Best Women’s Erotica is an annual anthology offered by Cleis Press. For the past several years, the editor has been Violet Blue. I believe this will be her last BWE. While the strength of this series may be partially due to the occasional change in editorial vision, I’ve enjoyed Violet Blue’s years at the helm. If this is indeed her last BWE, she’s chosen to go out on a high note.
In a Best Of anthology, you’d expect every story to be well written, and Best Women’s Erotica 09 delivers on that promise. So the stories that work for you are going to be the ones that speak to your desires. Lucky for you, there’s a wide range of fantasies covered here – finding joy in her body, pleasuring his, taking control or giving it up, forbidden fruit, and role playing.
“On Loan” by Lauren Wright and “Fast Car, Not For Sale” by Trixie Fontaine are at opposite ends of the forbidden fruit spectrum. In “On Loan,” the woman goes to a hotel room for a tryst set up by her husband. The man waiting for her turns out to be her father’s best friend. Wright handles the reality of the awkward situation believably, and then lets the characters use that to make the fantasy even more forbidden and tasty. In “Fast Car, Not For Sale,” the character seduces a barely legal boy with the assurance of a woman who can handle turbo-charged power.
“Switch” by Vanessa Vaughn is a sweet, hot look at gender play. At home, gender roles often reflect tradition rather than the contemporary mores of society, and Vaughn uses this to her advantage.
Exhibitionists and voyeurs will enjoy Elizabeth Coldwell’s “Live Bed Show,” “Waiting for the River”by Kris Adams, and “Decorations” by Sommer Marsden.
If power exchange is your thing, “Lucky” by Xan West, “The Bitch In His Head” by Janne Lewis, “Good Pony” by Scarlett French, “The Girl Next Door” by Kay Jaybee, or the “Secret History of Lust” by Donna George Storey will fulfill that need.
And for those looking for just some good, hot, sweaty sex, “Snug Designs” by D.L. King, “Cardio” by Elisa Garcia, and “What If” by Cheyenne Blue are a good place to start.One of the things that impressed me most about this anthology is how varied women’s expressions of desire have become. Sometimes I wonder if we’re daring to have wilder fantasies, or just getting bolder about sharing them. I think it’s the latter. Somewhere in this anthology, you’re bound to find a story that either grabs you by the libido or gently strokes it to wakefulness. Either way, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
Those of you who are familiar with Lisabet Sarai’s writing won’t need to read any further. Exposure is a very good book – another example of how a talented author can make the erotic genre work effectively – and well worth the time and money it takes to purchase and enjoy. Go out and buy it.
For the rest of you who aren’t familiar with Lisabet’s writing – what the hell is wrong with you? Why aren’t you familiar with Lisabet’s writing?
Lisabet is a doyen of erotic fiction. For anyone who wants to enjoy a guaranteed good read in erotic fiction: pick up one of Lisabet’s titles. The same advice goes to anyone who wants to know how erotic fiction should be written: pick up one of Lisabet’s titles. The lady knows how to tell a gripping story, make it saucy and keep the pace cruising along at Ferrari-speed.
Exposure is Lisabet’s latest title and it tells the well-crafted story of Stella Xanathakeos, a 28 year old stripper who finds herself wrapped up in the political intrigue of a murder mystery. The story is exciting and compelling, the characters are strong, likeable and credible and the sex is powerfully arousing.
In many ways a murder mystery shares a lot in common with a typical striptease. As one layer after another is removed, a little more is revealed but the audience remains hungry to see even more and they won’t be satisfied until everything has been wholly and totally exposed.
Lisabet manages this authorial trick with typical aplomb, setting the story up so that the reader is presented with a Stella–eye view of reality. The intrigue of the murder mystery is cleverly executed because Stella’s understandable paranoia allows the reader to have doubts about so many of the characters as they struggle – alongside Stella – to work out who are the heroes and who are the villains.
This device also allows the reader a chance to experience Stella’s passionate involvement in the story as she is driven by her high-octane libido from one gloriously steamy encounter to the next and then the next. Stella has a voracious appetite and Exposure gives her the chance to enjoy a lot of life’s most satisfying pleasures before it reaches its fulfilling climax.
A lot of editors have told me that they don’t like seeing sex and death mixed together in erotic fiction. I disagree with this arbitrary attitude. I’ve written graveyard sex scenes and found, as long as the hero doesn’t go into the cemetery with a shovel to find a partner, the two themes can usually work quite well together.
