style serial killers’ and saying, “OK, he’s a homophobic psychopath, but that clown costume rocks!”  And yet, for the crime of rape, we can encounter passages like this:

Sarah-Jane closed her eyes, shuddering as the vibrating torment went on and on.... Soon, waves of tingling pleasure were spreading right through her tummy, making her legs and bottom quiver. She clenched her teeth, groaning as the sensations spread through her bottom, her thighs quivering... She sobbed, the waves of pleasure overwhelming her, building and swelling.... Her whole sex was alive, shuddering and tingling, it was just so delicious. Sarah-Jane groaned, knowing that she was just about to burst.

She opened her eyes to see that Steffi was now on her back on the table, her legs squirming, her tummy lifting her pussy up against the hands that slithered over her.

“Sweet, ain’t she!” Del breathed into her ear. “Is she going to get fucked now!”

The book does come with a reminder on the frontispiece that states ‘real men don’t rape’ but I’m not sure that is sufficient to counterbalance the effects of a story that perpetuates the myth that sexual violation can ever be linked to pleasure or satisfaction. 

Please feel free to take the above with a pinch of salt.  This is just one reviewer’s opinion.  The reviews on Amazon approve wholeheartedly of Alexis Trevelyan’s work, so it’s likely I’m getting snippy and prudish in my old age. 





The Silent HustlerThe Silent Hustler
By: Sean Meriwether
Lethe Press
ISBN: 159021062X
October 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Call me a Luddite but, when someone gives me a book of literary fiction, the first words that spring to mind are seldom, ‘Thank you.’ 

I don’t mind holding my hand up and admitting I’m not a literary fiction type of person.  I enjoy stories that are exciting, entertaining and accessible.  You don’t often get that with literary fiction.  The words ‘literary fiction’ on a book cover are invariably an albatross tied around the damned thing’s neck, warning off those other poor damned souls who would potentially run the risk of being burdened with the tome.  It’s like giving a DVD the accolade ‘Oscar winning’ which invariably means it’s a sleep-inducing crock of shite without any of the good things a person wants from a film such as near-nudity, car chases, serial killers or big explosions.

So I approached The Silent Hustler with a natural wariness.  The back cover blurb describes the opening story, "Things I can’t Tell My Father" as ‘literary.’  It goes on to describe another story, "Burn the Rich" as ‘revolutionary.’  I described my reticence as characteristic.

But, on eventually delving into the book, I discovered I had no reason to be frightened away by the scary language on the outside.

"Things I Can’t Tell My Father" is a sensitive and erudite exposition of the stumbling relationship between Meriwether’s first person protagonist and an antagonist father.  The language used is direct, realistic and uncompromising – yet the duality of the truth hidden beneath the words is still something of a revelation as Meriwether gives each brief entry his own distinctive interpretation.  Good – yes.  Literary – yes: but not in a bad way.

"Burn the Rich" is a gritty tale of brutal erotic realism, told in fragmentary snatches that mimic the central character’s libido-driven call-and-response arousal.  Admittedly, "Burn the Rich" could be described as revolutionary because of its anarchic content, but please don’t let such epithets dissuade you from making a purchase of this book if you’re worried it’s wholly cerebral.  Above all else "Burn the Rich" like every other story in this collection, is an entertaining, intriguing and well-constructed read.

Sean Meriwether is described as "The Naughty Harry Potter" because of his magical ability to create worlds with words.  As nicknames go I have to admit this one is pretty cool.  People used to call me "The Nasty Harry Potter" but that was only because I spent so much time playing with my wand, and the title didn’t have the same ring of dynamism that Meriwether’s name projects. 

Those who enjoy literature in its traditional style (i.e. boring) probably won’t get much of a thrill from The Silent Hustler.  Admittedly Meriwether does include stories that show his mastery of craft.  "Knives and Roses" presents the story from an eerie second person perspective, making the narrative all the more compelling and convincing.  The stream-of-consciousness interludes that demarcate episodes of "Into the Mouth(Becoming the Fly)" show a keen sense of character and its representation within literary forms.  But the stories in this volume are also exciting, intriguing and enjoyable – far from the literary norm.

If you enjoy gay erotica that’s well written and presents a variety of challenging styles and interpretations, Meriwether’s The Silent Hustler is a title you need, to complete your current collection. 





The Slave ZoneThe Slave Zone
By: Peter Wolkoff
CreateSpace
ISBN: 1441404848
January 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’m thinking of getting a slave.  I’ve put an ad in the local paper. 

SLAVE WANTED
UNREASONABLE HOURS
CLOTHING OPTIONAL

However, I’ve not had many positive responses yet.  Unless you count the enquiry I had from the police.  But that doesn’t really count because they weren’t willing to supply a candidate for my vacancy.  Or tell me where they buy their handcuffs. 

Please, let me say here, that I enjoyed The Slave Zone.  Granted, it has many of the faults one would expect from a first novel.  There are a handful of sentences that a more experienced author would have trimmed, cut or lost completely.  However, overall, the novel is competently laid out and tells an intriguing story.

The intriguing story in this case is Lana’s journey from virginity and inexperience to a world of sexual-enslaved-servitude on a Caribbean island.  (I have to point out here that Lana is one of my favourite girl’s names: mainly because it’s ‘anal’ spelled backwards).  Lana’s story starts off with pathos – her mother dies and her father turns into a shit – but Lana has sufficient spunk to turn things around and take her life in a more satisfying direction. 

The more satisfying direction begins with a wet T-shirt competition (which Lana wins).  After the consequential induction to sexual slavery, there is a five year gap in the narrative followed by a Fine Form competition at a biker bar in Arizona (which Lana wins). 

It would be interesting to analyse here whether Lana’s participation in these contests is the author’s subtle critique on the shortcomings of contemporary society, or simply an excuse to write about tits.  We live in a shallow world that advocates the idolisation of physical perfection over spiritual, mental or emotional substance.  This is particularly prevalent in the objectification of attractive young women through the medium of beauty pageants, Fine Form competitions and wet T-shirt contests. 

