Within erotic fiction, the genre is constantly struggling against the restrictions imposed by societal taboos. The three classic taboos in the genre are: incest, bestiality and underage relationships. There are other taboos. Non-consensual sex is a no-no. Scatological sex is unwelcomed by most publishers (certainly, as written material, I’m not sure what most publishers get up to in the privacy of their own boardrooms). Necrophilia comes under the heading of ‘illegal activities.’ The list could go on. And it does.
And I mention it here because I’ve known publishers refuse fairy tale stories because, thematically, the idea broaches dangerous territory between adult material and that aimed for a younger audience.
This is, of course, all bullshit.
It’s bullshit for several reasons. If no one ever wrote about incest we would never have had a story like Wuthering Heights. If no one touched on bestiality or necrophilia the concept behind the Twilight novels would be dead in the water. If we all adhered to the strict rule regarding non-consensual sex, it would be near-on impossible to write a BDSM story of reluctant submission.
And, when publishers have told me that ‘fairy stories are for children, and erotica is for adults,’ I have bristled with righteous indignation at the stupidity of that notion.
Historically, fairy stories are NOT for children. Fairy tales are an integral part of our history of storytelling. Stories have been in existence since before we began to learn to write or read. The oral tradition of narratives (oral, as in spoken – not oral as in the fun way) has been an integral part of our literary heritage. Camp elders would sit around tribal fires, mesmerizing audiences with stories that broached fantastic subjects and reinforced important moral and philosophical points. These were the original fairy stories and they were never intended for children.
Unfortunately, some publishers are too stupid to be aware of this distinction. Fortunately, Spice Books and Alison Tyler seem to understand that fairy tales have always been intended for adults.
Not that Alison Tyler is alone in this understanding. She’s managed to find more than two-dozen authors who share her kinky sense of fun. In Alison’s Wonderland there are twenty-seven scintillating stories of fairy-tale shenanigans to set your red shoes tapping and make you wonder what might happen if you go down to the woods today.
It should be noted here that, in excess of 100,000 words, Alison’s Wonderland is the largest collection of erotic stories that Alison Tyler has ever published. It should also be noted that this one, possibly more than any other, contains some of the most celebrated names in the world of erotic fiction.
The collection opens with Nikki Magennis’s “The Red Shoes (Redux).” Nikki Magennis is the author of Circus Excite and The New Rakes, and far too many short stories for me to list here. “The Red Shoes (Redux)” is characteristic of her style for making the commonplace uncommonly sexy, and delivering sultry, poetic prose.
This is quickly followed by Shanna Germain’s “Fools Gold”: a clever riff on the old story of “Rumpelstiltskin,” and Sommer Marsden’s witty re-imagining of a classic story with “The Three Billys.” Germain writes raw sex appeal that consistently excites and satisfies. Marsden excels at blending humour and hedonism in this contemporary revisit to classical territory. Both authors contribute to the superb quality of this collection and make it easy to brand the book as unputdownable.
The fairy queen in Portia Da Costa’s “Unveiling His Muse” reminds us that Da Costa has always had a command of short fiction despite her recent years producing novels. In “Unveiling His Muse” she combines narrative and sexual tension to an incredible erotic effect.
And, in “Managers and Mermen,” Donna George Storey (author of Amorous Woman and innumerable erotic shorts) shows that she possesses an unrivalled mastery of erotic fantasy.
This collection is a have-to-have anthology for every connoisseur of erotic fiction. The table of contents reads like a who’s who of contemporary erotic writing and the quality of the stories in unsurpassable. If you don’t already own Alison’s Wonderland, rush out and buy the book now. This is one that you’re going to treasure for a long, long time as you enjoy your happily ever afters.
This is the second compilation of stories from five years of the annual Best Women's Erotica series. Considering the flood of story submissions that are sent to the editor each year, and the number of published stories that found their way into all the volumes from 2006 through 2010, choosing stories for Best of Best Women's Erotica 2 must have been a challenge.
In general, these stories are polished and effective in delivering sexual frisson in a variety of styles. However, this reviewer prefers two editors to one for anthologies like this: a series editor for continuity and a consulting editor for a different viewpoint. Two heads together would have interpreted “best” less subjectively.
