Rachel Kramer Bussel offers this year's best bondage erotica in an anthology sure to excite your senses.
If you're a fan of female submission, there are many stories here for you. “The Long Way Home” by Elizabeth Coldwell leads off the anthology. “His Little Apprentice” by the UK's fabulous Jacqueline Applebee, “Foreign Exchange” by Evan Mora, “Closeted” by Emily Bingham, “Vegas Treat” by Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Cartographer” by Angela Caperton, “How the Mermaid Got Her Tail Back” by Andrea Dale, “Stocks and Bonds” by Rita Winchester which is a delightful story of a couple at play, “The Rainmaker” by Elizabeth Daniels, Teresa Noelle Robert's tactile and sensual “Do You See What I Feel” will all thrill fans of that scenario. “Truss Issues” by Lux Zakari closes out the book. One or many of these are sure to please anyone into female submission.
Janine Ashbless offers an interesting tale where the man is bound, but he still manages to get inside of the head of a young woman on the verge of discovering her sexuality in “The Ingénue.” “Reasoning” by Tenille Brown is a stand out story of a woman simply fed up with her boyfriend's behavior. Lisabet Sari's “Wired” is another tale of a woman dominating a man, with some ingenious use of workplace items for bondage. In the “Lady or the Tiger” by Bill Kte-pi, who is dominating who is up for you to decide. Jennifer Peters finds an inventive use of saran wrap in the delightful “Sealed for Freshness.”
There are a few lesbian tales in this anthology, including Dusty Horn's “Subdue,” “The Apiary”by Megan Butcher, and my favorite offering, “Helen Lay Bound” by Suzanne V. Slate.
For fans of voyeurism and male on male action, Emerald offers “Relative Anonymity.”There's a little of everything here for fans of bondage. I recognized many of the contributors and found some new names to look for in the future, which is always a joy. From traditional restraints - stocks, corsets, and shackles - to everyday items turned to exciting and inventive uses - saran wrap, wire cables - there's a lot here to get your kinky mind whirling on the possibilities.
If Ashley Lister is not aware of the late Donald Westlake’s work, he most certainly should be especially for the Dortmunder series of novels about a star-crossed Manhattan burglar and his hapless crew of professional criminals. Westlake was perhaps the most successful and, I speculate, the most beloved mystery writer of the late 20th Century. His Dortmunder books are funny, fatalistic, good-hearted, atmospheric and utterly charming. Every one of those adjectives might just as well be applied in equal measure to Mr. Lister’s murder mystery novel, Death by Fiction. Reading this book about the fraught world of writing and publishing is genuine fun. For younger readers, I would compare it favorably with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series for the same favorable reasons.
Ashley Lister writes for Erotica Revealed and so to those who feel this review is little more than a puff piece, I can say very little other than they are wrong. That is because Death by Fiction deserves exactly the lavish praise I am about to heap upon it almost without reservation. Here follow my caveats.
As a point of interest, I have actually known several professional criminals after they resided as guests of the States of New York and New Jersey, so you know they were authentic if not always very competent. One of them, for example, insisted on using a large caliber rifle where a pistol would have done nicely. The noise and bulk lead to his incarceration. One should always use the right tool for the job.
As a life long student of crime and crime fiction, I would admonish him to consider shifting his focus at times from the moment of motivation (the inciting incident as it were) to the moment in which the criminal act actually begins. It has more tension and it lends the character’s back story about how the actor got to doing what he or she is doing, a greater intensity.
Secondly, I think the mechanics of crime – particularly guns -- though standard subjects in lots of crime fiction, are boring by themselves. Professional criminals know their weapons and how they work. However, a real professional is not friends with his gun. He wants to be rid of it as soon as it has done its job. It’s a tool to be used once. If you have to think about how it works, it’s not working properly. On the other hand, the choice of criminal technique and implements can be a reflection of character. So you can work the gadgets and gimmicks in, they just need to have a narrative purpose in the storytelling.
