It’s a real joy to read well-crafted bondage stories. There are many to choose from in The Big Book of Bondage, exploring female submission, male submission, and some same sex pairings. If you like group sex, threesomes, slut-shaming, and other kinds mixed with your bondage, you’ll find a story here for you.
One thing I enjoy so much about Sommer Marsden’s work, and in particular her story “Butter the Bird,” is how well she captures everyday life. There’s real craftsmanship going on here that it may take a writer to appreciate, but readers will enjoy how this slice of life heats up to a nicely decadent tale.
“Cute Boy gets Squeezed” by D.L. King explores the erotic potential of vacuum beds (although I can’t fathom another reason for using one). I’ve always been fascinated by them and she certainly makes it sound fun. This is a different kind of bondage than rope or handcuffs. If you like rubber or latex you’ll really like this kinky, fun tale.
I can’t think of a single Alison Tyler story I haven’t liked. She’s one of erotica’s rock and roll stars for a reason. Her “Burned” has amazing imagery and gets under your skin in a good way.
Kristina Lloyd’s “The Bondage Pig” was a little weird, but I was so fascinated I just had to see what would happen next. Then it got really interesting. Such an imagination!
Those are only a few of the worthy contributors. From Donna George Storey to Thomas Roche, many names are well-known in erotica. With twenty-five stories, this anthology is a little longer than most, but there wasn’t a single weak story.
I love fantasy stories with evocative descriptions and well-researched world-building. I may even love them a bit too much. There were times in the course of reading Lisette Ashton’s Dragon Desire that I was almost distracted from the sex by the skillful writing. Right away in the Prologue, for instance: As he spoke he lifted the crystal carafe and splashed a gill of the golden liquid into each of the three waiting goblets. This made me think, “Oh, gill/golden/goblet--lovely use of alliteration reminiscent of the Norse saga style!” Fortunately Ashton got me back on track with what followed: He didn’t need Caitrin to reiterate the legends that were associated with dragon horn. He knew all of them and had made up many more. Dragon horn was a legend amongst legends. Nevertheless, he longed to listen to her whisper all the salacious rumours about the reputed benefits of the drink. There were few things more arousing than the voice of a chaste woman talking about illicit sex.
Needless to say, that’s about the last we hear concerning chaste women, although a certain mage does have a spell to restore the physical semblance of chastity, and considerable skill in its application. Illicit sex, however, is nearly omnipresent, with or without the aid of the legendary draught of dragon horn.
The plot of the novel revolves (and twists, and turns, and backflips) around the quest for dragon horn, a rare, very effective, and extremely valuable aphrodisiac derived in some unspecified (but probably harmful) way from dragons, although the dragons in this world have no horns. Even relatively close exposure to dragons produces some of the same effect.
The couplings (or triplings) among the major characters shift from day to day and hour to hour. First Tavia and Caitrin, the twin daughters of the castellan, have a dragon-horn-induced orgy with Robert of Moon Valley, who turns out to be…well, I’ll try to avoid spoilers. Later Tavia gets it on in a dungeon with Alvar the Seer, who turns out to be…well, never mind that. And Caitrin gets special treatment in a dark tower from Nihal the very talented Mage. And their older, married sister Inghean seduces the dragon-keeper Owain (who has to pretend to be…never mind) in the stables. And then she makes out with the loathsome Gethin ap Cadwallon, who is actually… And later there’s much changing of partners in the labyrinths below Gatekeeper Island and the temple above, with the inclusion of Meghan the Dragonmeister and a trio of expert bath attendants. You get the picture. Clue meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a faint aura of Game of Thrones in the way the chapters switch from the close viewpoint of one character to another, avoiding head-hopping within chapters.
It’s all very well done, and, above all, it’s great fun. The sex scenes are frequent, extensive, and explicit; so frequent and extensive, in fact, that there’s some unavoidable repetition, but chances are that only a picky editor would notice it. The premise that drinking dragon horn makes sex exponentially more fabulous than sex without it makes a bit of a problem, since even the sex-without seems hard to surpass, but why complain? And when sex turns out to have a component of true love, one can certainly believe that it’s the best sex of all. This is, after all, a fantasy story.