In some ways, the inherent sexism is a double-edged sword that inflicts misogyny on a society in a twofold fashion.  Initially it is reductive to female participants reducing their contribution to nothing more than appearance – reinforcing the stereotypical sexist ideal that a woman’s only value in society is to look pretty.  Secondly, those women participating in the contests contend that the experience is empowering – a view that could be construed as an extension of sexism’s self-subjugation.  However, whilst this misogyny could be considered detrimental to the ethos underpinning Fine Form and wet T-shirt contests, it’s also a good chance to see tits, so we shouldn’t consider the experience to be a total loss.

This is not my subtle way of saying that The Slave Zone contains sexism.  There will always be an element of some sort of “-ism” in a book about sexual slavery because the dynamic of sub/dom politics requires some sort of power exchange.  If the characters were portrayed as being in an interracial relationship it would be deemed racism.  If the characters portrayed had an extreme age difference, it would be deemed ageism.  If the characters portrayed are of different genders it will either be misandry or misogyny, depending on whether or not it’s a woman striping a man’s backside or a man dominating a woman. 

Wolkoff presents the power dynamics of a slave/master relationship with stilted competence and describes a variety of characters of differing genders who take various roles as either dominants or submissives.  Admittedly, the tendency in The Slave Zone is for men to be strong and women to be willing but the story’s conclusion shows that Wolkoff has his own ideas about what constitutes real strength in a woman and it’s an innovative conclusion to the story.

At more than 400 pages in length, The Slave Zone presents an epic story of sex and submission.  Lana is an intelligent and likeable heroine who knows what she wants and usually gets what she deserves.  Her adventures are summarily catalogued and presented in a style that is accessible despite the aforementioned handicaps of first-novel-itis. 

I think it’s fair to warn readers of this column that the book is fairly predictable.  It's moderately well-written but there is no engagement with the central character on an emotional level.  Lana just goes from fuck to fuck without developing as a person and, over 400 pages, you'd expect a better understanding of the character.  Or perhaps I’m too jaded from living a life immersed in a mire of erotic fiction? 

So, in summary, there are two things to remember this month.  First, if you want a romp through the world of slaves and sexual submissives, buy The Slave Zone by Peter Wolkoff.  And, second, if you fancy experiencing your own personal slave zone, get in touch with me at me@ashleylister.co.uk.  I’m still recruiting.



The Story of LThe Story of L
By: Debra Hyde
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: B0058PE13E
June 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Within the canon of erotic literature, it’s fair to say that three titles have dominated the genre. First and foremost is de Sade’s novella Justine (Les Malheurs de la Vertu, 1791). Explicit, graphic and wholly misogynistic, Justine follows the story of an eponymous hero doing the right thing and suffering for such virtues. There is a lesser known sequel to this title: Juliette. This story follows the fortunes of Justine’s sister (Juliette) who succeeds in life by being anything but virtuous. The one time Juliette does something virtuous, she suffers for it.

The second title to dominate the canon of erotica is Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (Venus im Pelz, 1890). Whereas de Sade had sexualised the brutalisation of women by men, Sacher-Masoch expanded on this idea and showed that women could sexually brutalise men (should they be commanded to do so by a man). Sacher-Masoch’s hero, Severin, begs the story’s antagonist, Wanda, to treat him as a slave. Wanda is reluctant at first, but ultimately takes to the role with vindictive enthusiasm.

And then there’s the third title to dominate the genre: The Story of O (Histoire d’O, 1954) by Pauline Réage. The Story of O is the story of one woman’s absolute submission to a dominant male master. It’s a tale that begins with emotional submission and ultimately ends in total physical submission.

Of the three books mentioned here, The Story of O has a lot more working in its favour in the opinion of this writer. All three books were originally written in a language other than English, and so they each reach the majority of English-speaking readers through translation. De Sade and Sacher-Masoch have both given eponyms to the language (sadism and masochism, respectively) but it is The Story of O that remains the more accessible of these titles.

The Story of O is the most contemporary of the titles – depicting a world which (save for the absence of computers and mobile phones) is not that dissimilar from ours. The Story of O also stands out amongst these three titles because it was written by a woman.

And I mention all of this to give a sense of place to Debra Hyde’s The Story of L. The title itself is an obvious homage to Réage’s masterpiece. The layout of the story, following the path to servitude taken by the story’s central character Liv/L, is equally reminiscent of the original. But, rather than producing a carbon copy of the original, set in the twenty-first century, Hyde has been clever and artful in her interpretation.

A chuckle floated to her, sounding at once pleased and amused.

“Hold out your hands,” came the command. Liv complied, expecting to be cuffed. But the next command baffled her. “Show me your ears. Now your neckline.”

She’s inspecting me, Liv discovered. Cassandra voiced the final step in the process.

“Lift your skirt and expose yourself.”

The gesture felt unduly feminine to Liv but she complied.

Inwardly, resistance and distaste roiled, but submission was not meant to be trouble free. Struggle came with the territory.

Her skirt raised, Liv shrank as the room’s warmth made her all too aware of the vulnerability that came with nakedness.

“So, she’s truly naked,” Cassandra observed. “Not so much as a ring on her finger.” A pause followed the appreciative assessment. “You may lower your skirt.”

Lowering her skirt, Liv sighed. Another hurdle passed. How many more would she have to jump to reach Cassandra? She knew better than to think Cassandra would allow her to simply walk across the room and throw herself and her lust at her. The dynamics she had agreed to did not work that way.

This novel is Debra Hyde’s stylish way of interpreting a classic story of lust and passion and bringing it up to date as a love story between experienced participants from the world of BDSM. Hyde’s narrative is accessible and uncomplicated and she presents this story with a convincing air of authority.

Any reader sharing Liv’s journey will be drawn into the realism of the story world and mesmerised by the way Hyde brings this homage to life. This is a definite recommendation for all lovers of lesbian romance and those who enjoy contemporary interpretations of classic erotic literature. 



The Wilde Passions of Dorian GrayThe Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray
By: Mitzi Szereto
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449652
November 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Had Dorian been anyone else, he might have been content with his new existence. Life had been pared down to a beautiful kind of simplicity, and for some it might have been enough. But the pressure of his lust had been building like the pressure inside the volcano that hovered over the valley; an explosion was imminent. The catalyst that finally triggered it would need to be masterfully executed, for he had to make up for many arid years of self-denial.