Those two thoughts aside, Mr. Lister has a natural gift for character driven plotting. The denizens of Death by Fiction seem sort of like rather psychotic versions of those you meet in Agatha Christie or the old game of “Clue.” Their imaginary lives are often delightfully blood-thirsty, just as their erotic lives are plangent.
All murder mysteries allow the reader the pleasure of doing the murder they will not allow themselves to commit. To drive that point home to the potentially homicidal reader, the murderer almost always gets caught. In some cases, that takes the form of hard-boiled, edgy, pathological mayhem that Charles Willeford used to write. In others we are presented with a cozy killing that is decidedly less messy than the actual results of bludgeoning, shooting or stabbing each other.
Death by Fiction provides us with pleasing examples of both with a certain amount of sex to spice things up. Surprising as it may seem, Mr. Lister’s characters are funny and frankly likeable, even when they are being diabolical. That is what most reminds me of Donald Westlake. It is that which makes you want to draw out reading Mr. Lister’s book. It’s a pleasure to come back to with all its ironic kinks, characters and plot, much like the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich, which are so rightly popular. A little playful perversity brightens one’s day in a world that has so clearly gone wacko.
So as we all face the grimly saccharine specter of the Holiday Season before us, I suggest you take a pleasant trip through Death by Fiction for its leavening effect. The real winter will be here soon, and we might as well get ready with some murderous hilarity.
Have you ever dreamed about being suddenly naked in unusual circumstances? The emotional flavor of such dreams depends on how much you dread exposure or how much you secretly or openly yearn to be seen -- and it depends on who sees you.
A theme of nakedness in an erotic anthology doesn't seem brilliant at first glance, since sex generally requires a state of undress. These stories, however, explore all the implications of being uncovered, laid bare, shown for who one really is, deprived of a familiar cloak or disguise. A few of these stories are about discovering someone else’s raw, naked truth. It's a surprisingly diverse theme.
In her introduction, the editor explains:
At the gym, in the shower, on the subway, at a tea party, the women in Smooth leave behind their inhibitions and go where many women have only dreamed about. Sexy, playful, sensual and celebratory, these nineteen stories will be sure to entice you as they reveal so much skin.
In the imaginary worlds of these stories, nakedness is often embarrassing in a titillating way, but never really dangerous. And a naked woman (like the bare-breasted Amazon warriors in Monique Wittig's feminist fantasy novel Les Guerrilleres) can leave the onlooker disarmed.
In "This Night" by Suzanne V. Slate, a deceptively simple Male-dominant, female-submissive scenario is repeated with the roles reversed, although the woman is naked in both versions. In the first, she is ordered to strip by her Master, who forces her to display herself to a stranger. In the second, the woman calmly opens the door in the altogether, while her boy-toy is helpless to stop her.
"Eden" by Molly Slate explores the implications of the Biblical story in which Adam and Eve awake from a state of blissful innocence by realizing that they are naked, and feeling ashamed. (In Slate's version, shame is also the beginning of lust, or fascination with the exotic body of the Other.) The body of a deer reminds Adam of mortality, then Eve thinks:
His neck jerked up. He glared at me with that blinking accusation again, and then something happened--something new. His face cracked. It was waterless, but I stared in amazement before I realized that I had broken open, too, and something new was spilling out, something good and merciful, like balm. Its hand pulled and twisted in my stomach. This isn't mercy--it's the thing you got in the trade, the thing you're left with when mercy's fled. It was loud; it was chaos.
After mutual misunderstanding and emotional pain, the first woman and the first man reach a fragile agreement.
Several of these stories deal with tattoos as a means of covering or enhancing bare skin. In "Ink" by Jennifer Peters, a woman with a tattoo fetish meets the man of her dreams, but waits to reveal her own body art. She explains:
Maybe it's because my mother used to call my best friend with the abundance of body art Sideshow Barbie, or maybe it's due to the fact that a date once called tattooed girls 'major sluts,' but I like to keep my own ink to myself.
In due course, she shows her tattoos to the man who can appreciate them, and her.
In "Adornment Is Power" by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Mara and Joel, who used to date in their clueless youth, reconnect after they have each discovered BDSM and their own versatile natures as switches. Their current sexual knowledge and self-awareness are represented by their body art.