One of the many things I enjoyed about this title was Stella – the heroine. Stella is an eminently likeable character. She knows that her profession is frowned on by most people but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her work and taking as much pleasure from it as she can. She tries her best not to take her stage show too far but, when she gets caught up in the moment, Stella knows the best way to keep her audience coming back for more.
I think it’s fair to say that the world Stella lives in is ruled by men, and the majority of women in Stella’s world are mere commodities owned by the ruling hegemony. Yet, despite the dual ideologies of patriarchy and money-is-power that control her universe, Stella lives by her own code. Her attitude toward life is a remarkably refreshing and honest approach.
All-in-all, Lisabet’s story is a fast-paced action-packed adventure that’s filled with lots of erotic encounters and a plot that twists and turns with the skilful limberness of a well-practiced exotic dancer. Stella’s appetite is not only voracious – it’s also eclectic. Stella slips between the sheets with men and women, always ensuring that she squeezes as much fun from each encounter as her well-toned muscles will allow.
In short – buy the book. It’s bloody well written and a bloody good read.Editors Note: This title is due to be released February 9, 2009
Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex is an excellent anthology of short stories edited for Cleis Press by Alison Tyler. The book revels in hot, quick sex. Erotica is particularly suited to short forms because brevity can build a real sense of anticipation that would grow flaccid at greater length; witness Elspeth Potter’s “Unlimited Minutes” at not quite half a page.
In fact, shorter is usually better for most erotica because the author can avoid those mechanical sexual descriptions that are so often interchangeable from one work to the next. These descriptions present techno-matic sex. They neither set up the reader for any real titillation, nor are they exciting in themselves. Such descriptions are often excruciating searches for sufficiently exotic modifiers to make the penetration seem piquant even when it isn’t.
Whether erotica that is simply fucking is enough for you, would seem a matter of personal inclination. I require more and this book delivers. Sometimes the pleasure of a fuck is its seedy location such as in D. L. King’s dank Brooklyn bar in “Hard Wet Silk.” Or it is a moment in time as in Casey Ferguson’s “Field of (Day)dreams” that makes a dalliance sublime. It seems to me that to be interesting as a subject for fiction, fucking needs to contain some element of play as one finds in Tara Alton’s brief but tasty “Mute Witness.”
Otherwise fucking is very like mowing grass. It is a good, hot, and even potentially productive exercise. You make a lot of unusual noise, and probably sweat a lot. It’s satisfying when done. But then you are ready to take a shower, have a cold beer, and think about something less exhausting. You certainly don’t need to read about it. Then again, being put on sexual hold can be a form of grinding but exquisite erotic torment as is the case in “Waiting” by Jen Cross.
In your twenties -- when you hardly know what is happening during sex -- much less remember much of it after it’s over, a book that gives you the details of what you just did might be both illuminating and get you ready for round two, or even three. After thirty, you are supposed to know what you are doing, and you should by then have developed an entertaining line of patter to go with your “moves.” By forty, most of us are contented with our own little depravities and enjoy them fully, as is the case in Carl Hose’s “Her Room” where the hero is cheerfully up to no good.
Frenzy suffers only occasionally from techno-matic sex. When the short forms are used with éclat and real severity, they are bright and entertaining gems of understatement that create a much larger and more lush sense of authentic pleasure precisely because they excite by inference. The obvious comparison is well-executed haiku, which leave the subtle imprint of nature in a few syllables. Like Haiku, Nikki Magennis’s “Sweets” which makes short, but thorough, work of the erotic potential in sucrose.
Short forms make it impossible to hide literary flaws and stylistic laziness. They can be used to encrypt a deeper message so that what is really a very complex statement about the human experience, looks like a simple joke. During the Soviet era, virtually all political humor in Eastern Europe was buried in sexual jokes. Dirty jokes fit bad government when it is hard to tell who is fucking whom, and who is actually getting paid for what. “Appetite” by Shanna Germain captures the pleasures of post-modern excess as the heroine embraces a new obsession with sex for her previous lust for carbs. Such an excess of riches in a starving world, eh?I don’t think it is going too far to say that the unflinching directness of Frenzy, as a product of the Bush era, shows that urgent search for balance between graphic “truth” and the galling lies of constant misdirection from the media, industry and government. I site here Ann Rosenquist Fee’s “Cock Lobster” as an example. However, if that is true of Frenzy, it is ghost effect. Frenzy is primarily about fucking, and it is very good at sticking to the point.
When I agreed to review Tasting Him: Oral Sex Stories, I had some serious reservations. How could a collection of twenty-plus stories with such a narrow theme sustain any level of interest? And wouldn’t a focus on a single, physical sex act – fellatio – tend to move the content away from the psychological and emotional explorations that I view as the essence of erotica toward more superficial presentations reminiscent of bad porn?
