By Date

By Book Author / Editor

Book Reviews

Fire: Short Stories by Lisabet Sarai


In his introduction to Lisabet Sarai’s Fire, an anthology of erotic short stories, M. Christian begins: What makes an erotic story a good story? What makes the average extraordinary? What makes the “so-so” into “wow?”

The “wow” factor is very much in evidence with this collection of highly charged, erotic writing. This anthology is a perfect showcase for Lisabet Sarai’s reputation as an accomplished novelist and short story writer who has previously been appeared in many prestigious anthologies including Maxim Jakubowski’s The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica Tristan Taormino’s Best Lesbian Erotica 2004, and Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z.

Her often lyrical touch gives the reader those two desired qualities in erotic fiction; a good story well told combined with descriptive, erotic prose. Her timing is finely tuned, her attention to detail is convincing, powerful, as she delicately exposes the often complicated sense of humanity’s sexual foibles.

Contrary to the stereotypical view of erotic fiction, many of these stories have a darker side, a touch of irony and absolute realism that enhances the sexual elements. But what is compelling about these stories is the lighter, sparking surface that reveals the warmth, the consistent joy at the heart of her prose.

“Fire”, the eponymous opening story, reveals just how adept Lisabet is at capturing the darker side of humanity but at the same time making her characters sympathetic. Fire tells the story of an arsonist; “It’s just a harmless little quirk. That’s what I’ve always told myself.” who gets his sexual thrills from setting fire to derelict buildings. There is, inevitably, unforeseen consequences to his predilection:

I didn’t move, though. I just watched her, watched her wounded flesh rise and fall with her shallow breath. I felt very strange. The lust was bubbling in my veins again, though the flames in the barn had begun to subside. I had bathed in the fire tonight, I realised, just as I had always dreamed, the raw patches on my flesh were the marks of the fire’s kiss.

The woman moaned and shifted uneasy. Her eyes still closed, she licked her cracked lips. On impulse, I leaned over her and brushed my own against hers. My partner, my victim.”

The story makes for uncomfortable reading in places, as it should do. It is bold, exciting, masterfully told. Lisabet has an enviable knack of making her characters so believable. It’s as though she inhabits them, breathes fire into them, yet we never shy away from them, they fascinate and delight us. We see our own reflections in them, our own desires, weaknesses.

My favourite and in my opinion, Lisabet’s masterpiece, is “Making Memory”, which tells the tale of Nicole, stranded for the night in a strange town, who shares lodging and ultimately the bed, of another woman, Maggie. But how she tells it! Both women share a common bond in that the significant men in their lives have been taken from them. Their sense of loss provides the catalyst for their lovemaking. Unlike other more explicit pieces, Lisabet draws a finely made veil over their lovemaking:

She smelled of fresh bread, flowers and the sea. Her skin was velvety soft, warm and welcoming as clean sheets dried in the sun. I shivered when she touched me, all my senses newly wakened as if from a long sleep. She moaned when I touched her, half animal, half human, arching upward, offering all to me.

I will not recite the litanies of our lust, her tongue, my fingers, our breasts pressed together, hearts beating in synchrony.

There’s not many erotic writers who can get away with such tantalising glimpses and still manage to arouse the reader. Lisabet accomplishes this because she creates powerful characters we can relate with, and her use of sexual tension is incredibly defined. But the variety and tone varies greatly. She never adopts the same approach to erotica. The range of her technique and word use is extensive so each story, each sexual encounter is fresh, vivid, compelling. Some stories are raunchy, rollicking porn; “Crowd Pleaser”, “Quiet Evening At Home” to name two. Others are more reflective; “Butterfly”, “Communion”. There are noir pieces, including the book’s centrepiece: “Bangkok Noir”. A sense of menace crawls across the pages of this dark tale as you turn them, and there’s a darkness to it that compliments the eroticism and keeps the reader in suspense until the end.

Nothing is quite as it first seems with these stories. The plots frequently twist and turn, and the characters, more often than not, aren’t quite who you expect them to be. If there is a recurrent theme to Fire, alongside the undercurrents of BDSM that feature in many, it is that there are few concrete realities in Lisabet’s writing. “Very few of us are pure tops or bottoms,” says Margot in “Détente”, a story about a woman who shares her life with her vanilla husband and her Dom Master. Even the vampires in “Prey”, are not what they seem. Here too, a playful hint of BDSM hinted at in the narrative:

“I would prefer to consider them as pets or perhaps toys,” says the vampire. “We do, indeed, discard them when we become bored.”

And further on, having had their feast for the evening, the vampire couple quell their other appetites:

We begin to move together. Her sex is cool as the moon, wet as rain. It sends sweet chills down my spine. I am silk and steel inside her. We are a well-lubricated machine, stroking and twisting in an intricate, precise rhythm. I hold her to my chest with all my strength, arching myself up into her, my knowledge of her responses almost an instinct after our centuries together. Likewise, she does not need to think as the ripples around my cock, generating waves of sensation that start in my belly and radiate to all my extremities.

Her hair hangs in my face, fragrant with the scent of gardenias. He nipples graze my lips before she teasingly pulls them away. We climb together the well-worn path to pleasure to that plateau where we both hover, washed in mutual delight.

Needless to say, Lisabet finds her own, unique take on these vampiric beings and puts a haunting sting in the tale, which is both tragic and beautiful.

Lisabet writes intelligently, teasing, beautifully, and outrageously, but never without insight: “So, here I am. The older woman, The woman who remembers. Yes, I remember, I swear, remember what life was like, what sex was like, before the plague,” she writes in “Before The Plague”, a letter to the reader that allegorically is not just about the dangers of promiscuous sex, but a well-timed warning about the pernicious governmental crack-downs aimed at the erotic industry:

I’m a woman of my times, But I hope I can make you forget all that, I want you to relax, to trust in me, to let me give you a glimpse, a taste of what pleasure was like before the plague.

Because, so help me, if someone doesn’t know, and remember We’re doomed. Or might as well be.”

Truly, this is one of the best collections of modern erotica I’ve read. Frank, carnal and exquisite, it will not disappoint the reader who is eager for the new, the unexpected, and above all, unforgettable sexual fantasy. I highly recommend it.

Fire: Short Stories by Lisabet Sarai
(Blue Moon Books; ISBN 1562014749)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 Gary Russell. All rights reserved.

Books in the Spotlight

Single Syllable Steve Single Syllable Steve
Seducing the hunky bouncer

Twisted Sheets Twisted Sheets

Unearthly Delights Unearthly Delights
Hot paranormal erotica

By Date

By Book Author / Editor

Book Reviews

Pin It on Pinterest