F is for Fetish edited by Alison Tyler

One of the many things I’ve always admired about Alison Tyler is her phenomenal imagination.

I’m not sure if “admired” is exactly the right word there – perhaps I’d be more honest if I said I “envied.” The thing is, if you’d asked me to write titles for an erotic alphabet, I wouldn’t have come up with anything like the classy ones she’s already produced. A is for Amore, B is for Bondage and C is for Coeds are all clever titles that headline fun and cheeky books.

My list of titles would have started as follows:

A is for Anal.
B is for Bottoms.
C is for Cheeks (of bottoms).
D is for Derriere
E is for Everyone likes anal.

…and it would probably have followed in that sort of rear-obsessed milieu throughout the remaining 21 letters of the alphabet. Of course I happen to have an obsession with that particular act/part of the body. A fetish – if you want this review to have something that vaguely resembles a professional segue-way-thing.

(But this is all the absolute truth. I don’t just love bottoms. I adore them and worship them. For a long time people used to call me “Ashley The Anus”. And not all of those people were close family).

However, to get back on track, I was doing the professional segue-way-thing and I’d cleverly mentioned the word fetish. And F is for Fetish is the latest title in Alison Tyler’s fun and cheeky collection of erotic alphabet anthologies.

According to my dictionary, fetish is “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.” I mention this only so I can do another of those clever segue-way-things and add that fetish is circuitously derived from the Portuguese word feitiço “made by art.”

And this book is definitely a work art.

In Knuckling Under, Shanna Germain’s persona has a fetish for fingers. You can always expect clever story lines from Shanna Germain as well as sex scenes that take you deep into the thick of the action. Knuckling Under is no exception to Shanna’s stylish fiction and she shows that, in the hands of a skilled erotic fiction writer, the flat tyre on a bicycle can lead to the sauciest sexual shenanigans.

Nikki Magennis, with Hair Trigger, paints a darkly seductive story of an obsession with hair and its associated rituals. This is a powerful story. Nikki has a gift for saying a hell of a lot with an almost minimalist number of words. Hair Trigger introduces a fetish relationship from its climactic beginning through to its cataclysmic denouement. The description is rich and colourful and the power is superbly strong.

And there’s Pull, where Tenille Brown introduces us to Natalie who likes panty hose or, as we call them in the UK: tights. As always from Tenille, the story is deliciously executed. This particular fetish is one that I could happily enjoy. After reading Pull’s descriptions of deniers and their allure, I’m hovering on the brink of giving up my obsession with rears and forging a whole new neurosis for panty hose/tights. Or, maybe I should start admiring bottoms while they’re wearing panty hose?

Rachel Kramer Bussel presents a fishnet aficionado in Fishnet Queen; Andrea Seely manages to keep a straight face through Tickling Her Fancy; and Kristina Lloyd takes us back to Boot Camp. There are quite a few fetishes covered in this clever collection of fourteen stories: all of them well executed and every one worth revisiting either in re-reading or perhaps in real life. If F is for Fetish had a sub-heading, I think it should have been: do try this at home.

F is for Fetish is another perfect addition to a highly collectible set of anthologies. Whether you’re reading this book because you’re looking for fiction about your favourite fetish, or because you’re researching the possibilities of adopting a new one: F is for Fetish contains some of the best erotic fiction from today’s top erotic authors.

Ashley Lister
October 2007

F is for Fetish
(Cleis Press; July 24, 2007; ISBN-10: 1573442844)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Deep Inside: Extreme Erotic Fantasies by Polly Frost

(Reprinted with permission from Erotica Revealed)

Polly Frost’s Deep Inside: Extreme Erotic Fantasies engages my attention in a way that is very unusual for the erotic genre. Fiction of any merit engages the reader, which is I think, why we read in the first place. Some authors take us into a different state of mind that is alternately exhilarating or dreamlike. Still others use the metaphorical nature of fiction to comment on the world we experience from day to day. A few can do both and Ms. Frost is one of them. Her stories are funny, clever, dark and often very disturbing.

Most erotica struggles to be genuine fiction very imperfectly because the author is using the story to get back to the subject of sex. Much of the stuff is redundant bilge in which we are invited to revisit the author’s obsessions through their grimly tireless lack of talent. The problem is not the sex, but that sex in itself is not inherently interesting as a mechanical catalogue of things done to and around various orifices. Sex by its very nature, comes from and leads to other things.

There is plenty of sex in Ms. Frost’s collection of stories, which runs the gamut of extremity from the ironic to the surreal. Sometimes it could be said that Ms. Frost writes one sexual stunt too many as opposed to making a few of them really shine. Men play a secondary role in these stories as does the penis. Dildos abound and some even have magical, very dangerous powers. Really hot sex here is between women who lick suck, spank and goose each other with relentless energy.

When she gets it right, her eroto-gymnastics are very sexy and imaginative. It does indeed leap off the edge of reality into the supernatural, but its sources are always from deep inside (as the title would suggest) the sexual wellsprings that make us human. Her first story, “The Threshold” gives us the erotic worldview of catholic schoolgirls. Schoolgirls are indeed the stuff of a long tradition of lurid fantasy in erotica.

It is almost a dismal cliché that the very school uniform that seeks to hide their sexual energy re-enforces its presence in the mind of the reader as well as the seedy, tweedy voyeur who is the customary protagonist. Frost, however, does not make her girls the object of sexual scrutiny. There is no aging voyeur. We are strictly in the world of teenage girls.

Frost allows her teenage dollies to use their allure as a means to their own satisfaction and near destruction. They are no more innocent than the old roué who usually appears in such fiction. We see the unvarnished sexual hunger, with its attendant adolescent ignorance, of teenage girls. They are cute girls, and they know it. Most of their energy, however, is strangely aimed at each other in a sort of savage sexual competition.