I can certainly recommend Dragon Desire to those who like well-written, hot-as-a-dragon’s-breath erotica with a fantasy setting. I can even recommend it to those who love fantasy in general, although they, like me, may turn out to wish some of the sex scenes were more, well, compressed, without being any less intense, so that we could get along to more of the intriguing story. Ashton might even think about writing novels with more of the fantasy story elements and less of the sex…as long as the sex stories keep coming too, of course.
As Cosmin Alexander says in the introduction to Like a Breath of Flame, dragons are everywhere:
Not literally, of course, that’s silly. But if you look across ancient human cultures, the presence of dragons is near universal. Europe, of course, had its famed fiery beasts, living representations of the power of nature, often associated with the devil and the powers of darkness. East Asia instead had their glorious and wise creatures of rain and river and earth: powerful, capricious, and dangerous, but also knowledgeable and noble. That isn’t all, though. Australia had the Rainbow Serpent, a creature of rivers and life, while the Aztecs had Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, lord of the Morning Star. Then there’s modern fantasy: it seems you can barely turn around without running into a dragon, as though it’s a requirement that fantasy novels, games, and movies have one.
Like a Breath of Flame is collection of short erotic stories from Circlet Press with a pronounced draconine content. Needless to say, because the collection comes from Circlet Press, the quality of the material is consistently high. With contributions from Dominic Santi, Dean Scarborough, Kennan Feng and KJ Kazba, it’s no surprise that the standard is superlative on every page.
And I think it’s fair to say that dragons are different for every reader and every writer. Julian Oliver-Fenn “The Last Whisper of Killitch,” writes here with a mythic reverence for the subject matter. Kimber Camacho, “Sleeping with Dragons,” writes with a rich palate of descriptive affluence. These are stories with dragons at their centers – but each told by a poignantly different author.
Nobilis Reed, “Prince Lovely and the Three Dragons” approaches this genre with a blend of humour and storytelling that is reminiscent of a child’s fairy tale written for an adult audience.
Prince Lovely shivered. The hilltop he stood on wasn’t particularly cold—in fact, it would be a pleasant day, if circumstances were at all different—but he was dressed in nothing more than a dress of sheer samite. Well, to be perfectly honest, there was also a garland of daisies in his hair and a jeweled necklace, but those offered even less protection from the cold, and the stone at his back still retained a good deal of its nighttime coolness.
The fact that he was bound to that stone, waiting for a dragon to eat him, made the situation doubly shiver-worthy. It didn’t help that the gown looked absolutely terrible on him. They could have at least put him in one of the dresses with less décolletage; he simply didn’t have the right kind of chest for this one. The red velvet one, with the fur around the hem, that would have been particularly nice, and well suited to the weather, not to mention his coloring.
These are the words that start the final story in this collection and it’s a tale that has wit, eroticism and a handful of delightfully deviant twists. This is what happens when Prince Lovely becomes acquainted with Princess Wise:
Lovely sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He took Wise’s slender wrist and laid it as gently as he could in the iron clamp, and fitted the hook that would hold it in place. There was no lock, just a latch that the victim would not be able to open by herself.
He picked up the bottle and pulled the stopper. A pleasant smell, spice and musk and herbs, diffused into the room. “How much is a minim?” he asked.
“About as much as will fit in the palm of your hand,” said Wise. “Hurry.”
Lovely found his hand trembling as he poured, and the first rush of liquid spilled over his wrist rather than pouring over his hand. He steadied himself and brought his hand to Wise’s body, smearing it down from between her breasts down to her belly. The fragrance became even stronger.
“Wow,” said Wise. “That actually feels pretty good.”
Altogether this collection is entertaining, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. The writing is top quality and the stories never fail to satisfy.
I first bumped into Rachel Kramer Bussel with her story in Frat Boys, and have since run into her stories or edited anthologies enough times to realize that I adore her. She has a fresh take on any theme she approaches, and so when I was given Only You for my January review, I breathed a sigh of prescient contentment. I was sure a great book was ahead.
After reading the introduction, I knew my intuition was going to be spot-on. One of the things I loved about Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Suite Encounters was how the stories selected told stories throughout such a range of people in a variety of places in their lives – coupled, single, older, younger – and I loved that – as a whole – the anthology was one that touched a larger range of themes than I’d ever expected.
