Faewolf by D.M. Atkins & Chris Taylor

When it comes to paranormal fiction, less is more, at least in my opinion. I have little patience with stories in which every character has super powers and any physical law can be suspended in order to twist the plot in the desired direction. I far prefer a fictional world closer to reality. Paranormal stories should begin with a simple premise, a bit of magic or a well-defined special ability, and then explore the implications of that premise in the characters’ lives.

For this reason, I really enjoyed D.M. Atkin’s and Chris Taylor’s M/M paranormal romance Faewolf. The book belongs to the outrageously popular shape shifter sub-genre, but the wolf/man character, Brian Ferris, is no superman. Indeed, he is not really a man at all. He is an intelligent wolf with the ability to take human form. One delight of the book is the skill with which the authors make this point clear.

Brian, or Saoi as his conspecifics named him, struggles to maintain his human facade as a ecology graduate student in order to research the decline of his race, but he is happiest and most comfortable as a wolf. His powers, other than a preternatural ability to heal quickly, are basically those shared by all wolves: keen senses, rapid reflexes, and the ferocity of a predator. On the other hand, he has magical weaknesses, most notably a sensitivity to iron. And he is emotionally vulnerable, almost an outcast, marked by his decision to live apart from his pack in order to pursues his search for knowledge.

Brian inhabits a rustic cabin in the Santa Cruz forest with only the barest of human comforts―basically, his den―and he is shy and awkward when it comes to human relationships. Kiya White Cloud, on the other hand, is a gregarious, openly gay college freshman who falls in lust with Brian the first time he sees the graduate teaching assistant. Kiya is a more realistic character than most M/M romance heroes. Sure, he’s gorgeous and horny, but he is also immature, vain, and somewhat irresponsible. He acts like the nineteen year old he is.

Kiya is half Lakota Sioux. He grew up on a South Dakota reservation and is attending UC Santa Cruz on scholarship. On his own for the first time, he is finally free to explore his attraction to men and his submissive tendencies. Like many young people, he makes some bad choices with regard to partners. When he gets involved with Ted, a handsome but sadistic older student with psychopathic tendencies, Kiya realizes his mistake and tries to extricate himself from the relationship, but Ted will not let him go.

Faewolf follows the conventions of M/M romance. Kiya and Brian are drawn to each other but face obstacles: first, their relative statuses as student and teacher, and later the murderous Ted and a set of even more vicious bounty hunters seeking the magical pelt of a faewolf. As he and Kiya become closer, Brian desperately tries to conceal the secret of his true identity. Kiya, though, comes from a culture in which animals are often bearers of wisdom and magic. It is far easier for him to accept that Saoi and Brian are the same individual than Brian had ever dreamed.

The sex scenes in Faewolf are steamy and tender by turns. Prospective readers should be aware that there are several scenes in which Kiya has sex with Brian in his wolf form. The authors manage to portray this cross-species coupling as simultaneously natural and outrageously transgressive. These scenes are among the best in the book.

I have to mention that the writing in this novel does not seem to be up to Circlet’s usual high standards. There is a distracting overabundance of adverbs. Hardly a page goes by in which some character or other does not “smirk”. However, the stylistic flaws do not detract much from the emotional impact of the story. I suspect that Circlet, eager to enter the popular romance market, might not have subjected Faewolf to editing as rigorous as it deserved.

If you enjoy M/M paranormal romance, but you’re tired of alternative worlds in which every character is the scion of some different magical or cursed race, you’ll find Faewolf a welcome breath of fresh air. I did.

Faewolf by D.M. Atkins & Chris Taylor
(Circlet Press, May 26, 2009; ISBN 0758209819)
Available at: Amazon

© 2009 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce by Hallie Rubenhold

When four years ago Hallie Rubenhold wrote The Covent Garden Ladies, about a catalogue of prostitutes in eighteenth century London, she threw light on a lively and rollicking trade. Now, in The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce(St. Martin’s Press) she has told a story of the unraveling of one particular Georgian marriage, a tale full of gossip, media hype, legal shenanigans, and erotic naughtiness. In other words, she has a story that shows how little times have changed in two centuries, but she has also illuminated the social rules and expectations of that distant time. The public, from the aristocracy to the servants, were all fascinated with the break-up of the marriage of Sir Richard and Lady Seymour Worsley, and they laughed at its ridiculous elements, and they disparaged one partner or the other. Readers of Rubenhold’s detailed and gripping book will be just as amazed and absorbed.

Sir Richard’s father was an alcoholic and a rustic who embarrassed his family, but he insisted on an education for his son, including getting him on the grand tour of Europe. When the son returned in 1772, at age 21, he disgusted people with his affectation of wisdom, but he may well have been trying to make up for his bumbling father. He was so ready to be accepted as an adult that he returned with the intention of marrying in five months time, and so he did. His choice was the seventeen-year-old Seymour Fleming (that peculiar first name for a lady had descended on her from the last name of relatives, the Dukes of Somerset), and all knew the match had advantages for both. It was a classic aristocratic matchmaking: she would get his title and he would get her fortune. His friend the historian Edward Gibbon explained that Sir Richard was compelled by “love and ₤80,000”.