They are not romanticized. They are also not 50s teenage sluts. They are no nicer than they need to be to survive. They are often selfish and short-sighted like everyone else. Most of all, they are sexually curious, competitive, and as ripe as they will ever be. That is what makes them behave like vampires toward each other. It is also what allows them to deal with a real vampire who walks among them. They are Buffy without the Orange County sheen and the wisecracks.

A good part of The Threshold is positioned in the inner sanctum of the girl’s bathroom at the school. Frost does not serve up the usual hand-rubbing about the mysterious things girls “do in there.” Instead it becomes a place to strategize and compare notes in the search for satisfaction, whatever that may be, from the right lip gloss, to the ripest act of cannibalism. Now and then we get some maidenly masturbation, but it is in no way presented as anything other than getting off in a stall in a john.

Ms. Frost’s stories may not last beyond this era, but they speak to it uniquely well. Her characters are products of the arbitrary self-esteem movement. They have been encouraged to do what makes them feel good and to feel good about themselves. They speak and think in the half-formed idiom of a generation for whom part of the thought is enough. Unlike most authors, she does not treat them as not only vapid and selfish, but also as the ironic counter-result of exactly what their parents intended. They feel good, so why fight it? What is more they know it.

In The Dominatrix Has a Career Crisis we are presented with a young Ivy League grad who thought it would be chic to have a meteoric career as a woman who abuses those who worship her. After all, she has grown up abusing her dishrag of a mother who seems to yearn for ever more air-headed sadism. We are both horrified and amused to learn that Mom wants Katie (her daughter the domme) to, “move back home” when Katie is suspended for tardiness and sloppy work at her dungeon.

In truth, Katie knows there is something out of joint. Even as she surrounds herself with all her childhood medals, ribbons and awards, she knows there is a void in her being. She is as empty as her accolades since every kid in the class got the same awards to reduce their anxiety about being a loser. Is Katie a loser? Yes and no. She is so lazy that she cannot get to the dungeon on time even under threat of dismissal. She cannot deal with pressure to such an extent that she cannot give a good, hard, efficient beating to one of her gen-X female clients who works in the financial industry and is on a tight schedule. Is Katie simply a bum from the suburbs? It’s easy to say, “Yes!”, but frankly, no.

Katie is a perfectly awful person but so what? What she has going for her is that she understands that she is a walking set of mindless contradictions. She goes on a sort of eroto-rampage and does indeed wind up moving home where she temporarily pursues her career in sadism as a receptionist in a pilates parlor. Meanwhile she has decided to go to law school after which she can abuse people at her leisure and get well paid for it. As such, her gender and her skills at torture, may help her make partner all the sooner.

What is so appealing about all this is that Ms Frost is perfectly serious about her supernatural sex. These people are all so dreadful even they don’t know how awful they are, but the universe does. Her narrative context makes the stories truly funny, erotic and frightening. So much of sex takes the form of casual afterthoughts, deeper impulses that we could never admit except in the heat of passion. Yet they reveal so much about us.

The world of Ms Frost’s stories is one of seething chaos that bubbles beneath a Formica surface that is willfully and tiresomely humdrum. Her sense of the “She” pokes holes like a naughty teenager in that surface just to see how we will react, but it is not an exercise in vacant self-indulgence. Ms. Frost is an impudent eroto-anarchist in the grand tradition of American fiction that does not so much support anarchy as it accepts it as a fact of American life. She has not quite come to terms with that paradox. She has not learned the lessons of the master, Elmore Leonard, that one does not tsk and cluck over anarchy, you simply learn to use it. Thus she seems to be shaking a moral finger at us long after she has gone too far as an author to assume some sort of higher moral ground.

Her heroines are often bratty and self-serving, but they are neither saved nor corrected from that condition by some lover with hard thighs. They are often irritated and confused by themselves. They know they are hot stuff. They know how to get what they think they want, but none of it fits together when they get it. They may not have learned how to reflect and organize their thoughts, but they know that just scoring in some vague amorphous game is not enough. On the other hand, however dissatisfied they may be with the world, they know that it is a mess and that’s the way it is. Thus, whatever else, they are not suckers.

Ms. Frost is not the stylist she may one day become. She has not really found her own voice as yet as a writer. On the other hand, she has a truly remarkable ability to hear and create hyperbolic mimicry of the idiot idioms of our time. Whether it is the self-esteemers pushing vacant joy, or the tinsel thin aspirations of the latest Hollywood actress as in Playing Karen Devere, Ms. Frost is a mistress of irony. She captures each crank pop idiom she tackles, from sci-fi to witchcraft to erotica with delicacy and surgical regard. She then uses plot to carry her stories one step further than the reader expects turning them into cautionary tales. In that sense she reminds one of Rod Serling at his best.

Deep Inside: Extreme Erotic Fantasies
(Tor Books; May 29, 2007; ISBN-10: 0765315874)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

Listen to a sample audio clip of Deep Inside at Audible.com

© 2008 Steven Hart and Erotica Revealed. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Sixteen of the Best, edited by Sarah Veitch

I think I’m getting old. I’m getting so old I’m going to repeatedly use the word nowadays. There are lots of reasons for thinking I’m getting old. Nowadays I complain about children and their loud music. I then follow this complaint with some glib comment about how it’s not even music, and then grumble that, nowadays, they don’t write songs like they used.

As the festive seasons approaches I’m going to go around telling young people that, when I was a child, we only used to get an orange and a sock as a standard Christmas present. I might even start talking about gramophone records, even though they were obsolete about a century before I was born. In my attempts to present an image of advanced maturity/senility I’m contemplating incontinence, although I might save this strategy as a surprise for parties, so I won’t let anything else about that subject leak out just yet.