Donning the humble peasant’s garb that had become his daily attire, Dorian set forth on foot for the mountains, looking like a man with nothing but the clothing on his back and only his wits to guide him. He had no purpose or destination in mind, yet his feet seemed to be leading him somewhere. The first night he slept rough, awakening as dusty and dirty as the impoverished beggars who occasionally traveled through the towns and villages. His shabby appearance, combined with a
few words of Quechua, aided him well enough to locate a bed on the second night. The fact that it was located inside the monastery he had heard about gave rise to a plan that would be a masterpiece of corruption. It came to him the moment he saw the young monk working in the vineyards. The frank purity in the man’s broad brown face cried out to Dorian to sully it.

It’s a sad truth that we live in a society that celebrates youth and beauty over experience and substance. Many people believe this is symptomatic of modernity, and cite examples from football and music and the entertainment industry.  The truth is: our society has always been this fucking stupid.
Oscar Wilde’s original title, The Picture of Dorian Gray, illustrated this point to a Victorian audience on its release in 1891. The Faustian themes of a man selling his soul in exchange for eternal youth are unmistakable and clearly struck a chord with the readership of the day. The themes obviously struck so much of a chord that zealous editors butchered the title before sending it to print and Wilde still had to apologise for the remaining content.
As Szereto explains in the preface:

In writing The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, it has not been my intention to “re-imagine” the original work or revise it by filling in the blanks, but rather to continue from where the tale left off, bringing Dorian Gray out of Victorian London and into the present day, with several stops along the way. Obviously, I have had to take some liberties with the original text, altering the incident of Dorian’s purported death in order to allow readers to follow him through time. What I did not alter was the nature of Dorian Gray’s character. Wilde portrayed him as a sexual profligate and, yes, even a murderer. For Dorian to live on, he needed to become progressively more debauched from when we last saw him, descending into an abyss of degeneracy that perhaps Mr. Wilde himself would never have envisioned.

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray is an exciting and compelling continuation of the original story. Szereto’s Dorian Gray is profligate, wanton and debauched. He strikes the reader initially as a character who lives for the thrill of satisfying every unfulfilled appetite. His debauchery knows no limits as he pursues the extremes of experience in every field.


“My lovely little whore, your body never lies to me,” Dorian whispered into the dainty swirls of her ear. He felt her interior clench in response and knew that her battle had, indeed, been yet another artifice designed to put coins into her purse. He couldn’t altogether blame her. In all likelihood Madame Cherie paid the young ladies in her employ a pittance of what she took in for their services. Perhaps he would be extra generous tonight and leave Celestine with an amount equivalent to the pleasure she provided, though he’d make certain that she earned it.
Dorian spent himself once, only to continue without cease, working toward his second climax as Celestine’s passions pulsed hotly against his immersed flesh. Just as the pressure in his testes became too much to bear, he heard a muffled cry from below. It was followed by his own as he released himself inside her. Hot tears flowed in salty rivulets down Celestine’s pleasure-flushed cheeks, leaving pale tracks through the rouge painted on her cheeks. Had Dorian seen them, he might have mistook them for tears of suffering rather than what they truly were—for by then Celestine’s feelings were such that she believed she could not live without him.

Dorian’s demands for new experiences take him around the world. His invincible immortality allows him to endure extremes that we mere mortals could never tolerate. But still he wants more. He is not content with male, female, hermaphrodite couples or orgies. He yearns for the satisfaction that can only come through redemption from his sins. Ultimately, perhaps, Dorian Gray is acknowledging that experience and substance are superior to the passing falsehoods of youth and beauty. Then again, perhaps that’s only one possible interpretation.

This is strong writing, as is to be expected from a celebrated author of Szereto’s calibre. The title excites where it needs to, relays a compelling narrative, and continues the story of one of literature’s most enduring characters. Definitely worth the read.



This ManThis Man
By: Jodi Malpas
Forever
ISBN: 1455578312
October 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In the future, the distant future that was promised to us long ago, where we ride hoverboards and commute via flying cars, researchers will have specific names for our time period. In particular I think researchers will divide the eras of erotic literature into Pre-50SOG (Prior to the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey) and Post-50SOG (In the period following the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey).

I riffle through the piles and piles of paraphernalia sprawled all over my bedroom floor. I’m going to be late. “Kate!” I yell frantically. Where the hell are they? I run out onto the landing and throw myself over the banister. “Kate!”

I hear the familiar sound of a wooden spoon bashing the edges of a ceramic bowl as Kate appears at the bottom of the stairs, her red hair piled high in a mass of curls. She looks up at me with a tired expression. It’s an expression that I’ve become used to recently.

“Keys!” Have you seen my car keys?”” I puff at her.

“They’re on the table under the mirror where you left them last night.” She rolls her eyes, taking herself and her cake mixture back to her workshop.

These are the opening lines to This Man, the first of a trilogy of books that tells the story of Ava O’Shea and her relationship with Jesse Ward. As you read the above, about Ava and Kate, in the first of a trilogy, presented in paperback as a black bound book with silver/white iconic imagery on the cover, it’s easy to acknowledge we’re living in a Post-50SOG society.

I’m not trying to suggest that a Post-50SOG world is indicative of a dystopian society (although the absence of hoverboards and flying cars does seem to lend itself to an idea of dystopia, There were no hoverboards or flying cars in Orwell’s 1984 and that was pretty shit). Fifty Shades sold an enormous amount copies and I’ve always maintained that 70,000,000 lemmings can’t be wrong. I’m simply trying to point out that it’s impossible to read This Man without realising the book, characters, packaging and concept do appear to have been shaped by the fact that we live in a Post-50SOG community.

Perhaps it would be easier to illustrate my point with some sex.

“Don’t stop!” I scream, flinging my hands up to grab his slippery biceps. I dig my nails in to try and find some grip, prompting him to yell more and pound harder. I throw my head back in despair. The power and control he has is beyond comprehension.

“Damn it, Ava. Look at me!”