I am pleased to report that my concerns were largely unfounded. Rachel Kramer Bussel has succeeded in assembling a surprisingly varied collection of tales that feature cocksucking but focus less on the activity itself than on the reactions of the characters involved.
Most of the tales involve a woman going down on a man. However the volume also offers Radclyffe’s exuberant “Blessed Benediction,” in which a drop-dead-gorgeous femme demonstrates (in public) how she can make her tough butch lover cream by sucking her strap-on. This story, perhaps more than any other, illustrates my oft repeated claim that arousal begins in the mind. Simon Sheppard is uncharacteristically cheerful but sly and entertaining as usual in “It’s a Wonderful Blow Job,” about a gay man who’s especially turned on fellating a married man. The protagonist in T. Hitman’s “Long Relief” is ultra-straight, a baseball player on tour, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying a blow job from one of his team mates. Lori Selke turns the tables in “Cocksucker,” with a submissive male who begs to suck his girlfriend’s artificial dick. Shanna Germain takes the switch one step further in “Sculpted;” her heroine’s strap-on is an actual replica of her lover’s cock.
All of the stories in Tasting Him are on the light side – no deep conflicts, no secrets, no scars – but there’s a pleasing variation in tone and point of view. Tsaurah Litzky’s wonderful “Tony Tempo” is told in the wry voice of a former jazz great who is suffering through his golden years in the Crescendo Home for Aged and Indigent Musicians, treated like a child by the nurses but still dreaming of his deceased wife’s blow jobs. “This Just In” by Heidi Champa, gives us a second-person account of a woman living out her fantasy of sucking her commentator husband under the desk while he reads the news. Editors often reject second-person accounts as amateurish, but the perspective works in this story. “Getting Used to It,” by Tenille Brown, is a folksy third-person narrative featuring the very ordinary Herbert Miller, his wife Evelyn, and their next door neighbor Minnie, along with brisket, pot roast, peppermints, and of course, blow jobs.
My unquestioned favorite tale in this collection is Alison Tyler’s “Prego.” Although the protagonists are a long-established couple, it still manages to be outrageously spontaneous and intensely erotic.
Even our most vanilla activities tend to involve accoutrements such as rubber dishwashing gloves, velvet blindfolds and Wesson oil. So I suppose I shouldn’t have found it odd at all to walk through the swinging doors of our kitchen and discover Jackson fucking the jar of spaghetti sauce.
But I did.
Both find him, and find it odd.
As it turns out, the sauce in question is the last jar in the cupboard, intended for the pasta about to be served to the dinner guests currently assembled in the next room. It hardly matters; the lure of Jackson’s tomato-marinated cock is irresistible.
Craig J. Sorensen’s “Equanimity Unbound” was another stand-out, mostly because I empathized with the uptight, workaholic main character. Fortunately, the Goth beauty he meets at the Tshirt and novelty store in the mall knows how to loosen him up. Then there’s the original and intelligent “A Treatise on Human Nature”, by Robert Peregrine, where the bisexual male narrator undertakes to fulfill his recently-encountered companion’s request that he teach her “how to give head like a man”.Overall, I found Tasting Him frequently entertaining and occasionally arousing. Against significant odds, Ms. Bussel has managed to put together a collection that is varied and satisfying enough to make the reader want to swallow the whole thing.
In this hilarious erotic murder mystery set in the 1920s, Edward "Mitch" Mitchell, medical doctor and amateur sleuth, rides a fast train from Edinburgh to London to visit an old "friend" (ahem). Despite the highly illegal status of homosexuality at the time, Mitch finds plenty of willing men on the train. He rescues Bertrand, a Belgian youth in distress who has a charming accent and no ticket. After Bertrand has gratefully offered his favors to Mitch, both men meet Sir Francis, who prefers to be called “Frankie,” an aristocratic poof in the entourage of two stars of the silent screen.
Later, Mitch discusses Frankie with Bertrand:
’Charming. And generous too. He offered you a job.’
‘That, we shall see.’
‘And I think he would like to fuck you, too.’
‘Also that, we shall see.’
‘Ever had two men at the same time, Bertrand? Up that neat little ass?’
‘Oh, Mitch,’ he said, in a way that could easily have meant yes or no.’
Being under constant threat of illicit invasion was never this sexy.