Nowadays, I feel my advancing years with every passing day. The hair that’s left is turning white. Actually, the hair is no longer growing where it’s meant to come from and has started sprouting from curious and more interesting locations. I’m discovering lots of wrinkles in places where they’re not supposed to be and an absence of the damned things where I used to have them. I stand in clothes shops admiring the look of polyester trousers. Most disturbingly, I have even bought a pair of slippers.

Now, to make me feel as though I’m really past it, I have just read Sixteen of the Best. This anthology of CP fiction, edited by Sarah Veitch, is a collection of prize-winning tales from Palmprint’s annual short story competition. The narratives come from a range of raunchy writers who have proved their mastery of the spanking good spanking story.

From Michael Redbrick’s L’Ancien R égime, a clever and considered monologue that will appeal to all CP enthusiasts, through to Hard Times: Sarah Veitch’s own story of penal, punitive pleasures, the quality of these stories is sure to please. Tulsa Brown’s innovative Goddess, a story of male submission to female domination, is a dazzling blend of murder mystery and CP erotica that deserved its high ranking in the Palmprint competition. Jean Roberta’s How Not to Manage Debt, is a tongue in cheek exploration of meting out punishment to those who deserve and desire it.

Sarah Veitch has chosen wisely with these stories, selecting a variety of tales that don’t simply rehash the tired old clichés of, “Oh! You naughty girl! You’ll have to bend over…etc.” Instead, with an insider’s knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, Sarah has put together a collection of outstanding stories that are amusing, entertaining and thoroughly ecxiting.

But, still, the book made me feel old. Sixteen of the Best made me feel old because, instead of pouring over the narrative skills of the various authors, I kept returning to the end of the book. Instead of reading the exciting scenes of punishment and pleasure, I kept returning to Sarah Veitch’s collection of reports from each year’s competition.

This is not meant as an indictment against any of the stories—each short in this anthology deserved its place in the winner’s enclosure and anyone who loves CP fiction will realise this book is a necessary addition for their collection.

And maybe it’s not because I’m growing old. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and seeing how someone with Sarah’s skill makes the judgement on the winning story is of genuine professional interest. Her witty observations on those people who ignore the entry conditions (or deliberately choose to violate them) are wholly entertaining. Her clever method of assessing stories for their originality (or lack of) was fascinating. Her genuine sympathy for all potential writers is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

But I have to see it as a symptom of encroaching senility. During a week when I could have been reading a book that contains such magnificent CP oriented erotica, I was browsing through the editor’s comments on competition judging.

All of which suggests I have certainly gone past my sell-by-date and should package myself off to an old people’s home at my earliest convenience. Although, on reflection, I might just sit awhile and read through Sixteen of the Best once again. After all, you don’t often find stories as good as these nowadays.

Sixteen of the Best edited by Sarah Veitch
(Palmprint Publications; (October 2007; ISBN-10: 0953795357)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Split by Kristina Lloyd

For those of you outside the UK I should start by explaining about Yorkshire. Do you remember the TV show The Twilight Zone?

No. Perhaps that’s the wrong way to begin.

Understand in the first instance that Yorkshire is like no place else on earth. If you want to encounter the UK’s most beautiful countryside and scenery, you must go to Yorkshire. If you want to encounter the bleakest and most hostile barren landscapes, you’ll probably find them in the same spot three hours later. If you want to encounter the warmest and most welcoming natives in the world, you’ll meet them all in Yorkshire. If you want to meet the surliest and most menacing curmudgeons in the universe, then you’ve come to the right place.

I say all of this as a Yorkshireman born and bred and proud of his heritage and home county. I say all of this as someone who has paid homage at Haworth (home of the inimitable Bronte sisters with a bleaker-than-bleak landscape that was the inspiration for Wuthering Heights). I say this as a reader who has just been introduced to the eerie village of Heddlestone in Kristina Lloyd’s Split.

Virgin’s Black Lace imprint is renowned for producing top quality fiction from top quality writers. Split is no exception. The story of Katie, a London librarian who moves to take a job at the puppet museum in this village on the moors, Split is described as a neo-gothic tale of bondage and submission.

But it’s so much more than that.

The puppet museum itself is an unsettling location for the novel. Aside from carrying undertones of childhood expectations dryly preserved for posterity, or manipulated marionettes controlled by barely glimpsed forces, it’s also impossible to escape the always-watching, never-seeing eyes of the museum’s exhibits. Kristina Lloyd’s choice of this location for her novel makes an unsettling background that works perfectly in this most wuthering part of the world.

Jake and Eddie are brothers. Yorkshire brothers. This means that they are as alike as only brothers can be. And they are as diametrically opposite in that way that is peculiar to Yorkshire. One offers comfort. The other gives commands. One is peculiar yet passionate. The other is despicable yet desirable.

Katie is immediately drawn to the Byronic Jake but she is also seduced by the boorishly arrogant Eddie. Her affections are split perfectly between the pair. Split is the hot and chilling tale of what Katie did next.

Kristina Lloyd writes sex with formidable force. The eroticism in this novel is glorious and gratifying without being gratuitous and graphic. Katie tells her own story with a distinctive blend of the impartial and the impassioned. This is a masterpiece of erotic storytelling that, like the village of Heddlestone, draws the reader in and holds them there indefinitely.

As mentioned before, Yorkshire is a land of binary opposites. It’s heavenly and hostile, perfection and purgatory, beautiful and barbaric. It’s the ideal location for this perfect story of puppets and punishment and powerful passion.