My head falls back down and our eyes meet. His pupils are huge and glazed, nearly cancelling out the greenness of his stare, and I notice his frown deepening and sweat dripping down his temples. Shifting my hands to the back of his head I fist my hands in his saturated hair, pulling his head down so our lips collide and our tongues clash, while he continues his punishing blows.

I can’t hold back any more. “Jesse, I’m going.” I pant against his lips. The tops of my fingers are numb from my stupidly fierce grasp of him.

“Fuck! Together, okay?” he strains through his clenched teeth, driving harder a few more body-blowing, mind-numbing times, before yelling., “Now!”

I let it go – all of the pent-up heaviness in my groin, the weight in my lungs and the fire in my belly – it all comes out on a massive rush of pressure and a very loud scream.

“Jesus Christ!” he cries, thrusting one last, powerful time before stilling over me.

In the Pre-50SOG world, erotic fiction was identified by the fact that it provided innovative titillation. Books would be discussed for their inventive approach to coitus, their cruel approach to BDSM or the appeal of unfamiliar, unusual and possibly illegal practices being described. Character, as always, was consistent with the milieu of the story. In the Post-50SOG the world is filled with trilogies that are packaged to look identical, and filled with characters and sex that don’t give us anything we haven’t seen fifty times before.

I’m going to point out here that I’m not having a go at This Man. If you want to rub one out to a book, as the passage above shows, This Man is more than suitable for those purposes. This Man also contains the plot.

But the book didn’t strike me as anything particularly new. As the aforementioned sex scene demonstrates, the intercourse is presented with an inoffensive vocabulary and illustrates intimacy with anodyne terms, adjectival phrases and a text message’s worth of exclamation points. The majority of anatomical descriptions relate to aspects of the body that are not conventionally associated with sex (head, teeth, biceps and lungs) and there are some lesser suggestions of more sexually familiar component parts such as a groin and tongues. I’m not saying this is the wrong way to write erotic fiction. I’m just pointing out that, in the Post-50SOG world where we reside, this is standard.

This Man is good, but it’s no better than fifty other trilogies that are currently sitting on the shelves.

What I’m trying to say is: the worst thing about the consumerist future in which we currently reside is that we’re too often treated like consumers. This book, rather than being produced for entertainment or edification, is simply produced for consumption.



Too Much Boogie: Erotic Remixes of the Dirty BluesToo Much Boogie: Erotic Remixes of the Dirty Blues
Edited By: Cole Riley
LL Publications
ISBN: 1905091893
April 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

“Blues is a feeling. You can write the truth with the blues. In the blues line, it always brings up on somebody you love or somebody who quits you. The blues gets to the nitty gritty with no foolishness in it.”
—Bukka White (1966)

THERE ARE only a few dream assignments which fall in the lap of a writer. When an editor asked me to pilot a collection of erotic stories based on the blues. I leaped at the glorious moment.

This is how Cole Riley’s introduction to Too Much Boogie begins. And, I have to admit, I find this somewhat daunting. Whilst I can identify with the enthusiasm that anyone feels for their personal passion, I’m not a big music fan. I enjoy some classical stuff. And I can sit through an opera or a musical without self-harming. But if someone turns on a pop radio station in my presence I will punch them in the face. And if they start to tell me about the soul-satisfying qualities, or the truthfulness of a piece of jazz, one of us will be poisoned.

Fortunately Too Much Boogie does not come with a soundtrack. And, from the moment I read Alegra Verde’s “The Things I Used to Do,” I have to admit I was hooked. The eroticism is frank and powerful. The content of the first story is written with an attention to stylish sexuality that is swift and scorching. And, as it transpires, you don’t have to have an innate understanding of jazz, or the blues or any other type of music to enjoy the content of this book. All you need is an appreciation of well-written erotica.
In D L King’s “She had to go and Lose it at the Astor” the eroticism lurks constantly beneath the surface of a misdirecting narrative. The protagonist, Minnie, presented as a model of decorum and naïveté, goes to the Astor with the intention of losing it. And it would be a hard-hearted reader who doesn’t lose it before the conclusion of this particular story. Superbly exciting writing.

Or take Lisabet Sarai’s “Red Eye.”

She arched her back, letting him bury his flesh more deeply in hers. She clenched her inner muscles around his hardness, wanting to swallow him, to make him part of her. He rammed his cock into her again and again, one hand over her mouth to stifle her cries. She writhed against him, each stroke a shuddering, prolonged delight that nudged her closer to the ultimate pleasure.

Aside from being devilishly erotic, as Sarai’s writing always is, ‘Red Eye’ is tinged with a bittersweet pathos that makes the sexual excitement all the more vivid.

Occasionally whilst going through this anthology I feared that the content suggested a Marxist reading. There seems to be a strong correlation between sex and money in several of the stories. There also seems to be heavy reliance on the objectification of the female as though she’s an accoutrement or accessory to be purchased and possessed.
But, from the little I understand of Blues music, the typical lyrics of this genre tend to suggest objectification and the commodification of sexual services in a patriarchal hegemony. Which is my way of saying that this semi-misogyny is appropriate for the theme of the stories.

If you enjoy well-written erotic fiction you will adore Too Much Boogie. If you enjoy well-written erotica and the Blues, the chances are that this book will answer every prayer you’ve ever made.



Trailer Park Nights 5: LA Women Don't Wear UnderwearTrailer Park Nights 5: LA Women Don't Wear Underwear
By: Randall Lang
Renaissance E Books
ISBN: 978-1615080069
February 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Abraham Lincoln was once asked to review a romantic novel. 

It may seem absurd to think of a wartime president being asked to do something as trivial as reviewing a romantic novel.  However, whilst America was recently at war with Iraq, George Bush appeared on the TV show Deal or No Deal, so it seems there is a tradition of America’s leaders pursuing trivial pursuits during times of national crisis.

Having read the romantic novel, Lincoln said, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”  These, I think, are some of the wisest words I have ever read.  As a book reviewer, I consider this pithy summary to be a mantra which I keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m compiling my own thoughts about a piece of fiction.

Trailer Park Nights V: L.A. Women Don’t Wear Underwear by Randall Lang, is the fifth novel in an ongoing series of stories.  There is a prefatory notice, urging readers to start enjoying the series from the beginning.  However, this is followed by an explicit prologue presented as “…a brief introduction and explanation of the events leading up to the beginning of this portion of the story.” 