The happy couple, married in 1775, were, according to the scandal sheets of the day, enamored of each other when they were courting, but such affection did not last. Although they conceived a son three months after the marriage, and might have counted on his birth to cement their union, there was no restoration of “the fondness that had first reigned between them.” Having dutifully produced an heir, Sir Richard went on to other interests, chief of which was his political life. He was strongly Tory, and always supported George III; he did this because it helped promote his own wealth and it might have gotten him a peerage. He was apparently ardent in his duties as governmental advisor. His experience on the grand tour had made him interested in antiquities, and he hobnobbed with others of the same interest. Lady Seymour later divulged that he had an inability to perform in the bedroom, and she became interested in her own social set, including George Bisset, a neighbor and Sir Richard’s friend. Bisset and Sir Richard remained friends even though Sir Richard knew of Bisset’s affair with his wife; he even encouraged it. Rubenhold writes, “The situation provided him with the vicarious sexual thrill of observing another man adore his spouse; of watching a lustful interloper covet and enjoy his possession.” Bisset became a lodger at their house. There was a visit to the baths in Maidstone when Sir Richard invited Bisset to climb upon his shoulders so that Bisset might enjoy a peep through a high window at Lady Seymour at her bath. This was a prank that all three enjoyed, and they left the bath together, laughing.

In our day, perhaps the trio might have tried polyamory. In theirs, the growing disaffection between the married couple led Bisset and Lady Seymour to elope in 1781. Sir Richard was furious, and determined that he would have the full justice due to him. It may have been that Lady Seymour thought that she could regain some of her fortune by separation or divorce, but this was never the case; any property the wife had belonged not to her but to the husband. Sir Richard expected, since his former friend Bisset had made off with his wife, that he would easily win in a trial against Bisset for “criminal conversation” or as it came to be known, “crim. con.” This was just a matter of property; Bisset had damaged and taken the property of Sir Richard, and would have to pay. Sir Richard took him to court, and while he might not have expected to get the full ₤20,000 which was the nominal penalty he sought, he surely expected to get a big chunk of it and to get full vengeance by ruining Bisset financially. After all, it was a simple case of adultery.

To Sir Richard’s dismay, the simple case was not so simple. Yes, Bisset had made off with his wife. But Bisset’s lawyers had an unexpected defense: Sir Richard could not have lost very much because Lady Seymour was not very much of a wife. It is not known how much Lady Seymour was in on the planning of this defense, but the worse she looked, the less revenge Sir Richard could take. She did not herself take part in the trial; she was nothing but property, and as Rubenhold archly notes, “No one asked a horse how it felt to be stolen or enquired of a statue why it was broken.” But there was testimony from others that Lady Seymour had taken plenty of lovers, and some (like Bisset) had been welcomed by Sir Richard. What really sealed Bisset’s case was that there was a servant in the baths when Bisset was peeping at Lady Seymour. Forgetting that such servant observers even existed was the privilege of the aristocrats, but Sir Richard was far from the only aristocrat who had his legal fate decided by servant testimony.

After that servant had taken the stand, Sir Richard was a ruined man. The print-sellers delighted in the public clamor for cartoons showing the impotent and behorned (horns were the symbol of the cuckold) Sir Richard hoisting Bisset up for a view, and such cartoons might show also a view of Lady Seymour on display. There was a “brachygrapher” taking notes at the trial, and 48 hours after the verdict, a transcript was available which sold like mad. Even General George Washington included it in his list of supplies he needed from England. To the further amusement of all high and low, the Worsleys squabbled in public, not face to face, but in the press. An Epistle from Lady Worsley to Sir Richard Worsley was a sixteen page poem, in the voice of the lady but written by some anonymous scribe. It detailed Sir Richard’s bedroom incompetence and his meanness. The poem was praised by none other than Doctor Johnson. Sir Richard thereupon himself wrote a poem The Answer of Sir Richard Worsley to the Epistle of Lady Worsley, with his own version of how she had wronged him. There were, in addition, The Memoirs of Sir Finical Whimsy and His Lady, The Genuine Anecdotes and Amorous Adventures of Sir Richard Easy and Lady Wagtail, The Devil Divorced, and The Whore, all of which kept the couple’s bickering in the thoughts of an eager public.

Bisset eventually left Lady Seymour, married another, and wound up with some honor. Lady Seymour removed herself to Paris, where she was entangled in the French Revolution. Upon the death of Sir Richard, she was able to marry and seems to have done so happily. Sir Richard also escaped to the continent, and pursued antiquarian studies, hoping to make his name famous in that sphere instead of infamous as a cuckold. It didn’t work; he even asked for a monument in his church upon his death, and well-meaning admirers erected a sarcophagus to impart some of the gravity with which they felt he should be regarded. But the congregation sniggered because it reminded them of his adventure with a bathtub, and the sniggering went on until 1904, when the tub was dragged to the rear of the church and hidden by a pipe organ. Hallie Rubenhold has rendered a splendid sad and funny tale. As a historian, she has given a well-referenced guide to the mores and atmosphere of the times, and as a storyteller she has made a compelling and entertaining book that is hard to put down.

Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce
(St. Martin’s Press, July 2009; ISBN-10: 0312359942)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales by Mitzi Szereto

Once upon a time, I studied a module on fairy tales.