Split by Kristina Lloyd
(Virgin Black Lace; January 1, 2008; ISBN-10: 0352341548)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Concertina: An Erotic Memoir of Extravagant Tastes and Extreme Desires by Susan Winemaker

Susan Winemaker describes herself as a “nice Jewish girl from Toronto”. She majored in philosophy and the culinary arts, and presumably because the former would not pay, went to study the latter in London. But as everyone knows, learning to be a chef and being a chef-for-hire is not as lucrative as being a dominatrix, and this is where she turned her talents. In Concertina: An Erotic Memoir of Extravagant Tastes and Extreme Desires(St. Martin’s Press), Winemaker gives an account of her work in a trade of administering discipline and pain to men who think it worth, say, 150 an hour to be treated in such a way. It’s an odd career, although it is one long associated with sexuality, especially in England. It has plenty of peculiar moments and fun which Winemaker enjoys and writes about with amusement; the first sentence of the book is, “It’s 11:25 a.m. and I’m sitting on and suffocating Bernie”. The work is delivering a service for a fee, and is full of day-to-day, practical tasks just to get the job done, as in “At 2:13 I was on my hands and knees, wiping semen off the dungeon floor. At 2:17 I was eating a hummus sandwich in the garden, and answering the telephone to a man who was interested in catheters and other medical procedures. At 2:30 I answered the door to a stranger named Robert …” She was good at her trade, and had plenty of repeat clients handled with just the right degree of pain and remove. When she “blurred the boundaries” between mistress and client and took one on as a lover, the results are more disturbing than anything that happened in her dungeon.

There is plenty of food in the book, and many comparisons made between serving up a meal and serving up domination. When she was in training as a chef, she says, “I was shocked by the belligerence, the bellicosity, and the sheer violence” of the ranting of the head chef. “Hurry up!” he yells, “Sauce on the side! you’ve got the memory of a bloody goldfish.” She is amazed by the abusiveness, and commiserates with one of its targets, but gets the reply, “You kidding? I deserved every bit of it and more. We all did! I couldn’t respect a chef that didn’t whip my ass. He’s one of the best around, and don’t you forget it.” It is just the sort of attitude she would later prize in her clients. A friend advises her, “Treat the kitchen as a psychological study in power and discipline.” There are tools in the kitchen, ramekins and salamanders, and tools of her subsequent trade as well. When she sets up in her dungeon, the owner of the cottage that contains it points out and names all the gear: blindfolds, gags, belts, paddles, whips of horsehair, whips of rubber, crops, birches, and tawses. There was a cast iron chamber like a standing coffin, a leather bench, stocks, and a metal headcage that looked like a birdcage. On a trolley were nipple clamps, thumb traps, weights to be hung on the genitals, and clothes pins. And of course, there are latex gloves, wet wipes, and tissues. Serving up something delicious for the client is part of both trades, and she writes that “pain, violence, discipline and a good grasp of the trade’s tools could produce something succulent and beautiful”.

The woman who introduces her to the new profession says that the money will be good, but money must never be the only motive. “You need to enjoy what you’re doing,” she says, “it makes all the difference. Despite how it appears, you need to like men if you want to do the job and do it well… you need to care for them. You’re there to facilitate their fantasy… You’re playing a role. Don’t let it go to your head. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s a game. It’s a job. Make sure to have fun with it and you’ll be fine.” It is all good advice. She does like the game she plays as Mistress Anna and she likes the men. She had a session with “Enema Larry” who liked her to be in rubber nurse uniform, and afterwards he went to kiss her goodbye on the cheek. “I backed away just in time,” she writes. “I don’t want you to catch my cold, Larry.” The response: “Oh, but, Anna, I want your cold,” he instantly volleyed. It was the kindest thing anyone had said to me in the cottage. A beautiful thing to say. I loved my job for moments like that, for unexpected intimacies born of strange circumstances.” From Bernie, she enjoyed witty repartee and the sense of play. He liked being suffocated by her rubber dress, and although he seldom asked for anything, at one session, he said, “You can go really far with the suffocation this time,” and she knew how to handle the request: “Bernie, you said it, you took the words right out of my mouth because today is the day I’m going to push you like you’ve never been pushed before.” But it was a game; she knew she would thereafter “just carry on as usual.” It is illuminating that when she was preparing for her career, she not only read fetish magazines and rope-tying manuals, but also Stanislavski’s Building a Character and An Actor Prepares. She writes of the accord between her and clients, “There will be no ‘sex’ as it’s understood. It will be my job to administer pain erotically and expertly… a symphony in the background, a range of sensations assailing me, the brief connection, the spice of anonymous intimacy, the distilled concentrated moment. I respond to detail and subtlety, rules, roles, and melody. This is theater, finitude, and utterly otherly experience.” Upon enquiry from her parents, she reports that she is working within an exclusive independent theater in London, and this is a stretched truth rather than a lie; she does not mention if she prepared them for the franker descriptions in her book.

Though she is objective in describing her work, the most open and candid part of Concertina is the troubling account of her relationship with a client with whom she fell in love. In many ways, her job was no different from any other; it was demanding work with a good paycheck, but she realized that she was lonely: “I’m giving and I’m going home to no one.” But Adam was gorgeous and responsive, liking especially the genital application of two score clothespins. Outside the dungeon, they developed an intense, sadomasochistic give and take. There is even (gasp) romantic and passionate normal sex. They aren’t able to abandon domination / submission, however, and the convolutions mount. “The thought of ordering my lover to pleasure me was vulgar. I want him to pleasure me because he wants to, not because he has to, and not because it’s the role he’s playing.” The last straw is that Adam, who says he loves her cooking, admits he accidentally ate a raw chicken cutlet and didn’t notice. Winemaker eventually sees the humor in such a denouement, but the resolution of their relationship is sad and cruel. Never mind; she wants to start up a luxury porridge bar in London, and that is not a euphemism for anything erotic but rather a culinary niche that she thinks is unexplored. It would be a simpler life, and I would trust her to write about it colorfully, recipes included, but I suspect it would not result in a memoir as strange or funny as this one.