Angela Caperton’s “Driven” begins the anthology, and deftly drops a parallel metaphorical start of a new relationship just ready to turn into something hot and ready. If you’ve got the remotest fantasy of enjoying a car ride in a more carnal sense, “Driven” will be right up your alley. I also loved that this story opened up the anthology with a couple that aren’t in their early twenties – this is an anthology for couples, and placing “Driven” first delivers the message that this will not be an endless parade of youth.
Similarly, “Forgotten Bodies” by Giselle Renarde touches upon the changes that come with age, and how we can disconnect from ourselves as we feel time’s pull – but how a reconnection can come with exploration (and maybe a nicely timed spanking).
Startlingly unique was “The Love We Make” by Kristina Wright. It has an edgy roughness to it that might take many readers aback, but I adored this story. The narrator here is fighting with the desire to be slapped by Paul, her boyfriend, and to discover if he wants to slap her. There’s a real deftness to this one, and it tells one of the more rare tales I’ve read.
“Married” by Abigail Grey is a mid-life tale, where jobs and comfortable clothing and Netflix have replaced the silk and lace and hot, sweaty nights. But a forgotten instant messaging system pings back to life, and Jane realizes that those long-ago days of exploration are still there for the conjuring. I loved this story.
Cassanda Carr’s “Saved” is the penultimate story in the anthology, and steers the reader towards the close with a perfect note. This is a relationship where a wife has realized her borders are widening – thanks to a generous helping of BDSM erotic romance novels – and now she is making the riskiest move – asking her husband to make some of these fantasies come true.
And finally Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us home with “For the Very First Time.” A clever story about the first time a couple are going to have sex, this story – of a woman in her forties and a young musician – has deft layers. Moving through the various steps that lead toward various “firsts” between the two is a kind of sexy joy, and has that fluidity of role and gender that I’ve grown to love from Kramer Bussel’s tales.
All in all, you will not find Only You remotely stale – the sex scalds, but the stories aren’t just sexy, they’re fully formed, richly descriptive relationship stories as well. I haven’t mentioned every story, but none were “duds.” The arrangement is purposeful and the progression from tale to tale was just shy of perfection. I was already a lover of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s tales and anthologies, as I mentioned before – but I fear I need to upgrade that to adoration. Hopefully she won’t mind.
Lindsey Wade is nobody special – or at least that's what she believes. She holds down a boring job as receptionist for a law firm, lives in a modest suburban row house, rarely (unlike her glamorous best friend Cammie) wears make-up or dresses at all fashionably. Although she's not a virgin, she has been sexually scarred by her eight year on-again-off-again relationship with a guy who finally dumped her, deciding he was gay. All that uptight Lindsey wants is peace and quiet, the chance to live her life outside the spotlight.
When Lindsey wins a ticket to a magic show by the world-renowned Angelito Tarrago in an office charity raffle, she's almost too embarrassed to walk up and retrieve it, but Cammie insists that Lindsey attend the performance. The next thing Lindsey knows, she has attracted the attention of the charming, wealthy and sensual magician. With dazzling speed, she is wined and dined, then licked, sucked and fucked. Needless to say she comes to the conclusion that Tarrago is truly the man of her dreams. As he introduces her into his high-society world of gender-bending carnal excess, Lindsey discovers she's far lustier and more sexually daring than she'd ever guessed.
Meanwhile a dangerous but seductive stranger named Dmitri stalks and then abducts her. Her kidnapper reveals that Tarrago is a member of an ancient society of sorcerers and that Lindsey is a descendant of one of their members, the first female magus in their history. Dmitri himself is a magician, outcast from the group. Gradually, Lindsey realizes that Dmitri, not Angelito, is her true soul mate. In fact Tarrago is working on an evil scheme to steal the power of his fellow magicians, a scheme that requires Lindsey's body to be totally debauched by every single member of the society.