It was an eye-opening experience. My original thoughts had been that fairy tales were simple stories, written to entertain children, and reinforce stereotypical role-models. At the back of my mind I had a vague idea that fairy stories were filled with handsome and brave (empowered) masculine princes who rescued beautiful and imperilled (disempowered) female princess. It always struck me as an orderly set up because I’m a man and, when you live in a patriarchal hegemony, being a man is probably the best thing to be.

But the module on fairy tales suggested that perhaps this is an unfair representation of societal stereotypes. The lecturers also suggested that these established gender stereotypes were likely acting as inculcated foundations to reinforce beliefs of male empowerment and female disempowerment.

Not all of the module was so heavy and intense. We had a giggle reading the comedy stylings of Andrea Dworkin, and her gag that ‘All sex is rape.’ I also had fun following some of the rather macabre and sinister themes that appeared regularly in fairy stories, such as mutilation, child abandonment and threats of murder.

Fairy stories have been handed down to us from a legacy that is most commonly associated with the writings of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Now, adding to that legacy and returning the stories to the realm of their original adult audience, comes Mitzi Szereto’s collection: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed.

Most readers and writers of erotic fiction will be familiar with the name of Mitzi Szereto. An erotic author in her own right, with the highly regarded M S Valentine titles to her credit, Mitzi is also the renowned anthologist behind such titles as Erotic Travel Tales, Erotic Travel Tales 2 and Foreign Affairs.

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed is Mitzi’s take on the fabled fiction that has influenced most of our childhood reading. Keeping the essence of each original story, but taking the theme to an adult level that better explains the characters’ motives, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed erotically revisits such classic stories as ‘Rapunzel,’ ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ In addition, each story is preceded by Mitzi’s insightful and thought-provoking exploration of each story’s colourful history.

This is a cleverly compiled collection of Mitzi’s personal fiction. The stories are well-told and erotic and the heritage of each makes for its own interesting background that adds a rich colour to the tapestry of the story-telling. Aimed at those who are intellectual enough to care about literary history, and those who are sufficiently free-spirited to enjoy a ribald retelling of classic stories, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed is a have-to-have title for every erotica aficionado’s book shelf.

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales
(Cleis Press; Second Edition; Sept 2009; ISBN 1573443670)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Sexy Little Numbers: Best Women’s Erotica from Black Lace

I’m wearing a black armband as I type this. Technically I should also be wearing a mourning veil. A mourning veil trimmed with Black Lace.

I’m reviewing Sexy Little Numbers Vol 1: Best Women’s Erotica from Black Lace. As anthologies go, this has to be one of the hottest ones to come off the press this year.

The collection begins with Kristina Lloyd’s ‘Rebecca.’ This erotic riff on Daphne Du Maurier’s classic contains Kristina Lloyd’s characteristic twist of explicit erotica, as well as a wealth of intertextual references for the well-read reader. Kristina Lloyd is the author of Darker Than Love, Asking For Trouble and Split. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous Black Lace anthologies as well as innumerable Cleis anthologies, and all the other reputable places where commendable erotic fiction can be found.

‘Fireworks Inside’ is an exquisitely erotic romp from the high-priestess of erotica: Portia Da Costa. It would be tedious to list all Portia’s Black Lace titles. They include Continuum, Entertaining Mr Stone, Gemini Heat, Gothic Heat and Suite Seventeen. The chances are, if you’ve ever read any erotic fiction from Black Lace, it’s very likely you now have a copy of a well-thumbed Portia Da Costa title amongst your collection.

In ‘Hard At Work,’ marvellous Madelynne Ellis explores the dirty dynamics between a secretary and her boss. Madelynne is a a genius writer who can make the mundane seem magnificent. Madelynne is also responsible for the brilliant Black Lace novels Phantasmagoria, Gentleman’s Wager, Dark Designs and Passion of Isis.

Not that this anthology is solely comprised of authors from the Black Lace stable of novelists. The anthology also includes two short stories from American author EllaRegina: ‘The Colonscoper And The Snake Charmeuse,’ and ‘Maiden Voyage.’ EllaRegina is a very talented writer who knows how to weave a tale and how to make the eroticism sparkle.

The anthology also includes the inimitable Rachel Kramer Bussel’s first appearance in Black Lace print with ‘All In The Details’ and ‘The Perfect Distraction.’ Rachel Kramer Bussel’s name will be familiar to anyone who has read erotica. Her collection of reportage, Best Sex Writing 2009, won the Independent Publishers Book Award for Sexuality/Relationships.

With fiction from the ever-efficient pens of Kristina Wright, Janine Ashbless, Charlotte Stein, Justine Elyot, Dianne Dawson, Sadie Wolf, Shayla Kersten, Carrie Williams, Jamaica Layne, Kay Jaybee, K D Grace, Heather Towne, Shada Royce and Delilah Devlin, it is truly an anthology of erotica that deserves to be in every serious collector’s possession.

So, why am I wearing a black armband and lacy black mourning veil?

Well, rumours abound that this will be one of the last anthologies to come from the highly regarded Black Lace stable. The imprint has been suspended for 2010, after sixteen successful years of stellar publications and an influx of outstanding new talent that promised to take Black Lace to a new and exciting level.