This prologue involves Randy, Marianne, Linda and Jordan in an entanglement of swapping, swinging, group sex and strap-ons.  The scene concludes with Randy worried about the homoerotic tones of an episode of explicitness that occurred between himself and Jordan.

Randall Lang does a good job of explaining his character’s motives and reactions to such developments.  Randy (the character) is presented as uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance of receiving pleasure from an experience outside his boundaries of perceived acceptability.  This is shown to the reader with the thoughtful detail of the character’s subsequent confusion.

Fortunately, Randy gains perspective with the help of his old acquaintance Terri.  And, from there, he is able to help Linda move out to L.A. pursuing her dream of becoming a porn movie star.

I can’t criticise Trailer Park Nights V overtly because I haven’t read Trailer Park Nights I, II, III or IV.  I can say that the writing style didn’t particularly work for me.  However, I suspect the readers who have been faithfully following Randy and Linda et al from the beginning will be used to Lang’s authorial voice and comfortable with the tone.  The sex scenes are explicitly detailed and competently paced, to produce an arousing effect as well as to illicit sympathy for the existing characters.

If you’re a follower of the series, and wondering what happens in this instalment, I won’t run the risk of including spoilers.  Instead, I’ll quote Lang from his author’s notes at the conclusion of the novel:

This fifth book was started with the intention of introducing hard core BDSM and homosexual exploration into the storyline. But, as authors always say, the author does not write the story, the characters write the story. These characters were more interested in the pure enjoyment of sex than they were in dominating or being dominated by others.  Instead, in true trailer park fashion, they opened their world to new characters and embarked upon the adventure of chasing a dream, all within a tapestry of exciting sexual encounters.

Perhaps my reservations come because I’m simply not a lover of sequels.  Terminator 2 aside, I have yet to see a follow-up movie, or read a follow-up novel that matched the promise or satisfaction of the original.  Or perhaps, because I came to this series of stories so late, I’m missing out on a lot of the soap-opera style qualities pertinent to the developing narrative as it follows Randy and Linda’s continuing sexual adventures.

Nevertheless, to quote the ineffable Mr Lincoln:

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. 





Ultimate BurlesqueUltimate Burlesque
Edited By: Emily Dubberley
Contributions By: Alyson Fixter
Xcite Books
ISBN: 1906373639
September 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’m essentially a nice guy, no matter what the rumourmongers might say.  As a consequence of my amiable character, it would seem inevitable that I was going to say good things about Ultimate Burlesque.  However, Ultimate Burlesque deserves to have good things written about it because it really is an outstanding anthology.

This collection of 30 short stories comes from Accent Press’s imprint, Xcite Books, with profits benefiting the cancer charities associated with Burlesque Against Breast Cancer, and a minimum 15% of the cover price going to the UK organisation: Macmillan Cancer Support. 

I won’t go into the details of what Macmillan Cancer Support do.  I think it’s sufficient for the sake of this review to say that they are a charity who perform a tremendous job to alleviate suffering.  I certainly won’t go into the details of the devastating disease that is cancer.  I suspect that, sadly, most of us will know someone who has suffered because of this horrible, horrible illness.  Rather than concentrate on the grim stuff, what I want to do here, instead, is concentrate on the great anthology that is Ultimate Burlesque.

A quick glance at the table of contents reveals some of the top names in contemporary erotic fiction.  Alison Tyler, Elizabeth Black, Marcelle Perks, Portia Da Costa, Jeremy Edwards, Nikki Magennis, Donna George Storey, Maxim Jakubowski, Kristina Lloyd and Emily Dubberley.  There are other enormously talented writers contained within Ultimate Burlesque – more successful journalists and acclaimed novelists than I have space to mention here – but the good news is that you can see the full table of contents when you go out and buy the book. 

Above anything else, Ultimate Burlesque is a celebration of life – and those saucy interludes that make all our lives fulfilling and satisfying.  From Jo Rees’s “Inner Diva,” a beautifully crafted story of backstage breast obsession, Ultimate Burlesque reveals itself as cheeky as it is charitable.  In MonMouth’s stirring story, “Watching,” the anthology goes away from a fem/fem obsession and playfully introduces a couple and their special friend.  Alyson Tyler, “Like Those Girls,” shows us how deliciously demanding it can be to work in a B&B. 

Like all good anthologies, Ultimate Burlesque has that special quality where the reader can dip in and out, consistently finding one tantalising gem after another.  Jeremy Edwards introduces us to “Laura the Laugher” – an antagonist with a remarkably appealing burlesque act that has the audiences rolling in the aisles.  Portia Da Costa entertains with characteristic joie de vivre when she presents us with a “Private Dancer.”  Kristina Lloyd brings stylish and sexy wit to “The Lion Tamer’s Scars.”

There are an abundance of stories about burlesque in this collection: if you hadn’t guessed that was a possibility from the title then you’re probably best not trusted with things that have sharp edges – like books.  Nikki Magennis’s, “Catch Me If You Can,” takes us backstage with a raunchy stripper and a very enthusiastic fan.  Mark Farley skilfully transports us to a house of ill repute in San Francisco, 1862 with “The Intimate Diary of Martha Rae.”  And the inimitable Donna George Storey gives us access to a powerful, private performance in “All Eyes Upon Her.”

This is a fun, frisky and fantastic collection of shorts that showcases a host of talented writers all writing sex-positive and upbeat tales that are rousing, raunchy and risqué.  Readers who are interested in finding out more about Burlesque Against Breast Cancer should visit Burlesque Against Breast Cancer.  

I’m aware that finances are tight for us all at the moment, but Ultimate Burlesque comes with the added incentive of doing something that benefits a good cause.  Even more enticing is the fact that this book is worth every penny.



Unchain MeUnchain Me
Renaissance E Books/Sizzler Editions
ISBN: B008QCW5I4
July 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

This is from the opening pages of Unchain Me. I’ve used these passages to illustrate some of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy this novel.

“We’re stockbrokers. We’ve been here for about three years, we love the city life.” They shared a condo on the upper floor of a condo high rise, quite impressive to all the women they brought there.