Concertina: The Life and Loves of a Dominatrix
(St. Martin’s Press; January 8, 2008; ISBN-10: 0312366728)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Amorous Woman by Donna George Storey

I was musing about erotica recently and realized that all my own novels, as well as most of my favorite work by other authors, could be viewed as stories about journeys. I’m not talking about travel in space. I am referring to an intellectual and emotional exploration, a progression in which characters begin in one psychological place and end up somewhere quite different, changed, more perceptive, perhaps more accepting of themselves, with an improved understanding of their needs and desires. Of course, many mainstream novels can be seen in this light. In erotica, however, the characters’ sexual activities and discoveries are the agents of change.

Donna George Storey’s wonderful first novel AMOROUS WOMAN is an exceptional example. In the case of Lydia, Ms. Storey’s heroine, there is a physical voyage as well, to the fascinating and frustrating culture of contemporary Japan. However, Lydia’s real journey is internal, as she strives to balance her sometimes reckless hunger for new sensations with her need for human connection.

Lydia flies to Kyoto eager to taste all the cultural and sensual delicacies that Japan has to offer. Fluent in Japanese, she finds the country more accessible than it would be to most, but in her relationships with its people, and especially its men, she is repeatedly disappointed. She becomes an English teacher bedding college boys, a dutiful wife to a handsome but overworked salaryman, mistress and companion to a powerful tycoon, an exclusive female escort, a sex performer. The delicate perversity of Japanese sexuality continually attracts her. She aches to be included, but no matter how correct her grammar and how outrageous her sexual behavior, ultimately, she remains the gaijin, the stranger.

Ms. Storey takes us back to meet Lydia in her teens, when she first discovers the power of her sexual imagination. From her worldly older cousin she learns the difference between “good” and “bad” girls; it is abundantly clear which category she belongs to. Her imaginary lover encourages her to be audacious:

“You have become a bad girl since you started listening to your cousin. But of course I’m very glad that you’re taking her advice. The world would be a happier place with more women like her.”

“I’m not sure I have the nerve to do what she said,” I confessed.

“Of course you do. I want you to do it and you don’t want to disappoint me. Why don’t you pick up that brush and press it against your virgin hole?”

With a quivering hand, I reached for the brush and held the rounded end of the handle against my secret lips.

“Very good. I knew you could do it. Now move it in and out slowly. I know you want to open yourself for your lover. And for me.”

This is indeed exactly what I wanted to do. Somehow he always knew just what to make me do, as if he could see desires inside me I didn’t myself understand.

Lydia brings this openness to experience, this willingness to take risks, with her to Japan, where it carries her into adventures and even dangers. What she really craves, though, is to belong.

“What brings you to Japan, Lydia-san?” Dr. Shinohara asked.

The honest answer was that I came because I craved adventure, a life of surprises, a non-stop feast of exotic sensual pleasure, anything but a job in investment banking like most of my college friends. But at this point it was probably better to give the doctor my safe, standard line.

“I came to Kyoto to learn traditional Japanese dance.”

“I see. Do you enjoy wearing kimono?”

Should I tell him the truth now—that it feels unspeakably sexy to wear one and I loved being bound by the column of cloth hobbling my legs and the obi’s snug embrace of my breasts? It probably meant I was a sexual masochist, but I didn’t really want to admit it. More exciting was the promise of transformation through that bondage, the chance to shed my foreign awkwardness for the Japanese dancer’s gliding grace.

“Yes, I do like wearing kimono, but it’s a challenge, too. I have to move my body in a different way, so maybe I can understand, just a little, what it’s like to be Japanese. I think it is the Japanese way, in dance and in life, to transform …” I pulled my English-Japanese dictionary from my book bag and quickly leafed through it for the right word.

“Constriction,” Dr. Matsumoto read out for me.

“To transform constriction into art.”

“Lydia-san understands Japan very well,” Dr. Shinohara said to his friend.

I bowed my head, my cheeks burning with pleasure. I’d not only been seen, but embraced. How could he have known that was my secret fantasy—the fantasy of all true Kyoto gaijin—that our wandering spirits had reconnected us with us with our lost host?

Lydia’s journey takes years. As she delves deeper into Japanese culture as well as her own sexual complexities, she feels more rather than less alien. She begins to take greater risks, flaunting her extravagant sexuality because she can, rather than because she really wants to. Finally, confronted with a man who desires and understands her, whom she probably could love if he weren’t married, she has the courage to stop and examine her behavior and desires, and to choose a new path.

I enjoyed AMOROUS WOMAN more than any erotic novel I’ve read in a long while. Ms. Storey writes with insight and humor. She vividly conveys the sensual experiences of living in a new land.

Each day of my first year in Kyoto brought some wonderful new discovery—a mysterious fox shrine tucked away in a winding alley, the beguiling sweetness of bean jam wrapped in soft rice pastry, a lovely boy bowing nervously as I ushered him into my apartment. Even in the recollection there is magic. The whole year seems to fold in on itself like a dancer’s fan, leaving one perfect day in high summer.

As someone who has made her own voyages of discovery into strange cultures, I strongly identified with Lydia and her lust for new experience, as well as her desire to be a part of the wonders around her.

However, Ms. Storey understands more than just foreign cultures. She is an expert at expressing the complexities of sexual relationships. AMOROUS WOMAN includes both real encounters and some deliciously extreme fantasies that Lydia entertains. I found the real-world scenarios more exciting. Ms. Storey manages to show us Lydia’s doubts, fears and confusion while still keeping the sexual temperature turned up to the maximum.