Let me begin with a summary, in case you have something better to do that read this review. The Magician's Lover is a pretty dreadful book. The actions and reactions of the shallow characters alternate between being painfully predictable and totally implausible. The sex scenes (which I will admit are numerous) suffer from a lack of motivation (referring both to the individuals involved and to the requirements of the plot) and an overabundance of anatomical detail without any depth or originality. The prose is awkward and overburdened with generic adjectives and adverbs, as well as errors in word selection. Every so often, the steady stream of pornographic description will be interrupted by a paragraph or two full of euphemism and starry-eyed sentiment that would be far more at home in a traditional romance. For the most part, Lindsey is the POV character, but occasionally Ms. Austen flutters off into the head of someone else, without a scene break or other warning.
A few examples will serve to illustrate my criticisms. Here are some of the malapropisms that grabbed my attention:
He had a day or two's worth of dark stubble around the sharp definition of his jaw, and his intangibly bright green eyes seemed to almost sing to her. (p7)
The couples began to ingratiate with one another. One man fucked one girl who had her face buried in the arse cheeks of another, and so on, until Lindsey couldn't tell where the chain started or ended anymore. (p 136)
They kissed like they had been separated for years. No words were said, but they moved in perfect synchronicity. (p 199)
Here's a typical snippet from a sex scene:
With no teasing, she leant forward and hungrily licked at Lindsey's soaking wet slit, making her groan loudly in the process. Lindsey opened her eyes and saw Cammie's perfect arse right in front of her. She paused to admire it a moment: the surprisingly large, round, firm cheeks, and the wet open folds of her sex. Then she gripped her friend's arse with both hands and pushed it downwards toward her face. She plunged her tongue deep inside Cammie's pink slit, the tip of her nose nuzzling against her friend's inviting arsehole. (p167)
I should mention that early in the book, when Lindsey wakes from an arousing dream, she has a totally different reaction:
She had never consciously thought of sex before, let alone touched herself. (p 7)
For the most part, the grammar in this novel is far better than what I've seen in some other first novels, but Ms. Austen seems to be confused about the past tense of the word “grind” (a rather common term in sexual situations), and her editor (if she had one) did not see fit to enlighten her.
She felt their eyes on her and her pussy contracted involuntarily. She rested her hands behind herself on Angelito's knees and grinded her hips in a circular motion. (p 140)
The above error occurs at least four times in the book.
Finally, here's one of the more egregious examples of head-hopping:
As he neared Lindsey he reached out and embraced her tightly, and she felt the proudest and happiest she had ever felt in her life. They kissed like newlyweds.
Once they broke the embrace, Lindsey said, 'Angelito, I'd like you to meet my friends, Jason-' Angelito firmly shook Jason's hand, and something in Jason's eyes gave away how star-struck he actually was '-and Cammie.' The magician held Cammie's dainty hand and kissed it lightly. Cammie melted inside, and tried to fight the feelings that were tearing their way through her body. (p 157)
One thing that this novel does have to offer is lots of sex – especially girl-on-girl sex and orgy scenes. The reviews on Amazon make it clear that this is enough to satisfy some readers. It's true that some of the sex scenes involve minor characters, interrupt the narrative and do nothing to further the plot. If you're primarily interested in wanking, though, you might be willing to forgive these weaknesses.
To be fair, many of the problems that interfered with my enjoyment of this book could have been remedied or at least ameliorated by some vigorous editing. Unfortunately, it appears (based on the final product) that the book received at most a quick once-over.
If I were Ms. Austen, I would be seriously frustrated with Xcite Books. She's new to the publishing scene. The flaws I've highlighted are common to many beginning authors. Given that Xcite accepted her book, they have a responsibility to guide her and to help her avoid some of her personal weaknesses. They did not fulfill this responsibility.
In fact, they didn't even bother to check the PDF review copy they sent me. Due (I assume) to some problem in the conversion from the primary Kindle format, my copy of The Magician's Lover is rendered in a mix of two different fonts, one serif and one sans serif, one bolded and one not, which switch back and forth, even breaking in the middle of words. It's practically unreadable.
On the positive side, the fundamental plot of The Magician's Lover has some promise. The climactic scene, in which Lindsey and Dmitri engage in an apocalyptic battle with Angelito, had enough drama and intensity to engage my attention and distract me from the quality of the writing. The book's ending foreshadows the next installment of the trilogy. I might even be tempted to read it – if it were penned with greater skill and professionally edited.