This thick novel is full of references to straighter (in every sense) mysteries. Writer and editor Richard Labonte calls it “a send-up of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.” Bertrand’s amusing accent resembles that of Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Although Mitch is an American living in Scotland with a local lover, he is more reminiscent of the English amateur detectives Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey than of their hardboiled American counterparts.
The eccentricity or campiness of characters in earlier English mysteries has been translated by James Lear into evidence of gayness. In the world of this novel, there isn’t a man who couldn’t be seduced by another man. Lesbianism seems to exist on a completely different planet, and the only evidence of heterosexuality is the presence of several children fathered by married men who sneak away from their wives for a taste of cock whenever possible.
The author’s presentation of this world could easily have seemed insulting to the reader, but it doesn’t. The author’s witty manipulation of the conventions of the porn novel and those of the murder mystery lets the reader in on the joke.
Like the surrealistic world of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this world has its own logic. How likely is it that every man on the train, including the engineer and the stoker, would have an irresistible desire for other men? To those who have recently “come out” into a sexual community which is largely hidden from the social “mainstream,” potential fellow-travelers seem to appear everywhere. How likely is it that bum-fucking (with and without lubrication) would be almost universal? Those who prefer certain sexual activities often assume that anyone who won’t openly admit having the same taste is an innocent who needs to be educated.
The general atmosphere of lust is parallel to the general atmosphere of suspicion. Just as every man on the train has a sexual interest in the other men, every person has a motive to kill the unfortunate victim or to frame someone else for his murder.
Blackmail (described this way in this novel – the current legal term is “extortion”) abounds in a culture in which widespread sexual activities are both unspeakable in polite company and illegal. However, it is not always easy to guess who is the paying victim and who is the financial exploiter. Blackmail, like any addiction, requires more cash than the victim is likely to earn from a legitimate job, hence it usually leads to other illegal activities.
As in any good thriller, the web of corruption is much wider than it first appears. As Mitch discovers, the case involves the movie business, the Royal Family and the British Fascist Party, represented on the train by old Lady Antonia, who snaps orders at her drab female companion, and who regards unscheduled jolts, stops and reversals as signs that British efficiency has been subverted by creeping Communism.
Lady Antonia seems as paranoid as the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, but could it really be coincidental that the train jolts to a stop more than once before the body is found in a lavatory? And why does the train need to reverse into a tunnel after being stopped in a tunnel, in total darkness? And why does one of the male passengers emerge from the darkness smelling of lemons instead of semen?
The murder in a murder mystery is usually just the catalyst for an investigation, but this one also appeals to the reader’s compassion. The man who is killed on the train is really just a pawn for those on the trail of secrets that the powerful want permanently buried, and he leaves a distraught lover behind.
Mitch applies both logic and intuition to the evidence he has, and he must keep discarding earlier theories as new evidence comes to light. When the train arrives in London after several hours’ delay, Mitch despairs of finding a thread through the maze once all the other passengers have scattered. As it turns out, there is much to discover in London, including a seedy and secretive “men’s club,” where orgies take place and inconvenient witnesses may be held and used against their will.
The fledgling movie business of the time is a successor to the disreputable stage, but the intrepid Mitch doesn’t hesitate to visit the office of the British-American Film company, where he finds himself surrounded by aspiring actors:
The waiting room was full, both of people and of smoke. Three young women and four young men were reading magazines and sharing cigarettes; as soon as I appeared in the doorway, the stream of gossip stopped and seven pairs of eyes were fixed on me. Four of those pairs were heavily outlined in kohl, at least three heads of hair had been bleached and hennaed, and it was impossible to discern who was wearing which scent, as the room was heavy with the stuff.
Mitch learns that the only way to get past the waiting room is to audition for a “blue movie,” the studio’s bread-and-butter compensation for more expensive “mainstream” flops. Mitch discovers less about those involved in the murder than he hoped, but he thoroughly enjoys the temporary role of a male-on-male porn star.
After wrapping up the mystery and bringing the villains to justice, Mitch advises his (ahem) “friend” from Cambridge to avoid trouble by staying in the closet. Mitch himself thinks: “This time tomorrow, barring any further adventures on the train home, we [Mitch and his live-in lover] would be reunited.” In the meanwhile, however, Mitch and his “friend” lock eyes, and Mitch’s cock rises again.The novel thus ends with a promise that Mitch will continue to have adventures of various kinds, potentially for the rest of the author’s life. Mitch first appeared in a previous novel, The Back Passage, and the series could continue in volume after volume. For readers who like a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a hot, dark, intimate enclosure, these books contain the right amount of suspense and satisfaction.