In Lisabet Sarai's story, "Clean Slate," a female former gang-member is getting her tattoos erased so that she can be a suitable wife for her upscale fiance. As the attendant Luisa lasers the ink off Ally's skin, Ally regrets giving up her favorite tattoo:
I called her Lilith. She had huge tits with red-grape nipples and a glorious fat ass. Her skin was black velvet. Her pomegranate lips parted to show pointed teeth that gleamed with my natural paleness. Lilith lounged naked on my chest, luxuriant jet curls tumbling across my shoulder, the globe of her butt coinciding with the meager swell of my own tit. Lilith grasped a steel-blue sword in one hand and a hank of chain in the other. Nobody fucked with Lilith.
Ally learns that Lilith, as her alter ego or guardian spirit, can still be with her even when the tattoo is gone. This story is powerful, and it is one of my favorites in the book.
"Live Action" by Susan St. Aubin is an atmospheric story set in a foggy city with streetcars (San Francisco?) in some past era when pounding a typewriter in an office was the default job for a typical young woman from a smaller town. Ellen, heroine of this story, develops "a fascination with windows," where anything or anyone could appear. In due course, she sees a man who needs an audience as much as Ellen needs to learn the secrets of a worldly city.
"Ivy League Associates" by Donna George Storey is an unusually realistic and entertaining story about the sex trade, in which a woman who went to Princeton goes to work as a call girl, theoretically because she is researching a book (actually because she is a starving artist who needs the money). The client who orders her to come to his house in a raincoat over bare skin abruptly changes his tone when he and she both realize that they have met in different circumstances. Being addressed by her real name makes Erica feel much more naked than she did en route. A sexual encounter between these two characters suddenly becomes less inevitable, and more satisfying for both than they expected.
"Loyly" by Angela Caperton is literally a steamy story about rebounding from heartbreak. A woman who goes to a bleak hotel alone in a Michigan winter is cheered to discover the hotel sauna. She is first surprised, then aroused by an unself-conscious fellow-tourist, a man from Finland who teaches her that "loyly" in his language means both "steam" and "spirit." He introduces her to the healing potential of the sauna, a traditional haven for those who live in harsh northern climates.
The rest of the stories are competently-written, good-natured and well-paced, but they fall into predictable categories. The editor's own piece, "Chilly Girl," could fit in with her other stories that make distinct fetishes comprehensible for those who don't share them -- or who haven't explored them yet.This collection as a whole is as colorful and varied as other Cleis anthologies, including the annual series, Best Women's Erotica and Best Lesbian Erotica.
Someone wittier than me once said: nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. I can’t tell you how much I laughed at that line. Probably because I didn’t. And I only mention it here because there is a strong element of nostalgic appeal to P S Haven’s bildungsroman story, The Last Mustang on Earth.
I ought to declare a vested interest here before I go any further. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Haven’s short fiction through a variety of anthologies, and I’ve even invited the author to be a guest blogger on one site. Haven is a respected writer with a lurid imagination and a gift for getting the realism of a situation onto the printed page.
That said, even without the vested interest, I would be praising this novel and urging anyone with an interest in erotica to rush out and treat themselves to this as an early Christmas present.
The ‘80s didn’t end until 1991. At least for me they didn’t.
A lot of my friends would look back and say the decade ended with the release of Nevermind. For others it was the invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm. For most, it was high school graduation and going away to college.
But for me it wasn’t any particular album or band, no specific cultural event that signaled the end of the era. No, for me, the 1980s ended September 21, 1991. The night I got my first blowjob.
This is how Haven’s story begins, and the rest of the narrative is a leisurely build to that particular climax.
I mentioned nostalgia at the beginning of this review because there is a strongly nostalgic feel to the writing. Haven introduces us to smalltown America through the eyes of a teenager on the verge of maturity. The rites of passage in contemporary western society revolve around sex, cars, sexual fantasy, music, and more sex. We live in a world built on the commercial success of capitalism, where every object and experience can be commodified as an acquirable piece of property. If cars and music can be craved, coveted and acquired, surely the same rules apply to the fulfilment of sexual fantasies?