AMOROUS WOMAN is definitely arousing but it is much more than a light-hearted bedroom romp through Japan. It is a believable and moving tale of one woman’s journey of sexual self-discovery. If you don’t mind some serious content mixed with your sex, I recommend it highly.

Amorous Woman by Donna George Storey
(Orion; August 30, 2007; ISBN-10: 1905619170)
available atAmazon.com / Amazon UK.

© 2007 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

The Lords Of Satyr: Nicholas by Elizabeth Amber

Nicholas Satyr is the eldest of three brothers who run the Satyr vineyards in Tuscany, 1823. Half human, half satyr, the unmarried brothers are dedicated to their sacred duty of growing grapes and protecting the boundary to the faery kingdom of ElseWorld. Everything is fine until they receive notice that the king of Faery is dying, and that he wants the Lords of Satyr to find and marry his three half-human daughters.

Each daughter is in dire peril, though from what the Satyr brothers don’t know. Bound by duty and the need for heirs, the brothers agree to seek out the women and marry them. Nicholas, the eldest, sets out first to find his bride in Rome.

Jane is the daughter of an English lady and is completely unaware of her faery heritage. When Nicholas whisks her away to Tuscany, she finds herself in a frightening dilemma. Jane has certain abilities that allow her to see into the minds of others, whether she wills it or not. Physical contact only makes her abilities stronger, and Jane fears what might happen if Nicholas were to discover what she can do. To complicate matters, she must fulfill her duties as his wife, including his nightly visits to her bed. Those visits are perfunctory at best—Nicholas believes that a wife is only meant for begetting heirs—but they’re enough to make Jane long for something more between husband and wife. The question is, can she convince Nicholas of that, and does she dare risk the consequences?

The book opens with a promising start. Elizabeth Amber does a good job of bringing to life turn-of-the-century Italy, both in the hills of Tuscany and in the bustling society scene of Rome. Such details count in a period piece, especially when it comes to depicting Jane’s plight. As a young woman of noble birth, her fate is almost entirely in the hands of men, including the drunken mortal whom she believes to be her father and the bold and lusty Nicholas who claims her as his bride. Her struggles to gain control over her fate are the heart of the story. To escape her father, she must marry Nicholas. But marriage to someone she does not love and dares not trust has its own hazards. Meanwhile, Nicholas faces similar problems. Not only is Jane ignorant of her faery heritage, she has no idea of his ancestry either. The lusts of a Satyr are far more than any mortal woman can handle, and Nicholas fears that the half-human Jane will reject him if she finds out what he truly is. For most of the story, the two circle warily around each other, trying to keep their secrets while at the same time attempting to discover what the other is hiding. The stakes jump even higher when Jane insists on being the only woman in Nicholas’ life and his bed. She tells him she will perform the duties of both wife and mistress if he will give up all other women. Nicholas agrees, but in return she must perform exactly as his mistresses would. Thus he begins to educate Jane on how to please him best.

What follows are several steamy sexual encounters between Jane and Nicholas that definitely warrant the warning label on the back cover of the book. Of course, the mostly-naked man on the front of the cover is probably more than enough to warrant that warning. Unfortunately, both the cover and the sex inside are only tantalizing teases of what this novel could have been. In the midst of the developing relationship between Jane and Nicholas comes the ambitions of Jane’s licentious aunt, the lady Isabella. Isabella, it turns out, is a maenad—a mortal woman who worships the god Bacchus in drunken sexual revelries. She knows far more about the Satyrs than any mortal should and plans to use Jane to overthrow the Satyrs and take their vineyards for her own. Isabella is delightfully evil, a poisonous bitch who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, but in the end is woefully underused in the story and her motives are never fully explained.

One other plot point is also left dangling. With the death of the king of Faery, prospects of war begin to brew in ElseWorld, but that fact is so rarely mentioned it’s easy to forget amidst everything else going on. In fact, we see nothing of ElseWorld at all beyond the gate that lies on Satyr land. Hopefully, that subplot will be more fully developed in future volumes.

In the end, The Lords of Satyr: Nickolas is a steaming hot romance that could benefit from more seriously developed sub-plots. Read it for the sex and the delightful scenery of Italy, enjoy the escapades of Nicholas and Jane, and hope for more in the coming sequels.

The Lords Of Satyr: Nicholas
(Aphrodisia; August 1, 2007; ISBN-10: 0758220391)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Helen E. H. Madden. All rights reserved.

Love Song of the Dominatrix by Cat Scarlett

It doesn’t take Mistress Dinah two minutes to spot a submissive from afar. So when she sees a beautiful redhead getting a hard time from a drunk during a train journey home, she not only intervenes but persuades the nubile stranger to come home with her. A few hours, however, turn into a weekend and the redhead Grace gets a chance to meet other submissives and even has a go at being a Dominatrix herself. She discovers a whole new life waiting to be explored. And do you know, she’s actually quite good at it. She might have just found her vocation in life.

Of course, that’s not all that’s waiting. To complicate matters, Grace, has a boyfriend named Aidan. Yes, he is worried for her safety, but more worried about what Grace is getting up to. Angry at the way he’s been treated he wants answers, and he wants them now. Only it appears that Grace has disappeared off the face of the earth. That is, until he waits for her at work, and she walks in from her weekend play sessions complete with a new look and an attitude that give Aidan the shock of his life. But, oh, there is so much more he has to learn, I say rather smugly!