If these rumours have any truth in them, then it would be prudent for every connoisseur of erotica to rush out and buy a copy of this testament to one of the truly great imprints of erotic literature.

Sexy Little Numbers:
Best Women’s Erotica from Black Lace

(Virgin Black Lace, 2009; ISBN 0352345381)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Bottoms Up: Spanking Good Stories, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Bottoms Upis the latest spanking anthology from Rachel Kramer Bussel. Regular readers of these reviews will know that I’m a huge fan of RKB. Her anthologies are always stylishly presented and the quality of fiction she selects never fails to satisfy. Rubber Sex, Tasting Herand Spankedhave all got special places on my bookshelf. And now, I’ve squeezed Rachel’s Bottoms Up into that prestigious place on my shelf that is reserved for anthologies of superlative quality.

I could wax lyrical here about the simple stylishness of the cover art. In some ways Bottoms Up looks as though it’s been compiled as a companion collection to sit alongside Rachel’s Spanked. The sleek black background is a void, foregrounding the smooth fleshy contours of a naked feminine rear. The pale flesh is airbrushed to a pristine pink perfection: save for the blushed cheeks which glow crimson against the peach.

I could wax lyrical like that. However, the picture is undoubtedly on display here, so you can just look at that instead of hearing me bang on about it.

As you’d expect from an anthology called Bottoms Up, with a cover that shows a freshly spanked bottom, the core theme of the stories in this anthology is that they each incorporate bottom spanking.

Some might argue that this presents a somewhat limited scope. However, the truth is that the stories here are a wonderfully diverse mix tackling spanking from a myriad different approaches.

Aside from the allure of many familiar names (such as Donna George Storey, Alison Tyler , N T Morley and Jean Roberta) there are also some unfamiliar names in this collection who are competently holding their own in the storytelling stakes.

I have to pause here for a moment and speculate whether or not it’s possible to hold your own whilst spanking. I might get back to that thought later.

Jerry Arthur’s ‘Ass Worship,’ is a raunchy story that is amusing, intelligent and arousing. This is the first time I’ve encountered Jerry’s work and I look forward to reading more from this talented author. Similarly, I hadn’t come across Zille Defeu’s fiction before but ‘Reenactment’ is a cleverly told piece of fiction with a strong focus on character, plot and the all-important spanking content.

For any fan of cheekily chastised cheeks, Bottoms Up is a collection that can’t fail to deliver.

Bottoms Up: Spanking Good Stories
(Cleis Press, 2009; ISBN 157344362X)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

Live Nude Elf by Reverend Jen

Reverend Jen Miller has a long history of doing odd or shocking things. That might be especially peculiar in a reverend, but she (like myself) is legally a minister, via the Universal Life Church, which ordains anyone who asks, and (unlike myself) she uses the “Reverend” title in all she does, and responds to greetings such as “Hi, Rev!” For over a decade, she has hosted a monthly performance show called “Reverend Jen’s Anti-Slam” which is sort of an amateur night for those who want to act weird in front of an audience. For such stars, she founded the Art Star Scene, which has a magazine that takes advantage of the acronym. She curates a Troll Museum in her apartment. She is well known to her fellow New York citizens, but she came to national attention when she took over from Grant Stoddard in writing the “I Did It for Science” columns at Nerve.com. She would do “sexperiments” on assignment, writing up each with a hypothesis, description of the experiment, a statement of results, and a conclusion. She had written for Nerve before, she was done with boyfriends and wanted lots of sex without strings, and she needed the money. Now her book Live Nude Elf: The Sexperiments of Reverend Jen(Soft Skull Press) collects the columns, fills them out with some autobiographical essays about what she was going through before this assignment came along, and in between the monthly columns, and what happened after the last one. The Rev is enthusiastic, charming, and funny. Her reports on her adventures are fun because she obviously had fun with them, and because they are titillating, and because no one else is going to wind up doing all the experimentation to which she has so selflessly submitted herself.

She learned a lot. For instance, she learned how to clean a bathtub. Her first experiment was as a nude housecleaner; she was following a tradition, as this is paid work for certain ladies in New York. “Adorable nude housecleaner,” said her online classified, “will clean your pad spic-and-span for a reasonable fee. Available immediately.” Potential customers wanted to know the rate, and also were interested in having her send a picture, and also wanted to know: “Do you do bathtubs?” She had to ask her friend, “What’s the best way to clean a bathtub?” A perusal of the cleaning supply section of her drugstore got her the appropriate materials, and it turns out she did have to get good ones, because the first guy who replies to her ad says he is concerned “… that because you are going to be naked, you won’t do a good job cleaning my apartment.” This worries her; she writes, “Cleaning, unlike getting naked, is an actual skill I wasn’t sure I had mastered.” She does a good job on her first assignment, drinks a little too much wine with her client, and tries to make out with him, but he is quite the gentleman: “I think it is really cool that my nude housecleaner is coming on to me, but I can’t. You can sleep over if you need to,” but she has to get home to her Chihuahua, Reverend Jen Junior.