Grammatically speaking, the condo would have been impressive to all the women they TOOK there. It would only have been impressive to all the women they BROUGHT there if this piece of narration was taking place at the condo.

I know it’s a small and picky detail but it’s called grammar. It’s subject verb agreement. Writers should really know about stuff like that, shouldn’t they?

They had yet to find the right girl, not sure what she would even be like, but they did enjoy bedding all the others that vied for their attention. They were handsome, wealthy, young and from what they were told, good in bed. “How about you?” Scott took a sip of his drink, put it down, so his hand could go to her leg and rest it on it. Her skirt was short, so all he found was a naked, lean leg. It was a fifty-fifty proposition that she would push it away, but Natasha barely acknowledged it.

Exposition is a technical term in writing. It refers to the act of telling the reader rather than supplying the reader with a story. This passage is pure exposition.

Curiously, we’re told that these characters had yet to find the right girl. I’m not quite sure whether this is grammatically correct or not. If Scott and Davis are both looking for one girl to share, then it’s correct. If they’re each looking for their own girl, then we’ve gone grammatically snafu once again.

I won’t even go into the sexist suggestions of men looking for girls. I get weary of pointing out that men should really look for MEN or WOMEN. Men who look for girls usually end up in trouble with the police.

“We’ve been in the city for a month now. We started a nursery school and it’s doing exceptionally well.” The hand felt good on her leg, but she knew there would be no pleasure for her tonight. The hand began to move, but slowly and sensuously as though it was in time with the music. She let her leg relax.

This passage immediately follows what’s gone before.

Some editors refer to this as head-hopping. But I’m not sure an editor saw this book before it went to print. We were given the thoughts of Scott. We were given the thoughts of Natasha. The story goes on to give us the thoughts of Davis.

Davis looked at the beautiful girl next to him. She hadn’t even said a word, but he could feel the heat of her body next to him. She smiled so sweetly at him, he watched as she took a sip of her drink, her lips moist and glistened so erotically. His cock was hard at the thought of bedding her tonight. “That’s pretty impressive that you have your own nursery school. You must be very successful, Kelly.”

“Yes, we do very well,” Kelly, purred to him in her soft voice. “We are talented.”

The chances are this book improved spectacularly after these opening pages. That’s usually what I’m told when I’ve given bad reviews for books in the past. I’ll be honest here and say it could well have improved. I don’t think it could have gotten worse. I didn’t bother reading any further.

There’s some fantastic erotica out there and some wonderful entertaining and engaging titles. This is not one of them.





Under Her Thumb: Erotic Stories of Female DominationUnder Her Thumb: Erotic Stories of Female Domination
Edited By: D. L. King
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344927X
April 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

James had done everything right that evening. The key word she had texted after she finished work, Shattered, had told him what she expected. She’d come home to a house decked in candlelight, to have James remove her coat and heels and store them in the correct places, to devour a sumptuous repast rich with cream and tomato and imbibe the two glasses of sparkling wine James had poured her. Afterward, he’d offered her his arm and brought her upstairs to the bathroom, steamy with hot mist, all white marble and gilded edges and in pride of place the long bathtub with curled, gold lion’s paws. He’d undressed her, and pointedly ignored her nakedness, even as his cock was clearly half-hard through his black jeans, and hadn’t touched her but to help her into the tub.

Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker

There is an element of power play in all dyadic relationships. Whether it’s between a couple in a committed relationship, an employer and employee or a pet and its owner. Invariably the balance of the power play falls between subtly negotiated boundaries with one participant being dominant and the other being submissive. In Under Her Thumb, as the title suggests, the theme is that of female domination.

Ordinarily, whenever I’m reading and reviewing an anthology of short stories, my first point of call is the foreword. The foreword usually gives me an idea of the mindset behind the anthology and in this one Midori presents a Sartre-esque explanation of the misunderstood dominant feminist.

But I didn’t read the foreword first on this occasion.

In the absence of a foreword I’ll sometimes read the introduction. This one, a courteous welcome from the extremely talented D L King, explains the relationship the anthologist has with this subject matter. It should be noted here that D L King has a personal investment in the specific perspective of the female dominant, establishing her authority as the right person to compile this collection of titillating stories.

But I didn’t read the introduction first on this occasion.

Sometimes I’ll go through the index, identifying names I recognise and trying to weigh the potential intrigue of various titles. This is a solid collection and contains writing from some of my favourite authors including Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kathleen Bradean and Lisabet Sarai.

But, instead of whiling away my time choosing how to approach this anthology through that method, I picked on the name of an author whom I’d met, but whose fiction I hadn’t previously encountered: Jacqueline Brocker.  

Jacqueline Brocker is an Australian writer living in the UK. She is published by Filament Magazine, Every Night Erotica, Freaky Fountain Press (Erotica Apocrypha), and by Ravenous Romance (My First Spanking). I was lucky enough to meet Jacqueline Brocker at Eroticon at the start of March this year. She’s a funny and intelligent person but I hadn’t read any of her material. This was the first time I’d met a writer and then had a chance to read her work afterwards. It’s more common to encounter an author’s work and then (if ever) meet them. I was curious to discover if this would affect my opinion of her writing.

Regina smiled. She gave the nipple a small pinch and twist, and skirted over her ribs and stomach to the sculpted pubic hair. Just before she found her clit, the path diverted to trace a line down her inner thigh. James’s head twitched, and he clasped his hands behind his back. She drew one finger back up, spreading her labia, opening herself so he could see the wet beginnings of her desire. His breathing quickened, and his erection expanded beneath the denim. Regina could have sunk her teeth right into it, if she’d had a mind to.

Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker

"Bottled and Bound" is the story of a dominant woman and her submissive partner. There are typical themes of power play within the story, echoed by the monarchic overtones of the character names (Regina and James) as well as the familiar tropes of BDSM activity including riding crops, black velvet cords and a cross. As with all the stories in this collection, Brocker’s writing is a combination of efficient storytelling, combined with an eye for the exciting, enticing and erotic. 

James’s lips—thin and agile—caressed the length of her body, toe to neck, leaving trails of saliva and burning lust all over her. His fingers stroked her skin as if brushing her hair, never probing or pressing, and while he edged very close, he never touched her cunt, though it was becoming wet and plump and Regina was beginning to pant; he would get into deep trouble if he did so before she said.

Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker

This is an impressive collection of stories, following an eclectic path through the rituals and ramifications of female domination. From the mutual respect in Andrea Zanin’s story, "Quiet" through to the misandristic atmosphere of Veronica Wilde’s "In the Chill of her Displeasure," this is an anthology that’s worth reading for all those readers who celebrate female domination and for those who simply like well-written fiction.





Wanton WritersWanton Writers
By: Rae Clark
Renaissance E Books
ISBN:
2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I think it was Alanis Morisette who sang the lyrics, ‘Isn’t it ironic?’ 

As it transpires, for those who’ve heard the song, Morisette’s examples aren’t particularly ironic.  Rain on a wedding day.  A black fly in white wine.  A free ride when you’ve already paid.  These things don’t genuinely demonstrate irony.  They are more indicative of annoying stuff that pisses us off. 

Which brings me to Wanton Writers by Rae Clark. 

Wanton Writers is a ‘sizzler edition’ title from Renaissance E Books.  I took comfort from the fact that no trees were harmed during the production of this novel.  And I’ll hold my hand up now and say I haven’t read all of this book.  More accurately, I couldn’t read all of this book: I have standards.

I might sound as though I’m being disparaging.  The truth is I am.  Wanton Writers is written in a style that foregrounds the author’s lack of technical craft and makes the willing suspension of disbelief impossible. 
To illustrate:

Stella De Palo's eyes hardened as she waved a single sheet of paper in the air. "Here is the proof in depressing circulation figures for the last quarter per kind courtesy of the executive of this organization – I don't think." She cast the report back on the desktop where it slid away and fell to the floor. "Leave the friggin' thing," she snarled as Roger Cruikshank made to pick it up. Flushing, he retired to his chair.

This is from the second paragraph of the novel, where the virgin reader is still trying to come to terms with the reality of the fiction and willingly suspend their disbelief.
I’m not sure what Stella De Palo is saying in her first piece of dialogue.  There is something about circulation figures, an errant word ‘per’ and a final negation.  I suspect this inciting incident might be integral to the plot.  As I say, I couldn’t bring myself to read all of this book.  The paint on my garage walls won’t watch itself drying.

Or, selected randomly:
"Stella. Call me Stella." She gave an evil laugh. "You don't want to know what my enemies call me. Ha-ha."

"I didn't know you had any enemies, Stella," Roger chuckled.

"Everyone's got enemies in this magazine publishing dog-eat-dog business. You should know that, Roger. Now take a seat please and you too, Derek. Well, firstly, everyone, on behalf of WHAM, I'd like to officially congratulate Rachael on winning the WHAM's Inaugural National Short Story Writing Competition. Well done, Rachael..." She led a round of enthusiastic clapping.

The dark-haired seventeen-year-old paraplegic blushed and nodded her thanks.

In some ways, I find I’m almost drawn to ghoulishly leer at Stella’s dialogue in the same way I observe events every time I drive past a car wreck, aesthetically decorated with mangled bodies.  If there really is a person on this planet who speaks like Stella I suspect the individual is a badly programmed robot impersonating a human being.

And then there’s this paragraph from the opening of Chapter Eight. 

Charlie thought Stella had never looked so happy, and why shouldn't she? The editor-in-chief sprawled unladylike across her leather recliner, one bare leg casually cocked over an arm of the chair. The fact that a good deal of thigh was displayed to the world – well, the staff of WHAM – didn't worry her one bit. Then again, Charlotte mused, who had ever classified Stella De Palo as a lady? One of the most successful editors in the country? Yes, absolutely. Ruthless in the dog-eat-dog business of magazine publishing? Undoubtedly yes. But then again, you had to be to succeed, even to just survive in that circus.

I must admit, by this point of random delving, I’m beginning to suspect that magazine publishing might be a dog-eat-dog business.  Or a circus.  And, without being facile, I have to say that I think the text is expository (flouting the writer’s maxim of show don’t tell), the dialogue is unconvincing (making it difficult to empathize or even believe in the characters) and the combination of fragmented sentences with convoluted subordinate and interdependent clauses makes the whole thing (for me) inaccessible.

I found this book annoying for three reasons. 

  1. I enjoy reading and reviewing well-written books and I don’t enjoy wasting my time on dross. 
  2. I think e-books get enough bad press, with people arbitrarily claiming that e-books are inferior in content and quality to their print cousins.  This standard of poorly executed fiction is only going to engender negative opinion on the quality of e-books. 
  3. I’d expected so much more from a book called Wanton Writers.

Of course, you have to smile at the idea of a book about writers being a book that is badly written.  On some level this could have worked as a satire with a heavy-handed dose of mocking wit.  And, under those circumstances, I’m sure that even Alanis Morisette would have asked, ‘Isn’t it ironic?





WhileawayWhileaway
By: T. Martin Woody
iUniverse
ISBN: 0595357040
June 2005





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ve posted some fairly harsh reviews on here over the past few years. And, at first, I thought, “Wow! I’m a bastard.” I’ll be honest and admit that there was no sense of Machiavellian pleasure in that thought. I was genuinely appalled by my apparent vindictiveness. I’ve never wanted to be a bastard and reaching that status is not something of which I’m proud.

I try to be positive with book reviews. I know how much hard work and effort goes into any creative endeavour – books especially. Book reviews that are scathing just for the sake of being scathing are nothing more than ego trips for the reviewer. And reviewers who are consistently scathing are nothing more than bastards.

But, it seems, that’s what I’ve become. I’m a bastard.

Initially, as a reviewer, I had always tried to couch my barbs behind pleasant euphemistic phrases.

“A good effort,” was one of my favourite (condescending) phrases. “A good effort,” usually meant: if the author had spent twelve more months reading through the material, amending it and addressing all of its numerous issues, the draft MS might have been ready for the hand of an editor. 

Mentioning that the book or the author “has potential” was also another of my ways to politely say that the tome stank like an overused outflow pipe on a hot summer’s day.

If I said the book “brought a tear to my eye” it was invariably because I’d considered self-harm rather than subjecting myself to reading any more of the title being reviewed.