Love Song of the Dominatrix is a lovely story about a vanilla girl finding her way through the minefield of kinkiness. I just loved reading how Grace discovered the pleasures of being with another woman for the first time. Deeply touching. As with anyone amidst an evolving relationship, emotions will run high and confusion will cloud minds at times, but it’s how Grace deals with the messy bits, and changes as a person that made this an entertaining fulfilling story. Of course this story is packed with lots of well written smutty bits too. Choosing between the familiar and the fresh and exciting is often hard, as it’s not always the easy route to take. Hopefully you will enjoy this as much as I did, and find out how Grace copes for yourself.

Could Grace ever learn to truly stand up for herself and be the one in control? Lots of girl/girl action with D/s training to whip you up into a frothy frenzy!

Love Song of the Dominatrix by Cat Scarlett
(Virgin Nexus; June 26, 2007; ISBN-10: 0352341068)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

Cuckold by Amber Leigh

The breadth of erotic imagination is truly astonishing. Consider the most ordinary item—a rubber glove or a pair of shoes—or even something unpleasant, painful, or disgusting. I’ll wager that somewhere, there is someone who finds that thing or experience intensely arousing. I’m fond of arguing that sex begins in the mind and that the body is secondary. The huge range of fetish activities in which people engage offers strong support for my argument. It is not the physical reality of the fetishized object or action that arouses; it is the psychic and emotional reactions that have somehow, through history or some native susceptibility, become attached to the fetish.

In CUCKOLD, Amber Leigh deftly illuminates a fairly extreme fetish. Edwin is intelligent, responsible, and hard working. He has a well-paying job, a pleasant and modern home, and a gorgeous, creative wife, Desdemona, whom he loves dearly. Yet he continually feels inadequate. His self-doubt centers particularly on his inability to sexually satisfy Desdemona. He is obsessed by the notion that Des has been unfaithful, even though he has no evidence and she continues to treat him with love and consideration. When he actually discovers a discarded condom wrapper among the kitchen garbage, he sinks into new depths of psychological torment.

It doesn’t take long, however, for Edwin to realize the truth about himself. Though his mental images of Des’ infidelity torture him, they also arouse him to an unbearable level. Desdemona understands this clearly as well. She begins to flaunt her extracurricular activities, sending lewd photos of other men’s cocks in her pussy to Edwin’s cell phone, forcing him to sleep in the guest room while she loudly fucks someone else in the conjugal bedroom next door. Edwin lives in a constant agony of horrified lust. Des gives him outrageous orders, threatening to divorce him if he fails to comply. Losing his cruelly desirable wife is Edwin’s worst fear. He is heroic in his humiliation at her hands.

Ms. Leigh introduces a cast of salacious characters including Edwin’s conceited, well-hung supervisor Jay; Maisie, Jay’s bisexual college girlfriend; Sally, the nasty young submissive who works in the mailroom; and Robin, Edwin’s womanizing brother and owner of the local pub. The dominating Desdemona uses all these people in her campaign to make Edwin into the most miserable and horny cuckold of all time.

Gradually, though, Edwin finds that this new relationship with his beloved wife is oddly satisfying. He is proud of his ability to follow her orders, holding back his own climax until she gives him permission to come. The thrill he experiences watching his wife with other men is exceeded only by the greater excitement of imagining her when he isn’t physically present.

“Edwin didn’t know how he knew, but he felt certain they were both exclaiming as Robin’s cock was torn from Desdemona’s anus. The hole would be left momentarily open, leaving her gaping and wide before the rosebud of her rectum closed itself again. The tiny muscle would look sore and wet. And, he imagined, tremors of sensation continued to tingle through her bowel.

“The perspiration that now soaked him was sufficient to make the sheets stick to his skin. He hadn’t breathed in an age, certain that so much movement would force his climax.

“The bed began to creak again.”

By the end of the novel, Edwin come to the point where he is more than a passive victim of Desdemona’s infidelity. He actively participates in his own degradation by creating new opportunities for her to make him a cuckold. And somehow, this feels like a revelation, a resolution that makes him stronger and happier than ever before.

Ms. Leigh does an impressive job of evoking Edwin’s obsessive personality and exploring the complicated twists of his sexual self. It’s hard to believe that a man would crave the levels of humiliation that he suffers from Desdemona, but nevertheless, Edwin is real and three-dimensional. Desdemona and her coterie of raunchy confederates are somewhat less plausible. The author suggests that at some level Des really does love Edwin, but she is so intensely cruel, especially in denigrating his masculinity, that I was not convinced.

In fact, for me, much of CUCKOLD was more painful than it was arousing. I’ve written my share of female domination, even one cuckold story (“Be Careful What You Wish For”), but Edwin’s case is so extreme that I often couldn’t share his excitement.

Of course, that is the essence of a fetish. What one individual finds unbearably arousing, another will experience as uninteresting or even distasteful. For fans of femdom with a heavy dose of humiliation (like Edwin), CUCKOLD may well be heaven.

Cuckold by Amber Leigh
(Virgin Nexus; November 27, 2007; ISBN-10: 0352341408)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank

A billboard in Baltimore used to read, “Virgin: teach your kids it’s not a dirty word.” That it could be thought of as a dirty word, and that social forces might pay good money to change this concept, illustrate part of the ambivalent feelings our society has toward virgins and virginity. The ambivalence, at many levels, is exhaustively examined in Virgin: The Untouched History(Bloomsbury) by Hanne Blank. An independent historian (with some books of erotica to her credit), Blank says that she was working as a sex educator and wanted to find authoritative sources on virginity. Despite the medical, historic, religious, and social implications of the subject, she found few. “Even though my interests were limited to virginity and virgins in the Western world, it was rapidly becoming obvious to me that if I wanted to read a comprehensive survey of virginity, I was going to have to write it.” Her book is indeed comprehensive, and it is scholarly but far from dry, as she examines the surprisingly complicated topic of what a virgin is, and tries to make sense of why the subject has been on our collective minds for so many centuries.