Intermingled in her chapters on her experiments are observations on her personal life that didn’t get into the Nerve columns. Her eagerness to try anything played out there, too, as on the rebound she dated a guy who insisted on his celibacy and anyway was “incarcerated in Rikers Island for most of our relationship. Then I moved on to a married man who dumped me for a woman who wasn’t even his wife. Giving up on men, I dated a stunning bisexual woman who turned out to be insane…” Of another guy she says, “I fell for him, mostly because he was the strangest person I had ever met.” She explains that her involvement in the arts scene affected the dating: “Having spent the majority of adulthood surrounded by free-loving artists who can’t afford dates, my relationships have always started in bed.” One gets the idea that she was having a good time through all the dating, but she says, “It didn’t take me long to realize one thing: whoever said things can only get better never dated in New York.” Distress about her social life only made her more busy with her art, her writing, and her Troll Museum, and then the Nerve assignments came along.

For one assignment, she went to fellatio school. “In comparison to my fine arts education, a class in fellatio sounded useful.” She finds a friend in her performance circle who agrees to let her test her newfound skills on him, but exhaustion and inebriation get in the way: “Even though I showed up for class on time and took abundant notes, it wasn’t enough.” After that assignment, she learned about “the wackiest fetish I’d ever heard of: balloons.” And if this isn’t strange enough, there is a dichotomy within the fetishists, between “looners” who were “poppers” and those who were “nonpoppers”, the later getting off from playing with the inflatables and the former enjoying the satisfaction of the ultimate pop. “Well, I’m not really into the popping,” says a man at a balloon fetish party. “Some people are all about the popping. They’re just like, ‘Blow it up and pop it already, damn it!’ But I’m more interested in the sensual aspects of it – the way it feels when it’s inflated. I still like sex, and I still like women. Balloons just add a little something extra.” As part of the show, she volunteered to enter a huge balloon; taking off her clothes beforehand was merely practical, because any zipper, heel, or jewelry could pop the balloon. She climbed in successfully, and writes with wonder about the peacefulness of the womb-like environment. Another partygoer squeezed in, and “We stared at each other like we’d just climbed though a wardrobe and found Narnia… Finally, Michael said, ‘Kiss me, Reverend Jen! We’re in a balloon!’ and we shared a celebratory kiss that no one in the audience was privy to.”

The headmaster of the Princess Reform School teaches, among other things, bondage and sexual submission. “Unlike other reform schools,” The Rev writes, “which are devoted to making bad students good, Princess Reform School is dedicated to making good students bad.” The instruction climaxes in an impressive scene: “I can only imagine how I must have looked: convulsing in orgasm, covered in feathers, tied up with a vibrator pressed to my clit, wearing nothing but a tie and socks. It sort of makes wearing a lampshade on your head at the office holiday party seem acceptable.” To make up for this degeneracy, her next experiment was quite wholesome, a day of simulated motherhood, tending a baby. The Rev does not have a sensation of her biological clock ticking away, but was able to borrow a friend’s baby for the day, and borrow the friend for comprehensive advice. Of the baby, the friend says, “After all, it’s the result of sex,” so it wasn’t too much out of place in the experiments. It turns out that the trick is to occupy the child so you can get everything else done, and The Rev finds that the baby is easily occupied: “After years of performing for disinterested, drunken audiences at open mikes, I found him to be the ideal audience.” She helped out in making a pornographic movie, not as a star but as general factotum. An actress needed her shirt slit in a more alluring fashion, and the director asked The Rev, “Can you run to the store and get some scissors? You’ll get wardrobe credit.” She reflects, “I was excited, though it wasn’t like I’d be getting a wardrobe credit in a Merchant Ivory period piece. I’d be getting credit in a movie where the actors are naked ninety-eight percent of the time.”

There are many assignments here. She tried in one experiment to watch all 96 episodes of “Sex in the City” in a row. She learned to be a stripper. Then there was the time she observed as her lover had relations with a jar of mayonnaise. She experimented with her G-spot. There was also instruction and practice in tantric sex, which she applied with a guy who seemed like her perfect boyfriend and they did indeed achieve a deep and mystical tantric union. Then he dumped her, causing a depression from which she had difficulty emerging. “So I tired to do drugs. A friend gave me a box of pot cookies. I ate one, got the munchies, and ate the rest. Then I thought I was dying and had to call an EMT, who diagnosed me as being ‘really stoned.'” There are good jokes on every page here, accounts of very strange fun, and even when things are depressing or degrading, a delightful sense of adventure and optimism, and a loving devotion to the odd characters to whom she introduces us.

Live Nude Elf
(Soft Skull Press, 2009; ISBN-10: 1593762445)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures, edited by Sacchi Green & Rakelle Valencia

Cowboys loom large in the American mythos, possibly because they were the first post-Civil War image of who we were. Like the heroes of epic poems and sagas, the cowboy stands alone to fight the good fight, upholds a code of honor like a knight of the Round Table, and is a paragon to the Puritan work ethic. As mythos, he exemplifies the virtues we admire. As a woman, the cowboy also fearlessly embraces the freedom the frontier offers.

“Freedom Rides” by Radclyffe is a strong opener for this anthology. The doctor working the medical tent has her eye on a woman who works the rodeo circuit. When the woman comes in with an injury, the doctor has a hard time keeping a professional distance. Luckily for us, she doesn’t, and the following shower scene is delicious reading.