But then my façade of geniality began to slip. I remember suggesting that one book could have used the services of a good editor. I then went on to add that the abilities of a competent author would not have gone amiss.

It was a harsh review although I still stand behind the honesty of every scathing word I wrote. The author said it was a harsh review when he or she sent me the hate mail afterwards. (I’m saying he or she because I can’t remember whether the author was male or female. And I’m too lazy to change tabs on my browser and look up this trivial piece of information).

What I should be saying when I review a poorly written book is: it’s not the quality of your book. It’s my ideals as a reviewer and publishing professional. In the current climate of mediocrity and middling abilities your book is a nadir of acceptably low standards. Sadly, I keep falling back into my old habits of hiding behind euphemistic pleasantries.

All of which brings me to Whileaway [sic].

Whileaway is a collection of short stories varying in length. Pitched as “erotic tales to revitalise the weary traveller…” and purportedly being presented by, “A Major New York Times Bestseller Peruser [sic],” the stories in Whileaway are written with a distinctly male narrator’s voice. Even when the story is lesbian sex, told from the perspective of one of the enthusiastic lesbian characters, there is still something masculine about the narrator’s voice:

She slide [sic] her fingers around, trying to find the spot. “It must have dried up,” Monika said with a concerned look. She popped her finger into her mouth and wet it. “Here let me try again.”

Her wet finger traced a cool damp line along my thigh that was so indescribably delicious, I was afraid I would shout out with joy. I felt an independent trembling of my hips that I had never experience [sic] before, as if I was going to throw up in another part of my body.

And here’s a taster from the short story “OOF.”

I fill in the application form carefully, and insert the required money order, seal the envelope and add a stamp. I had climsily [sic] torn the self-addressed envelop [sic] that came with the offer, so I am obliged to address a new envelope by hand. “OOF,” I write on the first line. Obviously it stood for “Official Old-” something-or-other. Odd they didn’t let on. A whiff of malodorous hot air is passed, causing my eyes to tear and momentarily disturb my concentration.

So, read closely through the above excerpts and appreciate that I’m being really picky about the quality of the writing. It’s not the author at fault here: it’s the bastard reviewer. If either of those snippets from the book makes a potential reader feel they want to read more, I’d advise you to rush out and buy a copy.

And, for anyone who has read this title, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that Whileaway is a good effort and the book or author has potential. Reviewing it brought a tear to my eye.





Wrapped Around Your Finger: A Story of SubmissionWrapped Around Your Finger: A Story of Submission
By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780637
September 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

A light touch at first.

He groaned, his head down, and that sound took me to a higher level. I started to jerk him in my fist, no longer touching him tentatively or hesitantly. But touching him like he needed.

He said, “Jesus,” again, but it was different this time. He said, “Jesus,” and I knew that meant don’t stop.

I was fucking him seriously, and he accepted everything. The pleasure from my palm and the sensation of being filled, and the whole fucked-up scene. He devoured it, somehow, from beneath. Until I was the one to let go. I was the one to come, that toy cock pressed so hard against my clit as I drilled him, the feeling of his rock-like rod in my fist. We were joined—we were one—and I came until I could hardly breathe, collapsed against him, liquid, spent.

This sex scene is from one of the early amorous encounters in Wrapped Around Your Finger, the third instalment in Alison Tyler’s series of novels that explore bondage, kink and polyamorous relationships. Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission #1 was described as a modern-day retelling of Story of O. I’d argue with this. Tyler writes in a much more accessible fashion than Reage and, as a reader of erotica, I’d say this makes Tyler’s prose preferable.

The Delicious Torment: A Story of Submission #2, continued the story and now we’re onto Wrapped Around Your Finger: A Story of Submission #3.

While he watched, I stripped, then slid on thigh high stockings, the dress, and the shoes. I didn’t ask for knickers. If they weren’t put out for me, then Jack didn’t want me to wear them. I knew where he was taking me. Knew that Juliette would undoubtedly be involved.

Wondered whether Alex might show up. It had been several days since I’d seen him, and somehow he had become the unspoken subject between the two of us. Fuck the elephant—Alex was the hard-on in the room.

“Ready?” Jack asked. This was a useless, stupid question in my opinion, a question that had no answer. No correct answer—or truthful answer, anyway. I had to say yes, or win Jack’s wrath, but I was never, ever ready for something like that. Still…

“Yes, Sir,” were the words that made their halting way past my lips. “Yes, Jack.”

He gave me a final nod before attaching the collar around my throat himself, although he kept the leash in his hand, not making me wear the thing down the hallway, or in the elevator, which offered a tiny bit of relief.

Tyler has a way of describing the kinky and the non-conforming so that it is presented as something exciting and thrilling – yet well within the realms of possibility. Her fiction is efficient and well-paced. Her characters are all the more believable because they are so thoroughly invested in the worlds she has created.

Critics and reviewers in various online corners keep pointing out that Tyler is writing from twenty-five years’ experience, penning sultry stories here to create a work of autobiographical fiction. Personally I’m not sure if I believe in the truth of any autobiography. I think fictionalised autobiography is likely to give a more honest story than any ‘real’ biography. But maybe that’s just an argument in semantics.

Jack seemed to understand my desires. He cupped my pussy with his hand, and his fingertips sought out the wetness awaiting him, his middle finger stroking my clit so that I would have lost my balance if he hadn’t supported me with his other arm. The pleasure was even more powerful knowing what pain I’d have to go through before I experienced relief.

“You’re ready for me,” he said, voice sweet. “I like that. You make me want to break my own rules. You make me want to lick you while you stand there, flip you around, lick you back here,” he reached behind me to strum my asshole. His touch made me weak. “But first, we’ve got a bit of business to take care of.”

He led me down the hall, his large hand tight on my wrist, making sure that I wasn’t going to try to get free again. He led me to Alex, who was waiting, already seated on the bed, paddle at his side.

 If you want your erotica to be well-presented, original, innovative and exciting you can’t go wrong with Alison Tyler’s work. This book is the third of a series and, whilst it can be read as a stand-alone title, it can also be enjoyed after reading the two previous titles.

A great book from a wonderful author.