Just defining what a virgin is is a tough exercise. And it isn’t just a philosophical or verbal one: “It is an exercise in controlling how people behave, feel, and think, and in some cases, whether they live or die.” The lowest common denominator, she finds, is that a virgin is someone who has never had a penis in her vagina. There are plenty of other insertables, but the penis-in-vagina act is the one that counts (and, significantly, men, while they might be “continent” or “celibate” are seldom labeled as being virginal). The Greeks talked about the subject metaphorically and with imprecise terms. When the Christian Doctors of the Church weighed in, they did not exactly make all things clear, with Aquinas stating that virginity was part of the behavior of “chastity” and a particular quality of the virtue of temperance. Augustine said that if a virgin resisted rape, then she was still a virgin after rape. We are still confused on the issue, especially if we regard the always fascinating topic of how adolescents comport themselves sexually. A “technical virgin” may see some sort of virtue in keeping her vagina penis-free while allowing insertion elsewhere or enjoying other sexual athletics, but some would see this as against the spirit of the true definition (whatever that is). The emphasis on a potentially procreative act, rather than any other canoodling, isn’t because of any inherent biological cause, but seems to be due to social factors, like a father’s valuing his daughter’s virginity as a bargaining chip in matrimonial negotiations. Virginity renders paternity knowable; there is no doubt about who the mother of a child is, so fussing about male virginity isn’t part of our cultural history. And as fathers went, so went the society; Deuteronomy makes plain that a woman who can’t show the tokens of virginity (whatever those might be) upon marriage should be stoned by the community, and a new husband who wrongly accuses a father of offering a daughter who is “damaged goods” is fit for a flogging.

Those tokens are folkloric and not scientific. No other animal besides ourselves seems to recognize or value a condition of virginity. Sometimes the explanation given is that humans are the only animals with hymens, but this is not true; lots of mammals have them, and they have hymens that are useful in, say, sealing out water, or only opening up when the female is in estrus. No animal besides ourselves pays the hymen any attention, and this is despite that the human hymen serves no function. Probably our excessive interest in this vestigial membrane comes from our intense interest in virginity and the possibility of being able to search a woman’s body for physical proof of it. Hymens come in all sorts of shapes, and five of them even have names (annular, crescentic, redundant, fimbriated, and septate); one female may go through different shapes at different ages. Hymens can be fragile or resilient, and can be transected if penetrated, but there are no natural laws on the matter: “Not all hymens with complete transections have been penetrated, not all vaginal penetration is sexual, and not all sexual penetration causes a complete transection of the hymen — or indeed any at all.” There is no accurate test for virginity, although many have been proposed, from the supposedly physiological to the downright superstitious. “The simple fact is that short of catching someone in the act of sex, virginity can be neither proven nor disproven. We cannot prove it today, nor have we ever been able to.” Just to show how patriarchal is the interest in such tests, there is always one form of evidence that is universally considered inadmissible in the matter: the woman’s own verbal testimony.

Blank learned early in her research that conversations on virginity were always yanked to the topic of “losing it” and all the jokes and folklore that are connected with (the title of her chapter on the subject) “Opening Night”. The church was interested in promoting chastity, as were the nobles who wanted a smoothly operating society on their lands. But Blank has found nothing to verify the famous “right of the first night” or “right of the lord” that allowed a nobleman to deflower a bride before she went in to her husband. Of course there were sexual abuses of power, but no one anywhere recorded a practice of the lord of the manor taking every virgin on her wedding night. A virgin may bleed on her first night, or she may not, and no one really knows how frequently or why; this topic has been treated with such interest and has caused drollery as well as heartbreak, but we are shockingly ignorant about it. Similarly, no one really knows why sometimes first sex is painful and sometimes not, but pain isn’t all physiological: “It’s not glamorous, it’s not titillating, and in fact it’s downright mundane: studies show that women who have a comprehensive, nonjudgmental sexual education and who develop affirming, self-empowered attitudes about their own sexuality are more likely to report positive experiences when they lose their virginity.”

Comprehensive and nonjudgmental sexual education, however, eludes us in the US. “Of all the countries of the developed world, the United States is the only one that has to date created a federal agenda having specifically to do with the virginity of its citizens.” Our federal government is attempting to establish virginity as the only proper sexual status for its never-married citizens. That young people should abstain from sex is the basis of millions of dollars of federal programs; that they do not abstain, and never have, is obvious but makes no difference to those with a pro-virginity agenda. Usually such agendas come from religious groups. Funding, for instance, goes to a program called Free Teens USA, which is run by people with strong ties to the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The church maintains that any sexual activity outside of marriage is an abomination, and Reverend Moon has advocated that a woman who is threatened with rape ought to kill herself rather than undergo extramarital coitus. Less extreme religious groups may advocate virginity, but the results are poor. Abstinence programs do not reliably lower risky sexual behavior. When the Centers for Disease Control did research into programs that were supposed to reduce such behavior, none of the programs that were successful were centered on abstinence. (Since then, the CDC has discontinued such research and removed the results from its website, and its recommendations for contraception have been replaced by statements of official support for abstinence and abstinence only.) Blank’s book is not a polemic, but her enlightening historical review of western attitudes to virginity would be good reading for anyone making governmental policy about our virgins. It is also a call to remember the long confusion of historical definitions and attitudes, and that “losing one’s virginity” is probably not one physical, emotional, or psychological event, but a process of sexual development that is different for everyone and ought not be oversimplified as one coital act.

Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank
(Bloomsbury USA; March 20, 2007; ISBN-10: 1596910100)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2007 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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