I had the pleasure of hearing Andrea Dale read “Queens Up” at the In The Flesh LA reading. She didn’t have time to read the entire story, so I was looking forward to finishing it. The old west and poker games go hand in hand. The stakes are high as lovers fight not only to save the family ranch, but to stay together in a time when men held all the cards. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Reading a lot of any genre can lead to burn-out. I see a set-up, and can usually predict the ending. Rakelle Valencia deserves special mention for her story “Fucking With the Farrier,” which took my expectations and tossed them aside for something much hotter.

Anywhere there’s livestock and wide open spaces there are cowboys, although they go by different names. Cheyenne Blue’s “Cully’s Run” is set in the Bogong High Plains in south eastern Australia. The descendant of mountain cattleman is confronted by an ecotourist for trespassing in a National Park. Anyone in the U.S. who is aware of the battles between environmentalists and ranchers who have historically used public lands will get the gist of this argument even if the vocabulary is Australian. If you like a fight then fuck story, this one will appeal to you.

While strangers giving into passion is a staple of erotic stories, I like stories about long-time lovers. “Bareback” by DeJay got me at an emotional level as well as the erotic. While waiting for a mare to foal, lovers reminisce about their history of getting caught, or almost caught, making love outdoors. They’ve been together in the barn before, but this story shows how a lover who knows you well can still surprise you.

I don’t often comment on book covers, but Cleis got this one so right that it deserves to be mentioned. How can anyone look at that picture and not want to get her hands on it? Or slide her thumb over a certain crease? If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. This may be the first time the cover of an erotica anthology actually turned me on.

The stories in Lesbian Cowboys range from historical to contemporary, and from a dairy farm back east to Australia. Some tales are romantic; other touch on BDSM (not that the two are mutually exclusive). With contributions from Cecelia Tan, Delilah Devlin, Jean Roberta, Roxy Katt, Craig Sorenson, Jove Belle, Charlotte Dare, Elazarus Wills, Teresa Wymore, and Sacchi Green, in addition to the ones mentioned above, there wasn’t a single poorly written story in this anthology. That’s an incredible feat. It’s also a genuine pleasure to read.

Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures
(Cleis Press, 2009; ISBN-10: 1573443611)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Kathleen Bradean. All rights reserved.

Like a Thorn: An Anthology of BDSM Fairy Tales, Edited by Cecilia Tan and Sarah Desautels

The term “fairy tale ending” has come to signify a happily-ever-after resolution in which the protagonists’ dreams are fulfilled. The original versions of classic fairy tales, however, did not necessarily offer such perfect conclusions. Today’s kids have grown up with Disneyfied interpretations of Cinderella, Snow White, the Little Mermaid, and Hansel and Gretel, light and airy, where even the villains sing. The stories offered by the Brothers Grimm, on the other hand, were, in fact, frequently—grim. Blood, pain, terror, curses, and above all, ambiguity, characterized these tales, which derived from the ancestral memories of villagers in the gloomy forests of old Europe. The prince might succeed in his quest, but something was always lost on the journey. The heroine might not waken from her hundred year sleep.

In Like a Thorn, editors Cecilia Tan and Sarah Desautels try to tap into the darkness at the heart of many fairy tales. In these stories, the “darkness” results from the more or less perverse desires of the characters. I’m not entirely happy with the equation between BDSM and darkness, but the five authors represented in this book all succeed in integrating a storyline of dominance and submission into the plot of familiar fairy stories. Sometimes the result is a clever romp, an old classic with a naughty twist. In a few cases, the stories cut deeper, exposing desires as twisted as the thorn bushes that overran the walls of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The most exquisite and disturbing tale in the collection is Shanna Germain’s “Skin Deep”, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In this version, Belle is as gorgeous as required but is also a cruel sadist who delights in torturing the gentle, refined Beast. Despite himself, the Beast hungers for her torments, although she repeatedly taunts him, threatening to leave him to the nice young girl who will eventually fall into his clutches and turn him into a pretty, bland, boring Prince.

They say I went willingly, and that part is true. It wasn’t for the rose, or even for the beast though―after all, I hadn’t met him yet. Would I have gone if I’d known what awaited me? Oh yes. Oh yes.

But I went for the stem, the thorns. Strong as a lash, sharp as claws. I bent the long stem of it over and over in my hands, closed my palms on their curved points until they pierced my flesh.

Oh, yes, I went willingly. Wantingly. Wantonly. A thorn in each hand.

Another clouded and moving story is “The Last Mistress of the Chatelaine”, a BDSM version of Bluebeard by Kieran Wyn Dewhurst. A plain village maiden is sent to wed a rich nobleman, his seventh wife in as many years. Sophie is not much to look at, but she is clever and bold, by her own admission. She falls in love with her gruff, mostly absent husband and manages to resist the temptation to open the forbidden door that has been the downfall of her predecessors. Then she gives her lord the punishment he craves and allows him to expiate his guilt.

It is a strange thing to look down upon a wretch, a murderer, a drunkard, a heretic, and feel sympathy… yet I do. I do not understand what has taken place here, only that it is certainly not of God’s doing; but to be prevented from confession, from taking Communion, from grace itself does not seem holy to me either.