The anthology opens with "Animals" by Rachel Kramer Bussel. In this story, the female narrator tells the man in her life that she wants to be treated like an animal. He responds beyond her expectations:
With just his bare hands, he became an animal for me, one who wouldn't take no for an answer because he didn't even speak any language, let alone English. He became exactly what I hadn't known I needed until then, his paws digging at me, burrowing deep inside, stretching not only my pussy but my boundaries as he bit and dug and pinched and thrust.
This story sets the tone for the collection, which is not exactly leather or noir but is beyond sweet romance. Kathleen Bradean's story, "Chill," is one of the more extreme fantasies here, since it focuses on necrophilia. (Luckily, no characters are actually killed in this story.) It is told by a female narrator who wants to be the succulent corpse herself, if only temporarily.
"Call Me" by Kristina Wright and "Voice of an Angel" by Teresa Noelle Roberts are both about the erotic appeal of the human voice. In "Call Me," a woman who thinks she is making an "obscene call" to her boyfriend learns that she is seducing a stranger. The mutual attraction between her and her "wrong number" seems likely to create complications in her formerly monogamous relationship.
In "Voice of an Angel," the female character is a costume designer who must design perfectly-fitting breeches for a male opera singer, a countertenor with the kind of high but powerful voice that used to be characteristic of castrati, singers who were mutilated as young boys to prevent their voices from deepening. Despite stereotyped assumptions about men with high voices, Daniel the singer is attracted to Jessie, the costume designer who must touch him during fittings. While she is thrilled by his sexual attention, she can't reach the release she wants until he sings for her.
The fine-art theme continues in "Just Watch Me, Rodin" by Cate Robertson, in which an artist pushes his model further and further for his art, and she shows him that she can deliver all that he could want. In "Amy" by Heidi Champa, a Dominant man torments his former lover by sending her DVDs that record the submission of other women.
In "Rear Window" by Scarlett French, (a reference to the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock thriller by the same name) a woman who has just moved into a new city apartment is inspired by the sight of two men in another apartment. Apparently they are tricks, not established lovers, and the thrill of discovery extends to the witness, or voyeuse. In "The Upper Hand" by Saskia Walker, an older woman discovers that a group of young college-age lads has been spying on her, and she resolves to make them pay.
On the theme of voyeurism, or one-sided fantasizing, "Another Assignation with Charles Bonnet" takes a woman's fascination with a man she doesn't know to the ultimate extreme. She is determined to find him again by his smell alone, and she succeeds.
On the theme of literary or cultural allusion, "Fly" by Valerie Alexander is a brilliantly sexual interpretation of that classic children's story, Peter Pan. In this version, Peter is an irresponsible boy who kidnaps the virginal Wendy from her bedroom, watched by Tiger Lily, a completely different kind of girl, the one he has overlooked. By kidnapping Wendy, (who really doesn't mind) Tiger Lily is able to lure Peter into a confrontation. The magic trick of "flying" in the original story takes on another meaning:
What I want, she [Tiger Lily] thinks, is to fly. And then it's happening, his cock pushes into the initial tightness of her pussy, demanding and inexorable yet torturously slow.. . Already she's beginning to throb as they start to thrust, his heat and his hardness driving her up and up into blinding wet bliss, and then they're really fucking, faster and faster until at last Tiger Lily is flying.
Erotic punishment is predictable in a collection like this. "Becky" by Kay Jaybee is a classic BDSM fantasy about an office where female employees are spanked by their male boss. "Penalty Fare" by Jacqueline Applebee is a more unusual story about a rushed, clandestine encounter on a train, the female passenger's penalty for boarding without a ticket. "Cruising" by Lee Cairney is an atmospheric story about anonymous sex in the dark woods where a woman is not supposed to invade the local gay-male "cruising" area.