It’s possible that the sexual fantasy element of this story has the most striking impact.
Anyone who was ever a teenager (and hopefully that’s most of us) will recall the endless days of hormone-fuelled fantasies that made the boundaries of reality blur. Haven recreates these scenes of testosterone-driven desire through the eyes of his narrator, seldom giving the reader a chance to understand when reality ended and when the fantasy began. It’s a bold idea and stays true to the magical period of fading adolescence where the fantasy image of adulthood begins to coalesce into the reality of maturity. What, one day, strikes us as the fodder for outrageous speculation (owning a dream car, affording two CDs in one month, enjoying that venerated blowjob) suddenly becomes a possibility. Haven captures this spirit of burgeoning maturity with style and finesse.
For anyone with fond recollections of growing up in the 80s, this book is a slice of time-travel that reminds the reader of what was once incredibly important in all of our lives. And, for those of us who have yet to grow up in any decade, it provides an exciting, interesting and powerful read.
Nostalgia may no longer be what it used to be. But this title gives us a reminder of how powerful it can be when it’s done properly.
I don't think that it is possible to write erotica without exposing oneself. To arouse our readers, we authors must write what turns us on personally. True, we may disguise our personal fantasies. We may displace our kinks and fetishes, assigning them to characters who are superficially quite different from us – a different age, a different socioeconomic stratum, perhaps even a different gender. The emotional kick, though, reveals all. We are able to draw our readers into a world of deviance and delight because we, the authors, already reside there.
Tight Women in Hard Places is a deeply arousing and profoundly personal set of erotic stories. Alicia Night Orchid shares her visions, ranging from the romantic to the perverse, embroidering upon her personal experiences and desires. Each tale she tells contains a sliver, or more, of personal truth.
Ms. Night Orchid's protagonists vary widely, from the inexperienced but sexually ripe grad student in “The Royal Orleans” to the jaded forty-something country singer in “I Saw the Light.” “Ray's Opening” is narrated by a cocky, self-obsessed attorney while “Third Shift” tells the tale of a divorced, down-and-out waitress at a diner. Despite the difference in their voices, one gets the feeling that all these women are aspects of the author. Her character warns in “The Royal Orleans,” as she is making up outrageous lies to fascinate a man she's just met, “never forget that everything that a writer tells you is partly truth and partly fiction.” In reading this collection, I took this caveat to heart. Still, the more extreme Ms. Night Orchid's stories became, the better I felt that I knew her.
Alicia Night Orchid writes long, tangled tales with endings you do not expect. She does not write “sex scenes.” Instead, she manages to infuse passion into every paragraph. One of the best stories in the collection is “Smoke,” the chronicle of a woman's unusual but irresistible fetish. Another standout is “Torn in Two,” an erotic noir fantasy that explores the dangerous, seductive links between sex and death. “Savage Nights” recreates the dope-drenched aura of the Sixties, when all the flowers, drugs and sex in the world couldn't quite drown out the screams of young men dying in 'Nam. “Voyeur Nation” is the sad, funny tale of a woman's determination to get her life together, derailed by her horny, exhibitionistic neighbors. “Fridays Without,” one of my favorite stories, shows what happens when one gives in to temptation.
I commented earlier on the twists taken by some of these tales. I realized upon reflection that only three of these thirteen tales have unambiguously happy endings. In the rest, after the sweat has dried and the breathing has returned to normal, we're left to wonder, “what next?” The characters are changed by their passion – indeed, if these stories have any common message, it is that sex can profoundly alter one's life and self. Much, however, is left unresolved. This makes the tales more realistic and also more unsettling. There are no simple answers in Alicia Night Orchid's realms of desire.
Tight Women in Hard Places deftly evokes the many moods of arousal – from a stranger's desperate attraction to the joyful rediscovery of one's long time partner. Overall, it's one of the best single author collections I have reviewed in a long time. I recommend it highly.