So vulnerable now, my proud Lord, on his knees in horseshit and straw. I am keenly aware of his need for atonement, and also of my own dark delight at his suffering, both for it and for want of it.

I kneel to face him, pushing the acrid bowl to the side, and place my hands over his.
“Husband. Look at me.”

He lifts his heavy head. I do not see a monster. I see a once-strong man burdened by his own sins, as are all humans. How cruel to make him carry them, unlightened, through his lifetime! His eyes plead with me, wet and aching, for release. My fingers tighten over his; I am filled with resolve, compassion, power… and something less noble.

I will give him what he needs. I will take what I want.

The other three stories in the anthology offer somewhat lighter fare. The brightest is “The Princess and the Peony” by Mercy Loomis. Ms Loomis gives us a princess in thrall to her dominant ladies maid, who has hatched a plot to marry her to a gay prince. In “Cinder Feet”, by Mari Ness, Cinderella is the devoted slave of her ravishing step-mother, who allows her to dance at the ball but calls her home by midnight. Cinderella rebels and marries the prince who comes to woo her, only to regret the decision for the rest of her days. Sunny Moraine’s “That Wicked Witchcraft” turns Hansel and Gretel into Han and Greta, teenaged drifters who are caught stealing the witch’s stereo. Circe the witch lures them into some pervy sexual adventures, and invites them to stay with her in her house in the woods. Greta , though tempted, declines—but her relationship to the formerly uncomplicated Hans has changed forever.

The stories in this collection more or less fulfill the promise of the introduction. They are original, well-crafted, and varied. All are laced with at least a bit of darkness. My biggest criticism of this collection is that it is too short. This is the second Circlet mini-anthology that I’ve read, and I gather that the publisher has released a number of others in the same format, with just five or six tales, under one hundred pages. Perhaps shorter works sell better in the e-publishing domain. I don’t mind reading a novella at that length. However, I prefer anthologies that offer a wider range of authors, topics and tones. Like a Thorn succeeds in its objectives, but it was over far too quickly. If Circlet can assemble five stories of this quality on this fascinating theme, I suspect that they could have managed ten, fifteen or twenty just as easily. That would have left me far more satisfied.

Like a Thorn: An Anthology of BDSM Fairy Tales
(Circlet Press, 2009)
Available atAmazon

© 2009 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

A Slip of the Lip: A Collection of Kisses, edited by Remittance Girl

This absolutely free collection of twenty-one stories about kisses, [A Slip of the Lip] all under 1,000 words, is a must-read. Here are sweet kisses, sour kisses, kisses that promise more intense sensual delights to come, and kisses meant to end a relationship from which the magic has ebbed away.

As the editor, Remittance Girl, says in her introduction:

“In erotic fiction, the kiss is too often described in passing on the way to more overtly sexual acts. This collection of kisses grew out of a challenge thrown down in the ‘Writers’ section of the Erotica Readers and Writers mail list: write the best, most innovative and original description of a kiss.”

A remarkable number of these short pieces look self-contained in the way that an acorn is a self-contained object that has potential to grow into a mighty oak tree. In several pieces, the kiss is an event or a goal in itself.

In Bob Buckley’s bittersweet story, “Goodbye Kiss,” a young man has recently learned that the girl who drives him crazy regards him as a close friend and nothing more. Both of them are in a cabin in the woods with a posse of friends, and he realizes that he must leave at dawn – but first, he can’t resist kissing her as she lies sleeping: “Her lips part, perfect cupid’s bows. I lean over and press my lips ever so slightly, a brush of moth’s wings, to hers.” This is the way that the Greek god Cupid is described kissing his innocent human bride Psyche in the dark. In Buckley’s story, the male narrator has no hope of changing the girl’s feelings, so he drives away. And the kiss they once shared will linger in his memory.

Several other stories deal with more complicated situations: adulterous attraction (sometimes across a generation gap), same-sex attraction (in an era when this was highly taboo), smoldering attraction laced with the bitterness of a lover scorned.

In “At His Mercy” by tCj a.k.a. Pillow Talk, the female narrator believes that she and her male companion are “friends with benefits.” She claims: “he was the friend that held her after every hard breakup,” so she consents to a friendly kiss. But the experience is so much more that she expected: “Her mind whirled as the kiss deepened, and his arms drifted, one up to her shoulder, the other down to her ass.” By the end of this brief story, the relationship – like the kiss – has deepened.

In the more bizarre “You Must Remember This” by Don Roper, a woman is persuaded by her Dominant boyfriend to kiss an anonymous pair of lips that appear at a hole in a wall: “She stared at the lips framed by the hole. They were drooling, dripping with their own saliva and hers, mingled together. Suddenly she was afraid the lips might speak, and she couldn’t bear that. It would break the spell to hear a voice. What she felt was too deep for words.” It seems that lips, as well as the kisses they impart, can seem completely self-contained.

In the whimsical “The Fuse Box” by Cervo, the male narrator finds the mysteries of electricity to be parallel to the mysteries of intimacy – and especially to the taste of a kiss.