My least favorite story (based strictly on personal taste) is "Heat" by Elizabeth Coldwell. If "Becky" is a fun fantasy about erotic pain and humiliation on the job, Coldwell's story is a grittier and more realistic version. In this story, the narrator is working in a pub during an unusually hot summer. In the absence of the easy-going owner, a hardass manager arrives and immediately warns the two barmaids that he will not tolerate any slacking off, and he will be watching them. As the heat and the tension mount, they both come to hate his contemptuous scrutiny, yet the narrator can't help wishing he would fuck her. When she gets her wish, nothing changes between them. He is still the boss, and he makes it clear that he doesn't consider her special. He doesn't give her any promises (or contact information) before he leaves, yet afterward, she seeks him out in all the places where he might be working. Urggh. This story is all too believable, and this is a tribute to the author's descriptive skill.
Another story that disappoints, although it is effective in its own way, is the mysterious "Lost at Sea" by "Peony." The narrator begins with questions:
Has it been that long? The clocks and the calendars are conspiring once again. Surely not? Have I been wandering, trapped in this haze, paralyzed by the thought of you? What day is it?
None of these questions are really answered as she seems to be submerged in an altered state of consciousness brought on by sexual surrender to an unnamed "you."
In general, this volume is guaranteed to appeal to fans of the series. Besides the stories mentioned, it includes work by Alison Tyler, Donna George Storey and Kristina Lloyd, among others. The passion can almost be tasted.
When I was young, I read every fairy tale and folk tale I could find in the library. I loved the Chinese version of "Beauty and the Beast" where the “beast” was a stove. Is it the stories or the Russian folk art in the illustrated versions that make Russian folk tales so wonderful? My favorite movement from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky is "Hut on Fowl’s Legs" ("The Hut of Baba Yaga"). "Fox Spirits," "The Snow Queen," even "Nag and Nagina" from Rikki Tiki Tavi were favorite companions to curl up with. So you’d think I’m a natural audience for erotica fairy tales. I’m not. “Ye Old Tymey” language makes me cringe, and it’s rare that someone produces a story that strikes the right feel of a folk tale and is able to balance it with the erotic element. Right now, you’re probably expecting a negative review, but there’s a lot to like in Fairy Tale Lust. If you have the same reservations I did, you might also be pleasantly surprised.
Craig Sorenson is on his way to becoming a recognized name in erotica, with good reason. His Ugly Duckling tale, "Duckling," is a wonderful tale of a woman “of a certain age” who might not have become a swan, but she finally sees that she’s a hot duck.
I’ll admit that I have a tiny bit of a boot fetish, so Louisa Harte’s "Ellie and the Shoemaker" was bound to appeal to me. I loved how horny Elle was, and how comfortable she was with that. If you dislike the traditional wilting princess who does nothing, here’s a heroine who goes out and gets what she wants.
You’ll recognize "Sleep Tight" by Janine Ashbless as a Sleeping Beauty tale, but you won’t expect the ending. I sure didn’t see it coming. That’s all I’ll say. Nicely executed.
Shanna Germain delves into the traditional, dark side of Celtic fairy mythology in "Her Hair is a Net, Woven." Allison Wonderland’s "Mind Your Peas and Qs" was deftly funny. We all need a fairy godmother like Saskia Walker’s in "All in a Day's Work." I'm not sure that Charlotte Stein’s "The Return" is truly a fairy tale, but it’s nicely told, and has a happily ever after ending that even I liked.
So the verdict is Thumbs Up. I wasn’t prepared to like this anthology as much as I did, but I’m glad I read it. With contributions from Delilah Devlin, Andrea Dale, Justine Elyot, Alegra Verde, Kristina Wright, Jeremy Edwards, Aurelia T Evans, Carol Hassler, Alana Noel Voth, Michelle Augello-Page, and A.D.R. Forte, you’re bound to find a gem or two, and no trolls. I promise.
When I was in high school, “fast girl” was a barely polite term for a slut—a girl who'd do anything with anyone, at any time. Unlike “slut,” however, the term carried a hint of admiration. Fast girls didn't worry about their reputations, at least not when that conflicted with their pleasure. Fast girls were brave and bold. They went places and did things that the more timid, good girls, might only dream about.