In the amusing “Physical Attraction: A Scientific Kiss” by Fiona MacLaren, the attraction between two people is described thus: “The distance between them closed, neither knowing who initiated the movement. Electricity arced between them like impulses between synapses.”

“I Kissed a Girl” by Laura Thorne and “Sugar High” by Allison Wonderland both capture the spirit of adventure in the Katy Perry song, “I Kissed a Girl.” In Thorne’s story, a woman seduces another woman with a kiss, and in Wonderland’s story, a nameless (apparently ungendered) narrator thinks: “I wonder if I can get a sugar high just from kissing her.”

Riccardo Berra has several stories in this collection, all high-voltage. In “Screen Kiss,” a woman understands the significance of kissing in old Hollywood movies: “She’d never understood and assumed they [movie stars] were just acting. Kisses. Who knew?”

In “Last Kiss” by Angela Caperton, an aging showgirl who strutted her stuff on a stage in the 1920s remembers sharing a magical kiss with Annie, her fellow-dancer, who seems to have come back for her:

“‘Are you death?’ she asked, her heart tripping, skipping, failing the last steps of the long number.

‘No.’ Annie shook her head. ‘Remember me,’ she whispered and stroked Goldie’s thin white hair.”

“What the Moon Saw” by Shoe the Pixie is a remarkably concise historical fantasy about a daring highwayman who intercepts a carriage and rescues a young lady from her loveless engagement by kissing her. “At the Faire” by Tyna Culbertson is a fantasy-within-a-fantasy about a parallel oral seduction at a Renaissance Festival.

The editor has the last word. “Once Bitten” by Remittance Girl is an edgy tale of intense, seemingly irrational attraction between strangers at a rock concert. The narrator’s friend Lizzie is concerned: “She wrapped an arm around my neck and yelled into my ear, ‘Who is that guy? Do you know him?’

“I glanced back, to ask his name, but he was gone.”

Some of the best experiences are short-lived, so check out this collection while it is available. And enjoy the relevant photographs that illustrate, or at least decorate, every story. The pictures are as expressive as the words.

Printed-out, this collection makes an excellent picture-book, the kind that is excellent for giving. You might even get a kiss in return.

A Slip of the Lip
(ERWA-RG Publishing, September 2009; Free ebook)
Available Free (yes, free!) at: Slip of the Lip

© 2009 Jean Roberta. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Oysters & Chocolate: All New Erotic Stories of Every Flavor by Jordan LaRousse & Samantha Sade

Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade, the editors of the lovely online erotica magazine Oysters & Chocolate, have compiled a print edition of twenty delicious tales of erotica. The subtitle of the collection is All New Erotic Stories of Every Flavor and to satisfy that requirement, the stories are divided into four clever categories: Vanilla (sweet and romantic), Dirty Martini (sex with a twist), Licorice Whips (BDSM) and Oysters (lesbian). This erotic “menu” provides a banquet of decadent delights for the reader. The anthology runs the gamut from tantalizing vignettes to richly detailed character driven stories for a satisfying four-course meal to please the most discriminating reader.

Humor and longing mesh quite nicely in Terry Pray’s “His Desk,” a romantic story of unrequited work place lust which opens the collection. It contrasts nicely with “Human” by Jeremy Edwards, which approaches the topic from the masculine perspective. The theme of lust and longing threads its way throughout the anthology with the protagonist in Jordana Winters’ “Please, Sir” taking matters into her own hands to get what she wants from her best male friend.

Aimee Herman’s quirky but sexy “In the Dentist’s Chair” provides an amusing glimpse into one woman’s dental fantasy while “Abroad” by Chelsea Comeau is a slice of life scene that rings true in both the emotions and the sex. “Cherries” by Alice Sturdivant is a sensual treat combining food and masturbation for a stunning combination you can almost taste.

Neve Black’s “Rusty Nail” delves into the psychology of BDSM as the protagonist goes from academic researcher to enthusiastic participant. In “The Sound of Revenge” by Gwen Masters, the demise of a bad relationship leads to vengeful closure and sexual fulfillment for the protagonist. “Daisy: The Cook, The Housekeeper, and the Maid” by Kay Jaybee has a Victorian feel with naughty kitchen escapades using all manner of utensils—and vegetables.

Two stories in particular stand out for their memorable characterizations. Callie Byrne’s “His Belt” demonstrates the passion and jealousy to be found in a committed relationship. Byrne builds the sexual tension to a satisfying crescendo that leaves the reader feeling like the voyeur at the keyhole. “Mars With Mars and Venus” by Alana Noel Voth is a raw, poignant scene of three strangers who become lovers, friends and soul mates in the course of one long night. Beautifully written, this is the kind of emotionally charged story that raises the bar for erotica.

All of the stories in this collection deserve recognition for being sensual, well-written gems of erotic fiction. It’s clear the pieces were chosen to complement each other and that attention to detail makes for a well-rounded — and thoroughly delightful — collection. This is erotica to tease your mind as well as your naughty bits and the editors have done an excellent job of selecting works that represent the very best in literary erotica.

Oysters & Chocolate: All New Erotic Stories of Every Flavor
(NAL Trade, May 2009); ISBN-10: 0451226828)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Kristina Wright. All rights reserved.

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