Rachel Kramer Bussel's collection Fast Girls pays tribute to this image of the girl (or woman) who is not afraid to defy convention in the quest for her own satisfaction. The theme is evocative without being too constraining. The stories that Ms. Bussel has assembled take a variety of perspectives on the concept of “fast.” Some authors, like Jennifer Peters in “Confessions of a Kinky Shopaholic” or Kayla Perrin in “Temptation,” give us women who are willing to act on attraction to a stranger. Others—Jacqueline Applebee in “Five-Minute Porn Star,” Tenille Brown in “Speed Bumps,” Charlotte Stein in “Married Life”—show that it's possible to be “fast” in the context of a committed relationship or even a marriage. Angela Caperton's “Playing the Market” and Rachel Kramer Bussel's “Whore Complex” explore the forbidden allure of playing the prostitute. Kristina Wright, on the other hand, creates a heroine who gets her kicks playing on the right side of the law in “Chasing Danger.”
The Table of Contents includes many familiar names, and practically every story is worth reading. I thought I'd mention my personal favorites.
Tristan Taormino's “Winter, Summer,” the only lesbian tale in the anthology, is an exquisite tale of a bar pick-up that turns out to be much more. The unnamed femme narrator tells us at the start that her motto is Get close enough to get off. No closer. Yet the dominant butch who claims her manages to break through her frosty shell.
It was as if she had diligently studied my body and knew all its curves and tender spots by heart, like she knew the pool table: hands gliding, stroking, pressing until my soft flesh relaxed into warmth and wetness underneath her, ready to go into whatever deep pocket she was pushing me. She pulled back from me and stood studying my body with her acute, extreme eyes. Her concentration and the quietness that surrounded us were terrifying. Electric.
Stunningly beautiful and lewdly intense, this is the story that will stay with me the longest.
Another exceptional contribution is D.L. King's femdom fantasy “Let's Dance.” I have to admit that one reason I loved this tale was the fact that I know D.L. King personally—and this is a very personal story. The narrator, an author of erotica, notices a cute guy dancing, discovers (through some first-hand exploration) that the boy's genitalia are shaved, and decides (with his enthusiastic agreement) to take him home, tie him up and flog him. The scene in Eve's loft is explicit and arousing, but what sets this story apart is the humorous, natural dialogue and the way it shows off Eve's fast girl attitude.
Once in the cab, I said, “Hey, Cute Boy, who shaved your boy parts?”
A blush began at the top of his ears and traveled to his cheeks. “Uh, I did,” he said.
“What made you decide to do something like that?” The blush spread to his forehead and neck simultaneously, and he looked at the floor of the cab. “Aw, c'mon, you can tell me.” I rested my hand on the inside of his thigh and gave him a good-natured squeeze. […]
“Well, see, I was reading this book...and the guy in it—I guess it was a dirty book...” He looked out the window at the Manhattan Bridge. “Where do you live?”
“Brooklyn. Go on.” […]
“Don't worry about it. It's not a foreign country,” I said.
A third tale that touched me is the breathtaking D/s saga “Lessons, Slow and Painful” by Tess Danesi. The terrifying sincerity of the heroine's submissiveness struck a deep chord. Ms. Danesi takes the “fast” in the anthology title literally. Her master punishes her for taking shortcuts, doing things too quickly.
“Beg me to cut you, Tess,” he whispers darkly. “Beg me, bitch.”
I don't hesitate. I can't pretend I don't want this. “Do it, Dar. Do it. Go on and just do it,” I reply.
“And you expect me to do it hurriedly, Tess? I don't think so,” he says, accompanied by a cruel little laugh that chills me.
And lest visitors to Erotica Revealed wonder why all my favorite stories appear to involve BDSM, let me also mention Donna George Storey's lively and intelligent “Waxing Eloquent.” The narrator, house sitting at her brother's Manhattan Beach condo and trying to break up for good with her married professor lover, ends up falling into bed with the television actor who lives next door. She decides to get her pussy waxed in order to have the full L.A. experience (“I guess in L.A. a woman is supposed to look like Barbie with her clothes off, too.”) and discovers that the reported heightened sensitivity of a bare pubis is only the beginning.
As I ride him, slowly, then faster, I realize I am much more sensitive down there. It’s as if my time on the salon table was a kind of rough foreplay, priming me for his cock. Cody’s wiry curls chafe my tender lips, and I feel as if I’m straddling not just him, but a knife’s edge—one side is pleasure, the other sweet pain.
Okay, there's that familiar pleasure/pain dichotomy, but I swear, this story does not involve any bondage or discipline!
Cherry Bomb's brief but eloquent contribution “That Girl” seems to sum up the entire collection.
I’m a promiscuous girl…only not the way you think. Oh, I know what they say about me. I hear them back home, clamoring in judgment, their whispers. They don’t even wait until my back is turned anymore. I know what they think of me, which is why the second that you show any interest in me, any desire to get to know me, they will come to you with the same words on their lips:
“Watch out for her. She’s dangerous.”
And I guess I am. What else would you call someone like me? Someone so emotionally reckless, a dangerous fuck. I am the girl that wants everyone and everything, the girl with the uncontrollable lust and insatiable hunger.
--This is what it means, to be a fast girl. But it's not as simple as it sounds, as the authors in this collection demonstrate.
Rachel Kramer Bussel has what is likely to be another success on her hands with Fast Girls. For its variety, intensity and quality of writing, I have to give the collection two thumbs up.
Spark My Moment is the odd title of a collection of stories by the redoubtable Jeremy Edwards who, seems to me, is a master of erotica for the male reader, though I am sure women would enjoy this book too. It is a collection of stories, as the title suggests, about the moment when an erotic impulse catches flame.
Sometimes Edwards goes on to describe the ensuing fire in these stories, but at times he very successfully leaves us with no more than a paragraph or two as the whole story. What makes these stories so successful is their unapologetic zest for his subject and for the maleness of his perspective.
Yes, his characters are unabashedly aroused by particular female body parts like bottoms and breasts. Yes, their minds tend to boggle at the endless pleasure to be had in the caress and curve of panties as they snug up to the female nether regions. Yes, he does not idealize female beauty the way that women and the fashion industry tend to do. He wants women built, as nature usually makes them, rounded and ripe, not wan and anorexic.
Even better are his male characters from whose perspective most of these stories are told. They are not losers, nor are they beefcake. They are not lunk-head frat boys or heroes of the gridiron. They are the second stringers of the male sex, the guys like most of us, who keep things going in the world. This book’s for you, to paraphrase the old beer ad, and there is precious little of this sort of writing in erotica.
You might start off with this book thinking it is upscale porn, but then you see that these guys really like sex, they are not just obsessed with it. What’s more, they really like women as people, friends, and companions as well as lovers. That is in my experience, non-existent in porn where women either drool a lot or are battery powered.
Another scintillating feature of this book is that all of these men have a real voice, and it sounds like an actual guy. Some of them are even highly articulate if not poetic, while others are mannered and stuffy in the way of academics (a world Mr. Edwards seems to know well). All of them are enthusiastically horny in the way that men are, and why the hell not?
Mr. Edwards is often having a laugh at that phenomenon, and I think most men will find their own sexual compulsions pretty well catalogued here. However, unlike the latest summer frat flick, he is not sneering at that as a weakness or blind addiction. He is revealing his sense of exuberance about life from the male point of view.
Another very appealing part of this book is that in Spark My Moment, short stories are authentically short. They are not ideas for novels that have been boiled down and still born, as is often the case with erotica. That does not mean that they are not complete within themselves with a narrative arc and nicely developed characters.
Part of the charm of this book is that he allows his characters a measure of self-doubt and uncertainty. Often they are lead to the bed of pleasure by more sure and confident female hands, which is at once, a way to make a story charming, and a fantasy that many men harbor all their lives. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be fussed over? Who doesn’t want at times to be the center of attention and the object of desire? No one, of course, even among men who find that attention makes them feel awkward when it is first lavished upon them.
As I’ve said, the title of the book seems odd to me. Yes, it does indeed deal with the spark at the key moment of arousal. Mr. Edwards is very good at finding that in the tiny nooks and crannies of human behavior. While his sexual scenes are painted with a broad stroke, the moments that initiate them are often very subtly revealed with grace and humor.
What strikes me as odd is the “My” because no one in this book ever seems selfish, much less self possessed, and that is perhaps part of what makes it feel so refreshing. His male heroes may not be stud muffins, but they are not just nice guys either. They are men who can be loving and generous in bed as well as elsewhere. Therefore you can’t miss with Spark My Moment.